War Against Rape, Lahore, Nasreen Welfare Trust Legal Aid Services & Equality Now Release Ground Breaking Report on Incest in Pakistan

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
24 January 2012

Contact: EQUALITY NOW (London/New York): Mehr Qureshi, mqureshi@equalitynow.org
NASREEN WELFARE TRUST (Pakistan): Hina Hafeezullah, hina.h.ishaq@gmail.com
WAR AGAINST RAPE, LAHORE (Pakistan): Sidra Humayun, sidra.humayun@hotmail.com

Report aims to prompt revisions to Pakistan’s sexual violence laws including a special provision for incest

Lahore, Pakistan – International human rights organization Equality Now, in conjunction with Pakistani women’s rights organization War Against Rape, Lahore (WAR Lahore) and Nasreen Welfare Trust Legal Aid Services (NWT) are pleased to announce the release of their ground-breaking report on incest in Pakistan, A Struggle For Justice: Incest Victims in Pakistan. There is no specific law on incest in Pakistan, and issues such as sexual violence, including rape and incest, are surrounded by stigma and frequently go unaddressed. The report aims to break the silence surrounding the issue by pro-actively addressing the problem.

A Struggle For Justice was inspired by the case of then 15-year-old Mariam* who was raped by her father and whose case was undertaken by the three organizations. Though her father ultimately received the highest penalty for his crime in 2011, during the course of the case significant difficulties were encountered by Mariam and the three organizations. This pioneering report details the types of obstacles incest survivors, and more broadly, survivors of sexual violence, face in accessing justice in Pakistan and suggests solutions based on best practices from other countries. “The report advocates for reform of laws and procedures to guarantee that the rights of survivors are safeguarded and to ensure better implementation of laws through capacity building of all stakeholders in the legal justice system” says Yasmeen Hassan, Global Director of Equality Now. “It is our hope that this report will be utilized as a tool toward making the Pakistani justice system more victim-friendly which will encourage greater reporting of cases and simultaneously have a deterrent effect on perpetrators.”

Descriptions of incest cases followed by WAR Lahore and detailed in the publication, show that most cases are never reported. The report summarizes 25 years worth of published legal opinions on incest cases from the High Courts, Federal Shariat Court and the Supreme Court to show that judges ruled for defendants in a majority of cases, often calling the alleged victims’ character into question. “Incest victims are currently faced with blame, dismissal and disbelief when they come forward,” says Sidra Humayun of WAR Lahore. “This has severe consequences not only for the victims and their families but society as a whole that basically facilitates such violence.” 

Significantly, the report compiles best practice examples from countries, including other Muslim countries that have legislation on incest; clarifies the duties of police, prosecutors and medico-legal staff in handling cases of sexual violence; specifies the need for expedited proceedings and special measures for victims of sexual violence, such as techniques to separate victims from perpetrators in courts and ensure sensitivity during cross examinations. "Dealing with any kind of hurt is difficult; but when that hurt is rape, and more so incestual rape, the trauma is unbelievable. This trauma should be alleviated and not magnified by the legal system” says Mariam’s attorney Hina Hafeezullah Ishaq of NWT. She continues, “This report is a humble attempt at highlighting the difficulties girls like Mariam face in accessing justice. We need to legislate special procedural rules for vulnerable victims, include incest in the penal code and conduct massive reforms on forensic examinations."

A Struggle For Justice: Incest Victims in Pakistan is currently available in English. An Urdu translation is in process. To read it, click here.

ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS:

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world. Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network comprises 35,000 groups and individual members in over 160 countries. For more information please visit www.equalitynow.org.

Nasreen Welfare Trust Legal Aid Services is a pro-bono arm of renowned corporate law firm Chima & Ibrahim based out of Lahore, Pakistan. NWT’s legal aid project renders free legal services in family, civil, labour, service and criminal law with a special focus on women and juveniles.

WAR Lahore encompasses a group of women and men committed to building a society free of gender-based oppression, discrimination, exploitation and violence. WAR helps the survivors of sexual abuse by providing social, legal, psychological and medical help and raises awareness about sexual violence through seminars, workshops and presentations. WAR is involved in lobbying for improvement of the laws relating to rape and other forms of sexual abuse and violence.
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*Name changed to protect identity.

January 24, 2012 - 16:30