Nov 06, 2020

Mechanism to protect women in Pakistan is ineffective: Rights activist

A top human rights activist in Pakistan has said that despite the nation having  a legal mechanism to protect women, it is ineffective and there is no implementation of the same.

"Even if policies have been explicitly laid down, societal and cultural ‘values’, which are often regressive, dictate how these are implemented," activist Saman Masud Khan wrote in the column published in The News International.

"According to the NGO ‘War Against Rape’, cases of rape are underreported and conviction rates are low (under three percent, across the country, with the exception of gender-based violence courts recently operationalized). Research conducted on rape cases registered in Punjab by Jang Group and Geo Television Network shows 1,365 cases in 2017 and no fewer than 3,881 cases in 2019. The Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) revealed a 200 percent increase in cases of violence against women in Pakistan in the first three months of 2020," she wrote.

She said women in Pakistan are blamed for putting themselves in dangerous situations.

"The judiciary has a very small percentage of female judges and hardly any female public prosecutors. Trials are held in open court, with nothing barring onlookers from making gestures that mock victims. Minors are not awarded special care, nor shielded during the identification process and given in-camera trials as a matter of routine. Bails are granted casually when the crux of the evidence is based on medical findings," she said. There is no existing long-term rehabilitation plan for victims supported by the government, the activist said.

The government, including provincial governments, must repeal discriminatory laws against women, she said.

"To make justice accessible, laws must be put in place for women who may be deterred due to social and psychological reasons from reporting," she said.

"This would include building better facilities for the preservation of forensic evidence; and eliminating the two-finger test, among other actions required," she said.

"More importantly, the government needs to legislate on sexual offences that have not yet translated into legal language in order to award women legal protection," she said.