This report is part of AGHS Legal Aid Cell’s campaign ‘Report SGBV – Break the Silence’.

Reporting sexual and gender-based crimes can be extremely intimidating for many.

In Pakistan, the rate of reporting sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is dismally low due to a multitude of factors, which can include:

  • fear of social stigma due to prevailing conceptions about ‘honor’
  • threats and pressure from perpetrators of SGBV;
  • the perception that police stations and courts are not women-friendly environments;

However, it is crucial that survivors of SGBV and/or their family, friends and supporters do what they can to break the silence. By reporting to the police, you are not only fighting for yourself but for other women, girls and other victims and survivors who are fearful of speaking up. By making it a norm to report SGBV to the police, society will also learn and grow to be more protective of its women.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced any form of SGBV, such as sexual harassment, assault or domestic violence, then do not hesitate to report it to your nearest police station.

The Punjab Police in the past few years has taken significant steps to enhance support to survivors of SGBV, including the establishment of GBV Cells and GBV front desks whose sole purpose is to simplify and streamline the reporting process, as well as to ensure the comfort and care of the complainant.

Every police station in Punjab is now equipped with a front desk staffed by female personnel assist women and transgender complainants, especially survivors of SGBV.

Alert the police

Whenever it is safe to do so, you should reach your nearest police station at the earliest possible notice. A front desk officer (FDO) will guide you through the process of filing out a complaint application, as well as explain to your legal rights and protections.

If you are unable to travel for any reason, you can call the Madadgar emergency helpline by dialing ‘15’. If you are a woman, the responding police officers will take your statement wherever your feel comfortable – this can include your home, the home of a family member or friend, or even the police station.

Under the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act 2021, women complainants can choose which investigating officer can hear their complaint. A lady constable must be present at the time of lodging the complaint, otherwise the complainant can opt to have a female relative or friend accompany her during this process.

Collect all your evidence/documents safe

Keep all your evidentiary and legal documents safe with you. This can include pictures, videos, audio, written or recorded texts.

If you or someone you know was physically assaulted or sexually abused, you may be destroying crucial evidence if you:

  • change out of the clothes you were wearing at the time
  • take a bath/clean yourself
  • move things around/clean the place where you were attacked

It is important that your condition as well as the scene of the crime remains unchanged until the initial inquiry is launched.

Details are important

You should include any and all details when lodging an FIR, such as:

  • the name, appearance, dialect and voice of the perpetrator of SGBV
  • the date, place, nearby landmarks and time of the incident
  • the chronology of events as far as you can remember

A signature or thumbprint will be required on your statement to the police.

Right to legal counsel

After recording your statement, the FDO or officer-on-duty is expected to inform you of your right to legal counsel. You can also request a list of provincial bar council lawyers to represent you in a court of law.

In case of non-compliance

If the police refuse to lodge an FIR, you can request the FDO to register a complaint where a computerized receipt will be generated.

You can also issue a complaint to the Inspector General of Police via a text or voice message to 8787. The relevant Superintendent of Police can also be requested to register a complaint.

You can also contact the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) if the FIR was not registered, or petition the courts.

How the police conduct investigations in SGBV cases

In cases where the complainant is female, it is preferred that the investigation be carried out by a female officer who is at least an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI). However, as there are very few women in the police force, it is most likely that a male officer will be handling the case.

The police will ensure that the complainant’s privacy is protected during the reporting and investigation process.

In addition to the complainant, the police may record the statements of confidant(s), witnesses and any other individuals who can provide important information to buffer the case.

In case of sexual or physical violence, an immediate medical examination will be conducted in the presence of a female medical officer. DNA samples may be collected and sent to a forensic laboratory.

The investigating officer will collect all evidence (this can include the clothes an SGBV survivor was wearing at the time of the offense, especially in sexual assault cases) and order a sketch of the crime scene. The investigating officer will make a memo which will be signed by at least two witnesses.

In rape cases, the survivor and/or witnesses may be asked to sit with an artist to create a facial composite sketch of the assailant. They may also be asked to identify the suspect in a parade from behind a screen in order to protect their identity and safety.

If the accused was identified, the police will arrest them immediately and confiscate all their belongings. The investigating officer will create a memo to be signed by at least two witnesses.

Should the investigating officer fail to conduct a satisfactory investigation, especially in rape cases, a complaint can be submitted to higher authorities for a replacement, and the officer may be penalized under certain provisions.

If the accused confesses to their crime, their statement will be recorded as per law.

Following the investigation, a police challan will be forwarded to the court – after the submission of a charge sheet, the court will initiate legal proceedings and record the evidence.

Report SGBV – Break the silence

Reporting sexual and gender-based crimes is essential to prevent such offenses and seek justice for the victims. Do not hesitate to speak up, as the Punjab Police is dedicated to supporting and protecting those who report these crimes.


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