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In Pakistan, there is no specific law on incest in the penal code and, given the conservative nature of society, issues such as rape and incest are surrounded by stigma and are very difficult to address.
Equality Now, along with our local partner War Against Rape, Lahore (WAR), got involved in the case of Mariam, a 15-year-old girl who was raped by her father.
When Mariam’s mother and uncles report the attack, the police are skeptical that a father could rape his daughter. They try to dissuade Mariam from making a complaint, telling her that it would ruin her father. Her father bribes the prosecutor and the police to dismiss the case. The magistrate grants bail to the father without informing Mariam.
Working in conjunction with WAR, we find a pro bono lawyer to take on Mariam’s case. Together, we succeed in persuading the police to not dismiss the case, and to re-investigate instead. Thanks to Mariam’s lawyer’s diligence, the prosecutor is suspended and the case is reassigned.
Thanks to an anonymous donation, we are able to provide Mariam with counseling and an education, as well as housing for her family.
The case goes to trial, but the first hearings do not take place until 2011 because of problems at the court and stalling tactics from the father’s lawyer.
With WAR, we hold a workshop on sexual violence and incest in Lahore, Pakistan, with representatives from civil society, lawyers, parliamentarians, judges and the media.
During the protracted trial, Mariam’s lawyer and WAR repeatedly intervene to protect her by:
• Obtaining special permission for a screen to be set up in the courtroom to shield Mariam so she does not have to testify in plain view of her father
• Refuting an outrageous claim made by the medical examiner who says that the absence of physical marks proves that Mariam could not have been raped.
• Arguing against statements by the prosecution and medical personnel that expose their lack of understanding of sexual violence laws
After more than two years of persistent efforts, the judge sentences Mariam's father to the highest penalty for raping his daughter.
Together with WAR Lahore and Nasreen Welfare Trust Legal Aid Services, we publish a study on incest in Pakistan that highlights the obstacles incest survivors face in accessing justice, and provides solutions based on best practices from other countries.
While in jail waiting for his appeal to be heard at the High Court, the perpetrator dies of a heart attack. Still, the judgement remains a step towards protecting the rights of incest victims.
We continue to work with partners to get a specific provision on incest included in Pakistan’s rape laws, and work towards putting survivor-friendly court procedures in place.
Hidden Victims: The Plight of Pakistan's Child Incest Survivors (The Atlantic)
For incest victims, the trauma never goes away (The Express Tribune)
Girl's fight for justice breaks silence on incest in Pakistan (Thomson Reuters)
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