Neeraj Singh Manhas.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a global health, human rights, and development issue that cuts across geography, class, culture, age, race, and religion to affect every community and country on the planet. Gender-based abuse is defined in Article 1 of the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence as “an act of gender-based violence in public or private life.” The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) has announced the launch of a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the establishment of One Stop Centres (OSC), a sub scheme of the Umbrella Scheme for the National Mission for Women’s Empowerment, which includes the Indira Gandhi Mattritav Sahyaog Yojana. The scheme, popularly known as Sakhi, has been in effect since April 1, 2015. These OSCs are being established across the country in stages to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence in both private and public spaces. The current paper concentrated on the functioning system of India’s one-stop centre.
Keywords: Nirbhaya Fund, One Stop Centre, Performance of One Stop Centre
The Government of India’s Ministry of Finance has established the “Nirbhaya Fund” with an initial corpus of Rs. 1000 crores. A total of Rs. 1000 crore has been allocated to the Nirbhaya Fund for the fiscal years 2014-15 and 2015-16. The 12th Plan Working Group on Women’s Agency and Empowerment recommended, on a trial basis, the establishment of One Stop Crisis Centres to provide shelter, police desk, legal, medical, and counselling services to victims of violence under one roof, integrated with a 24-hour Helpline.
The Justice Usha Mehra Commission, established to recommend measures to improve women’s safety, recommended in its report submitted on February 22, 2013, the establishment of a “one-stop centre” at a notified hospital to assist victims of sexual assault and ensure swift punishment for perpetrators.
One Stop Centres (OSC) are designed to assist women who have been victims of violence in both private and public spaces, as well as within the family, community, and workplace, in all forms of violence. Women who have reached out or been referred to the OSC and are experiencing violence as a result of attempted sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking, honour-related crimes, acid attacks, or witch-hunting will be provided with specialised services. In the first phase of this scheme, one OSC was to be established in each state/UT to facilitate access to an integrated range of services such as medical, legal, and psychological support. In India, there are currently 170 One Stop Centres in operation. The OSC worked in tandem with 181 and other existing helplines. Women who have been victims of violence and require services could be referred to OSC via this helpline. Currently, the Ministry of Home Affairs is developing an Emergency Response System that will function as a single emergency number for the purpose of ensuring women’s safety, and this will eventually be integrated with OSC.
Objectives of the One Stop Centre
The Scheme’s main goals are as follows:
- To provide all types of support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces, under one roof; and
- To facilitate immediate, emergency, and non-emergency access to a range of services, including medical, legal, psychological, and counselling support, all under one roof, in order to combat any form of violence against women.
The OSC provides assistance to all women, including girls under the age of 18, who have been victims of violence. Institutions and authorities established under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012 linked with the OSC for girls under the age of 18.
Services Under One Stop Centre
- Emergency Response and Rescue Services: OSC offers rescue and referral services to women who have been victims of violence. This will be linked with existing mechanisms such as the National Health Mission (NHM), 108 services, and police (PCR Van) so that women who have been victims of violence can be rescued and referred to the nearest medical facility (public/private) or shelter home.
- Medical Assistance: Women affected by violence would be referred to the nearest Hospital for medical aid/examination which would be undertaken as per the guidelines and protocols developed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- Psycho-Social Support/Counselling: On-call services for psychosocial counselling would be provided by a skilled counsellor. This counselling process will give women the confidence and support they need to confront violence or seek justice for the violence they have witnessed. Counsellors must adhere to a set of ethics, guidelines, and protocols when providing counselling services.
- Legal Aid and Counselling: To help women affected by violence gain access to justice, legal aid and counselling would be provided at OSC by impanelled lawyers or the National/State/District Legal Service Authority. The aggrieved woman would be provided with a choice of advocate to assist the State Prosecutors in trying her case (Section 24(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure as amended by Section 3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2009). It would be the Lawyer/responsibility Prosecutor’s to simplify legal procedures for the aggrieved woman and advocate for her exemption from court hearings. If the trial or inquiry relates to a rape offence as defined in sections 376, 376A-D IPC, it is the duty of the Prosecutors trying the case to complete the inquiry or trial as far as possible within two months of the filing of the charge sheet (Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as amended by Section 21 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013).
