Editorial
So if the yardstick is the intensity of brutality of an incident, then the case of rape of a five year old girl in Lahore should elicit the kind of response that we expect on the issue of rape in general and on this case in particular. Or is it the amount of media coverage and whether it manages to sustain it over a longer stretch of time than usual that gets the desired reponse?

special report
Rape no more
By Sarah Humayon
Sexual violence of exceptional cruelty should not be in need of the euphemistic, aggressive and sensationalised language that it provokes
Darinday. Bhairiyay. Hawas ka shikar. Nanhi Kali. Shehzadi. Qaum ki Beti. As these words were intoned over and over again on the television with reference to the gang rape of a five year old child in Lahore on September 13, in India the highly publicised trial of the December-16 gang rape and murder of a 23 year old woman had also reached its conclusion with the award of death penalty for all but one perpetrators.  

system
Seeking justice
Lawyers dealing with rape cases tell how the court proceedings are another traumatic experience for the victim
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Talk to a police officer about rape cases and one is likely to get a somewhat standard reply. He would say most of these cases are fabricated and registered intentionally to settle a score with the opponents. 

Test case
There are many issues related to DNA tests and the handling of results that remain to be resolved
DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) of a human being can be used to discover identities of individuals in different situations, including in incidents of crime. It can be obtained from biological specimens, such as blood, seminal fluid, saliva and dead skin cells left at the crime scene. Over the years, investigators are excessively using this test to track down culprits for crimes, including rape. 


Of no medico-legal value
Improper medico-legal certification is the first hurdle in investigating rape cases
By Waqar Gillani

Medico Legal Certificate (MLC) has a vital role in the investigation of a rape case. It involves proper physical and psychological examination of a rape victim at the earliest in a nearby officially designated centre. 

change
From a case to a movement
In India, the public movement has resulted in more reform in rape law and has made people realise that rape is only an extremity of sexual harassment
By Shivam Vij

The December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder case in Delhi was not the first mass movement against rape in India. We have seen such moments earlier.

Who will watch the watchdog?
The media needs to understand the fine line between highlighting an issue and sensationalising it
By Amel Ghani

In the past one week or so, viewers have repeatedly seen blurred images of a five-year old girl being flashed across televisions screens along with sad song played in the background and clichéd phrases describing her misery. 

Access to police
The element of corruption is one of the major problems in fair investigation of rape cases
With extra security arrangements and a fortress-like building, a Pakistani police station is perhaps the last place a common man, especially a woman, would like to go to.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial

So if the yardstick is the intensity of brutality of an incident, then the case of rape of a five year old girl in Lahore should elicit the kind of response that we expect on the issue of rape in general and on this case in particular. Or is it the amount of media coverage and whether it manages to sustain it over a longer stretch of time than usual that gets the desired reponse?

A week after the incident, the next question to ask is: is the response of the law enforcement agencies of the state and the media indeed “petering off inconclusively”, as one of the contributors to today’s Special Report suggests.

Somehow, the skepticism is widely shared. Also, the anger does not appear to be translating into a movement of any kind. The skepticism grows at seeing how a powerful movement built up against rape on the streets in the neighbouring India, leading to the punishment of the perpetrators within nine months.

The particularity of this case remains important while we try to look at the inadequacies of the legal framework for rape in general. The discussion on the role of media, on the other hand, stems out of this case because the deficiencies are too recent. The reason why we have discussed the two together is to bring home the point that perhaps we don’t need sensationalism of this kind to lead us to a more effective legal framework.

But these are not the only two issues. The debate is wider and more complex. One, such an incident happening in one of the bigger cities draws more media attention, highlighting the anonymity and alienation of urbanisation that leads to crimes like rape. But what about the rural areas where only the power dynamics work, and rape remains unreported and consequently unpunished. The decisions of the panchayats and tribal jirgas pitched against the victims may not have formed a part of our Special Report but they remain important points for discussion and solution.

