Karachi: Woman freed after a year of rape and abuse
KARACHI: After being kidnapped and raped for over a year and then being sold off to a pimp, Parveen had lost all hope. She had accepted her fate, and would move without a word from one place to another with her kidnappers.
All this changed a day ago, when, late at night, she was woken up by officers of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) in a shanty home in Shadman Town of North Nazimabad. The officials asked her to follow them quietly and without any fear.
Once out, she was sent back to her home. Her uncle, Altaf Hussain, a frail looking man in his 50s, claims to have done everything he could to search for her. “It is embarrassing being poor and needy. The fact that she was raped and was forced to do certain things will always haunt me. I’ll never forgive myself for this,” he said while talking about the incident.
A year-and-a-half ago, 20-year-old Parveen left her home in Rahim Yar Khan with her mother to earn money to help her ailing father. “I had asked my uncle to inform me if there was any place where I could work as a maid,” said Parveen at the Human Rights Commission Pakistan’s Karachi office.
Thin and disheveled, she narrated her ordeal. After every few sentences, she would add: “My life is over now.” Altaf had asked women living nearby to look for a place where his niece could work and earn a decent amount of money. As soon as an opportunity presented itself, Altaf contacted Parveen and asked her to come to Karachi.
She was initially working at a school, where she was spotted by Rabia (not her real name), who asked her to work as a maid in her home in Safoora Goth.
Although it was agreed that she would only work during the day, Parveen was not often allowed to go back home. “She had a daughter, and would ask me to sit with her so that she does not cry when I leave. I did as she told me at first,” says Parveen.
With time, Rabia’s demands grew more and more unreasonable. Parveen was not allowed to go back home for days at a stretch and was not even allowed to make a single phone call. Her family, who would call repeatedly to inquire about her, were either ignored completely, or told that Parveen was “busy working” and could not attend the phone.
Parveen’s mother came to fetch her several times, but Rabia refused to let her go. “When we argued with her, she would start crying and would say that she needs someone at home, and that she thinks of me as her daughter,” said Parveen. “Her behaviour baffled me at first, but I stayed there anyways because I needed the money.”
She tried running away from Rabia’s home on a number of occasions, but was stopped each time by armed men who were always present outside the house.
“To make me comfortable she started taking me to beauty parlors and insisted that I wear revealing clothes,” she said. “Her sweet demeanor was only a façade: one night I was led into a room where I was forced to have sex with a man.”
Any form of resistance on Parveen’s part was met with verbal abuse and beatings. From then on, all of this became a routine. Men would come to her room, and if she tried resisting, she was either made to drink alcohol or forced to ingest sleeping pills.” By this time she was being raped by 10 to 15 men every week.
All this while, her family was doing everything they could to get her back. Altaf says that no matter whom he told, people were just not ready to believe him. “I knew what was happening to my niece; who could sleep after knowing something like that?” he asked grimly.
Eventually, some five months after Parveen’s kidnapping, Altaf managed to convince a police officer to at least come with him to Rabia’s home. “On reaching there, she informed us that Parveen had stolen valuable artifacts from her home and then run away.” In reality she was sold off to a pimp named Shakir Hussain. She lived with him for over a year, during which, she was treated no differently: he would sell her off to various people in the neighborhood, and beat her to a pulp if she disagreed with anything.
All the while that she was with Shakir, she was threatened to not open her mouth or her family will bear the consequences.
The home from which she came to Karachi has been sold off to pay for the cases she is filing in sessions court. “That’s the only way to make sure that those who did this to me are punished.”
Abdul Hayee, a senior field worker with the HRCP, thinks that court proceedings are a tiring process. Usually the matter is either compounded or is not taken up by the family at all for the fear of threats. Those who reach the courts are made to run after inconsequential details that weaken the victim’s stance in the case.
In some cases, the sexual act is recorded by the kidnappers. Most of the families do not come up because there is a fear that the details will be made public on the internet, which would further tarnish the image of a victim.
This is the fourth case to have come to HRCP in years. “It shows how discreetly and systematically all of this is done,” adds Hayee.
He says that such people will never admit to having done anything wrong. “When Parveen was rescued, Rabia arrived at the CPLC office clad in a chaadar with a tasbeeh in her hand to show her concern. There is no end to the façade of being a ‘good woman’ out to help poor girls in distress,” he adds.
He says that there is a huge market for selling off women or minor girls to the gulf countries or Indonesia. Though a First Information Report (FIR) under section 365-B has been registered, according to which the case will be taken up in sessions court, Hayee noted that if the FIR had been registered in an anti-terrorism court, the results would have been speedier.
Chief of CPLC Sindh Ahmed Chinoy says that people need to come forward with such cases, as “it helps us in catching the perpetrators easily.” When asked whether said perpetrators would be convicted, he replied in affirmation. “There is a need for proper guidance for the people so that they make informed decisions and know how to pursue the case. Though it is not being done, by coming up with such cases we can force the system for speedy trials to convict such people.”