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Women and men across Pakistan protest against Lahore motorway rape

Women from Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore are protesting

SAMAA | , , and - Posted: Sep 12, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 year ago
Posted: Sep 12, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 year ago

Women across Pakistan are protesting against the rape of a woman on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway. The protests are being held in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and Hyderabad.

On Wednesday, a woman was raped in front of her children by two unidentified men on the motorway. The case was made worse after Lahore CCPO Umar Sheikh criticised the woman’s decision to take the motorway route while appearing on Dunya News soon after the case was reported.

“The story is that this woman, if it is in your knowledge, left Defence at 12:30am for Gujranwala,” said CCPO Sheikh while talking to the news channel. “First, I am surprised that she, a mother of three children, was the only driver.” She left Defence and should’ve taken GT Road, where there are shops and people nearby. “If you are taking the other way, then at least make sure your vehicle has fuel,” he said.

After the news broke out, women across the country were enraged. The recent cases of the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in Karachi and the murder of a transgender in Peshawar added fuel to the fire.


Women, men, and children have gathered outside the Karachi Press Club and are chanting slogans against lack of security. Many are even demanding that the Lahore CCPO should be removed over his victim-blaming remarks.

lahore motorway rape protest
Photo: SAMAA Digital

Victim-blaming is very common, said Nasreen Siddiqui, who works at War Against Rape. “The story just doesn’t seem to change, whether its girls getting molested or women getting raped.” The remarks made by the CCPO is a part of the same thinking process, even medico-legal officers and policemen do it. “You can’t keep half of your population locked up inside their houses. You need to make things safer for them instead,” Siddiqui remarked.

We will sit in front of Governor House, CM House, National Assembly, and Supreme Court until you [the authorities] listen to us, said a protester.

“We are very angry,” said rights activist Anis Haroon. “We’re angry that a woman went out with her three children, if the fuel finishes in her car or it develops a fault, there’s no one to help.”

A student at the march, who didn’t want to be named, said that she was tired. Tired of being extra careful. Tired of being victim-blamed. She wants inclusive education regarding the sexual violence women face. Hanging rapists is not the solution because it will decrease the number of cases reported, she remarked.

Erum, a mother of three daughters, came to the protest with her youngest daughter. She told SAMAA Digital that she gets scared every time her daughters are not at the house. “They will go to schools, colleges, and universities soon. How can we ensure their safety? Women are not even safe in their graves today,” she remarked.


The protest started with a performance on the Urdu version of Chilean protest song A Rapist in Your Path, which is about rape culture and victim-shaming, outside the Islamabad Press Club.

The song condemns the judicial system’s failure to protect women and their rights and raises awareness about the culture of violence in society

lahore motorway rape protest
Photo: SAMAA Digital

A large number of men holding placards for the empowerment of women are also present.

lahore motorway rape protest
Photo: SAMAA Digital


“Hum kya chahte hain? Azaadi. Hum leyke rahenge azaadi (What do we want? Freedom. We will snatch our freedom),” chanted the protesters at Liberty roundabout.

Photo: SAMAA Digital

Hundreds of people have gathered to demand the government to provide security to all its citizens. The protesters here also staged their performance on the A Rapist in Your Path.

The authorities said that women don’t face any violence in Punjab, a protester said. The record of the Punjab police, however, shows that at least 10 women are raped in the province every day, she added.

lahore motorway rape protest
Photo: SAMAA Digital

These protesters want security from harassment and sexual violence and they want it now. They want the perpetrators to be arrested as soon as possible. They want the government to stop talking and start doing. And, most importantly, they want the culture of victim-blaming to end and CCPO Sheikh to be removed from his post.

According to a statement uploaded by the Aurat March, the organisers of the protest, the way one chooses to dress, the time of day or night, the place or who they are with does not justify rape in any way.

“Rape happens because of rapists, because of power dynamics, because of rape culture, because of objectification and commodification of women’s bodies, because society allows it and looks the other way,” it said.

The organisers have, however, expressed opposition to the calls for public hangings and capital punishment for the perpetrators. “These knee-jerk reactions only derail from the patriarchal roots of the issue,” their statement read.

Lahore motorway rape

On September 9, a woman was raped in front of her children by two unidentified men on the motorway. The men fled after the rape and stole her cash and jewellery worth Rs100,000.

She was driving to Gujranwala when she ran out of fuel near Lahore’s Gujjarpura. The woman was sitting in her vehicle when two men walked towards her car, broke her window, and made her park on the roadside. They then took her and the children to a nearby forest and raped her. They managed to flee after the rape.

Fifty-three DNA samples have been taken so far. One of the samples taken from the crime scene has matched with DNA already in the Punjab Forensic Authority’s database, it was reported on Saturday.

The match is of a 25-year-old man who raped a mother and daughter in 2013, according to police sources. He is a resident of Bahawalnagar. He is DNA was at three spots at the crime scene– the victim’s clothes, the smashed car window and inside the car itself.

The Authority has sent his details to the Punjab Police.

The police currently has 15 people in custody. Another 25 suspects who already have records have locked their homes and fled.

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