Lahore - After enacting legislations against Violence against Women in Punjab and developing One Stop Justice Centre for Women Survivors of Violence, Public Policy and Gender Reform specialist Salman Sufi has started work on developing mechanisms to help end Forced Marriages. This project is not limited to Pakistan but will be for 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 from expatriate Pakistani community.

According to details, ambassadors of SAARC countries, respective country organizations working on this issue from SAARC and Norwegian Government officials attended an event in Oslo recently. Mr Sufi and Dia Praxis formally launched the campaign with SAARC ambassadors where Mr Sufi presented his multi-dimensional strategy given the complex issues surrounding forced marriages.

The campaign includes establishment of SAARC wide hotline where a collective data base will be maintained on tips and complaints of forced marriages. Subsequently the blue print of Violence against women centre already established in Punjab Pakistan by Mr Sufi will be made available to SAARC countries for replication as those centres will be used to rescue victims and provide them with shelter. A Strategy for Airlines  alliance that operates from EU and other countries where expatriates from SAARC reside will also be established where the Airlines will be teamed up to provide brochures with helpline numbers in seat pockets and specific codes for victims that are in distress and are being forced to travel.

The helping numbers and text codes will be free and victims will be able to use certain codes and text to alert the immigration and custom authorities in SAARC region upon arrival. A Plan to establish one such hotline was already in the works in Punjab Pakistan by the former CM Sharif on Sufi’s proposal. That helpline has now been established privately by Sufi and Dia Praxis. Embassies of related countries will be connected with such helplines and for 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 them with immediate support. SAARC Governments that already have legislations barring forced marriages will be provided with implementation mechanisms that already have been developed. A massive media campaign is also in the plan where social icons and celebrities will create awareness. Local NGOs 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 spread to remaining SAARC bloc subsequently