Pakistan need to strengthen medico-legal systems: Report

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Pakistan’s criminal justice system cannot be improved without reforming the medico-legal examination process, according to a new study on Medico-Legal system in Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD – There is an urgent need for coordinated efforts for medico-legal and gender specific skill development and capacity building of doctors, police and public prosecutors to improve criminal justice Pakistan, urged the speakers at the launch of a new study on Medico-Legal system in Pakistan.

Lack of coordination among medical, police and prosecution department is the major reason that Criminal Justice System has failed Pakistanis. “Apathetic attitude of doctors and police, delayed bureaucratic procedures, non-enforcement of existing laws and no protection for survivors, witnesses” has worsened Pakistan’s justice system, according to the Report findings.

“Pakistan needs to redesign the medico-legal system on modern lines to improve the overall Criminal Justice System”, says Dr. Aeysha Hameed Khan, lead researcher of the study on Medico-Legal system in Pakistan suggests.

The research study titled ‘Assessment of Medico-Legal Services from a Gender Perspective: A National Study’ was launched at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) by the Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC). The Report has been published with support by Research and Development Solutions, Australian Aid and Trócaire Pakistan. The study was conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Rights and the National Commission on the Status of Women.

The research report, conducted by Dr. Aeysha Hameed Khan, reflects a challenging picture of many years of helplessness of the people and indifference of the state. “Unless we take action now – in partnership with government institutions, Parliamentarians and civil society together – girls and women in Pakistan will continue to suffer domestic violence, customary practices of child marriages, dowry deaths, acid attacks, rape, and honor killings” it stresses.

The Report is based on interviews with 100 stakeholders at federal, provincial levels and aims to highlight the challenges within the existing mechanisms in addressing the gender-based violence (GBV) with regards to gaps of the medico-legal system.

Saira Afzal Tararr, Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination stressed that “support of male family members is crucial in improving the status of women in Pakistan.” She said the “only way forward for a woman is education.”

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L to R - Australian HC Margaret Adamson, MNA Saira Afzal Tararr, SAPM for Law Mr. Ashtar Ausaf Ali and National Coordinator of NACTA, Mr. Ihsan Ghani. (Photo by Sana Jamal)
L to R – Australian HC Margaret Adamson, MNA Saira Afzal Tararr, SAPM for Law Mr. Ashtar Ausaf Ali and National Coordinator of NACTA, Mr. Ihsan Ghani. (Photo by Sana Jamal)

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Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson said that in recently Pakistan has witnessed important developments with regards to women’s status such as women protection bill which is the first of its kind in South Asia. “Women continue to struggle globally,” she highlighted, adding that 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced violence or abuse. “Australia and Pakistan continue to share same priorities when it comes to women” and governments and civil society have a collective responsibility to improve the safety of women globally, Ms Margaret said.

Ms. Maria Mahmood, SP CIA, Rawalpindi urged for trainings and capacity building of law enforcement agencies

“Pakistan is lacking proper medico-legal system which is vital to develop criminal justice system in Pakistan” said Mr Zia Awan, known lawyer and rights activist.

To enhance awareness about fundamental constitutional rights among public, the government is in the process of translating the laws of Pakistan from English to Urdu language. “17 volumes out of total 28 have already been translated” shared Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Law Ashtar Ausaf Ali.

Report Recommendations

The report offers following recommendations:

  • Increased political commitment to demand accountability on gender violence and medico-legal systems.
  • Responsive planning and resource support for police stations from bureaucracy.
  • Survivor and witness protection programs to protect survivor’s identity and character in the court proceedings. Provide protection programs, shelters and safe spaces for women.
  • FIRs should be recorded and registered within 24 hours and review of cases that are delayed should be part of the quality improvement process of upcoming police reforms in all provinces.
  • Mainstream women police officers and women desks in police stations across Pakistan particularly in remote rural areas.
  • Utilize electronic scheduling, streamline and tracking of cases per court. Distribution according to case load, judges available, magistrates and public prosecutors performance.
  • Increase number of women magistrates, public prosecutors and judges in higher and lower judiciary to at least 10% across all provinces and particularly in smaller cities.
  • Push for implementing mandatory decisions for all GBV cases within 1 year. Set up review committee’s of cases that extend beyond that period, disaggregated reasons for delay, and document outcomes of cases.

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