“If a woman gets raped and she doesn’t have four witnesses, she should stay quiet.”
During a recent interview on a television channel, Munawar Hasan, the head of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), uttered these words carefully. Understand that this is not careless rhetoric spat out in the throes of anger, nor negligent musings delivered in an offhand manner. Mr Hasan spoke calmly, choosing his words carefully, making sure that he was able to articulate his position exactly the way he wanted.
Rape is a sexual assault that violates the body, heart, soul and mind of the victim. What Mr Hasan did that day violated the heart, soul and mind of the whole nation. Somewhere down the line, we have started looking to politicians as representatives of Islamic jurisprudence. There was a time when it was not permissible for everyone to just stand up and give a legal opinion on such matters.
Mufti/Justice (retd) Taqi Usmani, one of the writers of the original Hudood Ordinance, wrote that if a woman is not able to produce four witnesses to her alleged rape, she can still try and pursue a case in court. However, according to the JI chief, there is “no problem” if a woman is convicted for consensual sex or for making an accusation, and then failing to conjure four people who saw her getting raped. He himself goes on to state that it is literally impossible that there would ever actually be four witnesses unless it is done in a chauraha. It seems that the only way she can hope to get justice is if she were raped amidst a gang of at least five criminals, four of whom stood and watched, and then later turned against the perpetrator and went to court.
This means that the crime is virtually impossible to prove under evidentiary requirements. If a rape victim decides that her honour and dignity are worth avenging and that the offender must be stopped before harming other women, she risks being locked up. What she should do is to stay quiet, according to Mr Hasan. How this will eliminate rape is beyond ordinary logic since no fingers are to be pointed at those who commit rape, which in turn will send the signal to the perpetrators that there are to be no consequences for such actions.
Mufti Taqi Usmani, had himself said that a rape victim can make a case even without the presence of four witnesses. He has said that the law allows for such a crime to be proven, even if there is only one witness along with a medical examination and chemical analysis.
As if all this weren’t enough, the JI chief then went on to berate the person interviewing him, presumably for having the gall to ask such questions, and then proceeded to tell him that he should recite the Kalima again, to reaffirm his faith.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2011.