It is in this fraught atmosphere of political intrigue and crushing human need that Magdalene Ashraf worked as a nurse trainee. A member of the Catholic religious minority in Pakistan, 23-year-old Ashraf was receiving nursing training with the hope of obtaining a permanent job. She was on duty July 13 when a fellow nursing student, Sajida Fatima, approached her with a lead on a job. According to a statement given by Ashraf to the police, Fatima asked her to accompany her to Mess 96, a housing area for doctors, under the pretext of meeting two doctors who could help her with her career. It was outside this apartment complex that Ashraf was found hours later, lying face down and bleeding, her clothes torn and her body bruised.
She was treated for subdural hemorrhage–bleeding under the skull–and remained unconscious for two days. When she finally regained consciousness and was able to give a statement, she described the events leading up to her gang rape. When she and her friend reached the apartment, Dr. Abdul Jabbar Memon, a medical legal officer at the hospital, was present along with the two other doctors. Ashraf’s friend soon disappeared, leaving her with the three doctors, who then proceeded to brutally rape her. Witnesses reported seeing her being tossed from the balcony apartment onto the street.
The aftermath of Ashraf’s harrowing ordeal has been shocking. First, even as fellow trainee nurses protested against the rape and harassment of nurse trainees by doctors, the police made few efforts to register a report, begin an investigation or apprehend two of the accused men who had fled the scene. The room where the rape took place was not sealed as a crime scene for days. Jabar, the chief culprit, was arrested, but rape charges weren’t added to the police report until after the media began reporting on the case.
But this lack of justice for the victims of rape is not something that happens only in Pakistan. Women in India and Bangladesh also face a criminal justice system stacked against them. For example, Dalit women in India who are raped face a judicial system that weighs against he poor, unless it becomes a story in the media. Let’s hope that the perpetrators of this rape will receive the punishment that they deserve for destroying the life of Magdalene Ashraf.