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Justice System Response To Crimes Against Women

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Justice System Response To Crimes

Against Women

society responds to crimes and wrongs in various ways. At 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 United States, the academics undertake rigorous research to understand the response of governmental agencies to crimes, and categorize it as a full-fledged discipline known as criminal justice. Likewise, to understand the causes of crime, criminologists regularly study quantitative and qualitative data to discern criminal behaviours in the 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 the public policy decision-making. In all this setting, social media is breaking new grounds by reporting on different types of crimes and wrongs especially with regards to violence against women resulting in substantial increase in reported violence against women.
Through the instant adumbration, an attempt will be made to examine justice sector response to crimes against women in Pakistan. The following points merit consideration:
1. Shared Responsibility of the Federation and the Provinces
It must be noted that criminal law is a concurrent subject under the constitutional law; meaning thereby that both the federal and the provincial governments share the responsibility to legislate and enforce laws relating to women. This is a primary public policy consideration as it has implications for international human rights law obligations of Pakistan. It 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 are 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 the 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.
2. Separate Criminal Justice Machineries
The governance of criminal justice system is territorial in nature. All the provinces and federal territories have their own criminal justice machineries that are 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 exist in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The purpose of highlighting this point is not to gauge the capabilities of different provinces and territories, but it is 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.
3. 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 proclivity of conflating crime with violence. Within Pakistan’s justice sector context, crime or offence 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, violence, generally speaking, is a generic term, which is more inclusive than the ‘crime’ or ‘offence’. In getting a better measure, both the violence (that may not be very legalistic) and the crimes (legally-defined offences) 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 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 used as a baseline for formulating different strategies to respond to these crimes.
4. Weakening Control of First Information Report (FIR)
As a general measure, the control of crime report (First Information Report or FIR) must be weakened on the overall criminal justice system. The crime reports are recorded under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 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, has 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 officials by looking at reported crime instead of that 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 CrPC). By introducing this change, it is expected that control of crime report on judicial processes will decrease and reporting and registration of crimes will increase.
5. 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 in tandem towards helping the victim; at the moment, often these agencies work at cross purpose and the victim’s case is lost in the administrative haze that leads nowhere. For this, joint investigation teams (JITs) could be used as an administrative tool. The recently enacted two anti-rape laws (Ordinances) provided an enabling provision, which must be utilized and more collective working models must be encouraged to focus on victims’ cases.
6. Electronic Evidence
The present legal system neatly differentiates between the electronic crimes that fall in the domain of federal government’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) – which is both an investigation as well as prosecuting agency – and the non-electronic crimes which may be dealt 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. 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 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 public at large.

The author is an independent researcher and has done his BCL from the University of Oxford. Email:

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