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Trivialisation Of Rape, Conformation Of Pakistani State And Society - Uzair Mohiuddin

Since the Zainab rape case that shook the country to its core, there have been various (reported) cases of rape, sexual violence, and assault against women that has brought under microscope the demeanor that was otherwise considered to be benign, trivial, and harmless.

The incident in Lahore has raised various questions and brought not only the government and state of Pakistan, but also the society and its norms under question. Anatol Lieven in his book “Pakistan, A Hard Country”, has quoted Pakistan to be a “Weak state, strong society”. Strength of the society, all the while, being inspired off of kinship. Kinship is the two-faced coin which has made and broken societies at various points in history. It is the Janus-faced notion whose implications that follow, may lead the society either into an ethnic war, or may serve as the glue that binds.

For Pakistan, the coin gave birth to a currency of its own. The currency of callous loyalty and indentured servitude. Kinship and patronage are inextricably sewn into the very fabric of our society. The link is rooted deeply enough for Shahrukh Jatoi to be acquitted of murder of Shahzaib Khan after his family’s wealth and influence were brought into the equation. Not only does this undermine the justice system of the country, it corrupts the masses. It incites the notion of “Amnesty for the powerful”, and vigilante justice, instances of which have surfaced even in recent days with the murder of an alleged Gustakh in a court house. This creates a conjugated and inexplicable, and excruciatingly harmful system of society where the powerful prey on the feeble and the weak. A product of this incessant encore of cruelty is the patriarchy of Pakistan.

Violence against women, either in the form of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, or necrophilia has been committed by men belonging to all social classes and every profession. From married religious scholars to educated and learned individuals, all have been a party to either violence or harassment of some sort. Therefore, it rules out the possibility of it being a matter of sexual deprivation, or lack of spirituality. It is but a matter of oppression of the less-powerful, and the lesser privileged.

The systematic suppression of rape cases and violence against women has rendered the women in our society as either lesser privileged, or as having a lesser status in the mind of an average Pakistani man.

Law and Order; the irony of Hudood Ordinance

When it comes to marginalizing the less-powerful, lesser privileged, feeble, or the minority, at various points, it is the government that has played the leading role. One may argue that for an entire decade the cases of rape and sexual violence were systematically suppressed. Not only did it pave the way for further violence, it added to the sectarian bias, gender based violence, and marginalization via Islamic Radicalization of the country.

General Zia-ul-Haq’s attempt at Islamization and the ordinance replaced parts of the Pakistan Penal Code. New punishments of adultery, fornication, and rape were introduced. The ordinance asked for 4 male witnesses to prove every case of rape reported. There were several cases where the absence or lack of witnesses ended up with the woman herself charged with consensual adultery.

The punishments that were changed particularly fall under the Hadd and Tazir section of Islamic Jurisprudence. As per the particularly controversial Zina law, not only did it obfuscate to report cases, no one was actually punished by whipping or amputation. As per the National Commission on the Status of Women in 2003, between 1978 and 1988 women detainees had increased from 70 to 6000, with about 80% women incarcerated due to red rapes and complicated process of proving a rape case.

Therefore, via the systematic suppression of rape and sexual violence, not only did the oppression of the feeble progress, the societal norms of suppressing women and male superiority made its way into the minds of the generation of the time.

Later, it wasn’t until 2006 when the Women’s Protection Act was introduced that decriminalized reporting rape cases and the failure to prove them. It also allowed for rape to be proven via medical results and DNA technology.

Aurat March and Women’s Rights Activism

Revisit the battles of women in our society. What they have to go through on a daily basis. Their struggles are undermined. If a CCPO can blame the victim in his official capacity, there will always be men who will try to change the narrative and place the blame on women.

There are various incidents that point to the fact that rape is more of a social issue than the society would like to admit.

Various theories of sexual violence not only second this, they establish and elaborate on the topic all the while stating the defects in a society that lead to rape and sexual violence. Sexual inequality is one of the primary contributors to the culture. The societal construct of male superiority and the need to demonstrate the supremacism leads to rape and sexual violence in order to make women submit to the might of man. The concept dates back to before the 19th century. Rape used to be a crime that usually went unpunished. Rape was only punished if the guilty was black, since they were considered unequal and lesser to the white populace in the U.S.

