Published: 10:45 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 07 June 2012
Teenage Christian girl gang-raped in Pakistan; police side with attackers
Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia
Christian women and girls in Pakistan are vulnerable to attack
A 13-year-old Christian girl was gang-raped in Pakistan and members of her family beaten up, causing a pregnant aunt to lose her babies.
The attack on the teenager from Narowal happened on 29 March. She was kidnapped as she walked past one of the alleged offender's house, drugged and taken to nearby fields where she was raped by three men. The Christian girl said that she was unable to cry out because her assailants stuffed cloth in her mouth.
She was found in the fields the following morning by her family, who had been searching for her since she went missing.
Police initially refused to register a case, urging the family to reach a settlement with the accused. But they refused, and around ten days later a rape case was lodged; a medical examination of the schoolgirl establishing that she had indeed been raped. The police have, however, already declared one of the accused, who is a retired inspector's son, innocent.
The incident has affected the teenager deeply; she has not returned to school and says she never wants to go back.
On 8 May, in an apparent attempt to put pressure on the family to withdraw the complaint, one of the suspects, along with his father, the retired inspector, and four other men broke into their home and beat them up. A pregnant member of the family gave birth the next day to two stillborn baby girls; their deaths are believed to have been caused by the attack. Other female members and children were also beaten up.
A case has been registered against the six suspects, who are accused of causing an abortion, assault on a woman, trespass, abetment, rioting and rioting armed with a deadly weapon. The police have not, however, arrested any of them.
The investigating officer in both cases, Sub Inspector Sarwat Hakeem, said that the 13-year-old girl had gone to the fields with the men of her own free will and had had consensual sex with one of them. He also dismissed the family's complaint that the two unborn babies had died as a result of their mother being beaten up.
The family is now coming under further pressure from the accused, who are trying to claim ownership of a plot of land that the Christians own and are in the process of building on. The claim has forced them to stop construction work.
Christians in Pakistan are frequently denied justice, and Christian women are particularly vulnerable to attack by Muslim men, with whom the police and judiciary often side.