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If they are hiding the truth, it would seem both self–preservation and loyalty keeps the lock on closed mouths.

If they are hiding nothing, then their names in the world find themselves attached to a libel that cannot be disproved.

The miracle of contemporary justice is that by design it serves neither plaintiffs or accused but rather the greater public interest in knowing the truth of a matter.


To shift from complaining about bad deals, injustice being the rawest of them, to doing something about them, the parts of the world steeped in propaganda and rumor and subject to deep wells of missing information will have to wrestle with the development of systems dedicated to that most public form of knowing with something approaching certainty: empiricism.

Since 2007, Kainat Soomro’s story, that of a 13-year-old girl allegedly gang raped by four men in her village, Dadu, rural Sindh, in Pakistan, has been making the rounds of the civil to conservative press.  For complaining by way of alleging the crime, Kainat became the target of so far threatened “honor killing” while two of the men of the family, the father and a brother, refusing to abide barbaric custom (by killing her themselves) have been beaten and an older brother murdered.

In “Outlawed in Pakistan” the related documentary appearing on PBS, an older brother says, “They said, ‘You failed to follow your traditions.  You failed to kill your sister.  You should have followed our customs . . . .’   I got really angry.  But my dad said that we do not follow the gun culture.  We are educated people and we will get legal help.”

What would the law do when the process of the law has stopped at the precinct desk?

Police and prosecutors in more developed and stable systems — also far less squeamish and defensive– would have been quick to investigate the allegation of rape for proof the crime took place, a procedure so common and familiar that the field has established kits and methods (see “What is a Rape Kit?” posted by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) ready as part of the police and investigative service response at the moment of complaint.

Pakistan’s tribal councils, to which such a complaint may revert, appear to have nothing similar of an empirical — also ethical and humane — investigative method: what they have are elders lost in their own heads.

Kainat and her family seek justice.  “We want them to get punished through the courts,” she says, “so what happened to me won’t happen to someone else’s daughter” (10:12 in the documentary).

The men involved have denied the crime took place.

If they are hiding the truth, it would seem both self–preservation and loyalty keeps the lock on closed mouths.

If they are hiding nothing, then their names in the world find themselves attached to a libel that cannot be disproved.

The miracle of contemporary justice is that by design it serves neither plaintiffs or accused but rather the greater public interest in knowing the truth of a matter.

* * *

At about 22 minutes into the documentary, one sees what happens in the absence of an empirical forensic process.

On Kainat’s complaint, the men have been arrested, held in jail without bond and an uncle and assorted fellows from the village have shown up angered and loud.

Madness!

Then comes to light a little more to the story: a marriage contract, pictures of the couple.

Kainat’s claim: made and recorded under duress when she was thirteen years old.

“If I wanted to marry, I would have told my dad,” she says.

* * *

Let’s go back over this experience I’m having from my “second row seat to history”.

Forensics in a Developing State

While Kainat may be taken at her word, and one wants to do that, neither the word of the complainant nor that of alleged perpetrators mean much absent of observed physical evidence — photographs of bruises, blood chemistry analysis (if the complainant was drugged as claimed), semen scrapes and  DNA comparisons, even circumstantial evidence of struggle — where are Kainat’s shoes?  What happened to her scarf?

It turns out some medical examination took place, enough to confirm intercourse, but examiners and police dropped the ball for lack of interest in the claim and, with reference to DNA matching, lack of resources.

Both the PBS documentary and greater public interest in the case tell us something not said: everyone involved — claimant, defenders, lawyers, villagers, courts, and police — know the forensic issues, and would that I had known that before starting this post.

Social Practices, Morals, and Values

This is where the partisans, either side, power up for confrontation, and first and foremost by keeping stories of outrageous miscarriages of justice before the eyes of the peers.  Let’s go with the accusers on this one, but with a question not likely asked in Pakistan: even if Kainat agreed to be married or played along genuinely lustful, being of age for that, as “wedding pictures” suggest, what is any adult involved, especially the cleric — I don’t want to call to him through the search engines, but his name appears at 32:36 –who facilitated the marriage, doing abetting that contract without the consent and presence of a parent!?

The cleric says he was not aware of her age, “And she looked 18.”

The age of independence sufficient to enter into marriage in Pakistan is 16 under secular law.  Under sharia, the earlier passage into puberty suffices, and the sharia trumps secular law.

Conservative Propaganda

That a 13-year-old child may be injudicious or manipulated in such a way as to alter the character of her life for a lifetime — and in this instance alter her family’s way of life as well — seems to me the most opprobrious aspect of Kainat’s case.

However, close by that may be the kafir conservative’s ambitions to conveniently ridicule Islam and its medieval vision supported by myriad subcultures rather than dig down into each separable core transformative issue and lay it out.

Here, from the western perspective, Kainat’s ordeal involves simply the vigorous and timely investigation of claims involving criminal behavior and, unbelievably, the recognition of childhood and adolescence and the development of laws appropriate and protective of the interests of each and of the surrounding community.

Indeed, the sharia, essentially 7th Century law, has failed, both by tainting Kainat (until she finds herself in the larger world where what’s past is past — and please, dear, get on with living) and detaining the defendants in jail for four years without decision.

Probably, in the political environments of the kafir, the case would have been dismissed for lack of evidence on the first day but the entire matter brought to the legislature with legislators forced to think (for once) with modern comprehension and conscience about what their laws were doing to their young.

* * *

What may and should come to pass,  this through the will of Pakistan’s educated — and one may hope for the application of the will of similar others in other places — is the development of greater and more timely forensic capability and responsibility throughout police and court operations.

Add to that an open discussion about the utility and wisdom of sharia law where it involves relations between young but older men and 13-year-old girls.

Reference

Frontline.  “Outlawed in Pakistan.”  Video (53:39).  PBS.

News Desk.  “Outlawed in Pakistan — Kainat Soomro’s story on film.”  The Express Tribune, February 7, 2013.

Oppenheim, James.  ”When the Second Row Seat to History Ain’t So Hot.”  BackChannels, June 5, 2013.

“Outlawed in Pakistan (Video).”  Huffington Post, May 29, 2013.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.  “What Is A Rape Kit?”

War Against Rape – Pakistan NGO