Women in Pakistan are victims of a war waged against their bodies and their human rights to live lives of dignity, without fear, and with access to justice. The most recent attack in this war occurred on Thursday night in Islamabad’s F-9 Park, when two armed men raped a girl at gunpoint.
Around 8 p.m., the rape survivor and a male colleague went to the park when they were stopped at gunpoint by two men who separated them and took the girl to a thicket where they raped her. The fact that they told the girl she shouldn’t have been in the park “at this time of the night” after gang-raping her somehow makes me feel even angrier.
Without a doubt, the rape has shocked the nation, but how many times are we supposed to be shocked? We were shocked when another girl was gang-raped in the same park a few years ago. We were shocked when the rape on the highway occurred.
When Mukhtaran Mai was gang-raped two decades ago, we were shocked. Young women in this country live in an era when even a stroll through the park can result in a rape, followed by morality policing by the rapists themselves. Despite this collective shock, the state, society, and government have failed to ensure that women in this country are safe when they leave their homes—or even when they are inside their homes.
Victims and survivors are still being blamed for various reasons. From the rapists telling the victim that she should not have been out at night to people telling the Motorway victim that she should not have been driving alone with her children to others saying parks should be closed after sunset to the Islamabad Police saying that those who go to the park should stay within well-lit areas, the only response to a woman’s rape appears to be ways to either blame the victim or police future female actions.
The fact that the police are asking people to stay in well-lit areas in the evenings when the FIR clearly shows that the rapists led the girl and her colleague into a thicket shows that even law enforcement would rather restrict people’s movement than protect and serve.
The truth is that women in this country do not feel safe in any setting, including their homes, workplaces, parks, streets, and schools. When they do try to report their assault, the entire society conspires to make it as difficult as possible for them to obtain justice.
It is therefore critical to reinforce one fundamental principle, which must be internalised by every single person in the country: in the case of a rape, only the rapist is at fault. If we are to ensure this, we must end the prevalent culture of impunity for aggressors and a regressive mindset at the top. For women to be protected from rape and sexual violence, the state must ensure consistent punishment for those who commit rape; the goal should not be severity but consistency of punishment.
Women do not require protection that requires them to cover up even more for fear of being attacked. They require the strict enforcement of laws that guarantee their safety regardless of where they go or how they dress.