Teenage Gang Rape Victim Condemned to Die In Pakistan

Teenage Gang Rape Victim - Pakistan
Image by Hilke Schellmann

After four men gang raped her when she was only 13 years old, members of Kainat Soomro's village deemed her a "black virgin", condemning her to die.

In Dadu, a rural village in Southern Pakistan, tradition dictates that a sexual assault is a disgrace to the victim as well as her family, and that the woman should therefore be killed by her own family. Kainat Soomro, however, is still alive after four years, and a documentary of her story is going to be aired in the US. However, that is no guarantee that she and her family are safe.

The film titled Outlawed in Pakistan shows that Kainat is still "destined" to be killed, and this time, it is also because she did the unthinkable in Pakistan - she decided to fight and speak out. The title is based on the fact that by making the accusation of rape, Kainat has become an outlaw in her own country.

Outlawed in Pakistan shows how Soomro's family lived in fear, isolation and intimidation from the men that she accused of rape, as well as the people of the village who do not want to question the centuries-old moral laws they believed in. The film also presented how her family's struggles became more and more difficult and how they have shown courage and endurance despite all that.

The film tells the story of the attack on then 13-year-old Kainat Soomro which occurred while she was walking home down a village street after school, where a shop-owner named Shaban Saikh as well as three more men (a father and a son included) held her down and raped her.

She was declared "kari" or a "black virgin" by the village, and her family was ordered to kill her to end the dishonor that the rape victim brings to the family, at least according to Pakistani culture. Those who were accused of sexually assaulting her proceeded to beat one of her brothers and her father. Her older brother was also found murdered after he went missing for 3 months.

Still, Kainat's parents refused to perform the honor killing, and set out to present their daughter's case to the legal system that places burden of proof on the rape victim.

Kainat's brother speaks out in the film as well, telling film-makers Hilke Schellmann and Habiba Nosheen about how people berated him, saying he is not a real man because he failed to kill his sister to follow tradition.

The Soomros were also forced to leave Dadu due to escalating threats of further violence and death; they moved to Karachi City, where 18 family members have to live in a cramped two-bedroom apartment. The men could not find employment, so the women embroidered fabric to earn enough for rent, but they often need to resort to asking for handouts for food.

Kainat Soomro's father says that the family "lost everything" in pursuing the case that the government authorities and the police would not take any responsibility for.

Whenever Kainat attends court, she is bombarded by harassing and crude questions such as "who went first?". The presiding judge is also outraged that Kainat filed the charges; he rules against her, claiming that it is because of her accusations of a father and son gang raping her.

The judge also stated that Kainat's accusations were merely products of her own fantasy. The film narrator says that it is because in the judge's eyes, such a thing would never happen in the country.

The men are consequently acquitted. During an interview with the filmmakers, they appear puzzled, wondering why Kainat did not just stay at home and remained quiet. They believe that their acquittal is proof that their accuser does not have good character, insisting that a decent woman would have just went home, stayed there and kept silent.

The film depicts Kainat Soomro's persistence in the quest for justice, and refusal to back down even in the face of relentless adversity as heroic.

However, even if she and her family say that they will continue to make a stand, her attorney suggests that the future will not be easy.

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