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Police adopt inhuman stance towards rape victims

KARACHI: As the judicial crisis lingers on, gang rape survivors Naseema Labano and Kainat Soomro are not only facing a delay in justice but have been allegedly ordered by the police and other authorities to vacate the safe house they have been living in with their families.

As highlighted during a meeting held at the office of War Against Rape on Tuesday, despite repeated appeals to the government, it has failed to support the survivors with a permanent shelter home to ensure their safety.

According to details received by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Naseema and her family of 12, currently residing in police quarters, were allegedly ordered by the police to leave the shelter home on March 26, 2007, despite the fact that half the alleged perpetrators involved in the assault are still going scot-free. According to Uzma Noorani of the HRCP, the AIG Operations Abdul Razak Cheema said that the quarters belonged to a family of one of the police officials who will be returning soon and asked the affected families to vacate the place.

Meanwhile, the AHRC learnt that two members of the Sindh provincial cabinet are allegedly forcing the police to evict the family from the safe house since the victim’s presence in the city is creating problems for government because they still have not been able to apprehend the culprits.

On the other hand, 13-year-old Kainat Soomro also living in a temporary residence, Musafir Khana, with her family of eight, was asked to vacate the home as the premises were required for the holding of marriage ceremonies since the wedding season is back.

The meeting, attended by members of the Women’s Action Forum (WAF), HRCP, PAWLA, Aahung and other civil society members expressed their disapproval with this insensitive move of the government. “Although the Governor of Sindh has intervened in the sordid cases, the Chief Minister insists on sending Naseema’s family back to her village in Ubaro. Her family will be in great danger if they return and one of her uncles, who has been supporting her throughout, is already receiving death threats,” said Uzma Noorani of the HRCP.

Moreover, adds AHRC, the alleged perpetrators have organised an illegal tribal court (Jirga) to punish the victim on her return for damaging their reputation. The participants at the meeting believed that if Naseema is sent back it is likely that the perpetrators will attempt to assault her again and may even kill her.

The committee decided that they needed the state’s support for their rehabilitation because it was difficult for the non-governmental organisations to support the entire family along with the victim. “There are numerous empty buildings across the city held by the government. They should be used for the rehabilitation of rape survivors and couples who are otherwise left at the mercy of NGOs,” said Tasneem Siddiqui of Women Against Rape (WAR).

While the members believed that the government should come forward and set up shelter homes for couples and rape survivors, the officials from the government are of the view that rehabilitation is the responsibility of non-governmental organisations and philanthropists. “It is not in our ambit to built shelter homes.

The human rights cell we will form will provide legal assistance and assist in the inquiry and investigation of the case but we cannot promise shelter homes for the survivors,” said Inspector-General of Police, Sindh, Jehangir Mirza.

However, Dr. Saeeda Malik, Minister for Women’s Development, held out the assurance that the issue of provision of shelter homes for destitute women and rape survivors had been brought into notice of the standing committee of the Ministry of Women’s Development and the proposal had also been forwarded to the Chief Minister for mandate. “We were not able to help the victims in Karachi initially because the matter was sub-judice, “ she said adding that the Women’s Crisis Center would lend them as much support as possible.

The following suggestions were put forward during the meeting:

1) Full police protection be provided to the survivors in their homes. If they are forcibly uprooted, then the state should help re-habilitate them by providing living space and money for essentials for at least three months and after evaluation of the situation, extend the support for another three months.

2) The police should be bound to register an immediate FIR and any delays should be open to enquiry and appropriate action. Furthermore, misquoting during the registration of the FIR should be avoided.

3) The Women’s Police station should be given the authority to investigate cases of rape and sexual violence. They are only authorized to register complaints with no additional support being extended.

4) The medico-legal sector should be provided with the necessary training, equipment and other job-related incentives to carry out their work efficiently and without delays. Karachi has only three government hospitals where only two WMLOs are catering to the needs of rape survivors. Lahore on the contrary has 14 active centres for the same purpose.

5) ‘One-window’ facility for the survivors for registration of the FIR, investigation and medical and chemical examination should be provided.

6) Speedy justice: All rape cases should be decided within 3-4 months.

7) Formation of a support network for survivors who need immediate crisis intervention.

Source: The News