Women and sexual violence | By Tariq Aqil 


Women and sexual violence

PRIME Minister Imran Khan has enlight ened us with some more pearls of wisdom when he blamed “Fahashi” for the dramatic rise in rape and sexual violence instead of the fast deteriorating law and order situation on his watch.

According to the PM the whole concept of Purdah or covering up in Islam has a purpose to it which is to “keep temptation in check” that is nothing but a crude and senseless attempt to thrust the onus of responsibility on the dress sense of women.

This smacks of the obscurantist Taliban philosophy who enforced a dress code on girls and women in areas under their control.

Official statistics in Pakistan have revealed that at least eleven rape cases are reported in the country every day with over 22000 cases reported to the police in the last six years and according to some experts this is just the tip of the iceberg because a large number of the incidents are not even reported due to cultural and religious constraints.

These shocking figures are an eye opener because incidents of rape in Pakistan exceed the number in many western societies where women are not dressed as modestly as the majority of our women are so much for the PM’s reasoning for the increase in sexual violence and rape cases in Pakistan.

April all over the civilized world is recognized as sexual assault awareness month to educate people and raise awareness about sexual assault, sexual violence refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse.

In Pakistan we have yet to realize the gravity of this disease gnawing at the very roots of our society and we continue to blame western culture movies and propaganda for this very indigenous home grown monster called sexual violence and rape.

This way of thinking much in line with our national conspiracy complex that is to blame all our faults and worries on some mysterious external hand or the conspiracies of the “Yahood o Nasara” meaning Jews and Christians. Isn’t it time to wake up and recognize our home grown monsters?

The recent motorway rape case grabbed headlines all over the country and even more shocking and revolting were the remarks of the CCPO Umar Sheikh “Why was she out so late without a brother or husband? Why didn’t she check her gas tank before leaving? Why didn’t she take the more public GT road route?” These were the callous and senseless remarks of the senior most police officer of the area supposedly in charge of the law and order situation.

Typical example of shifting blame and refusing to accept responsibility or even to express sympathy with the unfortunate victim who had been gang raped and robbed in the presence of her children.

For some odd reason Pakistani women due to a strange local logic their safety is in the hands of men in the family who must ensure that their bodies are properly covered and they stay indoors after dark because again according to this twisted logic men turn into predators only after dark and if a woman is harassed during the day its just her misfortune of being a female in an Islamic country.

A woman could not be harassed if she never left her house and ironically most women experience their first unwanted sexual experience inside their own house? Why can’t a woman drive alone at night? Rape culture in this country is systemic.

It is supported at all levels from blaming women for getting raped and not to expect males not to rape women.

The idea that men simply cannot be expected to control their natural instincts in the presence of women as being duly accepted.

The reasoning that getting raped is entirely the woman’s fault for driving alone at night, without a male escort meaning that the beasts in the shape of men who assaulted her just could not help themselves.

Just repeating the hackneyed old phrase “Boys will be boys” in such cases is not only disgusting but also revolting, Rape undoubtedly is a crime in Pakistan that can send a rapist to prison for twenty five years and in some cases even to the gallows.

Unfortunately this law is handled extremely poorly by the authorities concerned.

All rape survivors go through extreme trauma and have to deal with the harrowing experience of a backlash from society and their immediate families.

They face harassment when they report a rape case and that is why most victims do not report such cases.

Pakistan already has laws and penalties for corruption, bribery, land grabbing and smuggling but that has not stopped these crimes from happening across the country.

Educated and enlightened women are now on roads chanting “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” because they find it impossible to take ownership of their own bodies because they have been told since birth that their bodies belong to everyone their family, their community, their nation basically everyone except themselves.
—The writer is Professor of History.