The Status of a Rape Victim

Q. With war and conflict happening in many areas, many women are raped by enemy soldiers and other people. If a rape victim is unmarried, can she be married to a Muslim man? If she is married, how should her husband treat her? If a rape victim becomes pregnant, should the pregnancy be terminated? What is the status of the child?

Answered by Adil Salahi

A. By definition, a rape victim is a woman who was forced into sexual intercourse by violent means that could include a threat to kill her, or in circumstances making her powerless. As such, the rule that applies to her is that stated in the Hadith: “My community are not accountable for what they do as a result of a genuine mistake, forgetfulness or compulsion.” Rape is a case where the woman is the victim of the worst type of compulsion, where she is disgraced by force. What her family and the Muslim community should do to her is to help her overcome the trauma of what happened to her and lead a perfectly normal life. Of course she may be subsequently married to a Muslim. If she had no role in the matter, but merely was the victim, would it be fair that she suffers worse consequences? If she is held to blame, as suggested by the drift of the question, then she is treated as if she is responsible for what happened to her. This would be a similar case to that of blaming a murdered man for being murdered. This is a twisted argument that is inadmissible under Islamic justice.
While we cannot make a blanket judgment, a Muslim community where a case of rape occurs should look at the situation very carefully and determine its own extent of responsibility for failing to provide that woman with adequate protection to prevent her being raped. If the community is in a state of peace, then surely something must be wrong if a woman is raped. Measures should be taken to look after the victim and to prevent similar crimes. If enemy soldiers commit rape, the victim’s family and community should treat it as part of the effects of war. Just like a building is destroyed, or land is laid to waste, or children are killed, women could be raped when enemy soldiers feel they can get away with such atrocities. We cannot blame a farmer for having his farm destroyed any more than we can blame the woman for being raped. A husband must take good care of his wife who has been raped, helping her overcome the trauma she suffers as a result, and trying to re-establish normal life in their home. If he deserts her, then he is helping the rapists against her. This is a very wrong attitude to take. If a woman becomes so distressed as to commit suicide, after being deserted by her husband or her family, the greater part of the blame for this new crime is laid on the deserting husband or family.
If the woman gets pregnant, the pregnancy should not be aborted. Abortion is not permissible in Islam. It is killing a life God wants to create. If the woman is married, the child belongs to her and her husband. If she is unmarried, the Muslim community should help her bring up the child when it is born. The Muslim community should learn not to attach any stigma to mother or child.

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