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‘Rape conviction rate is hardly four per cent’

KARACHI, May 28: In Pakistani society, people and the state apparatus generally give the benefit of the doubt to the accused of rape cases and they do not play their due role in providing shelter to rape victims and their families while police and other related departments are a major source of hindrances in rape survivors’ quests to obtain justice.

War Against Rape (WAR) Project Coordinator Nasreen Siddiqui said this while speaking at a workshop for media professionals on “Rape Reporting in Media”, as part of WAR’s rape survivors support programme held at a local hotel on Thursday.

“In our society, people’s attitudes usually go against survivors of rape victims,” she said. She added that whenever any woman rape victim tries to share her woes, instead of supporting her, people begin to doubt her story.

“According to an estimate, the conviction rate of rape accused is hardly two to four per cent in courts and many survivors do not get justice for one or another reason,” she said.

She said that the rate of ‘compromises’ for rape victims is “alarmingly high”, as many victims and their families could not fight cases in court for long and that is why they end up capitulating and going for a compromise.

Ms Siddiqui suggested that the courts should give verdicts in rape cases within six months. She added that “families are weak and the state should not stop pursuing rape victim’s cases even if the family can no longer pursue them”.

She said it should be ensured that the state be party to all heinous crimes. Parallel systems, like the holding of traditional jirgas, are also troublesome for rape survivors, she added.

She said that the electronic media’s role has been commendable in provision of coverage and assistance to rape victims.

Ms Siddiqui said that in the majority of rape cases the victim is female. These survivors are mostly under 25 years of age. She said that in some cases, minor girls are also molested.

She added that male rape cases are also reported, but their number is low. She said that in this regard sodomy cases of children are reported.

Speaking about the different types of rape, she said rape may be marital rape, gang rape, rape of children, statutory rape, prison rape/war rape, incest and rape using objects, she said.

She said that rape survivors face problems from their families, society, police, medico-legal officers (MLOs), legal proceedings, the state and the media. She added that our state and society have a mindset “against women survivors and create problems for them”.

The female survivors face problems from their families. She said that most of the time mothers of the survivors are old and lose their nerves on hearing of the rape. “This is why a survivor insists on the care of her mother and her own problems are often put on the backburner,” she said.

“Rapists are mostly powerful and influential people, or they have the patronage of powerful people,” she added.

Most of the time families of survivors are uprooted from their indigenous place by the state and left abandoned in other areas, she said. These families have to face severe problems of shelter, as the state provides them no support system, and finally they are abandoned and homeless, she added. She said that the state should provide medical aid to the survivor and his or her family.

‘MLOs do not work for

victims’ welfare’

She said that swift registration of rape cases should be ensured, as the survivors have to suffer badly to get their FIRs lodged. Medico-legal officers (MLOs) may also send them back and ask them to produce an FIR before any medical examination.

She added that there are complaints that some MLOs deliberately make weak reports against victims, and their final decision is left on the submission of chemical reports, which are often delayed.

There are 250 policewomen against 29,000 policemen in Karachi and female police officers “have no role as they have been left redundant”, she claimed. She added that women police officers should register rape victims’ cases and carry out their investigation.

She said that women police officers should be empowered, as they are not legally bound to a specific territory and can carry out investigations anywhere in the province.

She said that majority of the rape cases are reported from the economically deprived areas.

‘Media needs to develop a

code of ethics’

Senior journalist Zubaida Mustafa said that the media should also care about sensitivity and should not disclose the name of the victims without their consent. She added that even the other details of the victims, like their addresses, should not be revealed.

Today newspapers have to deal with more cases of rape and they should form a code of ethics to deal with them, she said, adding that that journalists need to play the role of activists and act like catalysts. She added that journalists should convince their editors to get rape victims’ stories published and support them even if their editors show reservations on the matter or say it is against their policy.

“The conditioning of our people’s minds is done in a way that we think the other way when any rape victim share details of her ordeal,” she said. She added that journalists could play a great role in changing people’s mindsets about rape victims and this vicious circle should be broken.

“WAR’s mission is to develop a society in which fewer rape cases are reported and we should have such a social and legal system in which swift justice is given to the victims without any delay,” said Khalda Ahmed Qadri, Social Legal Officer of WAR.

She added that WAR is working on Survivor Support Service, Advocacy and Development and Community Mobilisation projects for rape victims.

“We help the victims in lodging their FIRs and help them to come out of trauma by providing them psychological counselling,” she said. She added that rehabilitation of the victims is very important and WAR provides long-term education to the victims.

“We are also working to make a community-based group for the rape victims,” she added.
Source: Dawn
Date:5/29/2009

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