KARACHI: One of her kidneys has stopped working. The other has developed stones. Doctors recommend a surgery. But she puts it off till after she gets justice. “What if it goes wrong?” she says. “I don’t want to die before I get justice.” Meet Kainat Soomro, a 21 year old rape survivor who has taken refuge in a dingy two bedroom apartment at a rundown neighbourhood of Karachi.
In 2007, at Mehar, her village in rural Sindh, she says she was gang raped by four men. The thirteen-year old was buying toys for her niece at a shop, she says, when she was drugged and taken away to an unknown location where she was raped by each of them. Defying all norms, Kainat’s family refused to settle the matter in the local Jirga where Kainat would have been declared a Kari— dishonoured for having had sex out of marriage.
Life for Kainat became harder after she filed a case against her rapists in the court and fled to Karachi. Her brother was murdered and she has been attacked twice—once at her house and the second time at the city court. When she steps out it is only under police protection. Her two brothers and father dare not step out as they receive death threats every day—most recently by the Lyari gangs. Their only source of income is from Kainaat’s sister—a nurse who works two shifts at a public hospital.
In May 2010, months before Kainat’s brother was murdered, the city court acquitted all four of the accused men due to lack of evidence. Amid an uproar from human rights activists, Kainat filed a petition in the Sindh High Court. It took two years for the hearing to finally begin. The accused were at large, and have only recently been found.
Despite a history of denied justice to rape victims in Pakistan, Kainat has the will to fight on. “I have suffered so much. How can I give up now?” she says.
There were 956 cases of rape reported in the country in 2013, a 16.3 percent increase from the year before, states data compiled by the Aurat Foundation, an advocacy group for women rights.
Punjab topped the list with 846 rape cases reported since 2008. Sindh reported 669 cases since 2008. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported 51 cases. Balcuhistan had only 1 case reported in 2013.
In Faislabad which reported 200 rape cases in 2013, the highest in all districts, a shocking case emerged on September 12. A teenage girl was gang raped by five men. Three of the accused were sons of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Mian Farooq, newspapers reported. In her first account, the girl admitted she could recognise all five of the accused. Four days later, her statement changed and she dropped all charges.
War Against Rape, a non-profit organization which helps victims, claims this is how most cases end. “Victim families suffer social taboos. They feel no one will marry their daughters. Sixty percent withdraw their cases and settle for an out-of-court settlement,” said Rukhsana Siddiqui, a representative.
Mehnaz Rahman, director Aurat Foundation agrees. “It takes a lot of guts to report a rape case considering the attitude of the police. Often rape cases take so long to reach conclusion because the first information report is filed wrong. Police are not willing to register a rape FIR and this tampers initial evidence, crucial when the case is presented in the court.”
She claims this was exactly why Mukhtaran Mai was unable to receive justice even after her case was presented in the Supreme Court.
Mai, who has recently asked the Supreme Court to review her case, was gang raped in 2002 in tribal Baluchistan to settle scores between two tribes. In 2010 the Supreme Court acquitted four of the accused and gave one life sentence—a decision which drew criticism from rights’ activists.
Getting justice for Kainat would have been easy if she had not been treated like most rape victims in Pakistan. There had been no DNA test after the FIR was launched. “Without a DNA test rape cases become complicated,” said Faisal Siddiqui, Kainat’s lawyer. “At this rate Kainat’s case is actually making significant progress,” notes Siddiqui. Will she get justice? “It’s hard to say,” he says.