1st April 2022
By Asra Haque
At least 25 police personnel from different districts of Punjab on Friday participated in a workshop organized by the AGHS Legal Aid Cell on key provisions of the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act 2021 and on adopting a gender-sensitive approach in rape cases.
Half the participants were women officers from Lahore and Sheikhupura. The session began with a brief on the purpose of the workshop, followed by an interactive presentation by lawyer Saima Amin Khawaja on recognizing and correcting gender stereotypes and biases in rape cases.
The event culminated in a lecture on the new provisions of the Anti-Rape Act 2021 and how they alter the investigative process.
Sadaf Rasheed, In-Charge Gender Based Violence (GBV) Cell Model Town, Lahore, explained the ways the new anti-rape legislation has improved coordination between departments, and streamlined the case registration and investigation process.
“GBV Cells were established once the Act was passed. We have centers at the divisional level where a female investigation officer is posted which has eliminated any communication gap,” she explained. “[Rape] victims are now able to properly convey their case to us because they feel more comfortable with women personnel, and this removes any lacunae in the case.”
Attendees voiced their concerns regarding obstacles to police procedures. They lamented that despite the fact the police is more than ready to facilitate complainants, resiling of statements is a primary cause behind low conviction rates.
Director AGHS Legal Aid Cell, Aliya Malik, felt that of the various actors in the criminal justice system, the police has shown the most resistance to adopting a gender-sensitive approach.
“The responses we received from police officials during the interactive session were disappointing,” she regretted. “They are unwilling to admit that they can be insensitive toward women. They believe they are absolutely correct in dismissing 99.5% of cases as false.”
Saima Amin Khawaja felt that unless authorities do not train the police, provide resources for effective investigation, and monitor the process, the anti-rape law can bring no positive change.
“There is no dearth of laws in Pakistan, it is the implementation of these laws that fall short,” she provided. “There are three reasons for this deficiency: the ones who have made this law and those that are responsible for implementing it must understand its importance and value, for which they need to be trained foremost. Secondly, there needs to be investment in support facilities, such as DNA testing labs. And thirdly, results should be monitored.”