In the last 5 years, there has not been a single conviction in rape cases in this country – a fact disclosed by the interior ministry before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice. Since its revelation around the end of last month, this startling fact has received very little attention from the mainstream media.
Rape is perhaps the least reported crime in Pakistan. The recorded figures are just a thin fraction of the actual number of incidents. Yet, according to the official figures, more than 1200 cases of rape and gang rape have been registered in Punjab only in the first five months of this year. While it involves a good deal of risk of stigmatization to stand up and pursue such case, the way Pakistani’s police and judicial system treats the victim is nothing short of double jeopardy. There is almost no hope for any of these victims to get justice in the prevailing situation. On the contrary, the dysfunctional system is encouraging rape culture and augmenting the spiral of silence for the victims of sexual crimes.
Apart from the direly needed radical reforms in laws, judicial system, law enforcement and other institutional mechanisms, a fundamental attitude change is also required. Indeed, it is the deeply rooted misogynist mindset that is reflected in the institutional practices. In order to fight back the rape culture, we must get out of the state of denial; rape is rampant and is extremely under-reported. Any form of blaming the victim equals supporting and encouraging the perpetrators. Women are absolutely equal to men and free to make their personal choices; nothing justifies controlling them.
It has been almost ten months since this nation expressed its last significant reaction over an incident of rape; when a five year old girl was raped and left unconscious outside a hospital in Lahore. Dozens of such unfortunate incidents are being reported on a continuous basis. The once outraged public, spurred mainly by the extraordinary media coverage, have been in a slumber since then. In order to affect any change for a perennial problem like rape, a constant outcry is necessary.