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LAHORE: The University of Chicago Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) will provide technical assistance to the Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (law and order) in establishing Violence Against Women Centres (VAWCs) in Punjab.

SMU head Salman Sufi said on Friday he and Ms Claudia Flores, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law and IHRC Director, signed an MoU in this regard during his recent visit to the USA.

VAWCs are part of the implementation mechanism of the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016. They will serve as a one-stop shop for female victims of violence and provide essential services such as medical, legal, forensic, first aid, psychological and rehabilitation all under one roof.

The pilot VAWC is set to be inaugurated in Multan this year after which the initiative will expand to the rest of the 35 districts in Punjab as well.

A team of students from the University of Chicago Law School’s International Human Rights Commission headed by their director will assist the SMU in evaluating implementation process of the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016 and in reviewing performance of some of the act’s components as a third party.

The IHRC will provide technical assistance to the SMU regarding analysis of the draft rules for the law as well as formalisation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all departments at VAWC.

It will also carry out a comprehensive impact evaluation study of VAWC’s cases after a sufficient number of them have been received.

Based on the data provided by the SMU, the IHRC will give recommendations for improvement of the implementation mechanism.

In turn, the SMU will provide the IHRC with guidance and materials necessary for student research and arrange periodic telephonic conferences with students to monitor their progress and to provide input and direction. Moreover, SMU will also facilitate student engagement with local offices, partners and stakeholders when and if required.

Following this MOU, the SMU and the IHRC will continue their consultation in October after which the IHRC will develop a timeline for the project and outputs which will then be approved by the Special Monitoring Unit.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2016