The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called a court’s decision to release a convicted rapist from prison so he can marry his victim a “gross violation of law” and a “miscarriage of justice.”
A Pakistani court freed convicted rapist Daulat Khan after it was “agreed” he would marry his victim, enraging human rights activists who say the ruling risks normalizing sexual violence in the South Asian country.
The 25 year old man was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of raping a 36 year old deaf woman in May, 2020, in the northeastern district of Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He was also fined 100,000 rupees (about US$440).
The woman later gave birth to a child as a result of the sexual assault.
Peshawar High Court acquitted Khan on Monday after the two were legally married earlier this month following an out-of-court settlement made by a local “jirga” – a council of elderly men who make decisions based on Sharia law – and the rape victim’s family.
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 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.
“Rape is a non-compoundable offence that cannot be resolved through a feeble compromise marriage.”
It is generally very difficult to prosecute someone for rape in Pakistan because of its patriarchal system.
Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, a group providing legal assistance to vulnerable women, stated that less than 3% of cases go to trial.
Few cases are reported because of the associated social stigma, while lapses during investigations, shoddy prosecutorial practices, and out-of-court settlements also contribute toward abysmal conviction rates.
Lawyer and human rights activist Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir said this is effectively the court’s approval of rape and facilitation of rapists and rape mentality.
“It is against the basic principles of justice and the law of the land which does not recognise such an arrangement.”
An HRCP report revealed about 5,200 women reported being raped in Pakistan in 2021, but activists say the number could be much higher as the crime is often not reported out of fear.
The Legal Aid Society, a non-government organization that provides legal help to underprivileged people, reported that about 60% of rape victims withdraw their claims, mostly due to a lack of empowerment in confronting the country’s heavily flawed justice system.