Pakistani police have arrested around 25 members of a village council accused of organizing and ordering the "revenge rape" of a 16-year-old girl in retribution for her brother's alleged sexual assault a 12-year-old.
According to BBC, the families of both girls were related and had come together to handle the issue internally. However, in a statement to AFP, police official Allah Baksh said "[a village council] had ordered the rape of a 16-year-old girl as punishment, as her brother had raped a 12-year-old."
Baksh claimed the village council was approached by a man who said his 12-year-old sister had been raped by her cousin. In response, the council ordered the man to rape the sister of the accused in retaliation, which police claim he did.
A Pakistani newspaper reported that the 16-year-old was forced to appear before the group, where she was raped in front of them and her parents. After the horrifying incident, the mothers of both of the girls filed complaints at the local police station, where medical examiners confirmed rape in both cases.
Multan City Police Officer Ashan Younus told Reuters that "[a] total of 29 people were involved in this ghastly crime, and we have 25 of them in our custody."
According to BBC Urdu, Younus confirmed the younger girl was between the ages of 12 and 14 and the second victim between 16 and 17. He also told the outlet that the original suspect in the first case is still at large while they continue to make arrests of the village councilmen.
"Jirgas," sometimes called "panchayats," are local tribunals made up of village elders and are common throughout Pakistan. Although not recognized by formal courts, police or the national government, they have long stood as the defacto rule of law in many villages. Though generally tolerated or otherwise ignored, the councils have been deemed illegal following a slew of controversial rulings, including orders for "honor killings" and other incidents of "revenge rape" forced condemnation from the Pakistani court system. In 2002, a high profile case centered around the ordering of a revenge gang rape of a 28-year-old woman named Mukhtaran Mai for the alleged crime of a male relative.
Mai filed charges against her attackers, which led to the conviction and death sentences of six of the men. Another five were freed on appeal. Since the tragic incident, Mai has become a prominent campaigner for women's rights in Pakistan.
Arrests in this latest tragic case may continue, but considering the current climate of rights for women in Pakistan, it's not likely that justice will be served. Either way, both young women will carry the scars of this injustice for the rest of their lives.
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