Sexual violence

Editorial Board
Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022

Sexual crimes against women are becoming so rampant in Pakistan that the situation defies description. Girls and women of all ages – irrespective of their origin – find themselves at the mercy of sexual predators nearly everywhere in the country. In the most recent case, an American woman has come forward and said she was raped by her tour guide and his two accomplices at the tourist resort of Fort Munro in Dera Ghazi Khan. The survivor is a social media activist and vlogger who is now seeking justice. She says she was sexually assaulted on July 16 when she was on a trip to the resort. Though the Border Military Police have arrested the prime suspect, the progress on arresting others is reported to be slow. Such crimes against women are increasingly becoming common. In most cases, victims and survivors get delayed justice – or more often than not no justice at all. That this happened to a woman of foreign origin makes it particularly disturbing, given Pakistan’s recent attempts at lifting its tourism potential.

However, for the women of Pakistan, tourism is a distant concern when they are unsafe not only on the streets, in public transport, and at work but also within their homes. No country can claim to be civilized if such cases take place with such impunity. While the crime of rape is hardly unique to Pakistan, our system of investigation is primitive, that of prosecution is even more so. There was some hope that a sense of shock or yearning for justice would force society to demand safety for women, children and trans persons. That unfortunately has been a long wait. Whenever such crimes take place there is temporary outrage, and then society goes back to normal. In this particular case, initially there were reports that the suspect had confessed to have committed the crime; then there has been an eerie silence on this case. According to the FIR, the woman also received threats to her life if she reported the matter to the police. The crime was also reportedly filmed by the culprits.

First off, local authorities in all tourist spaces in the country must ensure that there are women police stations with trained female staff to provide immediate aid to sex-crime victims. There are not many DNA labs to help in investigation in the country. Pakistan needs modern labs and state-of-the-art investigation and prosecution methods without which conviction rates remain dismally low. We are no more sensitive than the worst of countries when it comes to how we discuss and tackle rape. Blaming the victim is commonplace among the police, judiciary and even the media while our patriarchal society seems to almost instil a rape culture. In cases where rape is alleged, the authorities have to believe the victim – just as they do when other crimes are reported. Most victims are scared of reporting the crime out of fear that it is their character that will be put on trial. This inversion of justice now needs to stop.