Women in Jammu and Kashmir have been in the midst of constant violence. The Union Territory has witnessed a steep rise in crimes against women especially in Kashmir valley in the past few decades. According to studies, more than 40% of Kashmiri women are physically or mentally abused by their in-laws. A recent report by the Crime Branch (CB) of J&K Police revealed that at least 3,363 cases of atrocities against women were registered by police in 2017. This number increased to 3,623 in 2018.
To address such violence, a scheme for setting up a One-Stop Centre was formulated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). The one-stop centre (OSC) also known as Sakhi centre is a centrally sponsored scheme under the ambit of the National Mission for the Empowerment of Women. The scheme was launched in India on April 1, 2015, with the objective to help out women who have been victims of violence in private or public spaces, whether within the family or in the community or at the workplace. The other major aim of the scheme is to facilitate access to a wide range of services to women affected by violence. The Sakhi scheme is funded by the Nirbhaya Fund.
The One-Stop Centres were also recommended by the 12th Plan Working Group on Women’s Agency and Empowerment. Further, in 2013, the Usha Mehra Commission submitted a report stating the need for One-Stop Centre at notified hospitals to help victims of sexual assaults.
The services provided under Sakhi scheme include medical assistance, police assistance, psycho-social support/ counseling, legal aid/ counseling, shelter, and video conferencing facility. Besides, the scheme covers a wide range of issues women face in day-to-day life such as physical, emotional, psychological, and economic abuse.
The existing laws to deal with crimes against women are reinforced by the One Stop Centre Scheme. For girls below 18 years of age, institutions and authorities established under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, are linked up with OSC.
As per the cabinet decision dated 21.04.2018, supported by the Supreme Court order dated 11.12.2018, at least one One-Stop Centre is to be set up in each district of the country. Further, an additional grant of Rs 50,000 per annum is now provided for immediate assistance including first-aid to victims of rape. However, despite all efforts made at all levels since 2016, the OSCs in Jammu & Kashmir could not be made operational due to various unavoidable encumbrances.
Now, the process of setting up One-Stop Centres or Sakhi centres in Jammu and Kashmir has been set into motion. Recently, a delegation from the Ministry of Women and Child development visited the UT of Jammu and Kashmir to start the OSCs in 11 districts of Jammu and Kashmir and 1 OSC in Ladakh. The initiative has generated a ray of hope amongst the women in distress in J&K.
The centers will be integrated with the women helpline to facilitate access to services like emergency response and rescue services, medical assistance for women affected by violence, assistance provided in lodging FIR/NCR/DIR, and psycho-social support/ counselling services available on call. The overall implementation of the scheme would be done by the UT department of Women and Child Development/ Social Welfare department. The Social Welfare department would ensure the constitution of a task force which would be chaired by the District Collector/ District Magistrate.
The effective implementation of the One-Stop Centre remains the heart and soul of the entire process of stopping violence against women. An important ingredient of the success of this scheme will be robust and aggressive awareness campaigns along with training at all levels. Justice must be seen to be done swiftly, as justice delayed is not only justice denied but also dashes the hopes of other victims. Let us all try to create a healthy and civilised atmosphere for women to live and work in.
The writer works with Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) in Baramulla. [email protected]