Incest: Struggling to break the taboo

Published: October 24, 2010
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‘The faith of incest survivors in relations is shattered and they suffer from intense trauma’

‘The faith of incest survivors in relations is shattered and they suffer from intense trauma’

Life changed irrevocably for 10-year-old Asiya* when she told her mother that her maternal uncle had molested her.

Her mother called her ‘immoral’ and regretted that Asiya was trying to create a breach between the siblings. 21 years later Asiya still suffers the psychological trauma and remains on medication to cope with it. She is not on speaking terms with her mother and her family. “Life would have been different had only my mother believed me,” she says. Asiya’s case was never reported to the authorities.

20-year-old Samin* has filed a case against her father-in-law and brothers-in-law who she said had raped her. Samin told her husband about it. He initially refused to believe her and then assured her that he would speak to his father and brothers. When Samin went to her mother, she took her to the police station. Only after repeated requests and applications to Inspector General Police Tariq Saleem Dogar did the police register an FIR against her husband, father-in-law and brothers-in-law under Section 376/B of the Pakistan Penal Code.

In Punjab 21 incest cases have been reported since 2008. War Against Rape (WAR) coordinator Sidra Humayun said that in most cases complaints were not registered. Even where cases are registered people do not believe the incest survivors. “We fear that incidents do occur that never come to our attention,” said Humayun. “The accused is shielded mostly by the victim’s own family who cannot accept the truth. Everyone, including the police and at times the courts, doubt and blame the victim,” she said.

According to the data compiled by WAR, seven cases of incest each were reported in 2008, 2009 and so far in 2010. The cases have been reported from Faisalabad, Jhelum, Raiwind, Kasur, Lahore, Daska, Gujranwala, Lala Musa, Sheikhupura and Pattoki.

“It’s not like incest is peculiar to Pakistan. It happens everywhere in the world. However, culprits don’t walk away everywhere without any punishment,” Humayun said. She said that the WAR was trying to create awareness so that people could support the victim and that the stigma should dissipate.

Hina Hafeezullah Ishaq, a lawyer who has worked on incest cases, said that the cases were dealt under Section 376 which deals with rape. “There is no specific legal provision for incest cases. … It should be treated differently,” she said. Ishaq said that a column can be introduced to deal with incest cases under Section 376. She said that it was difficult for the victim to testify in front of the accused who is her relative. She recommended that the court hold in camera proceedings or at least there be a curtain between the parties.

A senior police official said, “There is always a chance of fabrication. It has happened in several instances. However, we investigate all complaints. We do our best.” He went on to say that it was inaccurate to suggest that the police discouraged victims from filing complaints. “Several cases are currently before court only because we investigated and registered FIRs. We do what we can to protect the victim.”

The Sociology Department head at a leading university said that publishing research on this topic would be counterproductive. “In an Islamic society this issue would create a disturbance. Nothing positive would come out of it,” he said. He said that is was not possible to have accurate data on incest. As a result the conclusions reached would not be authentic. “You can certainly help victims individually but one should not make these things public,” he added.

Mirat Gul, a clinical psychologist who has worked with incest survivors, said that therapists had to win their confidence. “They test you. …Their faith in relations is shattered and they suffer from intense trauma.” Gul recommended that incest survivors should generally not be touched even by their closest relatives as they have suffered betrayal at the hands of someone who was close to them. Instead, relatives should wait for them to initiate contact.

“We need to educate our kids that if they don’t like how someone touches them then they must tell us. Awareness is very important,” she said.

The names have been changed to protect the identity of victims

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • muhammad babar
    Oct 24, 2010 - 1:34PM

    Incest cases are painfully abundant in our country,but never a part of the discussion on tv,No of course not, it’s all a yahudi sazish,things like incest can never happen in the land of the pure.Believers never commit such atrocities,it’s only the infidels who indulge in such crimes.

    It’s not just the mullah brigade that pushes this line of perpetual denial on us,but everyday citizens who don’t want to acknowledge that incest happens,has been happening in our society.We much rather blame all such acts on the godless,depraved & debauched west,with thier unvieled girls who dare to venture out of their houses without the mandatory company of a faithful male believer.

    A problem can only be solved if at first one acknowledges that a problem exists.Being in denial never solves anything,if the fundoos would stop blocking any rational,open discussion with their invocation of religion,then maybe our country would get out of the mess it’s in .Recommend

  • Mohammad Ahmed Khan
    Oct 24, 2010 - 6:56PM

    The incidents mentioned here are not incest, but rape! Incest is when there is mutual understanding between the two, which is disgusting anyways. Whether it be someone known or a stranger, if forced into sex, it is rape! Recommend

  • Bangash
    Oct 24, 2010 - 8:24PM

    There is no justice for the weak and the wronged in Pakistan.Recommend

  • sheraz khan
    Oct 24, 2010 - 8:51PM

    it doesn’t matter if a Rapist is related to the victim or not, as far as im concerned a rapist is a rapist therefore should be put to death Recommend

  • Anon
    Oct 24, 2010 - 9:59PM

    It is truly pathetic on the part of people who engage in such horrific acts, and what’s more horrifying is not being believed by someone (like in this article, some one as close as your mother) after you get the courage to speak up against the abuse. Why would a child who is 10 years old make something like that up? Why would you not believe your own blood when they come forward to you, when to them the whole world seems shattered, you too as parents turn your backs on them?