Both in urban and rural areas of Pakistan, the sense remains that if at all the convictions come, they do so in the case rapists from the lower strata of society. The moneyed, powerful upper class perpetrators shall never be convicted is the underlying message.

What we make of this case in the weeks and months to come will largely determine how serious we are in dealing with the issue. If brutality of this kind does not move us to action as state and society, God knows what will.

 

 

 

 

special report
Rape no more
By Sarah Humayon
Sexual violence of exceptional cruelty should not be in need of the euphemistic, aggressive and sensationalised language that it provokes

Darinday. Bhairiyay. Hawas ka shikar. Nanhi Kali. Shehzadi. Qaum ki Beti. As these words were intoned over and over again on the television with reference to the gang rape of a five year old child in Lahore on September 13, in India the highly publicised trial of the December-16 gang rape and murder of a 23 year old woman had also reached its conclusion with the award of death penalty for all but one perpetrators.

It was a strange experience. On one hand, we saw the starting-up of outrage that insisted, in its tone and tenor, that this incident was exceptional, perpetrated by lustful inhuman deviants, and that presented summary justice as simultaneously a sufficient and impossible conclusion to the ‘case’. On the other, many voices in India were making arguments against the ‘maximum’ punishment of death for rape and the assumption that punishment is enough to do justice to the systematic and pervasive violence, humiliation, physical control, and denial of use of public space that women face.

The media narrative here said: if the culprits are apprehended and punished in this case, where there could have been no question of the raped individual ‘inviting’ the attack and therefore muddying the waters of moral purity, there would be some hope that justice can be done. The way the media openly exhibited outrage, desperation and misplaced identification with the child also said: we are all waiting for justice, and there is no hope that justice can be done.

Furthermore, it implied that short of summary justice there is nothing much to be done about sexual violence. So while a particular child has become the focus of a media campaign that is petering off inconclusively, and of protests that never tried to become movements, the underlying message seems to be: there is very little to do here besides punishing criminals, and punishing criminals and enforcing the law is something our society is never going to do.

Sexual violence of exceptional cruelty should not be in need of the euphemistic, aggressive and sensationalised language that it provokes.

I cannot be the only one who winced through the frequent updates by hospital staff of the girl’s condition that told us nothing useful or relevant, the VIP visits to the hospital, the interviews by emotional female reports of the girls’ family and hunt for the criminals.

As I write this, the incident is still being discussed in the language of nauseating and aggressive melodrama, and, further, has assumed aspects of a crime mystery which is already losing its grip on the audiences.

Meanwhile, more learned debates in the op-eds have partly turned to debating the pros and cons of the death penalty for rape, no doubt influenced by recent discussions in India on the same subject, and here on lifting the moratorium on executing death sentences.

There is enough evidence to show that it is the surety not the severity of punishment that deters criminals insofar as deterrence leads to a decline in sexual crime. But the case always does need to be made, and this is a good direction for discussion to take.

What is missing, I think, is a discussion that needs to happen now and, alongside the demand for successful trial and conviction with reasonable sentences in cases of sexual violence, to revisit the question of women and children in a male-dominated public space. And these are two different questions, not one question, which emphasise on the assaulted child’s gender has elided. The protection that children should receive from family and society would, in the case of women, count as protectionism, and the outcry against sexual violence should not take on, as it often does, the hues of the protection of virtuous women who have done nothing wrong.

But the one thing that the raped woman in Delhi and the raped girl in Lahore have in common is that they were out in the street — the woman after a cinema trip, the child out playing. They were unnecessarily so, as we would say here.

The response to sexual violence often takes the form of withdrawing women and children of means further from visibility, and leaving in the streets those who cannot afford to buy private space for entertainment or private transport security to keep them mobile. (There is room here to debate the merits of Shilpa Phadke’s suggestion that “for women the best long term strategy to enhance claims to public space is to embrace risk and pleasure while accepting violence as something that must be negotiated in doing so”.)

