Rape and Sexual Assault

Links

The Global Persecution of Women
Glossary

Definitional

Nigeria. Rape - the Silent Weapon,” Amnesty International, 28 Nov. 2006.

Rape is a form of gender-based violence against women. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women stated in its General Recommendation No. 19 that gender-based violence is a form of discrimination which the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) requires its states parties to eliminate in all its forms. …

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) states that the term "violence against women" means ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’ DEVAW specifies that rape, marital rape and sexual abuse are forms of violence against women. Article 2(c) makes clear that ‘Physical, sexual and psychological acts of violence perpetrated or condoned by the State wherever it occurs’ also fall within the definition of violence against women. In order to take all measures to eliminate violence against women States must ‘refrain from engaging in violence against women’( Article 4(b)) and exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons’. (Article 4c)

Human Rights Watch, "We'll Kill You if You Cry": Sexual Violence in the Sierra Leone Conflict. January 2003.

Sexual violence is an overarching term used to describe "[a]ny violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality." Sexual violence includes rape and attempted rape, and such acts as forcing a person to strip naked in public, forcing two victims to perform sexual acts on one another or harm one another in a sexual manner, mutilating a person's genitals or a woman's breasts, and sexual slavery.

Rape as defined in the appeals chamber judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the 2002 Foca case is "[t]he sexual penetration, however slight: (a) of the vagina or anus of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator or any other object used by the perpetrator; or (b) [of] the mouth of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator; where such sexual penetration occurs without the consent of the victim. Consent for this purpose must be consent given voluntarily, as a result of the victim's free will, assessed in the context of the surrounding circumstances. The mens rea is the intention to effect this sexual penetration, and the knowledge that it occurs without the consent of the victim." The appeals chamber rejected the "resistance" requirement argued by the appellants as it is justified neither in law or fact, and stated that the use of force in itself is not a necessary element of rape. The coercive circumstances present in the Foca rapes, which were committed in circumstances similar to the crimes of sexual violence perpetrated in Sierra Leone, made the victims' consent to the sexual acts impossible. The use or threat of force often removes any requirement that a victim show resistance and most jurisdictions have discarded the idea that a rape victim must resist under all circumstances as impractical, if not absurd. This definition also underscores that rape is an attack on the physical integrity of a woman and not an attack against her honor or that of her family or community.

Rape was defined in the judgment of the Akayesu case at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as "[t]he physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive" and is not limited to the insertion of a penis into a victim's vagina or anus or the insertion of a penis in the mouth of the victim. This definition, however, has been criticized for being too broad and has not been included in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

UNHCR, Sexual Violence against Refugees. Guidelines on Prevention and Response. Geneva: UNHCR, 1995.

1.1 Definition and Nature of Sexual Violence.

Sexual violence is a gross violation of fundamental human right and, when committed in the context of armed conflict, a grave breach of humanitarian law. ...

There are various forms of sexual violence, rape being the one most commonly referred to. The legal definition of rape varies from country to country. In many societies it is defined as sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. Rape is committed when the victim's resistance is overcome by force or fear or under other coercive conditions.

In certain countries "statutory rape" exists as an offense. This is sexual intercourse with someone under a specified age. The victim is presumed by law to be unable to give consent by reason of his or her tender age.

However, many forms of sexual violence do not fall under the strict definition of rape, such as insertion of objects into genital openings, oral and anal coitus, attempted rape or threat of force in order to have sexual acts performed by third persons.

The term "sexual violence" is used in these Guidelines to cover all forms of sexual threat, assault, interference and exploitation, including "statutory rape" and molestation without physical harm or penetration.

Perpetrators of sexual violence are often motivated by a desire for power and domination. Given these motivating forces, rape is common in situations of armed conflict and internal strife. An act of forced sexual behaviour can be life-threatening. Like other forms of torture, it is often meant to hurt, control and humiliate, violating a person's innermost physical and mental integrity.

In addition, coercive prostitution, or the exploitation of the prostitution of women and girls by camp officials in collaboration with local prostitution rings, can also occur.

International

For rapes per capita by country, see here.

”Sexual Violence” from UNIFEM, Violence Against Women – Facts and Figures. Downloaded from http://unifem.org/attachments/gender_issues/violence_against_women/facts_figures_violence_against_women_200611.pdf, 16 Feb. 2007.

Although women are more at risk of violence from their intimate partners than from other persons, sexual violence by non-partners is also common in many settings. “Sexual violence by non-partners refers to violence by a relative, friend, acquaintance, neighbour, work colleague or stranger. Estimates of the prevalence of sexual violence by non-partners are difficult to establish, because in many societies, sexual violence remains an issue of deep shame for women and often for their families. Statistics on rape extracted from police records, for example, are notoriously unreliable because of significant underreporting.” [12]

It is estimated that worldwide, one in five women becomes a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime [13]. In a randomly selected study of nearly 1,200 ninth-grade students in Geneva, Switzerland, 20 per cent of girls revealed they had experienced at least one incident of physical sexual abuse [14]. According to the 2005 multi-country study on domestic violence undertaken by the WHO, between 10 and 12 per cent of women in Peru, Samoa and Tanzania have suffered sexual violence by non-partners after the age of 15. Other population-based studies reveal that 11.6 per cent of women in Canada reported sexual violence by a non-partner in their lifetime, and between 10 and 20 per cent of women in New Zealand and Australia have experienced various forms of sexual violence from non-partners, including unwanted sexual touching, attempted rape and rape [15].

In many societies, the legal system and community attitudes add to the trauma that rape survivors experience. Women are often held responsible for the violence against them, and in many places laws contain loopholes which allow the perpetrators to act with impunity. In a number of countries, a rapist can go free under the Penal Code if he proposes to marry the victim and she consents [16].

(12) General Assembly. In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General, 2006. A/61/122/Add.1. 6 July 2006. 41.
(13) Referred to by María José Alcalá. State of World Population 2005. The Promise of Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals. UNFPA. 2005. 65.
(14) D Halperin et al. Prevalence of child sexual abuse among adolescents in Geneva: results of a cross-sectional survey. British Medical Journal. 1996. Vol. 312, 1326-9.
(15). Referred to by General Assembly. In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary-General, 2006. A/61/122/Add.1. 6 July 2006. 41.
(16) Radhika Coomeraswamy. Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence against Women. Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Cultural practices in the family that are violent towards women. E/CN.4/2002/93. 31 January 2002. 19.

Albania

World Organization Against Torture, State Violence in Albania. An Alternative Report to the UN Committee Against Torture. Geneva, World Organization Against Torture, April 2005.

Violent sexual relations are still considered “shameful” for a woman [in Albania] and in some cases (in rural areas in particular) they lead to forced marriage with the perpetrator in order to “achieve redemption” Although the situation has changed in urban areas, women in most rural and sub-urban areas are subjected to a patriarchal mentality.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

”Rape Used as Weapon of War in Congo,” Feminist Daily News Wire, November 7, 2002.

The first complete report on the rape and abuse of women during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo concludes that all sides commit atrocities against women as a common military tactic intended to subdue the civilian population.

The report, entitled Women’s Rights Violations During the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was compiled by two researchers at the local organization, Association for the Rebirth of Human Rights in Congo, according to Women’s Enews. The report indicates that tens of thousands of Congolese women have been subjected to rape, torture, and humiliation during the country’s four-year war. Local physician, Dr. Denis Mukaweye told the BBC, “We’ve had cases of serious wounds to the women’s genitals and anus. Sometimes after the actual rape, women have been shot in the vagina, or they are cut with knives.” Resistance is often met with additional brutality, including being shot in the arms, legs, and/or genitals. Women have even been sliced to pieces in front of family members, according to the BBC.

A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in June 2002 entitled The War Within the War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo, states that despite the prevalence of rape as a war strategy, soldiers continue unpunished. HRW confirms that soldiers and combatants rape women and girls—ranging from five to 85-years old—as part of their larger campaign to terrorize communities and impose their control. Even though those guilty of committing acts of sexual violence have been successfully tried and imprisoned via International Tribunals for Bosnia and Rwanda, rape in Congo remains a crime that goes unchecked.

In July 1998, 120 countries, excluding the United States, voted to adopt the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity, and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Under Article 7, the rape and torture of women and girls in the Congo would qualify as a crime against humanity; therefore, violators could be tried before the ICC.

Australia

” Australia's beleaguered Muslim leader takes indefinite leave,” Associated Press, 30 October 2006

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Australia's top Islamic cleric, who sparked outrage by saying that immodestly dressed women invite rape, said Monday that his words were “inappropriate and unacceptable” and he was taking indefinite leave.

Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali issued the statement from a Sydney hospital after collapsing Monday during a crisis meeting with Muslim leaders.

Rohan Sullivan, “Australian Muslim Leader Steps Aside,” Associated Press, 30 October 2006.

SYDNEY, Australia -- Amid intense public criticism, Australia's top Islamic cleric on Monday repudiated remarks he made likening women without head scarves to "uncovered meat," and he temporarily gave up mosque duties after a fainting spell left him hospitalized.

The 65-year old Egyptian-born cleric, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, was admitted to a Sydney hospital after collapsing during a meeting with mosque administrators following days of criticism over comments that also blamed immodestly dressed women for rape.

In a statement later Monday, Al-Hilali said he was temporarily giving up his duties at Australia's largest mosque and acknowledged that the "uncovered meat" analogy was a mistake.

"I confess that this analogy is inappropriate and unacceptable for the Australian society and the Western society in general," he said.

Al-Hilali has rejected calls for his resignation since a newspaper reported last week that he compared women who do not wear head scarves to "uncovered meat" in a sermon at Lakemba mosque in Sydney.

But he said he had a duty to advise Muslim women to adhere to the strict Islamic dress code and that his comments, apparently secretly tape recorded by a critic, was not intended for the general Australian public.

"I am deeply saddened and distressed by the acts of some devious groups which lurk in the dark watching me and who cannot tolerate the moderate, balanced way which I adopt to advocate for women's issues, national harmony and coexistence," he said, without identifying the groups.

Al-Hilali described women as "cherished pearls" and rape of a woman an "abominable crime" that had no justification.

The intense pressure on Al-Hilali to resign heightened Monday when a national newspaper reported that he had recently used an interview on Arabic radio to endorse militants in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

Prime Minister John Howard said the man who holds the title of mufti of Australia, the most senior cleric in the nation, might have broken counterterrorism laws which prohibit incitement of violence against Australian soldiers deployed overseas.

Australia, a staunch ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Howard warned Australia's 300,000 Muslims that al-Hilali's continuing leadership would damage their reputation among their 20 million fellow Australians, who are predominantly Christian.

Female Muslims have been among the most vocal in calling for the cleric's resignation over references in his sermon to women being soldiers of Satan who were responsible for 90 percent of adultery.

"In due course, I will take the necessary decision that will lift the pressures that have been placed on our Australian Muslim community and that which will benefit all Australians," said al-Hilali, who has survived four strokes and recently underwent double heart bypass surgery. He didn't elaborate.

Canada

”Canada - Sex offender blames victims,” Canadian Press, 17 November 2006.

WINNIPEG — Terry Ladouceur, the man convicted of luring troubled young girls into his home to be used as sex slaves, blames the victims for his legal troubles and claims he was only trying to help.

Mr. Ladouceur, 34, also plans for a bright future with his co-accused and common-law wife, 25-year-old Lynnette Traverse, which includes moving to rural Manitoba to avoid being recognized.

“I try to look at why do these bad things happen in our lives?” he wrote in a letter obtained by the Winnipeg Free Press. “Why the charges? Why the conviction? I don’t know how things got so mixed up. Actually, wait! Yes, I do know.”

In his letter, Mr. Ladouceur says everything was fine when it was just the two of them and their son.

“Then [one of the victims] started to hang around.” He then names five other people as well.

“We lost our together time, the time we spent together re-enforcing our relationship with each other,” he continues in the letter. “Instead we stopped working on ourselves and started working on helping all of them out instead with their problems. [The victim] found out I never ever cared about her and she’s lying to teach me a lesson!”

Mr. Ladouceur was sentenced to seven years in prison, while Ms. Traverse was given a sentence of time in custody and set free.

The penalties fell short of the Crown’s request and have drawn anger from the victim’s families, justice officials and child advocates. The case has drawn comparisons to the shocking sex murders of two Ontario schoolgirls by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Ms. Traverse was convicted of three counts of sexual assault and forcible confinement, while Mr. Ladouceur was convicted of eight charges, including kidnapping and sexual assault.

One young victim testified that, as a 12-year-old, she was held as a sex slave by the couple for several months, given pills and alcohol and tied to a bed and raped.

Another victim, now 20, testified she was 13 when she started going to the couple’s house. The first time, Mr. Ladouceur raped her while Ms. Traverse held her down, she said. Zz The letter was seized by prison officials and tendered as an exhibit at the couple’s sentencing.

In it, Mr. Ladouceur suggests different strategies they might use to mitigate their sentences.

He urges her to “hang in there” and look toward the future.

“By the way, I’m watching the market for our new home on the beach, this way we’ll be left alone, no one to go, ‘There they are. They did that stuff to that girl.’ Even when we are found not guilty, no one will forget it! In the city, they’ll put up warning posters in the area we move to and notify the schools! In the country they don’t have those stupid bylaws.

“They don’t get papers or cable out there. It’s all satellite dishes and they’re American, so no one would ever know we were ever charged with this crap!”

Egypt

“Egypt: Cairo street crowds target women,” Women in the Middle East, 45, Nov.-Dec. 2006.

Egyptians are horrified by the news that women have been assaulted by hordes of young men in the centre of the capital, Cairo. The incidents were first reported online by Egyptian loggers, some of whom saw large number of men harassing the women and ripping off their clothes.

It all happened over the Eid al-Fitr period starting on 23 October, as thousands of young men thronged the streets of central Cairo to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The state media ignored the incidents, but ordinary Egyptians where shocked when they heard for the first time eyewitness accounts broadcast on the private television channel Dream. "We saw one girl being chased by a man, her blouse torn off, she ran inside a restaurant," one eyewitness reported. We took the girl inside and locked the door. There were four or five of us. But there were hundreds of young men outside trying to break down the door.

One eyewitness was too embarrassed to recount what he saw: "There were youths harassing the young women. What a shame! I really can not say any more about it."

One logger wrote that as the police failed to protect the women, shop keepers had to intervene. A shop owner described to the TV station what happened: "We took the girl inside and locked the door. There were four or five of us. But there were hundreds of young men outside trying to break down the door."

Mona El-Naggar and Michael Slackman, “Silence and Fury in Cairo After Sexual Attacks on Women”, New York Times, 15 November 2006.

CAIRO — There is fear in the shops along Talat Harb Street, and shame. It is not because of what the people who work here say they witnessed, the crowds of men groping women and pulling at their clothing. They fear the police returning, and they are shamed by their own silence.

“You know how our government works,” said a store clerk, his voice pulled tight as he was guided by a co-worker back into a shop just as he had begun to recount the attacks he witnessed. Another clerk told a reporter, “After you left the last time, state security came in and asked if we spoke to the press and demanded that we not speak to anyone.”

Recently, reports surfaced on Egyptian blogs, on television and in newspapers that groups of men had roamed the city streets during a holiday weekend and attacked young women — actually chased them down in packs. There were accounts from witnesses and victims.

But in the culture of Egypt’s one-party state, the charges were received as a critique of the security services. There was no collective soul-searching, no government call for an investigation. There was, instead, adamant denial followed up by state-sponsored intimidation of potential witnesses.

“What those sick people described humiliates all Egyptians,” said an official with the Interior Ministry, who asked not to be identified. “You think Egyptians would see something like this happening and stand back and watch?”

There has been a lot of state-versus-the-people news coming from Egypt lately: the riot police storming a university to quell protests, and a member of Parliament thrown in jail for criticizing the military.

There is an abiding sense that Egypt is out of order, and a frustration over systemic incompetence and negligence: a ferry disaster in which more than 1,000 people died, train crashes that killed hundreds, and fossilized government bureaucracies that seem incapable of responding. But the reaction to what happened during Id al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, has infused a deep sense of despair, deeper than usual, among the small segment of this society pressing for human rights, democracy, rule of law — and improved status for women.

“There is nothing that works right,” said Ahmed Fouad Negm, Egypt’s most popular contemporary poet. “Everything is corrupt and loose. And because the regime does not engage in political dialogue, it resorts to police repression. How can a state run on police?”

Talat Harb Street runs from the chaotic center of Cairo, Tahrir Square, which is an arterial roundabout where the Arab League of Nations has its headquarters and the Egyptian Museum displays the mummified remains of great pharaohs, like Ramses. Not long ago, when the holy month of Ramadan ended, crowds poured into the streets to celebrate. It was Easter on Fifth Avenue or New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

“All of a sudden, these guys attacked us and came in between us and harassed us,” a reveler told Al Ahram, the semi-official newspaper. “They groped us in a way that is worse than anyone on the crowded street could imagine.”

There is still uncertainty over what exactly happened in the streets that day. What is certain, though, is that the police have been adamant that very little occurred, and that anyone who suggests otherwise is degrading Egypt’s reputation.

“An individual called Wael Abbas who has an Internet site called The Egyptian Conscience is the one who invented this lie,” reported a pro-government newspaper, Rose Al Youssef.

Mr. Abbas is a young man who never goes anywhere without his digital cameras. He said he witnessed packs of young men hunting down young women, grabbing at their bodies. “I saw two girls wearing those khaliji abaya,” he said referring to the black flowing gowns favored by women in the Persian Gulf region. “Guys surrounded them and pulled their clothes and veils and groped them.”

He posted his account on his Web site, then fled after his mother received a suspicious phone call from someone seeking his work address. He hid for two days, he said.

His is hardly the only account. “We saw a girl running and went into the Syrian restaurant called Madyafa,” an unidentified witness said on a television show, “El Ashera Masa’an.” “At this point someone had torn her shirt.”

On the satellite television show “Al Qahira Al Youm,” another witness said, “They attacked girls walking, tore their clothes.” He added: “Shameless. And there were no police in the street.”

But the authorities say none of it happened. Minor disturbances, a few cases of harassment, they said, but nothing like what was reported. And the authorities were determined to silence those who sought to validate the more offensive accounts. “What they wrote is not only an exaggeration; they are complete fabrications and they are trying to make a case and issue out of a non-issue,” the Interior Ministry official said. “Not one woman reported one case to any official body.”

Human rights groups say it is not surprising that women — who did speak with the news media when they were promised anonymity — would not file police reports. In this society, women are often blamed when they are the victims.

Family dignity can be lost no matter who initiated the contact, no matter how violent it may be. The government understands that reality and has tried to use it at times to press people to cooperate. Last year, the police watched as thugs sexually assaulted women who protested a referendum to change the way the president is elected.

Small groups of women have been trying to dodge the police to stage demonstrations, voicing their outrage not only over the gropings but also over the official response to the attacks.

In the end, what is more troubling, the fear of being assaulted or the realization that the state does not care?

“This is not the first time this has happened, but the dangerous part is that it is the first time that it happened in such a collective way,” said Nesreen Khaled, one of the demonstrators. “Where are the police that are always there at the mosques? Where are the regular people to stop this from happening?”

Fiji

”Man Guilty of rape of girl 4,” Fiji Sun, 25 Nov. 2006.

A man charged with the rape of a child below the age of five was found guilty by the Nasinu court. The 21-year-old unemployed youth was charged with the rape of his 4 year old neighbour. The case was heard before Magistrate Salesi Temo who found the man guilty, saying there was sufficient evidence to prove him guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

"Five years for rape," Fiji Daily Post, 22 December 2005.

Uraia Gata, 20 of Togelevu in Ba, appeared before Magistrate Salote Kaimacuata for raping a 55-year-old relative in November last year. The court heard that on November 11, the woman went to tether her cow in the paddock and gather some firewood in the bushes nearby. While she was gathering firewood, Gata appeared from behind, dragged her into the bushes and raped her. Gata then fled the scene and the victim was found by her sister-in-law who rushed her to hospital. Magistrate Kaimacuata started the sentence of with 10 years. She then took off two years for his cooperation with the police and guilty plea and another two becuase he was a first offender. Another year was taken off for showing remorse in court.

"Granddad, 72, tried to rape girl 6," Fiji Sun, 23 November 2006.

A 72-year-old man charged with indecent assault and the attempted rape of his six-year-old grand daughter appeared in court. He appeared before Magistrate Shaffiulah Khan at the Lautoka Magistrates Court. Magistrate Khan deferred his plea and ordered the accused to find a lawyer. Inspector Reddy said on November 18 the parents had gone out at about 11pm when the alleged incident happened. The girl reported the matter to her parents who reported it to police. The case has been adjourned.

"Police probe sex abuse claims," Fiji Times, 13 October, 2006.

Police are collecting evidence from 12 female students who alleged that they were sexually harassed by one of the two Methodist Church ministers from two different schools in Lomaiviti. The recent Methodist Church Conference meeting heard that the two ministers were allegedly caught touching female students and passing sexual comments. Investigations were continuing.

"Sex case rocks school," Fiji Times, 6 October, 2006.

A high school was in shock over a report that four girls were allegedly been sexually involved with a teacher. It was understood the teacher taught Forms Five and Six students and would normally ask the girls to clean the science lab at school. According to the Police assistant spokesperson corporal Prashila Narayan said no report was lodged and they were awaiting a formal complaint.

"Sexual assault perpetrator in police custody," Fiji Sun, 9 December 2005.

Jone Savou , 56 years old of Naroi village, Moala in Lau is in police custody after he pleaded guilty in court to one count of indecent assault and one count of attempted rape. In mitigation, Savou told the court that he was his family's sole bread winner and had sought forgivness from the complainants and their families by presenting yagona as a traditional way of seeking forgiveness or bulubulu. Savou also told the court that his wife and villagers had accepted his bulubulu. Magistrate Ajmal Khan who presided over the case said he would consider Savou's mitigation and sentence him today.

FJI36016.E, "Fiji: Whether Indo-Fijian women have been targeted by ethnic Fijian men since the May 2000 coup; ion available for Indo-Fijian women (May 2000 - January 2001)," 16 Jan. 2001.

Indian women are often dissuaded from reporting because of the stigma and shame. ...

In 14 January 2001 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre in Suva provided the following information:

Responses to your questions regarding assaults on women in the aftermath in the May 19th Coup:

1. There have been widespread reports of women being sexually assaulted especially in the weeks immediately after May 19th, particularly in the Tailevu/Naitasisri area and in Vanua Levu.

Given the stigma attached to such assaults (particularly in the Indo-Fijian community), and the pressure put upon women by male family members, it has been difficult to substantiate many of the stories.

However I attach for you some of the cases that we have attended to. During our visits to the rural areas, women in almost every family reported that constant threats were made to them of a sexual nature. This was part of the extortion process that went on, and which to a lesser extent still continues. eg "Tell us where your husband/brother etc is or we will rape you...", "give us your money or your wife and daughters ...". Some women were shamed in front of male members of their family by being fondled, made to sit on their father-in-law's lap etc. Others were made to cook, clean and run errands for the rebels. The privacy of families was totally violated particularly in cases where the rebels took hostage whole households and stationed themselves there.

CASE STUDY No. 1

Gender:Female (62years) and husband, in sixties. Race: Indian (Hindu)

This couple had lived in Waidalice (a dairy farming area) for 49 years without any hostility from their neighbours.

On July 8, 2000 their home was broken into and looted. The matter was reported to the police and several youths were charged.

On 15 July 2000 at around 9PM some Fijian youths surrounded the home of the couple and began demanding for 'roti' (bread). Immediately the woman started boiling water on the gas stove. One of the youths put a stick through the window and pushed the pot off the stove. The others began throwing stones and battering on the doors. Finally they managed to enter the house and then the ordeal began.

They physically assaulted the couple, and taunted them about reporting the first robbery on July 8, saying they would treat them as the police had treated them (the 8 youths) after arresting them.

The woman was sexually assaulted 5 times by different youths, as well as punched, kicked and stamped on by boots. The man was punched, slapped, pulled around by his genitals and kicked. They were dragged from room to room.

Clothes, food and other items in the home were destroyed or despoiled. The attack carried on till after 2AM. Next morning the couple were found by neighbours and taken to the Nausori Health Centre from where the woman was transferred to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH) in Suva. I was called by a member of the Fiji Human Rights Group to visit the woman at her request, at CWMH.

She related the above story to me. The matter was reported to the police, but to date no action has been taken. She did not tell doctors attending her about the sexual assault and neither did any health personnel ask her. She felt ashamed and in conversation with her husband she sensed his reluctance in her disclosing about the sexual assault. She did tell one doctor (a relative) but no tests were carried out.

On her discharge from hospital, (she was still in considerable pain, due to broken ribs and other chest pains) about a week later we took her to a private doctor who carried out a medical examination (free of charge) on the couple and prescribed medication. The woman will be going back for further tests in 3 months time (HIV, Aids; STI's).

At the moment the couple are living with relatives in Dilkusha Nausori and we are providing on-going counselling for the woman and have got her husband in touch with the National Trauma Recovery Team of which FWCC is a member.

Case No. 2:

Place:Baulevu Nausori

Family:2 couples (brothers and their wives)

Race:Indian (Muslim)

Date:19 May 2000 - 7:30PM

Survivor:21 years old (Female)

The family was attacked by a group of 3 Fijian youths. The survivors' husband has a physical disability. Her other relatives managed to send the children out through the back door but the brother-in-law, sister-in-law and husband were attacked. Her sister-in-law's lower arm was broken when she intervened to ward off a blow from an iron bar to her husband's head. She ran back to get her 11 year old daughter out. The youth caught the survivor outside and sexually assaulted her (anal rape). She yelled but no support came.

The attack on the house (stoning, despoiling) and physical attack were reported to the police but the sexual assault was not. The survivor feels a lot of shame. She tried to disclose to her neighbours but she has become the butt of their gossip.

She disclosed to an FWCC counsellor during a routine trip to distribute provisions for survivors of such attacks.

She received medical treatment from our doctor and is undergoing tests.

She continues to receive counselling from the FWCC counsellor.

FWCC also visits the family and carries out debriefing with them.

No action has yet been taken by the police.

A 5 June 2000 Radio New Zealand broadcast states:

...there are persistent reports of around 18 Fiji Indian families being terrorized in the remote rural province of (?Naisasiri) by a group of young men believed to be supporters of George Speight [the coup leader]. The farming families had the windows of their homes smashed in by the gang, the homes were then looted, cattle were slaughtered, and it is believed some women were raped. People who do not want to be named because of fears for their safety say the families are taking refuge in nearby ethnic Fijian villages and they are said to be very frightened.

Great Britain

”UK Proposes Changes in Rape Laws,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 16 October 16, 2006.

The United Kingdom is considering new legislation that would make it easier to convict rapists, even if the victim was intoxicated at the time of the rape. The proposed law is an effort to address “non-stranger” rapes, also known as date rapes, where establishing consent and an intoxicated person’s ability to grant consent is crucial, Times Online reports. According to Solicitor General Mike O’Brien, the law is also necessary to target rapists who deliberately get their victims drunk in order to force sex upon them, according to This Is London.

Currently, UK law holds that an intoxicated woman is able to give consent as long as she is still conscious. Alcohol consumption is a major impediment to the successful prosecution of a rapist; according to The Observer, the Crown Prosecution Service often advises women who were drunk at the time of their rape not to bring their cases to court because they have little chance of being believed by a jury. Only 12 percent of reported rape cases actually go to court, and about 5 percent of alleged rapists are convicted in the UK, Times Online reports.

"UK: Rape Cases Resulting in Fewer Convictions, More Cautions," Feminist Daily News Wire, 11 April 2006.

Government figures in the United Kingdom show that the number of offenders cautioned for rape is increasing, as is the number of rape reports, but that convictions are becoming rarer. In 1994, only 19 people received cautions for rape, but in 2004 that number had climbed to 40, a significant number when considered alongside only 791 convictions that year, according to Reuters. A caution can be given by a senior police officer when there is an admission of guilt; the offender is put on the sex offender register, and the caution shows up on his criminal record.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claims that cautions are given only in rare circumstances, most frequently to juvenile offenders, in cases that date back several decades, or when a victim wants an admission of guilt but does not want to pursue a trial, reports BBC. However, women’s groups are outraged by the increasing number of cautions, and called for more transparency about when cautions were used. Nicola Harwin, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told the Times that “it is worrying that cautioning for rape is something that is not discussed, explored or explained. We need to be told the exact circumstances in which cautions are given.”

