By Muzaffar Ali Jang
A staggering 45 percent of the police officials deputed to investigate rape crime scenes destroy the evidence in their ignorance, resulting in the acquittal and imprisonment of only 4 to 5 percent of alleged rapists, News Inspection has learnt. “Since the crime scene is where most of the solid evidences are found, if it is not handled properly, the rapists can go scots-free,” Dr Waseem Haider, who has conducted a study on the issue, told News Inspection. His study revealed that a chance of a woman being raped was 16 times higher than that of a male.
“Most of the cases go unreported. Only 38 percent cases were taken to the police stations, of these, 10 to 18 percent were withdrawn due to the ‘unfriendly’ attitude of the policemen,” Haider said.
LACK OF DNA TESTING: The study revealed that the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) tests were also not being used commonly as evidence in rape cases in Pakistan. Even though new clauses in the Women’s Protection Bill by the then president General Pervez Musharraf in 2006 were introduced, DNA testing has not made it to mainstream crime investigation due to the government’s lethargy and lack of concern. “Only 10 percent of the victims approach a lab to get their test done,” Haider said. On the other hand, the police are also not aware of the importance of DNA in detecting assaulters in rape cases. “Even though the police have been given training, they are not taking it seriously because it has not been made an important part of crime investigation,” he said.
POLICE’S CARELESSNESS: According to the study, police could detect the perpetrators easily if they noticed small articles on the crime scene left behind by the accused carelessly. “The assaulter always leaves behind a small quantity of DNA. It is either present on the victim’s body, especially when the victim has tried to fight him off with her nails or if he gets injured in the process,” Haider said, adding that DNA could be extracted from clothes, blouses, undergarments, blankets, bed sheets, pillow covers, carpets, car seats, shoes, cigarette butts, hair, finger nails, blood stains, semen stains, vaginal secretion, chewing gums, razor blades, mask caps, tooth brush, earrings, ear wax, coffee cups, tooth picks, eye glasses, watches, hearing aids, shirts, neck ties, saliva secretions, condoms, finger rings, bangles and socks.
“Evidence should be collected before the victim washes herself or before she urinates,” he said. The study reveals that when girls become victims of rape, their families mostly hide the evidence and convince the assaulter to marry her, with the connivance of the police. “During the last 5 years, the age bracket of women assaulted in Lahore was between 13 to 20 years,” Haider said, adding that the main perpetrators were men.
“It is difficult to protect young girls in the absence of a foolproof social setup. This crime can only be controlled if the victims are punished,” Haider said.
He said in most of the cases, the accused were either relatives of the victims or their acquaintances. He said more than 60 percent of rapes and sexual assaults had been committed by relatives or acquaintances of the victims while 20 percent of the reported rape cases were entitled to legal proceeding.
He suggested that District Medico Legal Officers (DMLOs) should be appointed in hospitals at district levels on a permanent basis. He said most doctors did not join forensic training because they could not continue their practice as general physicians. Doctors were also uncomfortable with lawyers’ questions regarding a case of rape or sexual assault.
NO ‘SOLID EVIDENCE’, NO ACQUITTAL: Talking to News Inspection, Advocate Adnan Gul said in Pakistan most cases of sexual assault resulted in acquittals due to non-substantive medico-legal and forensic evidence in the form of carefully documented reports. He said due to the absence of evidence courts extended ‘benefit of doubt’ to the accused and hence the rapists could go Scots-free.
“There is no facility for carrying out these tests,” Imran Khan Lohani, a social worker and a focal person of an NGO working for the rights of the women in Pakistan said while talking to Pakistan Today, adding that “these tests should be free. Poor people cannot afford a test that costs Rs 7,000 at least.” He said DNA tests were only carried in cases that were well-publicised and had not been made a part of the mainstream crime investigation.