Why we must stop blaming the victims

Pakistan is a country where Punjab’s law minister once blamed six year-old, rape and murder victim, Zainab’s father for the brutal crime because he’d gone to perform Umrah leaving his daughter to her horrific fate. This is a country where a serving police officer, who is supposed to be responsible for the security of the country’s citizens, said that the woman, raped before her children on the motorway, was responsible for the attack because she had been out of her house at night and traveling without her husband. This is sadly also the country, where police used children as an excuse to shoot their parents during the Sahiwal incident.

Victim blaming is perhaps one of the most common practices in Pakistan, to the extent where even our prime minister also partakes. 

Lots of people may have listened to the recent views of our prime minister about the growing rape cases in Pakistan. He declared that a women’s dress is a cause and he did not say these words just once, he repeated them in front of an international audience. He proved that he did not make a mistake the first time he shared his views. Instead, his were measured statements, made to the nation intentionally. He also rhetorically asked the interviewer how one does not get enticed by women wearing revealing clothing.

He supported his personal views with religious, cultural and geographical aspects, which directly contribute to misconception in society. But these chaotic remarks are not the worst of the problem; let me show you how grave the consequences can be for the people of Pakistan.

 

We can all agree that the PM’s statement holds weight; it is precisely why many of us stood outside our houses and offices in solidarity with Kashmir. We also know that whenever he gives a speech people hang on to every word and if he highlights any issue or gives advice, like breeding chickens so that future generations can prosper, people actually think about it.

 

The same is true for the statements he has made of late.

 

There are two sections of society; one commits the crimes, the other is the victim of the very same crimes. And it falls on the government, law enforcement institutions and especially the police, to play a key role in ensuring the security and justice for the victim while also ensuring that the criminal is discouraged by using appropriate punishments. If the very same institutions instead choose to blame the victim, they are encouraging criminals instead, as they know they are not accountable.

 

Khan’s remarks were a huge letdown for every organisation or section of society that has been working against the rape culture in Pakistan. His views further cemented the thought and narrative of the right wing, which also agrees that a woman’s dress is to blame and not the actual rapist. Sigh! It is no surprise that the right supports the PM’s statement and shares similar views as of late they have made no effort to hide it. In fact, they have come to the forefront, making whatever statements they wish using Khan’s views as a shield. Our police are already addicted to victim blaming but they are slightly fearful of being criticised, seeing the aftermath of the Aurat March, the same is not true for the right.

 

And at the rate at which we are going, the day does not seem far when police reports have an entire page reserved for what the victim was wearing and the condition that an FIR would only be registered if the clothes were deemed appropriate.

 

My personal anger aside, it is high time that our authorities and especially the PM stop this cycle of victim blaming, which only serves to traumatise the victim more, while further highlighting for the perpetrators that  they have a license to do whatever they like, with little to no accountability for their actions, as after all, only a robot would not be enticed by a woman in front of them.