February 16th, 2021
By Sher-e-Azam & Shehrezad Agha
“Faisal’s brother threatens us every now and again, that when Faisal comes out of jail custody, he will teach us a proper lesson,” says Maryam Bibi*, a resident of a shanty hut in Orangi Town, Karachi. Maryam a woman with a disability, was gang-raped by two men, and in the same household, tried to do the same with her mother-in-law – an 80-year-old bedridden woman. The case took place four months ago.
“The case is in court, but we don’t even have enough money for a lawyer, or even to make an appearance. We don’t have much hope anyway of going to court,” says Maryam.
Maryam’s husband is equally worried. He believes that with every passing day, justice seems out of reach for them.
“My wife was raped last year, but till today we are in search of justice,” he says. “The police have been supportive of me, but I have gone to Court and I have appealed that my wife’s mental balance is not right, and her statement has been a little problematic. But instead of working on getting the right statement, the judge has twisted it. We are sick of being pushed around,” he says. He tells Voicepk.net that the case is proceeding too slowly and with each passing day he was losing hope of getting justice.
“One of the main culprits Hameed still has not been arrested. I think it’s better if we just withdraw and end the case.”
While the case itself is shocking and disgusting both, where a mentally unstable woman became a rape survivor, the fact that the second accused has not yet been arrested has ended up in proving that the police may not have been working as much as they should have.
The family lives in a dilapidated hut in Orangi Town, a lower socioeconomic area in Karachi, and it shows that poverty is a huge factor when it comes to the slow development of such cases as the less influential a person, the less likely he or she is to pursue or win the case. Not much has changed, especially the typical indifference and delay in the investigation.
Lawyer Parnoon Mushtaq says that for investigation, there is always a lack of evidence that serves as a problem. She says that the accused are not charged due to inefficiency and the cases are also summoned after ages.
“We don’t have a very good mechanism,” she says. “The public is not very aware of what to do, especially because rape carries a social stigma. First and foremost they do not report an incident fearing that their dignity will be tarnished, or that their daughters will be talked about. Cases end up being delayed most of the time because of tests which are the most time-consuming thing in rape cases.”
She says that with rape cases it’s all about timing, and yet this is not being taken care of either by the family, or the police.
“For rape case, the tests must be done within 24 hours, but no one seems to know or care about this. Families end up having their DNA tests done four days later – even a week later.” These are the reasons why the evidence is delayed, and the case ends up going slower. The other party gets acquitted on the benefit of the doubt.
A badly handled rape case can end up destroying and breaking down a person, to the point of him or her giving up completely, not to mention the amount of psychological damage that they suffer. Legal experts advise that someone should take immediate action and file a report when such an incident happens but for this, awareness should be created among people, especially women. They should understand that their supporters should not sit at home with them, rather take them to file a case. This way the case is strengthened and can have a better standing in court.
Despite the government issuing an ordinance in December 2020 to eliminate unnecessary delays in rape cases, and to maintain the self-esteem of the victim, so far neither the law enforcement agencies know much about these laws, nor is the public aware of it. Also, it would be even more difficult to implement an ordinance that does not even have notifications.