Experts call for utmost care in handling rape cases
By Faiza Ilyas
KARACHI: A lack of awareness of the rights of a rape survivor and an acute shortage of trained doctors in forensic medicine are two major factors that often cause denial of justice in rape cases. The subject needs the immediate attention of society and the state.
This was stated by speakers at a programme on the rights and management of a rape victim held at the PMA House on Saturday. The event organised by Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Pakistan was held in memory of the late Prof Dr S.A.H. Razvi.
Speaking on the psychological effects of rape, Dr Samrina Hashmi representing the Pakistan Medical Association said the act was perhaps one of the most psychologically devastating encounters a person could ever experience.
“It is a brutal act of violence that robs its victim of self-identity and carries ramifications of guilt and fear which are felt long after the patient has been physically treated,” she said.
The guidelines to manage a rape victim, she said, must cover four aspects: psychological environment, obtaining informed consent from the victim, history and examination.“Rape is a sexual assault. The way the patient’s history is taken, the gentleness and the respect shown to the patient during treatment have a therapeutic effect. More importantly, we must not imply that the person assaulted was a willing participant in the act,” she remarked.
Speaking on how to collect evidence and provide medical aid to a rape victim, Dr Hashmi said that every doctor could not collect evidence. Forensic science as well as counselling a rape victim were specialised fields and required training.
“Every sample from a rape victim needs to be collected meticulously because this forms the basis of the case and could lead to a conviction. Medical history and examination should be carried out in a private area,” she said.
She explained the subject further with the help of a documentary showing the standard procedures to collect evidence from a rape victim.
Talking about the legal rights of a rape survivor, retired Justice Majida Rizvi, the first woman high court judge in Pakistan and former chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, said that a number of rights had been guaranteed to a rape victim through different legislations.
“The rape survivor has the right to report or not to report the incident. She has the right to every kind of medical, psychological and legal support as well as the right to privacy for which the state is responsible,” she said.
She regretted the insensitive attitude a rape survivor had to face at the hands of police, doctors and staff working at the subordinate judiciary, and stressed the need for more awareness.
“They have a bias against women. It is worse in the case of a poor woman and that, too, of another religion,” she said, adding that often the victim family was deprived of the right to get an FIR registered.
There should be no insensitive question or character assassination, she further said.
Stressing the need to repeal discriminatory laws, she said there was a dire need to abolish laws discriminatory against women, for instance the Hudood and Qisas and Diyat laws.
Replying to a question, she said that there should be medico-legal officers in every hospital and a rape victim must be reported to them according to the law.
“However, if there is no such doctor immediately available, the treatment of a rape victim must not be delayed and she should be attended to by any doctor present on the spot. A report on the case may be submitted later,” she said.