With 11 rape cases reported every day, rising sex crimes have emerged as a big issue in Pakistan, with women lawmakers cutting across party lines on Friday demanding public hanging of perpetrators of sexual assaults and harassment of women and children
With 11 rape cases reported every day, rising sex crimes have emerged as a big issue in Pakistan, with women lawmakers cutting across party lines on Friday demanding public hanging of perpetrators of sexual assaults and harassment of women and children.
The demand was made in the National Assembly by women members of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), and opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), days after Prime Minister Imran Khan swallowed his earlier controversial comments on rape and said he holds only rapists responsible for sexual assaults.
Imran Khan, who had a month back drawn flak for saying during a television interview on HBO that a woman wearing few clothes would have an impact on men “unless they’re robots”, this week claimed that he never blamed victims and accused the media of taking his earlier comments out of context, the usual subterfuge politicians are known to resort to when they are held to account for their statements.
According to official statistics obtained last November, 22,037 rape cases were reported to the police over the past six years, of which 4,060 were pending in the courts.
On average 11 rape incidents were registered every day in the country of over 220 million people.
The figures are given by the Police, Law, and Justice Commission of Pakistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Women's Foundation, and provincial welfare agencies also revealed that only 77 accused – 0.3 percent of the total figure - have been convicted over the past six years. A mere 18 percent of the cases reached the prosecution stage.
The issue reached the floor of the National Assembly following a recent incident in the country’s capital Islamabad where a woman, Noor Muqaddam, was slaughtered by her “friend” Zahir Jaffer.
“We 69 women MNAs demand quick judgment in rape cases and public hanging of rapists,” said Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar of PML-N.
Angry women legislators also called for the formation of a parliamentary committee to review rape cases.
“If Pakistan has to be run, then rapists and killers must be hanged in public. We will not let the country be run in the way it is being run,” said PTI lawmaker Asma Qadeer who broke into tears while speaking on the issue. She kept on weeping while narrating incidents of rape of children and women, recalling that recently a Qari had raped a little girl in a village.
Maulana Akbar Chitrali endorsed the demand of women MNAs and said Islamic punishment must be given in the country and rapists and killers must be hanged at public places to stop such incidents from happening.
PTI MNA Ghazala Saifi called for speedy trials of rapists and killers of women and children.
While Mehnaz Akbar Aziz of PML-N said Muqaddam’s killer must be hanged in public, PPP’s Shamim Ara Panhwar said all rapists and killers should meet the same fate.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari said the government had recently passed a law against rape cases, but only laws would not work because there was a need to change the mindset of society about women.
She expressed satisfaction that the investigation into the Noor Muqaddam case was being conducted in the right direction. She said that false reports were being spread on social media about the case to create confusion.
According to Pakistani laws, punishment for rape is either the death penalty or imprisonment of between ten and twenty-five years. For cases related to gang rape, the punishment is either the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Imran Khan, a world cup-winning Pakistan cricket skipper and once known as a "ladies' man", had said during a television interview in June: ”If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact, it will have an impact on the men unless they’re robots. I mean it’s common sense”.
To a further poser on whether a woman’s clothing really provokes acts of sexual violence, he had said: “It depends on which society you live in. If in a society where people haven’t seen that sort of thing, it will have an impact on them’.
However, during an appearance on PBS News Hour this week, the prime minister gave a completely different take on the issue, perhaps in an attempt to silence his critics, particularly women who had lashed out at him.
“One who commits rape is solely responsible for it. So let’s be clear about that… The victim is never responsible. My comments were taken out of context. We were simply talking about the Pakistani society and the rising number of sex crimes, including those against children.”
The premier also provided clarification regarding his comments on ‘purdah' (veil worn by Muslim women) and assured that he was referring to everyone, not just women or their clothes.
Imran Khan assured that “Pardah is not restricted to clothes or women; it applies to men as well. I was talking about bringing the temptations down in society. My comments were deliberately taken out of context because I know the interviews I’ve given; never would I say the victim is to blame.”