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BMC promise of ‘one-stop crisis centres’ for sexual assault victims still on paper

The project has been delayed as the civic body is awaiting allocation of funds from state Women and Child Development (WCD) department.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Published: May 29, 2014 1:10:32 am

Six months after the civic body announced it would open “one-stop crisis centres” for victims of sexual assault at its three tertiary-care hospitals, KEM, Sion and Nair, and two peripheral hospitals, Rajawadi and R N Cooper, the much-needed project is yet to be fully implemented.

These centres were conceived as a centralised space to facilitate collection of medical evidence, provide counselling, conduct required tests and provide easy access to a sexual assault victim instead of sending her from one department to another for various tests.

So far, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has only appointed a co-ordinator for each hospital to assist any victim brought for examination. The victim is, however, still expected to go from one department to another for undergoing tests.

The project, currently estimated to cost Rs 1 crore for equipment, will be implemented in three phases. Phase-I consists of pooling in existing resources like space and equipment and preparation of standard operating procedures, while all repair work needed is undertaken in the phase-II. Phase III involves further coordination and purchase of required equipment for the centre.

Dr Kamaxi Bhate, co-ordinator of the one-stop crisis centres, told Newsline that while work was proceeding at a snail’s pace, the BMC had already completed the first two phases. “We have circulated the standard operating procedures to doctors in hospitals. It consists of guidelines for treating a sexual assault victim,” she said.

“The project has been delayed as the civic body is awaiting allocation of funds from state Women and Child Development (WCD) department to commence phase-III. We have already written to them,” said Bhate.

Majlis co-founder Flavia Agnis, who is running the ‘Rahat’ programme for victims of sexual assault and acid attacks with the WCD and is in close contact with the BMC for one-stop-crisis centres, however, said no such funds were supposed to be provided to the BMC.

“In September last year, we had organised a meeting of all stakeholders where police, prosecutors and state officials had come together to discuss points on which the existing system for victims could be improved. The BMC had announced it would set up one-stop-crisis centres in that meeting,” said Agnes. According to her, a series of meetings have been held with hospital deans and civic officials to push the project.

So far, an area of 550 sq ft in KEM hospital’s gynaecology ward has been earmarked for the centre. “We have requested the dean and other authorities to start the construction. But there is no progress,” a doctor from KEM said. In Sion hospital, a space in the gynaecology ward was initially finalised, but now the hospital plans to set it up in the casualty ward instead.

A doctor from one of the civic-run hospitals said, “We are planning to have a sophisticated department for sexual assault victims. It must have UV lights to spot semen samples, advanced cameras for recording statement, motorized examination table and trained doctors to handle the case. All these plans are on paper right now.”

Dr Suhasini Nagda, director of medical education and major hospitals, BMC, said, “We will soon set up such centres. The process got delayed due to elections, but now we are planning to also roll out these centres in peripheral hospitals.”

According to BMC’s additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh, while a provision could be made for the funds, the victim will still have to be taken to the necessary department for surgical intervention.

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