The supreme court has stressed on the importance of crimes against women being investigated by female police officers to minimise the communication gap and help ensure empathy. They have stated that the victim can no longer be held accountable for the failure and negligence of the police force.
A bench headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa reported that it is necessary to follow the standard-operating-procedure of assigning the investigation of rape cases to female officers.
The bench referred to a case that was inappropriately handled by a male police officer in 2014, when a teacher raped his 15-year-old student. Referring to the reported rape case, the bench noted that the absence of female officers “also accounts for the clothes of the victim not being handed over to him by the victim or her mother being shy and/or suffering from shame and/or trauma”. They stated that it was the duty of the investigation officer to obtain clothes from the victim, and that the victim cannot be blamed.
In the event of a rape, the judgement of the SOP of rape cases (dated August 29, 2013) issued by the Investigation Branch of the Punjab Police noted that investigation should be carried out by female police officers.
In February, the Supreme Court also directed police authorities in Punjab to ensure the appointment of female officers for probing women during any case. Justice Qazi Faez Isa expressed concern during a hearing into a case where a male investigation officer (IO) probed a woman over her alleged kidnapping and rape in Gujranwala. Justice Isa directed the Inspector General of Police (IG) of Punjab to convey the Supreme Court order to all police stations.
Parliamentarians and police officials have also recommended placing female officers to investigate cases against women. They called for ensuring women police stations as functional units, with increased training, inundation of staff and retention.
While legislation and orders issued by the Supreme Court may be important in changing the face of the justice and police system, we must not ignore the factor of implementation.