The vicious gang-rape of an innocent woman who, by circumstances, was forced to seek help in the middle of her travel between Lahore to Gujranwala highlights how, once again, Pakistani society has failed to uphold or protect the rights of women. The lack of societal awareness becomes even more prominent when police officers pass statements implying that the victim, a mother of two, should have known better than to travel late at night or stop in the middle of the motorway. Upon deconstruction, what this statement implies is that the victim is at fault, even though this could not be farther from the truth.

The perpetrators of the attack must naturally take the blame, but the fact that Motorway Police failed to show up even after a call was made, means that the authorities are also at fault, even if they might try to deflect. The police department in general must not look to absolve itself either, considering that the conviction rate of rape cases is currently 4 percent. This is down to failure in investigation and collection of evidence; so before Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh looks to make such irresponsible and callous remarks again, perhaps he should address the rot within his own institution first.

Beyond this, until we recognise that this case and countless others before it are a societal failing, all the outrage and calls for public hanging are inconsequential. There is a reason men do not fear the consequences when they commit such crimes; the culture of impunity almost always ensures that they do not face justice. Meanwhile, society begins debates such as why the woman would have left the house so late at night, or why she could not have taken a different route.

Ultimately, all these talking points are plain inconsequential. We choose to look the other way at such incidents, and then wonder why women are attacked on a daily basis in Pakistan. There is an urgent need for us to move beyond just ‘respecting’ women, to actually treating them like equal human beings with all the rights and privileges men possess.