Rape and Sexual Harassment Around the World - Purposes Of Rape, Marital Rape, Acquaintance Rape, Rape Among Lesbians And Gay Men, Sexual Harassment
women rights raped pakistani
It went on for hours. I don't know how many policemen came through the room. It could have been fifty. I will never forget their laughter, their shouting. I cried, I prayed, I asked God why me, a respectable woman, a grandmother, who had never known any man's body except my husband's.
—Ahmedi Begum, a Pakistani woman
Historically, because women have been viewed as the possessions of their fathers and husbands, sexual abuse of a woman has been considered a violation of a man's property rights rather than a violation of a woman's human rights. However, primarily through the efforts of women's advocacy groups worldwide, rape is no longer viewed as a violation of family honor but as an abuse and violation of women. In most countries, rape is now considered a crime. In 1993, the United Nations' (UN) Declaration of the Eradication of Violence against Women (UN Resolution 49/104, December 1993) specifically named marital rape, sexual abuse of female children, selling women into slavery or prostitution, and other acts of sexual violence against women in its condemnation of "any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life."
In many countries, only women of "good character" can demand protection from rape. In some Latin American countries, the law only recognizes rape of chaste women. These attitudes are generally based on the definition of rape as the defilement of a virgin. In the past, the traditional legal recourse required the offender to compensate the girl's father for her lost value in the marriage market.
Pakistan has perhaps the harshest attitudes toward rape in the world. The country's Hudood Ordinances, passed in 1979 as part of an Islamic overhaul of the country's law to deal with a range of sins, effectively equate rape with adultery. Any sex outside of marriage, known as zina, is against the law. This view often results in the arrest of raped women rather than their rapists. In a Karachi court, about 15% of the rape trials result in women facing charges and imprisonment. In one case, a patient and his two friends raped a staff nurse in a Karachi prison. Although she did not go to police, the men reported her for engaging in sex outside marriage. The judge found that if she were a "decent" woman she would not work at night and sentenced her to five years in prison, five lashes, and a fine equivalent to a year's salary.
According to Majida Rizvi, head of the Pakistani National Commission on the Status of Women, up to 80% of all women in Pakistani jails are there on charges of violating the Hudood Ordinances—many because they were raped. Once in police custody, about 72% are raped again, this time by the police. Human Rights Watch, an independent, nongovernmental organization dedicated to investigating and exposing human rights violations worldwide, estimates that at least 1,500 Pakistani women are in prison on charges of zina.
Under the Hudood Ordinances, four Muslim men must witness penetration and testify to rape; if no witnesses are produced, the women are subject to prosecution for zina. In 2002, Zafran Bibi was convicted of zina and sentenced to stoning to death under the ordinances, despite her claims that her brother-in-law had raped her. She was acquitted many months later by a higher Pakistani court after an international outcry.
The Pakistani patriarchal system sometimes leads to government-sanctioned abuses of women. On June 22, 2002, during a tribal council in Punjab, Pakistan, Salma Bibi, a thirty-year-old woman, was gang raped by four men in front of local villagers as punishment for her brother's sexual misconduct. Bibi claimed that her brother was also raped and that police demanded a bribe to release him from custody.
In a letter to Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf urging closer scrutiny of the role of tribal councils in the abuse of women, LaShawn R. Jefferson, the executive director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, wrote: "We also remain concerned about the broader role of tribal councils in Pakistan and the authority they effectively enjoy to mete out punishments properly reserved to the state. Human Rights Watch believes that it is imperative that government authorities ensure that tribal councils act in accordance with the law and in a manner that respects women's rights, and do not usurp the proper judicial authority of the state. We request that you identify mechanisms by which local administrations in Pakistan can monitor the conduct of tribal councils, and intervene in instances where they have exercised jurisdiction belonging to the state."