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Karachi

November 16, 2016

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Call to do away with primitive methods of justice

The War Against Rape (WAR), Karachi, expressed outrage at the death of a woman who set herself on fire after she was ordered to be raped by the elders of a Panchayat (village council) in Dhillu Gharbi of District Gujrat .

In a statement issued on Tuesday, WAR strongly condemned the barbaric incident in Gujrat. The orders were apparently given to avenge her father’s ‘transgression’.

Rape itself was a highly deplorable act, but to assault someone sexually as punishment, using a woman as the means, was shocking and shameful, read the statement.

The fact that such a punishment was even conceived and considered by the village Panchayat sadly reflected the mindset of our society, WAR maintained in its statement.

The organisation further called out the informal parallel justice system that continued to violate women’s rights, ordering for them to be killed for supposed infringements of their families or to protect a community’s honour. The women were punitively raped or forcefully married to settle disputes in order to pay for the alleged crimes of their family members, the statement further read.

Under tribal codes and customs, women were perceived as properties of men and the repositories of their honour, thus, they were deemed a legitimate sacrifice when dishonour was to be redressed.

An inter-tribal dispute was often resolved by Jirgas or Panchayats by marrying a woman off to a man of the rival group. The organisation believed that, “In such a social setting, a woman’s life, let alone her happiness, had little worth.”

To add to that, tribal leaders in Pakistan were themselves parliamentarians, civil administrators or had close family links with the administration. In their official capacities, they spoke the language of good governance, of the separation of powers, which entailed respect for the independence of the judiciary and of human rights, but, in their constituencies, they presided over tribal courts, the statement maintained.

The WAR strongly felt that had justice been served in the case of Mukhtaran Mai’s, an example would have been made of the perpetrators of this heinous crime, such incidents would have significantly reduced rather than increased in our society.

The WAR in its statement urged the state to reform the system and either do away with these primitive methods of governance or act as a regulator and overhead the system in some way. The organisation also called for the state and other relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and ensure strict punishment against the rapist and all those involved in the illegal Panchayat.

As per the recently passed Anti Rape Bill the case should be resolved within three months to ensure speedy access to justice, read the statement.

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