Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense, with punishment that ranges from a minimum of 10 to 25 years in prison and a fine to the death penalty. The penalty for gang rape is death or life imprisonment, but sentences were often less severe. Although rape was frequent, prosecutions were rare. Spousal rape is not a crime.
As in previous years, the government’s enforcement of the Women’s Protection Act of 2006 was poor. The act brought the crime of rape under the jurisdiction of criminal rather than Islamic courts. By law police are not allowed to arrest or hold a female victim overnight at a police station without a civil court judge’s consent. The law requires a complaint to be made directly to a sessions court, a trial court for heinous offences. After recording the victim’s statement, the sessions court judge officially lodges a complaint, after which police may then make arrests. While this procedure was meant to eliminate abuses relating to social norms that make it difficult for women to seek legal redress from police, NGOs reported that it created other barriers for rape victims who could not afford to travel to the courts or access the courts. Rape was a severely underreported crime due to societal taboos that prevented persons from speaking about it.
September14 media reports of four men gang raping a five-year-old girl in Lahore sparked national outrage. On September 12, the girl went missing from her home. A security guard discovered her mutilated, beaten body outside of a hospital the following day. According to local authorities, the victim’s assailants repeatedly and brutally raped her before dumping her body. Police arrested one of the alleged perpetrators on September 15. The case garnered attention at the highest government levels, with the Punjab inspector general reportedly keeping Prime Minister Sharif apprised of police efforts to apprehend the remaining suspects.
In 2010 the FSC declared several clauses of the Women’s Protection Act un-Islamic and unconstitutional. The verdict sought to reinstate certain provisions of the 1979 Hudood Ordinance and expand the FSC’s jurisdiction in cases of adultery and false accusations of adultery. The FSC directed its judgment to the federal government as well as the provincial and Islamabad high courts for implementation. In 2011the federal government appealed the FSC’s decision to the Supreme Court, which had yet to set a hearing date by year’s end. In September the nongovernmental Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises parliament and the prime minister, rejected the Women Protection Act, saying it was contrary to the spirit of the Koran and sharia. On December 30, the country appointed a female judge to the FSC for the first time.
There were no reliable national, provincial, or local statistics on rape due to underreporting and a lack of any centralized law enforcement data collection system. Based on media reports, however, the Aurat Foundation estimated 4,283 women were raped between 2008 and 2012, with 822 rapes and gang rapes in 2012. According to a September 17 The Express Tribune article, more than 600 rape cases were registered with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights since 2011. Punjab had the highest number of registered cases with 460, while Sindh recorded six cases. Balochistan and Punjab each had six cases, and KP had none. There were more than 3,200 rape cases reported during this two-year period. According to the article, the slow legal process kept the conviction rate for rape cases low.
According to the Aurat Foundation and others, prosecutions of reported rapes were rare. Police and NGOs reported that false rape charges sometimes were filed in different types of disputes, reducing the ability of police to identify legitimate cases and proceed with prosecution. NGOs reported police were at times implicated in rape cases. NGOs also alleged police sometimes abused or threatened victims, demanding they drop charges, especially when police received bribes from suspected perpetrators. Some police demanded bribes from victims before registering rape charges, and investigations were sometimes superficial. While the use of post-rape medical testing increased during the year, medical personnel in many areas did not have sufficient training or equipment, which further complicated prosecutions. Extrajudicial resolutions to rape accusations were common, with a victim often forced to marry her attacker.
Women’s rights activist Farzana Bari stated that those who committed crimes against women generally enjoyed strong connections in society and were more powerful and resourceful than the victims. In many cases, the victim’s family came under pressure and opted for an out-of-court settlement. Bari suggested that to discourage settlement of such cases, the offense against women or other citizens from vulnerable segments of society should be considered an offense against the state. According to Bari, if the state were to register such cases, the individual families would not be in a position to choose an out-of-court settlement, allowing for proper punishment of the offenders.
Rape by police also was a problem (see section 1.c.).
No specific law prohibits domestic violence, which was a widespread and serious problem. Husbands reportedly beat and occasionally killed their wives. Other forms of domestic violence included torture, physical disfigurement, and shaving the eyebrows and hair off women’s heads. In-laws abused and harassed the wives of their sons. Dowry and family-related disputes often resulted in death or disfigurement by burning or acid.
According to the Aurat Foundation, the media reported 7,516 cases of violence against women in 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), compared with 8,539 in 2011. These were the lowest statistics the Aurat Foundation reported in five years, possibly due to a decrease in case registrations and media coverage. The foundation’s data showed that, among the abuses registered, there were reports of 1,745 women killed, 1,607 abducted, 989 victims of domestic violence, 58 sexually assaulted, 83 victims of acid attacks, 71 victims of burning, 822 raped, and 575 as having committed suicide. The foundation attributed the reduction in reporting to a declining law and order situation in Sindh and Balochistan, making it difficult to access information.
Women who tried to report abuse faced serious challenges. Police and judges were sometimes reluctant to take action in domestic violence cases, viewing them as family problems. Instead of filing charges, police typically responded by encouraging the parties to reconcile. Authorities usually returned abused women to their abusive family members. Women were reluctant to pursue charges because of the stigma attached to divorce and their economic and psychological dependence on relatives. Relatives were hesitant to report abuse due to fear of dishonoring the family.
