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. According to data presented by the Ministry of Interior to the Senate, there were no rape convictions in the country over the past five years. Spousal rape is not a crime.
As in previous years, the government did not effectively enforce the Women’s Protection Act of 2006. 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 offenses. 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 police and societal abuses, NGOs reported it created other barriers for rape victims who could not afford to travel to or access the courts. Rape was a severely underreported crime.
The NGO War Against Rape (WAR) 2013 fact sheet stated that 772 FIRs for sexual assault were registered throughout the country and noted that official numbers “represented the tip of the iceberg.” In Karachi only 109 FIRs were registered in 2013. WAR data collected from Karachi’s three major government hospitals indicated that 370 medical exams were conducted in sexual assault cases during the same period. Police records showed that of the 109 FIRs in Karachi registered in 2013, only 73 cases had been presented in the courts, while 26 cases (24 percent of the total) had been disposed of under Classification A, indicating the police investigation found insufficient evidence for the case to proceed or that the accused had absconded. At the end of 2013, 62 of the 109 reported sexual cases remained under investigation. WAR noted that the disparity between the number of cases reported to police and the number of medical exams conducted in sexual assault cases reflected survivors’ unwillingness to engage the justice system or their inability to lodge a complaint with police.
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. A reinstatement of these provisions could permit the use of adultery charges against women in cases of rape, as occurred in the past. In 2011 the federal government appealed the FSC’s decision to the Supreme Court, which had not set a hearing date by year’s end. In September 2013 the nongovernmental Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises parliament and the prime minister, rejected the Women’s Protection Act, saying it was contrary to the spirit of the Quran and sharia.
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. The Aurat Foundation reported 1,172 women were raped between January and September, with 1,090 cases in Punjab, 73 in Sindh, five in KP, and four in Balochistan. According to the HRCP’s 2013 report, 2,576 cases of rape were registered in Punjab in 2013 – the highest among all provinces.
According to the Aurat Foundation and others, prosecutions of reported rapes were rare. Police and NGOs reported 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 or the perpetrators were influential community leaders. 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.
No specific federal law prohibits domestic violence, which was widespread. 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 sometimes resulted in death or disfigurement by burning or acid.
On February 2, Balochistan’s Provincial Assembly passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, which criminalizes many forms of domestic violence, apart from physical abuse, which is already covered under the penal code. Balochistan’s domestic violence law largely follows the legislation that the Sindh Assembly passed in 2013.
According to Aurat Foundation statistics for 2013, there were reports that 1,425 women were killed, 2,026 were abducted, 498 were victims of domestic violence, 38 were sexually assaulted, 43 were victims of acid attacks, 42 were victims of burning, and 668 reportedly committed suicide. Aurat reported 7,852 cases of violence against women in 2013. The foundation attributed reductions in reporting due to a declining law and order situation in Sindh and Balochistan.
Women who tried to report abuse faced serious challenges. On June 9, Dawn newspaper reported the suspension of three police officials in Kirana, Punjab, for mishandling a rape case that resulted in the victim committing suicide. When the victim went to the police station to file a complaint, officers declined to lodge a FIR. The victim committed suicide shortly after her visit to the police station, and according to Dawn newspaper, the police officers entered a backdated FIR to conceal their negligence.
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.
To address societal norms that disapprove of victims who report 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 of 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 that use was growing and 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 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 shelter house, and approximately 200 such homes for abused women and children had been established with funds from the Provincial Women Development Department. These shelter homes provided shelter and access to medical treatment. According to NGOs the shelters did not offer other types of assistance to women, such as legal aid or counseling, and primarily served as half-way homes for women awaiting trial for zina (i.e., adultery), even though they were the victims of rape and domestic abuse. Government centers lacked sufficient space, staff, and resources. In some cases women were reportedly abused at the government-run shelters and found their movements severely restricted, or they were pressured to return to their abusers.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There is no specific law that addresses FGM/C. The practice was not a widespread problem.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: At times women were victims of various types of societal violence and abuse, including honor killings, forced marriages, imposed isolation, and being used to settle tribal disputes. There were cases in which husbands and male family members treated women as chattel.
A 2004 law on honor killings and the 2011 Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act criminalize 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 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. In many cases the male involved in the alleged “crime of honor” is not killed but allowed 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 May 27, Farzana Iqbal’s male family members killed her outside the Lahore High Court for choosing a “love marriage” without her parents’ consent. According to media reports, Farzana’s family shot her and then used bricks from a nearby construction site to kill her. The medical examination confirmed that she died from severe head wounds. The attack on Farzana sparked domestic and international outrage. On November 19, a court delivered a death sentence to four men involved in 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 increased media coverage enabled law enforcement officials to take some action against a limited number of perpetrators.
The practice of cutting off a woman’s nose or ears, especially in connection with honor crimes, was frequently reported, but authorities often did not take action to combat the practice.
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 Quran,” forcing a female family member to stay unmarried to avoid division of property. Property of women married to the Quran 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 an April 28 Dawn newspaper report, a local jirga in Battagram, KP, ordered the marriage of an eight-year-old girl to a 26-year-old man to settle a dispute between two families regarding an extramarital affair. The police made 13 arrests after the victim’s uncle lodged a FIR against members of the jirga and the cleric who officiated the marriage.
The 2011 Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Amendment Act 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 Quran, including forcing her oath on the Quran to remain unmarried or not to claim her share of an inheritance.
The 2010 Acid Control and Acid Crime Practice Bill 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 FATA and PATA unless the president issues a notification to that effect.
There were numerous acid attacks on women across the country, with few perpetrators bought to justice. There was a rash of acid attacks in Balochistan that disfigured 12 women over a 10-day period.
The 2012 National Commission on the Status of Women Bill provides for the commission’s financial and administrative autonomy to investigate violations of women’s rights. According to women’s rights activists, however, the commission lacked resources and remained powerless.
Sexual Harassment: Although the 2010 Criminal Law Amendment Act and the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace and public sphere, the problem was widespread. Since 2011 the office resolved 185 of 188 cases, and the remaining three were under review. The law requires all provinces to establish provincial-level ombudsmen. Sindh was the first province to do so, appointing a provincial ombudsman in 2012. Punjab province and administrative district Gilgit-Baltistan also established an ombudsman. Neither Balochistan nor KP had an ombudsman. 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 they often lacked the information and means to do so. Couples and individuals did not have the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. 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 2013, 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 13 years, increasing from 43 percent in 2001 to 73 percent in 2013. 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 2014 State of the World’s Children Report, the maternal mortality rate was 86 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, a rate attributed to lack of information and services. 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 was hindered by deteriorating security, which caused displacement and affected access to medical services, especially in KP and FATA.
According to 2013 UNAIDS statistics, 68,000 persons had HIV, including 19,000 women; 2,200 persons died due to AIDS in 2013.
Discrimination: Women 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 sets 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 victims of honor crimes.
The 2011 Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act 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.