Staff Reporter

There are 215 protection officers in the State

Need for appointing more full-time officers stressed

Bangalore: As the first point of contact for victims of domestic abuse, protection officers (POs) were central to the implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA). However, being overworked and under-trained, POs were often unable to perform their role effectively, rights groups and victims of domestic abuse said at a meeting on Thursday.

Several organisations, including Vimochana, Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, Swaraj Network, Human Rights Law Network and Alternative Law Forum met here to discuss the Act. Women from across the State presented testimonies of domestic violence and their experiences with getting justice.

There were 215 POs in the State whose role it is to receive complaints from the victims, file the Domestic Incident Report and help victims access legal aid and support services. However, there was much confusion about the role of POs, said Usha B.N. from Hengasara Hakkina Sangha.

“POs have been given only two training programmes which was highly inadequate. They are overburdened as they have been appointed from among Child Development Programme Officers who already have several other schemes to implement,” Ms. Usha said.

She said that there was clearly a need for people to be appointed as full-time protection officers.

The officers were also hampered by poor infrastructure — often with no place to even sit and with no vehicles to give court summons to the accused, said Ms. Usha. There is very poor interagency coordination between the main actors under the Act.

In her testimony Malathi (name changed), a young victim of dowry harassment, said that it took her no less than a month to file a Domestic Incident Report as the PO was not accessible.

Additional Director-General of Police (Recruitment and Training) S.T. Ramesh said the police did not have the authority to intervene directly in cases of domestic violence and could do so only when court orders were violated. M.M. Bindu, Assistant Director of State Women and Child Development Department spoke.