One of the things to do, I think, is fight to keep the debate about the right to safe use of public space without conceding ground on equal use of it for work or pleasure. And without having to apologise for pleasure. And this will surely not happen if ‘we’ continue to worry about the safety of only ‘our own women’ and ‘our own children’.

 

 

 

 

 


 

system
Seeking justice
Lawyers dealing with rape cases tell how the court proceedings are another traumatic experience for the victim
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

Talk to a police officer about rape cases and one is likely to get a somewhat standard reply. He would say most of these cases are fabricated and registered intentionally to settle a score with the opponents.

So widespread is this perception that the police sees every rape victim with suspicion and the burden of proof lies on the victim. She has to establish it during different stages of investigation and prosecution that she is not trying to implicate an innocent person in the case.

The situation at the courts is also not encouraging. Ideally, rape cases should be decided within a period of six months to a year but, unfortunately, it takes the courts 5 to 10 years on average to reach a conclusion.

“This is too long a time to keep the hope alive in a rape victim,” says Karachi-based advocate Faisal Siddiqi. “It becomes a challenge to keep the victim alive.”

He tells TNS that odds are always against the rape victims who normally belong to the lowest strata of society. In many cases, victims’ socio-economic status is no match to the rapists who are capable enough to hire competent lawyers and benefit from the inherent flaws in the criminal justice system. This “relative weakness” of the victim, he says, is the decisive factor in most trials, which ultimately favour the relatively affluent accused.

Another disadvantage for rape victims is that access to courts is through lawyers. “And not many lawyers are ready to stand by the side of poor victims for long,” says Siddiqi.

“There are organisations which offer free legal assistance to rape victims. But it has been observed over time that they eventually lose interest as these cases take ages to reach a conclusion. It is also impossible for rape victims to hire lawyers who fight their cases for free,” he adds.

The provisions in law of evidence to verify the antecedents and history of complainants are also manipulated widely to their detriment. Section 151 (4) of the Law of Evidence 1984 — Impeaching the Credit of Witness — states: “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.”

“It is very easy to tarnish the image of women through fake witnesses,” says Asif Nadeem, a Lahore-based criminal law practitioner who has found it extremely hard to try rapists in courts due to various reasons. For example, he tells TNS, “It is next to impossible to get a person convicted without producing two witnesses in addition to circumstantial evidence. Even when there are witnesses, it is very hard to keep them in the loop over extraordinarily long periods of time.”

Citing proceedings of some cases, he says the courts accepted the plea of defense of the accused who could produce witnesses, saying they were with them at the time of committal of rape. His point is that there was circumstantial evidence on the contrary but more weightage was given to the personal testimony of the witnesses.

In another case, the difference in the timing of a rape, as determined through DNA test, and registration of the FIR favoured the accused. Though the delay could have been due to the inherent glitches in the system and certain logistical issues, the ambiguity gave benefit of doubt to the accused.

The easiest of the rape cases he has handled was the one in which the rapists were apprehended red-handed and there were several eye witnesses.

Asif suggests there should be laws to try a culprit even if the victim is a prostitute and the sexual act is done without her permission. Mere confirmation via medico-legal test that a woman is sexually active must not make her vulnerable to rape assaults, he adds. Pakistani medico legal officers still prescribe to old and unscientific methods to determine the character of a complainant.

As Faisal Siddiqi puts it, he has seen his clients collapse psychologically and treated for years for what they have to undergo at courts. Cross examination of the victims, conducted by defense lawyers, is extremely embarrassing.

Siddiqi says it is unfortunate that courts allow lawyers to ask shameful questions, which put victims in a highly embarrassing situation. Sometimes, they even recreate the rape scene and want the victims to explain the acts of the rapists.

