Rape in Pakistan

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Rape in Pakistan came to international attention after the politically sanctioned rape of Mukhtaran Bibi.[1][2] The group War Against Rape (WAR) has documented the severity of rape in Pakistan, and the police indifference to it.[3] According to Women's Studies professor Shahla Haeri, rape in Pakistan is "often institutionalized and has the tacit and at times the explicit approval of the state".[4][5] According to lawyer Asma Jahangir, who was a co-founder of the women's rights group Women's Action Forum, up to seventy-two percent of women in custody in Pakistan are physically or sexually abused.[6]

Notable cases[edit]

Since 2000, various women and teenage girls have begun to speak out after being sexually assaulted. Going against the tradition that a woman should suffer in silence, they have lobbied news outlets and politicians.[7] A recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that in 2009, 46 percent of unlawful female killings in Pakistan were "honour killings".[8]

  • In 2002, 30-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi (Mukhtār Mā'ī) was gang raped on the orders of the village council as an "honour rape" after allegations that her 12-year-old brother had had sexual relations with a woman from a higher caste.[9] Although custom would expect her to commit suicide after being raped,[10][11][12] Mukhtaran spoke up, and pursued the case, which was picked up by both domestic and international media. On 1 September 2002, an anti-terrorism court sentenced 6 men (including the 4 rapists) to death for rape. In 2005, the Lahore High Court cited "insufficient evidence" and acquitted 5 of the 6 convicted, and commuted the punishment for the sixth man to a life sentence. Mukhtaran and the government appealed this decision, and the Supreme Court suspended the acquittal and held appeal hearings.[13] In 2011, the Supreme Court too acquitted the accused. Mukhtār Mā'ī's story was the subject of a Showtime (TV network) documentary called Shame, directed by Mohammed Naqvi,[14] which won awards including a TV Academy Honor (Special Emmy) of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.[15]
  • In 2005, a woman claimed to have been gang raped by four police officers for refusing to pay them a bribe so her husband would be released from prison. One officer was arrested and three have disappeared.
  • A 23-year-old woman in Faisalabad made public accusations against the police, saying her husband had been arrested for creating forged documents; she alleges she was raped on the orders of the chief of police for her actions. The officer was suspended but not arrested.[16]
  • Kainat Soomro was a 13-year-old schoolgirl when she was kidnapped and gang raped for four days. Her protest has led to the murder of her brother, a death sentence from the elders of her village, and threats from the rapists, who after four years still remain at large.[17]
  • Shazia Khalid was raped in Balochistan in the ruling of Pervez Musharaf.
  • In 2012, three members of the Border Police were remanded into custody for raping five women aged between fifteen and twenty-one. The women claim they were taken from a picnic area to the police station in Dera Ghazi Khan, where the police filmed themselves sexually assaulting the women.[18]
  • In January 2014, a village council ordered gang-rape that was carried out in the same Muzaffargarh district where the Mukhtaran Bibi took place in 2002.[19]
  • In the 2014 Layyah rape murder incident, on 19 June 2014, a 21-year-old woman was gang raped and murdered in Layyah district, Punjab province of Pakistan.[20]
  • In September 2014, three sons of Mian Farooq, a ruling party parliamentarian from Faisalabad, were accused of abducting and gang raping of a teenage girl. The rapists were later released by the court.[21]
  • In July 2017, a panchayat ordered rape of a 16 year old girl in Multan as punishment for her brother's conduct.[22]
  • In December 2017, a 25 year old girl was gang-raped by four dacoits during a robbery at her house in Multan.[23]
  • In December 2017, A girl who married against the wishes of her family was allegedly raped by influential members of a panchayat.[24]

January 2018[edit]

In January 2018, a seven year old girl named Zainab Ansari was raped and strangled to death in Kasur. The incident caused nationwide outrage in Pakistan.[25] The same month, a 16 year old girl was raped and killed in Sargodha,[26] and a day later, in the same city, a 13 year old boy was intoxicated and sexuality assaulted by two men belonging to influential family.[27] In Faisalabad, the same day, a 15 year old boy was found dead. The later medical reports confirmed a sexual assault.[28] Few days later, a dead body of a 3 or 4 year-old girl, named Asma, was found in Mardan, who had been reportedly missing for 24 hours.[29] Her post-mortem report points that she has been raped before her murder.[30][31]