The news about cautioning comes just a few weeks after an announcement that the government would be exploring changes in the way rape cases are handled in order to raise the conviction rate. Reuters reports that currently, only one in 20 rape cases results in a conviction, as opposed to one in three thirty years ago. Amnesty International UK applauded the government’s effort to improve handling of rape cases, but cautioned that the government should support “an integrated strategy to end all types of violence against women in Britain – including, for instance, prevention through education and public-awareness schemes and better victim support.”

Honduras

Mary Jordan, "A Harsh Price to Pay in Pursuit of a Dream. For Central American Women, Sexual Coercion Is Hazard on Route to U.S.," Washington Post, 6 Dec. 2004.

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala -- "If you come to my office and lie down with me, you can pass." That was the offer, Ileana Figueroa recalled, that taught her sex was the price of passage to the United States.

As she considered the Honduran border official's demand, Figueroa, 20, said she thought about her brother waiting for her in Miami, where he had promised she could earn unimaginable sums as a caretaker for the elderly. She thought, too, of how devastating it would be to return to her Honduran village and tell her family she had handed over their life savings to a smuggler for nothing.

So, the mother of two walked reluctantly into the checkpoint office on the Honduras-Guatemala border and shut the door. It was August 2003. "I didn't want to be a failure. I wanted to go to Miami," said Figueroa, her brown hair tied in a ponytail.

When the official was finished with her, Figueroa continued her journey north. But after just one week, she was caught in Mexico and deported, poorer than when she set out and too ashamed to return home. She ended up in this shabby but fast-paced town near the Mexico-Guatemala border, sleeping in the back of a saloon and selling her body for $6 a customer.

"What else can I do now?" she said.

Coerced into sex by smugglers, border officials, street gang members and others who control the underground route to the United States, many female migrants are paying an especially harsh price for a chance to land a job in the north, according to government and church officials.

The problem is particularly acute for Central American women without skills or legal documents, who must navigate 1,500 miles of Mexican territory to reach the U.S. border. Those who fall short of their destination, yet feel too ashamed to go home, often end up stranded in brothels along the way.

"Sex has become a negotiation mechanism. Many times it is the only way women can cross," said Rene Leyva, a public health researcher in Mexico.

The Rev. Ademar Barilli, a Catholic priest who runs a shelter for migrants in Tecun Uman and has spoken with hundreds of women who stay there, said he believed that "many more than half" are coerced into sex along the way. Sometimes, he said, men pretend to befriend them and offer them a place to sleep, only later adding the condition that they engage in sex.

Barilli said the church, from pulpits across Central America, has warned women of the dangers involved in traveling north, including rape and sexual extortion, and that some women have recently made the journey in groups. Despite the dangers, they still go.

"Those who have nothing to live for back in their home country decide to risk it anyway," he said.

No one knows precisely how many undocumented female migrants are trying to enter the United States, but more than 800,000 women have been deported by U.S. border officials since 2000. Nearly all were Mexicans and Central Americans who were caught and detained on the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexican officials said that, over the same period, they had detained tens of thousands of Central American women heading north.

Hugo Eduardo Beteta Mendez, a Guatemalan academic and presidential adviser, said the stories of rape and extorted sex along the route are now so common that when women do not reach the United States, many cannot return to their villages because neighbors and parents assume that they, too, have become victims. Thus, some of the women see prostitution as their only option.

"It's a double tragedy," said Beteta. The map from Central America to the U.S. border, he added, is "full of pain."

A Limbo of Shame

Almost every bar on Third Street in Tecun Uman, from the Safary to the North Star, is a brothel with tiny numbered rooms occupied by women who tried to get to the United States and failed. About 1,000 women work as prostitutes here -- many hoping to earn enough money to head north again, according to church officials.

Thousands of Central American migrants pass through here each week. Those heading north walk to the edge of town and float across the narrow, muddy Suchiate River to Mexico in large inner tubes.

Laura Caravante, a Mexican immigration official, said Mexico deports 350 people every day to this steamy, lawless frontier town of 30,000, where gunfire crackles nightly. She said that 10 years ago it was rare to see women being deported, but now as many as four out of 10 deportees are female.

Once stranded in mid-journey, some take up prostitution temporarily, until they can save up for another attempt to reach a decent job in the United States, officials said.

"My brother made it to Miami. I want to go, too," said Figueroa, perspiring heavily in a yellow tank top and jeans as she sat in her sweltering room. "But for us, sex is an obstacle to getting there."

The cubicle was just big enough for a bed and a small table where Figueroa keeps medicine for her persistent, hacking cough. Aqua paint peeled off the walls, and an electric fan -- her only luxury -- whirred uselessly in a corner.

Figueroa said most men had already left her northern Honduran village, where there is little to do but grow beans and bananas and where the typical monthly salary is about $100. Across Mexico and Central America, hundreds of towns are bereft of working-age men, who are nailing plasterboard in Houston or washing dishes in Silver Spring.

Now, drawn by the same lures, young women are increasingly making the same, high-risk leaps. Their families save for years, borrow from every relative and even sell off land to finance their trips north.

Figueroa left her two small children with her mother, took the family savings and paid a smuggler a $2,000 down payment. The investment would have gone for nothing had she not submitted to the border official's demands.

"What choice did I have?" she asked.

Once out of Honduras and inside Guatemala, Figueroa boarded a bus and traveled 200 miles toward Peten, a wilderness area along the border with Mexico. Accompanied by her smuggler and a group of other migrants, she said, she walked six days and nights through canyons and into southern Mexico.

But when they arrived in the city of Villahermosa, the smuggler robbed the whole group and abandoned them. Before long, Figueroa was in a Mexican jail awaiting deportation back to Guatemala. Other women whispered that there was fast cash to be earned in a place called Tecun Uman, so that's where she headed. Now, after more than a year, she is still trapped in a limbo of shame and survival.

"I can't go home, and I can't tell my family where I am," she said.

Holding On to a Dream

As the United States ratchets up pressure on Mexico to arrest illegal Central American migrants before they reach the U.S. border, Mexican authorities have been arresting record numbers, often topping 1,000 a day. And as these deportations have risen, numerous red-light towns have sprung up along Mexico's southern border.

Another back-bar cubicle on Third Street is occupied by Caroline, 23, a chubby Nicaraguan who had hoped to reach Houston. Detained and deported en route, she was too embarrassed to go home to her old shrimp-packing job. Besides, she said, she can earn more in Tecun Uman and set off that much sooner again for Texas.

"The other night a man tried to strangle me," Caroline said, demonstrating how he grabbed her neck. "They said they called the police, but no police came."

A young woman sitting beside Caroline nodded tearfully as the Nicaraguan described the hardships of her attempt to reach the United States -- including her experience with the Mexican police officer who promised not to arrest her if she had sex with him. But despite everything, Caroline said, "The dream is still bigger than the risks."

Figueroa said she dreams every day about joining her brother in Miami and working in a home for senior citizens. And she is saving up, one customer at a time, for the journey. On a busy day, she calculated, she serves five customers and turns over half her earnings to the bar owner, pocketing $15.

As she spoke, sipping a cold soda at the bar, a man walked in and eyed her and several other deportees, each available for $6.

"This is not want I wanted in life," Figueroa said. "It's what I got."

India

Indian Women fight back against Rape Epidemic,” Yahoo News, 19 June 2005.

NEW DELHI - For years, rape victims in India were too afraid to speak out, traumatised by the assault and fearful they would be blamed themselves. Many don’t trust the police.

Now, they are learning to fight back.

Rattled by a series of brutal rapes across the country, almost 3,000 women from 15 to 50 packed into a park in the Indian capital last weekend for self-defence classes that included elements of judo, karate and taekwondo.

“Women have enough weapons on their body,” said Vimla Mehra, joint commissioner in the Delhi Police women’s crime squad. “We teach them techniques for self-defence that make use of things like their nails and elbows.”

The class was so popular, more are planned.

Apart from self-defence classes, many are turning to new weapons such as pepper spray to protect themselves.

Especially popular is a non-toxic spray called Knockout, which causes uncontrollable sneezing, coughing and an intense burning pain.

Although India is famed as an ancient civilisation and the homeland of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence, crime against women is commonplace.

Molestation, especially on crowded public transport, is rampant, particularly in northern India. Activists say there are two rapes every hour across the country.

Instead of providing protection, the police are sometimes the perpetrators. Last month, a constable in Bombay was arrested for raping a teenager on Marine Drive, the famous sea-hugging road in India’s financial capital.

Victims often face social ostracism and are even blamed for rape -- village elders recently forced one to “marry” her rapist, her own father-in-law.

A recent survey by the India Today magazine showed one in every two women in leading cities felt unsafe and more than one in three was sceptical of police handling of cases.

“The system works against the victim,” said Aatreiyer Sen, assistant director of the Human Rights Law Network. “It’s a very cumbersome system and not a very sensitive system.”

Activists say one in every five victims is a child and 19 of 20 accused walk free. Official figures show more than 18,100 people were tried for rape in 2003. Just 4,645 were convicted.

‘It’s their own fault’

Some critics say women are to blame for rapes, especially if they wear tight jeans or revealing tops.

“It’s a daily nuisance for us. Harassment is rampant -- whether while travelling in a bus or while walking through an isolated area,” Priyanka Gupta, a Delhi-based sales executive, told the Hindustan Times.

“I don’t feel switching from jeans to salwar-kameez (a loose shirt and trouser) will change men’s attitude towards women, as far as crimes like rape and molestation are concerned.”

Activists are scathing critical of the argument that women are to blame because of their dress.

“This argument about women dressing provocatively is all nonsense. Men can walk around in their underwear and nobody says anything to them, but a woman completely covered in a sari can be a target,” said Sunita Thakur of Jagori, a women’s group in Delhi.

The cases that make the papers are ugly: a pregnant woman killed herself after being raped in the city of Pune, an 80-year-old was raped in Delhi and a principal raped a 16-year-old Delhi student by luring her with the promise of a matriculation certificate.

In another, a Hindu priest’s wife was gangraped in a temple.

One rapist caused an outcry when, pleading to be let off, he told the court he would marry her because no one else would have her now. The judge jailed him for life.

With crimes against women on the increase, anger has been building up among women in India for some months.

Last year, a group of women in the northern city of Nagpur bludgeoned a man to death in a courthouse who they said had been accused of rape and murder. The slum women were sure he would be released, as he had always escaped punishment in the past.

In another incident, around 40 women marched through the streets of the northeastern state of Manipur last July to protest against the rape and murder of a 32-year-old woman by soldiers.

Faced with the growing number of cases, women’s groups are not just offering conventional self-defence methods such as judo and karate, but are also training women in the Canadian Wenlido method, which uses several forms of verbal and psychological defenses against potential male harassers.

But women who are raped usually stay silent because of the stigma.

Those who dare to speak up rarely find justice.

One woman was gangraped more than 10 years ago by five high-caste leaders in an Indian village because she dared stop a child marriage.

Although the case hit headlines and she became a national hero, the five were acquitted of all but a few minor charges.

British Home Office, “India,” Country of Origin Information Report, 2006.

6.445 As noted in Amnesty International’s Regional Overview 2004 for Asia and the Pacific:

“In Jammu and Kashmir, a paramilitary unit, the Rashtriya Rifles, was reported to be responsible for a series of sexual assaults on women. In Manipur, northeast India, the alleged sexual assault and killing in custody of a young woman, Thangjam Manorama, sparked calls for the repeal of security legislation that had facilitated human rights abuses for decades.” ...

6.446 Amnesty International reported in their 2005 report for events covering 2004:

“Impunity continued for most perpetrators of widespread rape and killing in Gujarat in 2002. During the communal violence Muslim women were specifically targeted and several hundred women and girls were threatened, raped and killed; some were burned alive.”

6.449 The US Department of State report 2005 records that the Home Ministry reported that in Delhi during 2004 there were 490 instances of rape and 489 sexual molestations of women. [2c] (Section 5) “Rape and other violent attacks against women continued to be a serious problem. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2004 authorities arrested 133,865 persons for violent attacks against women and there were 12,558 convictions. The NCRB reported 1,157 cases of rape against dalit women in 2004 and 523 cases of rape against the scheduled castes in the first six months of the year. Human rights groups claimed that these numbers were much lower than the actual totals.”

The same report notes that the government prosecuted some rape cases during 2004 but was unable to effectively enforce rape laws. “In January two years after the gang rape of a student from the Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi, an additional sessions court gave life sentences to the two accused.”

6.450 The 2005 USSD report notes that in June a Muslim woman was raped by her father-in-law in Uttar Pradesh. Following the incident, local community and religious leaders ruled she must separate from her husband and move in with her rapist. They also determined she should treat her former husband as her son, now being married to her father-in-law. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, responsible for overseeing Muslim family law issues, refused to overturn this decision. Numerous women’s organisations protested. However, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh supported the edict, stating the board’s verdict must have been deeply considered. However, in July, police arrested the father-in-law, charging him with rape, and he remained in custody at year’s end.

6.451 Six tribal women were raped whilst working in a brick kiln in February 2004 in Lucknow. Initially police refused to lodge a complaint, alleging the three victims had not been raped. Following the intervention of higher authorities, police filed charges and two suspects were arrested as reported in the 2005 USSD report. In March a 21–year–old woman was stripped and tortured and made to sit on a donkey whilst paraded around Chandupur village in Uttar Pradesh after she was accused of killing a small child by a local mystic. Despite police intervention, no arrests were made.

6.452 AI reported in “The Battle against Fear and discrimination” report that many women victims in India do not report a complaint to the police because they fear it will be dismissed or they will suffer further abuse. Activists told AI in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in December 2000 that the majority of cases were not reported for fear of reprisals and bringing dishonour. Most women will only visit a police station if accompanied by a male relative. As a means of encouraging women to register complaints to the police, Mahila thanas (women’s police) stations were established in many states.

6.453 According to an Amnesty International report of 2003, “India, Break the cycle of impunity and torture in Punjab”: “Women are particularly vulnerable to police abuse. Rape and other forms of sexual harassment are reported to be frequent forms of torture in police custody. Their humiliation is often greater as they are often tortured solely as a means of putting pressure on their husbands and families.”

6.454 It is noted in the USSD 2005 report, published in March 2006, that:

“The rape of persons in custody was part of the broader pattern of custodial abuse. NGOs asserted that rape by police, including custodial rape was more common than the NHRC [National Human Rights Commission] figures indicated. A higher incidence of abuse appeared credible, given, other evidence of abusive behaviour by police and the likelihood that many rapes were unreported due to the victims sense of shame and fear of retribution. However, legal limits placed on the arrest, search, and police custody of women appeared effectively to limit the frequency of rape in custody. There were no recent NHRC data on the extent of this problem.”

6.455 The same report notes that: “In February a soldier with the Tripura State Rifles raped a minor girl in West Tripura district. Public outrage led to his arrest.”

6.456 As noted in a Penal Reform International report 2003, counselling units are now being operated by PRAJA in women’s prisons across Andhra Pradesh. They counsel women and in addition provide legal and social awareness training. This was one of the recommendations in the PRAJA/PRI report on a mental health and care project for women and children imprisoned in Andhra Pradesh, published in October 2001. The report convinced the State’s Prisons Department of the need for counselling units and resource centres in women’s prisons.

6.457 According to a BBC news article dated 19 December 2003 Delhi is to set up special courts to hear rape cases that will be prosecuted and judged by women. “The city’s police argue that courts dedicated to crimes against women can deliver justice faster. There were over 300 cases or rape filed last year in Delhi. Women’s rights activists say the social stigma attached to victims prevents many coming forward with complaints.” Even fewer take their alleged attackers to court:

“The new move will add to the three current special courts in the capital in which women judges deal with sexual harassment and dowry related offences…The minimum punishment for rape is seven years and a section of society is now demanding the death penalty for rapists.”

6.458 As reported in the Human Rights Watch Annual Report 2005:

“Activists continue to campaign for reform of rape laws to protect women and children from all forms of sexual violence. The pervasive understanding of ‘rape’ is that it occurs only when a stranger uses force on a woman. A marital exemption protects men from being prosecuted for raping their wives. Marital rape is not recognized or penalized unless the wife is under the age of fifteen or if she lives separately from her husband.”

6.459 As reported in a BBC article dated 23 June 2005:

“An Indian court has sentenced five men to life imprisonment and imposed 23 year jail terms to seven others after a mass rape four years ago. The men were found guilty of raping 15 women in a remote village in the western state of Maharashtra. Two others were acquitted. The court said the men jailed for life should not be granted bail and should remain in prison until they die. In India, life imprisonment is generally equivalent to 14 years.”

BBC correspondents say the defendants were said to be members of a feared gang of bandits:

“Some of the 52 witnesses who gave evidence said that the raped villagers endured a four hour ordeal, and throughout that time their village was plundered. The victims were aged between 26 and 70, and in some cases were repeatedly raped. Women’s rights groups claim that hundreds of rapes go unreported in India for fear of social discrimination. Correspondents say that latest government figures show there were more than 16,000 rapes in India in 2002.”

6.460 BBC News reported on 15 June 2005:

“An Indian woman who was allegedly raped by her father-in-law is now being ordered by a Muslim council of community elders to marry him. The council says under Islamic law the rape has nullified her marriage, according to media reports. But a top Muslim body in India has rejected the argument saying it is not valid under Sharia (Islamic) law. It says the council was not authorised to give such a verdict and added that the alleged rapist should be punished. Reports say the 28-year-old woman was raped when she was alone at home in Charthawal, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. When the incident came to the notice of the council, it ordered that she marry her father-in-law and change her relationship with her husband to that between a mother and son. It also ordered her to leave her home and stay away for seven months and 10 days to become ‘pure’. A senior police officer, Amrinder Singh Senger, told the BBC that police have now filed a case against the woman’s father-in-law. India’s National Commission of Women has also asked for a report from the government in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the incident took place. ‘We have requested the government to take action against the guilty and also pay compensation to the victim,’ NCW president Girija Vyas told the BBC. A representative of a top Muslim body in India, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said the case should be dealt with under Islamic law. ‘Under the Sharia law, whatever happened with the victim is wrong and if her father-in-law has raped her, he should be sentenced to death,’ the representative, Zafarab Geelani, said.”

6.461 BBC News reported on 9 March 2005:

“A court in India has handed down the death penalty to two people convicted of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. The crime was committed in the north-eastern city of Guwahati more than two years ago. Most Indian rights groups oppose the death penalty and say life sentences are a more appropriate punishment…The death penalty is rarely carried out in India. It is usually reserved for particularly heinous crimes or in politically sensitive cases. However, this is the third time in a year the country’s courts have handed down the death penalty to people convicted of rape and murder.”

6.462 BBC News stated on 20 October 2005 that: two policemen were arrested, accused of rape. The two separate incidents occurred within 24 hours of each other. A constable allegedly raped a rag-picker near the airport at Mumbai and in another incident in the centre of the city another constable was arrested for allegedly raping a former dance bar worker prior to the bar’s closure. Both constables were suspended from duty and await trial in police custody.

"India," DOS Report 2005.

In June a father-in-law raped Imrana, a Muslim woman, in Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. After the incident, local community and religious leaders ruled that she must separate from her husband and move in with the father-in law who had raped her. They also determined that she should consider her former husband as her son, because she was now married to his father. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, responsible for overseeing Muslim family law issues, refused to overturn this decision. Numerous women's organizations protested, but Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav supported the edict, claiming that the Muslim religious leaders ruling must have been deeply considered. In July police arrested the father-in-law and charged him with rape. He remained in judicial custody at year's end. ...

The press reported that violence against women was increasing, although some local women's organizations attributed the apparent increase to greater reporting. Only 10 percent of rape cases were adjudicated fully by the courts, and police typically failed to arrest rapists, fostering a climate of impunity. Upper caste gangs often used mass rape to intimidate lower castes, and often gang raped as punishment for alleged adultery, or as a means of coercion or revenge in rural property disputes. The number of reported rape cases and the extent of prosecution varied from state to state.

In Lucknow in February 2004, six tribal women were raped while working in a brick kiln. The police initially refused to lodge a complaint and alleged that three of the six victims had not actually been raped. After higher authorities intervened, police filed charges and arrested two suspects.

In March a 21-year-old woman was tortured, stripped, made to sit on a donkey and paraded through Chandupur village, Uttar Pradesh, after a local mystic accused her of killing a small child. Police intervened, but no arrest was made.

On August 20, according to the AHRC, a rape victim and her child were auctioned off for 13 cents (Rs. 6) in Jharkhand. After four men raped Piary, a tribal woman, she became pregnant and demanded that her rapists take responsibility for her child. The village elders first decided that the perpetrators should pay Piary, but when she rejected this, they auctioned Piary and her child. Newspaper reports stated that a young man present during the auction empathized with Piary's plight, agreed to marry her and take responsibility for her child. The village heads approved and announced that the approximately $280 (Rs. 12 thousand) collected from the four perpetrators would be given to Piary for the marriage. Human rights groups demanded the arrest of the perpetrators and the village heads, but at year's end, the police had made no arrests.

On September 13, a woman was allegedly gang raped on the Toofan Express train by seven people, three of whom were Railway Protection Force personnel. According to press reports, the Railway Ministry ordered an inquiry into the alleged gangrape and compensated the victim. Railway officials on duty at the time were suspended and a ticket examiner and vendor were arrested.

Women often bore the brunt of caste-based violence. For example on March 31, the NFO People's Watch-Tamil Nadu reported that in Vengamedu village, an upper caste man assaulted and sexually harassed a dalit woman for using a pathway forbidden to dalits. He tore off the woman's clothes, hit her 20 to 30 times, and verbally abused her. The victim attempted to lodge a complaint with the police, but Sub-Inspector Sidhuraj of the Chennimalai police refused to register her complaint. No action was taken and the man remained free at year's end.

The government prosecuted some rape cases during the year, but was not able to enforce rape laws effectively. In May three youths abducted and sexually assaulted a female student from Venkateswara College in South Delhi. Although police arrested one man, who was in judicial custody at year's end, the two other alleged rapists remained at large. In January two years after the gang rape of a student from the Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi, an additional sessions court gave life sentences to the two accused.

”Family of Pak gang-rape victim disappears,” Tribune of India, Chandigarh, 29 Sept. 2005.

Rawalpindi, Sept 28. The family of the latest gang-rape victim in Pakistan has disappeared from People’s Colony in Rawalpindi, after allegedly facing acute pressure from the police. The local residents claimed that the police had taken away Rafiq Zaman Abbasi, imam masjid, and her victimised daughter to pressurise them, while other members of the family had gone to their ancestral village.

However, District Police Officer Saud Aziz denied the claim of the residents.

“Indian women fight back against rape epidemic,” Reuters, 19 June 2005.

NEW DELHI - For years, rape victims in India were too afraid to speak out, traumatised by the assault and fearful they would be blamed themselves. Many don’t trust the police.

Now, they are learning to fight back.

Rattled by a series of brutal rapes across the country, almost 3,000 women from 15 to 50 packed into a park in the Indian capital last weekend for self-defence classes that included elements of judo, karate and taekwondo.

“Women have enough weapons on their body,” said Vimla Mehra, joint commissioner in the Delhi Police women’s crime squad. “We teach them techniques for self-defence that make use of things like their nails and elbows.”

The class was so popular, more are planned.

Apart from self-defence classes, many are turning to new weapons such as pepper spray to protect themselves.

Especially popular is a non-toxic spray called Knockout, which causes uncontrollable sneezing, coughing and an intense burning pain.

Although India is famed as an ancient civilisation and the homeland of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence, crime against women is commonplace.

Molestation, especially on crowded public transport, is rampant, particularly in northern India. Activists say there are two rapes every hour across the country.

Instead of providing protection, the police are sometimes the perpetrators. Last month, a constable in Bombay was arrested for raping a teenager on Marine Drive, the famous sea-hugging road in India’s financial capital.

Victims often face social ostracism and are even blamed for rape -- village elders recently forced one to “marry” her rapist, her own father-in-law.

A recent survey by the India Today magazine showed one in every two women in leading cities felt unsafe and more than one in three was sceptical of police handling of cases.

“The system works against the victim,” said Aatreiyer Sen, assistant director of the Human Rights Law Network. “It’s a very cumbersome system and not a very sensitive system.”

Activists say one in every five victims is a child and 19 of 20 accused walk free. Official figures show more than 18,100 people were tried for rape in 2003. Just 4,645 were convicted.

‘It’s their own fault’

Some critics say women are to blame for rapes, especially if they wear tight jeans or revealing tops.

“It’s a daily nuisance for us. Harassment is rampant -- whether while travelling in a bus or while walking through an isolated area,” Priyanka Gupta, a Delhi-based sales executive, told the Hindustan Times.

“I don’t feel switching from jeans to salwar-kameez (a loose shirt and trouser) will change men’s attitude towards women, as far as crimes like rape and molestation are concerned.”

Activists are scathing critical of the argument that women are to blame because of their dress.

“This argument about women dressing provocatively is all nonsense. Men can walk around in their underwear and nobody says anything to them, but a woman completely covered in a sari can be a target,” said Sunita Thakur of Jagori, a women’s group in Delhi.

The cases that make the papers are ugly: a pregnant woman killed herself after being raped in the city of Pune, an 80-year-old was raped in Delhi and a principal raped a 16-year-old Delhi student by luring her with the promise of a matriculation certificate.

In another, a Hindu priest’s wife was gangraped in a temple.

One rapist caused an outcry when, pleading to be let off, he told the court he would marry her because no one else would have her now. The judge jailed him for life.

With crimes against women on the increase, anger has been building up among women in India for some months.

Last year, a group of women in the northern city of Nagpur bludgeoned a man to death in a courthouse who they said had been accused of rape and murder. The slum women were sure he would be released, as he had always escaped punishment in the past.

In another incident, around 40 women marched through the streets of the northeastern state of Manipur last July to protest against the rape and murder of a 32-year-old woman by soldiers.

Faced with the growing number of cases, women’s groups are not just offering conventional self-defence methods such as judo and karate, but are also training women in the Canadian Wenlido method, which uses several forms of verbal and psychological defenses against potential male harassers.

But women who are raped usually stay silent because of the stigma.

Those who dare to speak up rarely find justice.

One woman was gangraped more than 10 years ago by five high-caste leaders in an Indian village because she dared stop a child marriage.

Although the case hit headlines and she became a national hero, the five were acquitted of all but a few minor charges.

”Woman rejects rapist marriage bid,” BBC News, 4 May 2005.

An Indian woman who was raped has rejected a marriage proposal from the rapist, calling the idea "horrible".

She had been asked in court whether she would accept the proposal from her attacker who had hoped it might lower his sentence.

The convicted rapist said he was offering to marry the woman because the stigma of rape in India meant no one else would.

Following the rejection, the court sentenced the rapist to life in prison.

Women's groups expressed disgust at the request and disappointment that the court had allowed the petition to be made.

The man was convicted last month of raping and seriously injuring the 22-year-old nurse in September 2003 at the hospital where they both worked.

Minutes before sentencing was due on Tuesday, the man issued his marriage proposal.

The judge postponed sentencing until Wednesday, when the rape victim told the court she had rejected the petition.

She told reporters: "I will not marry him. It is horrible, audacious... he should be given the severest punishment.

"He should be hanged so that such a horrendous act is not repeated with any other girl."

She said the man had been found guilty and was now trying to save himself with a bogus proposal.

Appeal planned

Brinda Karat, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association, said the request and the actions of the court were highly objectionable and demeaning to the victim.

She said it could set a dangerous precedent.

The man was arrested after the rape in a bathroom of one of the private rooms in the hospital.

The woman suffered a gouged eye and facial scarring, for which she has undergone surgery four times.

The man's lawyers said he was planning to appeal to a higher court against his conviction.

Delhi witnessed more than 300 sexual assaults in 2004, but women's groups say there are many more because victims fear social discrimination if they admit they have been raped.

”78 percent of Delhi’s college-going girls sexually abused: report,” Agence France Presse, 23 June 2004.

New Delhi, June 23. A report published Wednesday said a staggering 78 percent of college-going female students in the Indian capital had been victims of incest or childhood sexual abuse at home.

The report in the Pioneer newspaper cited a survey by the Recovering and Healing from Incest (RAHI) non-governmental organization, which conducted interviews with 1,409 female students aged between 16 and 26 years in 39 New Delhi colleges.

”The study also discloses that 42 percent of the abusers includes uncles and cousins while fathers and brothers amount to four percent,” the report said. “The list of abusers also include 26 percent of neighbours followed by male family friends, servants at 23 percent and male teachers at 10 percent,” added RAHI director Anuja Gupta.