“What makes matters even worse is male chauvinism rampant in society and among investigators, lawyers, judges, etc,” says Siddiqi, adding, “In another case, the judge, though he convicted the accused, stated that the victim had tried to trap people charged with abetting the crime. As it was proved the poor girl was actually raped, it would have been better had the court not blamed her for conspiring against anybody,” he says. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test case
There are many issues related to DNA tests and the handling of results that remain to be resolved

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) of a human being can be used to discover identities of individuals in different situations, including in incidents of crime. It can be obtained from biological specimens, such as blood, seminal fluid, saliva and dead skin cells left at the crime scene. Over the years, investigators are excessively using this test to track down culprits for crimes, including rape.

In Pakistan, there is a debate on the admissibility or not of DNA test results as primary evidence in rape trials. The controversy got deeper when the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) undermined DNA test’s evidentiary importance in courts a couple of months ago. Fortunately, the body has decided to reconsider its stance.

Objections are made on the ground that though DNA tests may establish the identity of the accused, they cannot prove whether the act was consensual or not. The ambiguity increases, especially when the rape is done on gunpoint or under any other threat, and there are no injuries or proofs of use or force.

Advocate Salman Akram Raja rejects these grounds, saying “nothing can undermine the importance of DNA tests in rape cases. The SC has issued clear orders in this regard and the investigators have to resort to it under the law.” However, he says, that’s another thing that there are many issues related to conduction of DNA tests and the handling of results.

Faisal Siddiqi, a lawyer who has handled several rape cases, believes that “in theory, DNA evidence is very effective but there are strong chances of its manipulation. The fact that these tests are conducted under the supervision of police makes the whole thing doubtful,” he adds.

Another missing link here is that there is no major DNA database of hardened criminals and convicts who are prone to repeat criminal acts they have been punished for. Once it’s there, DNA samples collected from a crime scene can be matched with it to identify the culprits.

A deputy superintendent of police (DSP) serving in Punjab says, though DNA samples of rape victims are collected at the time of medico-legal examination of the victim, they are not sufficient to secure a conviction in courts.

In fact, he says, it is merely a means for the police to ascertain whether the suspect was present on the scene of crime or not. It also establishes whether the assault was made by the person even if he was present there at that time. These tests have often come to the rescue of many suspects who were wrongly indicted in rape cases.

On how convictions are secured, the DSP says the police arrange two (fake) witnesses in addition to having sufficient corroborative evidence in the form of DNA test results, etc, to support the victim’s testimony.

Though this is not an ideal arrangement, he says, they have no other way to get justice for the victims. If they don’t produce witnesses, the rapists would get freed.

— Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of no medico-legal value
Improper medico-legal certification is the first hurdle in investigating rape cases
By Waqar Gillani

Medico Legal Certificate (MLC) has a vital role in the investigation of a rape case. It involves proper physical and psychological examination of a rape victim at the earliest in a nearby officially designated centre.

“There are strict parameters of this certification which are available in writing. MLC examination is mostly required in heinous crimes, including murder, rape, and accident,” says Dr Naseeb R. Awan, founder professor of Forensic Medicine Department in Pakistan. “However, these centres lack facilities and training and there are allegations of corruption,” he adds.

Awan observes that 90 per cent of the MLCs are not accurately prepared, primarily because of lack of trained medico-legal officers and apparatus. “There are four main parts of this investigation, which include having a proper examination clinic; implements of the rules and method; collection of samples; and their preservation and dispatch to the chemical examination laboratories.”

Office of the Surgeon Medico Legal, Punjab — the first in Pakistan — was created in 1961. In 1970, on dismemberment of one unit, its name was changed to “Surgeon Medico Legal, Punjab”. In November 2002, a three-tier system of Medico-legal/Postmortem examination was introduced in the entire province.

However, in a province like Sindh, where rape is also a major crime according to statistics, there are no trained medico-legal officers to medically investigate a rape case.

