Law needed to eliminate torture on women in custody: Oxfam
* Speakers call for efforts to reintegrate women into society after serving term
ISLAMABAD: Keynote speakers at a seminar held on Tuesday to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture called upon the government to formulate an effective law to eliminate torture on women in custody.
The seminar was organised by Oxfam and SACH, in which government officials, NGOs, civil society and law enforcement agencies asked the government that two years had passed since Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, yet no exclusive law has been enacted to protect women in custody. They said torture on the women in custody is a severe and often under-rated problem and there is an urgent need to introduce best-practice to ensure proper treatment of prisoners and people in custody by law enforcement officials. The government together with the civil society must step up work to deal with this problem at the earliest, they added.
“Often women are found to be more vulnerable and susceptible to torture while in custody. Special efforts are needed to ensure all law enforcement agency and shelter home staff are given special training for dealing with women. Specific standards governing their treatment must be introduced together with ensuring provision of improved living conditions in jails and shelter homes”, said Arif Jabbar Khan, director of Oxfam in Pakistan.
It was also said that there is a need to educate women is custody about their legal right to lodge a complaint if tortured. Together with this, efforts must be made to facilitate women reintegrate into society once they have served their term. “Our society is very critical of women who have served time in custody and makes it very difficult for them to transition back to normal life. Their livelihood and social relations suffer as a consequence. Shelter homes and law enforcement agencies must provide counselling and necessary help to these women to ensure they are able to cope with societal pressure when they go back,” said Khan.
Oxfam together with its partners is working towards improving the social acceptance of torture survivors and to ensure that their rights are observed especially in custody. With cooperation and support of the officials concerned in police, jail and Darul Amans covering 12 districts of Punjab and Sindh, Oxfam has been able to start a movement of change.
International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is observed on June 26 every year to commemorate the signing of the United Nations Charter on June 24, 1946 and the entry into force of the CAT same day in 1987. This convention was adopted and opened for signature and ratification by the General Assembly Resolution 39/46 of December 10, 1984.
Oxfam’s nationwide effort to increase awareness of this widespread but little-discussed issue will also include public discussions, documentary screening and plays.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organisations networked together in 92 countries, working for ending poverty and improving lives of individuals particularly women. The SACH Struggle for Change is a part of the campaign, which is globally coordinated by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims