Pakistani activist on why rape victim-blaming must end

Pakistani activist on why rape victim-blaming must end
From Al Jazeera - January 13, 2018

The rape and murder of a seven-year old girl named Zainab last week in the Pakistani city of Kasur prompted thousands to stage rallies to demand justice.

The anger and grief over the young girl's fate was evident both on the streets and on social media, where large numbers used the #JusticeForZainab hashtag to call for action over what they said was not an isolated case.

In 2017, at least 12 similar incidents were reported in Kasur district alone, local media reported.

In the first half of last year, more than 1,750 cases of child abuse were reported across Pakistan according to the the non-profit Sahil child protection group. Of them, 65 percent occurred in Punjab province, where Kasur is located.

To understand the situation better, Al Jazeera spoke to Fouzia Saeed, a prominent Pakistani civil society activist who has worked for decadesto end violence against women, prostitution, sexual harassment and rape in the country. In 1991, Saeed founded the first women's crisis centre in Pakistan.

The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Al Jazeera:What do you think of Zainab's case? Have you dealt with something like this before on a one-on-one basis?

Fouzia Saeed:I have been in so much pain about this whole issue for so long, because my pain does not depend on one incident. Ihave dealt with hundreds of cases like this and what disgusts me is the fact that how people in this societylook to blame the victim and the family. I have heard people asking questions like, "Where were her (Zainab's) parents? Why were they not careful?"

How hard is it to ask [instead], "Why did the rapist commit that crime? Why did he kill a seven-year-old girl?" Is it difficult to say that a man should not rape a little girl? People need to say it is a crime and not look for causes.

When talking about Zainab, people are saying her honour was taken away and not that she was raped and that it is a crime. Every crime against a woman in our society is deeply rooted in patriarchy, sadly - it is not rooted in circumstance.

In our country, people start their sentence with not believing the victim. They say, "Why was she wearing revealing clothes?" They also question the woman and say, "This is what happens when women go out with their heads not covered". That is the line of their thinking.

Al Jazeera: How can this mindset change?

Saeed:A society creates myths that gives more power to the man. Some of these common myths say that if a woman is beaten up by her husband, she must have been the one who has the habit of talking back. This is called justifying violence.

In rape cases, most women in our society want to hide that they have been raped because the myth says if you are a chaste woman, you wo not get raped.


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