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‘Most IOs not trained to handle gender-based violence cases’

KARACHI: Sixty-two per cent of the surveyed investigation officers in police across the country were not trained to handle cases of gender-based violence, while 66 per cent of them were found to have recommended women victims to resolve their complaints outside police stations, showed the findings of one of the four research works released on Thursday.

Findings and recommendations of the four studies related to gender issues were launched by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) with the support of United States Agency for International Development and Aurat Foundation under the Gender Equity Programme.

Retired Justice Majida Rizvi was the chief guest. Sindh and Balochistan Ministers for Women Development Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto and Ghazala Gola, respectively, also attended the launch.

Titled ‘Reporting, Investigation Safety and Security of the Victims from the Police Perspective’, ‘Assessment of Disaster Management Institutions and Development of a Gender Responsive Preparedness Plan’, ‘Appraisal of the Capacities of Women Development Departments at provincial level’, and ‘Shelter/Crisis Centres & Gender Crime Cell’, the studies were conducted during the current financial year.

Imdad Hussain, who led the study aimed at investigating the interrelationship between the criminal justice system and gender-based violence, said that police reporting and investigation mechanism were full of flaws, particularly with a gender perspective, which not only resulted in victimisation and harassment of women but also denied them justice at various levels.

“The qualitative research found that various components of the criminal justice system had little coordination and trust. For example, judges distrust police and prosecutors, and the prosecutors distrust police and lawyers,” said Mr Hussain.

He said the survey found that police stations across the country faced shortage of investigation officers (IOs), while the available officers were mostly untrained. The IOs faced immense difficulties in investigating gender-based violence cases in the absence of women police officers, he explained.

For the purpose of the study, he said, a knowledge-aptitude-and-practice (KAP) survey was conducted in 16 selected districts of the country. A total of 215 IOs were surveyed to assess current practices in the police department regarding gender-based violence cases.

Neutrality

Thirty-nine per cent of the IOs interviewed had only heard about the criminal law (amendment act), 2004, while 56 per cent officers thought that women were responsible for violence against themselves, which created doubts about the neutrality of the officers while investigating gender-based crime.

Only four per cent IOs interviewed were highly satisfied with their own investigative work, while 45 per cent of them disapproved visits by women to police stations.

The researchers recommended training of all officials of the criminal justice system in ethics and simplification of the existing standard operation procedures related to gender-based violence.

They also called for an increase in number of family courts. In rape cases, they said, only in-camera trail should be held to respect the dignity and privacy of both the victims and the accused.

In a presentation on disaster management institutions, Sohail Manzoor said there was much evidence in terms of reporting and registration of cases that rural and poor women often could not approach the relevant authorities as the disaster risk management remained a male-dominated field.

It was recommended that provincial and district authorities should provide more assistance to women to access disaster risk management programmes by forming their groups so that women were not ignored in relief activities. The researchers also recommended that steps be taken to improve security arrangements for women brought to relief camps after a disaster.

Dr Riffat Haque said that women development department should come out of the influence of the social welfare department and have an independent status.

In her remarks, Justice Rizvi said the research studies would provide a basis to solve the problems of women and their uplift in various walks of life. There was a dire need to implement the laws made for their protection, she added.

NCSW chairperson Anis Haroon, Simi Kamal of the Gender Equity Programme, retired Justice Mehta Kailash N. Kohli, Kauser S. Khan, SSP Javed Akbar and Amar Sindhu also spoke.

Dawn