Tribal council orders gang rape

IssueSeptember - November 2002
News by Lindsay Barnes

A Pakistani tribal council ordered the gang rape of an 18-year-old woman to avenge their tribal “honour” after her young brother's alleged illicit affair with a higher caste woman.

The teenager was raped in a room by four men, one of them a council member, reportedly while a large crowd of villagers laughed and cheered outside, in the remote village of Meerwala in southern Punjab on 22 June 2002. The young woman was threatened that if she did not accept the council's verdict and submit to the gang rape, all of the female members of her family would be raped. The woman was then forced to walk home naked through the crowd.

But a police investigation has since exposed the allegation against her brother (reported variously as 11 or 12 years old) as a cover up after he was sexually assaulted. The boy was falsely accused by villagers of walking with an unchaperoned 30-year-old woman from the high-caste Mastoi tribe. The boy and his sister are of the lower caste Gujar tribe.

However it has since emerged that three Mastoi men had abducted and raped the boy over several hours. He was then locked in a police cell to prevent him from reporting the crime to his parents.

The Mastoi woman made up the allegations to hide her fellow tribesmen's sexual assault on the boy, a provincial inquiry found. The boy's family alleged that they paid the police a bribe of 11,000 rupees (US$180) to release their son. It was reported that a doctor has since confirmed he was raped.

Police have now made a number of arrests in connection with both attacks. The woman has been awarded compensation of around US$8,300 by President Pervez Musharraf. Her family is reportedly under police protection after villagers threatened dire consequences if they pursued the court actions.

Pakistan's informal tribal councils operate outside of the legal framework, meting out punishment for crimes or affronts to dignity. Human rights groups have previously condemned the role of these councils, including their imposing of death sentences. Of particular concern has been the abuse shown towards women.

Topics: Pakistan, Women