KARACHI: In order to protect the family honour, Alam Din and his brothers refused to talk about and report the rape of his 14-year-old daughter. They also packed all their belongings and left for Punjab in the middle of the night.
The three-bedroom house they used to occupy in Korangi now stands empty, said a report by Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), the UN information unit. “The girl had to be carried out,” said Aleena Bibi, a neighbour. “She had been injured. It is a tragedy this should happen to a child, but now people also consider the house unlucky and are reluctant to buy.”
Many rapes in Pakistan, due to stigma, are never reported, hence there are no precise figures. According to the US Department of State’s 2010 Human Rights Report, 928 cases of rape were reported. The ones that are reported are rarely prosecuted. False rape charges filed in different types of disputes hamper police investigations, it said.
The autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan states in its annual report for 2010 that 2,903 women - almost eight a day - were raped last year.
The Karachi-based NGO, War Against Rape (WAR), released a statement last month that said data collected from three hospitals and police showed that the average age of victims in the city had fallen from 18 years last year, to 13 this year. WAR also noted only a minority of the cases reported from hospitals had been brought to the notice of police.
There have been some horrendous reports of abuse by police, including that of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, N, raped over 21 days while she was held by police in the northern Punjab town of Wah Cantt.
“My daughter, who was only 12 years old at the time, was violently raped last year by her cousin. We did not report the matter to avoid a scandal, and to protect her from stigma. But even now rumors fly, my child refuses to leave my side and says she feels ‘dirty’ and we wonder who will marry her with this dark stain hanging over her,” said Karachi resident G, 40.
In rural areas, the reluctance to report rape runs even deeper. LM, a farmer in the Khairpur district of Sindh, says his nine-year-old sister was raped by the son of a powerful land-owner in the area. “These people have connections, they would simply bribe the police, and I have daughters and another younger sister’s safety to consider,” he said. “We cannot run the risk of further punishment.”
The reluctance to report cases also means the survivors frequently receive no psychological support.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2011.
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