The words describing ‘rape’: Blaming the victim, shielding the rapist

Published: July 4, 2013
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As a society, we should reflect on how outrageously absurd our attitudes about rape are. PHOTO: FILE

As a society, we should reflect on how outrageously absurd our attitudes about rape are. PHOTO: FILE

WASHINGTON DC: 

Pakistani society is still a bit confused about who ought to be punished for a crime of rape. Although everyone agrees that the culprit should be punished, in reality quite the contrary happens. Unknowingly, our society punishes the victim and not the rapist.

Like murder, theft and mugging, rape is a crime done by a criminal, but society is quick to stamp the victim as having lost her and her family’s honour. Why does the rapist not lose his honour for committing such a crime?

What do you call a rapist in Urdu?

While we do have names for other perpetrators of crimes like qaatil, chor or daku; we don’t have a definite word in Urdu for a rapist. We do not even have a proper word for the act of rape. We use words like izzat lut gai (lost her honour) and Daaghi ho gai (stained) or more lyrical phrases like kati patang (torn kite) and sheeshe me baal aa gaya (a stained glass). All these phrases refer to the woman who was raped, showing how we are conditioned to reinforce the patriarchal cruelty of blaming the victim whilst shielding the rapist from any responsibility for the crime. More recent terms like zina bil jabar (adultery by force) do not aptly describe the crime.

By using such language we become a party to this crime. Without thinking, we place a heavy stigma on the victim so that no respectable man will want this damaged merchandise.  Our society has to understand that it is the social stigma that keeps the victim from speaking out and, thus, responsible for most rapists going scot-free. In most of the reported rape cases, the victim and her family have been harassed and intimidated to the extent that they have had to leave their neighbourhood or village. In many of these cases where a rape becomes public knowledge, children are told not to play with the children of that family, resulting in a social boycott of the victim.

She must’ve done something…

The belief that the woman must have provoked the crime is deeply ingrained in our culture. We immediately ask: Why did she wear fashionable clothes? Why was she out at that time? Why was she alone? Why did she not scream loud enough? We can quickly conjure up twenty reasons how SHE could have prevented the crime if she really wanted to.

We stereotype the woman who gets raped as young and provocative and the venue of the crime as dark alleys where no sensible women would venture alone, the reality is that victims range from the age of 2 to 70 years old and the venues of the crime range from universities, offices, markets and, most tragic of all, their own homes.

Rape on the silver screen

Just looking at our films and plays, it is clear that our script writers do not know how to handle this ‘dishonoured’ woman. They either have her jump out of a window or become an accidental victim of a stray bullet just to get her quickly out of the story because no other character can possibly interact with her normally. But if they have to take her character forward, perhaps because she is a star, they make sure it was only an attempted rape and the hero saved her in the nick of time. Thus, it is rare to see any female character continuing in a play or movie after she has been raped.

Life after rape

The news for the conscious mind of our society is that there IS life after rape. Almost 30% of women in Pakistan go through a rape or attempted rape at least once in their lives. They do survive. The pain stays, but they go on with their lives. Social boycott of a rapist might not be a bad idea for a change. Let there be a clear statement that it is time for us to say ‘enough’!

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Tahir Khan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 9:31AM

    The sad thing is that in Pakistani society no man wants to marry a rape victim because she is no more a virgin.This obsession with female virginity that Pakistani society is proud of has ruined the lives of too many women.No one asks if the bridegroom is a virgin or not,everyone is obsessed only with if the bride’s a virgin or not.Recommend

  • Adnan Waqar
    Jul 4, 2013 - 9:55AM

    Fouzia I totally agree with you, in my opinion our media should be highlighting the plight of rape victims and we as a society should stand behind and support our mothers, daughters and sisters who go through this torment. The religious clergy should discuss this issue in the Friday sermons as well as the recent decree of the Islamic Ideology Council has become very controversial.

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  • khalid pathan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 11:36AM

    The victim is and shall always be punished in rape cases, as long as the Hadood laws will remain in force. Once the raped victim “woman” reports this crime, she already has confessed that she is involved in this criminal ac, thought as a victim. However, the accused always has the Sharia law on his side, which requires that four adult males must have witnessed this act so clearly as if a thread is being passed through a needle’s hole. Even if this act is performed in open, this condition can never be met, eventually the woman is punished. This will continue for as long as our religious scholars do not differentiate between consensual sex and RAPE “ZINA BIL JABAR.”

