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In collaboration with the civil society collective in Lucknow, Oxfam India recently organized the first state-level stock taking in Uttar Pradesh on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. This was to cooincide with International Human Rights Day and the concluding day of 16 Days of Activism.
Aruna Kumari Kori, Minister for Women and Child Development of the State of Uttar Pradesh, praised and appreciated the step taken by Oxfam India and other civil society for their efforts and initiatives towards ending violence against women. Expressing deep concern over the situation and slow pace of the implementation, she assured the audience that decisions will be taken soon on these issues. "The government of Uttar Pradesh and my department is very sensitive and serious on the issue of domestic violence and affirmative action will be taken by the state government on the issues raised today," she said.
Officials and politicians pledge support
Rashmi Singh, Executive Director of the National Mission for Empowerment of Women, said that for the proper implementation of the Act, there is a need to develop a separate cadre. She informed that the Mission is planning to document and disseminate the challenges and best practices related to the Act from across the country for wider learning and replication.
The Mission is also planning to conduct a research study on the pending cases of domestic violence and grievances of women and present the findings and recommendations before the Chief Justice of India. Rashmi Singh also said that the Mission has initiated pilot projects in different states and is establishing functional support centers for survivors in selected districts of Uttar Pradesh. They will soon be launched in collaboration with Oxfam India and with the active support of the state government. She called upon the various government departments to support and contribute to this initiative.
Juhi Singh, State Secretary of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, said that it is because of the active campaigning by civil society organizations that there has been some awareness among women about their rights and entitlements under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. But still there is a long way to go. "As a representative of the ruling party I will try my best to mobilize the state government towards effective implementation the Act," she said.
Activists call for better reporting
Social activist Pooja Sekera emphasized the importance of the Act and called on the media to play a greater role in providing sensitive reporting on domestic violence cases. She expressed her concern that the violence inside the houses is often unheard and that home, which is considered to be a safe place, is actually not safe at all. "This law definitely protects women inside the home; the only thing which is required now is proper implementation. More information on the Act needs to be disseminated." Pooja Sekera is closely associated to the recent "Women Power Line 1090" initiative. She said that she would urge the State government and police department to extend the services of this phone helpline to the survivors of domestic violence. At present, it is limited to the female victims of public sexual harassment and cyber crime.
Mamta Singh, Program Coordinator at Humsafar, presented the current implementation status of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 in Uttar Pradesh based on a study jointly conducted by Oxfam India and its partner organizations Humsafar, Vanangana and Shri Ramanand Saraswati Pustakalaya. The statistics clearly reflect that implementation of the Act is very poor.
Attitude of judicial system criticized
Over 300 survivors from across the state had an opportunity to have a dialogue with the speakers and guests present regarding redressal of their grievances. Some of the women survivors shared their plight and sought the government's response and action for protection and justice.
Prof. Roop Rekha Verma, social activist and former Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University, shared the findings of a study by Saajhi Duniya on judicial procedures. She highlighted the fact that on the path towards the protection of women rights the judicial system constitutes a bottleneck, especially when it comes to domestic violence: In the name of saving the family and family members, the attitude of the judicial system has also been very negative towards the law.
The way forward
- The event has opened the gates for further advocacy at the State level. Given the excellent supportive gestures from the Minister for Women and Child Development, a representative of the ruling party's executive committee and other relevant stakeholders, we will step up our effort to initially open four support centers in Uttar Pradesh and push for the provision of similar services by the State government. Minister Aruna Kumari Kori has agreed to talk to the Chief Minister in this regard.
- Another opportunity that surfaced is to extend the services of "Women Power Line 1090", a telephone helpline that has been recently launched by the state government and is being run by the State Police Department, to the survivors of domestic violence. Currently "Women Power Line 1090" is attending cases of public sexual harassment, sexting etc.
Original published by Oxfam India