When the accused got bail yesterday, she set herself on fire

After a court granted bail to the accused in a gang rape case, the teenage victim set herself on fire outside the Bet Mir Hazar police station near Muzaffargarh in Punjab on Thursday. She succumbed to her injuries on Friday morning, sparking outrage with the Supreme Court taking suo motu notice of the case.

News reports said the 18-year-old girl, a first-year college student, was protesting against a report in favour of the four accused by the police officer investigating the incident which took place on January 5 when she was going home. The accused got bail as a result and the victim went to the police station to record her protest against this. She set herself on fire outside and had to be taken to hospital in a critical condition, sustaining 80 per cent burns. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has asked for a report on the incident from the police in Muzaffargarh and the Inspector General of Punjab by Monday.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over the death of the girl. In a statement, the HRCP said it was pained beyond words.

“Her sacrifice had exposed the ordeals that rape victims in the country face when they try to bring their tormentors to justice. It is common knowledge that only the courageous rape victims in Pakistan take the matter to the police or court.

“The fact that the girl set herself ablaze outside the police station, two months after she was raped by four men, leads to only one conclusion: she had become convinced that she would not get justice,” the HRCP said.

“It will make little difference to the girl that the main accused was rearrested along with the investigating officer later on Thursday. Unfortunately, this tragic incident would only discourage victims of sexual violence from trying to get justice,” the statement said.

“Barring a sudden and miraculous change of heart somewhere, it is almost certain that the girl’s ordeal and painful death would have no positive impact in the context of sexual violence against women in Pakistan,” the HRCP said. It hoped “the government would at least belatedly realise its obligation to prosecute the rapist…”