A court in Pakistan has freed a rapist after he offered to marry his victim in a deal brokered by a council of elders raising protests from human rights organisation in the country that adheres to shariah law.
Dawlat Khan, 25, was sentenced to life imprisonment in May by a lower court in Buner district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for raping a deaf woman.
According to international wire service AFP, Khan was released on Monday after a High Court in Peshewar accepted an out of court settlement which has been agreed by the victim’s family.
“The rapist and the victim are from the same extended family,” Amjad Ali, Khan’s lawyer, told AFP.
“Both families have patched up after an agreement was reached with the help of local jirga (traditional council),” he added.
According to AFP Khan was arrested after his unmarried victim delivered a baby. A paternity test proved he was the child’s biological father.
“Rape is notoriously difficult to prosecute in Pakistan, where women are often treated as second-class citizens,” said AFP.
“Few cases are reported because of the associated social stigma, while lapses during investigations, shoddy prosecutorial practices, and out-of-court settlements also contribute towards abysmal conviction rates,” said the network.
Human rights organisations say the decision by the court to free the rapist has legitimized sexual violence against women.
“This is effectively the court’s approval of rape and facilitation of rapists and rape mentality,” Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, a lawyer and human rights activist told AFP of the court’s decision.
“It is against the basic principles of justice and the law of the land which does not recognise such an arrangement,” she told AFP.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has said it was “appalled” by the ruling.
“Rape is a non-compoundable offence that cannot be resolved through a feeble ‘compromise’ marriage,” the group tweeted.