Pakistani police arrested dozens of people in a rural village Thursday following the execution of a "punishment" that has been described as "barbaric." A village council in rural Pakistan ordered a teenage girl be publicly raped after her brother was accused of raping another girl in the village. Despite recent efforts by the government and local human rights organizations, so-called "vengeance rapes" remain an unfortunately common form of punishment in Pakistan's southern Punjab Province.
The incident took place in Muzaffarabad, a village near the city of Multan, the New York Times reported Pakistani police said. According to the Times, the council had determined that the rape of the accused's sister would be fair punishment for his alleged crime, despite the fact that the girl had nothing to do with the crime her brother was accused of. The victims, rapists, and council members are reported to all be members of the same extended family, according to police. The girl's mother and sisters protested the punishment, but village elders threatened to kill them, CNN reported.
"They are victims and accused at the same time," Multan city police head Ahsan Younis reportedly told the Washington Post. "It's barbaric."
The mother of the 16-year-old girl reportedly alerted Punjab Province's Violence Against Women Center to the rapes. Medical examinations confirming evidence of sexual assault were reportedly conducted on both victims.
According to police, arrest warrants have been issued for a total of 29 people, and 25 of them have already been taken into custody.
Although village councils, known in Pakistan as panchaiyat or jirgas, are reportedly illegal in Pakistan, they remain in more rural areas, where people prefer not to involve police in matters.
Vengeance rapes are unfortunately not as uncommon as they ought to be. This most recent incident has sparked multiple comparisons to the 2002 gang rape of Mukhtar Mai. (Mai went on to create the Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization to advocate for Pakistani women.) A Pakistani village council reportedly ordered Mai to be gang-raped after her brother was accused of having an affair. The accusations against her brother were later found to have been false.
"I am not surprised," Mai wrote in an op-ed about the Muzaffarabad incident. "It is a norm for panchaiyats and jirgas to penalize a woman for a man’s crime. They call it 'justice.' Men in Pakistan, guilty men, go unpunished. Women, innocent women, get punished."
Pakistan is believed to be one of the three most dangerous countries in the world for women due to the high rates of domestic violence, so-called "honor killings," and other practices that harm women. In 2014, a report by the Aurat Foundation found that, on average, six women were kidnapped, four were murdered, four were raped, and three took their own lives every day in Pakistan.