KARACHI: After launching an appeal on Facebook, which attracted at least a thousand responses, nearly five dozen men and women gathered at Two Swords in Clifton to protest against police and government official insensitivity while dealing with rape cases.
They were reacting to the outcry sparked over the rape of a woman in her 20s who attended a party in DHA on Sunday. Speculation over her character and profession prompted the protestors to hold up placards and banners that read: “Rape is rape no matter against who” and “Iss barti hui la-qanooniat ka hisab do”, demanding accountability for the increasing lawlessness.
“[The police] think just because it’s [Clifton and DHA] we won’t come out on to the streets and protest,” shouted one protester. Others chanted, “Zalemon jawab do! Zulm ka hisab do” [Give us an answer, cruel people, we want accountability] as they circled the roundabout.
Many people slowed down to read the signs but few joined in. “We are a nation of rapists,” remarked Mohsin Sayeed, one of the protestors and a journalist. “That is why we don’t come out [against rape]. It’s because we support rape.”
While speaking to the media several women, some purposely wearing jeans, stressed that “wearing jeans does not justify rape nor does having male friends”. Also protesting was a resident of DHA Phase V, Semnyne Khan, who was livid with the police and politicians for their attitude towards rape survivors in general. “Why is it for the police that when a woman is assaulted it is always her fault,” she said, adding that a woman was not “fast” just because she wore jeans. “You cannot judge someone by the clothes they wear. The attitude is that if you wear western clothes then you are free game or that you are not from a good family.”
Khalida Ahmed Qadri from War Against Rape (WAR) reminded the protestors of women in the city who “did not wear jeans” in order to highlight that crosssection of society subjected to this barbaric act of violence. “What about the rape at the Quaid’s mazaar? Why was the victim named then? And the culprits Khadim Hussain and Raja Arif were let off scot-free. How is this justice?” she scoffed.
Qadri then focused on a recent case the NGO had received. “A group of men broke into a woman’s house in Korangi Town and raped her,” she said, adding that when the woman went to the Korangi Industrial Area police station, the duty officer told her that since she was a married woman it shouldn’t have made any difference to her. Not stopping at this crudeness, the officer told her he was single and perhaps she could arrange for someone to “comfort” him as well.
“Such cases are on the rise and the police’s lack of sensitivity is growing every day,” Qadri added. “It could just have easily been one of us,” said Anny Khan, the organiser of the protest. “We are working women and drive alone sometimes and as a citizen it is our right to get protection as well and not be treated like the culprit.” Teacher Amina Malik demanded that the faces and names of the culprits also be revealed as the survivors were “callously” made public.
Community policing/Neighbourhood watch
Clifton SP Tariq Dharejo has been handing the DHA rape case. He was aware that the protest was being planned on Friday. And, while he appreciated that the residents were upset, he said that he had been in touch with the organisers and recommended that some kind of community policing or neighbourhood watch be advocated.
The idea was met with a positive response. “I think that is a great idea,” said youth icon Anoushey Ashraf. “We can’t afford any longer to rely on the government too much. It’s about time the citizens took charge. If you are not doing anything to protect yourself then you have no right to complain either.”
Thirty-two-year-old DHA Phase V resident Taimur Mughal agreed. “We should definitely get involved, even take the help of technology, surveillance cameras etc.,” he said, adding that almost everyone on his street had their own security guards, but a joint effort was lacking.
Phase VI resident Samir Ahmed was ready to commit to a few hours each week to a coordinated and legal initiative to make the neighbourhood safe, even more so for his three-and-a-half-year-old child. “It’s always at the back of your mind if you are walking alone on the street,” he admitted.
On the other hand, Semnyne Khan said she thought the initiative would have limited success with issues such as assault and would be only effective when monitoring petty crimes such as mobile snatching and perhaps robberies.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2010.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