To address societal norms that disapprove of victims who reported gender-based violence and abuse, the government established women’s police stations, staffed by female officers, to offer women a safe haven where they could safely report complaints and file charges. Men were also able to utilize these police stations. Women’s police stations struggled with understaffing and limited equipment. Training for female police and changing cultural assumptions of male police also remained challenges. Due to restrictions on women’s mobility and social pressures related to women’s public presence, utilization of women’s police centers was limited, but NGOs and officials reported use was growing and that more centers were needed.
The government operated the Crisis Center for Women in Distress, which referred abused women to NGOs for assistance. A total of 26 government-funded Shaheed Benazir Bhutto centers for women across the country provided women with temporary shelter, legal aid, medical treatment, and psychosocial counseling. These centers served women who were victims of exploitation and violence. Victims later were referred to a “darul aman” or a shelter house (approximately 200 centers for women and children who were victims were established with funds from the Provincial Women Development Department). These centers provided shelter, access to medical treatment, limited legal representation, and some vocational training. Many government centers lacked sufficient space, staff, and resources. In some cases women were abused at the government-run shelters and found their movements severely restricted, or were pressured to return to their abusers.
Harmful Traditional Practices: At times women were victims of various types of societal violence and abuse, including honor killings; facial, bodily, and genital mutilation; forced marriages; imposed isolation; and being used to settle disputes. Women often were treated as chattel, and perpetrators were often husbands and other male family members.
A 2004 law on honor killings and the Prevention of Antiwomen Practices Act 2011 criminalizes acts committed against women in the name of traditional practices. Despite these laws, hundreds of women reportedly were victims of honor killings. Many cases went unreported and unpunished. The Aurat Foundation reported 2,773 honor killings between 2008 and 2012 and estimated less than 2 percent of honor killings were reported. The practice of karo-kari or siyah kari – a premeditated honor killing that occurs if a family, community, tribal court, or jirga determines that adultery or some other “crime of honor” occurred – continued across the country. Karo-kari derives from “black male” (karo) and “black female” (kari), metaphoric terms for someone who has dishonored the family or is an adulterer or adulteress. Once a woman is labeled as a kari, male family members assume there is justification to kill her and any coaccused karo to restore family honor. In many cases the karo is not killed but is able to flee.
Human rights groups criticized the federal law banning honor killings because it allows the victim or the victim’s heirs to negotiate physical or monetary restitution with the perpetrator in exchange for dropping charges. On June 25, Dawn reported a mother and her two daughters were shot and killed in their home during an honor killing. According to police, the attack was motivated by a video of the girls playing in the rain. The mother’s stepson allegedly considered the video to be an “assault on the honor of his family,” and he killed the three women in an attempt “to restore the family’s honor.”
On September 16, a jirga council in KP ordered the death of a 22-year-old woman after it judged her guilty of “illicit relations.” According to media reports, she was shot and killed along with two older female relatives who assisted her attempt to flee her husband and elope with another man. Police eventually arrested two suspects linked to the honor killing.
On April 28, a woman’s family severely injured her and killed her husband in an honor killing attack in Nowshera. The victim’s decision to elope and marry without her parents’ consent motivated the attack. Five of her male relatives carried out the honor killing. Police filed a case against the suspects, but all five men were able to escape following the attack.
Police in Sindh established karo-kari cells with a toll-free telephone number in the districts of Sukkur, Ghotki, Khairpur, and Nausharo Feroze for persons to report karo-kari incidents. Because honor crimes generally occurred within families, many went unreported. Police and NGOs reported, however, that increased media coverage enabled law enforcement to take some action against a limited number of perpetrators.
The practice of cutting off a man’s or a woman’s nose or ears, especially in relation to honor crimes, was reported.
Many young girls and women were victims of forced marriages arranged by their families. Although forced marriage is a criminal offense and many cases were filed, prosecution remained a problem. There were reports of citizens abroad bringing their daughters back to the country, taking away their legal documents, and forcing them into marriage against their will.
The practice of buying and selling brides also continued in rural areas, although prohibited by law. Many tribes, communities, or families practiced sequestering women from all contact with men other than their relatives. Despite prohibitions on handing over women as compensation for crimes or as a resolution of a dispute (also known as “vani” or “swara”), the practice continued in Punjab and KP. In rural Sindh landowning families continued the practice of “marriage to the Koran,” forcing a female family member to stay unmarried to avoid division of property. Property of women married to the Koran remained under the legal control of their fathers or eldest brothers, and such women were prohibited from contact with any man older than age 14. These women were expected to stay in the home and not contact anyone outside their families.
According to a September 6 report in The Express Tribune, police arrested seven men for allegedly engaging in “swara” to settle a feud between two men regarding an extramarital affair. A jirga resolved the dispute by marrying a 16-year-old girl to a male member within the aggrieved party’s family. The girl attempted suicide in order to avoid the marriage but survived. The girl’s father denied the swara allegations and claimed his daughter was “staging a drama.” Police investigated the matter and the victim presented her case in court. The status of the case was ongoing at year’s end.
