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How Do Cultural Values Impact Sexual Violence?

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Nafees Muhammad writes about the prevalence of sexual violence in different countries and how their cultural values affect the response to such crimes. 

Sexual assault is a crime that has a direct conflict with the crime of ‘honor’ killing. How the men of a society dare to resort to rape or gang rape where the women and their duly married husbands are mercilessly put to death by their own blood relatives for exercising their right of free-will marriage is a question that remains a mystery.  Lust, social status, cultural values, and vulnerability of the victims are the major contributing factors that trigger and support such crimes in most of the countries.

A court in Japan recently acquitted a father who had sexually abused his child from around the age of 13 to 19 and even acknowledged he was violent when she resisted. The reason for his acquittal was the law in Japan that requires prosecutors to prove there was overwhelming force, a threat, or that the victim was completely incapacitated to offer any resistance. “Again!… That was what I thought,” the 45-year-old victim, Jun Yamamoto, said, adding: “Japanese justice does not recognize sexual offences like this as a crime. I cannot tolerate it anymore.”

In Spain, a court in Barcelona cleared five men of raping a 14-year-old girl and jailed them for the lesser charge of sexual abuse. The reason was the girl was drunk and unconscious, did not fight back and the men were not violent. Reacting to this court verdict, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, expressed her anger saying it was ‘outrageous’.

Contrary to what Japanese justice system considered a crime of sexual assault worthy for acquittal, the justice system in Britain acted just opposite to it. A 43-year-old female teaching assistant was booked for luring a vulnerable pupil to have sex with him in a hotel room she had booked for the purpose. The question of resistance to such advances was not of any concern to the British justice system like it was to the Japanese and Spanish justice systems. So, for every society sexual assault has different meanings and understandings based on the cultural values they have.

How does the Pakistani and Indian society react to these offenses need not to be assessed from the applicable laws but from the incidences that take place in these societies?

In Pakistan, at least four cases of sexual assaults I managed to record in 2018 wherein the perpetrators were fathers; three cases in Punjab and one in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and all victims were teenage girls. In two other cases, real brothers were found involved in this crime. In Balochistan, a 13-year girl was raped and killed by her brother while a 14-year girl was impregnated by her brother and uncle in Peshawar, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.

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Cases of sexual assaults, based on the data I collected, were reported from all parts of Pakistan but, Punjab is the province where more than 70% of all sexual assault cases were recorded in 2018 that left 30 persons dead and 108 injured (rape is taken as an injury), followed by Sindh (9 and 18), KP (7 and 14), Balochistan (2 and 1), and one injured in Islamabad and one dead in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The data I collected shows that 191 females and children were the victims of sexual assaults in 2018 and 70% of them were children (infants, minor, and teenage) and 30% were adult females. There were 32 cases of gang rapes and 159 of rapes. In both, gang rape and rape, cases the victims were subjected to multiple nature of crimes and for that reasons I will discuss both crimes separately.

Gang rape victims:  As many as 19 women and 13 children (9 girls and 4 boys) were subjected to gang rape in Pakistan. Of them three were murdered after gang rape while a woman, victim of gang rape, had committed suicide after police refused to register a FIR against the three influential perpetrators.  Three women were filmed during gang rape and a teenage boy was also filmed during the same crime. In one case a mother and her young daughter were gang raped by ten influential persons in front of elder parents of the victims in Muzaffargarh, Punjab. A girl was gang-raped by four accused in front of her cousin in Layyah.

In Bahawalpur, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) was arrested on charges of raping a woman who had allegedly been gang-raped earlier and was seeking justice from the police. A mentally challenged teenage girl, belonging to the Sikh community, was allegedly raped by two men inside an ambulance in Nankana Sahib. A 14-year-old girl was rendered paralyzed after she was thrown from a three-story building following gang rape in Nawabshah. A teenage girl’s father was arrested for his alleged involvement in her rape, alongside one of her uncles and a neighbor in Kasur.  A girl was allegedly raped repeatedly by her father for at least seven months in Faisalabad’s Chak Jhumra area.

In some cases, women were also found to have played their role in helping their male members commit this crime. In Hafizabad, a young girl was abducted by a neighbor woman, Razia Bibi, on some pretext. Later, accused Razia along with Abubakar, Ali Hassan, Ali Raza and an unidentified accused bundled her into a car and took her to a place near Airport on Gujranwala road where the accused ravished her for two days and accused Razia Bibi allegedly monitored the offence.

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Rape victims: According to my data, there were 149 victims of rape in the country.  Among them 27 were females and 122 were children (86 girls and 36 boys). Of 149 rape victims, 45 were killed after rape (14 adult females and 31 children). In some cases, they were murdered in a very brutal way; two were burnt alive, one was poisoned to death after rape and another one was filmed during rape.

A large number of victims, particularly the children, were kidnapped before they were subjected to rape. The percentage of murdered victims in rape cases was three times higher than the gang rape victims.

This is a very small portion of this crime when it’s compared with the data available on Punjab and Sindh police websites. Punjab website shows that 1859 females were raped and 118 were gang raped in seven months (Jan-July) of 2018 while Sindh police website shows 325 cases of rape and 63 of gang rapes for the whole year of 2018. The basic information that is not available on these police websites is the number of women who were subjected to murder after rape or gang rape, the age and gender distribution of the victims, and the relationship of the perpetrators of these crimes with the victims.

In next column, we will compare the Indian data with Pakistani data on this crime to understand what differences exist in both countries if there is any and the way the data is being maintained in both countries.

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