Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan faced harsh criticism due to his recent remarks on the causes of rape in Pakistan. During an interview on live TV, the premier was asked about the rampant sexual abuse in Pakistan and what steps his government had taken to address them. His answer was not different than his previous take on the same topic. Instead of condemning vile men, he blamed the rise of sexual assault cases on women’s clothing again. During his interview with Axios on HBO, Khan remarked that the short clothes of women will have an impact on men unless they were robots.
His remarks were extremely painful for the people as evident from the reaction on social media. While denouncing rape against women and children, Khan said that the increased obscenity along with Indian and Western movies was the cause of sexual violence. He was seen advising women to cover themselves so men don’t get tempted to rape. Human rights groups and those concerned with this take termed Khan a rape apologist. They even demanded an official apology from Khan for giving factually incorrect statements and allegedly empowering rapists.
Why Obscenity Has Nothing to Do with Causes of Rape in Pakistan
Given the statement by Khan, Pakistani women are now confident that whenever someone rapes them, the government will not offer justice because it already blamed the victim for tempting the criminal. Khan’s remarks also failed to explain how little children, other men, covered women, animals, and corpses provoke men since several news reports about incidents of rape show that victims are not always women who wear short clothes. In such a scenario hearing the Prime Minister blaming everything on women seemed illogical. Even last year when he conducted a prayer on TV for COVID relief, his appointed cleric, Molana Tariq Jameel blamed the pandemic on women’s clothing.
As far as the causes of rape in Pakistan are concerned then they are no different than those in other countries since it is a very human problem. There are several theories on what makes a person commit the heinous crime of committing rape. Some researchers argue that the act depends upon a particular situation, while several arguments suggest that it is more about an exhibit of power. Instead of delving deeper into what conclusions the social scientists have made on this subject, one can evaluate the validity of Khan’s statement on the basis of some recent incidents of rape in Pakistan.
Child Sexual Abuse
Recently, a young man exposed a popular Mufti who was psychologically and physically manipulating him into having sex with him inside the madrassa. The incident caused a huge outcry on social media and resulted in the arrest of the accused. Unfortunately, this was not the only incident of its kind.
According to a report by Sahil, an organization working for child protection, around 1,500 children were sexually abused in the first half of the year 2020. This year the rate has increased by 5%. The victims included around 790 girls and 710 boys. In over 800 cases, the abusers were mostly family members or family friends while strangers were involved in only 135 reported cases. It is impossible for these children to provoke men unless men have a desire to exert their power on a weak person.
Khan repeated the same old story which also meant that he just brushed off the issue non-seriously. Instead of taking a stand and call out men for criminal behavior, he instead found it conveniently concise to shift the blame on women and give rapists a free pass again.
Rape of Men
Many were hurt after hearing their leader utter such hateful words towards women while culprits were clearly men. It is strange because the state continues to push false narratives even despite the ever-increasing crime of rape in the country. There are also others who support Khan and share the same views about the causes of rape in Pakistan. Even if men had sexually abused other men, as Aziz Ur Rehman did to a young boy in Madrassah, the state blamed women’s clothing.
Just recently a student from Islamabad based university was gang-raped by students of another university. The incident again makes people raise questions about how much obscene was the student’s dressing on a scale of modest to make him fall victim to rape?
Such events justify the criticism of the state on such matters. If it was was serious then it would stick to preventing rapes from happening by regulating male behavior instead of telling women what to do.
The reported rape cases against men are considerably less than women and nobody discusses them. The victims are usually silent due to family pressure because of the notion that men are strong who can harm others but no one can harm them. This leads many people to believe that rape doesn’t happen to men. However, several studies show that men do get raped by other men. According to a 2016 survey by Tribune, 19% of more than 900 respondents said that they have been sexually harassed and assaulted. Around 88% of them said that their age was younger than 18 at that time.
Many of the victims refrain from reporting the incident because of the corrupt justice system that judges the victim and makes fun of him instead of doing their job. An NGO WAR (War Against Rape) reported that male survivors of rape act more frustrated than women and develop tendencies to commit violence as a form of revenge.
Why Covered Women are Raped if Short Clothes are Tempting?
Khan said that short dresses are one of the causes of rape in Pakistan. Even if a woman is wearing a short dress and it gives filthy desires to men, it is absurd to hold a woman accountable here. When she does not even care about whatever the man thinks about her and has nothing to do with him, so why does a man feel obliged to do something with her? There is an inherent urge for men to use other living beings in order to satisfy their sexual desires. Unfortunately, women are the major victim of these desires.
As the police have a tendency to not register rape cases, very few reports are available. Last year, a woman was stranded on a highway in Lahore with children when two men saw an opportunity to rape her in front of her kids. Even at that time, the CCPO Lahore stated that it was the woman’s fault to be driving this late at night without a man’s company. Even that woman was not wearing short clothes. In fact, the majority of rape cases in Pakistan did not involve women who were wearing what Khan described. This is why it is absurd to blame women for an assault on themselves. This way the rapist will be vindicated to continue abusing every woman they see.
According to the stats obtained from the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Welfare Agencies, and the Police, there are at least 11 rape cases reported in Pakistan on a daily average. Around 22,000 rape cases have been registered by the police in the past six years. Further, the conviction rate in these cases is also much less. However, only 77 of them have been actually convicted.
