Speakers voice concern over low conviction rate in cases of crimes against women

Published December 6, 2023
Asma Jehangir Foundation Executive Director Nida Ali speaks during a panel discussion in Islamabad on Tuesday as Director of the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, US embassy, Lori J. Antolinez and spokesperson for the US Mission to Pakistan Jonathan Lalley look on. — White Star
Asma Jehangir Foundation Executive Director Nida Ali speaks during a panel discussion in Islamabad on Tuesday as Director of the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, US embassy, Lori J. Antolinez and spokesperson for the US Mission to Pakistan Jonathan Lalley look on. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Speakers on Tuesday raised alarm over low conviction rate in cases of crimes against women.

Speaking at the panel discussion arranged by the US embassy in Pakistan, Asma Jehangir Foundation Executive Director Nida Ali said there were many forms of violence that women had to suffer in Pakistan, and the most common was domestic abuse.

She said unfortunately in Pakistan, domestic abuse was associated with physical violence only whereas, in her view, economic and psychological abuse was also a form of violence.

Ms Ali said legislation was improving slowly and people had started to understand other forms of violence as well. Stressing that sexual violence was a big issue, she said the most under-reported violence in Pakistan was rape.

US official says low literacy rate hindering response to gender-based violence

She said not even one tenth of the cases were reported and the reason was trust deficit in the system.

About sexual harassment at workplaces, she said it was far and wide, but largely ignored. She also talked about forced marriages, child marriages and honour killings.

Director of the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the US embassy Lori J. Antolinez said an astonishing statistic was shared with her according to which one woman was raped every two hours in Pakistan.

She also talked about lack of accountability and low conviction rate, adding that it was because the police, prosecutors and judges were unaware of the applicable laws.

“And even if the laws exist, they are unaware of how to implement them,” she said, adding that “we also hear from victims that they are often harassed, and it’s a re-traumatising experience”.

She said the US was trying to work with the police and other public servants on how they could provide facilitation centres - places where it’s kind of a one-stop shop for women to feel they are in a safe space, where they can report on a crime and it is followed up.

She also observed that low literacy rate was a key factor behind prevalence and inability to respond to gender-based violence.

Sharing some statistics, she said the representation of women in the Pakistani law enforcement forces was as low as two per cent while only 5pc of Pakistan’s high court judges were female. She said only two women were in the Supreme Court.

Spokesperson for the US Mission to Pakistan Jonathan Lalley, who moderated the discussion, said the event was meant to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

He said the 16-day international campaign kicked off on November 25, which is the International

Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and would end on December 10 - Human Rights Day. He said during these 16 days, governments, activists and civil society around the world called for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, a global challenge from which no country is immune.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2023

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