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SCSW suggests ‘safe houses’ for needy women

Updated March 03, 2019

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Chairperson of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Nuzhat Shirin speaks at the press conference on Friday.—PPI
Chairperson of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Nuzhat Shirin speaks at the press conference on Friday.—PPI

KARACHI: Crisis centres for needy women are practically non-functional in the province because of lack of financial and human resources. The Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW) wants to consolidate the functions of Darul Aman and crisis centres under one umbrella of ‘safe houses’, which have been suggested to be fully equipped with trained staff and modern facilities.

These points were raised on Friday at a press conference organised at the Karachi Press Club by the commission to inform journalists about the steps being taken by it to achieve gender parity in Sindh in light of this year’s International Women’s Day theme #BalanceforBetter.

The commission represented by its chairman Nuzhat Shirin and members Sheema Arif, Raheema Panhwar, Farhat Parveen and Mahnaz Rahman appreciated the government for taking up the issue of safe houses in a recent cabinet meeting and allocating increased budget for them.

As part of its mandate and in compliance with a 2016 Sindh High Court order, the commission developed the concept of ‘safe houses’ and made relevant standard operating procedures (SOPs) after carrying out monitoring visits to Darul Aman, crisis centres, jails and consulting all district commissioners on the issue.

“The commission has recommended establishment of fully equipped and resourceful safe houses, which would serve many purposes under one umbrella at the district level along with regular monitoring of their running mechanisms, budgetary allocations and human resources,” Ms Shirin said.

The SOPs had been presented to respective courts, government departments as well as to the chief minister, she added.

According to the details provided during the press conference, there are 12 shelter homes in Sindh. Of them, four Darul Aman are under the social welfare department, one under a public-private partnership and six under private ownership of which five are in Karachi.

In August 2004, the women development department established women crisis centres to provide assistance to violence victims in Karachi, Hyderabad, Nawabshah and Jacobabad with an objective to providing legal, medical and counselling support to women.

“These centres were envisioned to provide shelter to women for a brief period of 24 to 72 hours. If required, then the affected women may be referred to shelter homes. Due to lack of appropriate human and financial resources, these centres are practically non-functional at present,” Ms Shirin noted.

Safe houses, she said, had been notified by the Sindh government but required an authority, technical staff, budgetary allocation and legal framework to become functional.

The commission’s representatives also talked about its activities so far and said that last year it had reviewed and presented four pro-women laws to respective ministries; the Sindh Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2018, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2013, the Sindh Dowry Act 2017 and the Sindh Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act 2016.

The commission planned to conduct awareness campaigns regarding women’s rights and issues in collaboration with women development department and other partners all over Sindh and also engage in research on girls’ education, they said.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2019