A man who was handed a life sentence in May for raping a deaf woman has been freed by a Pakistani court. This was after the 25-year-old reportedly agreed to a settlement that was brokered by the council of elders in northwest Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 26.

The man was identified as Dawlat Khan, sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court in Buner district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for raping a deaf woman, Agence France-Presse reported.

Khan was released on Monday after the Peshawar High Court accepted an out-of-court settlement agreed upon by the rape survivor's family.

"The rapist and the victim are from the same extended family," Amjad Ali, Khan's lawyer, said to the outlet. "Both families have patched up after an agreement was reached with the help of local jirga (traditional council)."

The deaf victim reportedly gave birth earlier this year. After a paternity test, it was found that the 25-year-old was the baby’s biological father.

After learning about the ruling, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was appalled by the ruling.

“Rape is a non-compoundable offence that cannot be resolved through a feeble 'compromise' marriage,'” the group said in a social media post.

In Pakistan, rape is difficult to prosecute with women often treated as second-class citizens.

According to the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell - a group providing legal assistance to vulnerable women - the conviction rate is lower than three percent of cases that go to trial.

Only several cases are reported because of the associated social stigma, while lapses during investigations, shoddy prosecutorial practices, and out-of-court settlements also contribute to abysmal conviction rates.

“This is effectively the court's approval of rape and facilitation of rapists and rape mentality,” Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, a lawyer and human rights activist, said.

In rural Pakistan, village councils known as jirgas or panchayats are formed of local elders who bypass the justice system, although their decisions have no legal value.

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