MULTAN: City Police Officer (CPO) Imran Mehmood has directed all the station house officers (SHOs) of the district to register the first information report (FIR) immediately over any complaint of sexual or physical violence against women, Dawn has learnt.

According to the guidelines issued by the CPO, the police have to face several allegations regarding lodging of the FIRs and investigations into allegations of sexual harassment or physical abuse of women.

According to the guidelines, the SHOs should lodge the FIR of such incidents without delay and send reports copies to the superintendent of police (SP) of Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) and the SP of the circle concerned. All investigating officers should conduct their investigations in presence of a female police officer at the VAWC.

The SP VAWC will be responsible for ensuring implementation of the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016 and timely lodging of the FIR and investigation into the case on merit.

The SP VAWC will supervise all the cases lodged in connection with the violence against women either with VAWC or area police station and if any suspect woman is arrested, she will be kept in the lock-up of the VAWC.

Terming the directions of the CPO a step in the right direction, human rights worker, Jameel Ahmed of Tarraqi Pasand Organisation, said that according to a report a woman in Pakistan suffered from some form of domestic violence every second.

He said women suffered violence over conflict with husbands or in-laws, and at times over financial matters while the sexual abuse victims usually avoided reporting sexual violence as they were either silenced in the name of honour or killed by their own families.

He said such grave violations of human rights could only be combated by addressing the root causes of such crimes, including gender inequality and discrimination.

“The entire system, starting with reporting, prosecution, sentencing, shelters and post shelter integration requires strengthening,” Mr Jameel added.

The first VAWC was established in Multan while keeping in view the high number of gender-based crimes in southern part of the province. It is meant to be a 24/7 facility, run completely by women, to streamline investigation-prosecution case process by bringing all the disconnected justice delivery services under one roof.

The services provided at the VAWC include those related to police, prosecution, medical, rehabilitation and counseling. There is also a shelter for women survivors of violence who have no home to go to.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2019