ISLAMABAD: To fill the gaps in institutional response to protect women victims of violence and to get women’s protection laws properly implemented and improved where needed, the legislators need to play their role in this regard. This was the crux of the presentations by experts while speaking at a webinar on ‘Violence against Women: Challenges, Reforms and the Pandemic’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). Khawar Mumtaz, Former Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women, said that the pandemic has highlighted the gaps within the system. There is a structural disconnect between the institutions responsible for providing support to the victims of violence. It is important to establish the connection at community level to bridge that gap. Local government or social protection departments have to step up to take up the role. The victim women should know where to go for justice. We do not always need laws, we need system and awareness of where women can reach out for help. It is very important that parliamentarians take up these issues and address the loopholes in the laws, she added. Marvi Awan, Executive Director, Women Protection Centre Sindh said amid fears of spread of pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult for women to seek help against violence. Lockdowns had restricted movement and increased the vulnerability of women to violence. Though the government has been taking measures for women protection against violence but the understanding about and access of the society to these sources is scarce. Maryam Shabbir, Climate Change Expert, SDPI said the communities have experienced an increase in harassment during environmental calamities. Women looking for shelter have been subjected to sexual assault and abduction during floods in Tharparkar and Muzaffargarh region. Pakistan is among top 10 countries vulnerable to climate change and hence has the risks of increased violence that is why we need to include the debate on harassment of women in the climate change policies. Mahrukh Qizalbash, Moderator SDPI, said with Pakistan heading towards what health experts are calling ‘the fourth wave of COVID19’, lockdown restrictions threatening to be tightened and the recently rejected domestic violence bill in Islamabad, it has become imperative to rethink about the country’s VAW preventive policies during the pandemic and beyond.