UNODC Goodwill Ambassador Shehzad Roy collaborated with Bilawal Bhutto to introduce awareness about education against child sexual abuse in Sindh.[32][33][34]

Historical accounts[edit]

During the Bangladesh Liberation War, it is estimated that between 400,000[35] and 600,000[36] women and girls were sexually assaulted by the Pakistan armed forces and the Al-Badr ("the moon") and the Al-Shams ("the sun") militias that supported them.[37][38]


The group War Against Rape (WAR) has documented the severity of the rape problem in Pakistan and of police indifference to it.[39] WAR is an NGO whose mission is to publicize the problem of rape in Pakistan; in a report released in 1992, of 60 reported cases of rape, 20% involved police officers. In 2008 the group claimed that several of its members were assaulted by a religious group as they tried to help a woman who had been gang raped identify her assailants.[40]

According to a study carried out by Human Rights Watch there is a rape once every two hours,[41] a gang rape every hour [42][43] and 70-90 percent women are suffering with some kind of domestic violence.[41]

According to Women's Studies professor Shahla Haeri, rape in Pakistan is "often institutionalized and has the tacit and at times the explicit approval of the state".[5] According to a study by Human Rights Watch, there is a rape once every two hours[41] and a gang rape every eight.[43] Asma Jahangir, a lawyer and co-founder of the women's rights group Women's Action Forum, reported in a 1988 study of female detainees in Punjab that around 72 percent of them stated they had been sexually abused while in custody.[44]

Child sexual abuse[edit]

Child sexual abuse is widespread in Pakistani Islamic schools.[45] In a study of child sexual abuse in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, out of a sample of 300 children 17% claimed to have been abused and in 1997 one child a day was reported as raped, gang raped or kidnapped for sexual gratification.[46] In September 2014, the British Channel 4 broadcast a documentary called Pakistan's Hidden Shame, directed by Mohammed Naqvi and produced by Jamie Doran,[47][48] which highlighted the problem of sexual abuse of street children in particular, an estimated 90 percent of whom have been sexually abused.


The rape and assault of Christian, Hindu, Sikh and other minorities is reported to be prevalent in Pakistan.[49][50][51][52][53] Inaction, refusal to file complaints, intimidation and corruption amongst the police and judiciary are also frequent problems.[54][55][56][57][58][59][60]

The legal system[edit]

Honour killings, burnings, and rapes in Pakistan can be seen as indicating inadequate legal protection for women.[61] In 1979 Pakistan passed into law the Hudood Ordinance, which made all forms of extra-marital sex, including rape, a crime against the state.[62] During the time the Hudood Ordinance remained on the statute books, Human Rights Watch(HRW) documented extensive sexual abuse against female bonded laborers.[39] In 1992, HRW also described extensive reports of physical and sexual abuse against female complainants by the police in a 106-page report.[63] Reports of problems with reporting and prosecuting rape persist.[59][60][64][65]

In 2006, the Women's Protection Bill was passed by parliament.


Rape in Pakistan came to international attention after Mukhtaran Bibi charged her attackers with rape and spoke out about her experiences.[1][16] She was then denied the right to leave the country. The matter of her refused visit to the US was raised in an interview by the Washington Post with the then President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, who claimed to champion "Moderate Islam" that "respect the rights of women", and complained that his country is "unfairly portrayed as a place where rape and other violence against women are rampant and frequently condoned".[66] He said that he had relented over allowing her to leave the country, and remarked that being raped had "become a money-making concern", a way to get rich abroad. This statement provoked an uproar, and Musharraf later denied having made it.[66]

The statement was made in the light of the fact that another rape victim, Dr Shazia Khalid, had left Pakistan, was living in Canada, and had spoken out against official attitudes to rape in Pakistan. Musharraf said of her: "It is the easiest way of doing it. Every second person now wants to come up and get all the [pause] because there is so much of finances. Dr. Shazia, I don't know. But maybe she's a case of money (too), that she wants to make money. She is again talking all against Pakistan, against whatever we've done. But I know what the realities are."[67]

On 29 May 2013, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body responsible for giving legal advice on Islamic issues to the Government of Pakistan and the Parliament, declared that DNA tests are not admissible as the main evidence in rape cases. A spokesman for the council said that DNA evidence could, at best, serve as supplementary evidence but could not supersede the Islamic laws laid out for determining rape complaints.[68]

See also[edit]




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