January 16, 2024
ISLAMABAD – The cell was set up by the ministries of health and law and justice with support from the UK government, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Legal Aid Society.
According to a press release issued by the law ministry, the inauguration of the ARCC came as a part of the implementation of the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act, 2021, which necessitated the establishment of anti-rape cells across districts to provide survivors with access to multiple services including the registration of first information reports (FIR), collection of evidence and a medical examination within six hours.
“Survivors of sexual violence suffer tremendously from physical impacts emotional trauma and even social stigmatisation. Therefore, confidential and quick medico-legal services must be available to help them receive justice and hope,” it said.
“This ARCC will be helpful in addressing the critical issues of gender-based violence,” the press release quoted Raja Naeem Akbar, secretary of the law ministry, as saying.
“We are working, through the Special Committee on Anti-Rape Law and National Commission on Rights of Child, with all provinces to ensure that similar Anti-Rape Crisis Cells are established and are fully functional across Pakistan to ensure timely and effective assistance to survivors of rape,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shallwani noted that the need for a 24/7 helpline or app was suggested as a means for survivors to access the services provided, particularly in light of the stigma attached to speaking up about rape.
He also emphasised the need for self-defence training for girls in schools.
Ayesha Raza Farooq, the chairperson for the Special Committee on Anti-Rape Law and National Commission on Rights of Child, stated that the government’s goal was to allow every citizen, especially women, to claim public spaces and travel on public routes without any fear of sexual violence.
Separately, UNFPA representative Dr Luay Shabaneh termed rape “an ugly crime” and a crisis that warranted a “collective response”.
“I hope this Anti-Rape Crises Cell will be the first building brick based on the Sexual Violence Response Framework and will be expanded throughout the country,” he said.
Speaking at the inauguration, Pims Executive Director Dr Rana Imran Sikandar asserted that rape cases would be addressed through a holistic approach and with respect, care and confidentiality throughout the medical examination.
According to a report published by Sahil — a non-profit organisation — last year, 12 children on average were subjected to sexual abuse every day in Pakistan from January to June 2023.
It stated that in 2023, the total number of abuse victims was 2,227, of which more than half (54 per cent) were girls. The number of boys abused had risen to 1,020.
Meanwhile, a policy brief released by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) on March 8, 2023, said that around 63,000 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) had been reported in Pakistan over the past three years.
The NCHR, quoting Ministry of Human Rights data, said 80pc of these cases were related to domestic violence, while some 47pc pertained to domestic rape, wherein married women experienced sexual abuse. The data was based on reported cases; the actual number is feared to be much higher.