Police as a first respondent have a pivotal role in combating violence against women and violence can be reduced through effective use of existing support mechanisms, observed police officials, legal experts and other civil society representatives at a consultative gathering here on Wednesday.
The Legal Rights Forum under the umbrella of ‘Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing’ organised the consultation, titled ‘Role of police in combating violence against women and support mechanisms’, at PMA House Karachi.
Speakers said women and girls had been facing violence and discriminatory behaviours even at their homes, while discrimination at state and society levels had increased their miseries. They said that in every third household women faced various types of violence and less attention was paid to psychological violence, which badly affected the efficiency of women.
Former inspector general of police Niaz Ahmed Siddiqui said structural change in police was crucial and he had been assisting the department through trainings and other interventions so as to create a greater impact.
He said women had great potential and would be given opportunities to bring about a change in the police department. Women police officers should be empowered and given key posts, which would reduce violence against women.
Senior Superintendent of Police East Karachi Captain (retd) Azfar Mahesar said women had been facing discrimination and violence at the hands of close relatives in most of the cases. He emphasised the need to change the mindset and include more human rights-related material in te police training curriculum to sensitise police officers.
Mahesar said the police department had been recruiting directly BPS 16 grade inspectors with law background to resolve legal and other procedural issues to minimise human rights issues. He said over 1,000 inspectors would be hired and they would conduct trainings and sensitise officials on new laws, particularly women-friendly laws.
The SSP said that he had appointed a woman as the first female station house officer in the Khairpur district to challenge the stereotypical mindset. He noted that resistance came but he kept doing the same practice to change the mindset.
He said the police department established a women and children protection cell at regional level and women police officers were dealing with survivors. He called for the need to give privacy with rights to women for empowerment.
Inspector Khurram Awan, focal person for South Zone, said survivor women could easily share their issues with females; therefore, women police officers had been designated to redress their grievances.
He suggested establishing female help desks at each police station to support survivors of gender-based violence. Mahnaz Rehman of Aurat Foundation said everywhere women faced violence and discriminatory behaviours, but due to a continued struggle women had now been challenging the stereotyping and putting up resistance for their rights.
She said that though there were some good laws, women were unable to get benefits from those laws due to lack of awareness and implementation of the laws. LRF executive director Malik Tahir Iqbal, Shariq Ahmed, Manzoor Ahmed, Fouzia Tariq and others said women were resisting discriminatory practices, and this was resulting in a better change, but there was a need to continue advocating for rights at all levels.
They said suggested that violence against women could be controlled through close coordination between police and citizens with mass level behaviour change campaigns through media and other sources.