Rape Emergency

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It is not every day that our legislators listen to the humanity chimes buried deep within and raise their voices for causes that actually matter. Therefore, Punjab Home Minister Attaullah Tarar should be appreciated in the strongest of words for pulling the drapes off emergency measures to deal with an alarming rise in crimes against women and children. The umbrella arrangement being hailed as
an “emergency” talks of a variety of measures that include a special review by the Cabinet Committee on Rape and Law and Order, a mass awareness campaign and up-hauling of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency. A much-needed initiative, indeed, given our galloping graph towards replacing India as the rape capital of the world. More distressing have been crimes being committed against minors. On average, as many as eight children were sexually abused every day in 2020. Mr Tarar himself decried “four to five cases of rape being reported daily in Punjab.” And if that doesn’t call for an end to complacency, nothing in this world could.
While there could not be a nobler crusade for the protection of vulnerable segments of society, we cannot gloss over the previous failures of just as historic legislation. The Zainab Alert Bill was passed with just as enthusiasm to streamline the entire alerting and recovery mechanism of abducted children. Abolishing the two-finger virginity test, setting age-specific penalties (Sections 376B, 292A, 377A, 364A of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860) and passing the Protection of Women Act 2006 and Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020 have had little to no effect on the position of women and children. They are still being assaulted both within and outside the sanctity of their homes. There remains a long, long list of possible sites of crime while many do not enjoy the luxury of feeling safe in the company of anyone. Before the ruling PML(N) starts granting brownie points to its performance sheet for taking up the cudgels, it should look into the implementation of the much-talked-about reforms. Despite the law being armed with all the teeth required, the abysmally low conviction rate and the very in-your-face misogynistic biases ruling over courtrooms continue to make a mockery of our commitment to make Pakistan safe for our women, our children, and our trans groups again. As in the past, even the mention of taking away the slightest of male privilege would ignite the hyperactive warriors, who would jump to the fore, laced with the always-in-vogue religion card. So what if the faith in question had phenomenally insisted on uplifting the women from the darkest of pits to the custodian of the heavens!