by Sana Saleem
That reporting a rape is an arduous ordeal is a truth that resounds globally. When braving for police investigations, enumerating the ordeal in court and damaging stereotypical media representations become a norm then the argument for a pellucid approach becomes preemptory.
In 2006, a much-heated debate on the Hudood Laws revealed the anatomy of rape, conflicting legalities involving misinterpretations of Shariah Laws and the deeply engrained distorted public perceptions. For those who followed the debate, there should be no qualms in admitting that it made the inherent flaws in interpretations of the law and the systematic distortion of a society sensitive to violence and abuse evident.
The women protection bill implemented later that year made it possible for a woman to convict on the basis of forensic and medical evidence. Aimed at encouraging women to report the crime, which was deterred due to the farcical ‘four witness’ rule enforced by the Hudood ordinance, the act has been strongly opposed by Jamaat-i-Islami, whose activists and leaders continue to lobby against the act.
In a recent interview to a local news channel, Munawar Hassan of Jamaat-i-Islaami had the following to say:
Anchor: Why did you vehemently oppose the women protection act?
Munawar Hasan: Women protection act was not aimed at protecting women instead it is meant to promote vulgarity and obscenity in the society.
Anchor: What is the basis of your allegations?
Munawar Hasan: On the basis of which we opposed the act.
Anchor: The fundamental purpose of the women protection act was (is) to provide women with the right to file cases on the basis of circumstantial and forensic evidence, making convictions of rape easier. Where is the obscenity in that?
Munawar Hasan: This bill has been part of law for years, how has that affected the rights of women in Pakistan? What is the one issue that can be pointed out as a success of this law?
Anchor: One blaringly obvious problem with the Hudood law was the need to present four witnesses in order to convict a rapist, failure to do so resulted in the arrest of the woman on charges of confession to adultery, that was the main issue.
Munawar Hasan: What is the problem in that?
Anchor: The problem is this sir, that according to the 2003 national commission status of women report 80 per cent women were forced to languish in jails because of inability to produce witnesses of their rape.
Munawar Hasan: The objective of Islam is to discourage such acts, no one can be shameless enough to commit such an act in the presence of four people. Making it impossible to prove such acts, therefore the whole idea is to discourage bringing such acts into public light. Discouraging it to the extent that the act is never quoted. If such a crime occurs and since there are no witnesses than both men and women are suppose to keep it under wraps and not discuss it in public.
Anchor:Sir, are you suggesting that a woman should stay silent after she is raped? That she should not report the crime?
Munawar Hasan: I am saying she should keep quiet if she has no witnesses. If she has witnesses then she should present them.
Anchor: What kind of an argument is that? A woman is raped and she has to look for witnesses to prove the crime?
Munawar Hasan: Argue with the Quran and not me.
Anchor: I am not questioning the Quran, I am questioning your argument.
As it becomes evident, Munawar Hasan makes up for the lack of substance in his argument by accusing the anchor of speaking against the word of God, he then goes thus far as asking the anchor to read the ‘kalima’ and declare his faith. The anchor concludes the argument by suggesting that Islamic laws pertaining to rape should be respected but in the presence of facilities such as forensic study we should not refrain from conviction.
This for me, defeats the purpose of the entire debate. Firstly because the interpretation of the Shariah law as per Munawar Hasan is neither derived directly from the Quran nor is it widely accepted. The Hudood ordinance is based on interpretations of certain scholars; it is neither a unanimously accepted interpretation nor is it logical.
Rape is a crime and criminals tend to prefer committing the crime without leaving evidence or witnesses. The idea of having four witnesses present at the time of rape is irrational and absurd. Can anyone in their right mind imagine witnessing rape and not doing anything to stop or even report it? If not by law then by conscience, would they not feel complacent? Rape is much more than forceful sex. It is a power game; it is a way to overpower the victim both physically and psychologically and derive pleasure out of it. To discourage rape victims from reporting rape is serving the predatory nature of the rapist.
