Karachi: 80 sexual violence cases registered last year: Social pressure blamed for low conviction rate
KARACHI, Feb 18: While the reporting of sexual violence cases to police increased by 17 per cent in the city last year, the conviction rate remained as low as three per cent mainly due to the social pressures faced by the victims, said the representative of a non–governmental organisation on Friday.
Speaking at a press conference, director of the War Against Rape (WAR) Sarah Zaman said that police registered 80 cases of sexual violence in the city in 2010 as compared to 68 cases in 2009.
However, she added, many victims either backed out from court proceedings or opted for an out-of-court settlement owing to social pressures and hostile attitude of the prosecution and defence.
She highlighted the need for initiating awareness campaigns to sensitise police, medico-legal officials, prosecution and lower judicial officials as generally owing to a particular mindset, the victims faced a hostile and humiliating attitude.
Referring to an imbalance between men and women in society, she said that out of 83 public prosecutors, there were only 10 women. Similarly, while there were 77 male judges and 31 female judges in lower courts, not a single judge of the Sindh High Court was woman, she added.
Ms Zaman said that the definition of sexual violence be widened as rape was not the only form of sexual violence perpetrated against women and children.
According to her, 266 persons underwent medico-legal examinations for sexual violence last year while 229 persons were examined in this regard in 2009, which showed an increase of nearly 15 per cent in the medico-legal examination of such cases. However, only 30 per cent of the cases brought for medico-legal examinations reached the courts during the last couple of years.
She said that the law provided that the testimony of the survivor, if it inspired confidence, was sufficient for conviction, but heavy reliance was placed on corroborative evidence in the form of medical and forensic evidence.
Towns with most cases
She said the highest incidence of sexual violence was recorded last year in Korangi Town, with 22 per cent of the cases. It was followed by Gadap Town with 15 per cent and Gulshani-i-Iqbal and Bin Qasim towns with nine and six per cent cases, respectively.
She said that normally a sexual violence case took more than two years to complete but the conviction rate was roughly three per cent.
Ms Zaman said that around 95 per cent of the victims were females and almost in 55 per cent of cases the victims were less than 18 years.
She said that the year 2010 did not see much improvement in the status of women and rights awarded to them by the law as an important piece of legislation like the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill, 2008 was allowed to lapse besides the Federal Shariat Court termed the Protection of Women Act, 2006 as unconstitutional and repugnant to Islam.
She demanded that gaps and bias in the medical and legal jurisprudence textbooks as well as police training curriculum be addressed for advancement of a gender sensitive and rights-based approach towards public servicing. She said that educational curricula be used to change customary discrimination and stereotype thinking against women. She also urged the government to launch a survivor support programme.
Other WAR representatives Khalida Qadri, Rukhsana Siddiqui, and Sheeraz Ahmad also spoke.