Kainat Soomro was 13 when she said men from her village kidnapped her on her way back from school. She says they drugged her, brutally gang-raped her and kept her in captivity for three days until she finally managed to escape. Back in the village, the men denied her story. The town’s tribal elders declared Kainat “outlawed” for having sex outside marriage and tried to convince the girl’s family to kill her themselves. Kainat’s brother and father refused, however, and the family started a long battle in Pakistan’s courts.
Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann followed Kainat and the men she accused for several years, capturing the unfolding of the legal battles and the daily struggles of the Soomro family in the PBS Frontline documentary, Outlawed in Pakistan. Through the lens of Kainat’s life, the filmmakers shed light on women’s lives in traditional Pakistani communities and the changing narrative on women’s rights in the country.
Roughly 46 percent of all female murders in Pakistan in 2009 were in the name of “honor,” Schellman and Nosheen note in an article for The Atlantic. More than 600 of these “honor killings” were reported by the press, though the actual number is likely much higher.
“In a country where you don’t have a system set up to collect evidence in a timely fashion when someone says, ‘I’ve been raped,’ what does that case look like in the courts?” Schellmann says in a press release. “It ends up just being the woman’s word against the man’s.”
Watch the first chapter of Outlawed in Pakistan in the video above, and visit PBS Frontline’s website for the full documentary.
Reprint: Outlawed in Pakistan | HuffPost