With every major rape case in Pakistan, we observe a deafening upheaval by our people demanding the execution of rapists. Trends are pushed on social media, the government is clobbered for not doing enough to avert sexual violence against children and women and security personnel are urged to make some practical steps making the example out of rapist. Having moved by a disgruntled populace, police run from pillar to post discovering the culprit (real or made up) extract confession and proclaim to be triumphant. After a few days, the public forgetting the incident, moves on with their mundane life, certainly waiting for the next episode to happen, keeping the vicious cycle moving perpetually. From the abuser of Zainab to the serial rapist of minors in KP we have seen the very similar pattern of hide and seek yet an unprecedented surge in the rape cases, debunks the faultlines in our system.
According to child protection NGOSahil, more than eight children were subjected to sexual abuse on average every day in the first six months of 2020 in Pakistan. Sexual violence against children has witnessed a 14% increase in the first half of 2020 compared to the last year; the increase, however, was considered to be the outcome of pandemic restricting children to homes where 55% of abusers were the acquaintance of the children. Of the total children who were subjected to sexual abuse, 53% were girls and 47%, boys.
From the abuser of Zainab to the serial rapist of minors in KP we have seen the very similar pattern of hide and seek yet an unprecedented surge in the rape cases, debunks the faultlines in our system.
When it comes to violence against women, Pakistan, unfortunately, ranks sixth on the list of the world’s most dangerous countries for women. According to statistics collected by White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO working for women’s rights, 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Over 15,000 cases of honour crimes were registered. There were more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence and over 5,500 kidnappings of women during this period. According to media reports, more than 51,241 cases of violence against women were reported between January 2011 and June 2017. Conviction rates, meanwhile, remain low, with the accused in just 2.5% of all reported cases ending up being convicted by the courts.
The statistics demonstrate quite a horrific image on the ground compared to the illusion of reality created by Pakistani. So the question remains the same, why? Why women and children are still at the immense risk of being violated? Why does Pakistan continue proving to be the worst place for children and women? The answer, though, lies in just one word, emerging RAPE-CULTURE in Pakistan.
Rape culture, a term coined in the 1970s was constructed to reflect the ways in which society blames victims of sexual violence instead of rapists. In such a culture, rape and sexual violence become so pervasive and enduring that society begins treating it as a regular or an inevitable trend, on the other hand, victims are blamed for their own assaults. However, It does not merely stay to sexual violence, collective attitude on the part of society and institutions that supposed to be safeguarding victims, provide impunity to rapists, further demand women into adopting the manner of living to avoid getting assaulted. In other words, in rape culture, the focus lingers on “not to get raped” instead of not to rape. The pressure to forfeit their basic rights in order to buy safety, women are put additional and unreasonable restrictions on. They are expected to follow a defined set of rules ranging from “the dress code to when to leave the house to who to accompany as a bodyguard” consequently leaving no space for women to survive but to breath an air of fear and anxiety.
In other words, in rape culture, the focus lingers on “not to get raped” instead of not to rape. The pressure to forfeit their basic rights in order to buy safety, women are put additional and unreasonable restrictions on.
The five most significant pillars on which rape culture thrives are,
The glorification of aggressive-masculinity. From a very young age, men in our society are implanted the idea of being dominant. In order to ensure survival in patriarchy, they are expected to direct and control their inferior ones facilitating an environment of subjugation. That sense of entitlement leads them in an illusion of the superior entity, claiming every position from the public to a private setting, what In the face of the objection, encourage them to use physical violence.
-The preponderance of myths related to gender and sexuality: There are certain myths that rule over the psyche of people in certain societies but in rape culture, they evolve into ingrained fallacies virtually acquiring the shape of natural tendencies. For instance, the sexual desires of men are uncontrollable so they should be exempted for their crimes, that every woman secretly longs for being controlled or dominated or that woman saying NO should be assumed for YES. These myths create a profusion of misconceptions regarding the agency of woman leaving her a vulnerable body.
–Reducing a woman to object that needs to be trained and tamed: Unlike men, in a culture where rape is regarded as inevitable, women are deemed the objects making rape happen in return putting the burden of responsibility on their shoulders. She is encouraged to adopt a lifestyle that doesn’t attract the sight of men even if she is a 10-year-old, her responsibility is to avoid enticing men.
–Institutionalized impunity: Recently, the gangrape of a woman on the motorway, in front of her children led to a public uproar. Police were being pressured into finding the culprit, bringing it to the limelight. However, immediately after hitting upon media, the CCPO of Lahore started denouncing the victim for not being prudent to avoid getting raped. He not just blamed her for her assault but also provided a new reason for people to hold the women responsible for assault against her. It happened to be just one person, the tip of the iceberg, however, suggests the more alarming situation. More often than not, victims avoid filing any against their abusers. “Police protect abusers and shame victims, why would anyone approach them” one of the survivors lamented. While the presumption that reporting rape to law enforcement won’t bring any fruitful result, discourage victims to come forward contributing to further encouragement of rapists.
Victim-blaming: Victim-blaming places responsibility on potential-victim to improve its behaviour instead of educating the potential rapist to not infringe the basic rights of others ensuing the boom of rape culture. For instance, in the recent episode of rape, the woman was being questioned for her solo travelling and not being prudent to her safety. The burden of responsibility is shifted from the culprit to victims. Obviously, If someone is not blamed for one’s wrong behaviour, why would one feel the need to improve one’s behaviour?
To fight the evil of rape you will have to hamstring the soil proving to be the fertile ground for rapists. And to dismantle that anchor, you will have to take start from your home,
How to fight rape-culture: No matter how many mountains you move if you had not struggled against pervaded rape-culture your every attempt would be fruitless. To fight the evil of rape you will have to hamstring the soil proving to be the fertile ground for rapists. And to dismantle that anchor, you will have to take start from your home,
-Diminish the difference between your male and female child,
-Educate your children about the basic values, for instance treating every woman in his life with respect, consent and whatnot,
-Deconstruct myths associated with gender and sexuality,
-Discourage sexist jokes or using the language that degrades woman as a human,
-Listen to the victims, provide them with unconditional support,
-Avoid victim-blaming and slut-shaming.
-Hold the culprit culpable, name and shame.
-Resist the bro-code or men will be men.
To bring a change in society you will have to be the change you are seeking in others.