Pakistan’s Rape Law
In a recent interview on a popular Pakistani TV channel, he expressed his view that the country’s current rape laws should not be changed. The gist of his remarks was that the Hudood Ordinance is divine law, and that changing it in any way would be tantamount to blasphemy.
The purpose of this piece is not to discuss the terrible human rights violations perpetrated under the auspices of this infamous ordinance. Rather, it is to recognize how deeply such opinions penetrate Muslim society today.
The Jamat-i-Islami’s members are active in Norway. They attend conferences there; give lectures, and actively impart their opinions, as proudly touted on their own website. It is one of Pakistan’s oldest political parties. Though it has failed to attain popular backing in Pakistani elections recently, its loyalists still hold key ministries in the government.
Needless to say, the opinions of the party’s Ameer echo throughout its support network. Yet when the opinions are as disturbing as this, they must be viewed with scrutiny and caution:
Anchor: Why did you vehemently oppose the Women’s Protection Act?
Munawar Hasan: The Women’s Protection Act was not aimed at protecting women instead it is meant to promote vulgarity and obscenity in the society.
Anchor: What is the basis of your allegations?
Munawar Hasan: On the basis of which we opposed the act.
Anchor: The fundamental purpose of the Women’s Protection Act was (is) to provide women with the right to file cases on the basis of circumstantial and forensic evidence, making convictions of rape easier. Where is the obscenity in that?
Munawar Hasan: This bill has been part of law for years. How has that affected the rights of women in Pakistan? What is the one issue that can be pointed out as a success of this law?
Anchor: One glaringly obvious problem with the Hudood law was the need to present four witnesses in order to convict a rapist. Failure to do so would result in the arrest of the woman on charges of confession to adultery that was the main issue.
Munawar Hasan: What is the problem in that?
Anchor: The problem is this, sir, that according to the 2003 National Commission on the Status of Women report, 80 per cent of women were forced to languish in jails because of inability to produce witnesses of their rape.
Munawar Hasan: The objective of Islam is to discourage such acts. No one can be shameless enough to commit such an act in the presence of four people, making it impossible to prove such acts. Therefore the whole idea is to discourage bringing such acts into the light of day. Discouraging them to the extent that the acts are never mentioned. If such a crime occurs and if there are no witnesses, then both men and women are supposed to keep it under wraps and not discuss it in public.
Anchor: Sir, are you suggesting that a woman should stay silent after she is raped? That she should not report the crime?
Munawar Hasan: I am saying she should keep quiet if she has no witnesses. If she has witnesses than she should present them.
Anchor: What kind of an argument is that? A woman is raped and she has to look for witnesses to prove the crime?
Munawar Hasan: Argue with the Quran and not me.
Anchor: I am not questioning the Quran, I am questioning your argument. Obviously, Munawar Hasan’s arguments are void of any humane logic or compassion for rape victims. Firstly, if four witnesses are available, in all likelihood they were partiesto the rape. This law, then, allows for the open gang rape of women in Pakistan, whereby if the rape victim does dare to seek justice, all but one of the rapists will present themselves as witnesses to adultery. Owing to this fact, women’s prisons in Pakistan are full of rape victims found guilty of adultery by the Shariah courts.
Secondly, this mentality is responsible for the ongoing and heavy abuse of women and children in Pakistan through the widely accepted “sweep-it-under-the-rug” approach of most Pakistani Muslims to such atrocious incidents. Most cases of sexual abuse of minors and rape go unreported in Pakistan, because radicalized Muslims feel that it is better to hide such abuse than to seek justice for it. Why? “Because it perpetuates obscenity in the society”.
Let us examine this further. Clearly Mr Hasan is not concerned with the eradication of rape or sexual abuse in his society. If he were, he would not be opposing the Women’s Protection Act, which is simply trying to give medical examinations precedence over the four-witnesses rule. We are simply talking about allowing DNA and rape-kit evidence to be accepted as proof that would override the testimony of a witness in court.
The elements in our society that agree with Mr Hasan are not interested in eradicating rape from Pakistani society. They are only interested, as is Mr. Hasan, in the iron-clad silence of the victims of rape and abuse in our society. Rape is a crime. It is not an act of lewd hedonism. Most psychologists agree that a rapist’s need to dominate his victim is related to crimes like murder, physical abuse, and so on.
But since rape involves sex, to members of the Jamat-i-Islami, rape means something else entirely. To them it means that the victim tempted the perpetrator simply by being a woman. Theirs is the sick and disturbed mentality of “she was asking for it”. One must simply scroll down to the comments section of the You Tube page featuring the interview with Hasan in order to acquire further insight into this mentality. Clearly, a large percentage of people in Pakistan consider the woman to be the responsible party in a crime of sexual assault.
Most important of all, it is obvious that radicalised Muslims are only interested in one thing – the “image” of the Muslim Ummah. Rape should not occur in a land as pure in Pakistan, since everyone here is a good Muslim. Time and again the rape statistics in the Western world are cited by radical clerics as evidence of the depravity of the free societies of the West. By actively discouraging the report and prosecution of rape, such individuals are only concerned with keeping the number of recorded rapes in Pakistan low, so as to make Pakistan look better, in this regard, than the West.
Most commissions set up for the tallying of actual rape statistics have projected that a minute percentage of rapes are reported in Pakistan. It is clear that radicalized Muslims have been successful in their mission to minimize the numbers on paper.
Back to the Ameer’s interview. Once he had run out of substantial rebuttals to the anchor’s legitimate questions, he delivered his final blow: he attacked the anchor’s faith. Obviously, by questioning the very right of the anchor to call himself a Muslim, Mr. Hasan drew the opinion of the masses to the anchor’s personal beliefs. He asked the anchor to ‘argue’ with the Quran and not with him. This is the typical response of most radicals to solid, logical arguments against the application of Shariah laws to modern society.
It will be interesting to see how much influence the Ameer has over the Jamat-i-Islami’s global network. Are his opinions shared by the party’s members in Norway? If so, do these members discourage women and children in their families from reporting sexual assault? Very important questions indeed!
The interview can be viewed here