The first Violence Against Women Center (VAWC) in Punjab is set to be operational by the end of October. The female-run center is being established as part of the implementation of the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act (PPWAV) passed by the Provincial assembly in early 2016.
The aim of the center is to streamline the entire justice delivery process and bring all services such as First Aid, FIR lodging, Prosecution, Medical Examination, Forensics, and post-trauma rehabilitation under one single roof.
The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) has developed a complaint management system with an accompanying database to assist the center. The system will record all complaints and automate the process of providing information and receiving relevant assistance from the concerned departments including the Police, Forensics, Medico-Legal, Law, Social Welfare and Prosecution. All the data from VAWC will be maintained at the PITB data center in Lahore.
The VAWC system also includes measures to prevent data forgery and tampering; there will be an activity, and time log section that will note down the IP address, username and time at which the existing information was changed and/or when new information was added.
Since the centers are to be female run, more female officials have been recruited by the Police department and the post of DIG Gender Crimes has been newly created. In addition, one female SP will also be placed in each VAWC. The department is launching a toll-free helpline to receive complaints from distressed citizens and introducing GPS ankle monitors to enforce protection orders.
Two female prosecutors have been hired to represent the women at the VAWC and there will be a forensics expert on ground at the center as well. The expert will be present at crime scenes in order to collect evidence based on standard guidelines so that it is preserved. The involvement of forensics at a sub-divisional level is a big improvement to the existing system which has been criticized for being inefficient in the timely acquisition and preservation of evidence.
A shelter home will be constructed adjoining the VAWC in Multan. Three new centers will be established at the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year. One of the centers is set to be established in Lahore.
Simi Kamal from the Aurat Foundation and one of the leading women’s rights activists in Pakistan says, “There are so few services being provided all over Pakistan for the protection of women so any attempt will be a great addition and we should welcome these moves.”
According to the Punjab DIG Investigation Branch report in 2013, at least 6 women are murdered or attempted to be murdered, 8 raped, 11 battered and assaulted, and 32 women are abducted in the province on a daily basis, while the conviction rate ranges from only 1% to 2.5%. The PPWAV Act and the construction of the Violence Against Women Centers aims to protect women from physical, emotional and psychological abuse, and promote gender equality.