LAHORE - New data from the provincial police department shows the rape and gang rape cases are on the rise across the Punjab province.

The official statistics say at least 197 rape cases were registered with the provincial police during the first month of this year, as compared to 163 cases reported in January 2015.

Similarly, the police this year registered at least 21 cases of gang-rape during the month of January against nine cases of gang rape reported during the same period last year. The new report reveals that at least six incidents of rape took place every day in the province during the first month of this year.

The rape and gang rape incidents committed during house robberies are not mentioned in the police record. Sources in the investigation police say the police deliberately hush up such cases to protect the victim family from social disgrace.

Out of total 197 cases reported in January 2016, at least 14 were cancelled and 92 cases are still under investigation. The investigators submitted in the courts the challans of 91 cases so far. Last year, the police had cancelled at least 19 cases of rape out of total 163 cases registered in January, 2015. The police had challaned the suspects in only 67 cases during the previous year.

Most of the rape cases were reported in Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Bahawalnagar, Sheikhupura, Muzaffargarh, Kasur, Khanewal, Chiniot, Layyah and Mandi Bahauddin districts.

A police officer attributed the rise in rape cases to the policy of “free and immediate” registration of crime cases involving women and children as victims. However, rights activists say that many rape cases go unnoticed in the province as poor victims don’t approach police against the influential suspects.

Only in the month of January, the provincial police reported at least 29,961 cases of crime of different nature. At least 324 cases of murder, 963 of kidnapping, and one case of abduction for ransom were reported in January 2016.

During the same period, at least 120 cases of dacoity, 1148 of robbery, 341 of motor vehicle snatching, 1390 of motor vehicle theft and 1195 cases of burglary were also registered with the police in the province.

Sources in the investigation wing of the police say that only a few rape victims dare to report to police while many of the assaulted women and children prefer to keep mum over the crimes either because of their family background or due to influential perpetrators.

Some police investigators cite porn movies as the main reason behind many of the rape incidents in which poor teenagers were assaulted especially in the far-flung areas. They say that many of the accused interrogated in connection with rape cases confessed that they had committed the crimes after repeatedly watching porn movies.

In June 2014, on the orders of Punjab Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmed the DNA test in each rape case had been made compulsory in order to ensure transparent investigations and to bring the culprits to justice. The provincial police chief had announced the initiative while addressing the Regional Police Officers (RPOs) conference at the Central Police Office.

The annual police report 2014 stated that one female was assaulted sexually after every three hours and 40 minutes while one gang-rape incident occurred after every 45 hours and 38 minutes in 2013 in the most populated Punjab province. Of 2,576 rape incidents reported in 2014, the victims in 167 cases were children.

Legal experts say that the existing criminal justice system discourages rape victims and benefits perpetrators only. The decision in a rape case could take seven to 10 years and ultimately it ends with acquittal of the accused, they argue.

“If a victim is bold enough to fight the case to its logical end, she has to do it on her own as the elite civil society leaves her soon and the media gets other cases to report instead of following up her case,” the experts complained. A rape victim has to endure hardships in all forms and from everyone starting from a policeman to a lower court.