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Steps urged to encourage women reporting violence

Asif Choudary

LAHORE: The experts in a consultative meeting on Monday identified various flaws in the police, prosecution and judicial systems, especially with gender perspective, which they said needed to be addressed promptly to ease the suffering women.

The participants also discussed at length various aspects of a study conducted by Advocates at Law, Public Policy and Human Rights (ALPH) on `National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) research on police reporting and investigation mechanisms with regard to gender-based violence`.

The report was finalised by FC College Professor Dr Imdad Hussain, ALPH gender and legal expert Saadia Mumtaz and consultant Asad Jamal.

The consultative meeting was organised at a local hotel on Monday by ALPH – a research and consultancy firm – which was participated by Punjab Additional IG (Training) Sarmad Saeed, besides students, lawyers and people from various walks of life.

Saadia Mumtaz and Asad Jamal apprised the participants of various aspects of the study, highlighting flaws in criminal justice system and gender-based violence in Pakistan and the findings of a qualitative study of investigation officers.

They were of the view that the reporting and investigation mechanisms were full of flaws, especially with regard to women, which not only resulted in their victimisation and harassment but also denied them justice at various levels.

“The prime objective of the study is to identify the flaws in reporting and investigation system of police department, review the court proceedings along with political interference at various levels and make recommendations that will contribute to the separation of law and judicial structures from political pressures”, Saadia said.

She said the study was focused on gender-based violence (GBV) and the structural hurdles the victims face while exercising their rights to justice.

Mentioning deficiencies relating to police, she said the women facing domestic violence were further disgraced at the police stations owing to `moral superiority` of men and poor initiatives to facilitate women.

There was not a single women police station in Azad Jamu and Kashmir and none of the women employed by police ever been appointed as investigation officer, she said.

Mr Jamal said understaffed and male-dominated police stations, unavailability of separate reporting room for women, rising incidents of physical and mental torture instead of evidence-based investigations, political pressure on complainants and various other problems need to be addressed through proper legislation and policies.

He said there was only one forensic laboratories in Punjab while the number of women medico-legal officers was far less than the men in the same position.

Similarly, he said, there was a dire need to increase the number of investigation officers (IOs), particularly the women IOs, to handle the female victims` cases.

Most of the IOs were ignorant of new laws relating to gender-based violence which was a major and basic negligence at the initial level, resulting in distortion of facts, he said, regretting there was no law for the witnesses` protection.

On the occasion, the additional IG expressed his utter disappointment over what he called culture of holding only police responsible for all the problems.

He said he would not defend police but the facts were contrary to the sketch drawn in the meeting by some participants.

He cited several references and multiple factors, including financial constraints, police strength, facilities provided to police, political influence, flaws in the police rules etc, which, he said, should also be considered.

The police culture could not be changed overnight, he said and suggested efforts should be made to change society instead of holding a single department responsible for all ills.

After a question-answer session, the ALPH sought recommendations and suggestions from the participants of the meeting.
Source: Dawn
Date:11/29/2011

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