According to the social disorganization theory, rape is usually considered a norm for people who grow up in an abusive atmosphere. Rapists usually come from an environment that encourages or approves of rape. Children growing up in an atmosphere where women are beaten and treated inferior to the man of the house would grow up to think it is okay to do the same.

Given the dynamics of Pakistan and the culture of honor killings where women are murdered merely for having an opinion on who to choose for her life partner, and the man gets to dictate the norms of the household, the child grows up with the opinion that not only are women inferior, but any women who holds an opinion or seeks self-dependence deserves to be murdered or raped in order to be tamed. Sociology relates this to a hatred against females merely for being females. In accordance to Allan G. Johnson, the mundanities that the society is a party to promotes misogyny and in extension, trivializes rape.

In his book “Power, Privilege, and difference”, he states:

‘People are tagged with other labels that point to the lowest states of group they belong to, as in “woman doctor”, or :black writer”, but never “white lawyer” or “male senator”. Any category that lowers our status relative to others’ can be used to mark us; to be privileged is to go through life with the relative ease of being unmarked.’

The social construct of virginity and  the two finger test that continues to be used as a parameter that judges the character of a woman. Not only is the two finger test unscientific, it is also illogical, and extremely demeaning. The two finger test leads to the formation of medical opinion regarding consent of the past rape survivor. Marital rape is not considered a form of rape to begin with. This societal construct of the woman being the property of the man post-marriage is not only among the stigmas that have  only led to marital rape, but also been the notion that serves as its safe haven.

This is the mindset of an entire generation. To curb this mindset, an entire generation will have to be educated. There are educated people which not only oppose the marches on women rights but also address the women with cheap names, cat-call them, label them cheap, and question their character merely for asking the liberty to live with security of life and opinion.

The afore-mentioned mindset speaks as to why such initiatives as Aurat March are imperative for our society. Such initiatives create a platform to ask the government and make the demands that happen to be significant and that shall prove to be consequential for the sustenance of women, their liberty, and the right to live.

There are several notions that we need to educate and bring to the attention of society. Establishing Rape Crisis centers must be our top-most priority. Rape Crisis Centers will cater to the needs of the rape victims. The centers shall provide the victims with initial care and tend to the wounds; physical, sentimental, and psychological. The trained personnel in the centers shall conduct not only pregnancy tests, but also for any sexually transmitted diseases. In case of exposure to HIV, the victims ought to be informed with the necessary risks, precautions, and post-exposure prophylaxis. The trained personnel shall also be responsible for evidence collection.

Ideally, the centers should be of the government, but given the impasse-oriented dynamic of Pakistan, the public can rely more on the non-governmental organizations to establish such centers.

These education campaigns via the platforms like Aurat March will prove to be fundamental for bringing people into the fold.

There are certain initiatives that can only be taken efficiently from a position of power, such as the state officials. Rape occurrence and rape normalization are two phenomenon. In order to avoid rape to begin with, legislative steps will need to be taken to improve law enforcement. Cases in court will have to be won, winds will have to be swayed.

In the words of Ruth Badger Ginsburg, a leading voice for gender equality and the second woman ever to serve on the U.S Supreme Court:

“Courts ought not be affected by the weather of the day, but will be by the climate of the era.”

State responsibilities; Public Hanging, castration, and ..

Necessary as it is to punish the criminal, to kill the crime must be the ultimate goal of the legislative assemblies. We need to identify the root of the crime.

The root of the crime not being patriarchy, per se. The root being the power structure that follows the country in every domain and matter of state and society, leading further-on to patriarchy.

Establish policies and have some legal grounds.

The first notion that has surfaced is that of public hanging and castration. Much as someone can understand the desire for macabre punishments, we need to be pragmatic on handling the situation. There is no second opinion on the fact that the rapists deserve every bit of the capital punishment and the horrors it inflicts.