She said more than half of the women questioned said they had fallen prey to multiple abusers while 30 percent said they had been molested by two men and 22 percent by three or more.

”The sexual behaviour ranged from sexual comments, fondling, hugging or kissing in a sexual way, masturbation (and) showing abusive pictures, to oral sex, penetration and intercourse,” Gupta said.

”Around 78 percent (of the 1,409) respondents had experienced more than one type of sexual behaviour,” the RAHI chief said.

Gupta’s report said as many as 68 percent of the victims belonged to nuclear families.

Delhi police earlier this year asserted that 90 percent of around 300 women raped in the Indian capital were molested by people known to them or by close relatives.

Rama Lakshmi, “Rapes Go Unpunished In Indian Mob Attacks,” Washington Post, 3 June 2002, A09.

KALOL, India -- Sultana Feroz Sheikh sat motionless, staring at the mud floor in a dark, windowless room.

Three months ago, as religious riots engulfed the western Indian state of Gujarat, Sheikh saw her husband and several relatives burned alive. Then, she said, she was brutally raped by three men as her 4-year-old son wailed nearby.

Sheikh wants to see the criminals brought to justice. But Gujarat police are routinely refusing to file charges against individuals accused of rape during the violence in late February and early March, because they say mob violence cannot be broken down into specific crimes.

"It is difficult to determine who in the mob pelted stones, who raped and who killed," said police inspector Ramanbhai Patil. Though the riot on March 1 that claimed the lives of Sheikh's loved ones and resulted in her rape engulfed the entire village of Kalol, she said Patil has arrested only four men in connection with the day's events.

The violence then spread throughout Gujarat, where nearly 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, have been killed in Hindu-Muslim clashes since Feb. 27. That was the day Muslims launched a firebomb attack on a train carrying Hindu activists [a charge that a recent report has proven false; the train fire was due to an electrical fault], killing 60. Countless cases of arson, looting, murder and rape have been jumbled together in what are known as first-information reports, or FIRs. Police have filed "general FIRs," simply blaming riots on Hindu tola, or mobs, and refusing to register individual complaints.

Arrests increased markedly after the Indian government appointed K.P.S. Gill -- known as the "super cop" of Punjab state for his work there in the 1990s -- to assist with law enforcement in Gujarat. Police have arrested about 3,200 suspects in more than 300 cases of attacks against Muslims in Gujarat. The suspects have been charged with murder, rioting and arson. But advocacy groups say arrests for rape are still rare.

"The police FIR said that a Hindu mob attacked a Muslim mob," said Sheikh, who is Muslim. "I am not a 'mob,' I am a woman who was gang-raped by three men. How can I hope for justice, when they don't even register my complaint properly?"

Farah Naqvi, an independent journalist who is part of Citizen's Initiative, a fact-finding team that recorded testimony of sexual violence in Gujarat, called it "a [conspiracy] of silence."

"Cases have been filed against the nameless and the faceless," Naqvi said. "When you register them as mobs, it gives you a basis and an excuse for inaction. A single, collective FIR cannot take care of all the individual losses, as the time, loss and place varies. And it is especially true for rape."

There are no reliable estimates of how many women -- Hindu or Muslim -- have been raped in the Gujarat violence. According to the Citizen's Initiative report, however, almost every relief shelter in the state houses people who are victims of or witnesses to rape, molestation or other types of sexual assault. Zzzz Part of the difficulty in gauging the problem, said Sejal Dand, an aid worker, is that "many women were raped and then killed or burned."

Dand said fear of the police, who have been widely accused of standing idle as violence peaked, discouraged women and witnesses from reporting crimes for days. When the victims and witnesses finally did file reports, police often asked them to omit the names of influential men, Dand said.

In addition, in India's conservative and inward-looking Muslim minority of 130 million, even talking about rape is a matter of deep shame and stigma.

In the village of Fatehpura, aid workers reported, a Hindu mob dragged 30 young women into full public view, sexually assaulted them and forced them to run naked. Yet the Muslims of Fatehpura refuse to go to the police or even reveal the names of the women, fearing no man would marry them, the aid workers said.

"There is a lot of denial on the issue of rape of Muslim women in Gujarat," Dand said. Even after citizens groups published reports with women's testimonies, many officials were dismissive. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said in Parliament that reports of sexual violence were "exaggerated," and the country's law minister said only two FIRs have been filed for rape in Gujarat so far.

Sheikh hasn't filed one, because the police wouldn't let her, she said.

Her ordeal began on the morning of Feb. 28, a day after the attack on the train, she said, when she heard hundreds of angry Hindus marching toward the Muslim quarters of her home village of Delol, shouting, "We will burn you!" She and her husband grabbed their son and fled to some wheat fields, where they hid with a group of other panic-stricken Muslims. Their homes went up in flames.

The Muslims retreated in a milk van the next morning to the nearest town, Kalol. There, another Hindu mob surrounded them.

"One by one, they pulled out the men from the van and burned them. My husband was burned alive in front of my own eyes as I screamed and pleaded with them," Sheikh said, tears welling in her eyes.

Sheikh said she managed to jump out with her son, then ran toward a nearby river. Eight men wielding swords chased after her.

"One of them grabbed my hair from behind and pulled me; another snatched my son away," she said. They threw her down and hit her, and three raped her. "They were ruthless," she whispered.

Sheikh ran and hid for days before going to a relief shelter in Kalol. Ten days after the rape, she summoned the courage to go to the police to file a report.

"To my surprise, the police said I cannot file an FIR," Sheikh said. "They said an FIR already existed for that day's events."

Police officials investigating the Kalol violence said they could not register two reports for the same incident. Because a general FIR had already been filed, they said, the most they could do was attach a statement to it.

Patil said Sheikh's case was weak anyway, because she did not undergo a medical examination until more than 10 days after the alleged rape.

Citizen's Initiative recommends that special courts be set up to hear women's cases and that their testimony be treated as the basis for legal action if FIRs are not filed. And the requirement of medical evidence should be dropped, the group says, because so many women hid for days before going to the police.

Trauma counseling, according to the group's report, is the most urgent need.

For a number of emotionally scarred women now languishing in shelters, consisting of tents in the scorching heat, simply returning to their homes could provide the first healing touch. But homecoming is fraught with risks, too.

Bilkees Rasoolbhai Yaqub, 19, was one of many women gang-raped outside the village of Randikpura. She is the single witness to many killings and rapes in Randikpura and has named three men in her police report. Now Yaqub's Hindu neighbors say they will not allow the Muslims to return to the village until she withdraws the names of the accused in her police report.

The villagers say her statements are baseless; the police say Yaqub's story contains inconsistencies and her medical report was negative.

But, asked an anguished Yaqub, "Why would I lie about my rape? Which woman would invite social stigma upon herself?"

Amnesty International, India: Crimes against women in Gujarat – denied and unpunished. 7 March 2003.

On International Women’s Day Amnesty International stands in solidarity with the women of Gujurat who were victims of gender violence during the massacres which started in the state on 27 February 2002. …

"Rape by officials as well as private individuals constitutes an act of torture for which the state must be held to account when it has failed to fulfil its obligation to provide effective protection," the organization said.

The few women who have had the courage to bring charges of sexual violence are reported to have found the police, health, rehabilitation and justice systems utterly unresponsive to their needs, with staff backing each other in negating the gravity of sexual abuses.

In many cases, victims were requested to file complaints with the same police officers who allegedly colluded with their abusers, and who reportedly refused to record their statements or did so in a defective manner.

In the few cases of rape which have reached the courts, priority is reportedly given to the prosecution of offences of murder over those of rape, when the two happened during the same incident. The result is that perpetrators of rape are often not prosecuted.

Medical reports continue to be requested by courts as a paramount piece of corroborative evidence in the prosecution of rape cases. In many cases, however, survivors of sexual violence were unable to access the health system after being abused, while bodies of raped women were often burnt by the attackers, in order to destroy the evidence of their crime. Requesting victims to produce medical reports often amounts to complying with the perpetrators' strategy, women’s groups say. …

"The urgent need is for specific mechanisms and procedures able to offer justice and redress to the victims of gender violence," Amnesty International said. "Investigative and judicial officers must be trained to deal sensitively with cases of gender violence; testimonies of victims should be thoroughly investigated and legal action should be an accessible option for women."

Cases of sexual abuse should be promptly prosecuted, even in the absence of a medical examination, provided that other compelling evidence of the crime exists, which could lead to the conviction of a defendant in proceedings that meet international standards of fairness. Victims of sexual abuse should be offered rehabilitation packages, which include financial assistance, shelter and medical or psychiatric care.

Jangveer Singh, ”Rape victim not allowed to meet CM. 14-year-old alleges police torture,” Tribune of India, Chandigarh, 2 May 2001.

Patiala, May 1. While Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal doled out crores at a “sangat darshan” held at Samana yesterday, a 14-year-old girl who has got an FIR registered, claiming that she was abducted and raped repeatedly for six days and wanted to complain against the Patiala police for giving her electric shock at its CIA interrogation centre, was not allowed to meet the Chief Minister.

In fact, police officials while, “assuring” the family of the girl that they would get justice, escorted her back to her residence at Railway Colony in a police Gypsy.

The family of the victim, which had earlier approached state Women Commission chairperson Surinder Kaur Grewal, alleging that the Patiala police was not giving them justice and had given electric shock to the girl behind her ears, was refrained by Ms Grewal and other police officials at Samana, from complaining the matter to the Chief Minister.

Ms Grewal, when contacted in this regard today, said: “I severely reprimanded the police officials on the spot as torture marks behind both ears could be seen clearly.” She said she had directed the SP (Detective) to ensure justice was done to the girl. The fault lay with junior police officials who did not act properly even though those at the helm in the district had good intentions, she said, adding that she did not want to sensationalise the matter by going to the Press as the girl’s future was at stake.

The SP (Detective), the M.S. Chahal, said he would start investigation in the case tomorrow and had called the family of the victim in this regard. He said now that the case was with him, he would ensure justice to the aggrieved party and anything found wanting earlier would be removed immediately. When asked about the illegal manner in which the victim had been given electric shock as alleged by the family, he refrained from giving a direct reply, saying that he was yet to clear this fact and had not been able to talk to the officials concerned. He, however, added: “Now that the case is with me, I will definitely do something in two days”.

He said he had given a similar assurance to the Women Commission chairperson. The girl and the family were escorted back to Patiala in a police vehicle only after being assured that they would be given justice.

For the family of the girl, however, all has been lost. Narrating her tale of woe, the victim said she was abducted on April 11. A boy living in the same locality came to her house and told her that her elder sister had rung up from Mumbai. She said though she was reluctant to go as her parents were not at home, she was persuaded by him. On reaching his house she was given a glass of water following which she fell unconscious. She said when she regained consciousness she found herself in a room on the top storey of the house. She was repeatedly raped for six days in the house before she managed to escape on April 16.

The girl’s father, who works in a wire factory nearby, said though an FIR was registered in the urban state police post and a medical examination of the girl was conducted, the police after taking initial action in the case started shielding the accused.

Amnesty International, “India: Violence against women - a double discrimination,” Amnesty International, 8 May 2001.

Authorities in India are failing to prevent violence against women and sometimes take an active part in it, Amnesty International said today in a new report launched as part of the organization's international campaign against torture.

The report highlights patterns of violence including the beating, stripping and rape of women, in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. It focusses particularly on dalit ("untouchables") and adivasi (tribal) women; their lack of access to justice, and the failure of the state to protect them at the local level. These women often suffer a double discrimination; discrimination on the basis of caste as well as gender.

Although high levels of violence against women are widely acknowledged by the authorities and some steps are being taken to address these problems, officials at the local level continue to ignore complaints, take bribes, and cover up the abuses.

"In a year declared by the Indian government as the Year of Empowerment of Women, Amnesty International hopes the government will take its policies seriously and not confine them to paper alone," the organization said.

"The organization is calling on the government to consider implementation of the comprehensive recommendations in the new report, which would help make the rights of women a reality in India."

Many women don't approach police for fear of dishonour or that they will be dismissed or further abused. An activist working with dalit women in Uttar Pradesh estimated that only 5% of cases of violence against women are registered. Many dalits are not aware of their rights under special legislation designed to protect them, and it is rare for police to voluntarily inform them.

Police are also accused of withholding and destroying evidence in many cases, usually at the behest of the accused with whom they may have caste or other links. Witnesses often withdraw their testimony after taking a bribe or being threatened by the accused and medical evidence is lost because simple procedures are not followed. The length of time it takes to pursue a case of torture through the courts encourages victims to make compromises under pressure.

Narbada, an 18-year-old woman from Udaipur district of Rajasthan told Amnesty International that she was raped by a Rajput (upper caste) landlord in March 2000. The attacker's mother reportedly heard the victim's screams but did nothing to stop her son. She then beat Narbada and told her not to go to the police. When Narbada tried to go to the police with her uncle, 50 Rajputs stopped them.

When they reached the police station two days later, they were verbally abused and told to pay Rs. 500 ($11) if they wanted to file a complaint, which they refused to do. They travelled three and half hours to the district headquarters where the Superintendent of Police recorded their complaint. Police were present during her medical examination which was conducted four weeks after the rape. When the case went to court, the public prosecutor tried to convince Narbada and her family to withdraw the complaint. Narbada and her family continue to face harassment from members of the Rajput community.

Women activists in India have played a crucial role in highlighting problems faced by women but they are often punished for it, becoming victims of violence themselves.

"The Indian government has a long way to go in bridging the gap between promises of protection for women and actual protection for women," Amnesty International said.

Iran

"Iran: Execution of a teenage girl," Women in the Middle East, Vol. 44, July to August 2006.

A television documentary team has pieced together details surrounding the case of a 16-year-old girl, executed two years ago in Iran. On 15 August, 2004, Atefah Sahaaleh was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka. Her death sentence was imposed for "crimes against chastity".

The state-run newspaper accused her of adultery and described her as 22 years old. But she was not married - and she was just 16. In the year of Atefah's death, at least 159 people were executed in accordance with the Islamic law of the country, based on the Sharia code. But the clerical courts do not answer to parliament. They abide by their religious supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, making it virtually impossible for human rights campaigners to call them to account.

To teach others a lesson, Atefah's execution was held in public. So why was such a young girl executed? And how could she have been accused of adultery when she was not even married? Disturbed by the death of her mother when she was only four or five years old, and her distraught father's subsequent drug addiction, Atefah had a difficult childhood. She was also left to care for her elderly grandparents, but they are said to have shown her no affection.

In a town like Neka, heavily under the control of religious authorities, Atefah - often seen wandering around on her own - was conspicuous. It was just a matter of time before she came to the attention of the "moral police", a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, whose job it is to enforce the Islamic code of behaviour on Iran's streets.

Being stopped or arrested by the moral police is a fact of life for many Iranian teenagers. Previously arrested for attending a party and being alone in a car with a boy, Atefah received her first sentence for "crimes against chastity" when she was just 13. Although the exact nature of the crime is unknown, she spent a short time in prison and received 100 lashes. Atefah was soon caught in a downward spiral of arrest and abuse. When she returned to her home town, she told those close to her that lashes were not the only things she had to endure in prison. She described abuse by the moral police guards.

Soon after her release, Atefah became involved in an abusive relationship with a man three times her age. Former revolutionary guard, 51-year-old Ali Darabi - a married man with children - raped her several times.

She kept the relationship a secret from both her family and the authorities. Atefah was soon caught in a downward spiral of arrest and abuse. Circumstances surrounding Atefah's fourth and final arrest were unusual. The moral police said the locals had submitted a petition, describing her as a "source of immorality" and a "terrible influence on local schoolgirls". But there were no signatures on the petition - only those of the arresting guards.

Three days after her arrest, Atefah was in a court and tried under Sharia law. The judge was the powerful Haji Rezai, head of the judiciary in Neka. No court transcript is available from Atefah's trial, but it is known that for the first time, Atefah confessed to the secret of her sexual abuse by Ali Darabi.

However, the age of sexual consent for girls under Sharia law - within the confines of marriage - is nine, and furthermore, rape is very hard to prove in an Iranian court.

When Atefah realised her case was hopeless, she shouted back at the judge and threw off her veil in protest. It was a fatal outburst. She was sentenced to execution by hanging, while Darabi got just 95 lashes.

Shortly before the execution, but unbeknown to her family, documents that went to the Supreme Court of Appeal described Atefah as 22. "Neither the judge nor even Atefah's court appointed lawyer did anything to find out her true age," says her father. And a witness claims: "The judge just looked at her body, because of the developed physique... and declared her as 22."

Judge Haji Rezai took Atefah's documents to the Supreme Court himself. And at six o'clock on the morning of her execution he put the noose around her neck, before she was hoisted on a crane to her death. During the making of the documentary about Atefah's death the production team telephoned Judge Haji Rezai to ask him about the case, but he refused to comment. BBC News

Alasdair Palmer, ”Under Iran's 'divinely ordained justice', girls as young as nine are charged with 'moral crimes'. The best that they can hope for is to die by hanging,” The Telegraph, 19 Dec. 2004.

As one young woman awaits sentence and another faces death this week, Alasdair Palmer reveals the Iranian legal system's shocking barbarity towards children

"My mother doesn't visit me in prison. If you see her, tell her she promised to bring me cheese curls and chocolate. And she shouldn't forget to bring my red dress."

Those pathetic words may be among the last utterances of a 19-year-old girl, identified only as Leila M, who has been condemned to death in Iran for "acts incompatible with chastity".

According to Amnesty International, Leila has a mental age of eight. What evidence there is of her life so far records an existence of unrelieved misery and brutality.

She was sold into prostitution at the age of eight by her parents. She recalls the experience of when her mother "first took me to a man's house" as "a horrible night. I cried a lot … but then my mum came the next day and took me home. She brought me chocolate and cheese curls."

Forced by beatings and threats to continue "visiting men" from that night onwards, she became pregnant and had twins when she was 14. She was punished with 100 lashes by the Iranian courts for giving birth to illegitimate children.

Leila was bullied back into her degrading and demeaning work. Earlier this year, she confessed to the authorities that she had been working as a prostitute since she was a child – perhaps because she thought that they might help her escape her miserable existence.

The courts did respond by pulling Leila out of prostitution, but they also imprisoned her and used her confession to convict her of "moral crimes", for which the judges have decided the appropriate penalty is death.

They dismissed evidence from doctors and social workers that she has a severe mental handicap. This week, Iran's Supreme Court, which by law must confirm every death sentence imposed by the lower courts, will rule on whether to uphold her execution.

There is every indication that the Supreme Court will decide that Leila must die. Earlier this year, they upheld a sentence of death on 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi. Atefeh had also been convicted of "acts incompatible with chastity".

In her defence, she said she had been sexually assaulted by an older man. The judges did not care. So, on August 16, at 6am, Atefeh was taken from her cell and hanged from a crane in the main square of the town of Neka.

Witnesses report that she begged for her life as she was dragged kicking and screaming to the makeshift gallows. She shouted "repentance" over and over again – a gesture which, according to Islamic law, is supposed to grant the accused the right to an immediate stay of execution while an appeal is heard.

Atefeh's cries were in vain. Haji Rezaie, the judge who presided over her trial, put the noose around her neck himself. He said he was pleased to do it. "Society has to be kept safe from acts against public morality," he insisted.

He ordered that her body be left hanging from the crane for several hours so people could see what happened to teenagers who "committed acts incompatible with chastity".

In the case of Hajieh Esmailvand, a young woman found guilty of adultery with an unnamed 17-year-old boy, the Supreme Court has not only confirmed the death sentence imposed by the lower court, but changed the means of death from hanging to execution by stoning.

Hajieh's original sentence had been for five years' imprisonment followed by death by hanging. A month ago, the Supreme Court annulled her jail sentence – but only so that Hajieh could be stoned before December 21, and with the recommendation that she should be.

In the next two days, it seems likely that Hajieh will die from wounds caused by stones thrown by "executioners". The Iranian Penal Code states that women should be buried up to their breasts before being stoned. Article 104 is specific about the type of stones that should be used when a woman is to be punished for adultery. They "should not be large enough to kill the woman by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones". Hajieh will die slowly, in agony, buried in sand, as officials lob correctly sized stones at her head.

It is a fate that also awaits Zhila Izadyar, a 13-year-old girl from the northern province of Mazandaran. She has been sentenced to be stoned to death after her parents reported that she had had an incestuous relationship with her 15-year-old brother and had become pregnant by him.

Zhila has already received a "preliminary punishment" of 53 lashes. A representative from Iran's Society for the Protection of Children's Rights has managed to visit Zhila in prison. She found the 13-year-old in a desperate state, in solitary confinement and unable to keep down food. She has not been allowed to see her child.

"I am scared. I want to go home," said Zhila. "I want to go back to school like the other children." But if Iran's judges have their way, Zhila will see neither her school nor her home again. She will be buried up to her neck and the last thing she will see will be stones hurtling towards her head.

The barbarity towards children of the Iranian legal system is all the more surprising in that it contradicts the international legal obligations on the treatment of children, which the Iranian government has adopted. Iran is a signatory both to the International Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which explicitly forbid the execution of minors - let alone their killing by stoning.

Even Iran's chief justice has seemed to recognise that, although stoning is prescribed by Sharia law as the punishment for women who have sexual relations with men to whom they are not married, pelting a woman to death with rocks counts as excessively cruel.

Two years ago, he ruled that, while stonings should still be the nominal punishment for adultery and pre-marital sex, that sentence should be routinely commuted to execution by hanging.

It appears from the fate in store for Zhila Izadyar, however, that his commitment to the de facto abolition of stoning was about as sincere as the Iranian government's commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There are no plans to change any of the provisions of the Penal Code that relate to children, and which state that girls as young as nine can be executed (boys have to reach the age of 14 before they can be killed).

Many Iranians are revolted by the brutality and injustice of their judges' attitude to children. Shadi Sadr, an extremely brave lawyer who represents Atefeh Rajabi's family, has filed a suit against the judiciary for wrongful execution, and is preparing a murder charge against the judge who hanged her.

While fundamentalist mullahs still hold on to power in Iran, her suit is unlikely to succeed. Indeed, those who are disgusted by judicial decisions cannot even safely express their condemnation of a system that not only hangs children, but beats them to death in public: Kaveh Habibi-Nejad, a 14-year-old boy, suffered this fate on November 12 for eating on the streets during Ramadan. A witnesses said that they thought he died because "the metal cable being used to flog him hit his head".

Mahbobeh Abbasgholizadeh, an Iranian academic, was arrested on November 1 after having queried some aspects of Iranian justice in a speech she made at a conference. She was held for a month before being released and charged with "acting against the security of the country". If she is convicted, it could mean an indefinite prison sentence.

The European Union has said that it is ready to "intensify" political and economic ties with Iran if the Iranian government takes steps to allay international concerns over its involvement in terrorism and the abuse of human rights. But the Islamic administration seems to care more about protecting what many of the religious hierarchy regard as "divinely ordained justice" than achieving fresh political and economic concessions from the EU.

Britain, France and Germany, acting on behalf of the EU, have already agreed to further trade links with Iran, after Tehran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment process, which could yield material suitable for nuclear bombs.

For Hajieh Esmailvand and Zhila Izadyar, the prospects are bleak. The best they can hope for is to die by hanging rather than being stoned. As for the mentally retarded Leila M - she seems likely to hang in public before Christmas.

Israel

“Israeli President Faces Rape Charges,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 23 January 2007.

Israeli Attorney General Meni Mazuz announced this morning that he intends to charge Israeli President Moshe Katsav for rape, sexual harassment, and the abuse of power. Attorney General Mazuz will decide whether to indict the president after Katsav presents his case. Katsav is denying any wrong-doing, but his lawyers have indicated that he will resign if indicted, the Associated Press reports.

The charges are a result of complaints by four women who have worked with Katsav, both during his presidency and his time as Cabinet minister. According to the AP, the complete list of charges includes rape, harassment, sexual relations involving the abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and illegally accepting gifts.

The Israeli police started their investigation of President Katsav in August 2006, after two former female employees accused him of forcing sex on them.

Iraq

Marc Santora, “Rape Accusation Reinforces Fears in a Divided Iraq,” New York Times, 21 Feb. 2007.

BAGHDAD, Feb. 20 — The most wicked acts are spoken of openly and without reserve in Iraq. Torture, stabbings and bodies ripped to pieces in bombings are all part of the daily conversation.

Rape is different.

Rape is not mentioned by the victims, and rarely by the authorities. And when it is discussed publicly, as in several high-profile cases involving American soldiers and Iraqi women, it is usually left to the relatives of the victim to give the explicit details.

So when a 20-year-old Sunni woman from Baghdad appeared on the satellite television station Al Jazeera on Monday night with a horrific account of kidnapping and sexual assault at the hands of three officers in the Shiite-dominated Iraqi National Police, people across the country were stunned, some disbelieving, others horrified, but all riveted.

Almost immediately, Shiite leaders lined up to condemn the woman, calling her charges propaganda aimed at undermining the new security campaign. Sunni politicians offered the woman their support. Whatever the truth of the accusation, though, it played to sectarian fears on both sides.

For many Shiites, the charges appeared to be an attempt to smear them and attack the Shiite-led government; for Sunnis, the woman’s account only highlighted what they already believed to be true — that the Iraqi government cares little for justice and promotes a Shiite agenda.

Bitter exchanges between politicians of various sects were relayed to millions on television, interspersed with clips of the woman telling her story, her face veiled, just the tears in her eyes visible.

The Americans, who have advisers working with the Iraqi National Police, found themselves caught in the middle without answers. The woman said the Americans had rescued her from the officers and gave her medical treatment. The American-backed, Shiite-led government said the Americans would show the woman’s claims to be false.

The American military said only that it was investigating the charges.

That was also the first response of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who issued a statement soon after the woman appeared on television on Monday, promising a full investigation and the most severe punishment for anyone involved.

Only hours later, however, Mr. Maliki reversed himself. His office released a second statement after midnight, that one calling the woman a liar and a wanted criminal and going on to praise the officers involved.

“It has been shown after medical examinations that the woman had not been subjected to any sexual attack whatsoever, and that there are three outstanding arrest warrants against her issued by security agencies,” said the second statement. “After the allegations have been proven to be false, the prime minister has ordered that the officers accused be rewarded.”

The government did not elaborate on the statement or say why the prime minister had so quickly reversed himself. His office only said that “known parties” had been responsible for the allegations.

But in siding with the security forces, Mr. Maliki threatened to only heighten the tensions surrounding the already highly charged case. His government also released the woman’s name, which is not being published by The New York Times.

Sunni politicians rushed to her defense, accusing the government of revealing its true sectarian bias.

The case “should not be dealt with on a sectarian basis,” said Saleem Abdullah, a spokesman for the Tawafiq bloc of Sunni parties, which helped the woman come forward. “She is a sister for all Iraqis.”

He went on to say the government’s handling of the issue could undermine its credibility in directing the security crackdown.

With fears of violence pervasive throughout the country, many Iraqis stay inside their homes whenever they can. Satellite television is their connection to the outside world and, just as often, their own country. On the two most prominent channels, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, they would have heard the woman telling her story over and over.

If she made up the story, it was an elaborate piece of propaganda and the contradictory statements by the Iraqi government only added to its power.

The woman was lying on a bed as she was interviewed, a blue blanket pulled up nearly to her chin. She had a light pink scarf covering her hair and a black scarf covering her face.

She said she was taken from her house on Sunday morning by the National Police while her husband was out, something no one disputes. The officers, she said, were looking for weapons but when they arrived at the police garrison, they accused her of cooking for Sunni insurgents.

It was at the garrison that she says the first officer raped her, covering her mouth to muffle her screams. Others were in the room at the time.

“I begged one of them to get me out,” she said. “He said, ‘No, no. I will after you give me one thing.’ ” She asked what that was, and he told her he wanted to “get close to me.” She said she was led into a small room with a bed and a machine gun against the wall. Another officer came in and told the first man to leave. “Leave her to me,” the man said, according to her account.

“I swear on the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad, I am not that kind of woman,” she said she told the officer. He repeated her words scornfully and beat her with a black water hose, she said.

“If we want something, we will take; and things we don’t want, we will kill,” the woman said she was told.

She said that the attack was videotaped and that she was told she would be killed if she told anyone about it.

A nurse who said she treated the woman after the attack said that she saw signs of sexual and physical assault. The woman, according to the nurse, could identify one of her attackers because he was not wearing a mask, as were the others, and could identify a second attacker by a mark on his genitals.

