One stop centre must start functioning at the earliest
The ‘one stop centre’ to help women victims of sexual, domestic and other forms of violence will soon come up near the Goa Medical College at Bambolim. After some delay the department of women and child development is going to finally set up the centre with money from the Nirbhaya Fund. The centre will provide specialised medical, legal and psychological support under one roof to the victims of sexual violence. The centre will be integrated with women helpline number 181 to provide rescue and referral services to the female victims of violence and crimes including sexual harassment and sexual assault. The centre will also help victims in lodging first information reports and getting legal aid and counselling services. It is expected to also provide help for speedy and hassle-free police and court proceedings. With the crime against women on the rise in the state as in the country, such a centre is a necessity as it will not only provide shelter to the victims but also help them get justice.
Though the construction of the centre was planned some time ago, it could not fructify as the land acquisition process was held up for over a year. The central government had allocated Goa Rs 96 lakh under the one stop centre scheme. The state authorities could make utilisation of only Rs 12.11 lakh. Not just the funds for the construction of the centre remained unutilized; even the money earmarked for ‘universalisation of women helpline scheme’ was unspent. However, the state government has been providing help to women through its own initiative since 2015. As the funds remained unutilized for longer than the permitted period, the state will now have to approach the central government to get the unspent funds revalidated for utilization for construction of the centre, which according to the department of women and child development can be done only during the next financial year. However, with only three months to go before the beginning of the new financial year, the department of women and child development should prepare the groundwork to ensure that construction begins at the earliest after the central authorities give the nod.
Crimes against women have been on the rise in Goa as in other parts of the country. It is necessary that victims of sexual violence are provided institutional care to overcome the trauma and fight for justice. Quite often, the victim draws diminishing or wavering support from the family and the social and law enforcement institutions. Victims of sexual violence are often blamed for “inviting” the assault. Giving victims of sexual violence shelter and counselling and legal and financial assistance could relieve a part of the physical and mental trauma they go through. With over 500 victims of sexual violence given assistance at the temporary centre operating from the GMC since 2014, it is clear that Goa needs to set up a robust one stop centre for them. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who is also the home minister of the state, should take personal interest in removing all hurdles in the way of the construction of the centre so that it starts functioning at the earliest.
The centre will provide temporary shelter to the victims and their children under the age of eight years for maximum of five days. The gory truth is that female children as young as six years of age and even below have been victims of sexual violence. It is necessary that children of vulnerable age too be kept under safe care by the centre. Separating children above eight years of age to live elsewhere without the watch of mother could jeopardize their safety. The authorities need to take a revised view on the matter and make it sure that female children of the victims of sexual violence above the age of eight years too should be allowed to stay under the centre’s safe roof. Also five-day shelter to victims of sexual violence could prove too short for them to overcome the trauma and go back to an environment that could be scary. If necessary, the rules framed under the scheme may be amended to provide for longer stay for victims at the centre or at protective homes under close supervision.