Ever heard of an area in the world declaring a state of emergency because of rapes? It is now taking place in Pakistan. Rapes are so common in the Punjab region that the local administration has declared an emergency. While some may argue that it is a government diversionary strategy to divert attention away from local political unrest, Pakistan’s track record on sexual assault against women makes this report quite credible.
According to figures given by the Punjab Information Commission, a total of 2,439 women were raped and 90 were killed in the Punjab province of Pakistan over the preceding six months in the name of ‘family honour’. During this time, almost 400 women were raped and over 2,300 were abducted in Lahore, the capital of the 110 million-person Punjab state. According to a recent assessment by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), at least 11 rape incidents are recorded every day in Pakistan, with over 22,000 such events reported to police in the previous six years (2015-21).
The findings suggest that society provides perpetrators an unfair advantage by blaming victims. With an overall conviction rate of less than 1%, the number of cases has increased dramatically rather than decreased. Only 77 of the 22,000 people accused were found guilty, giving the conviction rate less than 0.3%, the study claims. Punjab Home Minister Atta Tarar said at a press conference on Monday that the rise in rapes was a significant concern for society and government authorities.
“Four to five incidences of rape are recorded everyday in Punjab,’ he was quoted as saying by Geo News. ‘ The government has declared an emergency to deal with rape cases,’ he claimed. Violence against women is widespread in Pakistan, affecting people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Pakistan has been battling a gender violence pandemic. Pakistan ranks 153rd out of 156 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2021, just ahead of Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan.
According to a study published in the International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), Punjab had the most women in Pakistan during the previous four years, with 14,456. Furthermore, there has been a huge increase in workplace harassment of women, domestic violence against women, and other types of gender discrimination. ‘The government recorded 5,048 incidents of workplace harassment and violence against women in 2018, followed by 4,751 cases in 2019, 4,276 cases in 2020, and 2,078 cases in 2021,’ according to a Human Rights Ministry paper.
According to a 2011 Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll of experts, Pakistan is the third-most hazardous country in the world for women. It reported that 90 percent of Pakistani women face domestic abuse and that more than 1,000 women and girls are slain in ‘honour killings’ each year.
Westerners typically associate religious authoritarianism with the plight of Pakistani women, but the reality is far more complicated. A specific worldview is deeply embedded in highly patriarchal cultures such as Pakistan. Poor and uneducated women must battle every day for fundamental rights, recognition, and respect. Despite the fact that these women are typically the breadwinners for their families, they must live in a culture where they are defined by the males in their life.