According to a research conducted by ActionAid, a non-government organisation, a couple of years ago, medico-legal officers had not taken extensive pre- or in-service training on gender sensitisation; on understanding violence against women and had only studied medical jurisprudence.

At many places, female MLOs are not available. At the tehsil hospitals and rural health centres, separate examination rooms for females are not available and a common room is used, whereas at some places the doctors’ and MLOs’ rooms are used for examination.

In district hospitals though, separate examination rooms are available, ensuring privacy of the victim. At tehsil and rural levels, there are neither record rooms nor proper security measures. Also, the services are not available round the clock to detect and record the evidences quickly.

ActionAid study further suggests that the centres should have a rape kit, containing all the equipment required to conduct a thorough rape examination. Basic forensic equipment must be provided for chemical analysis.

It recommends that women should be made aware about their rights, including importance of ML examination in case of violence.

Dr Naseeb R. Awan maintains that delay is the biggest problem in this medical investigation.

According to the rules, in rape cases it is vital to examine both the victim and the accused to medically investigate whether the male was aggressive or the female but here in Pakistan we never focus on this issue because rape now is generally considered only aggression of a male.

An examination of both can prove whether it was by force or by consent. He says delay in medical investigation usually leads to compromises.

“The forensic department is set up in every private and public sector college but proper training is not imparted to the doctors there,” says Dr Awan, adding, “Every doctor cannot conduct medico-legal examination because he or she is not trained for that. An untrained doctor can destroy the evidence by not applying the right techniques.”

He urges the government to pay serious attention to this issue.

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 change
From a case to a movement
In India, the public movement has resulted in more reform in rape law and has made people realise that rape is only an extremity of sexual harassment
By Shivam Vij

The December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder case in Delhi was not the first mass movement against rape in India. We have seen such moments earlier.

When Mathura, a minor tribal girl raped by policemen, did not receive justice, public outcry led to legal reform in 1983. This made sure the victim no longer had to prove that the sexual act was non-consensual. As long as the act was proved, the burden of proving that it was consensual moved to the accused.

Even today, however, the old problem persists, but to a lesser degree. Police investigation lays too much emphasis on forensic and medical evidence, thus, again putting the onus on the victim to prove that her rape charge is not a lie.

Again, in Rajasthan in 1992, came the case of a government-employed women’s development worker, Bhanwari Devi. Part of her job was to prevent child marriage, which resulted in five men raping her. The movement around her case ended with the Supreme Court laying down the Vishakha Guidelines to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.

In both cases, the victims did not get justice and, in fact, faced much greater humiliation in asking for justice. I met Bhanwari Devi in 2007. She asked me, “Such a huge public movement for me and I still did not get justice?”

The December 16, 2012 case — by now rape law had evolved enough to make naming a rape victim without consent illegal — marks a difference from the two cases above. This time, the victim got justice and that too in nine months.

The public movement resulted in more reform in rape law, increasing the minimum punishment to 20 years and provisioning for death penalty for repeat offenders. Realising that rape is only an extremity of sexual harassment, the criminal reform has extended to giving harsher punishments for stalking, voyeurism, and acid attacks.

The legal reform this time came without judicial intervention and as a result of an excellent report prepared by a committee led by Justice (retd) Verma. He passed away a few months later. Some of the provisions of his report were deemed too progressive for the Indian government and parliament to accept.

Most importantly, the Justice Verma Committee Report emphasised that rape should be de-linked by both society and state from the ideas of honour and shame. Rape needs to be treated as just an assault on the body and on women’s right to bodily autonomy.

Another difference was that everybody who indulged in victim blaming was taken to the cleaners by the media. When the son of the president of India said that rape happened because women applied make-up, he was humiliated on every news channel. This was not the only positive role of the media, which catalysed the protests in the first place by playing up the story.

When the government asked the media vans to leave India Gate so that the protesters could be cleared out without a public broadcast of the lathi charge, the channels refused and their vehicles received water canon treatment.

