The family of a girl who was abducted and gang raped as a punishment for brother’s marriage to the woman he loved may finally see justice for the brutal crime which occurred close to nine months ago.
Against the wishes of their parents and the village elders in an area of Pakistan called Mauza Noor Muhammad Bhangran, Fayyaz Rakha married Parveen Bibi, the woman he loved.
As retribution, Fayyaz’s sister, Tasleem, was kidnapped at gunpoint in her home by Parveen’s father, Hakim Ali, as well as nine other male members of Parveen’s family. Tasleem was taken to a hidden location for six days and gang raped by the 10 men.
On the seventh day, Hakim, an influential and wealthy member of the community, convened a panchayat (a local governing council) made up of other influential members of the community. The panchayat promptly declared the incident as vani, a custom in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan where a young girl is forcibly married as a punishment for a crime committed by a male relative. (The word vani is derived from the word vanay, which means blood.)
The panchayat then forced Tasleem’s father to agree to their decision or pay a fine of over $76,000, an impossible sum in a village in Pakistan. In addition, Tasleem was forced to marry Hakim’s nephew.
Despite the panchayat, Tasleem’s family did not stop seeking justice for the crime from legal authorities in Pakistan When Tasleem was abducted, they called the police immediately using the emergency number, however, the police refused to investigate. The family then rushed to the police station in person, only to be met with the same response.
After six months of pushing the authorities, the family was able to obtain a court order which forced the police to register a FIR, a first information report (a written report by the police regarding the incident). However, the police, in apparent collusion with the accused, refused to make any arrests and omitted in the report the fact that the rape was later deemed a vani by the local panchayat.
Tasleem’s family continued to push for justice, finally finding an ear with a newly-appointed superintendent of police, who vowed that justice would be done in the case and ordered the arrest of all the accused — nearly nine months after the crime was committed.
At present, the highest court in the region has denied bail to all of the accused and ordered the arrest of all the members of the panchayat (who currently remain at large).