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Horrific sexual crime

Horrific sexual crime
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Horrific sexual crime

Highlights

Protests continue in cities across Pakistan after the police chief investigating the gang rape of a French woman on a major national highway blamed the victim for travelling late at night without a male companion.

Protests continue in cities across Pakistan after the police chief investigating the gang rape of a French woman on a major national highway blamed the victim for travelling late at night without a male companion. Sounds familiar? After all, it is only a political border that divides us. Attitudes are the same. The woman was attacked at around 1:30 am local time on September 11 after her car broke down on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway, while she was driving from Lahore to Gujranwala with her two children. She called the police and waited.

In her statement to the police, the woman said she was waiting for help to arrive when a group of men smashed her window, dragged her out of the car and raped her at gunpoint in front of her children in a nearby field. Disgust around the case increased when the lead police investigator told the media that the woman should have known better than to travel alone at night. He said no one in Pakistani society would "allow their sisters and daughters to travel alone so late" and she should have taken a safer highway and made sure she had enough fuel for the journey. The victim is a resident of France, and Sheikh said she "mistook that Pakistani society is just as safe".

The protests were organised by a group called the Aurat March. The group set forth five demands, including an end to violence, affirmative steps by the government to uphold rights and ensure justice, removal of Lahore Capital City Police Officer who blamed the woman, structural and procedural reforms in the laws and effective and transparent investigation. Imran Khan, the prime minister, said on Twitter that he was following the case closely and had asked investigators for the "arrest and sentencing of those involved in the incident as soon as possible". He added: "Such brutality and bestiality cannot be allowed in any civilised society."

Pakistan police arrested 15 people in connection with the incident, but they were later reported to be not directly involved in the incident. They have now identified the two main suspects through DNA tracing and have made one arrest in this connection. There are calls for 'public hangings' as the final solution to heinous crimes against women. But such suggestions miss the entire point. In 2018, six-year-old Zainab's rapist and murderer was hanged. And given the 'logic' that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime, the hanging should have led to a considerable decline in cases of child sex abuse.

However, according to child right's organisation Sahil, there was a 11 per cent increase in reported cases of child sex abuse that year, with a total of 3,832 cases registered. Pakistan had earlier with its new laws has proved that sexual offences were hard to prove. It happened during Zia-ul-Haq's time. Though the death sentence was brought in, nobody was hanged because nobody was convicted. Basically, Pakistan needs to stop looking for quick fixes and continue talking about sexual violence even after the current protests cool down, as they inevitably will. It applies for India too.

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