The Ghotki police fail to act on the gang rape of a 19 year-old girl

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Miss. RP (the name is withheld to protect the victim`s identity), the 19 year-old daughter of a blind beggar, was gang raped at gunpoint by three men about three to four months ago when she was harvesting alone on a corn farm in Goth Dur Mohammad Phawarh, Ghotki district, Sindh province, Pakistan. The three culprits named Saad Ullah (alias Soodho Phawrh), Usman Phawarh, and Abdul Karim Phawarh beat her as she cried for help. The fastened her mouth with a piece of cloth at gunpoint and all three took turns raping her. Furthermore, they threatened to kill her if the assault was reported.

Two days later, the perpetrators returned to her house knowing that most people would be away at work. They stripped her, forced her to dance, tortured her, and burned her with cigarettes before they tied her up to rape her again. Since the three men were influential landlords with strong connections and support from the local police force, they threatened that they would make sure her entire family got life sentences if she told anyone about the attack. Her fear silenced her as the rape continued daily until she was three-month pregnant.

The victim`s mother told her husband about the incident and they lodged a report to the Ghotki police and subsequently a case of rape was filed on 26 June 2006 against Saad Ullah, Usman Phowarh and Abdul Karim with the Ghotki police station. But the Ghotki police delayed their response in arresting the culprits and only arrested Saad Ullah and Usman but not Abdul Karim, as he allegedly had good connections with the police. The arrests of the two men were also made only after the intervention of local journalists.

After the local hospital confirmed her pregnancy, the culprits allegedly attempted to kill the victim and her fetus. On 3 July 2006, some armed men, two of which identified themselves as police officers, attacked the victim`s entire family and forced poison down her throat. They threatened the family saying that if they went to the hospital, they would attack the family again. The victim was then hospitalized at Taulaqa hospital Ghotki some hours later and luckily survived with the help of Dr. Salma, but the 3 month-old fetus was dead. During her stay in the hospital, the Ghotki police allegedly forced the hospital to release her a week early from medical care. The victim`s condition still remains serious.

A case of attack was registered against local gangsters namely Ghulam Nabi Aandal, Hazoor Bux Phawarh, Yaqoob Phawarh, Sohno Phawarh, Abdullah Phawarh and Mehboob Phawarh. But no one has yet been arrested. Meanwhile, in order to pressure the family to drop charges, the rapists simultaneously filed a petty case suit for fighting in the Sarhad police station against the victim`s blind father Allah Rukhyo, her two brothers Abdul Haleem and Abdul Jabbar, as well as her uncles Basheer Ahmed, Ali Mohammad, Ghulam Nabi, and Abdul Wahab Phawarh. Subsequently, three of the victim`s family members have been arrested by the police.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

Pakistan has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 3 March 1996 and as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan also has accordingly established domestic laws for the protection of women. However, the rights and protection of marginalized people such as the victim are often overlooked by the government.

Looking into domestic legislations relating to rape case, Pakistani law is punishing victims of rape as though they were criminals while the perpetrators go free. The Hudood Ordinances are a set of laws in Pakistan intended to make the criminal justice system conform to Islamic law. Hudood Ordinances, which are inspired by Islam, cover offences including Zina crimes (unlawful sexual intercourse including adultery and rape) and Qazf (wrongful accusation of Zina crimes). They do not differentiate rape from adultery. The maximum punishment for Zina crimes is death by stoning. Many women are imprisoned for years, convicted or awaiting trial for Zina crimes.

In particular, these laws place an almost impossible burden of proof on women and girls who are raped. Under Hudood rules, a woman must have four male Muslim witnesses present at her rape to prove her case. All four must have an unblemished police record and be of unsullied reputation for their words to be accepted. Short of this, the victim is liable to be accused of adultery and sentenced to time in jail or to death by stoning. Under the circumstances, if they report a rape to the police they are often charged with Zina crimes because they have in effect admitted to sexual intercourse outside of marriage and been unable to prove absence of consent. In such cases, the victims are more likely to be convicted than the perpetrators. Even though there are some provisions relating to rape in the Criminal Penal Code of Pakistan, those provisions are not practiced in actual circumstances.

Meanwhile, many Hudood cases are pending before courts for several years. To settle this problem, the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan has ordered courts to settle cases filed under the Zina Offence provisions within three months. For example, it is estimated that there were 200,000 Hudood cases pending before the courts. According to the Federal Shariat Court, the Lahore Registry alone had about pending 1,400 cases. The effect is that the accused, most of them are women, are unjustly detained waiting trial.

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