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July 27, 2016

‘Hub’, a helpline service, launched for survivors of gender-based violence


July 27, 2016


With cases of violence against women on the rise, the Roshni Helpline in collaboration with the Aurat Foundation and five other bodies launched on Tuesday a service called “Hub” which would cater to the survivors of gender-based violence in Sindh.

Helmed by the Gender Equity Program of the USAID, Hub would be supported by government organisations the Sindh Human Rights Commission and the National Maternal Neonatal Child Health and non-governmental organisations War Against Rape, the Panah Shelter Home, the Bint-e-Fatima Trust, and HANDS.

Seemi Kamal, who is associated with the Aurat Foundation, said the initiative was being taken to facilitate all those who faced domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment or needed protection if they escaped those conditions.

She added that many women opted for silence because they had no place to go and the toll-free number would pave way for them in this regard:

“We want to eradicate the reasons which lead to oppressive conditions for women so they won’t even have to seek help later,” she explained.

 “If a woman needs shelter, psycho-social counselling, legal aid or wants to learn something to sustain herself, all the organisations will work closely together and refer cases to assist as many survivors as possible.”

Speaking about the various pro-women laws and bills passed since 2004, lawyer Abira Ashfaq spoke about how many archaic terms had been causing problems because the law needed to evolve with time.

“In 2006, the Women’s Protection Act was passed and the laws about rape and fornication were removed from the Hudood Ordinance and were added back in the Pakistan Penal Code.  Sections 375 and 376 address them and it is to be noted that rape in our law is defined as a crime which a man commits against a woman and by this definition men or transgender cannot be victims which is also a gap in our law because in other countries they can also be harassed,” she observed.

The concept of consent was also explained through this and under this law, marital rape can be criminalised and a woman cannot be married off against her will as well as all girls under 16 years of age cannot provide their consent because they are underage.

Ashfaq noted that although anti-honour killing bill was still in pending, the amendment to the Section 311 of the PPC stated that the court could stop a Wali from forgiving the killer.

“All crimes committed under honour or patriarchal traditions against everyone be it women, men or transgender people should be criminalised and should be declared as non-compoundable, and the crimes should include kidnapping, confinement, restriction on mobility, bonded labour, forced pregnancy and abortion among others,” she added.

“One part of the Section 509 stated that ‘insulting a woman’s modesty is a crime which can get the harasser three years’ and again it doesn’t refer to a man or a transgender person. It is prudent to notice that the word ‘modesty’ is archaic here because the definition is very obscure. Hence we need to replace such terms to bring clarity in our law.”

She further said the murder of minority members for ideological reasons should be deemed as a non-compoundable offence and maintained that death penalty was a cruel practice because due to procedural errors justice was not served.

Representing the Karachi Women Chamber of Commerce, Syeda Saeeda Bano assured that all women who wanted to start their own business would be supported by the Chamber and all survivors should try to make try to learn art and crafts so that cottage industries would thrive in the province.

A theatre play was also presented by Roshni which portrayed difficulties in a woman’s life who was forced to marry against her will only to become a victim of domestic violence within her house and sexual harassment when she goes for work.

However the woman is given shelter and legal aid when she seeks the ‘Hub’ helpline and is able to alter the course of her life.

Dr Masooma Hasan of the Aurat Foundation also echoed the message imparted in the performance but opined that it was high time that women fought for themselves instead of bearing with the oppression.

The founder of Roshni, Muhammad Ali, concluded the programme by stressing on the need for people to help them strive for a better society and curtailing violence against women and children.


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