KARACHI: The rate of sexual violence is increasing in the country but, unfortunately, this menace is always pushed under the carpet, said a former chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Anis Haroon, on Thursday.
To discuss sexual violence, the stigma attached to it and its long-term impact on victims, the Social Sciences Department of Szabist and the Women Action Forum arranged a roundtable conference, 'Opposing Violence in Pakistan: Identifying Challenges, Improving Responses', at the Szabist Media Studio.
"If 10 men did what Veena Malik has done, their actions would still not be portrayed the way she is being portrayed. She hasn't done anything which has not happened before."
Between 2011 and 2012, there has been a 17 per cent increase in sexual violence, she said, adding that 77 per cent of the cases were reported against women, while 23 per cent were against men. "The response of the state is very weak against rape and sexual violence."
Renowned lawyer Faisal Siddiqui brought to the fore the rising incidents of rape victims being killed and their mutilated bodies been found, adding that such kind of violence was alarming.
The state lacked the capacity to protect women from such violence. "No matter how good a law is, it will not yield any fruits because the state has collapsed."
Criticising the criminal justice system, Siddiqui said approaching the judiciary was not really helpful as such cases took up to seven to 10 years to end. He proposed the setting up of a support group for rape victims to ensure swift legal support. "Run a feminist movement against rape to stop it."
He came hard on lawyers, judiciary and the police, saying, "The lawyers are the biggest obstacles in the way of justice." He was of the view that judges at the lower judiciary were male chauvinists as they give foolish judgments in many cases.
Sara Zaman, a former programme coordinator of War Against Rape, said that there were many complexities from the point when the incident takes place till the registering of a case. "The victim is very lucky if an FIR is registered within a week." Zaman suggested that the society should condemn all rape cases instead of being selective.
South DIG Abdul Khaliq Shaikh admitted that due to the lack of training, there were problems in the police department when it came to handling such crimes.
He said that with the passage of time, however, gender-sensitisation and education of police officers had taken place.
"Because of NGOs and the media, the judiciary and police officers are taking such crimes seriously, but interest is lost very soon by all."
Clearing the confusion if the victim should report the crime first or go for a medical checkup, Shaikh said that law was very clear that a case should be registered whenever reported.
The chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), Ahmed Chinoy, said, "Officially only two cases have been reported in this year so far," adding that on an average six cases were reported at the CPLC that the police don't come to know about. "The people should approach the CPLC with the hope that the incident would not be disclosed to anyone."
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2013.