As the world has watched India's public outrage at December's fatal gang rape in Delhi, no country has followed the story with a greater sense of pained, if presumed, understanding than its neighbor and rival Pakistan. On New Year's Day, Pakistani civil rights organizations took to the streets of their capital, Islamabad, for a candlelight vigil in memory of the victim, who died of her injuries in late December. Amid calls for a law against domestic violence in Pakistan, Rehana Hashmi, president of Sisters Trust Pakistan, an NGO, declared that there can be no borders when it comes to showing solidarity for women's rights.
Many Indians would agree, though they might quibble over Pakistanis' claim that the Delhi gang rape reveals a shameful misogyny that mirrors their own. Within days of an op-ed in one of Pakistan's major newspapers, the News, arguing that India and Pakistan share a rape culture that supports and enables offenders, the Indian web portal Rediff ran a story by an Islamabad journalist who described the far greater horrors of being a woman in Pakistan, including the estimate that 70 to 90 percent of women have suffered domestic violence.
In a blog post for the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Ayesha Hasan, a freelance journalist from an orthodox Pashtun district in Pakistan wrote, "[I]f one rape case could lead to such reactions in India, protesters should have spent the entire year of 2012 on the streets of Pakistan. Every year some 2,900 women are raped in Pakistan, almost eight a day."
The introspective tone continued in a New Year's Eve story in the Express Tribune, a liberal paper launched in 2010 in concert with the International Herald Tribune, Pakistan's first with an international affiliation. With the headline "Pakistan's shame: Rape cases in 2012," the paper used the Indian incident as a peg to recap the violence wrought on women in Pakistan: "[T]he plight of women who have faced rape and sexual assault in Pakistan has been largely confined to formulaic articles in the press, slow-moving cases in the courts, and frequent dropped charges due to bribes, threats of further violence and family pressure on the victim to avoid further 'shame.'"
A blog post in the Express Tribune lamented the entrenched orthodoxies of Pakistan, where strict sharia laws that often resulted in rape victims incarcerated for adultery were in force until 2006, and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in October 2012 for campaigning for girls' education. "[W]hile there is talk of some change taking place in India in response to this abhorrent incident," the post's author wrote, "the same cannot be said for Pakistan where women are buried alive and senators stand in the galleys of the parliament and say that it is our custom and no one has the right to dispute it."