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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Justice system’s response to crimes against women

Deputy Inspector General Kamran Adil highlights the Pakistani justice system's response to the recent increase in crimes against women. To improve the justice system, there are certain considerations that need to be taken into account to protect women in Pakistan

Society responds to crimes and wrongs in various ways. At the institutional level, it responds through its justice system, which manifests itself through its criminal and civil streams. The countries that accord priority to crimes and wrongs being caused to their citizens undertake serious academic research and then link the research to larger public policy to redress the grievances of their citizens.

For example, in the US, academics undertake rigorous research to understand the response of governmental agencies to crimes and categorize it as a full-fledged disciple known as criminal justice.

Likewise, to understand the causes of crime, criminologists regularly study quantitative and qualitative data to discern criminal behaviors in society. In Pakistan, the discipline of criminology examines both the governmental response to crimes and causes of crime, but the studies are not very well developed and are not positioned to influence public policy decision-making.

In all these settings, social media is breaking new grounds by reporting on different types of crimes and wrongs especially with regards to violence against women resulting in a substantial increase in reported violence against women.

Read more: Oped: Why the Domestic Violence Bill is not suitable for Pakistan

Through the instant adumbration, an attempt will be made to examine the justice sector’s response to crimes against women in Pakistan. The following points can be taken into considerations

Shared responsibility of the federation and provinces

It must be noted that criminal law is a concurrent subject under the constitutional law meaning thereby that both the federal and provincial governments share the responsibility to legislate and enforce laws relating to women. This is a primary public policy consideration and has implications for international human rights law obligations of Pakistan and must be noted for any analysis on the subject.

Thus, the provinces are required to implement federal legislation for which dedicated resource allocation like establishing of forensic labs, cost of investigation, victim protection, and witness protection is to be provided by provinces.

This requires coordination between the federation and the provinces to minimize the gap between legislative expectations and implementation capacity. In addition, the delegated legislation in form of rules of implementation is also left in the hands of the federal government, which has to coordinate with the provincial governments to frame rules of implementation that fit the ground realities of the provinces.

Read more: Violence against women: An undeniable reality

Governance of criminal justice

The governance of the criminal justice system is territorial in nature. All the provinces and federal territories have their own criminal justice machinery that is answerable to provincial and territorial governments.

The stages of evolution of criminal justice systems of different provinces and territories are not equal and therefore the response of each province and territory is unequal. For example, there are no dedicated prosecution departments in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan and no autonomous forensic science labs in KP and Balochistan.

The purpose of highlighting this point is not to gauge the capabilities of different provinces and territories, but to underline the fact that one federal size does not fit all and the differential of capabilities and circumstances must be factored into larger picture to fathom the level and quality of response to crimes against women.

Measurement of crimes and violence against women

Measurement of crime and data on the subject is an issue that needs careful consideration. Initially, it must be noted that there is a proclivity of conflating crime with violence. Within Pakistan’s justice sector context, crime or offense is a legal construct that is measurable by its reporting and its data is maintained by different organizations from their own perspectives; on the other hand, generally speaking, violence is a generic term, which is more inclusive than the term crime or offense.

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In getting a better measure, both the violence (that may not be very legalistic) and the crimes (legally defined offenses) can be counted. While violence against women may be got counted in less formal ways, the crimes against women must be counted by justice sector organizations mandated to work on them like police and prosecution departments and then the two sets of data may be used to have a better understanding of the prevalence of different types of phenomena.

An official survey of violence against women and crimes against women may then be published on annual basis and may be used as a baseline for formulating different strategies to respond to these crimes.

As a general measure, the control of crime reports (First Information Report) must be weakened on the overall criminal justice system. The crime reports are recorded under section 154 Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr. P. C) and are essentially based on information received. Over a long period of time, there has been a tendency to mix information with evidence in crime reports.

This tendency instead of being checked by police officers, prosecutors, and judges have been fortified through judicial dicta and tested practices resulting in elevating the status of a crime report to a sacred legal document having evidentiary value: thus we saw that mere nomination in a crime report became the basis and justification of arrest by police officers.

In addition, police officers started measuring the performance of police officers by looking at reported crime instead of measuring the performance of police officers on the basis of worked-out crime.

This must be changed and the measure for record, performance, and accountability shall be worked out crime i.e. final report (under section 173 of the Cr. P. C). By introducing this change, it is expected that control of crime reports on judicial processes will be decrease and reporting and registration of crimes will increase.

Synergizing governmental response

The police-prosecution cooperation and timely processing of forensic and medico-legal evidence must be synergized in a manner that all agencies work towards helping the victim; at the moment, often these agencies work at the cross purpose and the victim’s case is lost in the administrative haze that leads nowhere.

For this, joint investigation teams could be used as an administrative tool. The recently enacted two laws (Ordinances) on anti-rape provided an enabling provision, which must be utilized and more collective working models must be encouraged to focus on victims’ cases.

Use of electronic devices

The present legal system neatly differentiates between the electronic crimes that fall in the domain of the federal government’s Federal Investigation Agency (which is both an investigation as well as prosecuting agency) and the non-electronic crimes which may be dealt with by the provincial governments’ police organizations.

This distinction leads to referral mechanisms that affect registration and prosecution of crimes against women as invariably mobile devices are used to lure, photograph, record, blackmail, and abuse women.

Read more: Woman assaulted by daughter, demands justice & protection

The collection of evidence of mobile-related evidence has to take a long route to make it admissible in a court of law. This must be addressed by enabling provincial agencies to legally collect and process evidence and to record cases promptly.

By way of conclusion, it may be stated that the larger criminal justice reforms that include police reforms, prosecution’s independence, simplifying judicial processes, and resource-backed victim support and witness protection must be introduced to provide a better justice sector response to crimes against women.

Specific strategies without reforming and addressing larger issues are likely to bring little results. Pakistan has to move forward and protect its children, women, and the public at large.

Kamran Adil is currently serving as Deputy Inspector General of Islamabad police. He studied law at Oxford University and writes and lectures on international law. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.