Dialogue on “Responding to cases of sexual violence”
KARACHI:Speakers at a dialogue on “Responding to cases of sexual violence” on Thursday while expressing serious concern on increasing cases of the sexual violence in the society, underlined the need for coordinated efforts among all rule of law departments like police, prosecution, women development, health as well as civil society and lawyers.
The government officials, lawyers, human rights activists, women rights activists and researchers expressing their views at the dialogue, organized by Legal Aid Society at a local hotel, called upon all the government to implement the existing laws. They also asked the non-governmental organisations and lawyers’ bodies to provide training to the law enforcers and legal practitioners for sensitization on sexual violence issues.
Dr. Muhammad Usman Chachar, Sindh Home Secretary; Ms. Alia Shahid, Secretary of Sindh Women Development Department; Dr. Saba Gul Khattak, Country Director, Foundation Open Society Institute; Justice (Retd.) Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, Chairperson Legal Aid Society; Mr. Faizullah Korejo, Additional Director of FIA; Ms. Maliha Zia Lari, Associate Director, Legal Aid Society; senior research Ms. Nazish Brohi; Ms. Asiya Munir and Shiraz Ahmed from the NGO War Against Rape; Ms. Sarah Zaman, women rights activist and a member of faculty at SZABIST; Jamil Junejo and other spoke on the occasion.
Justice (Retd.) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Chairperson Legal Aid Society, while quoting a report “Sexual Violence and the Law in Pakistan” conducted by War against Rape in 2011, said sexual violence against women and minors is endemic across Pakistan. According to “Cruel Numbers” report released by Sahil, an NGO working in Pakistan the total 3,832 cases of the child abuse in Pakistan have been reported in the newspapers during the year 2018. Around 27% of these cases were reported from Sindh.
“Given the reality that rape and sexual violence are social and legal issues, it is essential to conduct multidisciplinary analysis from psychological social and cultural perspectives,” he remarked.
He appreciated the recent legislation in Sindh especially passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences Relating to Rape) Act, 2016 and Code of Criminal Procedure (Sindh Amendment) Act, 2017. Moreover, the 2017 Sindh Act mandates DNA testing in cases of rape whereas the 2016 Amendment Act has significantly expanded the law by laying out detailed procedures and processes to implement the law.
Speaking on the occasion Sindh Home Secretary Dr. Muhammad Usman Chachar said that reporting of the incidences of gender based violence has increased due to social media.
The Government of Sindh is committed to curb the sexual violence in the society. The provincial cabinet of Sindh has approved Rule of Law RoL Roadmap which has a focus on women too. A committee is working under the Home Department to provide training to the police, prison, prosecution and judiciary officials.
Under the newly passed Sindh Police Act 2019 a separate cadre of investigation officers has been created and number of women police officers is being increased.
The home department has established Human Rights Cells across the province to handle cases of violation of human rights. A Public Safety and Police Complaint Commission has been established under the chairmanship of Sindh Chief Minister and in the first meeting the issues of gender based violence were given importance.
Ms. Aliya Shahid, Secretary of Women Development Department said her department and Legal Aid Society has developed a Sexual Violence Response Framework to provide multiple relief to the victims and take the culprits to the task. The framework provides various aspects like prevention, response and rehabilitation of the sexual violence including rape. A one-window facilities is being activated so the victims are provided legal, medico-legal and psychological support at one place. A summary has been moved to the provincial Chief Minister for setting up such centres at the district level.
Dr. Saba Gul Khattak, Country Director, Foundation Open Society Institute said attempt of rape is also violence. She said besides women, children and transgenders are also vulnerable to sexual violence
She said her organization is supporting vulnerable sections of the society. She appreciated development of a framework in Sindh.
Ms. Maliha Zia Lari gave a presentation regarding sexual violence incidents in Sindh and said that in 2018 266 cases of rape were registered and courts announced conviction in only 4 cases, whereas 47 accused were set free and 154 cases are in pending. Total 223 sodomy cases of boys and girls were registered in Sindh, out of which only 7 cases got conviction.
Researcher Nazish Brohi said that most of rape cases are either not reported and most of the time stigma and labels are attached with victims. She referred Ms. Dua Mangi case in which people on social media are making irrelevant comments.
She pointed out that in many cases compromise and compensation are the major hindrances in decisions in rape cases. There is also a parallel judicial system is in which many such cases are filtered out.
FIA Additional Director Faizullah Korejo presented case studies in which rape cases were delayed at various stages of trials. He said Police’s conduct also matters, and if a victim is not properly engaged and handled and listened, the case may be delayed. Role of MLO is also important. Recently the government of Sindh has passed the law in which DNA Swab is made part of the investigation.
Sheraz Ahmed and Asiya Munir from WAR said that role of NGOs especially those are working for women rights is important. Trust building of the victim with the lawyer is essential as the victims needed moral support.
Dr. Shabnam, Chief Technical Advisor, Health Department said that implementation of the Rule of Law roadmap is essential.