DERA ISMAIL KHAN:
In a harrowing incident of patriarchal injustice, three men allegedly stripped a woman in Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) to avenge her husband’s alleged liaison with their sister.
The brazen incident took place on June 6 when the victim, “F”, was returning from a wedding ceremony. Armed men intercepted her, assaulted her in a “revenge attack” and fled, leaving the woman naked in the middle of a street full of onlookers.
A local resident told The Express Tribune that the attack was carried out after rumours of the alleged affair between the victim’s husband, Imdad Hussain, and the sister of the accused “spread like a wildfire in the village enraging the girl’s family”.
However, the resident said the police were initially reluctant to register an FIR, but relented a day later, registering the case under Section 354 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) with no mention of stripping.
The accounts of local residents contradict statements of the police who claim the victim was not stripped. “The woman had not been stripped but her clothes were torn apart by the accused who managed to escape and even threatened her of dire consequences,” SDPO Saddar Muhammad Adnan told The Express Tribune.
DPO DI Khan Najamul Hasnain confirmed that an FIR has been registered against the three men but one of the accused managed to secure pre-arrest bail from the court. The DPO added that he was personally looking into the matter.
Section 354 is generally invoked in an “assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty”.
“Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both,” the section reads.
However, the practice of forcing women to ‘compensate’ for the misdeeds committed by men appears to be pervasive in the district with similar incidents becoming more rampant in the absence of strong law enforcement.
This is the second incident of its kind in the district.
In 2018, a girl was stripped and paraded naked on the city outskirts. The main accused had escaped and police failed to arrest him for a long time. The culprit surrendered to the police after more than a year. However, both the parties later reached a compromise and all the seven accused were pardoned.
A local resident said that he feared not mentioning the stripping and including Section 354 in the FIR was a deliberate tactic used to obfuscate the complexity of the matter, adding that it was “akin to killing two birds with one stone as it downplays the gravity of the incident. Now there will be little or no outcry in the media”.
He said the trend in the district was flourishing, adding it was deplorable that women had to pay for the wrongdoings of their husbands or other men of the family.
Rights activist and lawyer Zeenat Muhib Kaka Khel said she believes that stripping can also be covered in Section 345 PPC along with other offences. “The FIR registered under Sections 354 of PPC and 506/34 are relevant sections under which the case can be further looked into to punish the accused.”
*The victim's identity has been withheld to protect privacy.
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