Can DNA tests bring Justice to Rape Survivors?

Can DNA tests bring Justice to Rape Survivors?

Rape: A horrendous and dreadful act. It’s a crime that drowns a smile in an ocean of tears and later if one manages to survive, it plays havoc inside out. Apparently, all seems intact except the soul that woefully tarnishes completely yet the life has to goes on.

Thanks to the Sindh assembly, for making a sane decision for the first time by unanimously passing a resolution that makes DNA test mandatory in rape cases so that perpetrators could be led to justice. Not just this, it also took the responsibility of bearing the expenses of the test.



Building DNA Labs for Sample Collection- Too Costly an Aim?

Unfortunately, there is no such lab in Karachi or the entire Sindh, so those who spoke in favor of the resolution have called for establishing a laboratory in Sindh, especially in Karachi. So much is being done so that speedy dispensation of justice could be ensured instead of sending the DNA samples to laboratories in Lahore and Islamabad for testing.

But the question arises that a government, always short of funds and good with passing resolutions only and never acted in favor of its people whenever time demanded, what phenomenal could be expected here as well? At the same time there is a need to have a National DNA Database center. But, can government really spare some budget for this? Sadly, nothing seems much of a possibility without a proper funding mechanism.



Who would rise against a Rich Perpetrator?

In Pakistan, mostly rape incidents happen in cases where the victim is a poor girl of a farmer or laborer; the clichéd part is that culprits are usually from the affluent section of the society. Without sounding pessimistic, let us ask in all honesty if we have seen any rape victimizer hung for the crime?

And so considering our past performance, what would DNA tests do if the culprit is a wadera’s son or a wadera himself? In a system, where rich rule and poor are defied even one proper meal, what better could be expected in the name of justice? Can we hope that DNA samples would do their “ miracle”? Especially with a population that is told to hideaway with shame after the misfortune strikes and is hardly aware of steps to be taken after the rape, to preserve the evidence.

 Four Male Witnesses as per Shariah Laws:

Even if the girls family manages to produce four male witnesses of the incident according to the Shariah Law, which is quiet possible in cases of authoritarian rule in villages. But where there is no law except the word of the well-heeled lords, and the criminal act is done in public without any fear, what are the options there? For instance, if a girl is kidnapped and is under the security of personnel guards or local police, this heinous act is conducted, then are witnesses willing to speak or  dare to come to the court?

Although, we expect all the provinces to pass such resolution on DNA test to provide justice to the rape survivors, but can parallel justice methods of JIRGA or Panchayat in the provinces allow this scientific advancement to over shadow their egoistic decision. With so much advancement in science and technology, we are still in a cave-world patriarchal rule, where men always dominate and subjugate the women. Unfortunately, advancement in science cannot teach humanity.



Is DNA the final Authority?



In late 80s DNA evidence has been hailed as one of the most advanced method in forensic investigations, a century after finger prints were introduced. The virtues of DNA could do miracles as science has already proved. But recently, the Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan, a constitutional body, ruled that Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sample is not acceptable as primary evidence in case of a rape. However, they can be used as secondary or supporting evidence. This means DNA sample as ”Sole” evidence has been discarded.



DNA Rebuttal?

In the west, an entire new phenomenon has evolved called DNA-rebuttal and number of people have either had convictions overturned or secured not-guilty verdicts in trials that looked certain to end with the opposite conclusion. William Thompson, a criminologist specializing in DNA-based forensics at the University of California, criticizes what he calls “the rhetoric of infallibility” surrounding DNA profiling. The reasons associated with it are: Juries are ill-equipped to understand the scientific data and in case DNA samples are mishandled, contaminated or wrongly analyzed, the results could lead to probabilities, and probabilities cannot be put on human “LIFE”.

Hence, it is generally believed that wherever human are involved, there is always potential for mistakes. And especially in our system, due to lawlessness and other ills, this potential increases manyfold. Also, DNA sampling as a sole evidence to rape is more likely to inhibit survivors from coming forward than otherwise.

Tazeen inam

A journalist, media professional and an advertising associate

  • Anonymous

    ‘DNA sample as “Sole” evidence’ will only confirm an act of physical interaction. Whether the act was a rape or not, will still need to confirmed by other evidence – signs of physical violence for example, DNA evidence would in such cases, ‘nail the rapist’, as NASAH Sb puts it.

