PAKISTAN: Rape of Christian girls-no issue for authorities

Women and minorities are the most marginalized faction of the Pakistani society; the Muslim majority is increasingly being intolerant towards people professing religion other than Islam. In a recent case of increasing rape incident of Christian girls, as reported by British Pakistani Christian Association, two minor Christian girls from Jaranwala, Punjab, Farzana aged 14   and Sehrish  aged 16 were gang raped by three Muslim men. On December 3rd 2014 three  men abducted the girls from outside their home when they had gone outside to answer the call of nature. As they are too poor to have toilet facility the girls are forced to use open fields. The rapist held the hapless girls all night subjecting them to rape and torture, as their poor father searched for them in vain. In the morning the distraught girls returned home and told their father of their ordeal.  FIR no. 552/14 was registered at the Lundya Wala Police Station and one of the rapists Sajad was arrested while two of the rapists, Azeem and Shahbaz managed to run away. The police and local Muslims are pressurizing Ilyas Masih, the father of the girls to accept a compromise and settle the matter.

According to reports Ilyas Masih has received death threats from Azeem to withdraw the rape charges. Rai Haider, MPA (Member of Provincial Assembly) is also pressuring and offering money for a reconciliation settlement. The District Hospital of Jaranwala has refused to conduct appropriate testing for evidence of rape of the two victims because the police is supporting the rapists.

On 10th February 2015 two men on motorcycles stopped outside Sherish and Farzana’s house, and fired outside their house to frighten them.  The men shouted out that they were the relatives of the boys who raped Sehrish and Farzana and that the Girls deserved to be raped as they were unwanted Christians in Muslim lands. The 12 years old younger brother of Sehrish and Farzana ventured out of his home to see what was happening. The gun men aimed and shot at him several times fortunately he escaped unhurt by taking refuge in their home. The family had sought refuge at the local pastor’s home. Too scared to venture outside fearing for their life Sehrish the victim said “” I am too afraid to go back home. This was once my local community but all I have now is bad memories.” Shahbaz and his three accomplices had previously been accused of rape by another Christian family in the village the family subsequently compromised on a settlement after being pressured by influential people in the village to drop the lawsuit.

Unfortunately for the Christian community, which forms of 42% of the minority living in Pakistan, the incident of rape and forced conversions is on the rise. Many families have fled or sought asylum fearing for their lives if they report the incident. In another incident reported by Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) Maria Sarfraz a school student aged 11 from Sheikapura district was kidnapped and gang raped for three days. Members of Muslim religious political party abducted the girl and took her to another city. Her father Sarfraz Andrew registered a First Investigation Report – FIR No. 272/14 on 25th April, 2014. The girl was recovered after three days the medical report declared the she was being forcefully raped by the accused for three uninterrupted days. Local police arrested Muhammad Safdar and Muhammad Mehboob. The accused has religious political back ground and forcing the family to compromise.

Words fail to condemn the atrocity meted out to the rape victim in Pakistan whose ordeal actually begins after the harrowing incident. It is not just the body and soul of the women that is made to suffer her whole family is dragged in the mire and must bear in silence, no one dare demands justice. The victim of rape often belongs from the low income strata and thus cannot put up a fight against the rapist who is generally the influential party, and if the victim belongs to the minority group their trouble is further exacerbated. The cost to family honour often forces many families to not report the incident; the investigative system of police is not generally very sensitized towards such crime. The police officials themselves force the family to settle the matter and if the family refuses to be bogged down they are made to suffer further humiliation by prodding and inappropriate questioning. The law of the land gives the victim a clear signal you are going to be threatened, maligned and defeated if you are raped.

The minority rights though guaranteed under the constitution are almost not existent today. The white in Pakistan’s flag represents minority yet we see that the minorities are sidelined and denied equal rights in the land increasingly becoming radicalized. The obscurantist clergy propagates hate for other religious minority; even at the state level they are denied the freedom to hold property or right to marriage. The Hindu civil marriage is still not recognized in Pakistan that creates many hurdles for the married Hindu women to claim her lawful right in property. The  attacks or churches, temples and other places of worship for the minorities are attacked frequently the state plays a silent spectator as the blood bath continues the nonexistent rule of law and writ of the state has made it very difficult for the people to enjoy a peaceful life.

Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of Pakistan, to take concrete measures to ensure that victims of rape are given full state support and that those who are involved in the heinous crime must be prosecuted. The police should be sanitized to deal with matters involving crime against women and to ensure efficient and expedient investigation is conducted that is free from any socio political influence.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-031-2015
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Administration of justice, Right to life, Right to redress, Rule of law, Violence against women, Women's rights,