Rape is a Crime against Humanity

Dr. Shahid Athar


        Recently there has been a wave of rapes reported in Pakistan, both in the Pakistani press as well as in the American press.  As a member of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), I write to bring to the attention to the readers that rape or forced sex against consent is not only a crime against the victim whether it be a woman or minor, but a crime against the whole society and humanity.  Rape has also been alleged to be a weapon of ethnic cleansing by armies such as by the Serbian army in Bosnia, Israeli army in Palestine, Indian army in Kashmir and the Pakistani army in Bangladesh.  Now rape has taken a new twist in which it has become a weapon against the tribal war in Pakistan, both tribes belonging to the same faith.  If this trend is not checked soon, it will soon become a weapon in the ongoing sectarian war in Pakistan.

        On an individual level, rape is always about control, domination and humiliation of the weaker sex.  However, the rapist must understand that it is he who is weak and not able to control himself, he (or they in case of a gang rape) brings misery not only to the victim in form of  her family and community but also to himself and his family.  In the United States, about 200,000 rapes are committed annually and reported.  Nearly the same number are not reported.  Girls as young as six are kidnapped, raped and then murdered.  Nearly 2/3 of all criminals  had an alcoholic drink before committing such crimes.  The similar pattern of alcohol abuse is also being seen in the villages of Pakistan and by the militant Hindu mobs of Gujrat  in Indian riots. 

 What should be done?

         Law enforcement and uniform application of law is priority.  Women and children must be protected by the Government which takes the responsibility to do so.  Unfortunately, this does not happen all the time and sometimes if the criminals belong to a powerful tribal landlord or have political connection, then they can escape the punishment.  On the other hand in the Western society, it is not the tribal laws which prevail but it is the rules of the Lawyers and the rich who can manipulate the law in the defense of the criminals.  Thank God, with the introduction of DNA technology, this is changing. 

         However, women must not rely totally on the protection of the law enforcement agencies but take their own defense into their own hands.  The best defense is not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Therefore, they must avoid such situations and parties where drugs can be introduced to them and their consciousness changed.  In addition, they should learn self defense, martial arts to protect themselves if possible. 

         The most important aspect of rape prevention is education of men and especially young boys, for respect of women so that when they grow up they do not become criminals.  They must learn to treat women with the same respect as they would their mother and sisters.  It is reported that a young man approached Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and said “I am addicted to adultery and I can not give it up”.   The Prophet asked him “Do you have a mother”? and he said “yes”.  Then the Prophet said “Do you approve of another man to have illegal sex with your mother”?  The young man said “no, and if I find out about it, I will kill that man”.  Then the Prophet asked the same question again giving an example of a sister and a wife and the young man replies in the same way.  Finally, the Prophet said “the woman with whom you plan to commit adultery is also someone else’s wife, mother, daughter or sister.  If you do not approve of another man to do it to your mother or wife, sister or daughter, why would you allow yourself to do it to someone else’s mother, wife, daughter or sister”?  The man got the message, repented and gave up his addiction.  The Prophet put his hand over the heart of the young man and prayed for him. 

         Unfortunately, many Muslims are obsessed with sex.  Nearly 1/3 of all questions asked to me via E-mail are directed to sex, deviant sex practices and what is permissible or not permissible in Islam.

         Muslims must understand that Islam stops a sin at its inception and not at the end.  Thus instead of saying “Thou shall not commit adultery”, as mentioned in the Bible, the Quran says “Thou shall not come near adultery”.  Thus in Islam, everything which may lead to adultery, is also prohibited.  In the same context is pornography, soft or hard, on TV, movies and internet which is becoming more available in Pakistan as in the rest of the world.  It has contributed to sexual crimes.  Ted Bundy, the serial killer/rapist, wrote in his memoirs from prison that pornography had contributed to his addiction of killing women (42 of them) after committing rape.  So, not only Social Scientists, Religious Scholars but also Government officials must make a note of it and find ways to combat this addiction in order to protect the victims of rape as well as the potential rapist and their communities at large. 


 Dr. Shahid Athar is the author of “Sex Education in Islam” (Kazi)

On line at www.Islam-USA.com.  He can be reached by E-mailSATHAR3624@aol.com

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Shahid Athar, MD
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