    It appears that CII’s point may have been misconstrued, even when one of their members clarified that they were not suggesting discarding DNA evidence – one could however take up the issue against them, if they still insisted upon 4 witnesses when overwhelming physical evidence of rape (including DNA) is present – physical evidence replacing the witnesses. More of concern should be the quality of evidence collection in the interest of a fair trial.

    There are ocassions, albeit a small percentage, when false accusations are made too. The law should also be sternly applied against the false accuser.

  • M.Saeed

    I am sorry to tread into this highly controversial topic raised by the writer for which our guidance is, not cover the things capable of harming honours. Remember, Islam dawned at a time when daughters at birth were being buried alive by fathers for fear of falling into such dreadful eventualities that society failed to muster strength to arrest.

    Now, is Islamic Law really a never changing rigid, or can it be re-interpreted to serve humanity for all times to come?

    My point of contention is; can modern scientific procedures like DNA test provide convincing evidence beyond doubt about a rape and be accepted as a replacement for the 4 witnesses’ condition?

    Definitely, there are several questions to be answered and conditions to be satisfied before reaching to any conclusion.

    The first and foremost is the fact that; a DNA test cannot differentiate between rape and a wilful, consensual adultery.

    • raj

      Well, to begin with your initial argument about why fathers used to bury their daughters alive, I am sorry to say but I do not take this reason into account. The reason of burying alive was solely because those sick people thought daughters cannot carry through the family name and parents would have to pay wholesome of dowry for their marriages so it was easy to kill them. That was the reason and not rape.

      Second, If as Muslims we consider Islam and its guidance (Quran) is for every period and era than we must also accept that we need to interpret according to the situation. Lets say, at that time camels were used for riding and not planes but we didn’t stop using planes, right? this is just an example for the change of era and subsequent changes in the religion.

      Third, my friend if a rape has been done, will you go out and ask for 4 witnesses and if nothing is found would not do anything for the victim? this is a very lame argument about showing witnesses in order to accept the trial. DNA test provides enough convincing evidences about the rape and its culprits. What if in today’s society, I buy those witnesses and keep doing the crime. DNA test are around 99% right and even if it is not, still convinces us to go for it as a primary evidence.

      Fourth and last, it is true that DNA test wouldn’t differ between a rape and consensual sex but if you study crime books, it says that the investigators should consider every one culprit and should collect all DNA evidences they may collect including, hairs (be it human or animal) or any semen samples they may find. The point of collection is to remove samples one by one that are not of any use (lets say animal hair). If they find two semen samples then they will ask the victim about it if she had it before rape and then exclude the partner from crime list. In the case of victim’s death, both men will be accused and then secondary investigations must follow. But having said that, you must acknowledge the fact that the investigation by this method is more fruitful and worthy then going by with 4 so called witnesses (that in today’s society could be liars).

      I hope this clears a lot. Cheers

  • S.Y.A

    i our corrupt society even DNA cannot be a decisive evidence, as the waderas, the rich elite(not necessarily the waderas industrialists for example) can easily bribe and force the concerned person/lab to change the results.
    and will the victim be willing to comply for the DNA sampling procedure?

  • M.Saeed

    Burden of proof on the victim of rape is to provide four “righteous” witnesses. Therefore, very pertinent questions arise that:

    —What those four “righteous” witnesses were doing standing around?
    —Why were they observing a woman being raped and failing to stop the heinous act?
    —Do they still remain “righteous” after that horrible act of indifference?
    —Does such a burden of proof on victim not encourage and give a free hand to rapists, because our women at their homes are almost always without four witnesses watching and guarding them?
    — Is it not a fact that rapists only choose their victims when they are not guarded or accompanied by insufficient protection that can be over-powered without fear?

    Failure of our religious scholars in providing convincing answers
    to such questions frustrate willing Muslims to adopt Sharia in such matters.

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    Even if a single ‘pious’one is present and did nothing during a rape, he is culpable in my opinion.

    People do however, need to understand that DNA tests are not a magical wand on their own and the authorities do need to train the investigators in gathering other physical evidence too as well as proper depositions from victims, accused and any other relevant persons. A whole new chapter on quality control for Pakistan’s medico-legal practices.

  • S Nasrullah

    Very intelligent and logical piece. Surely, the incidence of burden should fall on the accused to prove his innocence rather than make a mockery of the victim dragging her through the ignominy of obscene interrogation.

    DNA is a sure shot evidence to prove the crime without the humiliation suffered by the victim, on whom injury is added to her insult.