Islamabad, Sept 1:A Pakistani daily on Tuesday described as "antediluvian" a village council in India's Uttar Pradesh state ordering the rape of two young sisters after their brother eloped with a married woman.
"Twisted notions of justice that underlie the panchayat's decision in India spring from an antediluvian patriarchy that is equally well entrenched on this side of the border," said an editorial "Rape sentence" in the Dawn.
It said that the sins committed by men expiated by the sacrifices of women - it is a story as old as time.
"And one that is found even now in pockets of the subcontinent as a shared heritage of injustice and oppression. This time it is India from where another such tale has emerged," the daily said.
"An informal, all-male village council in Uttar Pradesh has ordered the rape of two young sisters after their brother eloped with a married woman from a higher caste.
"The panchayat also directed that the girls be paraded naked with their faces blackened. Fearing the outcome, the girls and their family, who belong to the Dalit caste, have fled their village for New Delhi. It seems that the couple whose elopement triggered the sequence of events had been in love for some time but the girl's family, unwilling to countenance their union, had forced her into marriage after finding a more 'suitable' match," it added.
The editorial observed that the social stratification in the more conservative areas of Pakistan is nearly as formalised as the Hindu caste system and as pernicious; "in the sphere of sexual morals, both systems place the burden of upholding family 'honour' almost entirely upon women".
"The outcome, often decided by 'jirgas' headed by tribal elders, can range from ordering honour killings and blatant sexual violence to giving girls or women as compensation to settle disputes."
It recalled the case of Mukhtar Mai, who was gang-raped on the orders of a village council in 2002 as recompense for an alleged transgression by her brother.
"There have been many other such instances. Although a mix of greater awareness through media coverage, improved legislation and judicial activism has resulted in a decline in such cases, we cannot be complacent. Systems that disempower women do not cede space easily," the editorial said.