Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014 ::
A women complaint cell was launched as part of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) set-up on Thursday at a ceremony held in a hotel.
The cell at Governor House will address complaints related to domestic violence, divorce and Khula, right to inheritance, maintenance, child custody, kidnapping, sexual abuse, harassment at work, underage marriage and illegal detention.
The round-the-clock cell will gradually open up in the zonal and district offices of the CPLC that currently has four reporting cells (central, west, Malir, south and east zones) in Karachi (besides a central reporting cell in Governor House) and Hyderabad district. Soon a cell will be opened in Sukkur district.
“Complaints will be attended by female staff so that women feel comfortable in sharing their grievances. Legal aid will also be provided, if there is a need,” said Ahmed Chinoy, the CPLC chief, in his brief speech.
The 24-year history of the CPLC was evidence of the good service it had been providing to the citizens of Karachi, he added.
According to Mr Chinoy, more than 6,000 complaint calls coming from across Pakistan were daily received at the CPLC offices, which, he said, was one reason that plans were afoot to expand the network.
“Staff training for the women complaint cell is going on right now and, at the same time, there is a plan to open a youth helpline,” he said while appreciating the support of the Sindh governor and the law enforcement agencies in addressing citizens’ complaints.
Nusrat Haris, a TV host and head of the CPLC women complaint cell, said the cell would be a great support for distressed women, most of whom feared to report offences at police stations. There was also a general belief among women, she said, that seeking outside support for a domestic issue might jeopardise their relationship.
The cell, she said, had started working three months back and now it had been formally launched.
“So far, we have received 30 complaints, most of them are related to domestic violence. Men can also approach the cell for domestic issues,” she said.
Zohra Yousuf representing the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the CPLC effort was commendable given the fact that most cases involving women in society went unreported and the few that reached courts often remained without conviction.
She stressed the need to train the staff handling women-related complaints on gender sensitisation and legal intricacies.
“Offences such as domestic violence, child marriage, abduction and sexual harassment must be looked at as crimes and mediation shouldn’t be employed as means to resolve the conflict,” she said.
Ms Yousuf appreciated the Sindh Assembly for legislating on issues such as domestic violence but regretted that the law passed last year had not been enforced yet. Awareness of the law, she said, was the first step towards the law’s enforcement.
Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Shehla Raza, Hum TV president Sultana Siddiqui, playwright Hasina Moin, Senator Abdul Haseeb Khan, former law minister Barrister Shahida Jamil, former MNA Khushbakht Shujaat and journalist Khursheed Hyder also spoke.