Police apathy: Scores protest mistreatment of rape survivor

Activists call for training of officials investigating sexual assault, domestic violence cases


The protesters hold a demonstration in front of Lahore Press Club. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS

LAHORE: Scores of activists from the Awami Workers’ Party, the Democratic Students’ Alliance and the Feminist Collective staged a demonstration on Friday to condemn the manner in which police are investigating a gang-rape case as well as lack of sensitivity towards the plight of rape survivors in the coverage of the story in a weekly publication.

The protesters gathered in front of Lahore Press Club and demanded that a sensitisation programme should immediately be started for the Police Department officials to be entrusted with investigation of sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

They said impartial investigation of such and other matters involving women could not be ensured without such training. Among other things, they said the training should enable the officials concerned to unlearn chauvinist prejudices that make it hard for women to approach police to report a crime. Such prejudices contribute towards the blaming of women in sexual assaults, domestic violence, harassment and other cases. The protesters said the training programme should be put in place in consultation with women from a cross-section of the society including the parliament, political parties, labour and human rights organisations.

Highlighting the need for ethical reporting of sexual assault cases, the protesters called ‘insufficient’ the clarification by a weekly publication and expressed support for an online demand for an unconditional apology.

AWP Women’s Wing secretary Abida Chaudhry said that the pervasive trend in society that put the blame in sexual assault and sexual harassment cases on the women was an outgrowth of description of men as ‘strong’ and ‘authoritative’ and women as ‘weak’ and ‘submissive’. “The socialisation process begins at our homes and gets entrenched at education institutions and workplaces… children are trained to affirm to masculine or feminine traits based solely on biological differences. The resultant subjectivities directly facilitate behaviour that may lead to incidents of sexual assault, enable the victimisation of survivors and hinder dispensation of justice,” she said.

AWP general secretary Farooq Tariq condemned the Punjab Police saying that the department had a role in keeping intact the capitalist and patriarchal power structure. Yet, he said, as an executive agency that was accountable to an elected government, the department was also responsible for enforcing the law of the Land. He said the manner in which the police were investigating the rape case suggested that they were not at all serious about this responsibility. “Harassment by the investigators and their apathy caused the teenager to attempt suicide.

This is not a one-off incident. Rape survivors are led to such actions by lack of cooperation from the investigators or of the latter’s complicity in the crime,” he said.

AWP Lahore’s Sher Khan said the only viable way to discourage such behaviours was through mobilisation of the marginalised classes and social groups, including women, in a collective struggle against capitalist patriarchy and right-wing extremism.

He said the party would continue to lead this struggle at all relevant fora and in collaboration with like-minded labour, students and peasant associations.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2016.

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