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Lahore
Monday, May 23, 2022
EditorialAnti-harassment helplines

Anti-harassment helplines

On Tuesday, Lahore Police set up its very first 'Anti-Women Harassment and Violence Cell' to help
victims of gender-based violence in the provincial capital. The cell was formed on orders of then IGP
Inam Ghani, following the Minar-e-Pakistan mob harassment case that saw over 400 men assault a
female TikToker on Independence Day. The setting up of such a cell is crucial in a country that has
witnessed a rise in cases of gender-based violence with Punjab reporting the most cases. Police
records in August last year showed that 12 cases of sexual abuse were reported in the province
daily. It is pertinent to note that in many cases fear of ostracization from the society also restricts
women from taking the legal route. In this regard, a designated cell to deal with cases of harassment
would help women find a safe space to report incidents. The Lahore Police has also allocated a
dedicated helpline 1242 for victims to directly approach the Lahore CCPO in cases of harassment and
gender-based violence. However, it is also important for the Lahore Police to train staff to deal with

such cases. In a highly patriarchal society like ours, women are often blamed in cases of sexual
harassment.
Let us not forget that it was in fact former city's police chief Umer Sheikh who had nonchalantly
partly blamed the victim – a mother of two – of the high-profile Motorway rape case for the incident
last year. It took public outcry over his remarks and Prime Minister Imran Khan's interference to
remove the officer. Thus, sensitivity training should be a priority for the staff of the cell situated in
Defence Area (B) of Lahore. They should be trained to ensure protection of victim's identity and
show care and caution while reporting cases. On the other hand, the police along with the judiciary
should work towards a speedy justice to gain citizen's confidence in the country's legal system. The
Minar-e-Pakistan assault case is still under trail with only six victims being identified, while over 100
others were released as the victim was unable to recognise them during the identification parade.
The police must devise a face recognition framework to identify the harassers as it is impossible for a
woman to identify over 400 men who had groped her from different angles. For the protection of
women, robust and better policies must be devised, and similar cells must be set up in other cities of
the country.

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