Ensure safe, humane, dignified and timely response for women in distress
In the last two decades both the State and Central governments have through various schemes tried to address the need for shelter and counseling services for women through various state and centrally sponsored schemes in collaboration with voluntary organizations. These schemes are operational in Karnataka but till date there has been no social audit of the schemes to see how well they are functioning or how efficiently they are able to deliver services.
Hengasara Hakkina Sangha (HHS) is an organization working on women’s rights issues in Karnataka. HHS, in a first of its kind study, examined the accessibility and quality of residential services and counseling services in Karnataka offered by State agencies for women facing violence. The Study reveals disturbing facts about the way in which the services are managed and implemented in Karnataka.
The services examined under the study:
Family counseling centers (16) Santwana counseling centres (16), Short Stay homes(10), State homes(5) and Reception centers(5) Swadhar (6)
Eleven districts of Karnataka including Bangalore Urban, Dakshina Kannada, Belgaum, Uttara Kannada, Kolar, Mysore, Davangere, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Bellary and Haveri
FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
- There is a serious lack of gender rights approach in all the policy documents of the schemes
- The construct of women in the policy of the schemes and the way women are treated takes away from their citizenship status and doesn’t recognize equality rights of women in family and the public arena.
- Women are treated in a very patronizing manner at best and subhuman at worst.
- The study also brought out starkly the absence of a component of psycho social healing in the services. Services are uniformly devoid of this vital component while responding to women who have faced extreme and brutal violence, mentally ill and destitute women.
- Residential services for women in conflict with law run like prisons, with very mediocre facilities
- Mentally ill women are just dumped into the centers with no proper care and treatment.
- In some centers there are not enough toilets and water facilities.
- There is no resident counselor for severely brutalized and traumatized women who arrive in these centers at different times of the day.
- The geographic spread of services is erratic; it doesn’t uniformly cover all the districts and taluks in the State, even when it is clearly evident that there is a huge demand and need for such services.
- Untrained personnel, inadequate budgets, lack of operational guidelines, lack of infrastructural support, poor inter agency co ordination are the problems that cuts across all the services.
- Half of the residential services were incapable of handling any emergency.
- In many of the centers HIV positive women and mentally ill women were discriminated against and were not admitted to the centers.
- Current monitoring mechanisms are insufficient and are unable to assess institutional capacity and quality of care and rehabilitation offered in the centers
- Most of the staff is untrained, they may be sympathetic but it is far from being professional. And they are largely incapable of dealing sensitively and competently with women’s issues and problems.
- Advice, mediation, arbitration all these and more are passed off as counseling
- There is no uniform protocol or framework for counseling. All centers follow different modes of counseling and follow-up
- There is no privacy for counseling in a lot of centers.
- Vocational training offered in the centers is abysmal in terms of options and content.
- It is baffling to note that in government run centers, budgetary allocations are sent back without explanations
- There is lack of awareness of government run services
- NGO’s cite indifferent quality of government run services for not referring women to the centres.
State is obligated under the constitution to provide quality services to support women in difficult circumstances
There is an immediate need to revamp the services that are offered to women who are brutalized by violence and in difficult circumstances. Services need to be humane, have a basic minimum quality, be accessible geographically and to all women irrespective of caste, class, or other marginalized status. A comprehensive policy on services for women in distress that takes into account realities of women from various socio economic backgrounds needs to be evolved.
The above depts runs various services such as counseling centers and residential services for women in difficult circumstances. A study on the accessibility and quality of services offered at these centers was done by Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, a women’s rights organization working in Karnataka. The study collected relevant data from 11 districts of Karnataka.
It was also found that the centers are institutionally ill equipped to deal with services that they aim to deliver for women facing violence The study revealed that crucial areas of human resources, infrastructure, monitoring mechanisms, case management which are important for effective functioning of an institution of this kind in these centers are vexed with problems. Untrained personnel, inadequate budgets, lack of operational guidelines, lack of infrastructural support, poor inter agency co ordination are the problems that cuts across all the services. All these issues arise because these services primarily lack an over all, comprehensive gender sensitive policy frame work to define the nature of humanitarian aid for women in distress, objectives, protocols, procedures and operational guidelines.
The study shows that the services are not geographically spread across the state ensuring that all the regions have access to such services. The study revealed that many centers turned away women who have HIV, mental illness etc, thus making access to these centers restricted only to certain women. The study also brought out stark reality of some of these centers. What is really shocking is the total absence of a component of psycho social healing in the services offered to women who are survivors of violence and neglect. Services are uniformly devoid of this vital component while responding to women who have faced extreme and brutal violence, mentally ill and destitute women. Residential services for women in conflict with law run like prisons, with inadequate facilities. Mentally ill women are just dumped into the centers with no proper care and treatment. Staff at these centers is not trained to help these women coming from varied, difficult circumstances.. Vocational training, rehabilitation programs of these services are under funded and ill conceived, thus make no attempt to support a woman to become self reliant and live their life with self confidence and dignity. There is an immediate need to revamp these services to ensure safe, humane, dignified response to women in difficult circumstances.
We also believe that the State has the constitutional obligation to provide safe and quality humanitarian aid for women in difficult circumstances.
We urge the government to immediately address concerns by implementing the following recommendations
1. Women are citizens of this country; treat them with respect and dignity.
2 Evolve a comprehensive policy for support services for women in difficult circumstances in Karnataka.
3. Evolve standard operational guidelines regarding various aspects of running the centre for shelter services and counseling services
4. Ensure services don’t discriminate against the most vulnerable and marginalized
5. Design and operate separate and equipped (in terms of infrastructure and personnel) centers for mentally ill women
6. Ensure uniformity of services across the state
7. Ensure basic minimum quality in all services
8. Ensure an even geographical spread of services
9. Ensure availability of trained and empathetic personnel through frequent and comprehensive training
10. Involve Women’s organisations and NGOs to train personnel.
11. Ensure that centers are equipped to deal with women in distress with a strong component of psychosocial healing.
12. Ensure realistic budgetary allocations
13. Put in place sound fiscal and programmatic monitoring mechanisms and social audit of all services
14. Involve women’s organizations in framing policy and evolving standard operating procedures for services
15. Revamp and renovate vocational training to give contemporary and marketable skills to women
16. Integrate state and central services so that women are not inconvenienced and there is optimum utilization of available resources, budget allocations, personnel and infrastructure.
17. Allocate realistic budgets and ensure congruence in services and spending among state run and state funded services.
18. Publicize through popular and local media about shelter homes, short stay homes and counseling services available in each district.