31st March 2022
By Ahmed Saeed and Asra Haque
While the Anti-Rape Act 2021 indeed introduces provisions that streamline access to justice, gaps in implementation and an unwillingness among the police, prosecutors and the courts to approach rape cases with sensitivity ensure that convictions in rape cases remain at a dismal 2%.
This was stated by speakers at a training session on the the recently enacted anti-rape legislation, organized by the AGHS Legal Aid Cell. The workshop, held on Thursday, was attended by around 20 social workers from various women’s advocacy organizations and protection centers across Northern Punjab. These included War Against Rape (WAR), Dar-ul-Aman and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Center for Women among others.
The event discussed key provisions in the Anti-Rape Act 2021, the rape and consent as defined under this law, and possible solutions to existing barriers to implementation. The workshop concluded with an interactive group session on dealing with women in distress and trauma survivors.
Executive Director AGHS Legal Aid Cell, Nida Aly, briefed trainees on the purpose of the workshop and stated that despite the existence of comprehensive laws, a prevailing misogynist mindset deters genuine complainants from pursuing their cases. However, despite the small change the law may bring, there is still some progress.
“Nothing big may come of this law, however we will continue our efforts so that the wheels of change remain in motion,” she stated. “If not in the next ten years, then the next fifteen might yield some noticeable difference.”
Aly urged for sensitization of these institutions in order to remove these biases against trauma victims/survivors.
High Court lawyer and AGHS Legal Aid Cell associate, Advocate Sadia Malik, explained that there are good laws that are impeded by denial of fundamental rights to women.
“While there is a strong law for rape, but for a woman to go to the police and then pursue her case in a court of law is extremely difficult because she is not ensured her fundamental rights,” she said.
Resident coordinator and researcher at War Against Rape (WAR), Advocate Ambreen Fatima, said that stakeholders are not even aware of the existence of the Anti-Rape Act 2021, which is yet another barrier to implementation
“From the victims to the police, they only know of the previous rape law,” she explained. “They are either unaware of the new legislation or do not have the Rules of Business. The law is really good, but people are not seeing to it that it is implemented.”
Parveen Ajmal, paralegal coordinator at the AGHS Community Center in Walton, Cantonment,, provided
The police has a terrible attitude [toward rape survivors]. Even if we manage to convince and take a rape survivor to the police station to report the incident, they lose all resolve to pursue the case because of that attitude,” she related.
Muniza Manzoor Butt, a senior psychologist and Women Protection Officer Multan, understood that a lack of resources and support system for the different institutions involved – especially the police – is a major obstacle in the implementation of the new rape law.
“This is not a job for one person. We need multiple engagements where [rape] cases are being reported,” she said. “If the higher ups create a support system that allows a rape survivor to engage with all these different actors, it can aid implementation of the law.”