I still remember the day when I visited a women prison in interior Sindh and met a young lady who was in her twenties. The girl had wheatish complexion, twinkling big eyes, soft voice but she was looking lost in her thoughts and she was wandering here and there. By looks, she had an innocent face with the hope of justice in her eyes. My astonishment was at peak when I saw her toddler (baby girl) in her lap who was crying and irritating her mother. I think, the toddler was not happy with the prison environment and she could smell the pungent fragrance of punishment being the baby of a prisoner. Suddenly, so many questions popped up in my mind related to this lady i.e. why the lady is here? what is her crime? Is she guilty or innocent? What would have been the circumstances which forced her to commit crime? Amidst of so many queries, I decided to talk to her regarding her life and her miseries.
When I started to talk to her I observed that apparently, she was friendly to her acquaintances but she had hidden so many sorrows in her heart. As soon as I asked her reason of being here in this prison, her emotions exploded, her eyes filled-in with tears as she was waiting for someone to ask about her sufferings. Upon asking further, she said that she is being held under trial for the murder of the Wadera. Basically, she got a divorce from her husband after 2 years of marriage during her pregnancy. Soon after her divorce, she was kidnapped by the feudal lord, who had kept his evil eyes on her since childhood. The feudal lord illegally kept the lady in his custody for about 6 months and as per the lady, she delivered a baby girl during this time period. In the mentioned time period, feudal lord abused her sexually and physically. When the lady’s cousin came to know about the whole scenario, they murdered the Feudal Lord for his evil deeds. The lady with his cousins were arrested by the police and since then, they were waiting for justice to be done.
The whole story indicates the existent shortcomings of our society, discrimination that is usually faced by innocent people at the hands of our so-called feudal lords who have the ability to twist and abuse women sexually to satisfy their evil desires. It is a pity that no law is in place to arrest these animals who hound innocent young village women to fulfill their lust and traumatize them.
The lady under trial, what was her crime? Nobody, even spared a thought for the fact that what must be she going through and what effect the sexual abuse must have had on her mind! And instead of being the perpetrated she is being accused of being the perpetrator!! What a mockery of justice is this and I can only laugh at the authorities who have held her under arrest and jailed her for the murder of the Feudal Lord!!!
The Feudal Lord, who had held this poor woman for months and sexually abused her to the whim to satisfy his lust, doesn’t it count as a crime? The poor lady was repeatedly abused sexually and physically for a couple of months but instead of being a case of Gender based violence, it had been converted into a HOMICIDE. The investigating authorities, the police and various other departments must have been involved in the cover up of this heinous act and must have taken indulgences from the Feudal Lord’s family due to their significant influence.
Nobody gave a thought that why the family of the accused never filed an F.I.R to the Police after her disappearance? I personally believe that the family must have received immense threats from the Landlord and were told to face dire consequences if any move was made to report it to the relevant authorities. This highlights the fact that in villages or rural areas alike there is no proper mechanism to
report these abuses and that’s why the ratio of reported cases is extra-ordinarily low. These cases either don’t get enough coverage or are kept under wraps for the sheer impact it will have on the woman and may end up tarnishing her image. As it is known, our society looks upon these women as a source of contempt or something that is trash.
This polluted mindset shows how narrow minded our people are or have become and I have read about cases where even the families of those women abused refused to support and look at them with a source of contempt!!! What is her fault if she had been sexually abused and assaulted and picked up and locked in a cellar for 6 months for example? The sexually abused women who expect to be supported by their own kin in the most dire of moments and when they leave them high and dry what effect would it have on her and what thoughts would be crossing her mind? She would be in a state of duress and this could force her to commit suicide because she would be getting a feeling of being unwanted and a burden on society and when in such a traumatic state after having suffered so much abuse her ability to think clearly and reason would have left her. At this critical stage, support from the family and friends has great significance and although the scars left behind and the mental aspect can never be fully healed. For her, the mind would cast back to the hideous episodes she encountered of being abused and the pain she suffered and those sporadic thoughts would always convolute her mind and especially while sleeping she would get nightmares and get up and so much more which even I have no idea how to describe.
