‘Prompt legal assistance vital for survivors of violence’
Prompt legal assistance is a must for helping out the survivors of violence and abuse, as the number of such cases is on the rise in Pakistan, said human rights lawyer and President of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) Zia Ahmed Awan speaking at a ‘Session with stakeholders on case management’, arranged by Madadgaar National Helpline in collaboration with Plan International Pakistan here on Thursday.
He said that Madadgaar helpline had the honour of being the first helpline of Pakistan for women and children, working for the last 11 years. During these 11 years it received more than 119,600 calls and dealt with at least 20,700 cases of violence against women and children. It had one of the largest databank on violence against children and women.
The daily data was collected under 71 different categories out of which 16 were computerised. He said that initially this helpline worked in Sindh province only but now in collaboration with Plan International Pakistan it had extended the net of its services to the whole of Pakistan with three focal points in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta under the banner of Madadgaar National Helpline.
About Plan International, he said it was one of the oldest and largest international development agencies in the world, founded over 70 years ago and presently working in 49 developing countries across Africa, Asia and Americas to protect and promote children’s rights, helping millions of children to take an active role in their own development.
Madadgaar National Helpline was also member of Child Helpline International (CHI), the global network of child helplines in 133 countries.
Zia Awan said that sadly in Pakistan the situation of human rights was not satisfactory and the cases of violence and abuse were increasing with every passing day. He said that women and girls were bearing the brunt as there was no respite to their victimisation in both rural and urban areas of the country. He said that the cases of physical, psychological and sexual violence of women and girls were on steep increase. Similarly, he said, this rights of children were also being grossly violated which needed urgent attention and redressal by the government as well as civil society, adding without this “we could not improve the lives of marginalised section of population in Pakistan”.
He said that all children should be raised in a protective, encouraging and nurturing environment where the duty bearers were responsive to their rights without any gender discrimination. He said that children should enjoy access to education opportunities in an environment that supported life-long learning and development.
Manager, Madadgaar National Helpline, Arfa Zainab, said that there was a vital role of police, FIA, judiciary, lawyers, media, parliamentarians, teachers and people belonging to other walks of life in mitigating the sufferings of women and children. She said that the legal aid was the first and foremost need of the victims of violence and abuse.
Keeping this in mind a group of Karachi-based lawyers decades back had come up with the idea of providing free legal help to the helpless and they started helping the people who were detained in jails, besides providing pro bono services to women and children victims of violence under the banner of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA). Later, with the assistance of LHRLA, Pakistan’s first helpline for women and children Madadgaar was formed in collaboration with UNICEF, which now had become a national helpline with the assistance of Plan International Pakistan.
Other speakers including senior officers of police, FIA, medico-legal experts, lawyers and media professionals discussed different aspects of victim support, counselling and case management.