Scheme Snafu

By on March 27, 2021
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The One-Stop Centre was meant to provide support and assistance to women fails to protect them as domestic violence sees a steady rise

The One Stop Centre (OSC) Scheme  is facing vehement criticism in light of its failure to ensure women’s safety and security even as cases of assault, harassment, and domestic violence are increasing. The centrally sponsored scheme of the Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) was launched to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women who experience violence in public or private spheres, including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic abuse.

Every OSC is mandated to provide access to a range of services, such as medical, police, legal, psychological and counselling support so that women facing violence in the form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking, acid attacks, etc., who approach them are entitled to the provision of specialised services.

Each OSC is also mandated to be equipped with amenities including CCTVs, video-conferencing, telephone, beds, pillows, tables, medicines and clothing for women besides providing temporary shelter facilities.

Even in a small state like Goa, which has only two OSCs – one in every district, this well-intentioned scheme is failing, thanks to the apathy of the authorities. Statistics point out that there are only a few takers for their services. Hundreds of women suffer from violence and harassment but find no respite or support. An OSC should be a provider of essential support services to women with healthcare workers, lawyers, and police officials, but there are complaints that survivors struggle to access legal, medical and psychological support under one roof.

While the North Goa centre is housed at GMC, the South Goa centre is in a poorly accessible, dilapidated government building offering little privacy for survivors given its location in a crowded colony housing government employees.

Furthermore, if the north Goa centre is ironically run by a man – thereby defeating its very objective, the services in the south Goa centre are not at all in conformity with the WCD’s guidelines. Most importantly, this centre does not provide police support or legal support to survivors. An RTI query revealed there are eight employees at the South Goa centre but no medical officer, legal officer or police personnel to offer one-stop support with medical examinations, police investigations and legal help.

A temporary shelter has been provided to aggrieved women at the South Goa OSC, but the mandated video-conferencing facility to record their statements for the courts as per provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure is lacking as are the required CCTVs. This too adds to the woes of survivors who forced to visit a hospital for medical examination, find a police station to file a complaint and pave their own way to justice in the absence of a lawyer. This also discourages women from approaching the centre.

In response to an RTI query on the criteria of selection of the NGO, the WCD has revealed that there was no study or survey of intervention results in cases handled by NGOs before outsourcing the crucial facility to them. A number of testimonies of survivors whose statements were recorded for an initiative on gender rights bear many more misdoings. In the absence of proper scrutiny of the NGOs, the logic behind letting out a crucial government-funded centre like the OSC to NGOs clearly points to the apathy of the administration in handling women’s issues.

Read the full article in 'Viva Goa' magazine copy.

Viva Goa magazine is now on stands. Available at all major book stalls and supermarkets in Goa.

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