The woman abused by the Feudal Lord must be hiding her true pain from others and whisking away those nightmares that have made her life miserable and she must also be thinking about her only child that she has left behind and is being deprived of motherly affection and care. The detrimental thought process of the poor woman must be taken into consideration, and she should be; on pure humanitarian grounds allowed to meet her daughter every day for a few hours so the toddler gets the love she deserves. This step could be a cornerstone in helping the poor woman forget her sorrows and divert her attention to giving her daughter the motherly affection she must have long sought to give and in the process help her bring closer to her daughter she had been separated from for 6 months.
The role of the media also needs due consideration and has an important role to play in such sensitive cases. Mostly, these television channels remain oblivious to these issues because of their sensitivity and refuse to be drawn into such a case which could override the norms of society and which would preferably be kept under wraps so it does not receive undue attention and may engulf a flame of a lot of other cases to come into the limelight which have been hidden for years. Normally the media highlights every issue and sensationalizes it for their own TRP ratings and to gain millions of viewers at the detriment of questionable practices being used and no ethics being followed. The critical evaluation comes why aren’t these issues raised on the media and why are they still considered a taboo in this world of technology and fast communication? If awareness is not increased how will thousands of women take the courage to take actions against those perpetrators who have been responsible for ruining their lives and are still moving around scot free? Is there any guarantee that those perpetrators which amount in the thousands too, will not commit these heinous acts of sexual abuse with other innocent women? They are like animals who are hunting for their prey and when they attack they take
their spoil and leave a desirable impact on the perpetrated and the poor woman is left with horrors and nightmares to fill her nights while trying to sleep!!!
The role of civil society can have a great impact on how these cases of sexual abuse are reported and how their support can help in raising more awareness among the masses. Cases like these; regardless of happening in urban areas or rural areas, need to be highlighted at any cost and not to gain attention but to fight for the cause of all those innocent women who are being preyed upon and then mercilessly sexually abused. It is the duty of civil society to report these cases if it comes to their attention that someone nearby has been victim of sexual abuse and as a responsible citizen and lastly as a human being bring it to attention of the concerned authorities that this horrible incident has taken place. I personally feel that the government has to form a forum or a separate department which specializes only in cases of sexual abuse and also it should form a vigilante department which operates 24/7, 365 days a year. And hotlines should be setup, so over the phone complaints can be registered quickly and appropriate action taken before any untoward incident takes place. Also, this department can be a great source of collecting information from various people who suspect some individuals are involved in these heinous crimes or are partners in crime and these proclaimed offenders can be kept under strict vigilance and their activities monitored so the pattern of their habits is deduced and cases such as these can be prevented from happening at all.
But then the question would arise, how we setup such a department in a distant rural village such as the one involved in this case. I personally feel it is feasible due to the reason that the penetration of cellphones has reached the villages and a mobile signal is available in most places and this department has great chances of thriving there but for that I would like to mention a few points about the part NGO’s can play here.
I am considering NGO’s here in a rural perspective purely so I am neglecting the impact they have on urban areas in cases of sexual abuse and vice versa. NGO’s if in collaboration with the government or local district officers if they cooperate, they can be a source of great ability to train the local populace in the ways on how to report these kind of cases and also raise awareness among them about it. By raising awareness and making them realize that they are also putting women of other families in jeopardy by not reporting these individuals who have already sexually harassed and abused the woman of their family and giving the perpetrator full license to whatever they want devoid of any firm hand of the law capable of taking them down.
But the training and awareness aspect for NGO’s, will be a daunting task because of the reason these Rural villages follow their own rules and customs and seldom welcome outsiders in such kind of cases and are not receptive to change. The key aspect is; their mindsets are so deeply rooted in their own customs that they are averse to any kind of positive change and stick to what they have lived with for a hundred of years. It is not impossible nothing is personally but it is something that will take years to change not in days or months.