Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Recent Issues In Rape Cases & Child Rights In Pakistan.

An Interactive article by Dr Meher Zaidi

Pakistan's media is now reporting rape, gang  rape cases more frequently. This is a good effort to bring such damaging social issues to the fore and make public and government aware of these  crimes against humanity.
The real benefit of such reporting will only occur if the judiciary and lawgivers realize that the latest methods of collection of evidence, making dedicated , safe rape reporting centers in hospitals with one window operation, streamlining police action with judicial action in favor of the rape survivor is done finally.
These issues can be discussed in the light of three cases and news making headlines in the last one week only.

The Muzaffargarh rape case where a woman  burnt herself in protest is the case in point for collection of evidence as a procedure to be essentially done by the law enforcement agency under routine law to protect the right of the survivor and the citizen by the state.The streamlining of this aspect for providing justice is the responsibility of both the law makers and the judiciary.This is highlighted by the fact that now the Supreme court bench is stuck against a wall as there was no medico-legal examination done and the victim burnt herself to death as a protest against the police who let go the rapist free on its own will.The minister for interior Punjab also said in a statement that rape had not occurred. He had no basis to say this except that the local police reported this.This was not based on medico-legal evidence which is essential to provide justice.This case should now be taken as a case for making collection of medico-legal evidence an essential action by the state for prosecution.
The next step should be make one window rape centers for collection of evidence and police reporting in major hospitals of the country.The rape evidence collection forms as submitted by War Against Rape should replace the old forms as the old ones are incomplete and do not fulfill the requirement for justice.The permission of DNA evidence as part of the evidence should be mandatory new law by the law givers and the present Supreme court judiciary who should be proactive in making opinion for this as the above case has shown that not collecting evidence denies justice to the victim and survivor both.The victim's death  proves that DNA evidence is necessary for providing justice. This has nothing to do with Shariah and Maulana Sheerani's personal point of view itself is un- Islamic and non-Shariat. The Council of Isl amic Ideology should be abolished as it has no institutional opinion and has run its retrogressive role as envisaged by a martial law government to further its aims and tendencies.
Collection of evidence should be a scientific procedure, non-biased and performed by officers and doctors trained and sensitive to the victim/survivor's needs.
The importance of DNA testing also is evident from the fact that rape is a complex crime and providing justice is solely proving that it has occurred. Even if Islamic/Shariat courts are a part of judicial system this DNA collection  will be a facilitator in providing justice.
If the victim has died it does not mean that justice should not be the aim of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

A five year old girl is also raped and she cannot provide evidence as a child who is physically assaulted is under severe psychological trauma. To provide such a case justice again DNA evidence.and collection of evidence by a trained team is essential.As most of the survivors/victims are poor it should be tried by anti- terrorist court with special prosecutor for such cases.This will speed up the process.

A case of a young girl given in Swara by panchayat in Muhammadpur, Chiniot,where she was given in forced Nikah twice by the perpetrators, gang raped, and the tied to tree naked in full view of the village is another strong case for the jurors as it spreads fear in society and makes the state look weak. Such cases should be tried in anti-terrorist court for speedy justice.
As Mukhtaran Mai emphasizes that such case are not registered and many a victims killed as a recent case of two sisters in Tehsil Jatoi in Punjab near to where Mai resides and where her case occurred, it is essential to make justice available at all levels by streamline procedures.

The other major issue of child rights is the recent statement by Maulana Sheerani, the chief ofCouncil of Islamic Ideology  to  allow child marriages and remove the law prohibiting child marriages.Universal declaration of child rights specifically forbids child marriages. Pakistan has signed all conventions and is under obligation to protect children.In universal declaration 18 years is the age limit for definition of a child. It has also been scientifically proven that the best age for having a child in females is 24 years. It is optimal for health of a woman also..As sexual education is not allowed in Pakistan schools, child marriage will only worsen the situation.Legitimizing child sexual assault by naming it marriage and also legitimizing in the name of religion is serious violation of child right.

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