Pakistani women buying pepper sprays, tasers as sexual assault and the mistrust in law increases

It should be noted that Daraz.pk, the country's top online store, ran out of self-defense items' stock this week.

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Earlier this month, two armed men gang-raped a mother in front of her children on the main Lahore to Gujranwala motorway. After the incident, The Lahore Capital City Police, Muhammad Umar Sheikh, said:

It was the woman’s fault because she did not check her car’s fuel.

Violence against women has reached alarming proportions in Pakistan; however, the brutality of the attack and the police’s attitude has shocked the public. Following the increasing fear of sexual assault and the mistrust in law, Pakistani women have started to look for pepper sprays and pocketknives to protect themselves.

Speaking to a media outlet, a medicine student from Karachi, Shabina Rehman, said:

After the motorway rape incident and victim-blaming by the police, it has become clear in our minds that the government and institutions are not serious about women’s protection. I have been looking on Facebook for recommendations where I could buy a taser or a stun gun and pepper spray or a pocketknife to protect myself. I am going to get my hands on a taser and a pocketknife soon. And not just for myself, for my sisters as well.

Lala Rukh, a working woman in Karachi, said:

Sadly, I think it’s the need of the time since perverts are not changing their mentality, and there is no law to stop them. We need to teach our kids, irrespective of their gender, to be able to defend themselves.

It should be noted that Daraz.pk, the country’s top online store, ran out of self-defense items’ stock this week. Aisha Raza, the representative of Shop USA, another online store, said:

The demand for pepper spray has increased by 70 percent during the past week.

A woman entrepreneur has launched a new product to meet the growing demand for pepper spray. The description of the product states:

It burns the skin and is a better performer than pepper spray.

Regarding the product, the female entrepreneur said:

I make homemade organic skin and hair care products, so many of my clients knew that I had the skill. The pepper spray formula was always at the back of my mind. With all the rape incidences, I started getting a lot of requests. I never make things to harm people. However, in the current situation, I thought it would be justified to help womenfolk.

War Against Rape (WAR), a non-government organization, reports that 545 cases of sexual assaults and 407 rape incidents were recorded at three major hospitals in Karachi in 2019.

Sheraz Ahmed, a WAR program officer, said:

The actual number is likely to be much higher as most rape incidents in Pakistan go unreported. Sexual and gender-based violence in Pakistan is a crime that is underreported, with a low conviction rate, just under 3 percent. These stats have badly shattered the trust of women in the system. The victims are reluctant to report the crime because insensitive police investigations, medico-legal examination, and court sessions further traumatize them.

Sheraz Ahmed further stated:

We have just four women medico-legal officers in three hospitals of Karachi. The police don’t collect evidence properly and harass the victim during interrogation, due to corruption, gender insensitivity, and political influences. Women would not have resorted to buying pepper spray or knives if law enforcers were adequately trained to deal with sexual violence cases.

Naghma Iqtidar, a Karachi-based woman activist, said:

The trend of using self-defense products is dangerous as they may be misused. It has emerged because the justice system is weak, but women should push the state to protect them by enforcing laws for a better future.

Mehnaz Rehman, a resident director of rights group Aurat Foundation, said:

We will have to implement the laws and consider women as human beings. Women are going towards adopting self-protection, which is a manifestation of mistrust over a system to protect women.

The story first published in Arab News.

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