Speakers at a moot on Tuesday stressed that serious nature of sexual violence and rape cases necessitates more coordinated efforts by the institutions of the criminal justice system.
The Sindh government’s Women Development Department and Legal Aid Society (LAS) jointly organised a dialogue on “State Response to Sexual Violence in Sindh” in a hotel in Karachi.
Highlighting the role of her department in combating violence against women, including sexual violence, Syeda Shehla Raza, minister for women development, said that the ministry had prepared a Sexual Violence Response Framework (SVRF) with the LAS’s technical support and it was placed for discussion in the meeting.
“The SVRF’s objective is two-fold. First, it provides a detailed breakdown of actions and interventions necessary for successful implementation of the recent legislation and judgments. Second, it expands the scope of work of government functionaries beyond the law to initiate primary and tertiary prevention and response measures to work towards the ultimate goal of elimination of violence against women, particularly sexual violence.”
The minister hoped that all the relevant departments would extend their cooperation to making the SVRF operational.
Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, the LAS’s chairperson, said that various efforts are made by the state institutions at legislative, policy and practice level to address the problem of sexual violence and rape in Pakistan. “At the legislative level, there have been made two crucial legal amendments: The Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences Relating to Rape) Act, 2016 and Code of Criminal Procedure (Sindh Amendment) Act, 2017,” he said.
He said that the 2017 Sindh Act mandates DNA testing in cases of rape, whereas the 2016 Amendment Act has significantly expanded the law by laying out detailed procedures and processes to implement the law. Furthermore, judgments in the Salman Akram Raja case and the Kainat Soomro case have mandated specific actions for the government with regards to cases of sexual violence, he said.
Khawar Mumtaz, the National Commission on the Status of Women’s chairperson, emphasised the significance of data on violence against women. “Unless data is collected and evidence-based research and policy framework is developed, the efforts taken in the area of combating violence against women could not generate the desired results,” she said.
Riffat Sardar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on the Status of Women’s chairperson, said a vast majority of cases brought to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Khyber Medical Hospital were of children under 18 years of age according to official figures of 2016-2018.
Discussing the KP’s SCSW Media Monitoring Report conducted in December 2018, she said that the lack of reporting was clear because the numbers available were dismal.
Fauzia Viqar, former chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, also recommended to train the relevant government officials on data collection and maintenance, digitize data collection processes, and introduce data collection SOPs in all departments.
Nuzhat Shirin, chairperson, Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, said that separate special arrangements for transgender persons were not made in any shelter home in Sindh and recommended creating separate spaces for transgender in the shelters homes.
Dr Summaiya Syed Tariq, additional police surgeon, Karachi, said that DNA test is now mandatory according to the law and it contributes significantly to developing pieces of evidence in rape cases. However, she recommended that capacity-building programs on DNA and Forensic Evidence for the police and medico-legal officers should be launched.
Muhammad Anwar Mahar, deputy district prosecutor general, spoke on the video link and alternatives to Traditional Methods of Witness Examination.
Javed Akbar Riaz, DIGP Crime Branch (Investigation) Sindh, discussed investigations into sexual violence cases, issues and ways forward. He also said that a number of issues existed with regard to the investigation, including low conviction, rate, the paucity of resources, lack of coordination and external interferences.