The nurse would speak only on the condition of anonymity because she feared that Shiite militiamen would kill her for speaking out. The nurse said she was also wanted by the authorities, who believed the clinic she works at was used by insurgents.

She said the clinic was simply for Sunnis in the Amil neighborhood who were too afraid to the visit the Shiite-run hospital.

In Amil, which has been almost totally cleared of Sunnis, people were outraged, but not surprised. The woman’s charges seemed to confirm their worst fears that the security forces were little better than militias in uniform.

A spokeswoman for the American military here in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, confirmed that the woman had been detained by the Iraqi National Police on Sunday morning, but said that everything that happened after that was under investigation.

But a senior Iraqi official, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be seen as critical of the Americans, said that he had alerted the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, on the day the woman made her allegations, cautioning him that if the case was not handled delicately, it could further inflame sectarian passions.

A spokesman for Mr. Khalilzad could not be reached.

The sectarian tensions further complicated an already delicate topic in Iraqi society.

The most high-profile rape cases since the American invasion four years ago have involved charges against American soldiers. And even in those cases, it was left to the relatives to speak publicly. Iraqis said they could not remember the case of a rape victim going on television.

Sabah Salem, a professor at the Baghdad University College of Law, said that while men were occasionally charged with rape in Iraq and punished, many cases went unreported.

“Rape cases in Iraq are viewed as a shameful thing to any woman regardless of the fact that she is the victim,” he said in an interview.

”Iraq: Local NGO warns of rising cases of sexual abuse,” Women in the Middle East, No. 44, July and August 2006.

There has been a massive increase in reported cases of sexual abuse in Iraq since the days of Saddam Hussein's regime, according to the Women's Rights Association (WRA), a local NGO. The WRA recently conducted an in-depth study into the sexual abuse of women after receiving continued allegations of such maltreatment since December 2005.

While fewer than five cases were reported per year in the Hussein's era, nearly 60 women have been raped in Baghdad since February, while another 80 were abused in other ways.

Activists say the main reasons for the increase is the marginalization of the population, lack of security and the negative psychological effects associated with war. Women of all ages face abuse, while there are also cases of men and boys being raped by unidentified gangs.

The Ministry of Interior has issued notices warning women not to go out alone:

“This is a Muslim county and any attack on a woman's modesty is also an attack on our religious beliefs," said Senior Ministry official, Salah Ali. "These gangs will pay for the pain they've caused." Ali added that several rape cases were currently being investigated and urged women to report any abuse.

In Mosques, both Sunni and Shi'ite leaders have used their weekly sermons to spread awareness of this issue and have advised their largely male congregations to keep women safe at home rather than allowing them go out to work.

”These incidents of abuse just prove what we have been saying for so long," said Sheikh Salah Muzidin, an Imam at a central Mosque in Baghdad:

"That it is the Islamic duty of women to stay in their homes, looking after their children and husbands rather than searching for work especially with the current lack of security in the country.”

Marie-Laure Colson, “ Iraqi Women Have Lost the Post-War. Rapes, Sequestrations, and a Return to the Veil Develop,” La Liberation, 2 September 2003.

"The Islamist extremist groups are here to stay. Women take the veil as the price for tranquility." - Yanar Mohammed, Organization for the Freedom of Women in Iraq.

BAGHDAD. In the street one sees only them. Head-bare women are so rare they're called "Christians" even if they're not. At the end of the afternoon when the temperature drops to a tolerable level and families do their shopping, feminine hair is veiled in a scarf that uncovers a few strands, in a hijab, or in an abaya, the black cape that uncovers nothing but the face.

Fear of Violence, Fear of Insult

"Almost all my colleagues have changed their behavior", says Dr. Enas Al-Hamdani, one of the officials of the Al-alwaya Hospital. "Those who have never worn the veil put it on to avoid problems. They don't wear make-up any more, or jewelry." She herself is coiffed with a light scarf. She doesn't drive anymore. Either her husband or her bodyguard, the new accessory for the comfortable classes, accompanies her from the hospital to her clinic.

Drawn Curtains

Women who don't work live with their curtains drawn; their doors open to pale faces and dark-circled eyes. "Fear prevents us from going out", whispers Virgin. She continues to make pastries, but entertains no longer since Saddam's fall, hangs around the house in Bermuda shorts and flip flops. Her neighbors have rejoined their son in the United States. The daughter of her neighbor from across the street is in bed, in shock since some men tried to drag her into their car by force. Virgin doesn't understand the world that surrounds her anymore: "Those kinds of stories were rare under the old regime. Today, anything can happen. Listen, two weeks ago a family was coming home on foot. Armed criminals stopped their car, threatened the father, then raped the mother and the daughter in front of him. All the women say the same thing: we mustn't go out. Even my little daughter, I won't let her past the threshold."

Security has become an obsession in Baghdad. In this chaotic parenthesis the capital is experiencing under American tutelage, women feel particularly vulnerable. According to a Human Rights Watch report published in mid-July, there were at least 25 rapes and kidnappings of women between the end of May and the end of June in Baghdad. Before the war, the police recorded one case every three months on average. "Since the beginning of the war, more than 400 women have been raped, kidnapped, and sometimes even sold," asserts Yanar Mohammed, of the Organization for the Freedom of Women in Iraq. "Family and clan ties have become so suffocating, they prefer to hide or disappear."

The least incident takes on dramatic proportions, even in the most open families. Sawsan, in trousers with her hair up, left the medical office where she works, when three men opened the door to her car: "They insulted me. I wept, certain that they were going to carry me off. Fortunately, a friend arrived. I begged him not to talk about it; otherwise my brother would keep me from going out." In Baghdad, "many women prefer to give up working" contends Human Rights Watch. The home is no longer a refuge: "Men are unemployed: they live as recluses, frustrated, and domestic violence is on the rise", declares Basma al-Khateb of Unifem, a United Nations agency. "Saddam is no longer here, but he lives on in men's heads", sighs a nurse.

Violent Crime

Rapes were first attributed to settling of accounts, revenge against families from the fallen regime. Four months after the end of operations, no one speaks of anything but violent crime: "Armed men want to steal a car, they make the man get out, and keep the woman, whom they'll rape, kidnap for ransom, or sell to other criminals", summarizes a police officer who has received thirty complaints of this nature since Saddam's fall. Enas Al-Hamdani avers that the incidence of rape is declining, even though the fear for tomorrow is there, heightened by the emergence of Islamic radicals on the political scene.

The Christian Virgin expects to wear the long voluminous skirts of Muslim women. "Women are convinced they'll take over," says Yanar Mohammed. "Islamist extremist groups are here to stay. Women put on the veil as the price for their tranquility. In these temperatures, it's a real punishment. All the more so as, in Baghdad, women enjoyed a certain freedom. We had, in that regard, the most advanced Constitution in the Arab world, even if it wasn't always applied." The first Arab women to be ambassadors, doctors, military or high officials were Iraqis; however appeals to Saddam from Muslim dignitaries in the nineties obscured their status. Women under 45 years old found themselves forbidden from traveling without the "protection" of a male relative. Polygamy was encouraged to "help" the war widows. That was also an era of honor crimes and of decapitations for women accused of prostitution.

The hard years of the embargo, the propaganda of the former regime, and religious restoration have isolated women more effectively than abayas. There's nothing unusual in Iraq today about repeating self-contradictory rumors. For example, there are three young women attorneys, trained at Baghdad University, who wear the hijab, and who assure you that they exercise their profession thanks to Saddam and contrary to the advice of the UN. They assert that they want to become judges, yet nevertheless approve the religious fatwas against the coalition's attempt to name a woman judge in Nadjaf. "In a general way, our society is not much interested in the question of sexual equality," states Basma al-Khateb, "and women, myself first of all, don't know their rights."

Islands of Militancy

Today one finds little islands of militancy for the equality of women among Iraqis returned from exile. At the time she was putting together the team for her paper in Baghdad, KaﳠJewad, after thirty years in France, took care to engage as many men as women, including young Muslim women dressed in western style, who don't hesitate to break off an engagement with a fiancé who tries to impose the veil on them.

The writer Jabbar Yassin Hussin, back in the country after a twenty-seven year exile, is optimistic: "my sister, who wore a miniskirt in the seventies, put on a veil during the Saddam years. The veil was a sort of consolation for her, practically a sign of mourning. Since I've been back, she's taken it off." He's one of those who believe that women's physical and psychic imprisonment is temporary: "Iraq will modernize itself. We're still in the provisional. When a government, an administration, are in place, the veils will end up in shreds." In the meantime, the first post-Saddam government counts only one woman among the twenty-five ministers.

Italy

"Italian Supreme Court: Sex Abuse of Non-Virgins a Less Severe Crime," Feminist Daily News Wire, 24 February 2006.

In a decision condemned by women's groups, Italian MPs, and UNICEF, Italy's Supreme Court ruled last week that sexual abuse is less serious if the victim is not a virgin. The court ruled in favor of a middle-aged man who forced his 14-year-old stepdaughter to have oral sex with him, a crime for which he was sentenced to three years and four months in jail. The man appealed the decision, arguing that he should have a lighter sentence because the girl had had prior sexual experience, according to Reuters. The court agreed, reports the Italian news agency ANSA, ruling that the psychological damage of sexual abuse was less serious for the girl because her previous sexual activity made her "personality…much more developed than one would normally expect in a girl her age."

The decision shocked the country. "I feel like I'd been kicked in the stomach, as if we'd gone back 50 years," said Maria Gabriella Carnieri, the head of the 'Telefono Rosa,' a helpline for sexually abused women, reports ANSA. Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, called it a "shameful, devastating ruling," and said that "the real problem is that there are no women on the supreme court," Reuters reports.

The Italian court has issued several other controversial decisions in recent history, according to ANSA. In one case, the court ruled that a woman was not raped because she was wearing jeans that were too tight to have been removed without her help. In another ruling, judges said a "sudden and isolated" pat on a woman employee's behind in the workplace was legally permissible.

Kenya

"Kenya Toughens Law on Sexual Predators," Feminist Daily News Wire, 24 July 2006.

A new law in Kenya has created stricter punishments for rapists and sexual predators, but has failed to criminalize marital rape and female genital mutilation. The bill, which President Mwai Kibaki approved on July 14, was the first legal recognition of many sex crimes, including gang rape, sexual harassment, and child trafficking. The legislation also outlaws the deliberate transmission of the HIV virus.

The bill comes as a reaction to the rising number of rapes and sexual assaults committed in Kenya. While it is estimated that women are raped every half hour in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, Kenya's legal code on sexual crimes has not been significantly changed since 1930.

One of the most contentious issues is a provision in the law that imposes the same sentence on rapists and those who falsely accuse someone of rape. This clause may "deter women from coming forward [and has] shifted the burden of proof in rape cases from the accuser to the accused," according to a statement from the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General. Kenyan women's rights activists are especially angered by this provision of the legislation. Says Anne Njogu, director of the Centre for Women's Rights Education and Awareness, according to allAfrica.com, "It is the same chauvinistic, paternalistic, very, very parochial attitudes towards women."

Many are skeptical about how effective this new legislation will be in combating the rising incidences of rape. "For many rural women, it will take much more than a new law to change deeply entrenched traditions, where culturally, women have little power," said Jack Nyagaya, a counselor who deals with cases of rape, according to allAfica.com.

"Women Protest Male MP's Trivialization of Rape in Kenya," Feminist Daily News Wire, 28 April 2006.

When women in Kenya say 'no' to sex they really mean 'yes' - according to Paddy Ahenda, a male Kenyan member of parliament (MP), whose statements this week during a parliamentary debate prompted 12 of the 18 women MPs in the room to walk out in spontaneous protest. "This is a nation that should be in shame because its leaders are laughing at offenses committed against women and children," said Kenya National Commission on Human Rights official Catherine Mumma, the BBC News reported.

The parliament was discussing a new Sex Offenses Bill that seeks harsher penalties for rape, and better medical care for victims, reports the East African Standard. Opponents of the comprehensive bill, mostly male, argue that the bill’s attempt to raise the marriage age to 18 and criminalize unwanted advances conflicts with custom, according to the Standard.

During the debate a group of about 200 women wearing red shirts that read "Support the Sexual Offenses Bill" marched towards the Parliament but were blocked by police, reports the Standard. Although they did not reach the parliament building, the women held a sit-in for several hours that partially closed down a major thoroughfare.

Liberia

”Rectifying Sexual Violence Still a Major Concern in Liberia,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 23 October 2006.

Despite a major anti-rape law implemented in Liberia early this year, a United Nations report found that progress has been slow in abolishing sexual and gender-based violence due to flaws in the judicial system. The Rape Amendment Act, implemented when Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf came into office January 2006, strengthened consent laws, redefined rape as a felony, and imposed a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for first-degree rape. A human rights report issued by the United Nations Missions in Liberia (UNMIL), however, found that only a fraction of cases are actually heard, some suspects are being released without facing trial, and many cases are inefficiently investigated.

According to the report, "rape suspects are regularly released on bail even when there is significant evidence indicating guilt" and as of July 2006, "only one accused had been convicted of an offense under the Act since it came into force six months ago."

President Johnson-Sirleaf is now working with UNMIL and the Government of Liberia Rule of Law Task Force to ensure that the laws mandating fundamental rights for women and children are being upheld.

Mauritius

Nita Bhalla, ”Speaking out on rape in Mauritius,” BBC News, 26 Sept. 2005.

Sandra O'Reilly was the victim of two separate gang rapes in one night in July 2002.

Now, her courage to speak out about the brutal attacks is helping to give a voice to others in Mauritius, a country where conservative cultural barriers often force rape victims to remain silent about their ordeals.

Raped first by two men who broke into her house while she was sleeping, she sought help from two passers-by, who instead of taking her to the police, took her into the sugar fields and raped her repeatedly.

But unlike many rape victims on the Indian Ocean island, Sandra refused to keep quiet, even when those closest to her refused to believe her shocking story.

"It was around midnight when the two men broke into my house. They bound my hands and both raped me at knife-point," says Sandra, 35.

Abducted

The men then dragged her into a car and kidnapped her, saying they were going to kill her.

But shortly after, the vehicle broke down on a main road and they abandoned her.

"I managed to untie myself and stopped a passing car. The two men in the car said they would help me and take me to a police station," says Sandra.

But the so-called good Samaritans drove to nearby sugar plantations and also sexually abused her.

"I felt like an animal as they both took turns to rape me again and again.

"Even though they were tired, they kept trying to do it," she says. "My body and soul died that night."

"It wasn't easy to bring the rapists to justice, but I knew that it was important not only for me, but for all women," says Sandra, a softly spoken businesswoman and mother of three.

"Initially, the police didn't believe me, the media wrote awful things about me, and even some people whom I am close to questioned my story, but I knew that I had to keep fighting for justice," she adds.

Taboo

Leading marches and protests in her fight for justice against her rapists, Sandra has used her own story to speak out in an effort to raise the awareness of Mauritians about the sexual aggression against women.

While the four men who raped her were eventually arrested and jailed last year, Sandra says her fight to break the taboo of talking about rape will go on.

Mauritius, located off the south-east coast of Africa, is famous for its palm-fringed white beaches and turquoise waters.

More than 700,000 tourists flock to the tiny island every year, but even on this paradise island, rape is a reality.

According to police statistics, there were 27 reported rapes in 2000, compared with 36 in 2004.

But women's groups say rape cases are grossly under-reported, and official figures represent only a fraction of the truth.

"We live in a very conservative culture here in Mauritius where often victims who are raped by family members are forced to keep silent, either because no-one will believe them or because they will be outcasts," says Sandra.

"Many feel ashamed and humiliated, and some even are made to believe it is their fault," she adds.

"This needs to change and that can only happen through education - educating men that they cannot rape their wives, and educating women that they should not accept rape as a part of life."

With local elections due on 2 October, Sandra has now decided to stand as a candidate for the municipality of Curepipe.

"I am not a politician," she says. "But I believe that if I am elected I can do more for women. They should know their rights and understand that they are equal to men."

Malaysia

“Malaysian state passes Islamic law,” BBC News, 8 July 2002.

A state government in Malaysia has approved a bill to bring in Islamic criminal laws, including death by stoning for adultery and cutting off hands and feet for theft.

The bill on hudud law - the Islamic penal code - was proposed by the government of Terengganu, a rural state in the north-east run by Islamic party PAS. …

Women's groups have been particularly angered as the bill states that four male Muslim witnesses are needed to prove a rape.

If they cannot back up their claims they can be charged with slander, which is punished by whipping.

Sodomy and adultery is punishable by death by stoning, while Muslims who consume alcohol can be whipped up to 80 times.

Mexico

”Mexico Compensates Rape Victim for Denying Her Right to an Abortion,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 15 March 2006.

Nearly seven years after Paulina Ramirez became pregnant from a rape attack in her home by a heroin addict, the Mexican government has agreed to pay her reparations for forcing her to carry the pregnancy to term. Marta Lamas, founder of the Reproductive Choice Information Group, declared to the Times, “This is a triumph for all women. After six years, the government has finally acknowledged that it denied this young woman her rights.”

Abortion is legal in Mexico in cases of rape or where the woman’s life is endangered. When Ramirez was raped at the age of 13, she and her mother decided to terminate the resulting pregnancy, but officials continually delayed the procedure, forcing her to carry the pregnancy to term. According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, rape victims in Mexico often face hostile officials who actively prevent women from accessing legal abortion services.

In what Luisa Cabal, director of the Center for Reproductive Rights’ International Legal Program, called “the most important legal victory for women in Mexico in a decade,” the state will reimburse roughly $40,000 in medical and legal fees, as well as provide free public education for Ramirez’s six-year-old son, according to the Times. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Silvia Resendiz, a member of the women’s rights group Alaide Foppa, which was involved with the case, stated that the government will “modify laws and regulations so that the Paulina case is not repeated.”

Lorraine Orlandi, “Mexico Rape Victims Often Denied Right to Abortion,” Reuters, 7 March 2006.

MEXICO CITY – When Sandra Rodriguez, a mentally handicapped live-in maid, was raped by her boss and left pregnant in 2002, Mexican courts stopped her from having an abortion although it was her legal right.

Rodriguez, 30, had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, court-ordered evaluations showed, but Guanajuato state prosecutors questioned whether she had been raped or consented to sex. She gave birth to a girl who was put up for adoption.

Prosecutors later agreed she was raped and admitted local officials had acted irresponsibly in blocking her abortion.

International and Mexican rights groups say she was one of an untold number of rape victims across Mexico who are routinely prevented from having legal abortions.

“What's presumed here is the guilt of the rape victim,” said Marianne Mollmann of Human Rights Watch. “It's the victim that's presumed to be lying, to have wanted the rape.”

A report by Human Rights Watch to be released later on Tuesday details how courts, medical workers and others systematically break Mexican law allowing abortion in rape cases.

Largely Catholic Mexico bans abortion in most cases, but it is legal if the mother becomes pregnant through rape. Still, many public officials ignore that right and even manipulate victims to waive it, activists and federal health workers say.

The issue has proven uncomfortable for President Vicente Fox, a conservative Catholic who took office in 2000 and whose term has been punctuated by controversy over abortion and reproductive rights.

A firestorm erupted during his election campaign over the case of Paulina Ramirez, who had been raped at 13 by two men in her family's home and left pregnant in 1999. Her story drew international attention and pitted Fox's conservative party against rights activists.

Ramirez said health officials in northern Baja California state, then controlled by Fox's party, along with Catholic clergy, anti-abortion activists and others pressured her into forgoing an abortion. She is raising the son born in 2000.

“I pass the time working, my mother helps care for him,” said Ramirez, now 20. She would like to return to school and perhaps study law but needs her factory job to pay the bills.

PAULINA NOT ALONE

Ramirez sought government reparations and a legal settlement in her case could come this week.

“Our report shows that Paulina wasn't the only woman, that every year more than 100 women and girls are in the same situation,” Mollmann said. “It seems likely that the settlement shows that her rights were infringed and the violations she suffered merit reparations. It would be a precedent.”

Mexican law often works against victims. If the rapist was a father, brother, uncle or other relative, the victim may be legally barred from having an abortion.

Many states codify incest as consensual sex, including with girls 12 or younger. That means the victim has no right to an abortion and could end up being charged with incest unless she proves she did not consent.

Until November it was not a crime for a man to rape his wife. Surveys show that 3.5 percent of Mexican women have been raped and 7 percent sexually assaulted, said Dr. Patricia Uribe, a reproductive health expert in the Health Ministry.

“For the first time the dimension of the problem in Mexico is being documented, violence against women is frequent,” she said. “We have a lot to do to inform people of their options.”

Pakistan

”Pakistan's Lower House Amends Rape Laws Punitive to Victims,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 16 November 2006.

Pakistan's lower house of parliament approved changes to the country's punitive rape laws yesterday. Currently, rape in Pakistan is tried under Islamic law outlined in the Hudood Ordinances. A rape victim must produce four male witnesses to the crime, and if she is unable to prove her case, she is charged with adultery, which is punishable by death or flogging. The new legislation, called the Women’s Protection bill, would allow a judge to decide whether to try rape cases under the Hudood Ordinances or Pakistan’s civil code, and it permits the use of forensic and circumstantial evidence in determining guilt, the New York Times reports. The amendments also outlaw sex with girls under 16 and reduce the sentence for consensual sex outside of marriage from death or flogging to five years in jail or a 10,000 rupees ($165) fine.

The changes must still be approved by the Senate, which is expected, and by President General Pervez Musharraf. In September, similar legislation was proposed, but never approved by the government. President Musharraf seems supportive of the legislation, saying, "I have taken a firm decision to change these unjust rape laws as it was necessary to amend them to protect women," according to AP. The new proposals, however, have created a large schism within the legislature. According to the New York Times, Islamic fundamentalists boycotted the vote, and some have threatened to resign from parliament if the bill takes effect.

Local and international activists have been calling for a reform of Pakistan’s rape laws, especially after the 2002 gang-rape of Mukhtar Mai. A tribal council in a rural area of Pakistan ordered the gang rape of Mai after she approached the council in hopes of settling a dispute involving the kidnapping of her younger brother and his affair with a woman of a higher caste. Mai has become a women’s rights activist, posting a blog and establishing two schools, in addition to speaking out about her experiences in Pakistan.

”Islamists debate rape law moves,” BBC News, 16 Nov. 2006.

Pakistan's six-party opposition Islamic alliance is threatening a campaign of countrywide protests over amendments to the country's strict rape laws.

The MMA alliance says its members will resign from national and provincial assemblies after MPs voted that rape should no longer fall under Sharia law.

President Pervez Musharraf in a television speech said the Islamists were isolated on the issue.

The Sharia laws have been widely criticised by human rights groups.

The lower house of the parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to amend the controversial Sharia law that dates back to 1979.

Until now, rape cases were dealt with in Sharia courts. Victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime - if not, they faced prosecution for adultery.

'US pressure'

Under the amended law, the civil courts will be able to try rape cases according to the British-influenced penal code.

The MMA parties boycotted the vote, saying the bill encouraged "free sex".

They also accuse President Musharraf of pleasing foreign powers.

In its Thursday meeting in Islamabad, the MMA's supreme council decided that all the alliance's members would resign from the national parliament and provincial assemblies.

Senior MMA leader Liaquat Baloch said this would take place after further meetings on 6 and 7 December.

"They have given free leave to adulterers and fornicators, and those who would spread evil in society," he said.

The MMA found themselves politically isolated by the vote.

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) voted for the amendment.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), led by another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, abstained, although it had indicated earlier that it would support the MMA on the issue.

Both the leaders are bitterly opposed to President Musharraf's government and the military's role in politics.

The two parties are partners in the opposition Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) that seeks to oust the president.

Re-alignment

The ARD and MMA have occasionally joined forces in anti-government campaigns, and both have been working towards a grand anti-Pervez Musharraf alliance.

But the BBC's M Ilyas Khan says the amendments to the rape laws could drive a wedge between the opposition forces.

Analysts now indicate a re-alignment of political forces ahead of the national elections, expected towards the end of 2007.

Some say the situation, which seemed to be leading to a face-off between the military and the civilian leadership, may now transform into one that pits the Islamists on one side, faced up against the secular political parties and President Musharraf, who argues for a goal of moderate Islam.

But others discount chances of political collaboration between Gen Musharraf and Ms Bhutto.

Attempts to pass a new bill failed in September in the face of angry opposition from the Islamists as well as some sections of Gen Musharraf's political allies.

Subdued

The version of the Women's Protection Bill put before legislators then caused such an outcry that parliament was prorogued.

But the MMA's top leader in parliament, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, was rather subdued in his opposition of the proposed legislation when it was tabled on Wednesday, media reports said.

A hardline MMA leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, did not attend the session at all.

Under the amended bill, rape cases will be tried in civil courts

Adultery, which has always been illegal, will still be tried by both civil and Sharia courts, depending on which system the complainant chooses.

Religious parties called the new legislation "a harbinger of lewdness and indecency in the country", and against the strictures of the Koran and Sharia law.

The government has said that some of the MMA's proposals were included in the bill. The MMA disputes this.

”Rights Groups: Pakistani Bill on Rape Partial Relief for Women,” 16 Nov. 2006, downloaded from http://newsfeedresearcher.com/rss_w/idw2006.11.16.17.47.02.jsp#hdng0, 30 Nov. 2006.

