In a move that will be appreciated by rights activists across the country, the Sindh Assembly has passed a resolution that it be made mandatory for DNA evidence to be used as the primary evidence in rape cases and that the cost of testing for the victim be borne by the government. The resolution moved by Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Sharmila Farooqi states that while the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) had stated DNA evidence could not be used as the main evidence, the Supreme Court had later ruled it should, in fact, be used as the primary evidence.
The resolution is an important one. It marks an understanding by the assembly that the use of scientific evidence is essential in bringing perpetrators of rape to justice. This is especially significant in a country where too few cases of rape are reported by victims, due to stigma and the ordeal of being hauled through a trial process. A lower rate of successful prosecution for those accused of rape could well discourage victims of the crime from coming forward. Right now, the police use DNA as the main means to act in cases involving sexual assault. The CCI ruling would then have set back this process.
A good precedent has been set by the passage of this resolution and concern shown for women. It was encouraging to see support for the resolution from a significant number of members from the house. Other assemblies should, ideally, also emulate this move, and show commitment to move along with the advances in science, to protect women and to ensure that every possible means available is used to punish those guilty of offences committed against them. Laying DNA evidence aside in this day and age, when forensic testing is becoming the basis of criminal investigations everywhere in the world, would be a travesty. We welcome the move in Sindh and hope DNA evidence will be made mandatory in rape cases everywhere in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2013.
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