Rape in Pakistan: Women continue to feel insecure amid insignificant conviction rate

rape in Pakistan

In a shocking incident, a girl in Pakistan's Sheikhupura committed suicide just five days after she was gang-raped by security guards in a hospital, an episode highlighting the uptick in crime against women and the hopelessness for justice in the South Asian country.

This particular case remains concerning since the victim was visiting  Children’s Hospital Sheikhupura to inquire about the health of her niece when three security guards gang-raped her.

In February this year, in the heart of Islamabad at Fatima Jinnah Park, a 24-year-old woman was raped by two armed men who separated her from her male companion and assaulted her at gunpoint.

The victim was also told by her assailants that she should not venture out late (the time was around 8 pm) in a park.

Protests soon broke out as women tied their dupatta to the railings of the park, demanding justice and protection.

There are several such cases reported from Pakistan in recent times which raise concern and demand immediate action from the new federal government despite reforms in rape laws and a judgement recognising marital rape as a crime.

Dawn News, a leading Pakistani newspaper, reflected on the questionable state of the country's law and order system, especially concerning women's safety, when it wrote in its editorial titled 'Plague of rape': "Despite legislation to thwart the scourge of rape, over 80 pc of suspected sex offenders in the country are acquitted because of deficient investigation, weak prosecution, out-of-court settlements and pending cases in the lower courts."

The newspaper's piece mentions the corruption within the police, which also limits the scope for the women of the cash-strapped nation to highlight their plight.

No wonder a survey released in 2022 showed a woman was raped in Pakistan every two hours, highlighting the unsafe condition of women in a country that also witnesses honour killing.

The survey, conducted by SAMAA TV’s Investigation Unit (SIU) based on data collected from the Punjab province’s home department and the Ministry of Human Rights, also found that the conviction rate in the country stood at a dismal 0.2 percent.

“Newly collected and compiled data showed that as many as 21,900 women were reported to have been raped in the country from 2017 to 2021. This meant that around 12 women were raped across the country daily, or one woman every two hours,” said the survey as quoted by the media.

Another report by the advocacy organisation War Against Rape (WAR), which quoted data from the Punjab home department and ministry of human rights, mentioned that 21,900 women were raped in the province between 2017 and 2021.

The statistics showed chilling data that, on average, 12 women are raped daily, or one woman is assaulted every two hours in Pakistan.

However, the advocacy organisation believes these figures represent only the tip of the iceberg due to various barriers survivors face, including stigma, fear, victim-blaming, and systemic biases in the justice system, reported The News International, quoting WAR's data.

The report also showed how early marriage of children remains a significant human rights violation in Pakistan, accounting for around 18 percent of women in the country.

The report mentioned approximately 19 million child brides still exist in the country.

According to a Human Rights Watch report this year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 18.9 million girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18 and 4.6 million before 15.

Many married girls are forced into dangerous pregnancies at a young age and pregnancies that are too closely spaced. Women from religious minority communities remain particularly vulnerable to forced marriage. The government did little to stop such early and forced marriages, it said.

There is hardly any hope of a change in the situation in the nation that elected a new government just a few months ago unless legal and procedural anomalies and societal prejudices are addressed.

Highlighting the measure that the government should implement immediately to keep their daughters safe, Dawn News' editorial concluded: "There should be no space for either out-of-court settlements, payments to poor victims and families, or victim blaming."

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