ISLAMABAD: Police in Pakistan’s federal capital formally inaugurated a newly established Gender Protection Unit on Friday, an initiative the city’s inspector general of police described as a necessary and proactive move in the right direction.
The Gender Protection Unit is a dedicated division of the Islamabad Captial Territory Police that will exclusively handle cases related to gender violence, domestic and child abuse, and harassment.
The unit and an associated helpline are managed by female police personnel to make it easier for women to lodge their complaints.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony at the Police Facilitation Unit in the federal capital, Inspector General (IG) Police Qazi Jamil-ur-Rehman highlighted his department’s efforts to modernize the operations of the force and help serve marginalized segments of the population.
“This [initiative] is something very close to my heart,” he said. “It is extremely important since women constitute almost half of the [country’s] population and are neglected and marginalized. This is an area where we all need to work together.”
He added it was just the start and a “very humble beginning.”
The unit has already registered 87 complaints related to women’s issues. According to a recent report by the Sustainable Social Development Organization, at least 9,401 cases of violence against women were reported only in the last six months of 2020. About 1,920 instances of child abuse were also recorded during the same period.
The Gender Protection Unit has also inducted female doctors and psychologists to provide assistance to complainants with greater efficiency and sensitivity. It has also created a dedicated space for children to make them more comfortable.
Jamil-ur-Rehman emphasized the necessity of sensitizing police personnel responding to calls related to gender violence.
“This is a very sensitive issue. One wrong question and you can put off the complaint. It can actually block the whole communication and conversation,” he said while referring to cultural norms that sometimes impede reporting of gender-based crimes.
The IG police described the Gender Protection Unit as a “sustainable” initiative since those working with it would not be assigned anywhere else.
“We needed a dedicated system with people trained on how to engage with the victim or complaint before referring the problem to another dedicated team,” he said.
While building the unit and making it operational, the police worked with civil society organizations like Group Development Pakistan, Talking Sense, and Individualland to provide sensitivity training to police officials and staff.
The unit was established after the police noticed an increase in the number of women reaching out to them on social media, Assistant Superintendent Police Amna Baig, who spearheaded the unit’s creation, told Arab News.
“[Women] were not coming to police stations to report crimes against them, though we were getting plenty of complaints from them through social media. That is when we realized it was not easy for them to come in,” she said.
Baig added that female complainants were usually more comfortable interacting with women police officers.
“I will tell you a small example,” she said. “When I was posted here, my staff told me that a lot more women had started visiting the police station since they had discovered that a female officer was present here. Now that we have a dedicated team for them and a helpline, I hope that more of them will begin to confide in us with their problems.”