It is 1 am and you are driving home after a long day at work or a boisterous night out with your friends. The car is centrally locked, your cell phone is beside you and you have that pepper spray on top in your handbag. Sure, you are more sensible than most, but then cars will be cars. In the middle of a deserted, poorly lit road, yours sputters to a stop and no amount of praying or cursing can make it start.
This might seem like an extreme case of bad karma, but being a woman in big bad Delhi is all about fighting karmic odds on a daily basis. There are two ways you can handle this: accept the fact that our city is kinder to men and take adequate precautions or know your emergency numbers, rights and means of recourse. Guys, you can use this too when out with your girl.
Know your numbers
Apart from dialling 100 for police protection, there is another number you can call from your mobile in an emergency: 112. This does not require prefixing any code and can be dialed even from a locked keypad or on a low signal as it latches onto any available network to connect you to a PCR van. Delhi Police also have a helpline for women in distress, attended 24/7 by trained policewomen. The numbers are 1091 (toll free), 23317002, 23317004 and 23411091.
Bothered by roadside Romeos or goondas in your college or near the neighbourhood paan-beedi shop? Faced with extortion or pesky “Can we be friends?” requests? Or have you been unlucky enough to have your bag snatched while you waited for a bus or an autorickshaw? Go report it. You might not get your valuables back, but know this: even gesticulating obscenely could land that local lout in prison for up to a year.
Says Dr. Sagar Preet Hooda, Additional DCP, Delhi Police: “In dealing with crimes against women, the focus must be on challenging the offender. Since most of them get away with eve-teasing and verbal harassment, lack of reporting only encourages them to move on to more serious offences.”
To help nip this trend in the bud you can call a helpline, drop in a written complaint in one of the many collection boxes provided by Delhi Police on college campuses or go a step further — walk into the nearest police station.
Road to recourse
In some police stations you might be stonewalled with, “Yeh hamaare area mein nahin hai, madam.” Hogwash. A complaint can be lodged in any police station. So ask directly for the senior-most officer present. Although it is not mandatory for the police to register an FIR for every offence, an offence against a woman falls in a special category and HAS to be treated differently by the police on a priority basis.
Various forms of abuse against women amounting to anything less than rape are covered under the Indian Penal Code as “outraging a woman’s modesty”.
For these, you can either file an FIR or register a complaint in the Community Service Register (CSR), which is kept in every police station, for an inquiry to follow. But don’t be fooled by a hastily scribbled-on piece of paper with an unintelligible signature. All FIRs must be registered on a printed form with number and year of registration, and you are entitled to a free copy. For a complaint, you should get an acknowledgement, which carries a CSR number.
There are now tighter laws to deal with sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence. But if you find it uncomfortable to talk about these issues, help is just a mouse’s click away. Women can lodge a complaint online at the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) website (http://dcw.delhigovt.nic.in). You can also call DCW at 23379181/23370597 for legal and psychiatric help or counselling. The ground reality is that Delhi is unsafe for women, and we don’t need a host of statistics to tell us that. But we can help make it safer. For starters, do not let anyone who makes you feel otherwise get away with it.