Upholding a GBV-responsive rule of law in Sindh and Balochistan

16 October 2023, Islamabad - Addressing violence against women is central to improving women’s access to justice, both for victims and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Pakistan. However, evidence shows that a large majority of GBV victims and survivors are not able to seek legal redress, and those who do often feel pressured to drop their cases due to lengthy procedures or societal taboos that reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and limit women's access to human rights. This is especially true in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, where survivors of GBV face significant barriers to accessing justice, including protracted delays in investigations and trials.

Acknowledging the role of robust reforms to strengthen public prosecution and judicial systems as key pillars in addressing GBV crimes, the U.S. Embassy's Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), with the technical support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has successfully completed a comprehensive and bespoke orientation and training programme aimed at bringing prosecution and judiciary on par with the global standards of combating GBV crimes.

A series of trainings on core subjects of Gender-Based Violence have been successfully delivered and concluded by UNODC. These include successful completion of2 Training of Trainers (ToT) sessions, mentoring sessions, and a total of 5 orientation training sessions on GBV. The last training was successfully concluded in Karachi on October 12, 2023 after a three-day rigorous orientation of a cross-section of prosecutors and judges drawn from both Sindh and Balochistan.

A unique aspect of the training is hands-on mentoring, coaching and continuous guidance provided by UNODC to selected prosecution and judiciary trainees to build and hone their skills as professional GBV trainers. Further, the training methodology and modules are adopted by the judicial academies as part of their regular training curriculum. In order to further institutionalize and integrate the GBV training, UNODC is upgrading and packaging the modules into a user-friendly manual as one of the outputs of these trainings.

The orientation training was proficiently led by the graduates of the ToT who were supervised by UNODC’s team of mentors in close collaboration with the judicial academies in Sindh and Balochistan. The training objectives were anchored in the realization that the rule of law institutions, particularly prosecution and judiciary, serve as key entry points for the provision of justice to GBV survivors and therefore require continuous sensitization and targeted training to enhance their knowledge, skills, and expertise in preventing GBV. This can help them effectively deal with GBV cases and facilitate access to justice for both the victims and survivors of GBV cases, whether domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, harassment, or others.

Furthermore, the training aimed to build understanding of existing GBV legislation and the need for effective implementation of GBV laws in relation to the international human rights law and treatise that Pakistan is already a signatory to. The modules were multi-disciplinary and provided practical guidance with recommendations for gender-sensitive actions that judges, and prosecutors can take in their daily practice to combat GBV and improve women’s access to justice across the entire spectrum of justice seeking processes and institutions, including medico-legal, psychosocial and paralegal services.

The total number of participants of this ground-breaking training drawn from both prosecution and judiciary were 140 with a mix of both men and women (33) prosecutors and judges. They unanimously agreed that combating GBV and ensuring access to justice for vulnerable groups requires enhanced understanding and mutual cooperation between prosecution and judicial entities as well as law enforcement bodies, administrative, forensics, medical, and civil society institutions.

Muhammad Shahid Shafiq, District & Sessions Judge and Senior Faculty Member, Sindh Judicial Academy while sharing his experience at the concluding session said, “The training has made considerable efforts on how to equip both prosecutors and judges with legislative knowledge and understanding on GBV and victim protection.” Further, the participants agreed that this understanding and knowledge will not only lead to a fair and just handling of GBV cases, but also enhance public confidence in the legal system and encourage survivors to seek help and report abuse.

The participants of the training programme pledged to continue their efforts and take forward the transformative journey towards delivering a gender-just, equitable and peaceful society for the citizens in Sindh and Balochistan.



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