August 25, 2020

By Haider Kaleem


LODHRAN

An inquiry has been launched against a police officer in Lodhran after it was alleged that the official had pressurized the family of a sexual abuse victim to withdraw their case. Rights activists say that victims of child abuse often end up compromising with their perpetrators due to trauma and pressure from family and community members and in many instances police officials.

The father of an eight-year-old boy had told media persons that his son had been sexually abused by three people and that the Saddar police station house officer (SHO) Sabir Qureshi was coercing them to compromise with the accused. He said that the police officers had offered Rs80,000 to the family if they withdrew the case. A district police officer, Syed Qarar Hussain, had also ordered an inquiry against the police official.

But societal pressures and lack of awareness of laws are hindering proper prosecution of sexual abuse cases. Victims often succumb to pressure of relatives and friends and the culprits go scot-free. Laws in Pakistan allow compensation for letting off convicts of murder but there is no legal ground for such instances in other crimes such as sexual abuse.

Speaking to Voicepk.net, Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Abid Saqi said low conviction of sexual crimes was the result of cultural stigma. “Most victims don’t come forward and if some do, they are later forced to withdraw their statements under pressure,” he said.

Supreme Court Justice Faiz Isa had also pointed out this issue during a judgment in March. The judge had directed that sexual abuse cases treated with due care and diligence so that culprits do not walk free. In June this year, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh of the LHC in his judgment had issued 16-point guidelines for investigating cases of sexual abuse cases.

“There been instances that have to come to our knowledge that police officials have coerced victims and their families in compromising with their attackers,” said Nida Ali, executive director of Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell. She said the victims could complain to senior police officials and could also approach courts for action against them. “The law does not allow any compromise in sexual abuse crimes.”

The incident of police negligence in Lodhran is a stark reminder of the difficulties faced by sexual abuse victims in getting justice. The crimes are firstly not reported and even if some of them are reported the case somehow brushed under the carpet.

Former Additional IGP, Sarmad Saeed Khan, said that child abuse was quite rampant in society, adding that the abuse was committed mostly closer to the victims by acquaintances like relatives, teachers, servants, and others. He lamented that people were not serious in the prosecution of sexual abuse incidents saying cases make headlines for a day but were ignored the next day, pointing out to sexual abuse incidents in Kasur.

Police were to be reinforced with personnel and resources in tackling sexual abuses but that did not happen in Kasur after the media spotlight died down, he added. Some police officials fall for the cultural insensitivity surrounding sexual abuses thinking that the suspects would be acquitted by the courts. He called for setting up a special cell in the police to deal with thousands of sexual abuse happening in the country

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