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‘Gender-based violence under-reported in country with very low conviction rate’

War against Rape (WAR) has mentioned in its latest report that incidents of heinous offences such as sexual harassment, gender-based violence, rape, domestic brutality, workplace harassment, child marriage, acid attack and honour killing are under-reported in Pakistan, with an extremely low conviction rate.

Quoting the Global Gender Gap Index 2022, WAR mentioned that out of 146 countries, Pakistan ranked 145th, with a growth of 0.008 since 2021, and due to the lack of a support system, financial dependency and victim blaming, one in two Pakistani females do not report violence committed against them.

Last year, according to police reports, 5,279 rape cases, including gang rape cases, were registered in the country. There was an upsurge in cases of violence against women and children during 2021-22.

The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women received 3,481 complaints about domestic violence cases, while the Ministry of Human Rights reported 16,153 cases filed by women against workplace harassment.

Human rights defenders estimate that around 1,000 women fall victim to honour killing, while the Human Rights Watch World Report 2022 reveals that 18 per cent of the girls are married before the age of 18 and four per cent before the age of 15.

The January to July 2022 data obtained by WAR from the Karachi police shows that FIRs were registered in only 49 per cent of the cases.

The primary reasons that contribute to such discrepancies include biased judgments, discouraging police attitude towards survivors and their families, slow and lengthy court proceedings, social pressure, threats, public shame, guilt and fear of social stigma.

This year from January to July, WAR investigated 42 cases of different forms of sexual violence. Around 65 per cent of the survivors were children under the age of 18 years.

Of them, the age group found most vulnerable to sexual violence was five to 11 years (36 per cent), followed by the 12 to 17 years age group (29 per cent).

The statistics show that 64 per cent of the cases were of rape, followed by 18 per cent of gang rape, 12 per cent of incest and six per cent of sexual assault. A majority of the victims were women and minors.

During the first six months of 2022, a total of 2,211 child abuse cases were reported, of which 55 per cent of the victims were boys and 45 per cent girls. Thirty children, 17 boys and 13 girls, were murdered.

Moreover, 1,472 child sexual abuse cases were reported all over Pakistan, compared to the 1,084 cases during the same period in 2021, which shows an increase of 36 per cent this year.

Six hundred and twenty-two children in the age bracket of 11 to 15 years, and 526 children between the ages of six and 10 years are the most vulnerable to abuse. The statistics also reveal that children from the age group of six to 15 years are the most vulnerable to abuse.

The study recommends biannual capacity building of police personnel from the inspector rank to the lower cadre range on gender, laws related to women, children and transgender persons, evidence collection and forensics skills, and understanding women’s bodily rights.

Likewise, the vacant positions of women medico-legal officers should be filled on an urgent basis. Measures such as the enhancement of technical skills, faster and fair trials, and accountability should also be taken.

“It is the responsibility of the state to ensure swift and effective execution of laws protecting women, juveniles and transgender persons,” states the WAR report.

All the public, semi-governmental organisations and private organisations should display the code of conduct on sexual harassment at the workplace, while anti-harassment committees should be formed to ensure compliance, and to prevent or reduce this menace.

Biannual sensitisation sessions of ombudspersons, judges and inquiry committees should also be held so that the victims can freely report their cases.

Source: The news