By INTIKHAB HANIF
LAHORE: The country’s first Violence against Women Centre (VAWC) in Multan has been accorded the status of a police station by the provincial home department and the inspector general of police (IGP), empowering it to exclusively register and investigate cases of crimes against women.
This centre and others later are being established in the province by the Chief Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit.
Officials said on Friday that the Multan centre had been assigned the status of a police station on the request of the Strategic Reforms Unit to support the project’s main idea of bringing together all justice delivery departments under one roof.
As many as 135 cases of violence against women have been registered in different police stations so far this year. These include cases of domestic violence, honour killing, acid throwing, burning, abduction and forced marriages. Officials said the rate of such crimes was believed to be much higher than the reported data, which is kept low by male-dominated police stations.
With a police station inside a women-run facility, there will be real-time data integration with audio-visual recording in terms of evidence collection, and even during rescue operations.
This police station will be headed by a senior superintendent of police. A toll-free helpline and transport service will facilitate victims. The centre has its own women police officials and women protection officers who will rescue victims in grave cases, and provide them shelter at the centre while registering their complaints, collecting any form of evidence, and carrying out investigation. This will facilitate the medico-legal examination to be carried out by the medical staff and prosecution department of the centre.
The Violence Against Women Centre in Multan will be a 24-hour facility that will streamline investigation-prosecution case flow process by bringing all justice delivery services together, including first aid, police reporting and investigation, prosecution, medical examination and treatment, collection of forensic and other evidence, psychological evaluation and counselling as well as post-trauma rehabilitation.
These centres are aimed at addressing issues such as low conviction rate for cases of violence, disconnected evidence collection, lack of sensitisation to gender-based violence, passing of moral judgements and absenteeism of relevant personnel.
The Multan centre is the pilot project under the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016, and is scheduled to be inaugurated by the chief minister by the end of March. Such centres are planned to be established across all 36 districts of Punjab.