The new legislation, enacted after a bitter battle between moderates and hardline Islamic fundamentalists, gives judges discretion to try rape cases in a criminal rather than Islamic court, where women have to present at least four male witnesses for a conviction. The amendments won cautious support from human rights activists, but they urged the Government to take bolder steps and scrap the law, known as the Hudood Ordinance. [1] Pakistan's late military dictator, Gen. Zia ul-Haq, introduced the laws, known as the Hudood Ordinance, in 1979 to appease Islamic fundamentalist groups opposed to the secularization of Pakistani society. Human rights activists and moderates have long condemned the laws for punishing ' instead of protecting ' rape victims by placing the burden of proof on them and providing safeguards for their attackers, such as requiring four eyewitnesses to bring rape charges.[2]

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan 's lower house of Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill giving greater rights to women by amending the country's strict Islamic laws on rape, but human rights groups called for the laws to be scrapped altogether. Key changes include dropping punishments of death or flogging for those convicted of having consensual sex outside marriage, said a parliamentary official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.[3] Hina Jillani, a leading female Pakistani human rights activist, praised the government for taking practical steps to amend the rape laws, but demanded more legislation to protect women's rights. "The government has made some positive changes by passing this bill, but it does not meet our demands," said Jillani, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.[4]

The National Assembly Wednesday passed the Women's Protection Bill, which seeks to reform Pakistan's rape laws. According to the Hudood Ordinances, women victims of rape were required to produce four male witnesses to the offence, failing which they were imprisoned and charged with adultery.[5] In September, the party backed by Musharraf, the Pakistan Muslim League, reached an agreement with the moderate opposition Pakistan Peoples Party to make procedural changes to the Hudood Ordinances that would permit rape victims to file charges under the criminal law instead of religious law, which requires producing four male witnesses to guarantee proving rape.[6]

Under the controversial Hudood Ordinance, brought in under Gen Zia-ul-Haq from 1979, a rape victim had to provide four male eyewitnesses to the crime. Failure to do so would open the way to her being charged with adultery. The punishment for adultery is lashings and stoning according to traditional Islamic law, although such punishments were never implemented in Pakistan.[7] The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated in 2002 that a woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours. The Hudood Ordinances were adopted in 1979, when a clutch of Islamic clerics argued that such austere laws stem from interpretations of divine precepts in the Koran that adjudicate vice and virtue-related offenses, including rape and adultery.[8]

The main amendment approved on Wednesday takes rape out of the sphere of religious law and puts it under the penal code. "As an interim measure, the separation of rape from adultery is a welcome step but we don't consider this the end of the road," said veteran women's rights activist Tahira Abdullah. "Our struggle continues and we will fight until the end of the Hudood Ordinances," she said.[9]

Rights activists and the U.S. and its allies had been pressuring President Pervez Musharraf's government to reform, if not revoke, the Islamic Hudood laws that former military dictator Zia ul-Haq had decreed in 1979 which dealt with sex crimes and murders and were considered oppressive to women.[10] President Gen. Pervez Musharraf praised lawmakers for passage and urged the government-controlled Senate to approve the amendments within days. He also criticized Islamic fundamentalists for their "unnecessary" opposition and claims that his government was acting against Islam. "I have taken a firm decision to change these unjust rape laws as it was necessary to amend them to protect women," Musharraf said in a televised address.[2] Islamic fundamentalist members of Parliament boycotted the vote after speaking against the changes, which one said would transform Pakistan into a free-sex society. The Women's Protection Bill was seen as a barometer of President Pervez Musharraf's commitment to his vision of "enlightened moderation". It was also considered a major battle in a struggle between progressive forces and religious conservatives over the Muslim nation's course.[11] "The movement we initiated to empower and protect women in 2004 will continue," Musharraf said in a television address to the nation on Wednesday. He defended the Women's Protection Bill against criticism from the Islamists, saying it was needed to reform Pakistan's "cruel rape laws" that was weighed heavily against women.[5] The Bill, which proposes amendments to the Hudood laws was tabled in the last session but shelved after protests from the MMA. Analysts say if the Musharraf regime is sincere about having the Women's Protection Bill passed, it should have no qualms after the MMA pushed through the Hasba Bill despite the federal government's opposition to it.[12] Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman led the onslaught by condemning the Women's Protection Bill as "a conspiracy to turn our Islamic country into a free-sex zone." His six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Islamic alliance, which rules two of the country's four provinces, has threatened its members would resign their seats in the assembly if the bill was passed without the amendments they seek.[10]

The amendments were passed by a majority of the 342-member assembly, including Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who said it marked "a historic day" for the country. "Nothing is against Islam in this bill," Aziz said, adding that the amendments were made in consultation with Islamic scholars, lawmakers and human rights activists.[4] The amendment bill must be approved by the upper house of parliament before it becomes law. Human rights campaigners have long pressed for total repeal of the Islamic laws, but have nevertheless welcomed moves to amend them.[13] Human Rights Watch said it was disappointed that the Pakistani government did not repeal the contentious law, which it claimed failed to recognise marital rape. Activists took their protest on to the streets - angry that the bill amending strict Islamic laws did not go far enough.[14]

Under a compromise, a judge would have the choice to conduct a rape trial under Islamic law if four witnesses are available, or under secular law if not. Rape is punishable by death under both Islamic and secular laws in Pakistan. "Women will not get any rights because of this bill. It will promote obscenity," said Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a lawmaker from a coalition of hardline Islamic groups.[15] In a compromise, the government proposed the clause allowing a judge to choose whether to try the case in a criminal court. Strict Islamic laws dictate that a woman who claims rape must produce four witnesses in court, making a trial of the alleged rapist almost impossible because such attacks rarely happen in public.Those who admit that sex took place outside of marriage but cannot prove it was rape risk being charged with adultery.[16]

Pakistan's lower house of parliament has approved a Bill to amend the country's strict laws on rape and adultery, in the face of widespread opposition from religious leaders who say that the change will promote "free sex".[17] Pakistan's parliament has voted to amend controversial laws on rape, removing it from the sole jurisdiction of religious Sharia courts and placing it under the civil penal code. The change makes it easier for victims of rape to prosecute their attackers and has been praised by the Pakistani president.[18]

Musharraf, who urged the Senate to pass the law within days, has been trying to soften Pakistan's hard-line Islamic image and appease moderates and human rights groups who maintain the laws made it difficult to protect victims of rape.[14] Human Rights Watch has condemned the laws for making rape victims liable to prosecution and leading to thousands of women being imprisoned for crimes seen as tarnishing the honor of the family.[16]

Hina Jillani, a leading female Pakistani human rights activist, praised the government for taking steps to amend the laws, but demanded more legislation to protect women's rights.[2] The amendments ' which still must be approved by the Senate ' enraged Islamic fundamentalists, but won cautious support from human rights activists, who wanted the controversial laws scrapped altogether.[2]

Pakistan's six-party opposition Islamic alliance is threatening a campaign of countrywide protests over amendments to the country's strict rape laws. The MMA alliance says its members will resign from national and provincial assemblies after MPs voted that rape should no longer fall under Sharia law.[19] Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman led the onslaught by condemning the Bill as a conspiracy to turn an Islamic country into a free-sex zone. He further threatened that the MMA parliamentarians could resign their seats if the Bill was passed by the upper house of the parliament without the amendments they seek.[20]

The form in which the bill has been passed by the National Assembly is certainly not what women's rights groups were campaigning for, or what opposition MNAs like Sherry Rehman or even some of government backbenchers like M.P. Bhandara and Kashmala Tariq were aiming for. Many of them had clearly called for the complete abolition of the discriminatory ordinances enforced by the late military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq to push the country towards a theocratic state.[21] ISLAMABAD: The new and amended version of the Women's Protection Bill passed on Wednesday may not be a major landmark in the campaign against the country's anti-women laws, particularly some of the controversial Hudood ordinances.[21] Criticising the proposed women's protection bill, HRW said it fails to address fundamental flaws of the Hudood Laws which criminalise sex outside marriage and do not recognise marital rape.[22] The Women's Protection Bill also reduces the punishment for people convicted of having consensual sex outside marriage, dropping the death penalty and flogging so that the crime will now be punishable by five years in jail or a 10,000-rupee fine.[17]

Attempts to pass a new bill failed in September in the face of angry opposition. The version of the Women's Protection Bill put before legislators then caused such an outcry that parliament was prorogued. It would have allowed alleged rapists to be tried under civil as well as Islamic law.[23] The Islamic code bans sex with girls before puberty. Opposition members of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's more liberal Pakistan People's Party supported the bill, even though they said it does not go far enough. "It's something that's partial. It's halfway," said Sherry Rehman, a senior member of the People's Party. "We would have liked to see a total repeal of these anti-women and discriminatory laws."[24] Musharraf has so far not accepted the conditions. PPP's vote for the bill reflect divisions between Bhutto and her ally and exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as his party Pakistan Muslim League-Q opposed the bill along with the MMA and abstained during the voting.[25]

The reform has been seen as a test of President Musharraf's stated commitment to a moderate form of Islam. "It is a historic bill because it will give rights to women and help end excesses against them," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told parliament after the vote.[23]

President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly stated that the country should to be a moderate Muslim nation that respects rights of women and religious minorities. Under the Hudood Ordinance, a woman who says she was raped must produce four witnesses to prove her claim in court, making punishment almost impossible because such attacks rarely happen in public.[15] The Hudood Ordinances, enacted by military ruler Zia ul-Haq in 1979, criminalize adultery and non-marital consensual sex. They also make a rape victim liable to prosecution for adultery if she cannot produce four male witnesses to the assault, an almost impossible burden of proof.[24] The bill seeks to amend the heavily criticised Hudood Ordinance laws which govern the punishment for rape and adultery.[7] The Bill, which would become a law once approved by the upper house of the parliament, actually amended the Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance, enforced in 1979 by the then military president General Zia.[20] "The Hudood Ordinance was devised by a highly qualified group of ulema, and is beyond question," she says, adding that five elected assemblies since Gen Zia's time have found the laws valid. She is convinced that the current legislation is part of an American agenda, and adds: "This is not the act of a sovereign parliament. It's a military dictatorship imposing its will on the people." A majority in the parliament evidently, however, does not share these views.[7] Pakistan's late military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, introduced the laws, known as the Hudood Ordinance, in 1979 to appease powerful Islamist political groups opposed to the secularisation of Pakistani society.[14]

ISLAMABAD - The story of an illiterate Pakistani village woman's fight to convict the men who raped her went on sale this month [for a history of the Mukhtar Mai case, see here], as the country's parliament braced for a debate over reforming Islamic laws governing the crime. Mukhtaran Mai became an icon for women's rights group worldwide because of her fight for justice in a male-dominated society, where the laws were stacked against her. [26] Under the amendments, the crime is now punishable by five years in jail or a 10,000 rupees fine, the official said. The parliament also gave judges the discretion to decide whether to try a rape case in a criminal or Islamic court, the latter requiring an alleged victim to present four witnesses.[27] After intense criticism by Islamic fundamentalists who claimed dropping the four witness demand was un-Islamic, the government in September floated a clause letting a judge decide whether the case should be tried by a criminal or Islamic court, where four witnesses are required.[14]

Discussion on the bill broke down in September after the government failed to win support from opposition Islamic groups, particularly for abolishing the need for four witnesses to a rape. [4] "We wanted a total repeal of the 1979 rape law, but the government has not done it," Hina Jillani, a leading Pakistani activist, told the Associated Press news agency. Conservative opposition politicians have said they will fight to make sure the bill does not pass the senate stage.[18] MMA chief and leader of the Opposition, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, warned that Pakistan would become a "rape zone" under the new law. He backed out from his earlier threat that the MMA lawmakers would resign to protest against the Bill.[5] With the passage of the Bill, the Government can claim a victory of sorts over Pakistan's religious orthodoxy. It comes two days after the MMA Government in the North-West Frontier Province adopted the Hasba law that seeks to enforce a strict morality in the name of religion through specially appointed ombudsmen.[28] While the MMA leaders accused the government of following western agenda to secularise Pakistan by amending the Zia era ordinance, the PPP maintained that the Bill was the first move to dismantle repressive religious structures brought in by General Zia.[20]

Enthused by the passage of a bill that seeks to protect women, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said his government would with progressive legislations to end other "cruel practices" against women.[5] The Government hastily withdrew the Bill saying it would reintroduce it after building a national consensus on it. This time, the Government, under pressure internationally to demonstrate commitment to President Pervez Musharraf's oft-repeated slogan of "enlightened moderation," seemed determined to get the Bill passed, with or without the MMA's co-operation. The MMA protested loudly but did not repeat its earlier threat of resignation.[28]

President Pervez Musharraf, who espouses a vision of "enlightened moderation", hailed the amendment that was passed after members of the Islamist alliance walked out of parliament. In a late-Wednesday address to the nation, Musharraf said moderates had to stand up to what he called Pakistan's extremists and reject them in elections next year. The Islamists did not renew a threat to resign from the national and provincial assemblies over the change, but said they were considering their response.[9]

PAKISTAN'S shameful mistreatment of rape victims was finally consigned to history last night after the National Assembly passed amendments making it easier for victims to prosecute their attackers.[1] The amendments were passed by a majority of the 342-member assembly. "We are determined to move on this process forward so that the laws in Pakistan are giving rights to women which they deserve and are in line with our faith and our religious beliefs," Aziz said.[14] Two months back, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League allowed itself to be persuaded into rejecting the Protection of Women Bill as approved by a parliamentary select committee in favour of a draft bill that incorporated amendments proposed by a nine-member panel of religious scholars.[29]

Pakistan's religious parties called the new legislation "a harbinger of lewdness and indecency in the country", and against the strictures of the Koran and Sharia law. They have threatened nationwide protests over the revised bill.[23] The legislation effectively shifts future rape cases out of Pakistan's religious courts and into the country's more moderate civil court system.[30] Now rape will be tried under civil law, the Pakistan Penal Code. Sex outside marriage, which has always been illegal, will still be tried by both civil and Sharia courts, depending on which system the complainant chooses, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says.[23] The bill also removed the right of police to detain people suspected of having sex outside of marriage, instead requiring a plaintiff to make an accusation in court.[16]

The passage of the Hasba Bill in the North-West Frontier Province has given it a new slogan to go back to the electorate in the name of religion. Some even say that its soft peddling on the women rights bill could be to avoid the repetition of the earlier move by the federal government to block the Hasba bill from becoming a law.[21] The passage of the women's rights bill by the National Assembly may have unfolded a new and perhaps a more treacherous round of politics in the coming weeks and months.[21] Mr Niazi's assertions cut no ice with MMA deputy parliamentary leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed who said the bill had been amended in accordance with the three proposals put forward by a nine-member panel of religious scholars. Sources told Dawn that the treasury benches would do their utmost to adopt the bill by Friday. They said that there would be fireworks in the National Assembly when the bill was tabled for discussion.[29]

The Bill will now be sent to the upper house of parliament, where reports predict it will most likely become law. The Bill is seen as a key indicator of President Musharraf's commitment to his proclaimed vision of "enlightened moderation" and is a marker in the long-standing battle between progressive forces and religious conservatives to set the Muslim nation's course. [17] President Gen. Pervez Musharraf praised lawmakers for passing the bill, which enraged Islamist lawmakers who stormed out of parliament in protest.[16]

President Pervez Musharraf applauded the changes, which must still be approved by the Senate, and said it was necessary to amend the "unjust rape laws" in order to protect women.[1] Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Wednesday that amendments to the country's contentious rape laws "will go a long way in alleviating the hardship of women."[14] The BBC's M Ilyas Khan says the amendments to the rape laws could drive a wedge between the opposition forces.[19]

Today's amendment removes that obligation, enabling cases to be tried under the civil penal code on the basis of forensic and circumstantial evidence, rather than the strict Islamic laws which currently deal with rape and adultery.[17] Sex outside marriage had always been an offence under the Islamic law on adultery, which still stands. That law sets a punishment of death by stoning for adultery, although that has seldom been invoked, let alone carried out.[9] Before the new law, extramarital sex was brought before Islamic law but rarely prosecuted. By placing extra- marital sex under the penal code on Wednesday, the government kowtowed to their demands once again, analysts say. That's because the Musharraf regime, finding itself politically isolated, looks increasingly to the MMA for support, observers say.[8]

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, led by another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, abstained, although it had indicated earlier that it would support the MMA on the issue. Both the leaders are bitterly opposed to President Musharraf's government and the military's role in politics.[19] The MMA parties boycotted the vote, saying the bill encouraged "free sex". They also accuse President Musharraf of pleasing foreign powers.[19] Taken together, the criminalization of extra-marital sex and the Hasba bill highlight why it is troubling for the ruling government to back the MMA, analysts say.[8]

The law will now be forwarded to the country's Senate, where the ruling party holds a commanding lead and is expected to pass the bill without major opposition.[30] The Bill was passed on Monday after the Opposition walked out of the Assembly following a heated debate during which it was referred to as "maulvi's martial law."[12]

Discussion on the bill broke down in September after the government failed to get the support of opposition Islamic groups.[16] Conservative Islamic lawmakers stormed out of parliament in protest Wednesday and have vowed to block the bill's passage in the Senate.[31] Islamist fundamentalists reacted furiously, storming out of parliament in protest and threatening to block the bill's passage in the Senate. Only 188 out of 342 legislators cast their ballots, which analysts said yesterday indicated both the strength of opposition among fundamentalists to the changes, and the fear among parliamentarians of being seen to go against their will.[1]

Islamist lawmakers walked out of parliament, boycotting the vote, after leader Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman told the assembly the change to the law would encourage free sex. "This is an attempt to create a free sex zone in Pakistan," he said. [13] Human Rights Watch, while welcoming the amendment as providing victims partial relief, said the new clause on extra-marital sex was a disappointment and a contravention of Pakistan's international obligations.[9] Ali Dayan Hasan, a South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the Pakistani government had "failed to remove provisions criminalizing adultery" but said it had provided "partial relief" to victims by repealing the death sentence. "The Pakistani government remains in violation of its international obligations on ending discrimination against women," Hasan told The Associated Press.[16]

The ordinances criminalise sex outside marriage, result in rape victims being accused of adultery, and are widely acknowledged as discriminatory against women. [32] If the accusations are found to be false, then the complainant will immediately have a case registered against him or her, with a punishment of 80 lashes. Observers and analysts feel that given that the writ of the law is hardly ever enforced, and then usually on the side of the powerful, it still remains to be seen how poor rural women such as gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai would benefit from the proposed new legislation.[7] The legislation, which has one more hurdle to clear, would overturn Pakistani laws that require women to produce four male witnesses to prove a rape case.[30] Under existing legislation, victims of rape are required to produce four male witnesses to the crime, making a trial of the alleged rapist almost impossible because such attacks rarely happen in public.[17]

The amendments quashed the death penalty for extramarital sex and revised a clause on making victims produce four witnesses to prove rape cases. [33]

In an apparent concession to conservatives, an amendment was introduced shortly before the vote setting down punishment of up to five years in prison for extra-marital sex, though sex outside marriage had always been an offence under laws on adultery.[13]

The government has not touched four other matters in the Hudood laws brought in by previous military ruler Zia Ul Haq and only made "easy" the rape law and adultery. He said the law on false accusation, prohibition, theft and lashes will remain part of the Hudood laws.[25] "We hope that the Pakistan government will rapidly move to address the outstanding issues in the Hudood laws sooner rather than later," the group said.[9]

While the government called the legislation "historic", the religious parties are calling it "un-Islamic" and "a secular conspiracy" against an Islamic Pakistan.[7] Pakistan's fulminating religious parties described the legislation as "a harbinger of lewdness and indecency" and protested that it went against the Koran and sharia law.[1]

Despite strong opposition from Islamists in parliament, Pakistan's lower house passed the landmark legislation late Wednesday.[30] The MMA's top leader in parliament, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, was rather subdued in his opposition of the proposed legislation when it was tabled on Wednesday, media reports said.[19]

The amendments were fiercely opposed by an alliance of Islamist parties, which make up the main opposition bloc in parliament. [13] Progressive forces must have an upper hand in the society. This will ensure the country's survival," he said thanking PPP and another opposition party Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party for supporting the amendments.[25]

More recently there were talks of a deadlock on issues ranging from Musharraf's uniform to the fate of corruption cases against Ms Bhutto. Even when the PPP-P has supported the bill to make its priority on the future politics of country clear, it has not closed down its option of returning to the rest of the opposition for a more formidable anti-Musharraf alliance, if the situation so demands.[21] President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly called for the country to be a moderate Muslim nation that respects the rights of women and religious minorities.[3] Liberal politicians and women's' rights activists have welcomed the reforms as progress - but say they do not go far enough. Most campaigners want nothing less than the total repeal of the Hudood Ordinance which covers much more than sexual morality but also matters such as drinking and theft.[7] Women rights activists chant anti-government slogans during a protest outside the Parliament building in Islamabad November 15, 2006.[9] Mr Haider says the "real test will come with enforcement". Imrana Khwaja, a lawyer and former women's rights activist says: "It's going to change things, but not a great deal." She says there are loopholes to be exploited.[7]

Human rights activists said this would have created confusion, allowing powerful religious lobbies to manipulate what is seen as a weak judicial system.[23]

The old laws forced women who had been raped to produce four male witnesses to prove it, or else possibly face punishment for adultery. [11] "Existing laws are correct and should be maintainedThe changes are not in line with Islamic teaching. "It will distort the image of Pakistani women internationally."[17] "I assure the entire nation that no Pakistani can ever think of enacting law that is repugnant to the holy Quran and the Sunnah. This law is fully in conjunction with the holy Quran and the Sunnah and there is no violation," he said adding the law on rape has been corrected and made just. Noting that women had to face problems under the previous law, he said "it was shameful to subject women to injustice and discrimination".[25]

The government has proposed that rape cases be tried under secular laws, dropping the requirement for four witnesses.[15] Under the amended law, the civil courts will be able to try rape cases according to the British-influenced penal code.[19] Islamists stormed out of the parliamentary session in protest at the changes, in particular giving judges the authority to try rape cases in criminal court, saying the amendments were un-Islamic.[16] Complainants will have to report rapes in district sessions courts rather than local police stations, which are open round the clock. While women will feel safer in the court, many in rural areas will have to travel miles to register their cases. They will not be able to do so during long hours when the court is closed - hours which could be crucial in gathering forensic or circumstantial evidence.[7] Now civil courts will be able to try rape cases, assuming the upper house and the president ratify the move.[23]

The bill stipulates that only an authorised court could accept signed statements of a person who makes a complaint of fornication as well as of two witnesses.[29] The PML of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was faced with a tough choice. When the bill was originally tabled some time back, one of the party leaders, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, had hinted that their party might side with the MMA. However, at the time of voting, the PML-N decided to abstain.[21] Copies of the draft bill distributed among legislators and newsmen on Tuesday indicate that the three MMA amendments have been finally accommodated.[29] The fact the MMA succeeded in stalling the bill for so long is registering as a subtle victory for religious forces.[8] Each time the bill came up for debate, a coalition of religious parties called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ama or United Action Front, cried foul and threatened to resign en masse from parliament.[8]

The government hopes passage of the new bill will allay concerns that fundamentalism is on the rise in Pakistan.[15]

Perhaps the boldest, and in some ways also the most controversial, move was that of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. It was not an easy decision for the party, which for the last many years had been campaigning for Gen Musharraf to step down.[21] Key changes included dropping punishments of the death penalty and flogging for people convicted of having consensual sex outside marriage, said a parliamentary official.[27] One of the amendments the MMA demands is to declare sex between consenting men and woman outside marriage lewd and unlawful.[10]

Amendments would also allow women charged with adultery to post bail, though it would leave many other discriminatory provisions in place.[6]

The new laws propose that all charges concerning rape and adultery will be heard by a sessions judge who will determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation. [7] As in rape cases, the complainant has to produce four witnesses to back up the accusation. "Rural communities always react strongly against adultery cases, and finding four witnesses to testify on the complainants' behalf from the community is not hard," she says. Another other factor is that reporting rape cases will now be much harder, most analysts believe.[7] Thousands of the rape victims had been being imprisoned in last 25 years for adultery, while the alleged rapists go free.[20]

"Existing laws are correct and should be maintained … The changes are not in line with Islamic teaching." [13] The change however met with strong opposition by politicians from conservative Islamic parties, who stormed out of the parliament chamber in protest.[18]

REFERENCES

1. Outdated rape laws rewritten | The World | The Australian
2. Pakistan moves to alter its hard-line rape laws | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
3. FOXNews.com - Pakistan Amends Rape Laws, Giving Women More Rights - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News
4. New Pakistani rape laws anger Islamists
5. Women empowerment will go on: Musharraf: South Asia : Hindustan Times.com
6. Reuters AlertNet - Pakistan: Reform Hudood Laws Now
7. BBC NEWS | South Asia | Strong feelings over Pakistan rape laws
8. Rape law reform roils Pakistan's Islamists | csmonitor.com
9. Scotsman.com News - Latest News - Rights activists welcome Pakistan rape law change
10. Islamist Legislators In Pakistan Oppose Women's Rights Bill - World News - Playfuls.com - Business & World
11. Pakistan Parlt approves rape law reforms. 16/11/2006. ABC News Online
12. The Hindu : International : Setback to Musharraf
13. ABC News: Pakistan Votes to Roll Back Islamic Law on Rape
14. Pak lawmakers amend rape laws - NDTV.com - News on Pak lawmakers amend rape laws
15. Star: Revised Pakistan rape law hope for victims
16. Pakistan's parliament approves amendments to controversial rape law - iht,asia,Pakistan Rape Law - Asia - Pacific - International Herald Tribune
17. Pakistan moves closer to amending strict rape laws - World - Times Online
18. Al Jazeera English - Central/S. Asia
19. BBC NEWS | South Asia | Islamists debate rape law moves
20. DNA - World - Pak amends anti-woman laws - Daily News & Analysis
21. [sic]
22. Zee News - Human rights watch asks Pak to amend `Hudood` laws
23. BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Pakistan votes to amend rape laws
24. globeandmail.com: Pakistani legislators amend rape laws
25. Zee News - "Amendments to rape laws would help defeat fundamentalists": Musharraf
26. Story of rape serves timely reminder to Pakistan - washingtonpost.com
27. Irish Examiner> Breaking News> Sport
28. The Hindu : International : Pakistan House amends rape law
29. MMA changes find way into women's rights bill -DAWN - Top Stories; November 15, 2006
30. VOA News - Pakistan's Lower House Passes Landmark Women's Rights Bill
31. VOA News - Rights Groups: Pakistani Bill on Rape Partial Relief for Women
32. The Hindu : International : Women's bill: pressure on Musharraf
33. Islamist lawmaker threatens to quit Pakistan parliament over rape law amendments - iht,asia,Pakistan Rape Law - Asia - Pacific - International Herald Tribune

Reuters, "Story of Rape Serves Timely Reminder to Pakistan," New York Times, 14 Nov. 2006.

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The story of an illiterate Pakistani village woman's fight to convict the men who raped her went on sale this month, as the country's parliament braced for a debate over reforming Islamic laws governing the crime.

Mukhtaran Mai became an icon for women's rights group worldwide because of her fight for justice in a male-dominated society, where the laws were stacked against her.

Outrage over her treatment gave momentum to efforts by progressive reformers in their long struggle against religious conservatives to make Pakistan a more moderate country.

Mai's ghost-written account ``In the Name of Honor'' tells how, in 2002, a village council ruled that the men of a powerful clan should gang-rape her in retribution for her 12-year-old brother's alleged sexual relations with one of their womenfolk.

Mai says her brother was also sodomised.

The barbaric punishment stems from tribal customs that pre-date Islam, and are perpetuated by feudalism.

Under Pakistan's parallel Islamic legal code, introduced in 1979 and known as the Hudood Ordinances, a rape victim is required to produce four male witnesses to prove she was raped, or face being jailed for having extra-marital sex.

``Unfortunately, the only eyewitnesses to both my brother's rape and mine are the criminals themselves,'' Mai says in her book, though almost the entire village of Meerwala, in Punjab province, was aware of what had happened, after she was shoved half-naked from the stable where she was assaulted by four men.

Later, sitting in a police station to lodge accusations, Mai speaks of a moment of self-realization.

``I don't count for more than a goat here, even if I haven't got a cord looped round my neck,'' she says, recalling the start of her long journey to becoming an activist seeking justice for victims of rape, acid attacks and other abuses.

Mai, who is due to leave for New York on Tuesday for the launch of her book, is still chasing justice for herself.

Embarrassed by the furor raised by media coverage of her ordeal, the government allowed the first trial to be conducted in an anti-terrorism court rather than an Islamic sharia court.

Six men involved in Mai's case were sentenced to death for rape or incitement, but five of them were freed by the Lahore High Court last year. Mai is now awaiting the Supreme Court's definitive ruling.

GOVERNMENT DITHERS

This week, the National Assembly is expected to re-open a debate over a Women's Protection Bill, that would put rape solely under the ambit of the civil penal code and allow convictions to be made on the basis of forensic and circumstantial evidence.

But fears linger that the government could duck the issue, even though support from the progressive opposition Pakistan People's Party would give it an easy majority, despite opposition from Islamist parties and conservatives among its own ranks.

``It is time for the government to stop dithering and honor its word,'' Ali Dayan Hasan, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said in a statement.

In September, the National Assembly adjourned after reaching an impasse over the bill, and the law minister said it would be taken up and presented unchanged in the next session.

The reform has President Pervez Musharraf's backing.

While Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup seven years ago, sees himself as a champion of the emancipation of women, progressives see him as a general with feet of clay.

``So far, he has been all talk and no action,'' said HRW's Hasan.

Carlotta Gall and Dalman Masood, “Pakistan Bid to End Abuse of Women Reporting Rape Hits Snag,” New York Times, 14 September 2006.

Islamabad, Pakistan - The Pakistani government has run into difficulties in its efforts to pass a law to end the worst abuses suffered by women who report rape or are accused of adultery under an Islamic ordinance. The opposition comes from members of the governing coalition, as well as from Islamic parties.

President Pervez Musharraf has sought to use the measure, the Women's Protection Bill, to burnish his credentials as a modern and moderate Islamic leader before his visit to the United States this month. But the opposition has, temporarily at least, disrupted his well-orchestrated campaign.

A vote on the bill was postponed Wednesday, as senior clerics representing the government and the Islamic opposition parties failed to resolve differences. At least one partner in the governing coalition said it would refuse to accept any amendments being demanded by a coalition of religious parties, the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal.

Under the Hudood Ordinance, enacted in 1979 by Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, then the president, thousands of women, in particular the poor and illiterate, have been jailed for adultery on the flimsiest evidence, often when a former husband refuses to recognize a divorce, or even when a woman has reported being raped.

Muhammad Ali Durrani, the information minister, said that the government could win the vote, but that it preferred to try to bring the Islamic parties on board. "We are not under pressure," he said, at a news briefing. "We have the majority. We can take it through any day."

General Musharraf's administration has taken great pains over the bill, consulting clerics and raising public awareness with newspaper advertisements, as a private television station, GEO, also broadcast the issue. Although the draft bill does not satisfy the demand from women's groups to repeal the Hudood Ordinance, the draft has been praised for its thoroughness and intelligent approach to curb the main abuses.

The government's original proposal would remove rape from the jurisdiction of Islamic law, which covers matters like marriage and divorce, and make it a crime punishable under Pakistan's penal code. The accusers in adultery cases would have to appear before a court, rather than just report the case to the local police. The draft also raised the age of consent to 16 and stated that four adult witnesses were required to prove adultery, rather than the traditional four male witnesses.

But under a compromise struck this week between clerics from the government side and the religious alliance, women who had been raped would remain subject to the same punishments as those accused of adultery, though a judge could choose to use the secular penal code instead of the Islamic ordinance if evidence and circumstances for doing so were available, local news media reported. Another proposal was to introduce a new category into the Pakistan Penal Code criminalizing "lewdness," including consensual sexual relations. Critics said this would pave the way for religious policing and become a tool to harass innocent citizens.