Similarly, the callously flaunted idea that women use rape as a tool for popularity, fame, and money or simply to attack Islamic principles is devoid of logic. For all we know, taking a rapist to court in Pakistan can put you behind bars, after dealing with the severe moral policing of course.
The arguments and logic provided by Munawar Hasan form a vivid example of rape culture. To elaborate rape culture, it is prevalent practices by which despite the rampant increase in sexual violence, rape (and other forms of violence) is condoned, considered a norm or worse considered tolerable. The most powerful tool to propagate such a culture is through moral policing the victim and by reinforcing the ‘she was asking for it’ mindset. To validate and rationalize rape and (or) sexual violence need a wide variety of beliefs that stem from an inherent misogynistic approach towards the social fabric.
Inconsistent application of law and moral policing the rape victim makes for a steady case for rape culture. Munawar Hasan isn’t the only practitioner and preacher of this culture, if we look at the way the accuser in
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of IMF, is being treated, one can be sure that rape culture is a globally adopted phenomena for which religion, moral, ethics or culture are mere ploys.
This is made much easier when done at the behest of religion and morals. The four witness rule as clear by all available translations and interpretations of the Quran is to be sought in case a woman is accused of fornication. The impossibility of four people witnessing the act was meant to make it tougher for the society to slander a woman. It is indeed heart wrenching to witness it being used to encourage violence against women and cultivate a culture of silence and shame.
I am not going to refrain from commenting on the interpretations simply because the Quran is meant and believed to be a book for guidance for all-alike — not just the scholars. Islam doesn’t preach a method of dependency, in fact the tone carried throughout the Quran addresses individuals directly, the entire concept is a spiritual and personal connection with God. Scholars are pursued to elaborate on various methods of law, but leaving them to impose their interpretations on us is faulty and damaging and works against the very principle of Islam. A faith that is threatened by introspection and one that is scared of evolution is fickle and convoluted.
Munawar Hasan is no ordinary politician; he is the Ameer of one of the oldest religious political party. For him to advocate the culture of silence and shame in the name of religion is a mockery of our beliefs. When we choose to allow scholars to use rhetoric to avoid questions we inadvertently become complacent If we choose to hold back our questions and remain silent in the face of such rhetoric we must brace ourselves to accept full liability of injustice to the victims of rape, all 2,903 of them.
By Amna Gani
I wonder when the elders and parents of our society will wake up, perhaps when everything will be ruined for their families. They are simply not understanding the perils and the dangers of the virtual social activities of their children, especially of the girls.
Sehrish, a 14 year old girl from Rawalpindi was raped by three boys in a hotel in Murree for the whole day and then she was lucky enough to reach to her home through police. She lost her dignity and went through hell because she was a careless net surfer. Her family is a conservative family and she always used to observe veil in public, but her parents didnt know that the world was watching their daughter without clothes through the webcams in the nights.
Sehrish used to make friends on the net in the Yahoo chat rooms, and then just out of fun, she used to take off her clothes in front of webcam for the boys to see. She soon became a sensation in the chat room and every boy wanted to see her and make friendship of her. She with her fragile mind didnt know the dangers, and she thought that who knows her. One day she was asked by a boy in chatroom to meet him in Islamabad. After much insistance she thought what the heck and she went to meet him. The boy acted nice and dropped her back after a nice lunch.
Then such meetings became frequent and one day boy asked her to accompany him to Murree in morning. Sehrish was fearless now. She went to Murree with him instead of going school. The boy took her to a hotel, and asked her that he wanted to see her nude live. She after some delay took her clothes off, and then the boy grabbed her and had a consensual sex. Sehrish wanted to go home now, but as both were laying naked in the bed, two more boys emerged under the bed and grabbed Sehrish and then they raped her. She was abused for five hours then, and the boys didn’t let her go anywhere, and they plucked every part of her body, and then left her senseless in the hotel room. She was found by waiter, who submitted her to police, who contacted her family.
The story isn’t ended here. Her nude pics are circulating all over the chat rooms, and internet sites and Pakistani debonair blog and host of other sex sites in Pakistan, according to a member of that chat room, who actually broke this story to me. According to him, this is just not the one case, but there are numerous other like this.
