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Supreme Court Orders Courts To Use Proper Language For Rape Victims

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The Supreme Court has ordered courts not to use inappropriate expressions for rape victims or to haul the sexual history of a rape survivor into a case of sexual abuse.

“The courts should also stop the use of painfully inappropriate expressions, like ‘habituated to sex,’ ‘woman of easy virtue,’ ‘woman of loose moral character,’ and ‘non-virgin,’ for the alleged rape victims even if the charge of rape has not been proved against the accused.

The 11-page judgment authorized by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah added, “Such expressions are unconstitutional and illegal.”

The order also said a woman, whatever her sexual character or reputation may be, is obliged to equal protection of the law.

“No one has the permission to invade her privacy based on her alleged immoral character. Even if the rape victim is accustomed to sexual activities, it is not decisive in a rape case. The real question is whether or not the accused raped her.”

The order said the fact that a victim had lost her virginity earlier does not give anyone the right to rape her. In a criminal trial relating to rape, the accused is on trial, not the victim.

The court said including the sexual history of the rape survivor into the case by making observations about her body, like “the vagina admits two fingers easily” or “old ruptured hymen,” is an insult to the reputation and honor of a rape survivor.

However, the SC said the court must be mindful of the possibility that the accused may have been wrongly involved in the case.

“The court should balance the right of the accused to make a full defense and the potential detriment to the complainant’s rights to dignity and privacy, to keep the scales of justice even for both,” it added.

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Batool Imami

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