Advocates for women's rights accused the government of capitulating to the religious parties and said the changes in the bill would only cause further injustice and exploitation.

At a news briefing in Islamabad on Wednesday, representatives of the rights groups strongly condemned what they described as "politicking over the Hudood Ordinance."

"The government wants to present a liberal face to the West, but we feel all steps taken by the government are politically motivated and it is not serious," said Farzana Bari, from Pattan, an organization based in Islamabad that is concerned with social work and women's rights. "Rather than entering into a debate, this Hudood Ordinance should be repealed."

Nasreen Azhar of another rights group, Action Aid, said the bill should be a "first step, but not the end."

Some lawmakers are accusing General Musharraf of trying to push the bill through before his trip to the United States and pandering to Western values. "He is pushing himself as a liberal moderate, despite being a military dictator," said Imran Khan, the former cricket star who is a member of Parliament.

The religious coalition has opposed any changes to the Hudood Ordinance, and refused to participate in an all-party select committee on the issue. Early this month, the alliance threatened to resign from the government coalitions in two provincial assemblies. That rattled the government, in particular because one of the provinces, Baluchistan, has been in turmoil since the death of a tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, in August at the hands of the army, Mr. Khan, said.

”Pakistan: Reforms of Cruel Rape Law Fail,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 12 Sept. 2006

In a blow for women's rights in Pakistan, the government's proposals for reforming the country's cruel rape laws were dropped today. Under the Hudood Ordinances, which are based on sharia law, a woman must produce four male witnesses in order to convict her rapist, a requirement that often cannot be fulfilled simply because rapes are often private crimes. The proposed law would have allowed women to choose whether they would prosecute a rapist under the Hudood Ordinances or under Pakistan’s civil penal code. Religious conservatives, however, strongly opposed the proposed laws and threatened to walk out of parliament if the laws were passed, The Independent wrote.

Women rape victims in Pakistan are often further punished by the judicial system because, when a victim cannot produce four male witnesses, she can be convicted of adultery – a crime punishable by death. Human Rights Watch issued a statement denouncing the Hudood Ordinances because these laws render “most sexual assault victims unable to seek redress through the criminal justice system, deeming them guilty of illegal sex rather than victims of unlawful violence or abuse.”

The Independent reports that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found in 2002 that a woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours. These rates, however, might be significantly higher because of social mores, unfair laws, and insensitive treatment from police officers and government officials that discourage rape victims from reporting crimes.

”MMA plans campaign in defence of Hudood laws,” Dawn, 25 Aug. 2006.

ISLAMABAD, Aug 24: The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) announced on Thursday that it would launch a countrywide protest campaign against the government from Friday (today) for changing the Hudood laws tabled in the National Assembly in the name of women’s protection bill and vowed to put a strong resistance to all efforts to change the Islamic laws on foreign pressure.

Speaking at a news conference at the Parliament House cafeteria, leaders of the religious alliance Liaquat Baloch and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed said the MMA had chalked out a 14-day plan against the government’s move to change the Hudood laws.

Mr Baloch said that Khateebs and Imams of mosques had been directed to inform the people during Friday sermons about the real motives behind the government’s decision to change Hudood laws.

He said the MMA had decided to hold two public meetings, the first at the Nishtar Park in Karachi on Sunday (August 27) and the second at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi on September 6. Besides this, he said, workers’ conventions would be organised in all the districts of the country on Saturday (Aug 26).

He said the MMA had also planned to hold Ulema and Mashaikh conventions in all major cities from August 28 to September 5. These conventions, he said, would be arranged in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.

He said seminars and public meetings would be arranged in all the constituencies of the members belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and its coalition partner.

Amir Wasim, “Opposition boycotts committee meeting,” Dawn, 25 Aug. 2006.

ISLAMABAD, Aug 24: All opposition parties on Thursday boycotted the first meeting of the Select Committee on the controversial Criminal Law Amendment (Protection of Women) Bill 2006 tabled by the government on Aug 21 amid strong protests by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA). …

The MMA terms the bill as un-Islamic and an attempt by the government to change the Hudood laws in the name of women’s rights. …

The members were unanimous that there could not be a law in contravention to Quran and Sunnah in the country.

”KARACHI: JI sees US, West behind changes in Hudood laws,” Dawn, 25 Aug. 2006.

KARACHI, Aug 24: Naib Amir of Jamaat-i-Islami Prof Ghafoor Ahmed has said that the government was insisting on amending the Hudood laws and has moved a bill for the purpose under pressure from US administration and western governments which propagate that the sentences prescribed under Sharia laws are inhuman.

In their bid to get the Hudood laws repealed, the US and the West have been sponsoring and patronising big campaigns through media and NGOs and using Pakistani women influenced by the western lifestyle.

However, he warned, the nation would not tolerate any amendment to or repeal of the Hudood laws and would resist any such attempt tooth and nail. Addressing a press conference at the JI office, Idara Noor-i-Haq, here on Thursday, Prof Ghafoor said the MQM could bring government functionaries to its rallies by subjecting them to threats and intimidation, but not masses who would not come under its pressure. …

Recalling that the Hudood laws had been enacted and enforced by Gen Ziaul Haq in 1979, but no successive government had since dared to amend them. Even Benazir Bhutto, who led PPP government twice, did not try to amend or repeal them. The present government, he pointed out, had resorted to moving a bill to breake unity of the joint opposition at a time when the latter was going to move a no-confidence motion against the premier.

Prof Ghafoor insisted that the no-confidence motion would succeed if secret balloting was held. However, he regretted, the government was insisting on show of hands.

He criticised the MQM for unleashing propaganda against the MMA using the pretext of desecration of holy names and inscriptions, saying that it was doing all this to cover up the crime it had been committing. Defending the MMA’s conduct in assemblies, Prof Ghafoor declared that those supporting amendments to the Hudood laws were liable to punishment.

“Pakistan law change 'un-Islamic,'” BBC News, 22 Aug. 2006.

Pakistan's six-party religious alliance has condemned government moves to change controversial Islamic laws.

Siraju-ul-Haq, a senior member of the MMA alliance, told the BBC the government was "following a Western agenda to secularise Pakistan".

He was speaking a day after the bill to repeal the laws was tabled, sparking angry scenes in parliament.

The Hudood ordinance dates from 1979 and imposes strict punishments for such crimes as rape, theft and adultery.

Critics of the Hudood ordinance say it discriminates against women and fails to differentiate between rape and adultery.

Under one law, rape victims face prosecution for adultery, unless they produce four male witnesses. This makes it almost impossible to prosecute rapes.

'Shocking'

Mr Haq, senior minister for finance, planning and development in North West Frontier Province where the MMA is in power, accused the government of "ulterior motives".

"We reject this amendment bill from Pakistan army headquarters... because it aims at 'divide and rule'," he told the BBC Urdu service in London.

"The government must focus on more important issues like education, poverty alleviation, price rises and the interference of the military in government affairs."

He said moves to repeal the Shariah laws were "the spirit of Islam".

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz criticised the MMA's response to the bill, calling it "shocking".

He said the proposals were aimed at bringing Pakistani law into line with Islamic injunctions promoting women's rights.

”Pakistan rape victim speaks in US,” BBC News, 1 Nov. 2005.

Pakistan gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai has told rights activists in the US of her battle against "feudal lords" oppressing women in her homeland.

Amnesty International introduced Ms Mai at Washington offices "not as a victim, but as a champion for women's rights".

Ms Mai shot to world attention after her rape in 2002, allegedly on the order of a village council in Pakistan.

On her US visit she will receive a magazine's Woman of the Year award presented by ex-President Bill Clinton.

Ms Mai told assembled rights activists through an interpreter: "I am fighting a fight against oppression, where women and the poor are oppressed... by feudal lords.

"They have power and money, and all I have is you and your support. God willing, truth will have victory."

Travel ban

Ms Mai said her rape and the subsequent court battle would not force her out of her homeland.

"I think that the fight can be fought only by living in Pakistan. You cannot fight by leaving."

On Tuesday Ms Mai will attend a congressional hearing on human rights as a special witness.

On Wednesday she will receive the Glamour magazine Woman of the Year award and a prize of $20,000.

Ms Mai, 36, has said she will give $5,000 to the relief programme for victims of the 8 October earthquake and the rest will fund schools and a women's crisis centre.

Ms Mai's trip to the US has been controversial.

Earlier this year, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf banned her from travelling abroad because he feared her visit might "tarnish" Pakistan's image.

He rescinded the ban after criticism from US officials and rights activists.

Ms Mai has an appeal pending in the Pakistan's Supreme Court against a high court order to free 13 men accused of involvement in her rape.

Since her highly publicised rape three years ago, she has become an icon in the campaign for women's justice in conservative Pakistan.

Critics of Pakistan's judicial system and social systems say the Mukhtar Mai case is an example of appalling treatment often handed out to women, particularly in feudal, rural areas.

Her rape was allegedly ordered by a village council as a punishment for a misdemeanour blamed on her brother.

”Pakistani women speak up on rape,” BBC News, 26 Sept. 2005.

UZMA SAEED, LEGAL ACTIVIST, LAHORE

Uzma Saeed is campaigning for the repeal of the controversial Hudood laws, which rule that all extra-marital sex is illegal.

Hudood laws are a tool in the hands of men - with these laws they can rape women and be totally unaccountable.

Under Hudood if a woman makes a rape allegation she must provide four pious male witnesses or face a charge of adultery herself.

So a woman is in the ridiculous position of having to produce four Muslim adult male eyewitnesses, men who just stood there and watched.

If sex by force is not proved, this woman can be charged with "zina" - sex outside of marriage.

About 60% of women in our jails have been imprisoned as a result of Hudood laws.

I know many cases where a husband has wanted to marry again and so accused his wife of illicit relations with another man.

A repeal is essential.

I'm working on a legislative watch programme - the first of its kind in Pakistan. We are lobbying parliamentarians, media and political parties to raise awareness.

We are engaging village mullahs in this process. Rather than going on the defensive against extreme religious groups, we are playing on their own pitch.

Many religious scholars are producing research which says that these laws are not in accordance with the Holy Koran.

They are political tools to control women in our country.

Glenn Kessler, “Musharraf Denies Rape Comments. Recording Shows Post Article Correctly Quoted Pakistani President,” Washington Post, 19 Sept. 2005.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, has denied telling The Washington Post in an interview last week that claiming rape has become a "moneymaking concern" in Pakistan and that many Pakistanis felt it was an easy way to make money and get a Canadian visa.

The comments have outraged women's groups and sparked protests across Pakistan, marring a high-profile trip that Musharraf has made to the United States to promote a moderate image of Pakistan. His trip included speeches to a Jewish group and a women's group while attending the U.N. General Assembly. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin formally protested the reported remarks in a meeting with Musharraf on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering.

"Let me say with total sincerity that I never said that, and it has been misquoted," Musharraf told the women's group. "These are not my words, and I would go to the extent of saying I am not so silly and stupid to make comments of this sort."

In an interview Saturday with CNN, Musharraf said that the remarks were made by someone else in his presence and not by him.

The rape comments were not the main focus of the article, published Tuesday, which covered a broad range of topics discussed in a 50-minute interview. In the article's 12th paragraph, The Washington Post quoted Musharraf as saying: "This has become a moneymaking concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped."

The interview was conducted by three Washington Post reporters and was tape-recorded. A review of the recording yesterday confirmed that Musharraf -- who was surrounded by aides who took notes and also recorded the interview -- was accurately quoted.

Musharraf made the remarks at the end of a nine-minute discussion on the case of Mukhtar Mai, 33, an illiterate woman who spoke publicly about having been gang-raped on the orders of a village council in 2002. Mai won public sympathy and government support after she demanded that the men be charged and convicted. Earlier this year, however, the Bush administration assailed Musharraf when he blocked Mai from coming to the United States to publicize the case.

In the interview, Musharraf said that he is "on the side of women" but that Pakistan is being unfairly "singled out when this curse is happening everywhere in the world." Speaking of another high-profile rape case, he said that he had arranged for a visa and for $50,000 to be given to Shazia Khalid -- a Pakistani medical doctor who was raped by a masked intruder, allegedly an army officer -- so she could leave the country. Khalid has applied for asylum in Canada.

Then, as the reporters prepared to move to the next question, Musharraf interjected the comments about rape as a moneymaking concern, saying it was the "popular term" in Islamabad.

"It is the easiest way of doing it," he continued. "Every second person now wants to come up and get all the [pause] because there is so much of finances. Dr. Shazia, I don't know. But maybe she's a case of money, that she wants to make money. She is again talking all against Pakistan, against whatever we've done. But I know what the realities are."

Aamer Ahmed Khan, “Pakistan’s Real Problem with Rape,” BBC News, 8 Sept. 2005.

Women's rights in Pakistan are once again in the international spotlight as delegates attend a high-profile two-day conference on the issue in Islamabad.

One of the key objectives of the talks, according to Pakistan's women's development ministry, is to improve the country's image in the context of women's rights.

But activists argue that crimes against women are not an "image problem".

They say such crimes - especially rape - result from a combination of tribalism, retrogressive cultural values and a criminal justice system in a state of deep rot.

The government of President Pervez Musharraf defends its record and says violence against women is a global problem.

It has repeatedly insisted that it has done more for women's empowerment in Pakistan than any previous administration in the country.

Although planned several weeks ago, the conference comes hot on the heels of new cases of rape involving policemen and tribal councils or jirgas.

Police accused

These cases either involve allegations of rape against policemen or accusations that the tribal bodies have perverted the course of justice.

Earlier this week, a young woman alleged that she had been gang raped by four policemen in Rawalpindi. One officer was arrested and three others are missing.

The woman said the policemen barged into her house, locked her husband and uncle in a room and raped her.

She was supposedly punished for failing to pay a bribe of 100,000 rupees ($1,674) demanded by the police for the release of her husband.

Last week, a 23-year-old woman from Faisalabad went public with her accusations against police in the city.

She said her husband had been arrested on charges of preparing forged documents for stolen cars.

She was raped allegedly on the orders of the Faisalabad police chief for seeking to publicise her husband's arrest.

The officer has been suspended but not arrested.

A week before that, a married woman with two children in Karachi said she had been gang raped by four local men but a jirga prevented her from reporting the matter to the police.

Instead, the jirga members imposed a fine of 150,000 rupees ($2,500) on the accused. Even that money never reached her, she said.

Hurdles to justice

Apart from the alleged crime, what is common to these women are the problems they have had to confront in their quest for justice.

In the case of one woman from Karachi, the police refused to register a case of rape for over a month - during which time she says she was repeatedly threatened by her rapists.

By the time she managed to have the case registered, it was too late to conduct a medical examination on her.

In most rape cases in Pakistan, the crime is established almost entirely on the basis of medical examination of the complainant.

Eventually, a case was registered but all the accused were awarded bail despite the fact that the woman identified her rapists before the judge. She eventually had to play what is known in Karachi as the "ethnic card".

She is a Mohajir - a name given to Urdu-speaking migrants from India at the time of partition - while her rapists were native Sindhis. She went to the headquarters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) - an influential Mohajir-dominated party - with her case.

It was only after intervention from the MQM's home minister in Sindh that the police launched a fresh hunt for the accused, three of whom had disappeared by then.

Two of them are still at large.

Going public

The case of the woman from Faisalabad is even more striking.

She barged into Pakistan's parliament wearing a veil similar to the ones worn by women representatives of religious parties.

She says she was hoping to find an MP who could help her.

Instead, she was returned to Faisalabad as a criminal who had caused a major security breach.

It was not until her story was given airtime by a private TV channel that the accused officer was suspended.

Even then, while three separate inquiry committees were set up, a formal case has yet to be registered.

Her lawyer and rights activist Asma Jehangir has described the multiple inquiry committees as "an attempt to subvert justice".

'Strong policy'

For its part the government says its commitment to improving the lives of women is illustrated by their move to pass a law requiring one-third of elected members in all representative bodies - from the National Assembly to local governments - to be women.

In the Faisalabad case, too, it points to the immediate suspension of the accused police officer and simultaneous inquiries at the parliamentary, judicial and administrative levels.

Besides, the government argues, violence against women is worse in many other countries than in Pakistan.

Pakistan's minister for women's affairs, Nilofer Bakhtiar, says the fight for women's rights is making progress.

"We have a strong policy and programme here which the government is putting across very successfully to combat violence against women," she told the BBC.

Inspiration

But in reality little has been done about removing procedural difficulties - which means that rape victims must either rely on the media or non-governmental organisations to secure justice.

There is no institutional infrastructure in Pakistan to help rape victims, no trauma centres or legal aid bodies.

Rape in Pakistan became a high-profile crime after one of the victims, Mukhtar Mai, decided to speak out.

Ms Mai was gang raped allegedly on the orders of a tribal council as punishment for a sexual crime attributed to her brother.

Her case is still pending in the courts but her courage has inspired many rape victims to go public with their stories.

So far the government's response, observers say, has been limited to isolated action in certain cases.

Rights activists hope the conference in Islamabad results in a comprehensive strategy to help such women.

Focusing on the "image" aspect alone is clearly unlikely to help.

”Musharraf concern at women image,” BBC News, 7 Sept. 2005.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said his country should not be singled out for its treatment of women.

His comments came while addressing a conference on violence against women in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

But two of Pakistan's leading women's rights groups have declined to participate in the meeting.

The conference comes in the same week as two separate cases of women alleging that they were raped by police officers in Pakistan.

Representatives of the AGHS and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan say they see no point in being part of what they describe as "a farcical event".

The BBC's Aamer Ahmed Khan in Karachi says both groups have incurred the displeasure of the government for their role in helping bring attention to a series of recent rape cases.

President Musharraf lashed out at rights groups for their role in highlighting the cases outside the country.

"Do it in Pakistan and I am with you. But don't do it abroad; I am not with you," the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

Criticism

Dozens of delegates from around the world are attending the two-day event aimed at addressing the treatment of women in Pakistan and also to bring together those who work with victims of violence.

"Pakistan must not be demonised and singled out as being the only country having this problem... that is not the reality," AFP quoted the president as saying.

Pakistan recently came under intense international criticism for preventing a high-profile rape victim from attending a conference in the United States.

Mukhtar Mai, 33, was raped in 2002, allegedly on the order of a village council, in a case that received worldwide publicity.

The men who were convicted of raping her were released this March, but then ordered back to jail while the Supreme Court hears her appeal against their release.

Another case which attracted widespread attention in Pakistan is that of a woman who alleged that a senior police officer ordered her rape.

The Pakistani government has announced an inquiry into her allegations, but she has said that until the media highlighted her case the authorities did nothing to help her.

In another case this week, a woman accused four policemen of gang-raping her in Rawalpindi. One officer has been arrested and the other three are missing.

Human rights groups say cases like these are just the tip of the iceberg.

They say most women never come forward to say they have been victims of rape or violence and those that do often do not even see their cases going to court.

I moved to Islamabad from my village because it was the only safe place for women. At least they don't get raped in public here. I escaped rape narrowly two years ago. I never tried to make it public internationally and yet my complaints to the police just got me into more trouble. Musharraf survives on publicity and foreign relationships. His main worry is women exposing their sufferings to international media.

Nicholas D. Kristof, “A Pakistani Rape, and a Pakistani Love Story,” New York Times, 2 Aug. 2005.

Rapes occur in Pakistan at an estimated rate of one every two hours, and the rape itself is only the beginning of the horror. As in much of the world, the victim is frequently expected to atone for her "sin" by killing herself, while her attacker goes unscathed.

But Dr. Shazia Khalid, through all her tears, guilt and self-doubt, pushed for something more: punishment for the man who raped her. In my column on Sunday, I described how local authorities reacted after Dr. Shazia was raped early this year: they drugged her and confined her to a psychiatric hospital to hush her up.

It didn't work, and the incident provoked unrest in the wild area of Baluchistan, where the rape occurred, because of rumors that the rapist was not only an outsider, but also an army captain. President Pervez Musharraf became determined to make the embarrassment disappear.

So the authorities locked up Dr. Shazia and her husband, Khalid Aman, keeping them under house arrest for two months. Then officials began to hint that Dr. Shazia was a loose woman, perhaps even a prostitute - presumably as a way to pressure her and her husband to keep quiet.

Dr. Shazia, mortified, tried to kill herself. Mr. Khalid and their adopted son, Adnan, stopped her.

Meanwhile, the family's patriarch, Mr. Khalid's grandfather, sent word that because Dr. Shazia had been raped, she was "kari" - a stain on the family's honor - and must be killed or at least divorced. Then, Mr. Khalid said, his grandfather began gathering a mob to murder Dr. Shazia.

"I was very angry because he must know that Shazia is innocent," Mr. Khalid said. "They treat a woman like a cow."

General Musharraf was finding this couple's determination to get justice increasingly irritating. So, Dr. Shazia and Mr. Khalid said, the authorities ordered them to leave the country, and warned that if they stayed, they would be killed - by government "agencies" - and that no one would even find their bodies.

When Dr. Shazia demanded that Adnan be allowed to accompany her, the officials warned that there was no time and that she would be murdered if she delayed. Then the officials forced Dr. Shazia to make a video recording in which she thanked the government for helping her. And, she said, they warned her that if she had any contact with journalists or human rights groups, they would strike back at her - or at her relatives still in Pakistan.

"They said, 'We know where your family is here,' " Dr. Shazia recalled. "I'm very scared and concerned about my family and their safety. But I believe we must tell the truth, and I have entrusted my family to God."

So the Pakistani officials put Dr. Shazia and Mr. Khalid on a plane to London, without their son. As soon as they arrived, Dr. Shazia inquired about asylum in Canada, where she has relatives and friends. But a Canadian bureaucrat rejected the asylum application on the ground that they were now safe in Britain. (Come on, Canadians - have you no heart?)

Dr. Shazia and Mr. Khalid are now living in a one-room dive in a bad neighborhood in London, while applying for asylum in Britain. Dr. Shazia dreams of someday returning to Pakistan to found a hospital for raped and battered women, but for now she is simply a lonely, fragile and frightened refugee who leaves her bare room only to make trips to a nearby Internet cafe.

With Dr. Shazia constantly tearful and unable to sleep at night, Mr. Khalid gave up his job to take care of her and drive home a message: "Shazia, you did nothing wrong. You are still pure!"

Dr. Shazia's voice broke as she said: "Khalid supported me. He showed me his true love. ... He showed me that I have committed no sin. I am pure today, no matter what the world says."

Half-sobbing, she added: "I stay awake at night, thinking, 'Why me?' My career is ruined. My husband's career is ruined. I cannot see my son. ... If I had died then, it would have been better."

But it wouldn't have been. Dr. Shazia's ordeal offers us a glimpse of life for women in much of the developing world today, and it's also a reminder of the one factor that gives me hope. That's the growing number of people who refuse to cower in the face of injustice and instead become forces for change. To me, Dr. Shazia is a hero, for her courage and determination - and, yes, her purity.

Nicholas D. Kristof, “Another Face of Terror,” New York Times, 31 July 2005.

Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is supposed to be our valued ally in the war on terrorism. But terror takes many forms, not all of them hijacked airplanes or bombed subways.

For the vast majority of humans, terror comes in more mundane ways - like the violent hands that woke Dr. Shazia Khalid as she lay sleeping in her bed, and the abuse she's suffered at the hands of Mr. Musharraf's government ever since.

I mentioned Dr. Shazia briefly in June when I wrote about General Musharraf's quasi-kidnapping and house arrest of Mukhtaran Bibi - the Pakistani rape victim who used compensation money to open schools and start a women's aid group. But at that time Dr. Shazia was still too terrified to speak out.

Now, for the first time, Dr. Shazia has agreed to tell her full story, even though this will put herself and her loved ones at risk. Her tale is simultaneously an indictment of General Musharraf's duplicity, a window into the debasement that is the lot of women in much of the world - and a modern love story.

Dr. Shazia, now 32, took a job by herself two years ago as a doctor at a Pakistan Petroleum plant in the wild Pakistani region of Baluchistan, after Pakistan Petroleum also promised a job for her husband there (that job never materialized). Dr. Shazia's family worried about her safety, but her residence was in a guarded compound and she felt strongly that the women in that region needed access to a female physician.

Then on Jan. 2, Dr. Shazia woke up in the middle of the night, and at first she thought she was having a nightmare. "But this person was really pulling hard on my hair, and then he started pressing on my throat so I couldn't breathe. ... He tied the telephone cord around my throat. I resisted and struggled, and he beat me on the head with the telephone receiver. When I tried to scream, he said, 'Shut up - there's a man standing outside named Amjad, and he's got kerosene. If you scream, I'll take it and burn you alive.' ... Then he took my prayer scarf and he blindfolded me with it, and he took the telephone cord and tied my wrists, and he laid me down on the bed. I tried hard to fight but he raped me."

The man spent the night in her room, beating her, casually watching television, raping her again and boasting about his powerful connections. A 35-page confidential report by a tribunal describes Dr. Shazia tumbling into the nurse's quarters that morning: "semiconscious ... with a swelling on her forehead and bleeding from nose and ear." Officials of Pakistan Petroleum rushed over and took decisive action.

"They told me to be quiet and not to tell anybody because it would ruin my reputation," Dr. Shazia remembers. One official warned that if she reported the crime, she could be arrested.

That was a genuine risk. Under Pakistan's hudood laws, a woman who reports that she has been raped is liable to be arrested for adultery or fornication - since she admits to sex outside of marriage - unless she can provide four male eyewitnesses to the rape.

Dr. Shazia wasn't sure she dared to report the crime, but she begged for permission to contact her family. So, she says, officials drugged her into a stupor and then confined her in a psychiatric hospital in Karachi.

"They wanted to declare me crazy," Dr. Shazia said bitterly. "That's why they shifted me to a hospital for crazy people."

Dr. Shazia's husband, Khalid Aman, was working as an engineer in Libya, but he finally was notified and rushed back 11 days later. Dr. Shazia, by then freed, couldn't face him, but he comforted her, told her that she had done nothing wrong, and insisted that they report the rape to the police so that the criminal could be caught.

That was, perhaps, naïve, particularly because there were rumors that the police had identified the rapist as a senior army officer and were covering up for him.

"When I treat rape victims, I tell the girls not to go to the police," Dr. Shershah Syed, a prominent gynecologist in Karachi, told me. "Because if she goes to the police, the police will rape her."

That's the way the world works for anyone unfortunate enough to be born female in much of the world.

Aamer Ahmed Khan, “Ramifications of a gang rape,” BBC News, 26 June 2005.

One of the most controversial cases in Pakistan's modern legal history is reaching its climax as the Supreme Court decides on whether to uphold the convictions against six men found guilty of the gang rape of a village woman, Mukhtar Mai.

There was international outrage when a lower court in March acquitted five of the men for lack of evidence.

Ms Mai was gang raped, allegedly on the orders of a village council because of a misdemeanour attributed to her younger brother.

The case has also turned into a fierce confrontation between President Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan's development (NGO) community, which he is reported to have accused of seeking to exploit Ms Mai's plight to blacken Pakistan's international image.

Most controversial is Gen Musharraf's decision to ban Ms Mai from travelling abroad.

'Faltering march'

"It is no longer a case in which those accused of raping Ms Mai are on trial." That is the view of one ordinary Pakistani, Karachi civil servant Naveed Zafar.

Like millions of others in Pakistan and around the world, Mr Zafar has been keenly following the case.

"It is Pakistan's faltering march towards a more liberal ethos that is on trial."

There are perhaps as many people in Pakistan who would say Mr Zafar is being melodramatic as those inclined to agree with him.

And that is precisely what makes this case so controversial.

The spotlight in the Mukhtar Mai case, many say, is now just as much on Gen Musharraf government's stated agenda of enlightened moderation and the future of NGOs here as it is on the criminal justice system.

'Right decision'

Government supporters argue that in the furore surrounding the travel ban on Ms Mai, what has been entirely forgotten is the effort that the government has put into helping her.

For three years, it has provided Ms Mai the kind of protection that is normally accorded only to VIPs.

Also, while technically free after being acquitted by the Lahore High Court, all the men accused in her case still languish in prison under highly controversial public order laws.

Moreover, the government, an appellant in the case along with Ms Mai, has put together a large team of lawyers to argue her case in the Supreme Court.

Yet the decision to stop Ms Mai from travelling to the US to take up an invite from an NGO there has completely overshadowed the government's efforts on her behalf.

