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January 27, 2020

Land of danger

Editorial

 
January 27, 2020

A country where one rape occurs every two hours according to international monitoring groups is a dangerous one for all, particularly women. It is clear that the epidemic of rape and child abuse that we saw in 2019 and the years before it is continuing into 2020. Earlier this month, a seven-year-old girl in Nowshera was found raped and murdered while returning from the madressah she attended. Two men were captured by local villagers while trying to drown and thereby hide her body in a tank full of water. The villagers attempted to set the men on fire, but were stopped by the victim’s uncle who reported them to police and lodged an FIR. The men have been arrested and investigations continue. But Hooz Noor will never return to her home after her class. She has become one of the many victims of child abuse at the hands of men who knew her as a neighbour and member of their community. Only a few days after the child was murdered, miles away in Sehwan in Sindh, reports surfaced about a young woman who had been raped by a magistrate in his chambers. The girl, who had married of her own free will, was in court to testify that she had made this choice. She was apparently called into chambers by the judge for a ‘reconciliation meeting’ with her family. Instead, she was raped. The judge has been removed from his position and forensic examinations are continuing.

It would appear that the judge may have seen a woman choosing who to marry as easy prey. Such conceptions continue to exist in our paternalistic society. There have been other reports of a child’s remains being found in Kasur, the site from which multiple rapes have been reported since 2015. And the weekend saw a horrific child abuse video doing the rounds on social media. No doubt there are other cases from around the country, not all of them making the media. Indeed, many would have been covered up by families, especially since many cases of abuse take place behind the closed doors of homes and are committed by relatives with families unwilling to report them to police. The victims, girls and boys, themselves remain under constant threat in their homes. The figures from monitoring groups that state that out of the 141 cases of rape reported from Lahore since 2018, not even a single culprit was convicted simply add to the problem.

It is not heinous punishment, such as public hanging, but consistent punishment preceded by strong, honest investigation which leads to a decline in crime.This decline is not taking place because investigations are poorly conducted and courts are often not presented with sufficient evidence to deliver a guilty verdict. There are other societal reasons for the high number of rape cases we continue to hear about. The fact that more persons are stepping forward to report them is good news but the rapes themselves are obviously the worst possible news we could be hearing and need to be addressed as a priority by our politicians and administrators.