Highlights

  • 'Emergency' announced in Pakistan's Punjab province over sexual violence
  • Punjab Home Minister said 4-5 rape cases being reported every day in state
  • 1% - 2.5% average conviction rate in Pakistan in cases of crimes against women

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Pakistan: 'rape emergency' declared by govt in Punjab; 5 shocking cases since 1999 show depravity

Pakistan rape emergency: Punjab Home Minister Atta Tarar announced the move, saying that 4-5 rape cases are being reported every day, and special measures are needed.

A girl allegedly raped by a rickshaw driver. A woman allegedly raped on a train. A girl allegedly raped in front of her family. A woman allegedly raped by a bus driver.

With horrific cases like these emerging day after day, Pakistan's Punjab province has decided to declare an "emergency" over rising crimes against women and children.

Punjab Home Minister Atta Tarar announced the emergency. He reportedly said that 4-5 rape cases are being reported every day in the state, and special measures are needed to counter sexual harassment, abuse, and coercion. The government announced that the Cabinet Committee on Rape and Law & Order will review all these cases.

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Pakistan has had a history of agonising crimes against women, compounded by lack of strict action against the culprits.

On 14 August 2021, which is celebrated as Pakistan's Independence Day, a TikTok star was molested by a mob at the Minar-e-Pakistan monument in Lahore. A month earlier, 27-year-old Noor Muqaddam, the daughter of a former diplomat, was raped, tortured, and killed allegedly by the scion of a prominent industrialist family.

In July 2016, social media star Qandeel Baloch was murdered by her brother for what he called "intolerable behaviour". In June 2002, a woman named Mukhtaran Mai had been gangraped on orders of the village council as punishment for her brother's relationship with a woman from a rival tribe. In April 1999, 28-year-old Samia Sarwar had been shot dead allegedly be her family for seeking a divorce over domestic violence.

In light of such distressing cases, Pakistan ranks 167 out of 170 countries on the Global Women, Peace, and Security Index. According to police records, 41,000 women went missing in Pakistan's Punjab province in the last 5 years, and over 3,500 of them had not been found by March 2022.

Studies say that at least 32% women in Pakistan have experienced physical violence, and 28% women aged between 15 and 49 years have been victims of intimate partner violence. Experts agree that these figures are conservative. Meanwhile, the conviction rate is limited to 1% to 2.5% in crimes against women.

The imposition of an emergency in Pakistan's Punjab has been sparked by an alarming spike in violence. On 14 June, a rickshaw driver allegedly raped a teenage girl in Muzaffargarh. On 27 May, a 25-yr-old woman was allegedly gangraped on a Karachi-Multan train. A day earlier, robbers allegedly raped a minor girl in front of her family in Pattoki. On 22 May, a bus driver working with a private company allegedly raped a woman in Bahawalpur.

With panic gripping women, Pakistani authorities have announced a slew of measures. The steps include fast-track DNA examination by forensic labs to identify assailants. The government is also running anti-rape campaigns to spread awareness.

The authorities are also telling parents to not leave children unattended at home. Additionally, students will be sensitised at school regarding sexual harassment. The government will also consult civil society, women's rights activists, and teachers for prevention of sexual crimes.

It remains to be seen whether measures like imposition of emergency are effective in ending an entrenched culture of crimes against women and subsequent impunity in Pakistan.

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