Activists enraged as Pak court frees convicted rapist after ‘agreement’ to marry victim

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Activists enraged as Pak court frees convicted rapist after ‘agreement’ to marry victim

A court in Pakistan freed a convicted rapist after it was “agreed” he would marry his victim, his lawyer said, enraging rights activists who say the ruling risks normalising sexual violence in the country.
 

Islamabad: A court in Pakistan freed a convicted rapist after it was “agreed” he would marry his victim, his lawyer said, enraging rights activists who say the ruling risks normalising sexual violence in the country.

Daulat Khan, 23, was convicted in May of raping the deaf woman, 36, in 2020 in the northeastern district of Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, CNN quoted his lawyer Amjad Ali Khan as sayin.

He was sentenced to life in prison and fined 100,000 PKR (about $440), said the lawyer, who is not related to his client.

The woman later gave birth to a child as a result of the rape, the lawyer added.

On Monday, the Peshawar High Court acquitted Daulat Khan after the two were legally married earlier in December following an out-of-court settlement made by a local “jirga” — a council of elderly men who make decisions based on Sharia law, CNN reported.

Sharia — also known as Islamic law — is an interpretation of the faith’s sacred texts and traditions that varies greatly across the Muslim world.

Swat is a mostly rural and conservative district, where deeply ingrained, often brutal patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes remain prevalent.

In 2012, activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban in Swat for defying their orders by going to school, CNN reported.

It is not uncommon for a jirga to settle cases in many parts of Pakistan on so-called taboo issues such as childbirth outside of marriage.

Critics have long accused jirga of perpetuating a culture of victim-shaming, especially on issues of rape and sexual assault.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called the Peshawar court’s verdict a “gross violation of law” and a “miscarriage of justice”.

“HRCP urges the state to appeal the ruling and uphold its commitment to women’s rights,” it said in a statement.

In 2021, more than 5,200 women reported being raped in Pakistan, according to a HRCP report, but activists say the number could be much higher as the crime often goes under reported out of fear, CNN reported.

In Pakistan, the issue is compounded by corruption in courts and within the police, experts say.

According to Legal Aid Society, a non-government organisation that provides legal help to underprivileged people, about 60 per cent of rape victims withdraw their claims, mostly due to lack of empowerment in confronting the country’s heavily flawed justice system, CNN reported.

 


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