The Pakistani police have arrested more than a dozen members of a village council in the eastern province of Punjab after they ordered the “honor revenge” rape of a teenage girl as punishment for a rape allegedly committed by her brother.
“A jirga [village council] had ordered the rape of a 16-year-old girl as punishment, as her brother had raped a 12-year-old,” Allah Baksh, a local police official, told AFP. The incident occurred more than a week ago in the Muzaffarabad region of the Punjab province, according to Pakistani media.
According to the police, a man approached the local elders’ council earlier in July and said that his sister, 12, was raped by his cousin. The council then ordered the complainant to rape the alleged perpetrator’s sister, who is 16 years old, as revenge.
Only after the complainant followed the orders of the council and raped the alleged perpetrator’s sister did both families turn to the local women’s crisis center and the case was eventually handed over to the police.
“Both the parties had filed cases of rape against each other at the local police station after the incident that happened last week,” Rashid Taheem, the police officer heading the investigation told AFP, adding that the police had “arrested 14 members of the village council so far.” At the same time, a local police chief, Ahsan Younus, told AP that both rapists are still at large.
Village elders’ councils are a traditional institution for settling disputes in Pakistani rural areas, where courts are not accessible or trusted, even though such councils are deemed illegal by the state authorities.
A “revenge rape” is a highly criticized practice in rural Pakistan that allows village elders to approve the rape of a woman as a form of punishment for her or another family member’s misdeed.
Village councils have been involved in several high-profile cases of “honor revenge” rapes, according to Pakistani media. In January 2014, an elders’ council in the town of Muzaffar Garh ordered the “revenge” rape of a 41-year-old woman.
One of the most high-profile cases took place in 2002, when a woman called Mukhtar Mai was punished for adultery allegedly committed by her younger brother, who was 12 years old at the time. Mai then chose to fight for justice and hold her rapists and their accomplices accountable.
Her rapists were eventually found guilty, but later their sentences were overturned and they are now living free.
Her story inspired an opera, “The Thumbprint,” which opened in New York in 2014. On June 18 this year, Mai traveled to the US to watch the Los Angeles premiere of the opera.