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Justice for Noor Mukadam – and the Rest of Them

When will the state move on from lips service and take action to ensure protection of women and girls?

On a horrific night of July, 27 year old Noor Mukadam daughter of Shaukat Mukadam, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan, was tortured and brutally murdered by Zahir Jaffer who was the son of an affluent business family.

We all know this incident by heart because of how much attention it received. Media channels and protests blew up at this atrocity that had hit a posh city like Islamabad. The situation left multitudes terrified. The nightmares of becoming the next Noor took away the sleep of many women across Pakistan.

However, while we realize the enormity of this case, did we stop to listen to the thousands of voices who went through the same brutality as Noor screaming for justice? Did they not deserve the same attention as the daughter of an ambassador?

In May 2021, a 25 year old was arrested for raping 20 women in Islamabad, do we know the name of this rapist or even this incident? What about the 6 year old that was raped, murdered, and thrown

in a dumpster in Korangi town? Or the eighth grader daughter of a labourer who was abducted and gang raped on 28th June 2021 from her own home? Or the 53 other cases registered of gang rape in the first four months of 2021 in Punjab province?

Many such cases take place in Pakistan every day, but why is it that they are not deserving of even a single placard for their justice?

We’ve all heard the maxim about blind justice but is that really the case? What it means is that when a case comes before a court of law, the social station of family connections of the criminal or the victim should not matter.

Justice must be served whether the victim is the child of a blacksmith or a cabinet minister. The perpetrator must be brought to book and the victim must be given justice. However, unfortunately, such is not the case in Pakistan.

We have been hearing promises to toughen anti-rape and honour killing laws since forever. However, we are yet to see them being imposed. An Anti-Rape Ordinance was signed by President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi in December 2020. The Ordinance required the courts to decide each rape case within four month.

It also required the identity of the victim to be kept confidential and mandated the establishment of a national sex offenders’ register. The law laid down that any officer is found neglectful while investigating a rape case will be penalized with a three-year prison sentence.

The ordinance also expanded the definition of rape by including all genders. It was added that the question of consent would not be taken into consideration in the scenario that the girl is below 16 years old and having sex with a girl less than 16 years would be considered as ‘statutory rape.’

Section 375-A was also introduced in regards to the offence of gang rape in the primary criminal law of the country. From January 2021, it was discussed that the Ordinance would include the punishment of chemical castration of convicted rapists. But despite all these claims, the number of cases are not being controlled. The women and children of Pakistan are not safe, and something must be done about it immediately.

Is execution the solution?

Ever since Noor’s case, female MNAs have raised their voices in favor of public execution. Women members of National Assembly from PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz), PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf) and PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) all united to make this appeal.

“We 69 women MNAs demand quick judgement in rape cases and public hanging of rapists,” said Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).

“If Pakistan has to be run, then rapists and killers must be hanged in public, said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Asma Qadeer. “We will not let the country be run in the way it is being run.”

However, while many speak in favour of hanging the rapists, many also believe that killing the rapist may not solve the problem at hand.

“Responding to violence with violence has never worked,” claims Dr Ayesha Mian, a psychiatrist at Karachi’s Aga Khan University Hospital. She says public execution and chemical castration are short term solutions that won’t be beneficial in the long-run.

It has also been pointed out that public execution is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution which states, “No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.”

“The punishment of public hanging also violates Pakistan’s international human rights commitments”, says Saroop Ijaz, Lawyer and Senior Counsel at Asia Division.

Many who speak in favour of public execution usually give the example of Zia ul Haq’s regime which allowed the hanging of rapists and thus reduced the number of rape cases.

However, after further investigation it was revealed that during his regime it was also imposed that the victim must provide four eye witnesses to prove they were raped and failure to do so would accuse the victim of adultery and thus would be punished instead. This led to the decrease in the cases reported and didn’t actually control rape.

In recent times, the rapist and murderer of 7 year old Zainab Ansari, Imran Ali was

hanged for his heinous act. However, this had little effect on the thousands of similar reported cases after the public execution.

The way forward

Why must we wait for rape or murder to take place to take action? Sexual or physical abuse, gender-based violence and discrimination, patriarchy are the root of the problem.

The moment women and children are given the respect and protection they deserve is the moment when rape and murder will stop taking place. Security of life is the right of every individual and it is the responsibility of government to keep their residents safe.

While strict laws must be imposed regarding rape, murder, and honour killing, laws regarding minor offences against women must also be introduced. Barriers to the reporting of such incidents must be removed and protection must be provided to the victim by the government until the criminal is caught. Meanwhile, let us all as individuals try our best to control such heinous acts by keeping an eye out for each other and such incidents around us and report them immediately.

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