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Time to stop rationalizing rape with a woman’s dress

Calling rape victims as authors of their own physical injuries citing misogynistic considerations like the dress, routes, revenue collection and a qualification for Immigration is nothing but validating the crime

Jumping to conclusions without proper probing of the crime and without realizing its real root causes is the product of hate for women and structural indifference to the ordinary.                                                                                                             By Nazeer Ahmed Arijo

A bride was recently gang-raped in Multan. The incident has sent chills down the spine of every human being soul. The details are distressing. Four robbers, after having camouflaged themselves as policemen citing information of liquor, entered the house of a newly married couple in the wee hours and raped the bride in front of her husband. They then made away with five-tola Gold and some cash from the victim. The first night of wedding is believed to be both pleasant and formative for a couple yet in this case rapists poisoned the couple’s pleasant night with an experience which will haunt them forever. The crime of rape goes unabated in this state of Pakistan. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Because those in the corridors of power and administration entrusted with responsibility of giving a policy or direction, and the implementation of the same and restoring peace and order have harbored poisonous perspective of linking this crime of rape to victim’s clothes, routes taken for the travelling, revenue collection and flying on the wings of rape to foreign countries for the sake of settlement there. Determine the departure of decency, not long ago, the PM Imran Khan had linked rape to how women dress; on the heels of Gujranwala motorways  gang rape, the then Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) had blamed the victim for taking that route, and the former military ruler Pervaiz Musharraf in the wake of Muktaran Mai case, is on record after having rubbed salt in the wounds of rape survivors, said that the rape victims wanted to fly to European countries on the wings of  sexual abuse for the sake of settlement there. “You must understand the environment in Pakistan…this has become a money -making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go to abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be millionaire, get yourself raped”, the Washington Post quoted him as saying.

Such rationalizing of rape by those at the helm of country’s affairs entrusted with responsibility of giving a policy and direction and the implementation of the same, does demonstrate that they have lost touch with ground realities much like the colonial masters. Under colonial projects, the indigenous populations were subjected to multiple crimes, but the colonial masters blamed the victims while declaring that those victimized invited the dehumanization and disgrace etc.

Jumping to conclusions without proper probing of the crime called rape and without realizing its real root causes is the product of hate of women and structural indifference to the ordinary.

Women, in Pakistan, have muddled through misogyny accompanied by customary conclusions made in rape cases and they will continue to face the same until the ruling elites replace their dark mentality with rationality thereby to put in a robust legal framework to end the climate of immunity with which the rapists are operating. Blaming the victims in cases of rape is colonial thinking. After all, our ruling elites and bureaucracy are remnants of colonial mind-set. The elephant in the room is both powerlessness and helplessness of rape – victims in every context. In Pakistan, rape is the issue of the powerless, the weak and the under-privileged because the perpetrators of crime in question are quite convinced that they can do the act with impunity. Either the legal loopholes would help them get clean chits or their social and political connections would help them carve out ‘out- of –court’ settlements given the humble backgrounds of rape victims, who are cowed with dire consequences, or got fed-up with delaying tactics applied by alleged offenders in legal proceedings by greasing the officials’ palms.

A recent revealing report published in Dawn newspaper disclosed that because of faulty investigation, poor prosecution and out-of-court settlements, about 80 percent sex offenders were acquitted in the decided cases in Islamabad. The newspaper quoted the judicial sources saying that “in most of cases faulty investigation, lack of proper supervision by senior officials, meager resources for low-paid investigation officers and weak prosecution were the reasons for such a higher percentage of acquittal”. The picture of the provinces in this regard must be darker than imagined. Justice is not only expensive but also rarely done to the ordinary in this country. The victims hailing from humble backgrounds don’t get attention of the state until and unless the cases are headlined in national newspapers as well as highlighted by certain NGOs and human rights watchdogs subsequently calling for criminals involved to be dragged to the dock. Only recently, the primitive modus operandi of ‘Two-finger test’ applied to separate wheat from the chaff in cases ‘for rape victims’ was done away with court decree. The both poor investigation and prosecution leave the victims with no option but succumbing to silence over crimes committed to them. Given ineffective prosecution in rape cases, the apex court recently decreed that such cases be investigated by no less than a DPO.

Counselling centers have not been established to help rape-survivors come out of emotional injury as a result those subjected to sexual violence die many times before death. The society starts looking down upon those victims. The psychological baggage emanating from the unfortunate incident keeps traumatizing as the stigma of unhappy episode called rape cuts deeper than a blade resulting in lingering pain. We have not developed deference for the daughter of Eve; they are seen as objects of sexual pleasure and pieces of property. Under-age girls are thrown on bridal beds in order to settle so called honor issues and family feuds. We send them to universities for higher education, but coerce them to have nuptial knot with those, chosen by us, thus depriving them the choice of contracting marriage of choice, enshrined in Islamic laws.

