Horrific cases of violence against women seem to happen with disturbing regularity, with many of them occurring in Punjab. A teenage girl was subjected to sexual assault on the orders of a panchayat in the Muzaffarabad area of Multan district. The rape had been ordered as ‘punishment’ for a rape committed earlier by Kaneez Mai’s son. Apparently, Kaneez Mai’s son had earlier raped the sister of the main suspect and the matter had been brought before the panchayat rather than the police. The panchayat allegedly ordered that the brother of the first girl could rape the sister of the rapist to even the crime. This is not about sexuality; it is about power and violence. The majority of Muslim scholars believe that there is no punishment for a woman forced to have sex. According to a Sunni hadith, the punishment for committing rape is death, there is no sin on the victim, nor is there any worldly punishment ascribed to her. Sexual assault is not like any other crime. Despite the physical nature of the crime, most of the harm is psychological or emotional in nature. The prosecution of sexual assault is also unlike the prosecution of any other criminal offence. There is an intense focus on the character and motivation of the complainant. The complainant is subjected to marked humiliation which adds insult to the injury. Rape is especially stigmatising; a rape victim (especially one who was previously a virgin) may be viewed by society as being ‘damaged.’ Rape-survivors feel embarrassed to talk about what happened to them and this can lead to suicidal behaviour. Childhood and adulthood victims of rape are more likely to attempt or commit suicide. Psychological, emotional, physical, and social effects include poor self-esteem, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and eating disorders. Rape survivors may turn to legal, medical, and mental health systems for assistance, but there is a gap in services and most of the survivors are denied help by these agencies. What help victims do receive often leaves them feeling victimised again; something referred to as ‘second victimisation’. The survivors struggle to seek post assault assistance from the legal, medical and mental health systems and delay in these interactions impacts their psychological well-being. Most reported rapes are not prosecuted, victims treated in hospital emergency departments do not receive comprehensive medical care, and many victims do not have access to quality mental health services. New interventions and programmes should be considered that seek to improve services and prevent secondary victimisation. The contributions of rape crisis centres, restorative justice programs, and sexual assault nurse examiner programs are required. Violence against women (VAW) is a universal phenomenon which has gained a lot of attention from all segments of society. In spite of the efforts by various international agencies, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), VAW has proved difficult to eradicate till date. The situation in Pakistan is especially worrisome where culture plays an important role in shaping attitudes towards women. Violence is seen as both a cultural and religious issue which is tied strongly to the patriarchal system and to outright distortion of womanhood by established stereotypes The culture of violence against women has therefore become a common trend and a growing concern in many parts of Punjab. Violence against women exerts a negative influence on the self-esteem, health status and well-being of the victims irrespective of the frequency of occurrences or manifestations. Sadly, violence against women is becoming a common occurrence and is tolerated in society. Violence is seen as both a cultural and religious issue tied strongly to the patriarchal system and outright distortion of womanhood by established stereotypes. It is regarded as a private matter and therefore justified by religious injunction. Thus, a ‘conspiracy of silence’ prevents a disclosure of incidences of wife battering, wife abuse and ‘honour killings’ which are considered as consequences of cultural attitudes rather than prevalent religious norms. These manifestations encourage dependence and or overdependence and passivity in women. Such systems pose serious psychological challenges to women and promote increased incidences of mental health disorders, which further expose women to institutional violence. Apart from judicial awakening; what is primarily required is awareness. Educating people to view women as valuable partners in life, in the development of society and the attainment of peace are just as important as taking legal steps to protect women’s human rights. Men have the economic, moral, political, religious, and social responsibility to combat all forms of gender discrimination. In a country rife with misconceptions of rape, deeply ingrained cultural and religious stereotypes, and changing social values, globalisation has to fast alter the letter of law. The writer is a professor of Psychiatry and consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the UK. He can be contacted at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, July 29th , 2017.