Wednesday June 12, 2024

Haunting phantom of rape continues to cast dark shadows

By Shakeel Anjum
September 24, 2023

Islamabad : The haunting phantom of rape continues to cast its dark shadow over the lives of countless women and underage girls. Looking deeply into entrenched reasons behind the frightening trend of female rape victims hesitating to report their harrowing ordeals, or, tragically, abandoning their pursuit of justice altogether.

The insidious issue of rape is a grim reality that refuses to fade into the background. While the nation grapples with the ongoing crisis, there is a disturbing trend that often goes unnoticed as a significant number of female rape victims choose not to report their cases or withdraw their complaints, leaving their tormentors to roam free. To truly combat this menace, it is imperative to understand the multifaceted reasons behind this tragic phenomenon.

This is a reality and harsh truth that the police deject the rape victim women for registration of the first information report (FIR) by showing mortifying and disgusting attitude towards such women and straightaway refuse to take up the case without conducting medical assessment to prove the act of rape.

It is observed that the role of the NGOs, apparently establish for the assistance and protection of the women are similar malicious than the police because the NGOs require a “subject” to market the substance and to play with the nobility and respect of the rape victim.

While, the counsels of the rapists use their privilege of disgracing the raped women given by the law, factually lay the victims bare by putting brazen questions to prove that she was not raped but committed the sex offence with the mutual consent and the victim is fraudster as she blackmails the accused to get heavy amount as ransom.

This attitude is reflected in the way police handle cases of rape brought by a woman. It has been found that police habitually refuse to register such complaints, particularly if the complaint is lodged against a powerful person. It is also observed that police officers often illegally detain women in police lock-up for days at a time without formally registering a charge against them or producing them before a magistrate within the required 24-hour period. The victim women can thus be held indefinitely without the knowledge of the courts for reaching on compromise with the influential rapist. It is happen during these periods of “imperceptibility” that most sexual abuse of female detainees occurs.

In one case investigated during previous years, three women were detained for alleged sexual offenses and were held in police custody for 48 hours before being produced before a magistrate and ultimately released for lack of evidence. While in police lock-up, all three women were raped and sexually abused by three police officials; one of the women, who was above 50 years of age, tortured by the police inhumanly to terrify her. Although a judicial inquiry into the incident initiated by local human rights attorneys supported the rape and abuse charges, the police were never prosecuted. The elderly woman expressed her views saying that her life was “finished” and she no longer hoped for justice.

We found that the majority of rape and adultery or fornication cases attract the minor punishments which entail public whipping, rigorous imprisonment and fines. While the indication of women is permissible at that level. It is widely believed that Pakistani courts still show signs of a bias against women. The courts tend to see women as complicit in sexual offenses, despite a lack of evidence, or evidence to the contrary, and required from female rape victims extraordinarily conclusive proof that the alleged interaction was forced. Moreover, many women who alleged but were unable to prove rape have themselves been charged with adultery or fornication for consensual sex, although a failure to prove rape does not prove the sexual act was occurred. The courts effectively have set a slighter burden of proof for the prosecution in cases involving female defendants.

The contradictory upshots of obtainable medical confirmation often show multiple discriminations. In some cases, when medical evidence has been introduced in support of a rape charge in which forcible intercourse cannot be proved, the male has also been charged with treachery or fornication. The medical evidence, however, implicating accused males often cannot be obtained, so they are frequently released for lack of evidence while their women victims are imprisoned pending trial based on their own allegations of forcible intercourse.

The provisions of the ‘Hadood’ laws are exacerbating as far as their application by the police and judiciary are concerned. According to several Pakistani legal aid attorneys who represent poor women charged with Hadood offenses, the vast majority of Hadood cases, mostly lodged by the victim's husband or father, are not supported by the evidence and should not have been prosecuted, the victim women were prosecuted under Hadood offenses because they refused to marry men proposed by their families, decided to leave home or married men against their parents' will, or sought to separate from or divorce abusive husbands.

It is extremely hard for women prisoners to try to find balance for sexual and physical abuse by the police. They must confront rape and evidence laws that blatantly discriminate, they face the possibility of criminal trial or social banishment if they fail to prove their rape allegation; they must combat police and judicial attitudes that are clearly biased against the women victims and they must trounce procedural obstacles to prosecuting the police that affect all victims of custodial abuse, including the absence of any independent body to investigate and prosecute abuses of police power.