Improving women’s access to security services and fair justice in Pakistan
Client name: UK Department for International Development (DFID)
Coffey is working to improve police and justice services for women in Pakistan.
In Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province women who experience violence often do not report crimes perpetrated against them because of social and traditional pressures. Additionally, the police are poorly equipped to address cases of violence against women.
Only a small percentage of police personnel are women and they often face discrimination in the recruitment process and in the workplace. This disempowerment of women in the police force is an important factor in the ability of women to engage with police on issues of violence and crime.
As part of the UK government-funded Aitebaar program, Coffey is working to improve women’s access to quality justice and security services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Aitebaar works to ensure that the police become more gender-sensitive and better at handling women’s issues, such as violence against women. It is also enhancing women’s access to police services through increased presence of women in police departments and better police responsiveness to women complainants.
Aitebaar is strengthening women’s roles in community based dispute resolution mechanisms through training female community mediators. The program is also helping to draft gender-sensitive policies and guidelines for security and justice services.
Aitebaar targets both men and women, as changing men’s attitudes and behaviours is fundamental to changing women’s situation in Pakistan.
Results to date
As of December 2015, more than 200,000 women have benefited from improved access to security and justice services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Specific results include:
Establishment of women’s desks in police stations
Five women’s desks have been established in police stations. These desks make it easier for women to lodge complaints, receive police support and have their issues addressed in a fair and timely manner. They are staffed with female officers, specially trained for the role.
More than 9500 women have used the desks, and reporting of complaints by women to the police has gone up by 67%.
A woman who had reported a theft at a women’s desk explained that most women, and their families, are wary of the police – however, the women's desks have improved her opinion.
"Police stations are places most, especially women, avoid. My interaction with the police, however, was positive and very encouraging. I shared my experience with my neighbours and told them about the women desk and the attitude of the policewomen. I even encouraged a neighbour, who had a domestic dispute with her husband, to lodge a complaint at the same women desk.”
Increased female recruitment and workplace satisfaction
Bringing more women into the police makes it easier for women and girls to approach the police for help and gives the police a better understanding of the unique security issues women face. Aitebaar is using radio dramas, interviews and face-to-face events to motivate women to join the police department and reduce men’s opposition to their joining.
In 2014 more than 250 women applied for jobs with the police, compared to at most 50 in previous years.
Training on gender issues for the police
The program seeks to see a minimum of 3000 police officers sensitised to gender issues and 100 officers trained in victim support and referral procedures. As of November 2015, Aitebaar has trained 880 police officers.
Women working in the security and justice sector are also participating in training conducted by the program to help them rise up in the ranks. This both empowers them and motivates other ambitious women to join the legal and security professions. So far, 120 female police officers have received training.
Parveen, who became the first female prosecutor in Peshawar, explained the benefits of the prosecution trainings she’d attended.
“This training, besides providing me with essential skills and techniques related to my profession, has also empowered me with knowledge and communication skills. I also learned how to deal with our senior male prosecutors. I now routinely apply what I learned,” said Parveen.
Community dispute mechanisms fairer to women
The program is sensitising community mediators who work in traditional justice mechanisms to become more gender responsive and human rights compliant. It has trained 102 men and 21 women in dispute resolution, and legal, human and women’s rights. Out of the 754 cases registered within the community-based dispute resolution forums by Aitebaar trained mediators, 21% have been brought in by women.
Female mediators are important. During a dispute, women may find female mediators more trustworthy and female mediators may not press for a settlement without considering the women’s side of the dispute. For example, it has often been difficult for women to refer issues such as domestic violence to male mediators who are not sensitised in gender and human rights. Thanks to female mediators, and to male mediators trained on gender, women feel safer and more comfortable raising such issues and have a greater chance of their problems being resolved in a fair manner.
A male mediator who was trained by Aitebaar shared an example that highlights the immediate impact of this program.
“There was a case of murder in our area. One party was demanding swara (bride-giving) for the settlement, and we [the mediators] were also of the opinion that the opposing party should give swara. But in the training, we learned that swara is illegal and unethical, so we changed our decision and decided on a financial settlement instead of giving a bride.”
Women are more aware of their legal rights, and men more sensitive to gender-based violence
Aitebaar raises people’s awareness of security and justice issues affecting women and educates the public on how to handle these issues. Thousands have been reached through local radio, television and newspapers. Additionally, more than 23,000 people, including about 10,000 women, have been reached through face-to-face awareness-raising sessions. The sessions were conducted by male and female community activists who had been trained by Aitebaar.
At the sessions, Aitebaar shared the basic features of a draft bill on domestic violence with communities, raising awareness of gender-based violence. It also made community members aware of their legal rights and of relevant existing legislation, including the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011, which made acid throwing a crime, and the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010. Additionally, it informed women about the women’s desks in police stations.
Peshwar nursing supervisor Maruym  was a beneficiary of legal awareness training.
“I, along with other nurses who have availed these trainings, have learned how to handle pressing issues, such as cases of harassment, bullying and teasing which we are subject to... The initial trainings made us more confident with our dealings and have taught us how to protect ourselves. We now know when and how to involve the police in certain matters. Police stations were daunting places and we avoided them. That is not the case anymore. We have already taken forward two harassment cases and registered complaints in relevant police stations. We are grateful that we have been provided these trainings,” said Maruym.
Improving reporting on gender-based violence
Aitebaar works directly with journalists, training them on how to report on issues of gender-based violence. These trainings aim to increase reporting of gender-based violence and to inculcate the importance of protecting women who are the subject of such stories. Aitebaar has trained 77 journalists, including 10 women.
Community policing forums give women a voice
Aitebaar has set up community policing forums which enable community representatives to discuss their concerns directly with the police (including with the police officers working at the women’s desks). Female representatives at the forums actively advocate for justice for gender-based crimes, domestic violence and sexual harassment on behalf of women in their communities.
Changing policies and procedures
To ensure long-term change, the program is working with local authorities to change policies and procedures. It has developed guidelines for investigating cases of sexual and gender based violence, procedures to facilitate the reporting of cases by women, and a draft victim support strategy.