Friday, February 29, 2008

If Rape Should Occur

In Pakistan as well as many Islamic countries, women are still looked down upon as weaker of the two sexes. According to the state law, in the event of rape a woman witness is considered only half as good as a man– and she cannot even testify against the rapist. The victim has to actually produce four 'good Muslim' male witnesses to the crime.

The sex ratio in this region is 105.7 men to 100 women. An already battered and tormented woman could be subjected to honor killing, a consequence of choosing her own life partner, deciding to move out of a bad marriage, or asking for a divorce. Honor killings also occur if a woman has been raped.

Most men in the Pakistani society believe that such an honor killing would restore their lost respect. According to The Human Rights Commission, a rape occurs every three hours. This accounts only for the reported cases. Women, especially in the rural areas are routinely subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse and society has conditioned them to not even question any such act. Defiance to the established customs where the authority of the men cannot be questioned is a way of life to most Pakistanis.

What needs to be looked at is that the incidence of cases against women belonging to the higher strata of the society is much lesser than those recorded against the poor, illiterate women. The socio-economic milieu should be studied for a thorough solution to this gender based violence and exploitation that women in Pakistan face everyday.

The new regime in Pakistan may see better laws in place that would help women break free from these shackles. After all, this country has had a woman prime minister who was unfortunately assassinated right after her comeback from exile. Even though the NGOs working for the Pakistani women's welfare and emancipation were skeptical about the relevance of 'Women Protection Bill, 2006' it is a step in the right direction –men could now be held accountable for the offences they commit against women. If rape should occur, a woman would needn't fear that death would follow.

-Praveen Sequeira

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