It is incumbent on governments around the world to ensure that women feel safe at homes and in their communities, have access to authorities and a mechanism be put in place for redressal of their grievances. The US embassy Charge d’Affaires Tom Williams said this while addressing a panel discussion on “Towards Women-Friendly Policing” here on Tuesday, which was jointly organized by Aurat Foundation and the US embassy.
“Access to justice is one necessary step towards eliminating domestic violence,” Williams said in his remarks. The USAID hosted the panel as a part of its Gender Equity Program. The initiative seeks to increase women’s access to justice in the country by countering the barriers that exist in the justice system for women seeking legal redress for rape, domestic violence, property rights, or cyber stalking.
The panellists suggested that cogent reforms should be introduced in the police department to make it more effective and proactive. They also agreed that the police should be encouraged to respond to victims with sympathy and not assign blame. “This would be an important first step in making the justice system more open to women seeking help from police in their communities,” one of the panelists said.
A large number of students from different colleges and universities and members from civil society took part in the discussion, besides representatives from Islamabad and Punjab women police. The students and members from the civil society were urged to create awareness about women-friendly policing in their respective communities. The panelists said that unfortunately, it is a taboo for women in Pakistan to go to police station and lodge a complaint there.
“We should encourage women to go to police station and lodge a complaint, if they face any violence or harassment,” one of the panelists said. The panelists also urged the government to create friendly environment in the police stations; so that the victims could lodge their complaints without any fear. “Sometimes female victims don’t lodge complaints with the police fearing backlash from their families and communities. This needs to be changed,” it was agreed.
Seemi Kamal, from the Aurat Foundation and chief of the Gender Equity Programme, said that domestic violence is a serious threat to the family system and can have severe long-term effects on women and children. “We should respect uniform of women police personnel to enable them listen to female victims in a friendly environment,” she said. She said that girls should be encouraged to join the police force as this would help break different social taboos.