Sana Saleem: Distorted priorities?

Sana SaleemHow many of us remember the three-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and thrown in a sewer, or the 13-year-old boy from Korangi who was gang-raped on Eid-ul-Fitr last year, or the five-year-old girl who was raped, strangled and later recovered from a garbage dump at a ground in Gizri?

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) Annual Report 2009:

“968 children, 285 boys and 683 girls were sexually abused. Around 1,404 women murdered, including 647 in the name of ‘honour’. Around 928 women were raped and some 563 committed suicide.”

Another survey, conducted by Sahil, an NGO which raises awareness regarding child sexual abuse and exploitation, paints a haunting image:

“Out of a total of 1,216 cases reported in six months, 331 boys, whereas 885 girls had been sexually abused, and the percentage of the female cases was 72 per cent as compared to 28 per cent of male cases.”

Rape is grossly under-reported in Pakistan. The culture of silence and shame has been one of the biggest hurdles victims face. It is then a pity that the few, who choose to overlook cultural barriers and gather the courage to come forth, are forced to go through the ordeal for years before justice is served. In most instances, alleged rapists are acquitted due to loopholes in our judicial system, while sometimes the victims are pressurised to withdraw their case. The role of police in such cases has been extremely notorious. For instance, take the case of a 10-year-old boy from Lahore; despite medico-legal reports proving rape had occurred, the police was reluctant to file an FIR against the accused pedophile.

In Khipro, a student of class X was given sedatives and gang-raped but her ordeal wasn’t over. The heinous crime was filmed via a mobile phone camera and the video posted on various websites. In the aftermath of the incident, parents of more than 100,000 students have stopped their daughters from attending schools and colleges.

Even more shocking are reports of an alleged gang of blackmailers comprising boys and girls, from ‘respectable’ families, who have sexually assaulted girls, recorded videos of the victims and used it to blackmail the victim’s parent or posted it on the Internet.

What kind of people would commit such an atrocious crime, film it and upload the videos on the Internet is beyond me. Unfortunately, this is not new phenomenon, such incidences have been reported before. In March 2009, a teenage boy was gang-raped in police custody and the footage distributed over the Internet. Child porn continues to be accessed throughout Pakistan and now,  rape videos have also joined the league yet we see no outrage by these ‘upholders of morals and justice.’ The lack of coverage and public outrage at such incidents is extremely disturbing and worrisome. But then our priorities have been distorted for quite sometime. It is a pity that we live in a country where hundreds will march on the streets, calling for an all out ban on social media platforms because of an isolated incident, while horrifying stories of abuse do not merit our anger. If alarming figures from the HRCP reports and the increasing incidences of rape and abuse of women and children does not bring us back to our senses, I don’t know what will.

Sana Saleem is a Features Editor at BEE magazine and blogs at Global Voices,  Asian Correspondent and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and tweets at twitter.com/sanasaleem.



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