Pakistan is ranked 151 out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020. Last year, according to official statistics, at least 11 rape cases were reported each day, with over 22,000 cases filed in the last six years. Out of these, many hundreds of cases are gang-rape cases. According to another report, eight children are abused every day in the Islamic republic of Pakistan, with four percent increase in 2020 compared to 2019. A leading newspaper citing FIA record reveals that more than 6,000 complaints are submitted to the federal investigation agency cybercrime wing in Lahore during the current year. So far, of all the reports, only 0.3% of the accused have been convicted in the last year. This shows the outright failure of incumbent government regarding the gender-based violence, safety of women and child abuse. These cases have continuously increased in Khan’s government each year. However, instead of taking strong measures for the curtailment of sexual crimes, Prime Minister Imran Khan has frequently passed irresponsible comments on the dresses of women.
Notwithstanding, according to an investigation, conducted by a leading media channel, only 41% of cases are reported to the police. These are the statistics that have been actually registered, while there are innumerable incidents that are not reported in the villages. Despite the prevailing ‘Purdah’ and the various safety measures taken by women, they have still fallen prey to harassers. Even children of five have experienced the savagery of men. It all depicts the flawed law and order system as well as social standards of the society, which upholds a particular view of ‘honour’ above basic humanity.
Silence on the part of a society regarding such incidents not only hampers the authorities in exterminating the evil but also encourages the rapists for committing further assaults. A large faction of the society even favours the rapists, directly or indirectly, by blaming the victims. A living example is the recent Ayesha Akram incident, when some 400 young men harassed her with impunity. Following the incident, social media was flooded with people blaming Ayesha for provocative dresses and TikTok videos. These people came up with another excuse: that the girl had somehow put her humiliation before hundreds of men for gaining fame. No girl can put her honour and life at stake to gain fame. However, this was not the first case, and neither can it be the last one of the kind if the public kept blaming victims.
Women now feel more insecurity as the men who are living with them protect the rapists by throwing all the blame upon the victims. Even the head of the government doesn’t feel any sympathy towards women: instead, Mr. Imran Khan feels ‘purdah’ is something that can protect the life and sanctity of women. One wonders if he considered whether his suggestion can work for children too!
Religious figures, instead of speaking against the malady, have every now and then blamed women for their dresses, declaring them as provocative
Recently, the Prime Minister, referring to the 14 August incident. said, “a big reason for the destruction we’re seeing is that our children are not being brought up properly.” While further speaking on sexual harassment, he criticized an English-based educational system and mobile phones!
To the rational observer, obviously, the English education system is not the reason that produced a rape-sicken society. After all, previous generations, including the PM himself, have grown in the same educational system. Nevertheless, instead of taking strong measures against the rising harassment and sexual assaults, Mr. Khan went on lauding his Single National Curriculum policy and other political point-scoring. It clearly indicates a lack of sincerity and seriousness on the part of Imran Khan and his government regarding the continuous onslaught against women’s rights.
A woman who is raped physically by an individual or a gang in our society is then violated again and again – mentally and morally – by the whole nation. The victim-blaming narrative exclusively protects culprits and encourages potential harassers to further their vileness, since they are secure in the knowledge that the blame, somehow, will be laid upon the victim.
Religious figures, instead of speaking against the malady, have every now and then blamed women for their dresses, declaring them as provocative, whereas they forget that In the United Arab Emirates, which is a Muslim land, women dance late night in the streets and wear Western-style dresses in Turkey, Malaysia and other Muslim countries – but still the ratio of sexual crimes is far lower than ours.
In Pakistan, backing of the culprits by religious and political figures – though indirectly – may lead to a time when women will not be safe inside their homes.
The incumbent government should take some actions on a grassroots level, by urging the clergy to condemn the sexual harassers in strong and unequivocal words – without blaming dresses and motives of women. Secondly, the religious leaders should also shed light on the religious duties of men, and emphasize that a male is not exempted if found guilty of harassing a woman. In any case, he has to control himself as well as his fellow beings from committing sexual crimes as per the injunctions of Islam. Thirdly, on a broader societal level, our values regarding the ‘honour’ of a woman need to be rationalized: we must recognize that rape doesn’t degrade the woman but the man. The government should also understand that it is not only the legislature and executive that can control such crimes, but many other things must be employed in eliminating the evil from the society.