August 21, 2023
By Maryam Missal
As part of its campaign on Reporting Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS) organized a two-day roundtable conference aimed at addressing challenges encountered by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) within the criminal justice system when reporting cases of SGBV.
The event gathered momentum with the participation of female Punjab Police Service (PSP) officers hailing from diverse districts.
The conference served as a platform for constructive debates and discussions, involving not only female PSP officers but also key stakeholders such as parliamentarians, lawyers, and CSOs.
A primary objective was to shed light on the shortcomings of the police procedure in handling SGBV cases, which has often resulted in a low conviction rate for such cases.
The first day of the event revolved around the role of police in
cases of SGBV. Notable sessions included an exploration of the causes
behind low female representation in high-ranking police positions and
its implications for responding to SGBV cases.
The Inspector General of Punjab (IG), Usman Anwar, graced the conference with his presence, commending the police force for their commendable endeavors in tackling SGBV instances across Punjab.
Anwar provided attendees with an assurance that the Punjab police remain dedicated to creating a safer societal environment. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of involving male police officers in the discussions, highlighting their role as responders to SGBV cases.
Sadia Sohail, a former Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA), contributed to the discourse by pointing out the issues of delayed investigations in assault cases, which often result in the loss of crucial medical evidence.
She called for a shift in focus from victim-blaming to offender accountability and suggested that media personnel be included in these discussions.
Bushra Anjum Butt, another notable participant and Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) emphasized the need to move beyond isolated operations among different institutions.
She highlighted the importance of cross-institutional training to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure more efficient outcomes. She stressed that a collaborative approach involving various agencies would lead to improved results, especially in addressing sensitive cases such as rape.
Additionally, discussions touched upon the challenges faced by the police in mainstreaming gender at senior levels and the need for better representation. The role of institutions in ensuring the inclusion of women in higher-ranking positions within the police and improving accessibility to the Criminal Justice System was also addressed.
Distinguished speakers during the conference included Justice Shabbar Raza Rizvi, DIG Waqas Nazir Sahab, and other respected individuals. They shared their expertise and insights on the legal aspects and challenges of combating SGBV.
Justice Rizvi emphasized the global significance of addressing GBV as a violation of fundamental human rights. DIG Waqas Nazir Sahab discussed the alignment of law with tradition and the need for changes in societal norms through education.
Furthermore, the discussion delved into the disconnection between prosecutors and judges, and the importance of effective collaboration between these parties for successful legal proceedings.
Ms. Nida Aly, Executive Director of AGHS, stressed the crucial role played by AGHS in providing free legal aid to marginalized communities, particularly women who constitute half of the population but often face marginalization. She highlighted the alarming rate of acquittals in reported SGBV cases and the need for better representation and enforcement of the laws.
Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, a former Parliamentarian and advocate for Women’s rights, expressed her empowerment in being surrounded by dedicated women in uniform and encouraged them to break barriers and excel in their roles.
The event provided a dynamic platform for meaningful discussions, knowledge exchange, and the exploration of strategies to address the challenges posed by SGBV cases within the criminal justice system.
On the second day of the conference, Alia Malik, Advocate High Court, led a discussion on gender sensitization and the Domestic Violence Act of 2016. The session aimed to highlight the significance of understanding gender dynamics and promoting a gender-sensitive approach within the police force.
Attendees gained valuable insights into the legal framework that supports survivors of domestic violence and the role of law enforcement in providing necessary assistance to affected individuals.
Malik stressed the importance of creating a supportive environment for survivors while investigating and handling such cases.
Shabbir Hussain, Advocate High Court and an SGBV cases expert at AGHS delved into the complexities of child protection laws in Punjab. He discussed the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act of 2004, focusing on the legal mechanisms in place to safeguard the rights and well-being of vulnerable children. Hussain also outlined the Juvenile Justice System Act of 2018, shedding light on the legal framework for dealing with juvenile offenders and ensuring their rehabilitation.
Ans Mashhood, Advocate High Court (AGHS), took the stage to address the critical issue of human trafficking. Mashhood provided attendees with an overview of the legal frameworks in place to combat human trafficking.
His session illuminated the various forms of human trafficking, its devastating impact on individuals, and the role of law enforcement in preventing and addressing this heinous crime.
Hammad Saeed, an advocate in the High Court, shed light on the Anti-Rape Investigation and Trial Act of 2021. The session focused on enhancing investigation and trial procedures in cases of sexual assault.
The insights gained from this roundtable are expected to significantly improve the handling of SGBV cases and increase conviction rates. AGHS remains committed to advocating for women’s inclusion in higher-ranking positions within the police force and enhancing accessibility to the criminal justice system, paving the way for a
more just and equitable society.