Victim-blaming – 10 Feb 2023

ONE of the perpetrators of the gang rape in Islamabad`s F-9 park had `advice` for the victim that showed him as being of one mind with far too many people in Pakistan. He told her `not to come to the park at this time` a classic case of victim-blaming that one witnesses repeatedly among the public and their leaders. The incident in question took place last week, when the woman went to the park at around 8pm accompanied by a male colleague. According to the FIR, they were waylaid by two men at gunpoint and taken towards a wooded area. When she put up resistance and raised her voice to attract the attention of any passersby that may have been around, the men beat her, separated her from her colleague and subjected her to rape. The police are examining CCTV footage of the park and have issued a sketch of one of the perpetrators.

To suggest that a rape victim is in any way responsible for the violence inflicted upon her is to be ignorant, crass and misogynistic. Such views stem from a mentality that sees the public space as an essentially male domain in which females must tread very cautiously, careful not to present any `temptation` lest men lose control. How does this `temptation theory` explain the many victims of child rape, both girls and boys? The onus for men`s bad, or in this case, criminal behaviour, is on men alone. When national leaders contend otherwise, or display a muddled understanding of the issue, it condones by implication an entire host of unacceptable behaviour among men who believe they are inherently `programmed` to prey on women, whether in the workplace or in a park. Women being cloistered inside their homes is no guarantee of their safety either. Around the same time as the park incident, a woman was gang-raped inside her house in a rural area of Islamabad Capital City. Men who rape do so because they have a criminal bent of mind, not because they can. It is an insult to the decent men in our midst who would not consider a woman`s appearance or conduct as giving them licence to visit sexual violence upon her.

The state must ensure that public spaces are safe for women, and that men who rape are held to account for their crime.

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