File photo of Punjab police personnel in a meeting. PHOTO: PUNJAB POLICE

Misogyny mars Punjab Police performance

Victim-blaming mindset is evident in investigation of sexual assault cases

Muhammad Shahzad September 14, 2020

Misogyny is so much internalised in Punjab Police that any woman present inside a police station can feel it, according to a women rights activist.

The issue was highlighted after recent remarks of CCPO Umar Sheikh that the motorway incident victim fell prey to brutality because of her naivety. He said that she did not choose the GT Road to travel to Gunjranwala and also did not check the petrol of her vehicle before leaving and he was shocked over this level of negligence.

When asked to explain his statement after public bashing, he went one step further in his approach by suggesting that Pakistan is not a safe country for women like France and in future the women should stay home to avoid recurrence of such incidents.

The activist said that this behaviour entailing misogyny and victim-blaming is not an isolated instance. Almost everyone interacting with the police faces a similar situation.

A domestic violence victim would be asked whether she misbehaved with her husband in a fight. The questions are preceded by the suggestions that if she opts for a little compromise and be a little submissive and ignores ‘injustices’ then her marriage can be saved. The honour of her family can be preserved.

The police department in Pakistan has been another means of asserting chauvinism. This victim-blaming mindset is so much entrenched that it is quite evident in investigations with victims of sexual violence.

The investigators are often so insensitive that they are not even aware that their pinching questions prove to be another sort of violence to the victim. They are not sensitised against the mindset they had inherited while growing up in a male-dominated society.

The attitude is tantamount to traumatising the victim further, and the officials do not even have a hint of it. This indifference is also a structural means of asserting patriarchy. Sheikh remained adamant about his statement and has been defending it at various public forums.

The activist continued that the police have been overwhelmingly misogynist and it is also reflected from the ratio of women personnel in the department. Only a tiny fraction of women are serving in the department.

Besides this meagre representation, there are no special arrangements for addressing the women’s issues like functional women police stations and special counters.

The department has been so insensitive to its female employees that it does not cater to their needs like transportation, boarding, special packages and other facilities to encourage the inclusion of more females in the force.

This is the third high profile case involving sexual violence, after the Zainab murder case and Chunian serial killing case, where Punjab Police struggled despite utilising all the resources available to it.

They had to go for forensic census of the local population and those having criminal record. Hundreds of policemen, including investigators in over two dozen police teams, have been engaged in searching for the accused.

In the Zainab murder case and Chunian serial killing case also, the investigators failed and finally the suspects were arrested using DNA profiling.

This reflects weakness of the investigations wing.

Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) Director General Ashraf Tahir also pointed out this aspect while writing a letter to Home Department high-ups a few months back.

He urged them to ask the police to improve their capacity as DNA profiling at such a huge level was too expensive and hectic.


Published in The Express Tribune, Septe0mber 14th, 2020.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