The Sindh Assembly has finally made DNA testing in rape cases mandatory for the second time. The first time was back in 2013, when the resolution was passed by the assembly but never followed in practicality. The adoption of the government bill titled the Code of Criminal Procedure (Sindh Amendment) Bill 2017, passed unanimously on Thursday, will facilitate investigation into rape cases and ensure swift justice to rape victims.
The move could have been prompted by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar taking suo moto notice of the rape and torture of the minor girl found near Malir River two weeks ago. According to the NGO War Against Rape’s (WAR) data on rape cases, 189 cases had been reported until the last week of December, while the number of cases reported from January 2015 to June 2016 in Karachi alone, were 616 with only 24 percent of FIRs accounted for the cases. Victims hesitate to come forth and report the crime because there are barely any convictions, due to a lack of evidence against the perpetrators. Under the bill, the DNA sample shall be collected from the rape victim by the police officer within 72 hours from the time of the incident for testing through government-recognised laboratories.
The resolution comes in the wake of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) recommendation last month that DNA should not be included as primary evidence with regard to rape cases, as it was against Islamic procedure. They held the view that Islam has set procedures to determine cases of rape and should be adopted, not elaborating further on what the “correct procedure” might be.
Women protection laws have covered much ground in 2016, however, the government needs to fix the ambiguities in the system that allow for the continuation of crimes without retribution. DNA evidence is just a small tool legislators can offer to make legal proceedings easier, that can have very large benefits to victims of violent crimes.