- Shelter: The OSC offers temporary shelter to women who have been wronged. Swadhar Greh/Short Stay Homes (managed/affiliated with government/NGO) will be contacted for long-term shelter needs. Women who have been victims of violence, as well as their children (girls of all ages and boys up to the age of eight), can seek temporary shelter at the OSC for a maximum of five days. Any woman’s admission to the temporary shelter would be at the discretion of the Centre Administrator.
- Video Conferencing Facility: The OSC offers video conferencing to speed up and simplify police and court proceedings (through Skype, Google Conferencing etc.). If the aggrieved woman so desires, she can record her statement for police/courts from the OSC itself using audio-video electronic means as prescribed by sections 161(3), 164(1), and 275(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and section 231(1) in accordance with Order XVIII Rule 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure. This service will be provided only after consultation with the Superintendent of Police, District and Sessions Judge of the relevant district (place of incident).
Funding for the Scheme
The scheme is funded by the Nirbhaya Fund. Under the Scheme, the Central Government will provide complete financial assistance. The District Collector/District Magistrate is in charge of day-to-day implementation and administrative matters.
At the central level, the MoWCD is in charge of budgetary regulation and scheme administration. After obtaining the necessary approvals, the MoWCD transfers the funds to the concerned District Collector/District Magistrate. The District Collector/District Magistrate maintains a separate bank account for an OSC scheme.
Evaluation on working of One Stop Centre
Domestic Violence Cancelling Centres (DVCC) were established by the central government in 2009, and they were renamed Nirbhaya Centres (NC) in 2015. The MoWCD launched the Sakhi-One Stop Centre scheme on April 1, 2015, to provide a common platform for understanding, discussing, and deliberating on strengthening multisector responses to violence against women. It aims to facilitate access to an integrated range of services including medical aid, police assistance, legal aid, and case management, psychosocial counselling, and temporary support services to women affected by violence. There are currently 170 Sakhi OSCs operating in 32 states/UTs. Approximately 70,000 cases have been reported at these centres so far. However, despite the fact that the Sakhi OSC scheme was launched with the best intentions and goals, it did not reach the target population as expected, due to the following reasons:
- The majority of OSCs are run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
- Christian Organizations account for more than a quarter of the OSCs operating NGOs.
- Women who have been victims of violence are not aware of the OSCs.
- Women who have experienced violence do not have a strong belief in OSCs, but they do have a strong belief in Women Police Stations.
- Clearly, the women victims are approaching the OSCs, but they are not receiving adequate justice.
- OSC-operated NGOs are misinforming monitoring authorities and submitting false or fabricated reports to the government.
- The majority of cases reported at OSCs are DV, Adultery, and Financial cases.
- Following the Supreme Court’s decision that adultery is not a crime under Section 437 of the Indian Penal Code, a large number of cases have been transferred to elder’s panchayats, women’s police stations, and family courts for divorce.
- A Study of the Working System of the One-Stop-Shop Scheme Some Christian organisations are attempting to convert the religions of the women who have been approached.
- Former DVC& Nirbhya Centre employees are not interested in working for an NGO because they are opposed to OSCs; instead, they want to work for their mother departments. The central government must invest crores of rupees in this scheme.
- Combine the OSC and Shelter Homes under one roof, under the direct control and administration of the Women and Child Development Department.
- Provide employment opportunities to female victims through a variety of short-term training programmes.
- After providing the victim women with an occasional training programme, assist them in obtaining financial resources to start their own businesses/shops/employment. If it is not possible to provide the victim women with cash up to Rs. 5 Lacks.