Faisalabad: after rape victim commits suicide when her abusers are released, activists demand justice
by Jibran Khan
Zahra Nasim, 17, took her own life in front of a police station. On 18 June, she was raped by three men. After a few days, a judge had them released. Priest in Lahore slams the authorities for failing to obtain justice and enforce the law. In the past three months, more than a dozen rapes and murders against women have been reported.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Civil society groups in Faisalabad, Punjab, took to the streets today to demand justice for Zahra Nasim, Pakistan's latest victim of sexual violence and abuse against women.

As in previous cases, rapes are being carried out with complete impunity with the perpetrators released or even not prosecuted, whilst the authorities, the judiciary and police remain inactive.

Just in the past three months, more than a dozen cases of sexual violence and murder have been reported in different parts of the country.

For this reason, Christian and Muslim activists have demonstrated in recent months in a "white ribbon" campaign against violence against women, calling for new laws to protect them.

Zahra Nasim, 17, originally from Faisalabad, was raped by three men on 18 June. After the assault, the Chief Minister of Punjab opened a case against them and had them arrested.

However, a few days later, on 25 June, a judge ordered the release of suspects. Shocked by the news, the young woman took her own life in front of the headquarters of the Commissioner of Police.

Fr John Adil, a priest in Lahore, joined the protest. Calling the whole thing "a sad state of affairs", he bemoaned the fact that law enforcement failed to uphold the law, and in so doing "failed the victims".

In Sindh province, he added, Hindu women are victims of frequent kidnappings and forced conversions, but "nobody ever does anything. . . . How long will all this continue?"

Human rights activist Arshed Mirza, from Lahore, explains the reasons for the demonstration. "We are protesting against growing violence against women," he said, "victims of rapes and murders, without the justice system intervening to punish those responsible."

"Instead some (Muslim) religious leaders keep on saying that if a woman is raped, she should not complain about it. That is really crazy. "

With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia.

About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).

Violence against ethnic and religious minorities is commonplace across the country, with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main target, with things getting worse.