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Monday March 31, 2014, a young girl in Layyah, in the Punjab province of Pakistan, caged herself along with her mother outside the district press club almost a year after her gang rape. Hasina Bibi, who is now only 13 years old, is fighting a battle for her justice. She was first raped by a man named Raheem Bhakhsh, who is her relative on the premise of her own home in May 2013. According to Dawn News, in her statement she said she was alone one night and the man raped her at gunpoint, threatening to kill her if she were to tell anybody. Two months later, Hasina Bibi found out she was pregnant. She was then taken to Wahowa in Dera Ghazi Khan to undergo an abortion by her rapist Raheem Bhakhsh. They were joined by his relatives Mohammad Qasim, his wife Sakina Mai and Bashir Husain. According to Hasina bibi, these men subsequently gang raped her for three days.
As the abortion did not take place, young Hasina Bibi gave birth to a baby girl in February 2014. The suspects were released on account of consistent demands by the Member of National Assembly (MNA), Pir Saqlain Shah due to lack of evidence. But ever since the incident has come to the attention of the media, according to the District Police Officer Ghazi Sallahudin, the investigation is being continued and the suspects have been taken in custody once again.
Amidst Hasina Bibi’s fight for justice, on April 1, 2014, Samina Jamil, an apprentice nurse at a state-run hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, lost her life. She was first raped and then burnt beyond recognition. Her burnt body was found in the sewers along the Lyani River where she was identified using her office card and her handbag. The autopsy confirmed that the victim was raped, but the method of burning remains unclear.
Following the tragedy of her rape, injustice has continued even after her death. Under the social pressure of a conservative society, her family has refused to file the First Information Report (FIR) since it is seen as a social dishonour and disgrace. According to The Express Tribune, Sheraz Ahmad, a member of WAR (War Against Rape), an NGO fighting the hard battle against rape cases in Pakistan, “Only five per cent [of] cases are reported to the police because of the fears of social dishonour and disrespect.”
The case of Samina Jamil was shortly followed by the high-profile case of Amina Bibi. On January 5, 2014, Amina Bibi, a girl of just 18 years was walking home from college when she was taken at gunpoint by five men who then gang raped her. One of the five men was reportedly a family member. The orders for the attack were given by a village council after Amina’s 12-year-old brother was accused of having an affair with a woman from a higher caste family. Despite the odds against her, Amina managed to report the crime and the five men were successfully arrested. However, the court dropped the case on March 13, 2014, based on insufficient evidence.
The news of her assailants’ release was too much to handle for the young girl; Amina set herself on fire in front of the police station in Muzaffargarh, situated in Pakistan’s Punjab province, where her rapists had been set free. She was immediately taken to the hospital but succumbed to her injuries and passed away on March 14, 2014.
After the news of her death was highlighted by international media, the main assailant and the investigating officer were both arrested on March 17, 2014. The tragedy was only highlighted by the fact that authorities only took real action in response to the painful death of the victim.
Though each case represents a heinous crime, these three cases are just a drop in the ocean of rape cases in Pakistan. Reports by Sahil, an NGO working to eradicate child abuse, show that cases of child sexual abuse covered by the media have increased significantly from 688 in 2002 to 2788 in 2012, but the need for justice is still not being fulfilled. The fight against sexual assaults in Pakistan has just begun.