Pakistan police arrest 10 men for ordering 'revenge rape'

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Police in central Pakistan have arrested 10 men for ordering the rape of a woman as revenge for a rape allegedly committed by her brother, officials said on Tuesday (March 27).

The incident happened on March 20 in Toba Tek Singh, a town in Punjab province 275 kilometres south-west of Lahore.

"A boy named Waseem was caught in the act with a 16-year old girl and the whole neighbourhood gathered demanding to kill the boy," local police official Naeem Yousuf told AFP.

"The boy's family then gave the girl's family the option of raping any woman in their family," he said.

They chose a 40-year-old woman, who was duly raped by the brother of the 16-year-old girl.

According to police officer Naeem, the two families then drafted a written agreement about the "settlement", stating that they would forget the incident and hold no grudges.

The local police station's chief Abdul Majeed said one of his staff obtained the written agreement and a case was lodged against the ten people from both families who signed it.

Revenge rapes often occur in patriarchal Pakistan, where women have fought for their rights for decades.

They are often used as a quick measure to settle disputes, usually between men, without going through the country's lengthy and expensive judicial system.

Often they are ordered by jirgas, or village councils formed of local elders who bypass the justice system. But chief Majeed said there was no jirga in the area and the people involved were mostly labourers.

A jirga was involved in one of South Asia's most infamous cases of sexual violence against women when in 2002 it ordered the gangrape of a woman called Mukhtar Mai after her brother was falsely accused of rape.

Mai made the unusual decision to defy her rapists and take them to court. Her attackers walked free but she went on to become a high-profile women's rights activist.