District Support Group Formed to Support Women Sexual and Gender Based Violence Survivors in Peshawar

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PESHAWAR: Women living in distress, afflicting the violence on daily basis are deprived of their rights, moreover they do not have access to justice and those who manage to reach the district courts are unable financially to afford to precede their litigation. To support females deprived of justice, Blue Veins a Peshawar based organization has initiated a project “Strengthening District Bar Associations and setting up Facilitation Kiosks in District Court” in the district Peshawar in collaboration with District Bar Association under Gender Equity Program (GEP) of Aurat foundation supported by USAID.  The project aims to encourage lawyers to take pro-bono cases and consolidate a database of legal experts to help females seeking justice. The project will help sensitize the lawyers in gender friendly legal practices and consolidate pro-women judicial precedents and regressive court precedents for comparative trend analysis. The initiative will also facilitate information dissemination through establishing a facilitation kiosk for women seeking legal assistance in the District Court Peshawar.

Blue Veins facilitated a joint meeting with civil society organizations, Government Departments, lawyers from district bar association Peshawar and other service providers. During the meeting the pool of lawyer was linked with referral organizations and service providers. A two way referral mechanism was developed among the participants of meeting through which the organizations will link Sexual and Gender Based Violence Survivors to the Pro-bono Lawyers group and the Pro-bono lawyers can also refer the litigants to the service providers if the litigants will necessitate medical, shelter or other assistance, to help reduce in delayed justice.

“Under the district women group, the lawyers providing services will be paid case management fee on a case basis by Blue Veins. This group will meet once in every quarter to discuss the progress of commitments and on managing the challenges” shared by Blue Veins Program Coordinator Mr. Qamar Naseem.

A female Psychologist from Noor Education Trust a private shelter home stated “In our shelter home we deal with ample of Sexual and gender based violence survivor by providing them shelter but the delayed justice disappoint the women reaching shelter homes to seek justice. This program will be a great support to those females”.

Ms. Tahira Kaleem- Project Manager of Gender Equity Program in Peshawar shared that in order to sustain the legal aid provision the lawyers group and organizations are documented and will be made available on a data base which can be reached by litigants and referral organizations, through which the organizations and lawyers can reach each other to work in collaboration.

The project is initiated by Gender Equity Program in 12 district of Pakistan, in which four Districts- Abottabad, Haripur, Swat and Peshawar from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are selected. This project will help in removing the obstacles to justice for gender based violence in the society.

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Shawa Shah and Khurshid Bano representing Da Hawa lur and KP Working Women Trade Union “”The silence related to sexual violence against women and girls must be broken. To effectively respond to this situation, we need a long-term, systemic and comprehensive approach that recognizes and protects women’s full and equal human rights”

Zar Ali Khan Chairman FATA Commission for Human Rights said “We anticipate that District Support group will bridge the gap between various stakeholders The quality of services for female victims of gender-based violence, especially sexual and physical abuse, and the access to such services, will increase to meet the needs”

Taimur Kamal coordinator of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network said “The legal empowerment of women and ensuring their access to justice is an important priority for civil society. Women in Pakistan fought long and hard to achieve laws that protect women from discrimination based on gender and we enjoy the benefits of a justice system that can enforce these laws”.

Suleam Yousafazi  from POHA Said “There is too little access to free or low-cost legal advice and psychosocial services, and the quality of the services that are available is inadequate, especially for women living in rural areas and those with disabilities. Women who are victims of rape are often stigmatized and ostracized by community members”

During the event, participants shared personal stories of the difficulties faced by sexual violence survivors when seeking justice. The absence of clear definitions and laws, particularly in the case of sexual harassment, gaps in policies and law on sexual violence, as well as a lack of knowledge and understanding about gender stereotyping held by justice providers, were highlighted as key concerns by participants. In the meeting, participants also discussed how to improve current policies and laws, and they shared their views about what would constitute the best solutions to this challenge moving forward

The participants of the district support group meeting also called for national dialogue on customary laws affecting women; the need to strengthen women’s participation in community policing initiatives and for gender equality in the security and justice sectors; and for enhancing women’s access to higher education, skills training and leadership development.

The meeting was attended by members from Civil Society organizations, Provincial commission on the Status of Women, Human Rights Directorate KP, and other government organizations.

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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