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Victim blaming in Pakistan curbs the voices of survivors

  • 08 October 2020
This article discusses sexual violence and incest. Social media, while a blessing, has also become a curse for survivors in Pakistan. The platforms are widely used by survivors to share their stories of sexual harassment, molestation or rape. It also gives users a chance to comment and provide leeway for the perpetrator. 

Recently, a woman was gang-raped on the outskirts of Pakistan’s second-largest city, Lahore, in front of her two children (both under eight) at gunpoint. 

The family was on their way home, from Lahore to the nearest city, about two hours’ drive through the highway. The highway is called the Motorway and is one of the most well-developed roads of Pakistan that connects the province of Punjab to the North of Pakistan. At around 1 am her car broke down as it ran out of petrol. She tried to arrange for help, took all legal precautions and called the highway police for help and her family. While she waited for them to arrive, two men broke the glass of her car and took her and her children into the nearby fields.

A country that takes pride in honouring its women, naturally, people over social media, traditional media and public at large were outraged by the incident. The inhumane act of rape, and that too a mother in front of her children? 

Rape cases are not new to Pakistan, between January 2019 to May 2020 around 688 rape cases were reported in the press in Pakistan according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. These stats are higher according to police data. In 2019, the police in the province of Punjab alone registered 3,881 cases of rape and 190 of gang rape.

Currently, stats from provinces are outdated. Data discrepancy is rampant, as numerous cases go unreported in Pakistan, due to the fear of losing one’s stature and respect in society. 

'If one of the most well managed roads of the country is unsafe for women, how are other places safe? If their houses are unsafe, where do they go? If law enforcement are part of such crimes, who do they report to?'

On the day, the Chief of Punjab police said that the survivor should not have taken a deserted road over a busier route given the time. That is when the victim blaming began.

Why was she out at this hour? Why did she take a deserted road? Why did she run out of petrol when she knew the highway has