On another hand, the sad cases of animal rape also don’t suggest that women’s short clothes are the reason for rape. In Sindh, Pakistan, cases of men raping the Indus dolphin often make headlines. Locals say that rapists feel a dolphin’s genitalia is similar to a woman’s. Inhumane treatment of animals is common in Pakistan where past cases have revealed the rape of multiple types of animals.
In one instance, some teenagers set a kitten on fire and watched it burn to death. Other teenagers raped a kitten repeatedly until all her internal organs were destroyed. Just like women’s rape, such cases have even less chance of getting reported as police have a tendency to laugh this one-off.
Authorities do not even take action against animal abusers. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890 does not contain instructions about the laws against the rape of animals. It only mentions that animal abuse is to be fined 100 PKR only, which is convenient for rapists. However, article 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code states that anyone found guilty of intercourse with an animal shall be punished with life imprisonment or 2-10 years with a fine. Yet, none of these laws are being implemented as animals continue to get endangered in Pakistan.
There was one rape case of a chicken where the teenage perpetrator admitted that he did it out of “sexual frustration”. Reportedly, he was only arrested, which means it was easy for anyone to bail him out.
Rape of Corpses
Imran Khan blamed women’s clothing for the causes of rape in Pakistan, where men do not even spare corpses. They dig out the body from the grave, commit the heinous act, and then place it back. They keep doing it until the corpse decomposes and they shift to another body. In one case, one undertaker was himself involved in this activity. He noted whenever a woman died and came to rest in eternal peace but he could not let her get peace even after death. The interview of this worker remained viral for many years where he admitted that he repeated the process with over 48 dead bodies.
Monitoring or registering such cases is nearly impossible due to the nighttime, where the perpetrator has the advantage of making the act concealed in the dark. Last year, a man was caught red-handed during the heinous act with a corpse in the graveyard. The suspicions started growing when the relatives of the dead noted that the graves had been freshly dug out. After that villagers saw the man digging out a woman’s corpse from the grave and started raping her. They caught him and handed him over to the police.
Another disturbing case came to light in 2013 after a dead body of a 15-year-old girl was lying outside her grave in Gujranwala. It was reported that somebody dug it out and raped it but was never apprehended.
Problematic Laws of Pakistan
One of the main reasons for Pakistan’s failure to convict rapists is the clause of “four witnesses” as proof for a rape victim in Pakistani law, which has been criticized for ages. Islam has placed the burden of proof on the accuser only to protect any wrongful conviction. However, in Pakistan, lawmakers have taken it literally rather than evidence. A rape usually occurs in isolated places where no one can hear or respond to the screams of the victim so a witness is impossible. The law became active in 1979; the era of President Zia ul Haq under the name of “Hudood Ordinance”. It was supposed to bring law according to the injunctions of Islam. It officially criminalized theft, alcohol consumption, slander, and, adultery and defined “The Offence of Zina” in multiple forms. Rape closely links with “zina-bil-jabar” which states that one cannot forcefully have sexual intercourse with another person. Then lawmakers further classified the nature of evidence required to implicate the accused. This “proof of zina” required 4 male adult witnesses or expected accusers to confess their crime on their own.
The law itself provides fewer chances of victims getting justice considering the lack of Islamic leadership. There would be no witnesses if the rape happened alone or nobody believed the women after. It makes it impossible for the survivor to even register a complaint against the attacker. Moreover, the law is not even in accordance with Islam as it claims to be. According to many Islamic scholars, Prophet Mouhammad (PBUH) has ordered “hadd” punishment for the rapist only on the testimony of women (without witnesses). Hadd punishment is usually death by stoning, 100 lashes in public, or banishment. Islamic leaders other than Muhammad (PBUH) have also ordered surgical castration as the “Hadd” punishment to balance out the harm done to another person’s body. Others have also described a dowry (payment) for the victim of rape. Pakistani legal system has never applied any of these laws on rapists which is why it is not in accordance with Islam. It has been practicing legal injustice by shifting the onus of proof on the victim instead of accepting documentary proof, medical evidence, or expert opinion. Law mostly just puts the accused in jail, only to silence the pressure, when it starts to mount.
One of the saddest cases that showed the heinous face of the Pakistani legal system was Safia Bibi’s in 1982. A blind girl was raped by her employer and his son but was labeled guilty of consensual sex after she failed to come up with witnesses. The court sentenced her to imprisonment with manual labor for more than 3 years. Moreover, they hit her with fifteen lashes and fined her 1000 PKR. And, the accused man was acquitted with his reputation intact. Another disturbing case of Jehan Mina in 1982 also highlights the wrongful conviction due to this law. The 15-year-old became pregnant due to rape but due to the lack of witnesses, the court did not accept her claim. They charged her with adultery by ruling her condition as “illegitimate pregnancy”. She gave birth inside the prison. Many such cases have happened repeatedly that worsen the rape victim’s condition.
Fortunately, Lahore High Court termed the two fingers virginity test for a rape victim illegal since it was inefficient and further traumatized the victim. However, there are still problems like flawed institutional practices, society’s behavior, and blaming the victim as one of the major causes of rapes in Pakistan that prevents criminals to get convicted.