Sadia Toor, the distinguished writer of a book “The state of Islam – Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan”, convincingly commented in chapter titled “Women And /AS Property” that “Zia’s gendered policies reinforced feudal forms of patriarchy especially the idea that women were, literally and figuratively, the property of their family, tribe, caste, or community. This idea conflicted with Islamic law which gave women sui juris status, which translated, among other things, into the right to own and inherit property. This made the sexual regulation of women even more important and lay behind “customary” practices such as haq bakhawana (relinquishing one’s right) in which a woman is symbolically “married” to Qur’an, or even a tree, in order to prevent her share of the family property transferring to her husband’s family. Such ideas about women as the property of “their” own kin-group and the repository of its honor underwrote other forms of violence against them as well, including (but not limited to) honor killings.” Women could also be subjected to sexual (ized) violence by outsiders as a way to humiliate their families, communities or tribes, or as a form of revenge /reprisal. These customary forms of violence did not begin with Zia, of course, but under his gender regime, they gained new traction “Not only women have been victims of rape but also innocent children been bearing the brunt of this physical abuse over the decades.

Measure the magnitude of this moral corruption: according to statistics shared by Sahil, an organization working for child protection, as many as 1489 children, at least eight per day, were sexually abused in the first half of the year [2020] in the country .Those victims included 785 girls and 704 boys. The abusers were acquaintances of the victims or victims’ family in 822 cases while strangers were involved in 135 reported cases. Earlier, in 2015, a gang of pedophiles running a ring of child sex was busted. The gang had kidnapped around 280 children and physically assaulted them. An HRCP, fact-finding mission had received credible information indicating large scale sexual abuse of children over the years in Hussain Khan Wala village in Kasur. It concluded that the failure to take action lent support to charges that local police were in cahoots with the culprits.

Rape is both crime and moral depravity deeply weaved into the fabric of society thriving thanks to teeth-less laws and legal lacuna when it comes to dealing with those involved in the crime in question. Some months back, a group of boys was reported to have repeatedly raped a cat in Lahore. And imagine our contaminated morality: we are over protective to our family members, but we are leaving no stone unturned to engage the females for romantic entanglement living next door. We are conservative and conventional in our homes, but becoming ultra-liberal advocating fair play of sex once we are outside. Women and girls have to walk through eyes as penetrative as the X-Ray machines planted everywhere-at bus stops, bookstalls, bazaars, professional working places etc. thus those who can’t catch someone to rape, grope them with their eyes, undress them in their mind…

What those at the helm of country’s affairs need to realize is that European societies are flexible and open in terms of sexual relationships. Despite this, none can dare to touch topless and bottomless women and girls, taking a sunbath on the beaches because the very thought of legal system being active against criminals irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds is reining in rapists.

An independent and well-read woman, in Pakistan, is regarded as a dangerous creature and as a result, she is facing intolerance, intimidation and indignities.

Recently, touts of certain mainstream political parties online harassed a senior anchor person, independent writer and senior editor at Nayadaur media group, and was threatened with dire consequences and physical injury because of her independent political analysis, convincing criticism and exposing corrupt practices of political parties to achieve petty political ends. The online harassment had prompted the lady journalist to register a report with the Cyber Crime wing for the reining in of rascals. The threats of physical abuse thus were used as a tool to ideologically control the conscientious character doing her professional duty with utmost honesty. In a meticulously written write-up titled ”The Psychology of a rapist” a writer Farah Aqel has rightly remarked that “in fact, most social scientists, psychologists and feminist activists are of the opinion that rape nearly exclusively has to do with issues of power and violence. They say that rape is not about lust but motivated by the urge to control and dominate, and that it could also be driven by hatred and hostility towards women.” This narrative -rationalizing rape with a dress, routes and revenue etc. has obscured fundamental factors at play fomenting this criminal activity in our dear homeland.

The state institutions turn a blind eye to the crime called rape as it is the children as well females of the ordinary bearing the brunt of criminal offense. Let this happen to the younger generation of the powerful, I am sorry to say this, then see the state institutions turning the corner in terms of fixing legal loopholes, caging criminals involved and handing them down punishment consummate with their crime through speedy trials ensured by constitutional courts especially established to prosecute and punish pedophiles and rapists.

The protection of life, honor and property is the first and foremost duty of the state, but this constitutional commitment falters when it comes to safeguarding the ordinary in terms of protecting them and their children from crime, captivity and sexual violence. The apathy of elected representatives in delivering to their voters can be gauged from the fact the majority of the victims and the aggrieved families appeal to the non-elected office holders like the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Chief of the Army Staff to get the justice done. The crime in question committed against women and children are consequence of decades of letting the Women and Child Protection Policy, and women empowerment wither on the wine. Outfits on women’s bodies can’t be and should not be called a recipe for a rape. Let women be allowed to wear what they like. Having said that women ought not to allow themselves to be puppets in the hands of designers, designing/ shortening women clothes in the name of fashion trend i.e. modernity. It is the education, ideas and scientific approach applied in practical life, making us modern. So, women should differentiate between decent and indecent attire to be worn.

Calling rape victims as authors of their own physical injuries citing misogynistic considerations like the dress, routes, revenue collection and a qualification for Immigration is nothing but validating the crime being discussed.                                                                                                                                                      It’s time to stop rationalizing rape with a woman’s dress Mr. Prime Minister.

Nazeer Ahmed Arijo

Nazeer Ahmed Arijo is an educationist and a freelance contributor. He can be accessed at email: nazeerarijo@gmail.com.
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