No FIR lodged in most sexual abuse cases in Karachi
By Faiza Ilyas
KARACHI: An increasing number of cases of sexual abuse involving children are being reported in the city and in many of these cases, the children were found to be subjected to severe physical harm, causing death in some instances.
Data of the first six months of the current year shows that a first information report (FIR) was not registered in 73 per cent of sexual abuse cases, though a significant number of rape survivors reported at some government-run hospitals for their medico-legal examinations.
While no legislation exists on incest in Pakistan where, like many other countries, a significant number of cases of child sexual abuse involve relatives, the laws dealing with rape cases also need to be amended to include the act of forcible penetration with any object.
These were some key observations made by a representative of a non-governmental organisation – War against Rape – at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club. The event was held to celebrate the NGO’s victory in a 2009 rape case of a six-year-old girl.
Presenting some statistics on cases of sexual violence in Karachi from July 2009 to June 2010, Sarah Zaman, who heads the NGO, said that the organisation investigated 125 cases. Of them, 39 cases (31 per cent) were of those children below the age of 16 while 65 cases (52 per cent) were of those children below the age of 18.
“A decrease in the ages of survivors has been documented as a rising trend with more and more children being targeted, most with grievous bodily injury and some resulting in death,” she said, adding that 17 cases of survivors aged less than 16 had been reported in Karachi since Jan 2010.
The age of the youngest rape survivor was three years while the oldest victim was of 65 years.
The NGO had collected data from three government-run hospitals; the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, the Civil Hospital Karachi and the Abbasi Shaheed hospital.
37 rape cases registered in six months
A comparative analysis, she said, of the official record of the number of FIRs registered and the medico-legal examination conducted in the sexual assault cases in the first six months of this year in Karachi showed serious discrepancy; 136 medico-legal examinations were conducted at three major government hospitals whereas the number of FIRs registered was only 37.
“This means that no FIR was registered in 73 per cent cases. This is a recurring trend that needs close government scrutiny as to why police officials are not registering cases of sexual assault in the city.”
Giving her opinion on the matter, she said that a relatively high number of sexual abuse cases involved relatives. The cases of incest were difficult to prosecute as there was no piece of legislation on the matter. The relevant rules should be enacted with award of severe punishment, she remarked.
A bad reputation of the police department, complicated criminal justice system, discouraging attitude of the police and a lack of awareness among victim families about the legal recourse were major reasons behind the low number of FIRs registered in sexual abuse cases.
“Poverty, unfortunately, has a deep connection with sexual abuse in our society where culprits are usually the influential get away with major crime,” she said.
Referring to a statement of a top city police official, Ms Zaman said that 100 rape cases occurred daily in the city, most of them go unreported. While some estimates showed that about 60 to 70 per cent cases of sexual violence never become part of any official record in the country.
In case of Karachi, the conviction rate was only three per cent in such cases.
Stressing the need of amending the rape laws, she said the rules must include culpability for ‘object rape’, where penetration with the use of objects was criminalised and not lumped with other offences in the Pakistan Penal Code.
“The present law only deals with penile penetration. However, we encountered a case in which a stick was used to inflict serious sexual harm to a 15-year-old girl. Currently, there is no provision in the law to deal with such a case,Â” she said.
Victims’ families prefer jirga system
Discouraged by procedural delays, victim families in Karachi often sought help from jirgas as the mechanism had the charm to deliver ‘speedy justiceÂ’, she said.
“Common people do not trust the criminal justice system which involves complex procedures. Take for instance the cases of Kainat Soomro and Nasima Labano that got a lot of media coverage. They were reported in 2007, the convictions were announced in 2010. But, the matter is still pending due to appeals,” she said.
She applauded the national judicial policy, which, she said, had expedited the legal matters to some extent.
Regarding the rehabilitation of rape survivors, she said it was a big challenge considering the fact that the government offered no safety cover to the victims.
“While their lives are at risk, they have no place to take refuge. Ironically, nothing comes out of the pledges the government makes in support of such victims. Besides, there is a dire need to build acceptance of rape survivors in society and create awareness that what happened to the victim was not her fault,” she concluded.