March Issue 2010
Interview: Parents of Shahnaz, a 14-year-old survivor of rape
“The biggest challenge is to maintain your self-respect”
– Shahnaz’s father
Father: “Because of the story Hussain had given the neighbours, a lady belonging to the MQM, who also lives in the same apartment complex as us, pulled some strings and despite my going to the police for two days, they refused to register an FIR against him. In front of me she had told Hussain, ‘There is no need to apologise, don’t be scared. You come with me to Farooq Sattar.’ The other neighbours did not take sides but were watching.
Those two days, Hussain and his friends continued to put a lot of pressure on us, boys would continuously sit outside our apartment. We had only recently moved house, and he accused us, in front of the neighbours we were second-rate people, that we were alcoholics and that we were unjustly blaming him for what had happened.
I filed a written complaint at Nine Zero against the lady providing protection to him, explained the whole matter to them, what had happened with us and the difficulties we had been facing in lodging an FIR due to her intervention. Then, I received a call from Farooq Sattar himself. I told him how she was protecting the culprit and asked him what I should do as I didn’t belong to any political party. He spoke to the SHO himself and told me go to him at a specific time. When I reached, the SHO was waiting with the book in his hand. They also dealt with that lady in their own way, after which nobody really harassed us.
I am a regular, middle-class man. I had a government job, but not anymore. I maintain my house through a private job. You can understand how difficult it is after such an incident; the child’s mind becomes so rebellious. To control that is very difficult, and this is what we’re dealing with even today. My wife stopped going anywhere. She kept herself at home to give undivided attention to the children. Unfortunately, Shahnaz* couldn’t complete her education because the case was under trial and we were afraid that if we let her out she would be picked up.
I just pray to God some good proposal comes for her. When Shahnaz will be married, only then will our burden feel less heavy.”
Mother: “Tomorrow if a proposal arrives for Shahnaz, they will obviously ask around in the neighbourhood as well. The neighbours know what happened, which is why we want to move out and find a house elsewhere. We are just not getting a good price on this house, and until then we cannot move. To live with this stigma is difficult, I think to die is better. When she gets married, her in-laws or husband will still taunt her, no matter what.”
Father: “Nobody knows about us, not a colleague, not a family member. Even they [WAR] kept the media away from us. So we were able to save face. This is a very necessary part of coping. But wherever we marry her off, we will inform them of what has happened to her. Nothing remains hidden. Then why ruin your life.
Only once, at the very beginning, an eveninger published our names. We were very angry. After enquiring at the police station, we were told that reporters strike a deal with secretaries at police stations so whenever such an incident is reported, the secretaries pass the information on to them. After we objected, no news item appeared ever again. We need the support of the media. They should not publicise such incidents; victims/survivors who want to publicise these are then doing so for other reasons. To publicise this is akin to doing ‘laashon pe siyasat.’
The biggest challenge is to maintain your self-respect — to keep your reputation intact.”
* Names have been changed to protect the victim and her family.
This post is a sidebar in a larger article, Fight to the Finish
Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.