By SAHER BALOCH
KARACHI: Complainants facing sexual harassment on the internet continue to retract their statements despite being assured of timely justice, because of thana culture and the fear of being subjected to disgrace once they decide to pursue their case, said SP-South Shahla Qureshi at a conference on Tuesday.
The conference, which was organised by the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR), Sindh, with the collaboration of UN-Women, marked 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. The participants focused on the issue of strengthening human rights in Sindh while improving policies and protection mechanisms.
One after the other, speakers mentioned the lack of implementation of laws which eventually became an impediment in fighting a legal battle. While speaking about one of her colleagues, who found multiple online IDs with her name and pictures, and who also knew the person who created it, SP Qureshi said women feared the consequences of standing out by complaining or standing up for themselves. “In such cases, women need reassurances which is missing because police and other authorities are used as a force rather to serve the citizens,” she added.
Maliha Lari, consultant at Legal Aid Centre, made a strong point while discussing the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860. She said the PPC itself needed an overhaul or a review of particular laws which did not suit the current environment or were not in line with the current decade. She said that the present system looked at the laws in isolation, especially those pertaining to women, and that there is a need for a holistic approach.
Tahir Iqbal of the Legal Rights Forum said there was a vacuum in representation of people who were non-Muslims, women or labourers. Rape cases were treated the worst, he added.
“A woman in Tharparkar’s city, Mitthi, was presented 19 times before a court because the medical evidence was not collected properly and she was asked to explain,” he said. Similarly, he added, that there are laws pertaining to sexual harassment at workplace, but the committees which were supposed to begin work at district level are either not functional or do not exist.
Karachi police chief Mushtaq Mahar also showed up at the event for the afternoon session on law, policy and challenges. Speaking about the role of women in police, he said there’s a considerable vacuum. He said there were only 1,100 women police officers, whereas the number of male police officers was far bigger than that. Retired Justice Shaiq Usmani, who chaired the session, said police ought to be impartial and apolitical.
Shahnaz Wazir Ali, who chaired the last session, said the NCHR needed to assist and guide women development department. “Our new chief minister is pro-women and pro-children. What he needs to do is to demand a report, every three months, from multiple departments working on the plight of women, non-Muslims, labourers and children. What this would do is to keep the government from isolating these issues and see it as a whole connected and interlinked with each other,” she said.