Karachi hospital establishes Pakistan’s first anti-rape crisis cell

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In a significant stride towards addressing sexual violence issues, a pioneering anti-rape crisis cell (ARCC) was inaugurated at Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi. The ARCC, located in the office of Karachi Police Surgeon Dr Sumaiyya Syed, was established by the Sindh Health Department with technical assistance from UN Women as part of the Tahaffuz project funded by the US’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

The ARCC’s objective is to offer comprehensive legal aid, medical and psychological support, and round-the-clock counseling to survivors of rape, all under a secure environment. The initiative was inaugurated by Mayor Murtaza Wahab, US Consul General (CG) Nicole Theriot, and Parliamentary Secretary for Health Qasim Soomro.

Applauding the initiative, the dignitaries hailed it as a significant step towards justice and support for sexual assault survivors. Dr Syed explained that the ARCC follows a “victim-centric approach” aimed at providing ethical, medical, forensic, investigative, and prosecutorial guidance under one roof.

The recently passed Anti-Rape Act 2021, establishing special courts and modern investigative methods, and the Sindh Medico-legal (ML) Legal Act 2023, focusing on comprehensive rehabilitation, were recognized as pivotal in strengthening the legal framework.

Mayor Wahab proposed replicating similar cells in 11 hospitals across the city, jointly managed by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, to expand the initiative’s impact.

US CG Theriot emphasized Pakistan’s commitment to combating gender-based violence, noting the alignment of measures against it with national security. Senior Gender Adviser of UN Women in Pakistan, Younas Khalid, praised the establishment of the ARCC as an essential initial step in implementing the ARA-2021 law and fostering success.