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    Rape and honour killings – By: Sumbal Rana

    Rape and honour killings – By: Sumbal Rana


    Rape and honor killing is one of those social issues of Pakistan that many people choose to ignore. Rape culture is wrong, yet in Pakistan, it is justified. It is explained with an excuse that Islam encourages modesty and assigns males the responsibility of safeguarding weaker women. And the tribal jirgas, which are the backbone of Pakistan’s rural power structure, function as the opposite of state law, making unsympathetic judgments to women and favoring these terrible acts.

    Pakistan has a high percentage of gender-based abuse, which has been faulted on a variety of factors, including a poor education, unawareness, poverty, and widespread misogyny.

    Human rights activists estimate that approximately 1,000 women are killed each year in so-called honor killings. Domestic violence cases increased 200 percent from January to March 2020, according to data from domestic violence helplines across Pakistan, and worsened during the Covid-19 lockdowns after March.

    The rape culture in Pakistan is pervasive. It is amplified at every level, from blaming women for “having been raped” to never expecting men not to abuse women. The notion that men cannot be expected to control their primal urges in the presence of women has become commonplace. The notion that ‘getting raped’ is a woman’s fault for leaving alone, on the wrong course, at the wrong moment, in the wrong place, without an appropriate escort, and so on is just yet another way of putting that the men who violently attacked her couldn’t help themselves. For some inexplicable reason, most men are content with the assumption that all men are inherently rapists, despite the fact that some decent men choose not to sexually assault women.

    The fundamental belief is that decent men don’t abuse women, verbally abuse them, objectify them, sexually assault them or stipe them but they still want to; that this is somehow embedded in their DNA. More men should find this supposition repulsive and offensive, prompting them to join women in actively opposing it. But few do. This is why it is easier for most men to accept silently that violence is inherent in their nature, because it places the obligation for abuse of all kinds and degrees on the women who are subjected to it rather than the men who perpetrate it. It is the reason why men have charged themselves with protecting’some’ women, those over whom they have’some’ claim.

    Rape is a crime in Pakistan, punishable by a 25-year jail sentence and, in some case scenarios, the death penalty. However, ask any victim and they will tell you how poorly the authorities handle the situation, which is geared more toward punishing rape victims than rapists. Aside from the mental anguish of sexual assault, rape survivors face enormous societal backlash, which often begins with their immediate relatives and spreads to their neighbourhoods.

    During an interview with the BBC in April, Prime Minister Imran Khan was asked about the emergence in sexual assault cases across the country, to which he responded that in a place like Pakistan, women need to conceal themselves up to avoid lure in society. Human rights organizations were outraged by this statement.

    A similar scenario had occurred previously, when Maulana Tariq Jameel, a powerful religious leader, asserted during a television program, in which the prime minister was also present, that the global epidemic was exacerbated by “women’s lack of modesty.”

    A mother was gang-raped in front of her children on a highway last September in Pakistan. The woman was waiting for assistance after her car ran out of gas when two men approached her and raped her at gunpoint. The accused were sentenced to death and life in prison, marking the first time in Pakistan that convicts in a gang rape case have been sentenced to death. Even when Pakistani women experienced collective pain as facts of the incident were made public, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) handling on the investigation declared on national television that the victim should not have traveled the route she did – once again holding the victim responsible.

    Blaming the victim and stigmatizing not only reactivates or exacerbates trauma, but it also prevents other victims from speaking up.

    When prominent individuals lay the blame on victims, they give abusers in our system more leeway to commit more violations and possibly even justify their actions.

    In these cases, the truth stands that something is not deemed illegal until it is treated consequently, which can only happen when it is habitually prosecuted. Prescription of legal remedies for a criminal act does not guarantee that those measures will be implemented.

    Provided the nation’s violent history against women, the unresponsive way the police and media handle these cases, the cold hearted statements made by great leaders, and eventually the decisions made by the judicial branch – it’s past time to admit that the state is playing a key role in the rising amount of gender-based violence in Pakistan.


    Sumbal Rana
    Political Science Student
    International Islamic University

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