However, there exists no credible evidence of the fact that capital punishments have served as an efficient deterrent to either rape, murder, or violence of any sort. The argument that individuals are less likely to commit violent crimes if they are aware of the final punishment and their obvious fate, relies entirely on the fact that the criminals study and anticipate the consequences of getting caught, whereas, crimes such as rape, much as a societal construct they may be, the act, per se, happens in the spur of the moment. Thereby leaving little opportunity for the horror of the punishment to deter the crime or influence where the crime is committed.

In some cases, the death penalty can cause further violence. For example, if capital punishment is announced on armed robbery, the robbers might as well murder while fleeing the robbery.

Among the earliest precedents under law, for capital punishment on committing rape was set in the United States of America by Coker v. Georgia (1977) that allowed for capital punishment for rape of an adult woman. It was later declared unconstitutional and revoked under Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008).

Capital punishment has a long history of having been exploited and misused to serve the purposes of the masses and that of the state. Capital punishment for a long era has been used to segregate against the black masses in the U.S. In fact, the Death Penalty Information Center (Washington) has not reported a single case where a white man was given the death sentence – capital punishment – on account of rape.

As aforementioned, there is no dissent of opinion regarding the rapists deserving the most pain-inflicting of punishments. But for a country with a weak system of judiciary, having several cases pending, the most pragmatic thing to do is to demand the changes in the law enforcement, and the law itself.

NADRA and forensic testing laboratories – such as the Sindh Forensic DNA and Serology Laboratory – should coordinate and associate the DNA of the individuals to their National Identification Number. As gradual a process as it may be, it is neither impossible, nor impractical. It was only half a decade or so ago when NADRA modified the National Identification Cards and associated them to finger prints, which sets the ground for this point and proves it prudent and pragmatic.

If Rape Crisis centers (assuming they are not operated by the government), carry out the DNA tests, provide first aid, and give treatment to the victim. They can forward the DNA samples to the respective crime labs and with DNA identifications, the process of identifying the guilty becomes feasible.

Not only DNA identification, but DNA collection is a conjugated step in itself. An entire legislation of the sort of the Debbie Smith Act must come into implementation in Pakistan. Grants must be given to ensure analyses of backlogged DNA collected from victims is tested.

Another distressing factor in Pakistan is the lack of registered-crime. Lack of registered crime does not equal to lack of crime. As mentioned prior regarding the Hudood Ordinance, it convolutes the process of reporting a rape case, the red-tapes further add to it.


Rape is a crime. A crime committed by an individual. Whether or not the society is complicit is a different issue, however, the notion of rape culture implies the conformation of the masses with the behavior that normalizes rape and victim shaming, contrary to popular belief.

Given the dynamics of Pakistan society, it is safe to say that the government, state, and the society are all guilty. The first two have made reporting rape and sexual violence obscure and a stigma, alongside the weak, feeble, and precarious justice system that has failed to provide justice to the victims, whereas, the social stigma, victim blaming, male supremacy, gender discrimination, rape jokes, and female objectification has all led to the culture of rape being normalized to the extent where the culprit, close to never, anticipates being caught, or the act any bit heinous.

Therefore, to curb it is a gradual process. One that might take its time to come to fruition. But shall only come to fruition given that it starts today.

As a society, we need to denormalize victim shaming, trample the notion of a woman being impure if she is raped, and put a halt to slut-shaming. We must name and shame the harassers. We need to break the wheel of power culture and gender supremacy.

The government needs to strengthen the state institutions, provide them the appropriate tools and fiscal resources needed to operate efficiently. We need to understand there are certain changes that the government must take, and other changes that are needed in the state per se, such as the legislature and the justice system.

The aforementioned renders us a weak state and weak society. Anatol Lieven was not so right.

My name is Muhammad Uzair Mohiuddin. I like to think of myself as a patriot.

I am an engineering graduate, aspiring for a career in journalism.

I generally write about domestic issues and concerns of the average Pakistani citizenry, alongside global politics, and international relations.

Given the power of social media in the age of information, I prefer to indulge in a civil dialogue and discourse on popular platforms. To partake, my social media is:

Twitter: @MUzairMohiuddin

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