    You can’t associate with the emotional and physical and mental pains with sexual abuse and neglect. What it’s like to suffer in silence with nowhere to turn.

    This has nothing to do with a particular caste, creed or religion, so you cannot finger point at a particular person or race and say they are to blame, because sadly, it happens the world over.
    What’s worse especially in third world countries like Pakistan is that a far as my knowledge goes, there is not one particular helpline one can call to look for any sort of support and remain anonymous, someone that will truly walk with you through your suffering. With cases of rape, sexual abuse and incest on the rise in the country, the government or at-least a charitable organisation should take some counter measures so at-least the suffering goes down a notch and especially with kids, that they can have a normal life rather than live in fear with their abuse.

    It utterly shatters the self-confidence of the person for life, and stops them from living and having normal and healthy relationships with anyone, and I don’t blame them, how can you trust someone when your own families or the people you love turn your backs on you? or your father or step-father or husband over powers you.. It is a shame to hear people doing these people (who are no less than parasites on earth), and act worse than wild animals. They psychologically imprison their victim, you cannot go to the authorities, since if you’re a child you world and your heroes and your saviours are your parents and family..
    What can be done to counter measure it? According to me, the authorities really need to step up their game, sadly, that remains a dream, what’s even more shocking is the fact that Muslims (who scream peace and love) the world over would engage in something like this.
    It’s not that we don’t have the laws in place, Pakistani law’s can be compared to the laws of any modern society, but that is where the comparison stops, the people in-charge of enforcing those laws are more or less corrupt, give them enough money and they will act like they have not heard or seen anything.. It truly saddens me.

    Why do we as Pakistani’s have such a strange fascination with sex? I for one, cannot think of a punishment severe enough for someone that makes their immediate family go through something like that. I only hope that the people that go through this get the power to overcome their fears and stand up.. accept the realities of what has happened (as sad as it may be), and let go of the trauma and the distortions in memory and mood that were once necessary for survival, I know it is a lot to ask for, but is there another way?Recommend

  • SA
    Oct 25, 2010 - 11:10AM

    Muhammad Ahmed Khan, spot on!
    However I’ve never heard anyone relate the denial of this issue to religion. If they’re painfully abundant here in our society they’re rampant in the west too. I’m hearing for the first time that people state it impossible to happen “in the land of pure”. I think deep within the hearts of their hearts people do realize the problem exists; its just that they take it a taboo to discuss it. There’s no denial as such!Recommend

  • Aneela Jameel
    Oct 25, 2010 - 11:41AM

    Please note that incest can be forced or with mutual consent. But in most of the cases it is forced but we would still call it “incest” not rape to signify the fact that the sexual intercourse has taken place between close relatives. Consensual adult incest (incest with mutual consent) is equally a crime in most countries, although it is seen by some as a victimless crime, and thus, it is rarely reported.

    Incest between adults and those under the age of majority or age of consent is considered a form of child sexual abuse. Some societies consider incest to include only those who live in the same household, or who belong to the same clan or lineage; other societies consider it to include “blood relatives”; other societies further include those related by adoption or marriage.

    Father-daughter incest was for many years the most commonly reported and studied form of incest. More recently, studies have suggested that sibling incest, particularly older brothers abusing younger siblings, is the most common form of incest.Recommend

  • Ahmar Majeed
    Oct 26, 2010 - 1:05AM

    Any discussion or thing related to sex automatically becomes forbidden in our society. Incest is not related to any class nor it has anything to do with religion. The offender has psychological disorder rather then any other thing. The definition of incest might be different in different religions but all religions strictly ban incest.

    When the term rape is used, it generally means sex without the consent of one party. Children cannot give consent thus sex with children automatically becomes rape but more specific term “child sexual abuse” is use (I am not going into detail of this term as it is very broad) and the word rape is not use in cases relating to children.

    Coming on to incest, the suffering of the victim goes to another level as the physical pain or injury could be of same magnitude in rape or child sexual abuse but the psychological trauma and suffering has much more lasting and deeper impacts on the survivors in case of incest.

    While reading the article we should keep this in mind that the article is not intended to define the term incest rather it shades light on one aspect of incest, the aspect which we tend to ignore or rather chose to remain silent on it.Recommend

  • Nina
    Oct 26, 2010 - 6:47AM

    We victims need psychotherapy!Recommend

  • Sidra Humayun
    Oct 27, 2010 - 12:53AM

    As we are not mostly aware with the terms and termnologies in Pakistan so often we had no idea where to go?how to report ? or what happens with us is only our case or other also suffers with it. Their is a very thin line between terms and termnologies. so reading on it can support us to help those survivors(not victims- victim word itself give holessness).Recommend

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