Violence against women takes a toll during COVID-19: Human Rights Official appeal to government to take action
Human rights officials told a very different story when it came to Bolo Helpline services.
Ever since COVID hit the world in 2019, it claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people globally. The pandemic dented the global economy and shifted the majority of the world online. While the government imposed restrictions on the public to contain the Coronavirus damages, another thing started to spike – violence against women.
Recently, the departments meant to protect women and rescue them from domestic violence shared details about the violence spree that hit Pakistan during Covid-19. According to reports, the rate of domestic violence in the country has increased by 45 percent, with most of the criminal activity being reported from four Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts.
Provincial Social Welfare Department’s statistics read:
The ratio of physical, sexual, and psychological violence besides burn and cyber harassment cases increased by 45 percent at districts Nowshera, Mardan, Swabi, and the provincial capital.
Sahar Khan, the Project Director Helpline Bolo of the provincial Social Welfare Department, said:
It is encouraging that we receive reports but what we saw during the Covid-19 lockdown made us conclude that the ratio of violence has increased, which was alarming for us. The provincial government was taking serious steps to end violence against women. It had established Bolo Helpline; women benefited from the helpline, and the department received many calls from the victims.
Sahar Khan continued to state:
The department’s immediate action on a call received by the helpline was to make sure police reached the spot and protected the victim. Besides, the cases were followed up by providing the victims with legal aid.
The Project Director Helpline Bolo of the provincial Social Welfare Department further shared:
We have reported 349 cases of physical and sexual abuse, cyber harassment, burn, and rape, and the services needed were police protection, legal aid and counseling, shelter, and medical aid.
Sarah also explained:
A mobile crisis unit was also set up, which provided rescue services to the victims. In many cases, domestic issues were resolved through meditation. Psychosocial counseling was done following an episode of violence against women in different districts.
However, human rights officials told a very different story when it came to Bolo Helpline services. The unsatisfied officials stated:
Bolo Helpline services were available at only six districts, including Peshawar, Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera, Swat, and Charsadda. The ratio of violence increased in four out of six districts; therefore, the services needed to be expanded.
A senior official said:
This rise in violence is evident from the data. If you have an overwhelming response from four out of six – and that too developed – districts as compared to the southern districts, the government should have expanded the services.
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