WAR proposes new medico-legal services for effective litigation


LAHORE: Medico-legal reforms are integral for effective litigation process for rape victims, War Against Rape (WAR) Director Sarah Zaman said on Thursday.
Addressing a workshop and presentation on medico-legal services in Karachi and Lahore, Zaman made some suggestions to improve their performances. In 2009, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) estimated that around 60 percent of crimes against women translated into rape, while non-governmental organisation Sahil’s data showed that in 2009, 62 percent of sexual assault victims were girls and 32 percent boys.
“About 250 cases on average are recorded in Karachi every day. But 60 to 70 percent go unreported,” she said, adding that poor medico-legal recording of circumstantial evidence showing the victim’s physical injuries, psychological trauma and other personal damages worsened the situation.
“Once the ML services are improved, the survivor’s story is corroborated in court, helping the litigation process. Sometimes a rape survivor forgets the incident, especially if he or she is undergoing trauma, and if the case is prolonged for a long time.
In fact, ML data is also a basis for convicting the assailant in most cases,” she said. WAR’s suggestions mainly revolved around introducing a new medico-legal form consisting of eight forms that need to be introduced for each rape case following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) medico-legal guideline of 2003, especially with regard to sexual abuse.
Mumbai-based NGO, Sehat, also provided its own medico-legal documentation along with a sexual assault evidence kit, something which are not available anywhere in Pakistan. The eight forms that were proposed by WAR start with initial general information in form 1.
This involved obtaining informed consent of the victim separately for examination, prosecution and release of information to third parties including police, magistrate and courts. The victim therefore was free to choose to be examined and refuse the consent to prosecution.
This was important because the victim might change his or her mind to prosecute in a few months and would need the initial circumstantial information. The second form included documenting medical history, including allergies, surgeries, and other medical conditions.
Sexual history would be covered in form 3, in which the observation of blood fluids, marks of injury, washing the body after the assault, or in any way changing the state of the body after the assault was recorded. This evidence was crucial for conviction.
Form four covered forensic evidence detail, especially regarding the victim’s resistance efforts including broken nails, evidence from under the nails, blood in mouth if biting the assailant. Form five was general examination dealing with physical injuries of the victim. Sexually transmitted disease and prophylaxis was discussed in form six, revolving basically around referral to another doctor and follow up.
Survivors might have serious health issues and need separate attention and care. Form seven would require data concerning a receipt for forensic evidence, to establish that the chemical examiner had the possession of the forensic evidence. The corroborative record was filed with the ML department at a hospital.
Lastly in Form 8, an ML certificate be issued, which should not be superficially filled in and should offer more insight and detail, and the ML’s observation and medical opinion.