x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Plea to police over female officers

The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children wants victims of domestic violence and trafficking to be dealt with by female detectives.

DUBAI // The head of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children yesterday appealed to the police to ensure victims of domestic violence and human trafficking were dealt with by female officers. Afra al Basti made the call to Dubai Police at a two-day workshop aimed at giving officers the skills to spot and help victims of abuse, both women and children.

She said it was vital to have female officers present when victims were interviewed and called on the force to have more policewomen in place to do so. "To have female officers is essential in the context of domestic abuse and human trafficking, because these women need to talk about very sensitive issues," said Ms al Basti. She said many female victims would be further traumatised by having to reveal details of abuse to a male officer, and that the fear of having to do so could even discourage them from seeking help in the first place.

This, said Ms al Basti, was especially true in UAE society where "women are not used to recounting details of their lives to men". Having female officers handle cases of domestic violence and human trafficking would encourage victims to contact the police more readily, Ms al Basti said. She added that the environment within police stations themselves needed to appear less threatening, so victims seeking help would not be put off.

"I want police stations to be the first choice for victims of domestic abuse as this will protect their legal rights," she said. "If law enforcement authorities give support and help it will empower the victims." During the workshop, the first in a series the Foundation is holding, officials from the foundation cited several cases of women who had continued to suffer abuse at the hands of men rather than seek help from the police.

Ms al Basti pointed out that, particularly among Emiratis, the concept of seeking help from law enforcement authorities was an alien one for many women. "The police station, in the consciousness of many Emirati women, is a place for criminals and by going there she is bringing shame on the whole family. Ms al Basti said law enforcement authorities needed to work to change that perception to one of service provider.

"I know many women who just cannot imagine themselves going into a police station to complain about their husbands, fathers or other family members," she said. Ms al Basti said officers must also be taught to put aside any prejudices they may have when dealing with victims of domestic violence and she urged those attending the workshop to refer any cases of prejudicial behaviour they come across to the Foundation.

"I do not want any woman who comes to complain of abuse [from a] father or husband to be told to go back home." The Foundation has had some success already in persuading law enforcement agencies to adopt its stance regarding female employees. Earlier this month, following pressure from the Foundation, the public prosecution set up an all-female task force of prosecutors, sociologists, psychologists and legal researchers to investigate cases of human trafficking.

wissa@thenational.ae