The haunting shadows -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

The haunting shadows

By Rabia Ali

As night falls, a 16-year-old girl closes her eyes in a bid to fall into a peaceful slumber. But instead of serenity, she finds herself threatened and surrounded by horrifying visions of one particular day. A day which changed the entire course of her life.

“Neither can I sleep at night nor can I remain at ease during the day. The horrible flashbacks of the time when I was being assaulted continue to haunt me, followed by threats of the influential. Meanwhile, there are other fears too, such as what does the future has for me and whether would I be able to see my culprits behind bars,” said Kainat Soomro, a gang-rape survivor.

It was 2007, in the area of Mehar, Dadu district that the then 13-year-old was allegedly gang-raped by four men. She was then threatened of dire consequences when she chose to break the silence and took the matter to the court.

She felt disgraced when the alleged rapists were acquitted by the court in May for want of evidence. She was devastated when her brother Sabir’s dead body was found in Balochistan, as he was punished for supporting his sister and fighting for her right.

“When I was gang-raped, the society called me a liar. They thought I was faking the incident even though my medical tests proved that I was raped. They refused to believe that my family and I were being threatened,” she told Kolachi.

Akin to Kainat, another gang-rape victim feels threatened by her past, present and the future. Naseema Lubano, was able to win a partial victory when one of the seven accused was sentenced to life imprisonment by court in January 2010. The rest were acquitted for want of evidence.

Gang-raped in Ubavro, Sindh, in 2007, however, she has failed to recover from the traumatising incident and has isolated herself from everything.

“I am very frightened as I feel that the acquitted men will kill me. I do not even go out of my home, fearing for the worse. Instead I spend my entire day sitting at home thinking about the past and what would happen next,” the depressed Naseema told Kolachi.

Her brother Ali Asghar said that Naseema has been on medications since the time the accused men were acquitted. “It’s been three years that the incident took place but she has been unable to forget the incident.”

Rape is treated as a social taboo in this part of the world. Since the victim is looked down upon, recovery becomes difficult and often impossible for the survivor.

“Rape which means forcible intercourse by one person and gang-rape which is forcible intercourse by more than one is still considered unmentionable even today. The survivors instead of being supported are sneered at and made a mockery of by others,” said Khalida Ahmed Quadri, the Socio-Legal Officer of War against Rape, an NGO working specifically for the rights and protection of rape victims and survivors.

Facts and Figures:

According to WAR, since the start of the year, around 44 rape cases in the city alone have been reported. While the victims mainly comprises minor and young girls, the accused have found to be teenagers or under the 30 age bracket. Meanwhile, most of the incidents took place in the impoverished and cramped areas of Landhi, Korangi and Orangi.

Meanwhile, Sohail Abro, of the Society against the Rights of the Child (SPARC) said that from January 2010 till now, some 60 rape and sodomy cases of children have so far been reported. “Around 20 of these cases belong to Karachi while the rest of them took place in areas of Interior Sindh including Nawabshah, Larkhana and Dadu.”

According to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, around 928 rapes cases were reported across the country in the year 2009.

A comprehensive report by Madadgar Helpline, on 10-year violence against women states that around 4,762 women were raped, while 2,200 were gang-raped. Meanwhile, some 3,172 cases of rape were reported against children and 2,719 cases of sodomy.

Victims:

With minor girls becoming more and more victims of the rape and gang-rape, members of the civil society feel that the due to the susceptibility and defenselessness of young girls, they are being victimised for such crimes.

Rukhsana Siddique, rehabilitation officer of WAR said that the reasons why children became easy victims are as they do not resist. “Minor girls are whisked away easily. Moreover, when they are assaulted, they do not fight back due to their weak physical structure.”

Also, the effects on minor survivor are much more devastating than older ones. A recent case is of a six-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Kotri. Following the incident, the little girl refuses to talk about it even to her family. Her father Joseph talking to Kolachi said, “She will talk about anything but will not say anything about that incident. She is extremely terrified and keeps on shivering even when she is sleeping.”

Causes:

A sociologist Rana Asif term the lack of lawlessness in the country has emerged as the main cause for increasing incidents of rape. The conviction rate is merely five percent. Then there are other issues which lead to rape such as inflation, rampant poverty and unemployment.

Sohail Abro states other factors, “Due to the deteriorating condition of the education system and lack of healthy recreational activities, the youth have fallen prey to immoral and illegal doings. Drugs, petty crimes and societal frustrations have all added to rape incidents.”

Meanwhile, Shiraz Ahmed, an officer of the WAR, pointed out another factor saying that a lot of mini-cinemas have sprouted out in the city where the youngsters are shown pornographic movies. “Due to illegal activity, people are becoming habitual of sexual activities.”

He cited a recent example in which in a 16-year-old boy in Surjani Town raped a 6-year-old girl after watching a pornographic movie in one such cinema.

Rape unrecognised:

Various kinds of rape are not recognised in the country. One is the kind in which the victim is assaulted by using an object. Shazia, a 15-year-old a victim of domestic violence was raped with a stick by her in-laws, permanently damaging her private organ.

“There is no provision in the constitution which deals with such kind of rape and neither is considered a rape in this country.”Also, marital rape which is forcible sex after marriage is also neglected in the society. “A woman who is being forcibly raped can register a case against her husband but this does not happen as people do not take this matter seriously. Meanwhile, the sex without consent with female sex workers is also considered a rape but is hardly thought off as one,” said Siddiqui.

Cases not reported:

While an official of WAR claims that rape cases which are reported are hardly ten percent, Taranum Khan of HRCP says that due to the insensitive attitude of the police towards the victim and the length judiciary process turns off the people and they are not willing to report their cases.

But Farida Moten, a lawyer claims that if the victim and medical report is present, no one can stop the accused from getting convicted. “The victim and the medical report are imperative for conviction of the accused men.”

On the other hand, SHO of the Women Police Station, Syeda Ghazala admitted that the police are not sensitised in dealing with victims. “It is true that the police is not sensitized. Workshops should be held in this regard to train the officials and inform them how to deal with such cases.”

Meanwhile, only cases from lower-class are reported. “Not a single case from the elite class have been reported this year, even those incidents do take place. The upper class is more conscious about their status. Meanwhile, the middle-class is concerned about protecting their dignity and thus refrains from reporting case,” said Siddique.
Source: The News
Date:7/4/2010