Should I go to the police?

The situation remains bleak in Pakistan for women seeking civil justice with the help of police. If you do choose to go to the police, here is some information you should know.

What happens when you go to a police station to report domestic abuse?

When you tell your story to a policeman, he is legally obliged to report it in a document called First Information Report (FIR). To be sure to obtain a FIR, one must go to the police station. Telling your complaint to a policeman outside the police station will make it difficult to receive a FIR.

The police have two avenues to take after you explain the facts to them:

1- The information you gave is not enough to consider the fact as a cognisable (arrestable) offence; it means that the police cannot arrest someone for this kind of offense. Generally when there has been no visible injury or what police considers as minor injury, it will be seen as a non-cognisable offence. Even if the police cannot act, it is however important to have made the denouncement as it will be registered to a local magistrate.

2- The information you gave permits to classify the offence as a ‘cognisable’ (arrestable) offence. The policeman has to write it down and read it back to the complainant who then has to sign or make a thumb mark on the document. The written information is then entered into a book kept by the officer.

Who can file a FIR (a complain)?

– An individual against whom the offence has been committed (the women who faces abuse)

– A person who knows about the offence that has been committed (a family member, a friend, anyone who knows an abuse has been committed)

– A person who has seen the offence being committed (witness of the abuse)

If the police choose not to conduct an investigation, they must record their reasons for not conducting the investigation and inform the complainant.

Medical Examination after denouncing an abuse

When you tell the police about violence, rape or assault, they must register a FIR with the detail, they also must contact a magistrate’s office to request a medico legal examination and accompany the complainant to the medico legal office for the examination.

The police also have to investigate the crime and submit their evidence and results from the medico legal office to the Prosecutor.  Even if the police do it right, the reality is that evidence is often lost, or not processed the right way, which makes it inadmissible in court.

False report and corruption: Attitude of the police toward domestic violence

The police should protect victims of violence. However, they often act with no concern for the women, trying to reconcile the woman with her family. They prefer to convince the woman to solve the problem within the family instead of reporting the crime, as they legally should do.

Despite efforts of NGOs and government, the sad reality remains that overwhelmingly, women have extremely bad experiences with police. The police is often corrupt and can be bribed by money or their own religious/social prejudices. Sometimes when a woman goes to the police to complain, some corrupted policemen call the family to tell them what has happened. This makes the situation for the women extremely dangerous. The police refer to the men in the family to take care of the matter and send the women back to the abusive home which will become even more dangerous because of this incident. It is easier for abusive men to turn situations to their advantage because they can give policemen bribes whereas women do not have money to pay them.

Perhaps one of the most common worries of women is that some families can make a false claim to punish the woman. Research has shown that in these cases, women can be forced to go to the abusive home or face prostitution/kidnapping charges which can result in lengthy jail times. Situation is far worse inside jails for women. Women often have to face violence while in custody; they can be beaten up or sexually assaulted even from female officers.