Ideas for life Trust Forum arranged a consultative session with some lawyers on Hudood law its present status and Rape law under the penal code of Pakistan prior to 1979 and after the 2006 amendment.
Further to this Ideas for Life Trust Forum held a panel discussion on rape, the mind set and what the law has to say about it. Women representing different walks of life expressed their opinion concerning this topic. Consensus was reached that rape is more of a crime of opportunity where the honour of the woman becomes a contentious thing between two warring clans in rural setup, in urban context, the show of power and domination; the thought that “I am, thus I can” propelling deviant behaviours.
In the rural setup often the show of power is demonstrated by raping or dishonouring the women of the rival clan. During the discussion the hurdles that a raped woman has to go through in order to get justice were also explored in detail. Woman in our society is considered a vessel of honour; and often the families don’t support the victim in perusing the course of justice. She is hushed and silenced to protect the family’s honour. Rape victims become a social disgrace and are often shunned by the society. If a woman survives all this along with her personal trauma and still wants to stand for the wrong done to her, the second shock comes in the police station where she goes to register the FIR against the perpetrator(s) as our police hasn’t been sensitized enough to deal with such situations. Their first response is that she must have been a party to the crime committed. With their gross attitude and embarrassing questions they put the women on defensive. The third shock comes when she is referred to the medico legal officers for physical examination, basically the officers are looking for physical sign of rape, bruises, tears, bite marks, and signs of virginity. A married women, who had succumbed with no outward resistance, or who had no bruises to show for the brutality committed against her has very little chance of proving her assault. Even in the court, a rape victim has to survive innuendos, snickering, offensive and suggestive smiles. A raped woman often passes through demeaning cross examination. Most of the time she has to narrate her story repeatedly; where to prove her guilty certain sexual positions are enacted and discussed. Mostly it’s her word against the accused so she has to prove first her innocence that the act was committed against her will.
The question raised in the discussion was that five years down the lane, after the amendment the much discussed, controversial Hudood Law, why the a victims of rape are still disadvantaged.
Under the Hudood Law, zina and zina bil jabr were treated in the same manner, the women who were raped but were not able to prove that they were raped were tried for zina for admitting that intercourse did take place. The accused in such cases walked free, for fear of wrongful persecution, women stopped reporting rape. Now with the amendment, rape is tried under the penal code the way it used to be done prior to 1979. Still we feel that rape instances are not reported in the society for fear and shame and justice is not given to the victim as we can see in case of Mukhtaran Mai, Shazia Khalid and Veena Hayat’s case. When the perpetrators of such crimes walk free the message given to the society is that the women in that society are not safe whether they are living in the city, in posh localities or in villages.
Ideas for Life Trust Forum members emphasized the need to discuss the issue at various forums with all stakeholders. It is further felt that there is need to start a dialogue on rape law to discuss the post amendment scenario.
- Some of the areas we feel still need to be explored further are
- Challenging the mind set, rape as crime of passion versus rape as an exercise of power and domination.
- Jirga and Panchayat system, the paradox, if woman is considered the vessel of honour, then why violate that honour publicly by such decisions.
- The thought that rape violates the family honour, it causes social disgrace. Victims’ own plight becomes secondary around such notions.
- Fears in the mind of the victims and their family regarding the legal system
- Registration of FIR, evidence collection and role of the Medico legal officers.
- To address explore the above mentioned areas
- We think the following areas of interventions, need our immediate attention:
- A KAP study on the issue, to further explore the situation on ground
- A national seminar on Rape law and the hurdles to justice
- Advocacy campaign through brochures, youth linkages, posters, flyers, write-ups, talk show, etc