The BBC news website asked the prime minister's advisor on women's development, Nilofer Bakhtiar, if stopping Ms Mai from travelling may have done more damage than if she had been allowed to go.

"I don't want to get into that. All I want to say is that whatever decision the president took was the right one."

Ms Bakhtiar also said that President Musharraf had ordered the travel ban after hearing from his supporters in the US that the NGO in question there was planning to bring Ms Mai to the US with the intention of maligning Pakistan.

NGO 'regulation'

And here is where the government's agenda of "enlightened moderation" is under pressure.

Several Pakistani ministers have been bitterly critical of the NGOs' role in the affair. They have accused the NGOs of using Ms Mai to attract more funding from western donors or to enhance their profiles.

In the aftermath of the travel ban controversy, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has ordered fresh legislation to "regulate" the working of the NGOs. This, in the eyes of many, is an ominous development.

Salman Akram Raja, a lawyer who has previously assisted the government in drafting regulatory legislation for the NGOs, provides an interesting insight to the government's attitude towards NGOs.

"The government is very comfortable with NGOs involved purely with charity," he says.

"But the moment an NGO turns towards advocacy, it invites the government's suspicion because advocacy groups are expected to raise issues, most of which are likely to embarrass the government."

Mr Raja argues that the same principle applies to the treatment meted out to Ms Mai.

"For as long as she was a poor victim willing to accept charity, the government was with her," he says.

"But soon as she emerged as a rights' campaigner, the government became suspicious of her."

Bad news

This is bad news for NGO leaders hoping to use Ms Mai's case to draw attention to the gender imbalance that they say pervades every aspect of Pakistani life.

And they have seen the worst of this imbalance at play repeatedly.

Way back in 1984, when Pakistani women tried to protest against so-called Islamic legislation which reduced their status to half a witness in the law of evidence, they were brutally beaten up.

In the 1990s, Samia Sarwar Mohmand, a young Pathan girl who wanted to marry of her own free will was shot dead in the office of Pakistan's most relentless women's rights campaigner Asma Jehangir.

To this day, women are traded in settling disputes between warring tribes.

NGO leaders say that cases such as that of Ms Mai are their best bet of inviting the world's attention to such issues.

And forcing the world into taking note is critical to their success, the NGOs say, arguing that President Musharraf's government is more responsive to external pressures than to people within.

As such, they fear that irrespective of what may happen in Ms Mai's case, the government's renewed hostility towards NGOs is likely to be a major setback to their struggle.

Even if Ms Mai succeeds in her attempt to secure justice, life for liberal Pakistani NGOs may already have taken a turn for the worse.

Asian Pacific News Service, “Canada offers haven for gang rape victim," 23 June 2005.

On a scorching June day three years ago in the village of Meerwala, which is a 12-hour drive southeast from Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, 14 men in a darkened room volunteered to gang rape Mukhtaran Mai.

The rape was ordered by a self-appointed village jury or jirga from the Meerwala's dominant Mastoi tribe.

The retribution taken to preserve so-called tribal honour was to settle the score after Mai's 14-year-old brother was seen walking with a Mastoi girl. The diminutive teaching assistant was ordered to answer for her brother's "sexual misdeed."

She apologised. They gang raped her anyway.

Mai, the unmarried 30-year-old daughter of a family deemed "low-caste" was then ordered to walk home naked before hundreds of villagers who were dancing with joy. She was helped by her weeping father who only had a shawl to cover his bloodied daughter.

In this remote part of the world where dominant tribes rule under an Islamic and often brutal code calculated to dishonour and defile 'sinners', Mai had only one option.

She had to kill herself to avoid further shame to her family.

After all, the local tribal elders decreed, a girl in the next village was gang-raped around the same time and she took the traditional route: she swallowed a bottle of pesticide and dropped dead.

But "defiance" took over and "awakened my dead soul" says Mai on her website.

The type of court that sentenced Mai, known as a panchiat court, is not at all uncommon in rural Pakistan and her punishment, known as karo kari, is not the norm but neither is it unheard of - more than 150 Pakistani women were raped by order of panchiat courts in the first half of 2004.

When the local imam, or Islamic cleric, heard of what had happened to Mai, he used his position at the pulpit to speak out against the injustice that had been done and to call for Mai's condemners and attackers to be brought to trial before a civil court.

Mai filed a police report which was at first ignored.

She did not give up. Her attackers had assumed she would be too ashamed to reveal what had happened, but with the assistance of her friends and the imam, she got word out to the local and international media.

In a post-9/11 world where the Pakistani government was eager to prove that it was on the side of law and order, this media attention was enough to shame the authorities into action.

The tribal elders and the volunteer rapists were brought to trial; some were sentenced to hang. As part of the settlement, Mai was given the equivalent of about C$9,900 in compensation - a very large sum in rural Pakistan.

Fearing that Pakistan's reputation would be hurt further if Mai were to suffer any retribution in her village, the government also offered to buy her a home in cosmopolitan Islamabad, where she would live a life of relative luxury in a place where no one knew anything about her past.

Mai declined those offers. Instead of leaving, she took the money and used it to start a school for girls in Meerwala, the village's first.

At this school, Mai and her friends work to provide young girls with the knowledge and understanding that will give them more power in the world, more awareness of their rights, and more dignity to fall back on when those rights are challenged.

"I hope to make education more readily available to girls, to teach them that no woman should ever go through what happened to me," Mai says. "And I eventually hope to open more school branches in this area of Pakistan. I need your support to kill illiteracy and to help make tomorrow's women stronger. This is my goal in life."

Sympathisers around the world donated more than C$100,000 which Mai has used to set up a shelter for abused women and buy a van which is now used as an ambulance in the area.

Last March, Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan Margaret Huber visited the Mukhtar Mai Girls School in Meerwala, She announced that Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, will pay for the school's expansion to benefit the students already enrolled there and to accommodate those on the waiting list. Canada's funding of about $60,000 will also establish a small dairy farm to help finance the cost of running the school.

Sources told The Asian Pacific Post that Mai was offered Canadian citizenship recently by Huber after her case took a depressing turn on two fronts.

A court in Lahore has refused to extend a 90-day detention order and 12 of the 14 accused were ordered to be released. The case has gone into appeal, and is now expected to go to the Supreme Court.

According to an Islamabad daily, The News, "The police failed to provide the prosecution with the damning evidence even though some 150 onlookers could have testified. In the village, the men's homes are right across from Ms. Mai's. Every day she must face the men who raped her and who threaten to do it again," said the paper.

Mai was also scheduled to visit America this month to publicise her schools and voluntary efforts at the invitation of an NGO.

This move has enraged Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf, who said that some foreign NGOs wanted to take Mai abroad for anti-Pakistan propaganda.

He described NGOs as "Westernised fringe elements" which "are as bad as the Islamic extremists."

Reports from Pakistan said Mai was placed under house arrest and her telephone lines severed.

She has reportedly said that when she attempted to leave her home, police pointed their guns at her. Mai's name was also put on a blacklist, normally reserved to curtail the movement of political extremists, called the Exit Control List and her passport had been confiscated. Officials like, Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Jahangir Karamat, who reportedly pushed for her ban on travel to the United States, are desperate to hush up the brutal justice of the tribal hinterlands in Punjab. General Musharraf is also enraged at how Mai's case has brought infamy to Pakistan. The President even threatened to "slap" a reporter "in the face" for publishing details in an international magazine about Mai's defiance. After the ban was made public earlier this month, a trembling Mai called a press conference in Islamabad to deny that her passport was confiscated and that she had not been under detention in her home village, but guarded for her own protection. "I came to Islamabad to discuss my crisis centre back in the village," she said. "I decided of my own free will not to go abroad, because my mother is ill." Reporters and activists who attended the "show conference" did not believe her.

Farzana Bari, a women's rights activist said Mai's mother is fine, "but Mukhtar looks completely terrorized."

"The Government was afraid she would tarnish its image," she said.

Insiders say Mai is frightened that government agencies will "whisk her away" if she dares speak out again.

The case has indeed embarrassed President Musharraf, a "modern" general who is keen to play down the religious extremism in backward parts of his country.

He has been promoting "an enlightened Islam" but activists say that this vision seems to exclude women.

As for Mai, she swears she wouldn't allow anyone to use her name to tarnish the image of her country.

Her comments came a day after General Musharraf, said that he ordered the recent travel ban on her because foreign private groups wanted to take her to America "to bad-mouth Pakistan" over the "terrible state" of the nation's women.

"Pakistan is my country, and how can I allow anyone to bring (a) bad name to Pakistan," Mai said in Meerwala.

She also said she had no plans to settle abroad.

"I will live and die here, and I assure the president that I would never do anything against Pakistan," she said.

At Press time, news reports from Pakistan said the government had lifted the travel ban on Mai, following US intervention and the offer of citizenship from Canada.

However, it was unclear if the woman hailed as an Asian heroine would go to the United States and incur the silent wrath of the men who rule her country.

Aamer Ahmed Khan, “Pakistan's gang rape PR disaster,” BBC News, 17 June 2005.

Has Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf "gone nuts"?

That was the view forcibly expressed this week in the prestigious New York Times.

Ordinarily, asking such a thing about the West's favourite ally - and that too a Muslim leader armed with an agenda of "enlightened moderation" - would perhaps amount to unwarranted insolence.

But it suddenly seems to have become the predominant query in the minds of Pakistan watchers from Canberra to Washington.

The case in point? The treatment meted out to Mukhtar Mai, the gutsy woman from a rural backwater who turned her gang rape into a gripping real life tale of a struggle against a criminal justice system in a state of deep rot.

Three years after she was allegedly gang raped on the orders of a rural council as punishment for a crime attributed to her brother, Ms Mai (also known as Mukhtaran Mai) has made headlines again.

And some feel the circumstances now are no less distressing than the one that first propelled her to the attention of the international media.

Travel ban

Briefly, Ms Mai was invited by a human rights body in the US to explain the social work she has undertaken since her gang rape.

Apart from two schools in her native village of Meerwala, she has set up a trauma centre for women with the money that she received in donations from all over the world when her story hit the headlines.

But after applying for a US visa, she was reportedly pressurised by the Pakistan government into passing on the invite.

All this at a time when it emerged that she had been placed on a list of people banned from leaving Pakistan and she herself had complained of being under "virtual house arrest" in her home.

No one quite knows why she withdrew her application to visit the US.

Ms Mai says it was because of her mother's illness.

The Pakistan government says she is free to travel wherever she wants.

But you will be hard pressed to find anyone who believes either claim.

And now Ms Mai says the government has taken away her passport, so she can't travel abroad even if she wants to.

'Went berserk'

But before one starts looking for the truth, let us hear the story of her aborted US trip from the foreign media.

"The Pakistan government went berserk," writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Mr Kristof first wrote on Ms Mai soon after the incident and has since helped raise $133,000 for her social work.

Mr Kristof says he remained sympathetic to President Musharraf even after he was denied a visa to "block me from visiting" Ms Mai again.

"But now President Musharraf has gone nuts."

And his advice: "Ms Mukhtaran, a symbol of courage and altruism, is the best hope for Pakistan's image. The threat to Pakistan's image comes from President Musharraf for all this thuggish behavior."

Just as harsh is the British newspaper The Guardian.

"The move [to ban her from travelling] was shocking because Ms Mukhtaran is a genuine Pakistani heroine."

"Neither moderate nor enlightened, the crude gagging order has confirmed suspicions that Mr Musharraf pays lip service to human rights but often fails to deliver," the paper concludes.

Another British newspaper The Independent, has taken the incident to be indicative of the overall attitude of the Pakistan government. "The ruling party has vilified Ms Mai's supporters as unpatriotic," it says.

It then quotes Pakistan's junior interior minister Shahzad Wasim: "People in NGOs (who have been supporting Ms Mai) are ready to say anything for one dinner with Johnny Walker and eat innocent people like vultures."

And if one is to even skim through what is being said on the issue by US bloggers, it is best not to let the kids peep over your shoulder.

Lucky

It is hard to recall the last time President Musharraf faced such a public relations disaster.

The controversy has blown up while Gen Musharraf has been out of the country on a diplomatic tour.

He can count himself lucky that there are still some who believe that he is not directly responsible for Ms Mai's continuing travails. His supporters argue that as much in Pakistan is shaped by chaos as by design.

As such, they say the PR disaster over Ms Mai's affair was the likely handiwork of a "more loyal than the king brigade" that perpetually surrounds the president.

Once convinced that nothing good could come out of Ms Mai's planned visit to the US, these people simply set their minds on stopping her from leaving the country, the argument goes, irrespective of the cost to their leader's image.

Some of the more prominent members of this group have already surfaced in the shape of junior interior minister Shehzad Wasim and the prime minister's advisor on women's development Nilofer Bakhtiar.

Those taking a hard line on keeping Ms Mai in Pakistan can be easily found in parliament.

"Mukhtaran Mai should seek justice from Allah," senator Kulsoom Parveen reportedly said, arguing that being an eastern woman, Ms Mai had no business going abroad.

While President Musharraf tours Australia and New Zealand, his supporters are confidently arguing that heads will roll on his return.

There is no way, they argue, that the president will allow this "coterie of sycophants" to fritter away the goodwill that he has won over the last five years.

But if no heads roll and Ms Mai's predicament remains unresolved, many may be inclined to start thinking that Mr Kristof was perhaps not being insolent after all.

”Travel ban on rape victim lifted,” BBC News, 16 June 2005.

The Pakistan government has lifted a foreign travel ban on the victim of a high profile gang rape, Mukhtar Mai.

But Ms Mai has told the BBC that her passport has been confiscated so the move is meaningless.

The ban has prevented Ms Mai from taking up an invitation from human rights group Amnesty International to travel to the United States.

Officials had said she had to stay in Pakistan until court cases around the rape were resolved.

But critics said the move was a ploy intended to protect Pakistan's international image.

Brother's offence

The office of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz issued a brief statement on Wednesday announcing that Ms Mai had been taken off the Exit Control List that names people who are not allowed out of Pakistan.

On the same day Ms Mai spent two hours at the US consulate in Islamabad but did not obtain a visa.

US officials say that Ms Mai had withdrawn her request for the visa.

Women rights activists say that this is because she has come under unprecedented pressure from the government not to travel to the US.

Ms Mai subsequently told the BBC by mobile telephone from a secret location that the Pakistani authorities had confiscated her passport.

Ms Mai was raped by several men in 2002, allegedly on the orders of a self-styled village council of influential feudal leaders.

The punishment was allegedly ordered because of a sexual indiscretion allegedly committed by her younger brother.

The case continues to attract international attention.

Twelve men are currently behind bars in connection with the case.

In March the Lahore High Court ordered acquitted five men sentenced to death for the rape and reduced the sentence of another to life imprisonment.

The court said there was insufficient evidence in the initial trial, which was conducted by an anti-terrorism court.

The government of the province of Punjab subsequently ordered the detention of 12 men originally implicated in the case.

The Lahore High Court has now said they should be released.

'Pressure' Ms Mai said earlier this week that she had been kept under "virtual house arrest" in her home village.

Officials said they were acting entirely in her interests by assigning several dozen police officers to guard her in her home village.

Non-government organisations and activists campaigning for women's rights say that the restrictions on Ms Mai's movements have reflected the pressure the government is putting on her.

They say the government has shot itself in the foot by introducing the measures, because her case is well known internationally.

The government is fighting an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Lahore High Court overturning the convictions of the men sentenced to death for the gang rape.

Jan McGirk, “ Women's Rights in Pakistan: The Woman Who Dared to Cry Rape,” Independent UK, 15 June 2005.

When Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on the orders of village elders to settle a tribal score, she shocked Pakistan by taking her case to the courts. But now she has found herself persecuted once again.

Islamabad - It was a scorching afternoon in Islamabad yesterday, when a visibly trembling Mukhtar Mai, teacher and rape victim, announced to assembled journalists that a long-planned trip to America was off because her mother was sick.

No one believed her. Ms Mai was to publicise in the United States the work of the crisis centres she has developed since being brutally gang-raped on the orders of a village court in Meeranwalla, in the Punjab. Now it turned out that, because her mother was ill, she would be unable to undertake a trip that would have been highly embarrassing to the government of Pervez Musharraf.

For the activists who have passionately championed Ms Mai's cause for three long years years, the shoddy and hastily arranged "show-conference" was the final insult in a case which has appalled urban Pakistanis, enraged human rights activists around the world and thrown a sharp and unflattering spotlight on the way Pakistan treats its women.

During the first seven months of last year, according to the Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 151 Pakistani women were gang-raped and 176 were simply murdered as the victims of honour killings. The traumatic case of Mukhtar Mai's experiences, which will not now be personally described to an American audience, has come to stand for all such brutal violations of female dignity in the remote tribal regions of the country.

On a terrible June day three years ago, 14 men from the dominant Mastoi tribe in Meeranwalla volunteered to rape Ms Mai as a way to settle a score after her 12-year-old brother Abdul Shakoor was seen walking with a Mastoi girl. The decision on retribution had been taken by a village court to preserve tribal honour. The jirga, or council of village elders, summoned Ms Mai to apologise for her brother's sexual misdeed. When she apologised, they gang-raped her anyway.

After the atrocity was carried out, Ms Mai was paraded naked before hundreds of onlookers. Finally, her father covered her with a shawl and took her home.

Many assumed that the subsequent rumours that the 30-year-old had committed suicide by swallowing pesticide were true. Few would have blamed her. Calling attention to such abject abuse is virtually unheard of even in modern-day Pakistan, where the downtrodden, especially women, are expected to remain meek.

But Mukhtar Mai, an unmarried daughter from a low-caste family, was not about to go quietly. She fought back in the courts and at first the legal decisions appeared to go her way. Half a dozen men involved in her rape were punished, with two sentenced to death. But since that early success events have begun to take an increasingly sinister and depressing turn. Last Friday, a court in Lahore refused to extend a 90-day detention order and 12 of the 14 accused were ordered to be released. The case has gone into appeal, and now is expected to go to the Supreme Court.

All the men must do is post a £600 bail each and they can leave jail while the case now goes through a series of appeals. According to a leader in The News, an Islamabad English-language daily: "The police failed to provide the prosecution with the damning evidence" even though there were some 150 onlookers who could have testified. "It is introspection time for government," the leader continued.

"It must review the system that routinely acts against people, and sometimes against the government itself ... It is ironic that even as her alleged tormentors were freed, the woman who has become a symbol of courage and the rights of Pakistani women was barred from proceeding abroad."

In the village, their homes are right across from Ms Mai's. Every day she must now face the men who gang-raped her and who threaten to do the same again. Naturally Ms Mai was upset and traumatised by last week's decision. But there was also trauma in Islamabad, where the prospect of her imminent visit to the United States was being viewed with trepidation. By last year, Mukhtar Mai had become an international icon for abused women after challenging her rapists and apparently winning. Time magazine named her as one of Asia's heroes. Half a dozen of the 14 village men involved were set to hang.

Ms Mai had used her compensation money in the case to start two schools in her village. She even helped to enroll the children of some of her attackers, in order to show that she bore no grudges. American sympathisers sent more than $133,000 (£73,000) in donations. Using the funds, Ms Mai set up a shelter for abused women and bought a van which is now used as an ambulance in the area. She had become something of a local heroine, and on the back of such a triumphant and defiant rehabilitation, she had decided to go to the US to publicise her schools and voluntary efforts. In Islamabad, senior politicians shuddered at the prospect.

The thought of Ms Mai receiving applause in auditoriums across America prompted immediate and savage action. In effect, the government decided that Ms Mai needed to be gagged. The American visit was scheduled to begin last Saturday. On Thursday, the authorities placed Ms Mai under house arrest. She has reportedly said that when she attempted to leave her home, police pointed their guns at her. Three women police officers traipsed after her from room to room, even following her into the toilet. After overhearing a couple of telephone interviews with journalists, police severed her landline. Ms Mai's name remains on a blacklist, normally reserved to curtail the movement of political extremists, called the Exit Control List.

While Ms Mai was under house arrest on Friday, the court decided to release her attackers. Lahore courts do not normally operate on Fridays. Their re-opening appeared to be a clear and calculated attempt to change the balance of power in the Mai case. Using her mobile phone, Ms Mai continued to argue her case. To no avail.

Airports were alerted that Ms Mai should not be permitted to leave the country.

There was an international outcry. The actual request to keep Ms Mai in the country allegedly came from the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Jahangir Karamat. In the end, Ms Mai never made it out of her village, much less to the airport.

Weeping yesterday afternoon, Ms Mai told a founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir, that she was rushed on Monday night to the capital and made to sign papers requesting the return of her passport from the American embassy visa office. Her signed statement maintains that she had not been under detention in her home village, but guarded for her own protection.

Then Ms Mai called yesterday's press conference - held at the women's development ministry in Islamabad - to announce that her speaking engagements in America were cancelled.

"I came to Islamabad to discuss my crisis centre back in the village," she said. "I decided of my own free will not to go abroad, because my mother is ill." Minutes later, Farzana Bari, a women's rights activist, rang her mother in the village and said she sounded perfectly fine. "But Marktar looks completely terrorised," she added. "The government was afraid she would tarnish its image." Insiders say she is frightened that government agencies will "whisk her away" if she dares speak out again. Activists claim that Ms Mai relented to pressure after being told that President Musharraf was personally "very angry" with her.

The case has indeed embarrassed President Musharraf, a "modern" general who is keen to play down the religious extremism in backward parts of his country. He has been promoting "an enlightened Islam" but activists say that this vision seems to exclude women. Privately, General Musharraf is enraged at how Ms Mai's case has brought infamy to Pakistan. Instead of promoting justice in the case, his reaction, along with a group of newspaper editors, has been to suppress information about the case. The President even threatened to "slap" a reporter "in the face" for publishing details in an international magazine about Ms Mai's defiance. The reporter in question was Pakistan's leading women's rights activist, Ms Jehangir, who is also a UN special rapporteur on human rights.

General Musharraf incurred the wrath of women's rights activists earlier this year. A tribe in Baluchistan began a revolt after an army captain allegedly raped a woman doctor working for the state-run gas company at its desert installations. The tribal chieftain, Nawab Bugti insisted that the suspected rapist be tried by tribal custom - walking across burning coals to prove his innocence.

Instead, the suspected rapist, who had powerful family connections within the military, has so far never been tried. Nor is he likely to ever face justice, after General Musharraf publicly declared he thought that the captain was innocent. The woman doctor was encouraged by the authorities to leave the country - not a choice for the defiant village schoolteacher.

The ruling party has vilified Ms Mai's supporters as unpatriotic. The State Interior Minister, Shahzad Wasim, said: "People in NGOs are ready to say anything for one dinner with Johnny Walker and eat innocent people like vultures."

Above all, yesterday's extraordinary press conference appears to demonstrate that Pakistan is willing to go to enormous and unjust lengths to protect its public image. Officials are desperate to hush up the brutal justice of the tribal hinterlands in Punjab as a matter of public relations. Medieval punishment discourages investment in the infrastructure, and Pakistan is eager to be perceived as a haven for moderate Muslims. Mukhtar Mai could never have been allowed to go to America and tell her terrible story.

When Time magazine nominated Ms Mai as one of Asia's heroes, it commented: "As long as the state refuses to fully challenge the brutality of tribal law, the plight of Pakistani women will continue. Mukhtar Mai is a symbol of their victimhood, but in her resilience she is also a symbol of their strength."

In the end, it seems, that strength and resilience was not for export.

Declan Walsh, “Pakistan's Gas Fields Blaze as Rape Sparks Threat of Civil War. Fight for provincial autonomy escalates after attack,” Guardian, 21 Feb. 2005.

Visitors are not welcome at the house in Karachi where Shazia Khalid is living; not even with an invitation. A police team is posted at the gate and army rangers prowl the grounds inside. "You need the permission from the bosses at the top," says a moustached officer firmly. "The very top."

Hours later Dr Shazia picks up the phone inside.

Her strained voice crumbles into sobs. "We are very scared," she says, her husband at her side. "In Pakistan there is no law, no protection, nothing. Who can we trust? Nobody."

She has good reason to worry. Until six weeks ago the 31-year-old was a company doctor at the Sui gas plant, at the farthest reaches of remote Baluchistan province. On January 3 she was raped in her bed.

Normally in Pakistan, where crimes against women are rife, such an act would barely raise an eyebrow. In her case, it nearly started a war.

Members of the local Bugti clan saw a rape in their heartland as being a breach of their code of honour - especially when the alleged rapist was a captain in the despised national army. They attacked the gas field with rockets, mortars and thousands of AK-47 rounds.

President Pervez Musharraf sent an uncompromising response: tanks, helicopters and an extra 4,500 soldiers to guard the installation. If the tribesmen failed to stop shooting, he warned on television, "they will not know what hit them".

But the guerrilla attacks have escalated, propelling a long-ignored province into the headlines and threatening civil war. Every day sees a new attack on military and government targets across the province. Insurgents have blown up railway tracks, toppled pylons and fired rockets into army camps. Sui supplies 45% of Pakistan's gas, so supplies to Karachi, Lahore and other cities have been cut.

The fighting is motivated by more than the rape. For decades the Baluch tribes have demanded a greater share of profits from their resource-rich but cash-poor province. The Islamabad government ignored them, and a year ago Baluch nationalists started bombing police stations, courthouses and checkpoints.

Since the violence sparked by the rape, their demands are being taken more seriously. President Musharraf's belligerence has given way to softer political promises. Envoys have been dispatched, and there is talk of increased profit-sharing and greater autonomy. But tension remains high.

Government officials accuse Iran and India of helping to arm the rebels. They say there are about 50 training camps, each with between 20 and 200 militants, in the province. The army has announced plans to establish a permanent garrison in Sui. The attacks continue.

The Bugti leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, says the question of Dr Shazia's rape comes first. "As long as the perpetrators of this heinous crime are not dealt with, there can be no talks," he said.

The explosive case is a matter of extreme sensitivity for the government. Only a handful of family visitors may enter the house where Dr Shazia and her husband are living. A senior police officer said: "You have to understand that in this matter we answer to the president."

That is small consolation to the confused and frightened couple. Speaking publicly for the first time since the rape, Dr Shazia told the Guardian that officials from Pakistan Petroleum (PPL), which runs the plant, at first drugged her to cover up the case.

"Before the police came to take a statement, the [company's] chief medical officer said: 'Don't give them any information.' Then they injected me with a tranquilliser that made me drowsy," she said.

At the time PPL officials said Dr Shazia was unable to file a statement because she was unconscious. Despite her injuries, Dr Shazia was offered no medical treatment by PPL and she had no contact with her family for two days. Then the company flew her to Karachi and checked her into a private psychiatric hospital.

Three PPL doctors have since been arrested on charges of obstructing justice. But despite weeks of police investigation, Dr Shazia's rapist remains at large.

She said she did not know his identity. "He tied my hands with a telephone wire and blindfolded me with a dupatta [scarf]. But I could feel that he had a moustache and curly hair. And I know his voice."

Early this week President Musharraf's spokesman said an army captain was "under investigation" but had not been arrested. Meanwhile Baluch police have re-interviewed Dr Shazia - this time insinuating she was engaged in prostitution.

"They asked me where I got the 25,000 rupees [£225] that was stolen and when I wore my jewellery. And they said that a cleaner had found used condoms in my room," she said.

Since then the police have announced that DNA tests on the main suspect did not match that found at the scene, heightening fears of a cover-up.

Weeks ago Dr Shazia's husband's grandfather said the rape had rendered her kari - a disgrace to the family honour - and so she must be divorced, and preferably killed. Such "honour killings" remain common in rural Pakistan.

But her husband, a pipeline engineer, says he is standing by his wife. His grandfather, he said, "is just a bad man, and this has made my wife even more scared. She cannot sleep at night, so I sit by her bed to take care of her."

For human rights campaigners, the kari rubs salt in the wound of a case combining politics, violence and regressive traditions.

"In this country a woman has no status," said Shershah Syed, of the Pakistan Medical Association. "She is an object, like a cow or a bucket."

Having lost their jobs and fearing for their lives, the couple want to leave Pakistan.

"They are politicising this issue, the whole country, everyone," Dr Shazia said through tears before hanging up. "How can I face anyone any more? We have to get out."

"Pakistan," DOS Report 2003.

Rape was a pervasive problem. It is estimated that less than one-third of all rapes are reported to the police. The law provides for the death penalty for persons convicted of gang rape. No executions have been carried out under this law and conviction rates remain low.