Would we wake up now?
By: Naveed Iqbal
The news of Pakistan topping the world league of still births creates a sense of indignation. It is yet another sad testament of the country’s health sector.
Here in the UK, stillbirths are the highest amongst most developed countries. Although one can apportion some of these causes to placental problems, infections or congenital abnormalities, but there is still a significant number which cannot be explained.
Sadly, the UK and Pakistan will address this problem quite differently – perhaps somewhat predictably.
In the UK, major investment in research will often follow to investigate the causes of such high mortality rates. This follows its natural progression to policy research and investment in healthcare. Although seasoned critics, politicians and scientific bodies will argue the methodology and implementation, a conclusion and decision will eventually be reached.
Sadly, this course of events will not take place in Pakistan. Any attempt to understand and address this latest health dilemma will not result in political capital for the governing party in Islamabad and thus absolves any form of accountability.
I was able to witness the frustrations of introducing some form of gynecological and obstetric service in a rural village in Pakistan devastated by the floods, last year whilst I was working for an international NGO.
We advertised for an obstetrician and gynecologist with a competitive salary and benefits. The reason for this move stemmed from our concern that an untrained female dai (midwife) was delivering babies without any clinical knowledge. There was no question of her dedication but as a group of health professionals, it would have been clinical negligence to avoid this fissure in our services. After much deliberation, we managed to hire an obstetrician but soon she resigned.
This event was a snapshot of a national crisis in medical care for women. One can appreciate the argument of Pakistan’s economic woes as one of the reasons for lack of investment in health, but we should take note of the success of Cuba; it is a country which has suffered decades of various sanctions, but still continues to deliver healthcare comparable to many developed nations.
This is not a debate about political ideologies but of priorities, investment and accountability. Otherwise we can maintain the status quo and await the next set of incriminating revelations for Pakistan.
Doctors across Punjab continued their strike Sunday, while unattended patients continued to suffer at hospitals across the province. A total of 22 patients have died across Punjab due to the strike. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
Three more patients died in the Nishtar Hospital bringing the death toll in Multan alone to 17, while a patient died in Faisalabad in the morning after being denied medical care.
More than 700 protesting doctors have resigned so far, as the Punjab government has refused to give in to their demands. The provincial government has also announced it will recruit new doctors at public hospitals to fill the vacancies. However, only 350 doctors have applied for the post, who will be interviewed today (Sunday).
Sources say that senior doctors have also gone on strike to support the young doctors. Only two doctors are on duty at the Allied Hospital Faisalabad.
The General Body of the Young Doctors Association has refused to call off their strike until their demands are met.
Blood is on Shahbaz Sharif’s hands says Riaz Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz said on Saturday that he would seek to lodge murder cases against Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif because he was responsible for the deaths that occurred during the ongoing doctors’ strike.
Riaz told The Express Tribune that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers would collect data from each hospital about deaths during the strike. They would also reach out to families who had lost loved ones and put them in touch with party legislators to help them seek legal remedy. He said that he would visit police stations personally and seek to get cases registered against the chief minister. If the police refused, he would move the Lahore High Court, he said.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah brushed off the threat, saying that he hoped that the opposition leader would not object if cases were registered against the federal government over deaths in federal government hospitals in the Punjab.
Blame it on Sharif
Riaz said that the escalation of the standoff between the provincial government and the Young Doctors Association was all down to Sharif. At 4pm on March 31, he said, the YDA Punjab and Senior Advisor Sardar Zulifqar Khosa had reached a deal to end the strike.
The two sides signed a agreement, Riaz said, adding that he had seen a copy of it provided to him by the YDA. He said it was agreed that the chief minister would announce the deal at 9pm that same day. Meanwhile, he said, the YDA announced that the strike was over.
But before 9pm, Riaz claimed, the chief minister was “deliberately misled” by Health Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad about the contents of the agreement. “Sharif always relies on the briefings of the bureaucracy. He thinks they are the only ones who can solve the problems of the province,” he said.
