Recent Rape will Test New Law in Pakistan
Tuesday, March 6, 2007 12:27 PM

In Pakistan, the father of a 16-year-old girl has filed a complaint with police in the gang rape of his daughter.  The girl was abducted, raped and forced to walk home nude by 11 men to punish her family for her brother's elopement with one of their kinswomen. 

Such crimes have gone unpunished, in the traditional feudal system, as they were seen as valid forms of protecting a family's honour.  In addition, women were forced to marry her perpetrators or were murdered to protect her own family.  Women's rights groups are paying close attention the this recent case, as they continue to demand the government be more active in punishing revenge rape cases.  Last month in the province of Sindh, four rape cases were reported, while the government chose to intervene in only one.  Activists say that this is because perpetrators are often feudal lords and are able to buy their freedom and scare people into silence.

Still, activists are watching to see how law makers enforce the new Women's Protection Bill.  Signed into law by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in December, critics say that the language is extremely vague and confusing.  This is blamed mostly on the coalition of six religious parties who were against the bill from its inception.  One benefit, though, is that rape is now tried under the Penal code, and women are no longer forced to 'prove' they have been raped by identifying four witnesses.  In the past, if this mandate could not be met, women were charged with adultery.  Such practices prevented many women from bringing any cases to the police, but with the new law more cases are being brought to court.

Until it is properly enforced, the bill remains largely ineffective.  Many are watching the outcome of the current case to serve as a test for the new bill.  Since it is in its pre-court stages, activists are placing little emphasis on the current case. Women's rights groups in Pakistan are looking for a new indicator of hope.

Compiled from: "Teenager's Rape- Test for New Law," by Zofeen Ebrahim, InterPress Service News Agency (IPS), 6 February 2007.