NEW YORK (TrustLaw)—In Pakistan, incest is not a crime. It’s not mentioned anywhere in the country’s penal code. There is no data on the incidence of incest, since most cases go unreported.
As a result, incest is “one of the most invisible forms of sexual violence and young girls are the most common victims,” according to “A Struggle for Justice: Incest Victims in Pakistan,” a report released Jan. 24 by researchers from the international human rights organisation Equality Now and Pakistani women’s rights groups War Against Rape, Lahore and Nasreen Welfare Trust Legal Aid Services.
The report contains 8 pages of best practices, including those from other Muslim countries that have legislation on incest, along with recommendations on reforms in Pakistani legislation that would improve reporting of crimes of incest and facilitate their prosecution.
Among key points made in the report, reformed legislation should:
* Have specific provisions for incest and clear definitions of the forms of sexual violence it penalizes
* Require police officers to respond promptly to every alleged case of violence against women, including incest.
* Establish that the responsibility for prosecuting violence against women lies with the prosecution authorities, not with the victims, and that complainants are kept informed as to the status of their case.
* Provide timely and expeditious legal proceedings, including fast-tracking of cases of violence against women.
* Provide alternative means for young victims to testify, including taped testimony, closed circuit television or screened witness boxes.
* Mandate the proper and timely collection and submission to the court of medical and forensic evidence and that such collection is done in a manner that protects the rights and dignity of the complainant.
* Prohibit courts from drawing a negative inference from a delay of any length between the commission of the alleged crime and the time it was reported.
* Prevent the introduction in court of the complainant’s past sexual history.
* Make protection orders available to survivors of all forms of violence against women.
* Provide sentencing guidelines commensurate with the gravity of the crime and include the possibility of compensation and restitution to the victim in the penalty.
(Editing by Maria Caspani)