Islamabad (Adnan Hameed): Survivors of sexual violence including rape suffer tremendously from physical impact, emotional trauma and social stigmatization. Therefore, confidential, comprehensive and timely medico-legal services and psychosocial support must be available to help them.

As a step towards ensuring an expeditious and effective redressal mechanism, an Anti-Rape Crisis Centre is established at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad for survivors of sexual violence. The centre was established by the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Ministry of Health with support from the UK Government, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Legal Aid Society.

This step is part of the implementation of the Anti-Rape (Trial and Investigation) Act, 2021 which ensures justice for survivors of sexual offences and the provision of services and support they may need before, during and after a trial. The law necessitated the establishment of Anti-Rape Crisis Centers (ARCCs) at the district level within DHQ hospital to provide survivors with access to multiple services including FIR registration, collection of evidence and a medical examination.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Raja Naeem Akbar, Secretary of the Ministry of Law and Justice, appreciated the support of all partners in establishing the centre. He stated that ‘the centre will help address the critical issues of gender-based violence”. He further emphasized the establishment of Anti-Rape Crisis Centres at the provincial level and the importance of the availability of functional ARCCS throughout Pakistan to ensure timely and effective assistance to survivors of rape’.

Speaking at the occasion, Mr Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, Secretary MoNHSRC said ‘We must also ensure the access of this crucial service to communities living on the outskirts of Islamabad. Due to stigma, many survivors hesitate to report or to walk to the centre. As a solution, we can tap into technology and enable people’s access to services through technology-based solutions.

He stated that there should be a round-the-clock helpline or an app to help survivors access these services and centres. He also emphasized the need for self-defence training for girls in schools and the public.
During her remarks, Ms Ayesha Raza Farooq, Chairperson of the Special Committee on Anti-Rape Law and National Commission on the Rights of Child, said the anti-rape committee had framed comprehensive rules to usher in a new jurisprudence ready to combat sexual violence.

The purpose of the Crisis cells is to provide timely response and expedite justice. It provides victim-centric support round the clock. Looking ahead, the goal is to allow every citizen, especially women and children to claim public spaces and travel on public routes without any fear and vulnerability of sexual violence.’

Addressing the audience, Dr. Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA Representative said ‘Rape is an ugly crime which causes lifelong pain and psychological trauma to those who face it.” By all means, rape is a crisis which needs a collective response. We should start with prevention and awareness raising but also ensure a comprehensive response to help those in need. He stated that such collective, coordinated and timely response services are necessary. I hope this Anti-Rape Crisis Centre will be the first building brick to a comprehensive Sexual Violence Response and will be expanded throughout the country. UNFPA stands ready to support the government in making these interventions meaningful and helpful for women.’

Addressing the audience, chief guest Ms. Jane Marriot, UK’s High Commissioner, said “Anti-rape crisis cell in PIMS Islamabad is a significant milestone in addressing gender-based violence in Pakistan. This new antirape crisis facility will ensure that gender-based violence survivors are provided with quicker response services under one roof. The UK is proud to partner with Pakistan in advancing such important innovations for tackling violence.”

Prof. Dr Rana Imran Sikandar, Executive Director, PIMS, said that the hospital is committed to providing every support possible to survivors of sexual violence and to reducing their trauma through psycho social support. He assured that the rape cases will be dealt with through a holistic approach and with respect, care and confidentiality throughout the medical examination.

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