A major barrier faced by women survivors of violence in rural areas of AJK is lack of legal facilitation and free professional advice on judicial matters. To overcome this, WWOP established four ‘Legal Information Centres’ (LiCs) at family courts (two each in District Muzaffarabad and Hattian).
Pioneering in nature, these LiCs functioned as a bridge between women in need of legal assistance and the law practitioners that are providing pro-bono services. To enrich these centres with useful information, WWOP conducted a comprehensive mapping exercise earlier, and developed a directory of lawyers. It is the first directory of its kind in the district that contained contact details of around one hundred lawyers in the districts.
The establishment of LiCs was made possible through active collaboration between WWOP and Central Bar Association (CBA), Muzaffarabad. Leadership of this apex body of law practitioners in the district highly appreciated the initiative by WWOP and offered complete support.
To formalize this collaboration and deal with operational issues of LiCs, WWOP signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) with CBA. It was the first ever understanding of its kind that opened up a new chapter of legal assistance to common people in the area.
Under this collaboration, WWOP facilitated the CBA to acquire qualified staff. Training was also provided to members of the association and pro-bono lawyers on how to provide free legal assistance to women survivors of violence.
The response was overwhelming. During the course of this fifteen-month project, LiCs facilitated around two thousand five hundred women in submitting cases in the four family courts (Muzaffarabad 980, Hattian 700, Leepa 420 and Pattikkah 400 cases respectively).
Most cases were classified as divorce 320, Maintenance 310, Dowry 290, Guardianship 260, Domestic Violence 250, Sexual Harassment 65, General Violence 445 and Miscellaneous 560 respectively. Women turned in large numbers from project districts to LiCs for legal assistance.