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‘First line of defence’: Violence Against Women Centre launch tomorrow

LAHORE: The first Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) will be launched at a ceremony at the Social Welfare Complex, Matti Tal Road, Multan, on Tuesday (tomorrow), a spokesperson for the chief minister’s Special Monitoring Unit said in a statement issued on Sunday.

“Pakistan will be the first country in the region to launch such an initiative,” he said. The centre will be the first line of defence for vulnerable women in the province, said the spokesperson.

The Special Monitoring Unit (Law and Order) has been working on designing and setting up the pilot project. The statement said that violence against women was rampant in the Punjab and conviction for such crimes was abysmally low.

The idea of setting up VAWCs was to ensure access to justice and redress for women in need of it. All services required to proceed against culprits will be available at the centre. The services offered include: first aid, filing police complaints and FIR registration, medical examination, collection of forensic evidence, psychological evaluation, prosecution and post-trauma rehabilitation. The VAWCs are integrated with shelters and would help victims assimilate into the society.

The spokesperson said no calls to victims would be allowed so that there is no interference or pressure from their families. The centres would be open round-the-clock. Women will be appointed to run the facilities. He said that all data would be integrated with the databases of relevant departments through key-stroke monitoring software. Evidence will be collected within 24 hours of an assault. A psychologist trained in dealing with violence against women would be present at each centre.

He said the government will collaborate with various non-government organisations to help victims re-enter society. After the investigation, they would be sent first to a shelter where their progress would be monitored through audio-visual recording. They would have a helpline and transport facility as well, the spokesperson said.

The centres will also mediate in case of non-cognisable offences, he said. The centres will collaborate with the Punjab Institute of Technology Board to assist women with government-related queries.

“The most important aspect of VAWCs will be the victim-friendly environment.” He said the staff will be trained and VAW sensitised. For this purpose, VAWC SOPs have been developed for day-to-day operations at the centres and at shelter homes. “In cases of state-inflicted violence, the VAWC will be complainant in such cases itself.”

The Express Tribune