A 17-year-old Pakistani girl was raped last week after a village council ordered the attack as a revenge assault. Now, police have arrested the 26 members of the council.
The victim was ordered to be raped in Muzaffarabad, which is located in the southern province of Punjab. A village council ordered the attack two days after her brother was accused of committing a sexual assault.
According to the 17-year-old's mother, members of the council were even present as the teenager was abused by the brother of the initial victim, The Guardian reports.
Both rape cases were confirmed by police, official Malik Rashid told reporters.
This case reminds many Pakistanis of a 2002 incident involving Mukhtaran Mai who was ordered to be gang raped for taking her rapist to court. After the attack, her case was widely reported globally, prompting other countries to offer her refuge. Instead of leaving, Mai decided to stay and open a school for rural girls.
Another Tribe Court (Panchayt) in south Punjab Multan and another girl was raped. We are still in 2002.— Mukhtar Mai (@MukhtarMai) July 26, 2017
After the revenge attack was reported to the police, the chief justice of Pakistan’s supreme court, Saqib Nisar, ordered an investigation.
The 26 council members remain in jail, and according to Rashid, police will not free the convicted in exchange for compensation despite it being an option under the country's legal system.
“The state will not give up any sort of agreement,” he added.
Such village councils are known as jirgas in Pakistan.
Traditionally, jirgas offer villagers in rural areas means to settle disputes, but such councils aren't associated with official government entities. As a matter of fact, they are illegal. Still, many people in these areas mistrust the country's official legal system, keeping jirgas relevant, which raises concerns among women's rights activists.
“Pakistan’s judiciary has time and again declared these local councils to be unconstitutional and [have] no legal standing,” lawyer and activist Asma Jahangir said. “Such decisions and parallel justice should end now.”
The Guardian reports that according to the human rights group Aurat Foundation, more than 1,000 women and girls are killed in “honor killings” yearly.
According to 2014 research, every day in Pakistan, six women are kidnapped, four are murdered, four are raped, and three commit suicide.
It's terrifying that these cases continue to happen so regularly in 2017. But as news outlets across the globe report on these tragic incidents, the pressure may push Pakistani officials to do more. Still, until rural villagers are able to refuse to trust these councils, these cases will continue to take place.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/David Ryder