By Anil Datta
A validation seminar was conducted at a hotel on Wednesday to present the preliminary findings of a formative research on violence against women (VAW) being undertaken by Impact Consulting.
Titled ‘Ending violence against women through access to justice, service and safe public spaces’, the seminar was jointly conducted by Impact Consulting, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United States Department of State (State Department).
Based on the findings of literature review, key informant interviews, focused group discussions and perception surveys conducted in targeted districts, the seminar identified strategic priorities and shared views for addressing VAW in Karachi.
The seminar included participants from the government, civil society, service providers and the media. Some of the recommendations that resulted were strengthened multi-sectoral coordination to respond to and prevent VAW.
They also recommended the need for enhancing engagement with communities, including men, women and the youth, for countering VAW strategically, and the need for evidence-based policies, laws, plans and programmes to end VAW.
They stressed the need for continued investment in capacity-building of service providers, in particular the law enforcement agencies; enhanced budgetary allocations for women’s development initiatives, including safety mechanisms and referral pathways; and strengthened perpetrator accountability and shift in culture that encourages VAW.
During the deliberations, National Organisation for Working Communities Executive Director Farhat Parveen said: “We should talk more about prevention of violence.” She said that the Sindh government had framed a number of laws in this regard but they needed to be revisited, and that the laws’ implementation would have to be revamped.
Another women’s activist, Nuzhat Mujahid, said the main problems were callousness and lack of proper training of the police. She also pointed out poor implementation of laws. A participant said implementation of the existing laws, rather than new laws, should be ensured. Another participant pointed out the anomaly of the Darul Amans, saying that the government had brought up parallel safe houses but they did not contain the mandatory requirements for destitute women.
“The officials of these places are just having a nice time and wangling equipment meant for these houses.” She also pointed out the crass dishonesty of the relevant government officials. When it came to the media, certain participants suggested that the people should not go all out to bank on them for authentic statistics but should set aside a few with proven authenticity and reliability.
The participants suggested appointment of provincial ombudspersons who should be women. They also pointed out the traditional mindset, saying that duly sensitised male and female police officers should be appointed. Even moharrirs must be duly sensitised and, if possible, female moharrirs should be appointed, they added.
Police officer Shehla Qureshi also attended the seminar and made some very useful and practical suggestions. She said budgetary allocations should be made judiciously. “We have to create a viable environment for women.” Prof Dr Tahera Aftab of the University of Karachi’s (KU) Centre of Excellence for Women’s Studies said: “We have to create a mindset whereby a woman stands up to perpetrators of violence.”
Citing the case of the women’s complaint centre at the KU campus, she narrated how there was rejection and denial of violence so that the reputation of the university and the errant perpetrators, who often included male staff, might not be tarnished and matters were hushed up to avoid unpleasantness.