Two women in Pakistan endure attempted rape and violent assault

(Photo: Unsplash/Mohamed Nohassi)

A disturbing incident of violence against Christian women has come to light in the village of Chack No. 122 in South Sargodha, Punjab. On 29 January 2024, two women, Rukhsana Bibi and Asifa Bibi, were brutally attacked while out in the fields.

The women had gone out to the sugarcane fields at dusk to relieve themselves, when they were followed by Abdul Rauf, a local Muslim man armed with an axe. As Rukhsana entered the fields, Abdul attempted to sexually assault her while threatening her life with the axe. Rukhsana begged for mercy, but the assailant persisted. Hearing her cries, Asifa rushed to help. Abdul struck Rukhsana on the head and face with the axe handle, injuring her.

Asifa boldly intervened to shield Rukhsana, but was also grievously wounded by Abdul. The women were further subjected to death threats ensuring their silence. Summoning great courage, the victims hurried to the main road and sought help to contact their families.

Bilal Mashi, Asifa's husband, arrived at the scene and called the emergency helpline. The police escorted the women to Sahiwal Civil Hospital for treatment and initial investigations. However, no case was registered against the perpetrator initially, disappointing the victims.

It was only on 30 January that Rukhsana's husband Nasir Masih lodged First Information Report (FIR) at Sillanwali Police Station in Sargodha under sections 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 337-A (punishment of imprisonment of ten years on causing Shajjah-i-ammah to any person) and 337-F (Punishment of ghayr-jaifah) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Unfortunately, charges of attempted rape or sexual assault were excluded. This prompted local Christian leaders and pastors to gather statements from the women.

The harrowing account went viral on social media, catching the attention of Christians' True Spirit (CTS), a faith-based organization. CTS Executives - Katherine Sapna and Asher Sarfraz visited the women and advocated adding rape charges (376, 511 of the PPC) to the FIR.

“Sapna encouraged the resolute women to stay strong in their pursuit of justice,” said Sarfraz while speaking to Christian Today on phone.

“CTS strongly condemns this heinous crime and stands in solidarity with the victims, offering support until justice is served. Additionally, financial assistance was provided for medical treatment,” added he.

The CTS team inspected the Christian locality in Chack No. 122. “Several families lacked in-house toilet facilities, forcing women to go out to fields and risk danger. CTS has promised the construction of proper sanitation facilities for each household,” said Sarfaraz to Christian Today.