A Pakistan court freed a rapist after he married his victim in a deal brokered by a council of elders in the northwest of the country, his lawyer said Wednesday, Dec. 28.
The decision has angered rights activists, who say it legitimises sexual violence against women in a country where a majority of rape goes unreported.
Dawlat Khan, 25, was sentenced in May to life imprisonment by a lower court in Buner district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for raping a deaf woman.
However, he was released from prison on Monday, Dec. 26, after the Peshawar High Court accepted an out-of-court settlement agreed by the rape survivor’s family.
“The rapist and the victim are from the same extended family,” Amjad Ali, Khan’s lawyer, told AFP.
“Both families have patched up after an agreement was reached with the help of local jirga (traditional council),” he added.
Khan was arrested after his unmarried victim delivered a baby earlier this year, and a paternity test proved he was the child’s biological father.
Rape is notoriously difficult to prosecute in Pakistan, where women are often treated as second-class citizens.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was “appalled” by the deal that allows the rapist to go free.
“Rape is a non-compoundable offence that cannot be resolved through a feeble ‘compromise’ marriage,” the group tweeted.