Three Muslim men broke into the home of a deaf Christian woman in a village in the district of Kasur, Pakistan, and took turns raping her while the men of the family were at work.
The incident occurred in the Ganda Singh Wala village in the Kasur district of Punjab.
The woman reportedly screamed for mercy while being raped, but no one came to her assistance. Relatives of the woman have retained the services of Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, who runs an advocacy group offering free legal assistance to Pakistani Christians and other minorities who are victims of abuse and religious persecution.
The lawyer filed the first information report with the police and is trying to reconstruct the facts of the attack, though he admits that it is not easy to get a case like this prosecuted fairly in Pakistan. One suspect, Muhammad Umar, has been arrested while the other two attackers reportedly escaped, and Gill is not optimistic about seeing justice done.
“It’s very difficult to get a punishment for those responsible,” he told the Fides news agency. “Often in these cases the police take no action or, worse, side with the rapists.”
Gill also noted that cases of violence against Christians and other religious minorities are far more frequent than is commonly known because of a system that turns a blind eye to religious persecution.
“Christian families or witnesses are pressured to withdraw complaints,” Gill added. “Violence against women and children of religious minorities, the weak and vulnerable, is widespread in Pakistan and is often carried out in silence. The cases and the stories do not come to light and when victims talk about it they are intimidated,” he said.
Islam is the official state religion in Pakistan, which has some of the most severe blasphemy laws in the world. Freedom of speech is greatly restricted and “defiling the Prophet Muhammad” carries a death sentence, while damaging the Qur’an is punishable by life imprisonment. “Insulting another’s religious feelings” can result in jail sentences up to ten years, but is applied only to those disparaging Islam.
The U.S. Center for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has reported that Pakistan’s selective and often arbitrary enforcement of blasphemy laws exceeds that of any other nation, and is often used to target Christians and other religious minorities. Accusations of blasphemy have also served as a pretext to incite vigilante violence, with lynch mobs taking the law into their own hands.
In 2014, a young Christian couple was burned to death by a Muslim mob in the Punjab province, after having been accused of committing blasphemy. The pair was carried off by the mob, held prisoner for two days and then beaten and pushed into a brick kiln. The wife was pregnant.
USCIRF has recently criticized the U.S. State Department for failing to include Pakistan in its list of “Countries of Particular Concern,” a designation used to describe those governments that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
In a press release last Wednesday, USCIRF chairman Robert P. George urged the State Department to expand its list to include other glaring offenders of religious liberty.
George noted that Pakistan represents “the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as CPCs.”
He said that recent reports leave no doubt “that the egregious nature of the violations in Pakistan warrant a CPC designation.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome