Irresponsible Pakistani media and authorities violates rape victim's privacy

Publisher: TakeBackTheTech Pakistan     Islamabad,

We are utterly shocked at the gang-rape case that happened on 20th December 2010 in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Karachi and the events that followed. For those who are not aware of this occurrence, here is a little background on the case, from the Tribune:

“Twenty-something K and her acquaintance S, in her mid-30s, were driving in a blue Suzuki Alto on Khayaban-e-Qasim in DHA when three to four men in a car rammed into them from the back. The small car dived into a ditch, the women were dragged from the car, abducted and K was gang raped while S was beaten. They were then dumped back at the spot. M, one of K’s friends, took them to hospital from where the case was taken up”

The unfortunate events that followed after the initial reports, electronic media’s irresponsible reporting and the rape survivor withdrawing her case, are the reasons for writing this open letter addressed to Ms. Sharmila Farooqui, Advisor to the Chief Minister of Sindh, who showed disgusting behavior to the survivor sitting in a live talk show on an independent TV Channel.

Following open letter has been issued by the Take Back The Tech Campaigners in Pakistan.

Dear Miss Farooqui,

This is with reference to the gang-rape case that happened on 20th December 2010 in Defence Housing Authority in Karachi and the events that followed.  As you are well aware of the  details, reports suggest that K was gang raped after her car was rammed into a ditch, her acquaintance beaten and both of them were then thrown in the ditch, left helpless.

We are extremely shocked to know that despite such a heinous crime, K has now withdrawn her case against the rapist. For this we have no one else to blame, but irresponsible reporting by the media and unethical statement by you.

We cannot even begin to explain, how hurt and furious we are at the way, the case has been handled by the media and the law enforcing agencies. Rather than respecting the survivor’s privacy, cameras hovered over her as she tried to make her way to the car, wrapped up in a chaddar. If this wasn’t enough one of our largest news networks carried details like: K was returning from a ‘dance party’ at 2:00 am. This is not only irrelevant information but also an attempt to justify the heinous crime; reinforcing the ‘she asked for it’ mindset.  We vehemently denounce this attitude by the media and you.

What shocked us most  were your statements after your meeting with K. Against all internationally known human rights principles and procedures, not only did you name the survivor, you also went on to malign her raising suspicion on the basis of conflicting accounts. We see this as the major blow to the case. As a woman, and a politician in authority, you should have been much more careful not to harm the case or the survivor.

We are particularly appalled by your statements in front of the media regarding K.  You must be well aware that unfortunately, how police and law enforcing authorities manhandle such cases especially when the crime is committed by affluent class.

It is a great ordeal and matter of huge courage for a woman to even report such crimes. Being a woman yourself, how can you make statements that would raise suspicion regarding a woman who has been violated? How can you not be careful while dealing with such a sensitive issue?

For you and everyone else that is party to manhandling the case, this is what we have to say:

Nothing can justify rape, violence or abuse. Every single piece of information regarding her lifestyle is irrelevant, raising suspicion on basis of conflicting statements only hours after the case has been reported is irrelevant and damaging, remarking at the way K was behaving by calling her ‘rude’ is not only insensitive but making a mockery of her state of mind.

We ask you to retract your statements and apologize publicly in the media at the irreparable damage your words have caused. Moral policing rape victims is equivalent to advocating the heinous crime. We  hope that you will be more responsible with your statements in the future on sensitive issues like these and would rethink over the damage your current statements have caused.
Until then we stand in protest to every factor that has damaged this case and forced the survivor to withdraw.

—Letter ENDS— signed by Take Back The Tech Pakistan

This particular event raises several questions in our mind:

  • The Pakistani media is extremely insensitive in reporting incidence of rape or VAW.
  • Media is hardly aware of the survivor’ Privacy and shattered state of mind.
  • Rather than standing with the survivor, media starts making up stories, which go against the victim resulting in assailants continuing to roam free.
  • Police and law enforcing agencies are negligent and do not stand with the survivor particularly if the rapist is from the affluent class.
  • In a bid to save face and protect their government, the women in authority can also cause havoc to the survivor’s case by making mockery of it, or casting doubts in people’s mind.
  • Since these politicians have access to media, they build negative opinions, which entirely go against the survivor.
  • This mindset of government functionaries and law enforcing agencies is resulting in women staying away from reporting the crime, if it happens.

While we stand with the VAW survivors, let us unite against such irresponsible behavior, raise our voice and discredit such behavior. We must act now to stop unethical behavior from becoming an added hurdle for women seeking justice against such violence.

Important Links:

Read Sana Saleem’s blog
Read Saba Imtiaz’s Piece for the Tribune for more on the story
Watch Sharmila’s statement

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