‘Gender crime cell at NPB to be upgraded as policing unit’

Published August 30, 2023
Supreme Court Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah poses for a photograph with other participants of the conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP
Supreme Court Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah poses for a photograph with other participants of the conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP

ISLAMABAD: The Gender Crime Cell established by the federal government at the National Police Bureau (NPB) will be upgraded to a proper Gender Responsive Policing Unit with more policewomen, more recruitments, training and enhanced protection for victims of violence.

This was stated by NPB Director Ehsan Sadiq at a conference organised by UN Women and the Legal Aid and Justice Authority on “Gender based violence: from legislation to implementation.”

He added, “There have been some structural changes in the police stations. We now have separate divisions, sections for dealing with GBV and an online complaint system.” He also highlighted the significance of forensic evidence in getting convictions in cases of gender based violence (GBV).

The event brought together service providers at the national level for exchanging views, best practices and expertise from their respective work areas and amplify the ownership and commitment of government stakeholders. Prominent experts, practitioners and policymakers from a range of fields, including law enforcement, judiciary, social services, health and civil society, shared their perspectives on effective responsiveness to GBV.

DG highlights significance of forensic evidence in getting convictions in cases of gender based violence

Sharmeela Rassool, Country Representative of UN Women, said, “Ending gender-based violence requires a united national effort, where every individual becomes a voice against silence. Let us join hands and work together tirelessly until every corner of our nation is free from the shadows of GBV. The National Conference of Service Providers serves as a pivotal endeavour in fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange on a national scale, contributing to the broader international mission to eradicate GBV.”

She added, “The formal justice system cannot or rarely delivers justice to survivors of GBV — it is not geared to do so — because the formal justice system treats the survivor as a mere witness in the justice chain. Nobody has asked her or him what he or she wants. My colleague led a survivors’ journey mapping and they told us we don’t want to repeat our story again and again in a courtroom, we want accountability from the perpetrator, we want to be heard and we want to be believed not victim-blamed.”

She shared recent positive developments as Pakistan has moved away from being gender insensitive to being somewhat gender sensitive in their formal system. The two-finger test is banned as of 2021, the admissibility of the character of the victim is no longer accepted in courts, and on-camera proceedings are taking place so that the survivor can talk about the incident respectfully.

Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Supreme Court Justice, was the chief guest at the conference.

He said, “What we require more than legislation is realisation of the problem. The issue is the mind-set and I see that every day in the cases that come to the court, I see a closed and stereotyped mind-set; I see intolerance and judgemental views.”

Speaking of characteristics leading to GBV like control and power dynamics, normalisation and trivialisation of violence, rigid gender norms and stereotypes, economic inequality which can trap individuals in abusive relationships, cultural and religious beliefs, and lack of education, he said, “Addressing GBV requires comprehensive, multi-faceted approaches, from legal reforms and policies to societal shifts in attitudes and behaviours. Prevention and education are key to my mind as is support and resource for survivors.”

Ayesha Raza Farooq, Chairperson Special Committee on Anti-Rape Law, shared structures established under the Anti-Rape Law, and their effective functioning.

She said, “We have seen a steady increase in gender-based crime in the country. According to a study by the Human Rights Watch, a woman is raped every two hours in Pakistan and that translates to 12 women raped across the country on a daily basis – and these are only the reported cases. Our patriarchal norms, the social stigma and fear of retributive violence, prevent women from coming forward and reporting gender-based violence.”

She added, “Our commitment to enhancing GBV laws is intrinsically linked to improving mechanisms for supporting survivors. This conference acts as a cornerstone in aligning our legal framework with the specific needs of survivors, driving a survivor-centric approach.”

Supreme Court Justice Ayesha Malik said, “To strength our society, we must extend our care to our most vulnerable members. The National Conference of Service Providers has illuminated a path towards progress, one where survivors are empowered, laws are fortified, and justice prevails. Our collective efforts are the beacon of hope that guides us toward a safer, more equitable future.”

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2023

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