Police rarely respond to and sometimes are implicated in these attacks (see Section 1.c.). According to HRCP, in most rape cases the victims are pressured to drop charges because of the threat of Hudood adultery or fornication charges against them if they cannot prove the absence of consent.

All consensual extramarital sexual relations are considered violations of the Hudood Ordinances, and carry Hadd (Koranic) or Tazir (secular) punishments (see Section 1.e.). Accordingly, if a woman cannot prove the absence of consent, there was a risk that she may be charged with a violation of the Hudood ordinances for fornication or adultery. The Hadd--or maximum punishment for this offense--was public flogging or stoning; however, for Hadd punishments to apply, especially stringent rules of evidence were followed.

Hadd punishments were mandatory if evidentiary requirements were met; for sexual offenses, four adult male Muslims must witness the act or the alleged perpetrator must confess. For non-Muslims or in cases where all of the 4 male witnesses were not Muslim, the punishment was less severe. The testimony of four female witnesses, or that of the victim alone, was insufficient to impose Hadd punishments; therefore, even if a man rapes a woman in the presence of several women, he cannot be subjected to the Hadd punishment.

If Hadd punishment requirements were not met, the accused may be sentenced to a lesser class of penalties (Tazir); in practice most rape cases were tried at this level. Under Tazir a rapist may be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison and 30 lashes. No Hadd punishment has been applied in the more than 20 years that the Hudood ordinances have been in force. For Tazir punishments, there was no distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim offenders. According to AI, men accused of rape sometimes were acquitted and released, while their victims were held on adultery charges. ...

Marital rape is not a crime. The Hudood Ordinances abolished punishment for raping one's wife. Marriage registration (nikah) sometimes occurs years before a marriage is consummated (rukh sati). The nikah (unconsummated) marriage is regarded as a formal marital relationship, and thus a woman or girl cannot be raped by a man to whom her marriage is registered, even if the marriage has not yet been entered into formally.

”Pakistani court orders arrest of 13 charged in gang rape of mother, daughter,” Canadian press, 3 Jan. 2003.

MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) – A Pakistan court has ordered the arrest of 13 men accused of gang-raping a woman and her daughter in a property dispute last year, police said Friday.

The men allegedly kidnapped and raped the women, ages 48 and 24, in April to force them to sell their land, police official Abdul Majeed said in the central Pakistani city of Bor-e-Wala. The suspects include a father and his two sons, Majeed said. They are all in hiding.

The High Court in Multan, in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, handed down its ruling Thursday, formally charging the suspects with kidnapping and rape.

Human rights groups at home and abroad have long accused Pakistani authorities of failing to protect women from violence.

”Pakistan: Women arrested protesting stoning sentence,” Off Our Backs, Aug/Sep 2002.

On April 17, 2002, Zafran Bibi was sentenced to death by stoning in Pakistan. Not the first and surely not the last, Bibi stepped forward as a rape victim and has been recast as a criminal guilty of zina, or sexual intercourse outside of valid marriage. For a married woman convicted of zina, the punishment is death. On June 6, under pressure by human rights groups in Pakistan and all over the world, the highest Islamic court overturned Bibi's sentence.

Activists rallied around the Bibi case, fighting both for her freedom and for the repeal of the Hadood laws, restrictive religious laws in force in Pakistan as well as in some other Islamic countries. The Progressive Women's Association (PWA), founded in Islamabad in 1986, held a peaceful protest on May 7 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Police pressured protesters to disperse, threatening to arrest them under the Anti-Terrorist Act. About 70 activists attended the protest and 5 women were arrested, including Shahnaz Bokhari, head of the PWA. (Bokhari was also arrested last month, accused of kidnapping-for helping a woman who was being sheltered from her abusive husband by the PWA. See the May/ June 2002 issue of off our backs.) Speakers at the protest describe Hadood as a "cruel and inhuman law," saying it is a "gross violation of the constitution and the basic concept of justice." Of the arrests, Bokhari said, "We were not expecting this of the Musharraf government which has been claiming [to be] a moderate and liberal government." Other female activists protested in Islamadbad on May 2, and human rights organizations around the world offered legal and monetary support for Bibi's cause.

According to reports, Bibi was tortured and raped by her father-in-- law and her brother-in-law, Jamal, while her husband was serving a jail sentence for murder. Although Bibi would later testify that it was Jamal who impregnated her, her father-in-law brought her to court to charge another man, Akmal Khan, with rape. The father-in-law appears to have had intentions of blackmail, as he owed Khan a considerable sum of money.

Khan was eventually exonerated, but no action was taken against Jamal even though Bibi named him as her rapist; his, name appeared nowhere in the police reports. Instead, Bibi was condemned by her own testimony and convicted based upon the fact that she conceived a child during her husband's absence.

Bibi was convicted of zina, a word that encompasses adultery, fornication, rape, and prostitution. Zina can be charged by parents, husbands, or other relatives based on very little cause. For instance, parents can accuse their daughter of zina if she marries a man of whom they do not approve, or a man can charge an ex-wife who unknowingly remarries after an invalid divorce. A woman who declares herself a rape victim under the rubric of zina faces a high burden of proof, as she must supply four upstanding male citizens as eyewitnesses to the crime. If she cannot, her reporting of the rape becomes a confession of zina to be used against her as it was against Bibi.

Zina falls under a notorious set of Islamic laws known as the Hadood Ordinance, first introduced to Pakistan by military dictator Ziaul-Haq in 1979. The ordinance was part of an ongoing campaign for the Islamization of Pakistan's legal and political systems, and was meant to encourage the development of "pure and chaste" Pakistani people.

Since 1979, religious conservatives have continued to push for the state to be increasingly tied to religion, hoping to use the military to enforce a state-sponsored ideal of Islam. Many supporters of shari'a, or religious law, recognize that there have been abuses and injustices in practice, but claim that the law itself ensures a safe and moral society. While most moderate Pakistanis do not believe that such strict Islamic codes belong as part of the country's system of government, the state has not taken action to try to revoke them. The regimes that have governed the country for the last two decades fear the strength of conservative religious groups and disregard the weak societal position of the poor and of women, who are most adversely affected.

The conflict over the validity of the laws is embodied in the way the courts deal with cases under the Hadood Ordinance. Lower courts, whose judges tend to be citizens from lower and middle classes with usually more conservative religious viewpoints, routinely convict citizens and sentence them to extreme punishments, such as stoning. In contrast, the superior Federal Shariat Court, whose upper-class judges have often been educated in a more western tradition, rarely upholds these convictions. Many see this as a compromise of sorts, allowing the laws to remain on the books without being fully applied. This precedent partially explains the overturning of Bibi's sentence. Zz Nevertheless, this "compromise" is considered unfair by feminists and human rights activists, who point out that the falsely accused must spend time in jail before they are freed and will then face the social stigma associated with zina once back in their communities. In Bibi's case, she may be killed by her husband once he gets out of jail because she has been touched by another man. In this instance the Hadood Ordinance has failed to protect the victim of a violent crime and indeed opened the door for more violence.

“Women's plight stirs Pakistan: High-profile cases arouse outrage against abuses of male-run society,” San Francisco Chronicle, 4 Aug. 2002.

Shumaira won't talk to strangers. She demurely responds to elders with respect. She rarely ventures outside, opting to draw and read. Her caregivers characterize her as well-behaved and bright.

But the skinny 11-year-old girl is terrified.

Shumaira ran away from home nine months ago after her stepfather and his friend raped her repeatedly. Pakistani police picked the brown-eyed girl off the streets and brought her to a women's shelter called the Sach ("Truth") Foundation.

Authorities immediately registered a criminal complaint against the two men, but little progress has been made in the investigation. Shumaira's only witness is her mother. Under Pakistani law, a woman's testimony carries no weight, and the crime of rape requires four Muslim male witnesses for conviction.

Shumaira's plight is all too common here. Thousands of girls and women are abused by their fathers, husbands and in-laws daily. Almost 50 percent of women who report rape wind up in prison under Pakistan's harsh hudood laws, which criminalize extramarital relations between men and women.

Moreover, social stigma, poor legal protection, feudal class systems and a lack of knowledge about the few rights women do have cause most victims to forgo reporting rape crimes.

Tribal law and custom dominate in Pakistan, as they have for hundreds of years. The hudood laws are complemented by statutes known as qisas and diyat, which stipulate equal punishment for the crime and compensation payable to the victims or their legal heirs, respectively. Such laws make murder a crime against the individual—not the state—and can be a de facto license to kill.

But in recent months, Pakistani society has been in turmoil over several high-profile cases, leading to calls to reform the restrictive laws that limit women's rights.

Bowing to public outrage, a judge freed Zafran Bibi from a death sentence in June that had been imposed after she became pregnant by a rapist.

That same month, a local tribal council ordered Mukhtaran Bibi (no relation to Zafran) to be publicly gang-raped by four men as punishment for an alleged dishonorable act committed by her younger brother.

Public outrage over the gang-rape case led prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the four accused rapists and jail terms on criminal negligence charges for 10 council members and police officers who knew about the incident but did not act to prevent it.

At their trial Saturday in Dera Hazi Khan, Bibi testified in a firm voice that she begged the men not to rape her, pleading with them that "I have done nothing to harm your family."

With her face covered with a black shawl, she said that when she appeared before the tribal council at her uncle's request to "apologize" for the incident involving her brother, an elder of the council . . . said that 'Since the girl has come here, therefore, we should pardon her.' . . . But suddenly a man stood and said, 'We will rape her.' "

The defense will cross-examine Bibi on Monday.

In another highly publicized incident just two weeks ago, four men convicted of a double murder bargained for clemency with families of their victims. To escape death by hanging, they agreed to pay $130,000 and give eight of their daughters away in marriage to the victims' families.

An outcry occurred as news broke that the youngest girl, a cherub-faced child named Iqra, was only 5, and a 14-year-old named Tasleem Khan was betrothed to a 55-year-old farmer.

"These cases are nothing new. Every day, every hour, women are punished. They are not viewed as human beings with rights, they are viewed as possessions with which to barter and trade," said the Sach Foundation director, Halda Selimi.

It is also not unusual in this impoverished, overwhelmingly male-dominated nation of 147 million to see women begging on the streets after the men in their family are incapacitated or incarcerated. Few women outside of the larger cities have any hope of financial independence—and many see a rape of a daughter as the least of their worries.

"They say, 'So what? My daughter was raped,' because they are so overwhelmed by economic concerns. Girls have little worth to a poor family to begin with," said Selimi. "These aren't stories people want to hear, but they must, and all of us have to face up to what is happening here."

In recent weeks, doctors, lawyers and businessmen have flooded newspaper offices with letters decrying the treatment of women.

"Much needs to be done to reform our society and its horrifying norms. Until such inhumane injustices are eradicated we have no right to call (Pakistan) an Islamic republic," Karachi businessman Shafat Ali wrote in the daily newspaper Dawn.

"There has to be a concerted effort by politicians, police, human rights groups and the people of Pakistan to end (these laws) once and for all," said Insaf Yousifzai, a Rawalpindi-based lawyer. "And the time is now."

While human rights groups push for reviews of the religious laws, government officials vow to enact legislation against the tribal custom of bartering young women off into marriage with older men.

"Supporters have cowed previous governments from changing the laws by arguing they are Islamic," said attorney Yousifzai. "Nowhere in Islam does it (condone) abuse of women. And this government now has the public support to root out abuse in the law."

But at the shelter where Shumaira has found refuge, workers there say one of the saddest aspects of the case is that her mother comes repeatedly bringing her other children and asking that Shumaira withdraw the charges and come home. After each visit, they say, Shumaira is torn between love for her siblings and fear of returning to her stepfather's house.

"After their visit, she cries bitterly for days and days," Selimi said.

Sitting nervously on a metal stool, looking out from under the bangs that cover most of her face, Shumaira refuses to discuss the case against her stepfather. But she seems determined not to go back.

“I like it here," she said in a soft voice. "I don't ever want to leave."

Seth Mydans, "In Pakistan, Rape Victims Are the 'Criminals,'" New York Times, May 17, 2002.

HORLAKI, Pakistan — The evidence of guilt was there for all to see: a newborn baby in the arms of its mother, a village woman named Zafran Bibi. Her crime: she had been raped. Her sentence: death by stoning.

Now Ms. Zafran, who is about 26, is in solitary confinement in a death-row cell in Kohat, a nearby town. The only visitor she is allowed is her baby daughter, now a year old and being cared for by a prison nurse.

In photographs, Ms. Zafran is a tall woman with striking green eyes — a peasant woman of the hot and barren hills of Pakistan's northwest frontier country. Unschooled and illiterate, like most other women here, she may have little understanding of what has happened to her. But her story is not uncommon under Pakistan's strict Islamic laws.

Thumping a fat red statute book, the white-bearded judge who convicted her, Anwar Ali Khan, said he had simply followed the letter of the Koran-based law, known as hudood, that mandates punishments.

"The illegitimate child is not disowned by her and therefore is proof of zina," he said, referring to laws that forbid any sexual contact outside marriage. Furthermore, he said, in accusing her brother-in-law of raping her, Ms. Zafran had confessed to her crime.

"The lady stated before this court that, yes, she had committed sexual intercourse, but with the brother of her husband," Judge Khan said. "This left no option to the court but to impose the highest penalty." Although legal fine points do exist, little distinction is made in court between forced and consensual sex.

When hudood was enacted 23 years ago, the laws were formally described as measures to ban "all forms of adultery, whether the offense is committed with or without the consent of the parties." But it is almost always the women who are punished, whatever the facts.

The case of Ms. Zafran fits a familiar pattern. But it raised an outcry, even in Pakistan, because of the sentence of death by stoning, a punishment called for by hudood but never carried out here. The facts of her case have become the subject of editorials and news stories in Pakistan, bringing her some notoriety, and in early May, a higher court called for a review of Ms. Zafran's sentence.

But even if the case returns to a more typical course, she is likely to spend 10 to 15 years in prison as the result of her rape, said Rukhshanda Naz, who heads the local branch of a women's rights group called Aurat. As many as 80 percent of all women in Pakistani jails have been convicted under laws that ban extramarital sex, according to Aurat.

Ms. Zafran, whether she was angry or just naïve, chose to point her finger at the man she said raped her. The assaults, she said, came sometimes on the hillside behind her house when she went to cut hay, sometimes at home when nobody was there to see.

Sardar Ali Khan, her lawyer, said that Ms. Zadran had told him she cried when she was raped and that she had cried again as she spoke to him about what happened.

Her husband, Niamat Khan, was serving a prison sentence for murder and in his absence, she had become the plaything of at least one of his brothers.

"She complained to her mother-in-law and her father-in-law," her lawyer said, "but they just turned away." It was her pregnancy that forced her accusations into the open and led to her conviction for zina.

Human rights groups say abuse of women is endemic in Pakistan. Often, they are locked inside their homes where they are subjected to beatings, acid attacks, burning and rape. Every year there are hundreds of "honor killings," in which a woman is murdered for perceived breaches of modesty.

For the most part, abuses like these are carried out with impunity, and often with the support of traditional communities.

Rape itself is a crime under hudood, but it is so difficult to prove that men are rarely convicted. On the other hand, human rights workers say, as many as half the women who report a rape are charged under zina laws with adultery.

"With the men, they apply the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty," said Asma Jahangir, an official of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the author of a book on hudood. "With the women, they apply the principle that you are guilty until proven innocent."

The man Ms. Zafran accused, Jamal Khan, was set free without charges. A case against him would have been a waste of the court's time. Under the laws of zina, four male witnesses, all Muslims and all citizens of upright character, must testify to having seen a rape take place. The testimony of women or non-Muslims is not admissible. The victim's accusation also carries little weight; the only significant testimony she can give is an admission of guilt.

"The proof is totally impossible," said Ms. Naz. "If a woman brings a charge of rape, she puts herself in grave danger." If, on the other hand, the woman does not report the rape and becomes pregnant out of wedlock, her silence can be taken as proof of guilt.

It is not only women but also young girls who are at risk, Aurat says. If girls report a rape, they face the same prospects of punishment as women.

A man can deflect an accusation of rape by claiming that his victim, of any age, consented. If the victim has reached puberty, she is considered to be an adult and is then subject to prosecution for zina. As a result, the Aurat report says, girls as young as 12 or 13 have been convicted of having forbidden sexual relations and have been punished with imprisonment and a public whipping.

With no safe recourse, rights workers say, rape victims often flee to the protection of influential families, which may take them in as servants.

The harsh life of women like Ms. Zafran seems to blend with the harshness of the land on which they live. The dry, rocky hills along the frontier with Afghanistan, where only thorn bushes thrive, offer no hint to the people here that a gentler life is possible. Flat mud houses scattered like tiny forts across the landscape suggest that there is little companionship among the people who toil here.

When Ms. Zafran was given in marriage to Niamat Khan, his family took possession of her and she disappeared into their mud-walled compound a mile away. Her parents rarely saw her again; they are too poor even to have a photograph to remind them of her.

In this barren world, where people grow hard to survive, their tenderness for their daughter seems all the more painful. They sat silently one recent day on the string beds that are the only furnishings of their bare one-room home.

Ms. Zafran's father, Zaidan, an unsmiling, weatherbeaten man, spread his hands as if he had no words to offer.

"When we heard the sentence, we couldn't breathe," he said at last. "We couldn't think. For days we couldn't eat. There was nothing we could do for our daughter." He said he had sold his family's only possessions, two thin goats, to help pay for a lawyer.

His wife, Shiraka, whose beauty seems only to have been deepened by her difficult life, looked away. "I have been sucked dry by grief," she said.

Crime Or Custom? Violence Against Women in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch. August 1999.

Sexual assault is also alarmingly common in Pakistan. HRCP estimated that in 1997 at least eight women, more than half of them minors, were raped every twenty-four hours nationwide. The high incidence of sexual assault in the country is partly fostered by the societal subordination of women to men, by the custom of avenging oneself upon one's enemies by raping their women, who are seen as repositories of family honor, and by the impunity with which these crimes are carried out.

Philippines

”Seven women raped in the Philippines daily,” Agence France Presse, 19 Aug. 2001.

Manila. An average of seven women were raped every day in the Philippines in the first six months of the year, a senator said Sunday citing police statistics.

Police recorded 1,295 rape cases from January to Nune this year, a slight decrease from 1,609 in the same period last year, senator Loren Lagrada said.

The figure, she said, meant an average of seven rape cases a day, or one rape complaint every three-and-a-half hours.

Saudi Arabia

”Saudi Gang Rape Victim Punished,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 6 November 2006.

A Saudi victim of gang rape was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a male friend who was not her husband prior to her rape. Seven men reportedly followed the victim and her friend to their car, kidnapped them, and took them to a farm where they raped the woman, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports. Four men, all married, were convicted of the crime and received sentences ranging from one year in prison and 80 lashes to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes. A fifth man who videotaped the rape on his cell phone still faces investigation, and two other men alleged to have participated in the kidnapping and rape escaped arrest, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

The victim and her male friend both received 90 lashes for being alone together. The victim's husband and family are not disputing these sentences, but announced that they will appeal for harsher penalties for the assailants, FOX reports.

Sierra Leone

”SIERRA LEONE: Rape on the increase,” Africa News, 20 July 2001.

ABIDJAN, 19 Jul 2001 (IRIN) - Rape and other forms of sexual abuse are becoming more common in Sierra Leone, and greater numbers of young victims are reporting their experience to the authorities, Gladys Brima, one of the founding members of a recently established Women’s Help Line (WHL), told IRIN on Thursday.

“Rape is a hidden thing in our society, although recent reports indicate it is on the increase particularly amongst young girls,” Brima said.

The WHL, a collaborative body of concerned NGOs aims to document all violence and abuse against women and take action against the perpetrators, Brima said. Volunteers operate out of established health clinics and hospitals nationwide. They offer trauma counselling and if necessary, medical attention to victims. Reports of the incident are then passed on to the local police for investigation.

Before the war rape was not a big problem in Sierra Leonean society but now the war is over it is still continuing, according to Brima. “The war has contributed to the increase but it has become more generalised, it’s not just the RUF (Revolutionary United Front),” she noted. Gang rape is also more common, but it is often very difficult to find out exactly who committed the crime, she said.

Edward Nahim, the official government psychiatrist in charge of all mental health facilities in Sierra Leone, agrees that there has been a general increase in cases of reported rape in the civilian population. “As a result of the war rape has become more generalised and mainly within the 12-25 age group,” he told IRIN on Thursday. “Many others go unreported,” he added, “but we have no idea of numbers.” Another form of violence against young girls and women, which is not quite rape, takes place in refugee and displaced persons camps, Nahim said. It includes “selling your body for services,” such as protection or food.

South Asia

Michael Casey, “Charity Reports Rising Abuse of Female Tsunami Survivors,” Washington Post, 27 March 2005.

LAMSENIA, Indonesia, March 26 -- The tsunami that overwhelmed South Asia in December killed three times more women than men, and the resulting scarcity of female survivors has led to reports of forced marriages and rape, the British-based charity Oxfam International said Saturday.

Although official statistics do not provide the gender of victims, partial data indicates that many more women than men were among the more than 200,000 people killed or declared missing after the Dec. 26 tsunami devastated the coastlines of 11 countries around the Indian Ocean.

The impact on women was seen especially in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India. Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the earthquake-generated tsunami, now has villages where men outnumber women 10-to-1.

"The tsunami has dealt a crushing blow to women and men across the region. In some villages it now appears that up to 80 percent of those killed were women," said Becky Buell, Oxfam's policy director. "This disproportionate impact will lead to problems for years to come unless everyone working on the aid effort addresses the issue now. We are already hearing about rapes, harassment and forced early marriages."

The report concluded that women suffered disproportionately because they had a more difficult time outrunning the surging waters or they were at home while the men were out at sea fishing or in the fields working.

As a result, men now far outnumber women in crowded camps and scattered settlements, and the women are vulnerable to a range of abuses, the report said. Sri Lankan women have reportedly been sexually assaulted in camp toilets and domestic violence is on the rise, the report found.

According to Oxfam and activists, Indonesian women have been sexually harassed in camps, forced or rushed into marrying much older men and victimized by abusive Indonesian soldiers, who have strip-searched them.

"We know of at least three marriages in which women married older widowers. What we don't know is how forced it was," said Ines Smyth, gender adviser for Oxfam.

"When we asked them, they say they have an obligation to their family and were frightened for the future. If you lost everything you had, including your family, it's very difficult to refuse whatever is being offered, whether it's protection or the possibility of a house."

Indonesian activists say it is difficult to get women to talk about the abuse or report it to authorities. The few women left in coastal settlements interviewed said they were unaware of any abuse and they were focusing on rebuilding their lives.

The coast of the hard-hit province of Aceh is dotted with the remnants of villages dominated by widowers. Lamsenia, a once-thriving fishing and farming village of 833 on the west coast, now has only 35 women among its 158 survivors, and all but one of those women have moved elsewhere. Gampong Pandee, on the edge of the provincial capital Banda Aceh, was reduced from 1,139 people to 246 -- with only 20 women.

Sudan

For full coverage of the mass rape of Darfur women, see "Mass Rape, Rape as a Weapon of War, and Women in War Zones."

"Sudan: Another woman sentenced to 100 lashes," Women in the Middle East, Vol. 24, May 2004.

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Sudanese Organisation against Torture (SOAT), a member of the OMCT network, that a 22 year old woman has been sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip on charges of adultery in Sudan. Ms. Razaz Abaker, 22 years old, was sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip for committing Zina, illegal sexual intercourse. The sentence was handed down by the Nyala Criminal Court on 13 March. The 27 year old man who was charged with having had sex with Ms. Razaz was acquitted by the same court on the basis of insufficient evidence against him. This case was brought based on claims that Ms. Razaz gave birth to a child three years ago outside of marriage, after having had sex with a 22 year old man.

A policeman brought the case to the attention of the Attorney General. On the same day, the Attorney General interrogated Ms. Razaz and she confessed to having had sex with the man in question. She claimed that he raped her and had promised to marry her. On the same day, Ms. Razaz was convicted by the court and sentenced to 100 lashes of the whip, which was carried out immediately, with no possibility of legal assistance or appeal. In Sudan, the Penal Code provides that a person can be convicted of Zina if (1) four witnesses testify to the act, (2) a person confesses to the act, or (3) for women, if they are pregnant and unmarried.

OMCT expresses its grave concern for the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Razaz and unreservedly condemns the use of corporal punishment, which clearly violates international human rights standards that prohibit the use of torture. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the immediate infliction of punishment with no opportunity for appeal or legal consultation.

OMCT would like to recall that the government of Sudan is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture. Sudan has failed to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a signal of the government's failure to adequately protect women's rights. www.omct.org

Uganda

"60% Katakwi Women Raped," Africa News, 4 Dec. 2001.

Sixty percent of the women in Katakwi district protected camps have been raped at least once during Lrimojong cattle raids, a new survey report indicates.

Dr. James Walugembe, a mental health expert and deputy director of Butabika Hospital, read the findings to a conference of over 450 doctors from different African countries. ...

"The rate of teenage unwanted pregnancies is so high. This increases the chance sof mother and chodl dying during labour...." Walugemba said that in many parts of northern Uganda deveastated by war in the last 15 years, the possibility of the spread of HIV/AIDS was high due to the rapes. ... Walugembe observbed that between February and August, this year, the cattle raiders overran the camps and the northern districts 55 times. The district authorities in August decalred Latakwi district a disaster area.

United States

"Fresno Football Players Arraigned in Rape of 11-Year-Old Girl," Feminist Daily News Wire, July 17, 2006.

Two Reedley College football players were arrested and several other college football players are said to have been involved in the alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl at a Fresno, California apartment. Fresno City Police charged two suspects on Wednesday, Mackey Davis, 20, and Eddie Scott, 19, with one count each of molestation of a child under age 14 and oral copulation with a victim under 18. Six football players from Reedley or Fresno City College have been questioned by police, according to the Salinas Californian.

The girl had run away from a group home Friday and was found Saturday night after she fled the apartment. The LA Times reported that the evidence collected at the scene collaborated with the 11-year-old's story.

According to the Associated Press, Davis and Scott pleaded not guilty and the bail is set for $55,000 each. Sexual conduct with a person under 14 is a felony child molestation charge under California state law.

This is another in a spate of recent cases involving college athletes and sexual violence against women.

"Two Indictments in Duke Rape Case," Feminist Daily News Wire, 18 April 2006.

Early today, two sophomore members of the Duke University lacrosse team were arrested on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping. A grand jury indicted Reade Segilmann and Collin Finnerty yesterday, but the indictments were sealed and their identities were not known until this morning, when they appeared before a magistrate.

District Attorney Mike Nifong has said there may be a third indictment coming in relation to the alleged sexual assault of a woman hired to perform as an exotic dancer at a team party, but would not discuss evidence, according to the New York Times. The arrests were made, in part, on the basis of the alleged victim’s identification of the two men, reports the Associated Press.

Segilmann has already posted his $400,000 bond, and Finnerty is in the process of doing the same. Finnerty was previously arrested in connection with assaulting a man in Washington DC last fall, reports the New York Times. He then went through a diversionary program, which allowed the charges to be dismissed following 25 hours of community service.

”Gang Rape Alleged at Duke University,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 31 March 2006.

Duke University has suspended games of the men's lacrosse team, which was ranked number two in the nation, while allegations of gang rape involving members of the team are investigated. An African-American student at neighboring North Carolina Central University told police she was raped for approximately half an hour by three white members of the Duke lacrosse team on March 13 at a party in a house rented by three team captains. She and another woman had been hired to perform at the party as exotic dancers. In addition to rape, the woman is alleging that she was physically assaulted by the players, and subjected to racial slurs, according to ABC News. The alleged victim, a mother of two children, was working at an escort service to finance her education, according to InsideHigherEd.com.

Though all team members deny the accusations, both a nurse trained to handle rape victims and a physician said that their examination of the student found symptoms consistent with sexual assault, according to the Associated Press. In addition, a police search of the house where the alleged crime took place found personal items belonging to the woman, including her false fingernails, which she says broke off when she was struggling to break free as a team member strangled her, according to the News York Times. White team members (only one of the 47 team members is African American) were required to provide DNA samples, but District Attorney Mike Nifong says that even if the DNA tests prove inconclusive, he had enough other evidence to believe that a crime did occur, the Associated Press reports.

The alleged assault has roiled both the campus and the community. Students, faculty, and Durham residents marched on Wednesday, planned before the rape charge to coincide with Sexual Assault Prevention Week at the university, protested the incident, and other protests have been held outside the lacrosse house.

Links

The Global Persecution of Women
Glossary

Email: unity22@telus.net