The media has been criticised by some as hyping up one case at the cost of others, but the December 16 case came to symbolise the struggle against rape for everyone, not just in India but across the world. Noted American feminist, Eve Ensler, came to Delhi and said she wished the US could see historic protests like the one in Delhi.

The number of rape cases reported in Delhi has gone up by more than double, because public pressure has emboldened women to not be silenced. At the same time, public pressure has shamed the Delhi police enough. They don’t tell victims to ‘compromise’ instead of registering an FIR.

Women’s rights activists say that more than laws, it is the process of prosecution that needs changes. Some of that is already happening. More fast track courts are coming up and trial court judges are less careful in granting bail to a rape accused. A protective curtain makes sure that rape victims don’t have to see the accused and be intimidated by him. Such small steps are big, because they make sure victims who have the courage to seek justice are not further victimised.

In some states, there is still the practice of the “two-finger test” to determine if the woman is sexually active, and if she is then it becomes harder for her to prove rape. Such regressive victim-blaming practices of the male-dominated judicial process are gradually on their way out.

Last week, I called up prominent women’s rights activist, Flavia Agnes, to ask what had changed. “You journalists like to hear nothing has changed. Then what have we activists been doing for decades?”

The writer is a journalist based in Delhi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Who will watch the watchdog?
The media needs to understand the fine line between highlighting an issue and sensationalising it
By Amel Ghani

In the past one week or so, viewers have repeatedly seen blurred images of a five-year old girl being flashed across televisions screens along with sad song played in the background and clichéd phrases describing her misery.

By reporting the way it did, the media has violated one of the very essential and basic ethics of reporting a rape case, i.e., not revealing the identity of the person against whom the crime of rape has been committed. Blurring the face of the young girl is a redundant act since her entire family was shown and interviewed multiple times by news channels.

Rana Jawad, bureau chief of Geo News, says “Rape is not just physical abuse but social and mental trauma as well. It is important to ensure that the girl can be rehabilitated in our society.”

Protecting the identity of the five-year old was even more vital since she was not aware or conscious about the nature of the crime that had been committed against her. While an adult in her place could present her view coherently, she was unable to do so.

“In such cases, it is even more problematic to expose victims to scrutiny before investigating properly,” says Mazhar Abbas, former secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists. “The five year old cannot give a statement. Her family needs to be approached first and asked if they consent to the media bringing up the child’s issue. Arriving at the scene and asking for comments from the family is not the way to gain consent.”

Tasneem Ahmer, director of Uks Resource Centre, which has carried out extensive work on media ethics and women, points out the harm. “They put the person through a media trial. Due to certain misconceptions and a lack of understanding while trying to sympathise with the survivor of the crime, they victimise her by unwittingly using phrases that imply that her life has now ended. In the case of the five-year old, who is largely unaware of the nature of the crime that has taken place, it is more important to pay attention to this kind of language.”

Lack of quality reporting on sensitive issues and the media’s disregard for ethical guidelines has been discussed consistently by these very media houses themselves. Yet no change seems to have been implemented. The question is why?

Adnan Rehmat, who is working on media related issues in Pakistan, calls it “a spectacular failure of editorial policy. Editors should have controlled information, such as the name of the      girl and her    mohalla.        The news editor has this discretion.”

Another important problem he highlights is that “following any code of ethics is not mandatory, thus, the media houses and institutions need to develop and implement one internally because often, in crime reporting, the lines are blurred between the media and the justice system.”

Ahmer believes media insensitivity is due to the absence of training received by the reporters.         Jawad seconds this saying, “Reporters are free to say whatever they want. The human resource is not fully sensitised as most people are being trained on the job.” When it comes to reporting crimes, such as rape, “reporters don’t know what to say, how to initiate discussion, and the flow of information is so fast that they don’t focus on their choice of words or language at times.”

However, he also links it to the editorial policy, “The reporter is working under multiple pressures. He has to get extra information on the scene and then they also worry about ratings. The editorial manager should control the content.”

