Two Muslim men accused of raping Christian sisters in Pakistan were acquitted in October, an all too common outcome for rape trials in the Islamic nation.
The teenage girls from the village of Jaranwala were abducted and raped in November 2014. They recognized their attackers as young Muslim men from the area and reported the assault, according to Morning Star News (MSN).
Seeking punishment for their attackers meant danger for the entire family. Even before trial, they were threatened with death and attackers sprayed their home with gunfire. Now that the trial is over, their father thinks they’re in greater danger, and the girls have been relocated for safety.
“We didn’t get justice,” their father told the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), according to MSN.
Intimidation spread from the family to witnesses as the trail began.
“The case has allegedly been lost due to the unreliability of a key witness who originally, in the face of threats, refused to attend the court, then when instructed to attend by the court changed his original statement,” said BPCA’s Wilson Chowdhry, according to MSN. “Previously a family friend, [he] has been accused of taking a bribe and altering his statement in lieu of this payment.”
This case, as well as the recent gang rape of a deaf-mute Christian woman, illustrates how common rape is in Pakistan and how rarely justice is served. Although all women are potential victims, advocacy groups say religious minorities have been specifically targeted.
William Stark, from International Christian Concern, said minorities, like Christians and Hindus, are especially at risk because they’re “soft targets.”
“It is much harder for them to get any sort of justice,” he said.
Rape is also underreported because of shame, fear, external pressure from the rapist or his family, and a lack of confidence in the justice system. Many women keep silent because victims face opposition, intimidation, and threats if they speak. Even when rape is reported, authorities may choose not to investigate. If a case goes to court, the victims and their families are often threatened and harassed to get them to drop the charges.
“We visited a couple of police stations in Karachi in order to get a case lodged,” Sarah Zaman of the nonprofit advocacy group War Against Rape, told PBS’s Frontline. “Two policemen, at different points in time, told us that this woman is lying.” Zaman said when a victim loses in court the perception is that she lied, and those outcomes “discourage women from coming forward even more.”
Rape is also linked to the problem of forced marriages and conversions in Pakistan. The Movement for Solidarity and Peace estimated as many as 700 Christian women and girls are forcibly converted to Islam and married each year. The practice often involves kidnapping and rape. Once the girl is “married,” the rapist husband has more rights than the girl's family and “retains custody of the woman even if her family tries to pursue legal action,” Stark said.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: November 13, 2015