After enacting legislations against violence against women in Pakistan’s Punjab and developing a one stop justice center for women survivors of violence, public policy and gender reforms specialist Salman Sufi has started work on developing mechanisms to help end forced marriages. This project is not limited to Pakistan but will be extended to the entire SAARC Region. Mr. Sufi has teamed up with Dia Praxis, an influential Norwegian/Pakistani organization which has worked extensively with Norwegian MFA to help victims of forced marriages in Pakistan belonging to the diaspora Pakistani community.

According to details, an event is scheduled in Oslo on January 17th 2019 where ambassadors of SAARC Countries, respective country organizations from the SAARC region working on this issue and Norwegian government officials will be in attendance. Mr. Sufi and Dia Praxis will formally launch the campaign with SAARC ambassadors where Mr. Sufi will present his multi-dimensional strategy given the complex issues surrounding forced marriages.

The campaign will include establishment of hotline across the SAARC region where a collective data base of tips and complaints of forced marriages will be maintained. Subsequently, the blue print of Violence against Women Center in Multan, Pakistan will be made available to SAARC countries for replication, to provide rescue services and shelter to victims of violence. A strategy for airlines alliance, that operates from EU and other countries where expatriates from SAARC reside, will also be established according to which various airlines will aid the process by providing brochures with helpline numbers in seat pockets and specific codes for victims that are in distress and are being forced to travel. The helpline numbers and text codes will be free and the victims will be able to use this information to send emergency alerts to the immigration and custom authorities in the SAARC region upon arrival. A plan to establish such a hotline was already in the works in Punjab on Sufi’s proposal by the former CM Shahbaz Sharif. This helpline will now be established privately by Sufi and Dia Praxis. The embassies of related countries will work together with to ensure immediate repatriation of victims with the help of local law enforcements.

For forced marriage victims residing within SAARC Region, the same hotline will be used to provide immediate support. SAARC governments that have legislations barring forced marriages will be provided with implementation mechanisms that have already been developed. A wide scale media campaign is also in the works where social icons and celebrities will create awareness regarding this issue. Local NGO’s and various organizations working on the issue will also be part of the campaign.

The Campaign will start from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and will be subsequently adopted in the remaining SAARC bloc.

SALMAN SUFI,

Lahore, January 22.