ASHA S. MENON

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 recognises that violence against women takes many forms and provides civil remedies for the same. Activists in Tamil Nadu are concerned about its implementation. The concerns are wide ranging and include the selection of Protection Officers and lack of funds. Some reactions:

Can't waitIt is a very good Act, but we need to be able to implement the provisions under it. We must be able to act fast. Sometimes we need a restraining order; sometimes an order to help the victim gather her things immediately one of the first things an abusive man destroys is her certificates and official documents, her chances for a decent future. Police intervention has to be instantaneous. But today we cannot go directly to the police; we need to go via the Protection Officer and the Magistrate. If the officer is not easily accessible (as is our experience), then the redress may come too late. This Act has brought hope to many women and it has been highly publicised, but if we cannot implement it, they will lose faith in the system. We need to have a time frame within which everything should be set in place. Prasanna POORNACHANDRA
Prevention of Crime and Victim CareWhat's happening?Women first run to the police station in case of trouble. But today the police ask them to seek the help of Protection Officers. But where are the officers? I heard that the details are given on the Internet, but how many women have access to the Net? I have been into family counselling for more than 20 years, but even I am confused about whom to approach and where to go. There is a police station at every nook and corner. The Police Department has a good network, and it should be involved in guiding the women. Also, each State has a Family Counselling Centre (aided by the Central Social Welfare Board). These bodies too should be involved.Immaculate Mary
Sahodari ProjectAnytime, anywhere A pathbreaking Act, since it recognises all forms of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse as domestic violence. Marital rape too falls within its purview. It provides civil remedies to a woman such as her right to reside in the home, temporary custody of children, compensation, injunction, protection orders and maintenance. However good the law is, proper implementation is necessary. In our State, Social Welfare Officers have been appointed Protection Officers. These officers are already burdened with other tasks. We need protection officers who will be available 24/7 so that they can take immediate action, because violence can occur at any time. Also, protection officers, service providers and the police should be sensitive to women's issues and trained to effectively handle and use the law. They should be made accountable if there is ineffective implementation or delay under the law. The State should take immediate steps to publicise the addresses and numbers of these officers.S.G. Alli
Advocate

Directions, pleaseWe were called for a meeting by the Social Welfare Department two or three months ago. I expressed my willingness to work for women who have been driven away from home. I did not know what the meeting was for, but a few days ago, we received a circular saying we have been selected as a Service Provider. I am yet to reply, but I hope they will explain what kind of services we are expected to render.Savithri Vaithi
Founder and Chairperson, Vishranthi Charitable TrustNeed more on boardAs a temporary measure, it's all right if the Social Welfare Department officials act as Protection Officers. But full-time Protection Officers should be appointed as soon as possible. The Act has been widely publicised and many women come seeking help. Therefore, one protection officer and one service provider per district will not do. The Rules under the Act say, "Not less than one Protection Officer shall be appointed for the area of a judicial magistrate." One district may have more than one such area. Such districts should have more than one Officer. Under the Rules, an organisation with any one service can be a service provider. But, in the State, only organisations that provide multiple services shelter, counselling, legal aid, medical aid, etc. have been chosen as service providers. Therefore, many organisations here cannot contribute to the implementation. The Government Order we received says the service provider will be reimbursed only the food and maintenance expenses of the victim, but there is a lot of travel and other incidental expenses the service provider incurs. These should be covered too. U. Vasuki
General Secretary, AIDWA, TN

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