By Xari Jalil
Karachi: The statistics collected by the Police Surgeon’s office over the past one year show a disturbingly high rate of criminal assaults against women. According to the details, from January to December 2008, 52 women, criminally assaulted, were brought to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), 158 were brought to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), while 56 cases were handled at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH). This means that on an average, 22 women were raped each month the whole of last year — not including the cases that have gone unreported.
“Women who are brought in come with a police letter,” said Dr Hamid Ali Parhyar, the Police Surgeon, Karachi. “The women who are otherwise raped or sexually abused and don’t go to the police or file an FIR also don’t come to hospitals to get a medical check-up. Besides this, the medico-legal officer (MLO) on duty cannot examine the woman without a police letter as it is a criminal case.”
According to the stipulated police procedure, suspects should be taken to the MLO for medical examination, where their sperm content has to be provided to the chemical laboratories for testing.
Unfortunately, given the lack of awareness on part of the victim and her family, recklessness shown by the police and the lack of testing facilities in chemical laboratories in Karachi, this system does not work the way it should.
When a woman is criminally assaulted, Dr Parhyar explained, she should not clean up. Instead, with the help of the police she should come to the hospital for a medical examination and samples of various fluids should be collected. These samples are evidence and crucial for future investigation with regard to the case. If the evidence is not collected, the case becomes flimsy, he added.
In the second phase, the suspect(s) are required to give their samples for DNA testing. “Neither is there any DNA testing,” said Dr Parhyar, “nor is there any proper taking of notes by the chemical examiners. For instance, in a vaginal swab sample, if the head or tail of a sperm is seen through the microscope, the report says that semen was present. Otherwise, it says there was no semen present. This is completely incorrect because in men who are unable to release sperm (azoospermic), fluid is still released which comprises only the cellular part of the semen. These are called the germinal epithelial cells. Its presence can and should be detected,” he emphasised.
It is also important to note that sperm dies within 48 hours and rape victims usually arrive late. This gives more reason examiners to make superficial reports which say ‘sperm not detected’.
“DNA testing is also not done, despite its significance in determining the identity of the accused,” added Dr Parhyar. “As a result, the only thing that can be determined after a man’s medical check-up is whether or not he is potent which means nothing.”
For this reason, while a total of 226 women were reportedly raped (and brought to the three hospitals) last year, only 146 men showed up for medical examinations, (29 in JPMC, 76 in CHK, and 41 in ASH). Many of these were, in all probability, not prosecuted further by the police.
“Of course, these are only reported cases. We don’t know how many incidents of rape occurred besides this… and these are the figures just for Karachi,” Dr Parhyar pointed out.
While medical examination can often be incomplete or inadequate, the real responsibility of dealing with a rape case lies with the police investigation department. Dr Parhyar concluded that the leads or evidence, which are duly handed over by the chemical examiners to the police, have to be forwarded to the Prosecution Branch (PDSP). “When the police delays investigation by sitting on the evidence, it only makes matters worse.”
Source: The News