Domestic violence: With dismal conviction rate, victims prefer to compromise

Experts blame police bias, weak prosecution and ‘sensitivity’ of issue.

Rizwan Shehzad January 31, 2015
“Convictions will increase only after a specific law for domestic violence against women is passed,” said Khawar Mumtaz. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: With only two convictions in the last seven years in cases pertaining to violence against women, it is no surprise that victims opt for a compromise with their alleged aggressors rather than seeing them behind bars.

It emerged on Friday in the Senate session that during 2008 and 2014, a total of 326 cases of domestic violence against women were registered in Islamabad out of which charge sheets were presented in 302 cases. Of them, 11 were cancelled, four remained untraced and nine cases (of 2014) are still under investigation.

Statistics obtained from the Interior Ministry revealed that the conviction rate remained at 0.6 per cent, 10 per cent ended in acquittal, 3.3 per cent were cancelled while almost 67 per cent cases were pending since 2008.  Around 15 per cent of the parties also reached a compromise.

“Convictions will increase only after a specific law for domestic violence against women is passed,” said Khawar Mumtaz, chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women. At the moment, she said, cases were registered under general laws and thus end up in acquittals and compromise.

At the initial stage, the general attitude towards such cases is that they should not be brought to the police station while in many registered cases, compromise is considered to be the only option, Mumtaz added. “Nothing will happen without police reforms. We have seen difference because of reforms in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the same can be replicated in other parts of the country as well,” she explained.

Barrister Afzal Hussain was of the view that cases of violence against women should not be compoundable and free legal aid should be provided for obtaining better results.

Hussain said four other factors contribute to it: lawyers’ frequent requests for adjournment, inattention of police, huge backlog of cases and shortage of judges. He added that most of the cases that reached the police and courts end up in separations and divorce.

Dr Farzana Bari, a human rights activist, said the state’s attitude towards such cases was tantamount to giving a free-license to the accused. Patriarchal bias of the police and judiciary along with weak prosecution were the reasons we see such low convictions, Bari said. “Gender-based cases should be solved within three to six months,” she said.

The criminal justice system is not gender sensitive and responsive, she added.

Interior Ministry officials said special attention was being given to prosecute cases relating to women and SHOs and SDPOs have been directed to give proper attention to them.

AIG Operations Sultan Azam Temuri said witnesses usually do not come forward and mostly retract their statement which leads to the low convictions. Besides, women prefer to have a female officer investigate the case saying they can better understand their issues and provide appropriate assistance, he said.

Temuri said 211 female police officials amounting to two per cent of the total force were presently working in the capital. “We want to take this ratio to five per cent by 2016.”

A separate women police station has already been set up in the capital for investigation of cases related to women and a lady DSP has also been posted there, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2015.


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