He said that a YDA Punjab delegation went to the chief minister’s officer at 90, The Mall, to meet Sharif. But when they got there, they were told the meeting had been cancelled. The YDA Punjab called Khosa, but he did not answer his mobile phone, Riaz said. Later that night, the YDA Punjab announced the resumption of their strike.
“The chief minister is very arrogant; he thinks he’s a Mughal emperor. He snubbed the YDA Punjab and because of his stubbornness, dozens of patients have died,” Riaz said. “It’s in his psyche to solve every problem through brutal police torture.”
He added that he would ask the Punjab Assembly speaker to summon the chief minister to attend a special session of the assembly on the issue.
Law Minister Sanaullah said that Riaz’s statement had “exposed those behind the doctors’ strikes” and that his party would suffer for bringing doctors into politics. He said that Riaz should not talk about the doctors, but answer questions instead about the “petrol bomb” the federal government had set off.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 03rd, 2011.
A prostitute born and brought up in Karachi’s Napier Road red-light district, Shumaila never heard about HIV and AIDS until recently. Today, she carries condoms but clients refuse to wear them.
‘None of us were aware about the danger of AIDS looming over us for years but now we all know and can avoid it,’ said the tall 29-year-old who lives in a Victorian-style building in the heart of the neighbourhood.
Shumaila is one of the rare ones who are aware about the perils of HIV/AIDS an thus insist upon using condoms. Hundreds of thousands of condoms have been distributed to sex workers in the last two years, which have saved them from being infected with the lethal virus.
Karachi has up to 100,000 female sex workers, according to data gathered by Pakistan Society, a local welfare organisation. ‘This is 20 percent of their overall population in Pakistan.
Lahore comes next with 75,000 sex workers,’ Saleem Azam, head of the charity.
Prostitution may be illegal but it has prospered in Pakistan, where an economic downturn and widening poverty have forced women and men onto the streets to meet the rising cost of living.
Shaheena, 38, is a home-based sex worker. She is a skilled paramedic but seldom finds a permanent job. ‘So I opted to enter this business on the side,’ she said, veiling her face to hide her identity. ‘I have sibblings, cousins, nephews and nieces who don’t know about my second profession. So I don’t want to identify myself to embarass them. ‘But it’s a question of survival as none of my relatives support me with money. They are all too stretched themselves,’ she said.
More than 60 percent of Pakistan’s prostitutes work from homes or ply the streets, while the elite serve wealthy clients from kothikhanas (houses or rooms) in plush neighbourhoods.
A report said 60 percent of female sex workers and 45 percent of their male clients in Karachi and Lahore do not know that condoms can prevent transmission of HIV. Of those that do, few protect themselves. ‘The number of our clients who agree to wear a condom is small. Female condoms are not available, which can save us more effectively,’ said Nasreen, another prostitute in Napier Road. ‘I can’t carry condoms in my purse on the street as we’re vulnerable to the police and could be arrested if they find them,’ said Afshan, 29, who walks the city’s busy streets looking for clients.
The 2006 survey said only 18 percent of sex workers reported always using condoms. Around 96,000 people, or 0.1 percent of the population, live with HIV in Pakistan. The government says only 5,000 people are infected. The disease is spreading among high-risk groups, especially drug users, who mostly inject and use dirty needles, raising fears the virus could spread quickly from addicts to prostitutes. In 2006, Pakistan said HIV/AIDS prevalence among female sex workers was around 0.02 percent, but independent bodies put it much higher. ‘It is at least 15 per cent, ‘said Azam. ‘They are totally at the mercy of their clients. Most of their clients refuse to wear condoms,’ he said.
‘In Pakistan, this business is illegal, thus there is no law to seriously tackle the issue and save precious lives. Yet a way-out is desperately needed on humanitarian grounds.’ Baig said he had identified an HIV-positive sex worker a few months ago and tried to help her with treatment and a new job but she left because her colleagues considered her a blot on their business. ‘Now, no one knows where she is and what she is doing,’ he said.