PESHAWAR: From now on, women and children facing violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can reach out to Madadgaar, a helpline, in Peshawar for free legal counseling and aid.
The helpline was launched here on Wednesday.
“Any woman or child, who is faced with some domestic violence issue, can call this helpline,” Zia Awan, who heads a consortium of 50 lawyers to provide free legal aid to violence victims, told participants of the launching ceremony.
The consortium was formed in 1989.
According to Mr Awan, Madadgaar, literally meaning helper, has been providing counseling, medico-legal aid and shelter to violence-affected women and children in Karachi since 2000.
“Now we have this helpline in Peshawar and women and children can call us from any landline or cell-phone by just dialing 1098,” he said.
Mr Awan said the Plan International was providing support to the initiative in the province, which was also working in almost 153 countries.
He said the number of complaints or calls the Helpline received in Karachi showed that domestic violence was one of the top issues women and children faced.
Mr Awan said the complainants also reported sexual harassment.
Chief Minister’s Special Assistant on Women Development and Social Welfare Dr Mehr Taj Roghani, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said she came to know about many violence and molestation problems as a pediatrician.
She said there was already a helpline in one district and a Child Protection Commission in the province but it needed to increase its purview to prevent people from such problems.
She said public-private partnership, as proposed by Mr Awan to augment help for violence victims, should be encouraged.
Quresh Khan, a senior police official, talked about the provincial government’s measures to make police stations more accessible to victims of violence, especially women.
He said the government had begun online FIR registration and special help desks in some police stations to facilitate women complainants.
The official, however, said due to the massive task of tackling militancy, the overburdened police had not been as helpful as they should have been in such cases of domestic violence.
Gender Consultant of ADB Uzma Altaf also appreciated the launch of the helpline, which, she said, could facilitate the women and children facing violence in seeking help.
Around 15 lawyers, mostly practising law at the high court, were part of the team trained to take up cases of those contacting Madadgaar in Peshawar.
Arshad Jamal, a Peshawar High Court lawyer, said women faced with domestic violence, divorce, child custody, harassment, inheritance or any such issue could get free legal aid and counseling by calling on 1098.
Students from Leads College presented skits to highlight women’s issues. They were of the view that unless women did not speak about their problems and sought help, no one would know and come to their help.
“Women, who can not go to the police station or court, can just call the helpline to get free legal aid. They need to raise their voice,” said student Sumbal.