KARACHI: Legislation alone cannot ensure justice to survivors and victims of sexual violence – speedy implementation of the laws is simultaneously required for effective dispensation of justice.
Activists expressed these concerns at an advocacy session, titled ‘Effective Implementation of Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill, 2016’, organised by the War Against Rape (WAR) at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Thursday. The session also called for the adoption of the ‘Medico-Legal Policy Brief – Standardised Protocols’.
According to speakers, lack of implementation of anti-rape law has ruined the lives of many rape victims who could not invoke it to prove their innocence.
From January, 2015, till June, 2016, as many as 122 FIRs on sexual violence were registered, while a total 516 Medico-Legal Examinations (MLE) were conducted at three major public hospitals of the city – Jinnah hospital, Civil hospital and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, revealed WAR programme coordinator Nabila Qureshi.
Qureshi said that the delay in MLEs leads to a decrease in the number of FIRs as it leads to elimination of evidence from the human body. She said that the anti-rape bill passed in the Parliament has been appreciated by the civil society but the government should also eliminate loopholes in the system that serve as barriers of justice for a rape survivor.
She recommended the establishment of a forensic testing lab in the city, an increase in the number of female police stations and the setup of a help desk within the police stations.
Pointing out the lack of medico-legal facilities, Anis Haroon, the chairperson of the National Commission for the Status of Women, reiterated that the delay in medico-legal formalities leads to elimination of evidence as traces of rape or violence begins to eliminate with the passage of time from the body of the survivor, which leaves them unable to prove their innocence and benefits the rapist to live freely without being charged.
Haroon pointed out how the survivors feel ashamed of themselves even if they pluck up the courage to visit a police station to report on sexual violence while narrating their horrific ordeals to a male officer. She added that in a city with a population of over 20 million, only three female police stations are functional.
According to Haroon, if the state cannot increase the number of women police stations, the government should ensure the presence of a female officer at each police station or at least a separate desk where crimes of sexual violence can be reported without hesitation.
The government of Sindh should build its own DNA lab so that cases can be sorted out on immediate basis, she said, pointing out that currently police have to send DNA samples to Lahore, which is time-consuming.
Another important point raised by additional police surgeon Dr Kaleem Shaikh was that there are only seven female medico-legal officers (MLOs) working at nine government hospitals across Karachi. He shared that survivors of sexual violence sometimes get upset with MLOs as they are not aware of the problems facing the latter, adding that the government should announce different incentives to encourage the MLOs who sometimes deal with numerous bodies in one day.
WAR member Rukhsana Siddiqui added that the government should also train female gynaecologists and announce incentives for them so that the number of women MLOs increases to attend to the need of the hour.