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EDITORIAL: This is the second case of gang-rape within a span of just one week. There may be more that have gone unreported. According to press reports, a recently divorced 25-year-old woman had travelled from Karachi to Multan by privately-operated Bahauddin Zakariya Express to see her little girl and boy living with her ex-husband who came to the station to tell her she was not allowed to meet them.

Dejected she decided to return to Karachi by the same train. When it reached Rohri a ticket checker came in with the offer to shift her seat from the economy class to an air conditioned compartment. There she was raped by him and two other train staffers. After arriving at Karachi Cantonment Station she was spotted by some Railways Police officers sitting on a bench in a daze, and helped to call her sister who took her home. Later on, a police team went to her home and convinced her to tell her distressing story and go to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for medical examination, which confirmed that she was gang-raped.

An FIR was registered under two relevant sections of Pakistan Penal Code that carry life imprisonment or death. Two of the three suspects have been arrested. Multan-based manager of the private train service has also been taken into custody and charged with negligence. Indeed, the company and its staff running the train service need to be held to account for negligence, but whosoever granted the contract to a private operator leaving to it to make its own security arrangements rather than the Railways Police doing that duty, also bears part of the responsibility for not ensuring passenger safety.

The sickening episode also calls for some introspection by wider society and its self-styled conscious keepers as to why such incidents keep recurring even though the crime carries extreme punishments. Some may argue that it happens in some of the advanced counties as well. But then there is the example of Japan, in particular its capital city Tokyo, one of the largest population cities in the world, which is known as the safest city for women. There they can walk around alone late at night without worrying about security. That is because respect for other people’s rights is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.

Unfortunately, however, in this country even some regular people don’t look upon sexual violence against women as a serious offense. In fact, in two reported instances, village punchayats actually ordered gang-rape, in one case of a 16-year-old girl and in the other a young woman, Mukhtaran Mai (known by her name because aided by civil society, she had pursued legal proceedings against all involved, albeit without much success) to avenge some purported wrongdoing by a male family member. Then there is the high-profile rape case of a doctor working in a hospital in Sui area of Balochistan.

The rapist was not only protected by the then government leaders, the victim had to face denigration, forcing her to seek refuge in Canada. Adding insult to injury the then president Gen Pervez Musharraf said in a Washington Post interview that rape had become a “moneymaking concern” in Pakistan, and that many Pakistanis (women) felt it was an easy way to get a Canadian visa. A major root cause of the rape crime is this way of thinking. The society needs to be purged of it.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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