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National Workshop on Developing a Health Sector Response to Violence Against Women on 18th - 20th October, 2013

From 18th – 20th October 2013, CEHAT organised a workshop at YMCA International, Mumbai, to present strategies to engage with the health sector for responding to violence against women.

From 18th – 20th October 2013, CEHAT organised a workshop at YMCA International, Mumbai, to present strategies to engage with the health sector for responding to violence against women. This is based on CEHAT’s engagement with the health system for the past 13 years, which includes the establishment of hospital-based crisis centre Dilaasa, development of protocols for hospitals and capacity building of health professionals across the country in responding to VAW. India is on the brink of important changes in the sphere of violence against women, including the reforms in current practices in the health, police and judicial systems of India. One such important reform is that of establishing 100 One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) in the public hospitals as directed by the Planning commission of India. This workshop aimed to provide participants with an understanding of linkages between violence and health, the newly enacted laws on VAW and their relevance to the health sector, as well as operational aspects to set up OSCCs. It was attended by officials (such as nodal officers NRHM, Medical Officers from public hospitals, representatives of State Resource Center for Women) from State Governments of Rajasthan, Kerala, Maharashtra as well as members of various non-governmental organizations from Kerala, West Bengal, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

At the inaugural session on 18th October, Dr. Seema Malik (Project Director of Dilaasa and Chief Medical Superintendent (Peripheral Hospitals), MCGM) spoke to the audience about her experiences in setting up Dilaasa in 2000, her recognition of VAW as a health issue and the need for the health system to address the issue systematically. Reflecting on the collaboration with CEHAT which was critical to the formation of Dilaasa, she emphasized the value of partnerships between the public system and NGOs, but stated that ultimately such initiatives have to be sustained by the government and so the commitment of government agencies right at the inception is critical. Ms. Anuja Gulati (UNFPA) addressed the audience about the importance of engendering the health system and the urgent need for looking at VAW as a public health issue. Following this, Dr. Nikhil Datar, a gynecologist and a lawyer, spoke from the point of the examining doctor, discussing the need for health systems to develop protocols, as this would reduce the confusion in the minds of doctors and simultaneously ensure that comprehensive and gender sensitive services are provided to survivors. The key note address was delivered by Ms. Rashmi Singh (Executive Director of National Mission for Empowerment of Women). She discussed the critical importance of multi-sectoral coordination in developing responses to violence against women. The establishment of one-stop crisis centers is one such initiative that is being implemented by the NMEW, and Ms. Singh assured the audience of her support in their endeavors in this regard, in their respective States.

The workshop for the next three days was conducted by experts in the field of VAW such as Aruna Burte, Manisha Gupte, Dr. Jagadeesh Reddy, Padma Deosthali and Sangeeta Rege. Each of the speakers focused on interesting and stimulating topics relating to gender, patriarchy, intersectionality and the role of health care providers in mitigating VAW. The participants were introduced to a survivor-centred feminist model of crisis intervention, which caters to the multiple needs of survivors of violence. The social context of gender and its intersection with various other axes of power such as caste, class and religion was discussed, which is essential to working on the issue of violence against women. The recently released World Health Organization Clinical Guidelines for responding to Domestic and Sexual Violence were discussed with participants, particularly the components of a women centred approach and the role of the health system in providing psychological first aid to survivors of violence. An informative session on the medico-legal responsibility of the hospital, recent changes in the law and the implication this has for the health system, had the participants clarifying their questions regarding their legal responsibilities of health professionals and rights of survivors vis a vis the health system. In the final session, the participants reflected on ways in which they would utilize their learnings from the workshop, back in their respective states. The plans prepared by teams from various states included setting up OSCCs where none exist, training of health care providers on VAW in their respective states, advocacy to push the state machinery to establish OSCCs, and streamlining the functioning of the existing OSCC with better practices learnt from the workshop. The workshop ended with an inspiring valedictory address by UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Health, Sr. Adv. Anand Grover, who spoke about the right to health for survivors of violence, and the responsibilities that health professionals have in upholding it. As the participants were looking to establish services for survivors of violence, he emphasized that health systems must ensure that the protocols and services they establish adhere to the various components of the right to health framework. Specifically, he mentioned the need to make available and accessible, good quality, sensitive services to all survivors of violence against women. The right to these services must be for all survivors irrespective of whether or not they decide to pursue a legal course of action.

All the participants asked for a follow up workshop in the upcoming months. CEHAT is committed to working with the participants of the workshop to take ahead their plans by way of providing technical support and continuous guidance and support which will help them in their effort.

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