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FRONTLINE: Outlawed In Pakistan

Airs Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: When Pakistani teenager Kainat Soomro (pictured), accused four men of gang rape, the courageous young woman did not put her suffering behind her. Filmmakers Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann spent five years tracing both Kainat’s odyssey through Pakistan’s broken justice system and her alleged rapists’ quest to clear their names. The result is a powerful and nuanced profile of courage in a society where rape victims and their families are often considered dishonorable and subjected to humiliation, poverty, and mortal danger.

When 13-year-old Kainat Soomro accused four men of gang rape, she risked everything: her reputation, her education and even her life. That’s because, in Pakistan, women and girls who allege rape are often more strongly condemned than their alleged rapists. Deemed impure and shameful, some are even killed by their own families.

In "Outlawed In Pakistan," premiering May 28, 2013 on PBS, FRONTLINE filmmakers Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann shine a spotlight on Pakistan’s flawed justice system—and find that those rare rape cases that do make it to court are often fraught with complications, from police non-cooperation to a systemic lack of forensic evidence.

“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 asks. “It ends up just being the woman’s word against the man’s.”

Nosheen and Schellmann spent nearly four years tracing the evolution of Kainat’s complicated case—from both sides. Through the lens of the protracted legal battle between Kainat and her alleged rapists, they explore cultural norms around female sexuality in Pakistan, the continued influence of the country’s tribal justice system and the troubling procedural flaws in the country’s formal court system.

We meet Kainat’s parents, who stand by their daughter as things take a deadly turn for the family. Her father vows to “fight until Kainat gets justice.” We also meet the four men accused of Kainat’s rape—whose families also vow to fight back. “There will be murders over this. Don’t you read the newspapers?” one man’s uncle tells Nosheen and Schellmann. “These things lead to a chain of murders.”

Nosheen says that she and Schellmann had a surprising advantage when it came to landing candid interviews. “One of the remarkable advantages of being a female filmmaker in Pakistan is that nobody takes you seriously,” says Nosheen. “If you show up, you’re just a girl with a camera, and no one is really scared of you.”

In "Outlawed In Pakistan," Nosheen and Schellmann deliver a rare and immersive portrait of the realities of Pakistan’s justice system, and the people it serves.

“We wanted to make sure that the nuances we found on the ground in Pakistan are reflected in the film,” says Schellmann. “Women face a lot of backlash for speaking out about sexual violence in Pakistan, but you also see in the film dedicated Pakistanis who are working hard to improve the situation for women.”

“We’re committed to telling the story of how this rape case unfolds, but also to making sure you hear all sides and understand what it’s like for everyone involved in fighting a rape case in a place like Pakistan,” says Nosheen.

"Outlawed In Pakistan" is on Facebook. Past episodes of FRONTLINE are available for online viewing. FRONTLINE is on Facebook, and follow @frontlinepbs on Twitter.

Video

Frontline: Outlawed In Pakistan Trailer

Outlawed in Pakistan - Trailer from H2HFilms on Vimeo.

Above: In Pakistan, women and girls who allege rape are often more strongly condemned than their alleged rapists. Some are even killed by their own families. For this unforgettable documentary, filmmakers Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann spent years tracing one alleged rape victim's odyssey through Pakistan’s flawed justice system — as well as her alleged rapists’ quest to clear their names.

Video

Sundance Premiere of "Outlawed In Pakistan"

Above: Filmmakers Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann reflect on the premiere of their film "Outlawed in Pakistan" at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary follows the story of a Pakistani teenager, who accuses four men from her village of gang-raping her and then faces a deeply flawed criminal-justice system, when she takes her case to the Pakistani courts. "Outlawed in Pakistan" will air on FRONTLINE in 2013.

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