Police in Nawabshah, Pakistan, have arrested a man for allegedly gang-raping a teenage survivor of the country’s deadly floods, after luring her with flood aid.
According to local police, they made the arrest after the teenage girl’s video testimony of her horrific ordeal went viral on social media. In the video, she accused two men of promising her relief supplies, abducting and confining her in an abandoned house, and then – with three other men – gang-raping her for days. According to one report, the survivor said she was drugged before being sexually assaulted.
While one man named Ghul Sheer Machi has been arrested, local officials told the media that they are awaiting DNA evidence from the survivor’s medical-legal test to identify and possibly arrest the other culprits. In the meantime, cops are conducting raids to get leads on the other accused men.
The incident in Pakistan’s Sindh province, a region severely impacted by the ongoing flooding, has revealed the compounding vulnerabilities survivors now face. In what Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman calls a “climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”, at least 1,200 people have been killed, while one in six Pakistanis – or 30 million people – have been adversely affected.
Mahnoor Rashid, who volunteers at Mahwari Justice, an organisation that is providing menstrual health kits to women in flood-hit areas, told VICE World News that in a patriarchal country like Pakistan, where men take on the roles of protectors, women are left to fend for themselves as the male members of their families are scrounging for resources.
“Women are out of their homes – their safety nets. They’re more vulnerable than ever,” said Rashid. “In these times, security across the state has been an overall issue.”
For millions like the girl in Sindh, accessing relief supplies has been a struggle.
“There are huge infrastructural challenges in taking relief goods to survivors,” Sikander Bizenjo, co-founder of the grassroots volunteer agency Balochistan Youth Action Committee, told VICE World News. “We’ve been held up for weeks because the routes were flooded.”
One video went viral this week of government helicopters in Balochistan province dropping a bag of flour from such a great height that it exploded on the ground – leaving nothing for the survivors.
The Balochistan government defended the move, saying it was impossible to land helicopters in the area.
Another video shows flood victims scraping flour off of the ground from one of the torn relief bags dropped from a helicopter.
The desperation for relief aid has triggered protests, as well as incidents of looting of donations. In the Pakistani city of Dera Murad Jamali, several NGOs halted relief operations after their trucks carrying relief goods were looted. Many of the relief kits included drinking water, cooked food and tents. Some NGOs are now seeking security details from law enforcement agencies.
Rashid, the student activist, said that apart from emergency services, security conditions need to be improved. “An awareness program is also required on a larger scale where flood victims are told to beware of criminals,” she said.
Similar incidents of looting and violence were reported in previous deadly floods in the country in 2010. Back then, 20 million people were affected, over 1,400 were killed, and one-fifth of the country was inundated.
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