AB AUR NAHIN is a collective of activists, lawyers and other professionals working to combat sexual violence and sexual discrimination in Pakistan through legal representation and policy advisory. We aim to work towards a society where perpetrators of harassment are held accountable for their actions and survivors of harassment are given control of their own lives. We believe that the way to facilitate this process is through the efficient establishment of the culture of accountability which is severely lacking in Pakistan.
It has come to our attention through a report circulated by major newspapers on 18th May 2019 that a 22-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and gang-raped at gunpoint in Rawalpindi by 4 constables of the Muhafiz Force of the Rawalpindi Police in the early hours of 16th May 2019.As lawyers, activists, and most of all, as citizens of this country, we are shocked and outraged by this news report. As heinous a crime as rape is, it is even more atrocious when committed by those who are entrusted with the duty to protect us.
A police officer is meant to prevent crime, keep the peace, and maintain public order. What is even worse is that this is not the first instance of police officials raping, sexually assaulting or violating women in Pakistan. On 22nd May 2005, a 15-year-old girl was raped by Islamabad Police officials inside the Shehzad Town Police Station, even earlier a 17-year-old girl was gang-raped by police in Sialkot and just last month in Bahawalpur, a victim of gang-rape was raped by her ASI when she was summoned for investigation. Every day women in Pakistan face the risk of sexual assault at the hands of police constables. What is to be said of governance and human dignity when the average citizen has to be protected from its own police force? How can women approach police stations with their problems if they are to fear sexual assault by policemen?
We demand that justice be served swiftly and a strong message be sent to society and particularly to the police force, which seems to require some lessons in its job description. As we all watch the trial proceed, we hope to see a fair, impartial and diligent investigation into the crime and punishment to the maximum extent of the law. In addition, as a collective of lawyers and policy advisors, we believe that this crime must be studied by reflecting on questions regarding the structural and institutional deficiencies which factor into the broader issue of sexual violence perpetrated by police forces. The answers to these questions form the next steps for the institutional reform that is obviously required.
We also strongly condemn the dearth of ethics displayed by the media which was unable to respect the victim’s privacy. It is unfortunate that even in today’s world, where privacy is a well-understood concept, victims in Pakistan have to deal with their trauma twice, once when it occurs and again when the media begins its attack.
AB AUR NAHIN will continue to monitor the development of this case and will extend all the support it can provide to the victim while at the same time working on bringing about meaningful changes in policy which end the menace of sexual violence perpetrated by police forces altogether. We hope that the Rawalpindi Police Force will uphold the law and investigate its own officers impartially, fairly and zealously so that justice may be done and that policymakers and legislators will work on ensuring that such a dark day may never come to pass again.
AB AUR NAHIN