Rehmat adds, “the race for ratings becomes an incentive to break the codes and ethics.”

Despite all this, the media is not entirely wrong when it calls out for justice, albeit emotionally. Protecting and promoting public interest is the media’s job and investigating the circumstances that lead to a crime cannot be incongruent to public interest.

The sensationalism that the media indulges in, however, is in direct contrast with this watch dog role. Mazhar Abbas clearly states that one way in which the media can carry out its job and still remain within an ethical code is that “it should carry out follow-ups, focus on the accused, and sections of the FIR that may later be used to weaken the case. Then they can follow the trial and public statements that are released to it.”

Rehmat says it is even more important for the media “to take position on issues and discuss the scale of the horrendous crime that has taken place.” Here, he cites the example of the recent rape cases in India — Delhi and Mumbai. “They changed laws, their justice system, and initiated a discussion. The media’s job is to contextualise information, they don’t need to pontificate.”

Intelligent investigation of the crime is the key here. Abbas talks about “highlighting the grey areas in the investigation when reporting.”

Thus, when there is no new information the media keeps the issue alive through hyperbole and rhetoric. Perhaps the media can look at neighbouring India, where the social structures are similar. There, the media has helped spark a discussion on rape that goes beyond getting the minimum basic right.

 

 Access to police
The element of corruption is one of the major problems in fair investigation of rape cases

With extra security arrangements and a fortress-like building, a Pakistani police station is perhaps the last place a common man, especially a woman, would like to go to.

“Our police stations have become a symbol of terror rather than hope,” says Justice (retd) Zahid Hussain Bukhari. “One requires a huge effort to lodge the First Information Report (FIR), especially against a heinous crime, including rape,” he adds.

That a poor man thinks twice before entering a police station to report a crime and even if his complaint is registered the investigation will not move without any approach or bribe, is a common perception.

Many rape cases are not decided according to the law because of the ‘attitude’ of the police during investigations. He says police investigators need special training to investigate heinous crimes like rape and violence against women. “We also need special laws to control crime against minors, especially their rape, molestation and sexual assaults.”

Bukhari says, mostly, only those rape cases are proven fabricated or exaggerated which are based on enmity or to settle a score in families. “Rape complaints of unmarried or minors mostly prove true because families cannot afford to put their reputation at stake by levelling false complaints.”

He says medical investigations of rape cases have serious lacuna and are not done on a scientific basis. Delay in starting investigations is the biggest issue. Delay is a tactical tool in wasting the evidence and forcing the victim family to enter into a compromise. Delay in lodging an FIR, delay in collecting evidence, delay in sending the sample to the chemical examiner, delay in compiling the final report, delay in getting statements of the accused parties and so on. This is mostly manipulated to destroy medical evidences, which are the backbone of a rape case.

A senior police official says rules are there, defining the lines of investigations, but they are not fully implemented.

He says that in a rape case of a minor, provinces need new legislation because rape with a minor is not a separate offence yet.

Hesitance of families due to cultural norms, including considering a girl or a woman as a symbol of honour, is also a challenge while pursuing the rape cases. In many incidents, where a woman is kidnapped and raped, the latter crime is not mentioned.

This further emboldens the culprits who mange to manipulate the investigation. In a recent incident on September 12, police raided a place in Lahore to arrest Muhammad Usman, a resident of Sahiwal, who was allegedly involved in eight cases of kidnapping for ransom and then raping minor girls. He was killed in an encounter. The accused had allegedly abducted minor girls aging 10 to 12 in various cities of Punjab — including Lahore, Okara, Sahiwal, Kasur, Sheikhupura, and Pakpattan — called for ransom and then raped them.

“We need to improve investigation methods and train police investigators for fair probe in these cases,” says Mahboob Ahmad Khan, who heads the fact-finding missions of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

— Waqar Gillani

[email protected]