The Silent Ones


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Last week, a 13-year-old boy from Karachi’s Korangi neighbourhood was gang-raped by three men. The crime took place on the first night of Eidul Fitr. That’s right. When you and I were having dinner with our families or doing whatever we do to celebrate the holiday, a boy was screaming for help while he was assaulted by three men.

Breakfast at Dawn showed a report on young Eric, which had a quick comment from one of the rapists. The men, who had almost immediately confessed to the gruesome crime, were huddled together squeezing and pushing against the bars of their prison cell as the reporter held a microphone to them. One of them, a young man in his twenties, I’d say, looked at the reporter and responded to the question: ‘Well? Afsos ho raha hai?’ (’Do you feel bad?’) He looked earnestly at his interrogator and admitted that he felt bad about what he had done. He said this in one line and cast his eyes downward. The reporter prompted him again, asking what had happened. This time the alleged rapist kept his eyes down and replied that he/they had made a mistake.

You know, I have to say, I wasn’t convinced. He just didn’t look sorry enough to me. After the report, I got many comments on Twitter condemning the incident, but also some lauding the electronic media’s new initiative in reporting on cases of rape and abuse. As @manticore73 tweeted: ‘Abuse…it is encouraging we are moving into a “climate of disclosure”.’

And then there was a response to the story that came from outside the web world. It was, in fact, from very close. It was a story recounted by a male voice.

I sometimes think it was because of the way I looked. It was because of a bit heavyset. Does that make sense? Maybe not. I might have been saying the same thing had I been thin or short or tall or lanky… I was gullible. That I definitely was. They must have picked up on that.

Anyway, it was the driver first. He said that he’d teach me how to drive. I didn’t tell anyone, of course. Who could I tell? And I was scared. He said that if I told anyone he’d deny it and say that I’d asked for it.

Soon it was a cook too. He said, “We all know about you. We talk about you in the servants’ quarters. You’re the bad boy. You’re the one who likes bad things…”

I never told anyone. Who could I have told? What would I have said? It was too shameful and I was too scared.

Of course it had nothing to do with the way he looked or the way he was or anything to do with him. As many as 6,780 children were victimised in Pakistan in 2008, of which 4,251 were boys, according to Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid President, Zia Awan.

Those are the cases that were reported. Because of the taboos around the issue of rape and, more so, male rape, not just in Pakistan but globally, it is widely believed that statistics under-represent the actual numbers. When I googled male rape statistics, the latest numbers I found for the United States were from 2003, which estimated one in every 10 rape victims were male.

The US-based National Centre for Victims of Crime says:

The lack of tracking of sexual crimes against men and the lack of research about the effects of male rape are indicative of the attitude held by society at large – that while male rape occurs, it is not an acceptable topic for discussion.

It goes to the credit of Pakistani non-government agencies and human rights organisations that this country which is a ‘repressive society’ has figures as current as last year. The violence against the 4,251 boys and 2,529 girls had nothing to do with the way they looked or how they were.

The rape of Eric was not brought on by him. If he had not struggled or had he not disappeared to be found by family members, or even if his rapists had been family members, could there have been any justice for him? Will there be justice for him now that his attackers have been found and have confessed?

When I wrote my blog post, ‘Keep our girls safe,’ many commentators argued that I should have titled my piece differently. Perhaps I should have. At the time, it had been important for me to highlight the case of the girl, three-year-old Sana, who was raped and killed by a couple of policemen who were subsequently convicted by an Anti-Terrorist Court. The case now has three opportunities for appeal ahead of it. Sana’s case is an anomaly. It was pushed by media and civil society pressure to speedier action.

Will Eric be that fortunate? And what of the others, the silent ones? But to come back to it, it’s true. It’s not just our girls – we need to keep all our children safe.

This report was first published on 29th September 2009 by

One Response to “The Silent Ones”

  1. 1 Daring to Whisper | The Missing Slate: Art & Literary Journal

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