“women have suffered and they would not report it”
Police in Pakistan have set up a new female-operated hotline to encourage women to report cases of abuse.
Officers in the city of Rawalpindi are hoping that the recently launched service will help to streamline the reporting of abuse.
They also hope that it will give more women the confidence to come forward with complaints.
Rawalpindi Police registered 320 reports of abuse filed by women in 2020.
However, activists claim the figure is only a fraction of the actual number of cases in the city, which has a population of more than 2.2 million.
Rawalpindi Police Chief Deputy Inspector, General Ahsan Younas stated:
“A number of times we have come across situations where women have suffered and they would not report it because of the fact that they have to go to a police station.”
He said there is an “institutional bias” in harassment cases which discourages women from reporting abuse.
This is prevalent especially in cases where woman are directed to report to male officers.
Hence the new hotline would eliminate the need to go to a police station to file a report and would also protect victims’ identities.
The initiative is the brainchild of Assistant Superintendent of Police Amna Baig who noticed a surge in the reporting of abuse cases when she was posted to the Waris Shah district.
She said: “The reason there was a surge in reports of harassment was that I was on the receiving end of the report as opposed to a male officer.
“Women were saying they had these complaints about a long time but did not feel comfortable speaking to anyone but a fellow woman.”
Now stationed in Rawalpindi, Baig decided to establish the hotline and added that one suspect had already been arrested through it.
Callers are directed to a sub-inspector who hears the complaint, offers help from a team of female police officers, and launches criminal proceedings.
Baig said: “We want the women of our city to know that from the moment they call to the moment we can close the case, we are with you.”
Maria Tahir, a lawyer who has worked on harassment cases, said the hotline was likely to encourage more women to report abuse.
Women would have a “safe environment to go to”.
However, she added that there was a need to change a “culture” which failed to accept that harassment was a serious problem.