PESHAWAR: At a community meeting at the Model Police Station in Rahimabad, Mingora, the representatives are all men. There are more than 70 men, drawn from the local government, in the hall in the basement of the police station.
The gathering is part of a Police Liaison Committee (PLC) periodic meeting, including members from the community and the police.
The men present speak about issues facing the community that they want the police to address. However, there is no one to speak about the issues women face.
“At least 70 per cent of women of Mingora are unaware about their basic rights and the forums where they can raise issues that affect them,” shared Zeenat Gul, 32, while speaking to The Express Tribune. Gul is a councillor in local government and a woman member of PLC and one of the two women representatives on the PLC, as against 68 men at Swat district.
When she visits homes and ask women what they know about their rights, and access to justice through police, courts and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like the Dispute Resolutions Council (DRC) at the police station in Rahimabad, their response is: “Nothing.”
The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index in its 2016 report for Pakistan says: “Pakistan’s overall rule of law performance places it at 5 out of sixcountries in the South Asia region (with Nepal at the top and Afghanistan at the bottom).
“Every day I face hardships, negotiating barriers from the family and society to go to work at the basic health unit and counsel women faced with problems at the Odigram Union Council,” said Gul, who is the bread-winner of the family. Her father is dead and she lives with her mother, four brothers and three sisters in a joint family. Her brother’s work but only support their own children and wives.
Even though, the population figures suggest that both male and female have the same ratio, the number of women in the PLC is far from representative of their population. Even the few women who are part of the PLC cannot participate freely in the community forums due to cultural barriers, said Gul.
The scale is tipped against women even with regard to the Dispute Resolution Council (DRC) at the Raheemabad police station as well. The DRC was instituted in model police stations by the K-P government with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). At Raheemabad , there is only one woman out of 21 DRC members. Due to this disproportionate representation, issues that women face are not properly highlighted and they remain hesitant to visit police stations and share their problems with the composition of DRC members.
“Majority of women related problems are resolved by men and they are not even allowed to visit hospitals for treatment alone,” said Gul.
Zahir Shah, a DRC member in Raheemabad police station, told The Express Tribune that since 2014 they had received around 3,000 complaints of different kinds. Of these domestic disputes are at the top, suggesting an area of concern where women are just as equally affected as men. Shah said that 70 per cent of domestic disputes were related to women like wife husband relations, land disputes and loans etc.
Shah said the number of women in DRCs is less and increasing it would go a long way in addressing women issues.
Aurat Foundation Peshawar Resident Director Shabina Ayaz, explained that women were the main victims of domestic violence. “They are deprived of their rights when dispute involving them are resolved by men.”
Ayaz said more than 200 cases of domestic violence had been reported in the province during the last four months of 2017. In nearly a 100 of these cases, women were murdered by their relatives.
She said that a male dominated society and lack of education are the key hurdles in the way to women’s uplift and freedom in this society.
Women desks have been established in seven model police stations in Swat with the support of UNDP where they had hired women staff to deal with women complainants, said DSP Swat Habibullah Khan.
According to UNDP, K-P has 37 model police stations where trained women staff deal with women complainants
Khan said earlier there was no separate space for women but model police satiations ensure trained women staff attend to women complainants and assist them with police processes to help resolve their issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2018.