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  • muneeb kazmi
    Jul 4, 2013 - 11:57AM

    observation put into words very thought provoking, Masterpiece !!!

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  • Sara
    Jul 4, 2013 - 12:29PM

    It is very sad that our country there are many cases of rape we really can’t count in number. It is because we don’t have justice in our country the reason for that is because about 50% of the female are not educated and do not know the rights……..and female who know their rights don’t stand up for their rights……No religion gives the right to rape in other words have sex without ones will…..if I talk about Islam, in Islam even husband does not have the right to have sex with his wife if she is not welling to. And we are talking about rape in Islam it’s said that a person should be half digged in the ground and half left out side the ground and should be killed by throwing stones…….But is really painful that we do not fallow the roles of Islam….that’s why we are standing here today if even one person steps out and fights for it it well give power to other female who are going through the same and stand up…….why should only females suffer….But now not even females are having this issue even small CHILDREN are going through this……NOW it’s time to stand up and fight for it and clean our country.

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  • Rashid
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:24PM

    Does rape take place among species other than humans? Just qurious.

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  • Zubair
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:45PM

    excellent written article. I wish that our parliamentarians also think on these lines.

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  • BlackJack
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:03PM

    You might as well use the Hindi word since I am sure everyone in Pakistan knows it.

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  • saima Ghafoor
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:23PM

    Rape is a serious issue that doesn’t stop after any one is physically violated, it continues has an emotional state, if the victims are not counselled properly, many psychological problems appear. Especially if the victim is a child of any sex. Women living in poverty are easy targets to these heinous acts just as street children or children who leave their homes to earn a living are easy prey. There are various forms of rape for women and children in our society which will haunt us later.

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  • goggi (Lahore)
    Jul 4, 2013 - 3:58PM

    No laws and no burqas can ever help when the basics fail: Education of the sensual eye from which not even baby girls are secure!

    The actual physical assault of rape is a very small fraction of the widespread optical rape where females are perceived as sex objects.

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  • Owais Akbar
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:46PM

    @khalid pathan:
    Did you ever went to shariah court to gather this type of dat which you are talking about ?? can you tell me how many cases did you actually witnessed and now you come to this conclusion. I accept that there is flaw in our society; but this is not in only our society but with in eastern culture this is same and we all have to fight against this wrong though; However blaming shariah witout any or very limited knowledge again a crime that we should stop.

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  • Sara
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:46PM

    @khalid pathan:
    Listen…..Sir anyone who is going to rape is not going to first gather witnesses….and am sure you even know this. if a female goes and reports about it that does not mean she was or is involve in it……what are you going to say about the little children are they even involve in this kinds of nightmares ? how don’t even know the mean of rape.So please lets Start the fight against this crime and stop blaming the females about it the are our mothers.sisters and daughters we all should protract them and teach them how to live in this world of animals.

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  • Sara
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:48PM

    @khalid pathan: Listen…..Sir anyone who is going to rape is not going to first gather witnesses….and am sure you even know this. if a female goes and reports about it that does not mean she was or is involve in it……what are you going to say about the little children are they even involve in this kinds of nightmares ? how don’t even know the mean of rape.So please lets Start the fight against this crime and stop blaming the females about it the are our mothers.sisters and daughters we all should protract them and teach them how to live in this world of animals.

    Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jul 4, 2013 - 9:27PM

    @ET

    Why you didnt publish my comment on this article? what was wrong with it ??

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  • liaqat ali
    Jul 5, 2013 - 3:46PM

    It is strange kind of cesurship going on. I supported the article whole heartedly and said BRAVO.As it was like GOYA YAI HEE MAIRAY DIL MAIN THA,Actually for years. And I put a concret suggestion forward. But my comments two times were ignored. It is tuning me away.
    Whats wrong with ET?

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  • Saba
    Jul 18, 2013 - 8:48AM

    30% – My God!! This is a real blow to my soul! I am truly impressed by this article. The society needs to work on such norms of stigmatizing victims of rape. Instead of just teaching our girls to dress properly (which, I agree, is very important), we shall also teach our boys to respect women.

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