The Senate passed the Prevention of Anti-Women Practice Amendment Act in 2011. The law criminalizes and punishes giving a woman in marriage to settle a civil or criminal dispute; depriving a woman of her rights to inherit movable or immovable property by deceitful or illegal means; coercing or in any manner compelling a woman to enter into marriage; and compelling, arranging, or facilitating the marriage of a woman with the Koran, including forcing her oath on the Koran to remain unmarried or not to claim her share of an inheritance. The Senate also unanimously passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Practice Bill 2010, which makes maiming or killing via corrosive substance a crime and imposes stiff penalties against perpetrators. As with other laws, these measures are not applicable to the FATA and PATA unless the president issues a notification to this effect.
A third bill, passed in 2011, provides for economic and other support to women in prison who were unable to defend themselves legally or post bail for lack of familial support and funds.
In March 2012 on International Women’s Day, the president signed the National Commission on the Status of Women Bill into law, which accords the commission new financial and administrative autonomy and thereby better scope to investigate violations of women’s rights.
NGOs and women’s activists stressed that while these laws were positive steps, implementation remained a serious challenge.
Sexual Harassment: In 2010 two comprehensive laws, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2010 and the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, were enacted to prevent and criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace and in the public sphere. In 2010 Musarrat Hilali was appointed the country’s first federal ombudsman for protection against harassment of women at work. Since 2010 the office had received 139 cases; the office disposed of 130 cases and nine were under process. Under the law all provinces were to establish provincial-level ombudsmen. In July 2012 Sindh became the first province to appoint a provincial ombudsman to redress complaints relating to sexual harassment. On February 22, the Punjab government appointed former Kinnaird College (Lahore) Principal Mira Phailbus as a provincial ombudsman. Neither Balochistan nor KP had an ombudsman. Despite these measures, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem. Press reports indicated harassment was especially high among domestic workers and nurses.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children but often lacked the information and means to do so. Young girls and women were especially vulnerable to problems related to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. They often lacked information and means to access care. According to a survey by the Women’s Empowerment Group released during the year, only 25 percent of adolescents were aware of their sexual and reproductive rights. Spousal opposition also contributed to the challenges women faced in obtaining contraception or delaying pregnancy. Access by women, particularly in rural areas, to health and reproductive rights education remained difficult due to social constraints. For these same reasons data collection was also difficult.
According to the National Institute of Population Studies’ 2012-2013 Demographic and Health Survey, 27 percent of women received no prenatal care. The report showed a substantial improvement in the proportion of mothers receiving antenatal care over the prior 11 years, increasing from 43 percent in 2001 to 61percent in 2007 to 73 percent during the year. The survey also revealed that skilled health-care providers delivered 52 percent of births and that 48 percent of births took place in a medical facility.
According to UNICEF’s 2009 State of the World’s Children Report, the country’s maternal mortality rate was 276 deaths per 100,000 live births, a rate attributed to lack of information and services. Women in rural areas were at twice the risk of dying of birth-related causes than women in urban areas (with maternal mortality rates of 319 and 175 deaths per 100,000 live births, respectively). The rate increased to 785 deaths per 100,000 live births in Balochistan Province. Few women in rural areas had access to skilled attendants during childbirth, including essential obstetrics and postpartum care. According to UNICEF, the situation for mothers and children in the country was complicated by deteriorating security, which caused displacement and affected access to medical services, especially in KP and the FATA.
According to a 2007 UN Population Fund estimate, only 17 percent of the country’s women between the ages of 15 and 24 knew that a person could reduce HIV risk through condom use. Women were less likely than men to be diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections due to the social stigma attached to visiting a doctor, among other factors. According to a UNAIDS 2009 report, the country had an estimated 98,000 HIV cases, of which approximately 28,000 were women age 15 or older; the National Aids Control Program estimated only 5 percent of cases were actually recorded. Although HIV prevalence among women was less than 1 percent, some groups of women, including wives of migrant workers, and prostitutes and girls forced into prostitution, were highly vulnerable.
Discrimination: Women also faced legal and economic discrimination. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but authorities did not enforce it. Women faced discrimination in family law, property law, and the judicial system. Family law provides protection for women in cases of divorce, including requirements for maintenance, and lays out clear guidelines for custody of minor children and their maintenance. Many women were unaware of these legal protections or unable to obtain legal counsel to enforce them. Divorced women often were left with no means of support, as their families ostracized them. Women are legally free to marry without family consent, but women who did so frequently were ostracized or faced becoming the victims of honor crimes.
The inheritance law also clearly discriminates against women; however, the Anti-Women Practices Act, passed in 2011, makes it illegal to deny women inheritance of property by deceitful means. Female children are entitled to one-half the inheritance of male children. Wives inherit one-eighth of their husband’s estate. Women often received far less than their legal entitlement.
Women faced significant discrimination in employment and frequently were paid less than men for similar work. In many rural areas of the country, strong societal pressure prevented women from working outside the home. Some tribes practiced sequestering women from all contact with men other than relatives.