Dia Praxis, also known as, Dialogue in Practice, a transnational diaspora organisation based in Norway and Pakistan, has teamed up with Pakistani public policy and gender reforms specialist Salman Sufi to launch a campaign against forced marriages.
The project, launched at an event held in Oslo on Thursday, is not limited to Pakistan and will eventually apply in all Saarc countries that have legislation in place against forced marriage.
For this project, Dia Praxis, which has worked extensively with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has teamed up with Sufi, author of the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016 and founder of South Asia’s first survivor centric anti-violence against women centre, to help victims of forced marriages in Pakistan from the expatriate Norwegian-Pakistani community.
Speaking at the event, Nina Bjorlo of the Norway Police said the initiative is aimed at tackling the issue plaguing the diaspora community, adding that she had dealt with such cases during her work at the Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad.
Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Norway, Arusha Cooray, who was in attendance as well, said she was pleasantly surprised at some of the work done in Pakistan to combat gender-based violence, adding that it will be a great avenue for both countries to collaborate on.
The anti-forced marriage campaign also proposes the establishment of a Saarc-wide hotline where a collective database will be maintained of tips and complaints of forced marriages.
Furthermore, the blue print of violence against women centres already established in Punjab will be made available to Saarc countries for replication. The proposed centres will be used to rescue victims and provide them with shelter.
The campaign also proposes a strategy to establish an airlines alliance operating from within the EU and other countries where expatriates from the Saarc region reside. Under this alliance, the airlines will team up to provide brochures with helpline numbers in seat pockets and specific codes for victims that are in distress and are being forced to travel.
Under the project, calls to the helpline numbers and text codes will be free and victims will be able to use certain codes and texts to alert immigration and custom authorities upon arrival.
Embassies of concerned countries will be connected with these helplines in order to facilitate immediate repatriation of victims with the help of local law enforcement.
The campaign proposes that under this project, forced marriage victims residing within the Saarc region will also be able to use the same hotline to provide them with immediate support.
Saarc governments that already have legislation in place barring forced marriage will be provided with implementation mechanisms that have already been developed.
Local NGOs and organisations working on the issue will also be made part of the campaign. Starting from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the campaign aims at getting the entire Saarc bloc on board.