Odisha plans police helpline for women facing sexual harassment

The police is awaiting an approval from the Home Department on the helpline proposal which is based on the Women Power Line Project of Uttar Pradesh.
The helpline is scheduled for launch on March 5, the birth anniversary of former chief minister Biju Patnaik.(Representative photo/Getty images)
The helpline is scheduled for launch on March 5, the birth anniversary of former chief minister Biju Patnaik.(Representative photo/Getty images)
Published on Jan 12, 2020 03:38 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar | ByDebabrata Mohanty

With violence against women on the rise in Odisha, the state police are now planning to start a call centre-based project in which victims of sexual harassment and other non-heinous gender-based harassments can call to report their problems without lodging an FIR in a police station, a government official said.

The call centre project to be built on the lines of Women Power Line Project of Uttar Pradesh in which women victims of harassment call a toll free number to lodge their complaints of harassment on streets, phone harassment or other kinds of sexual harassment has been scheduled for launch on March 5, the birth anniversary of former chief minister Biju Patnaik. A proposal in this regard has been sent by the police to the home department for approval.

“As girls and women do not normally report such harassments at the nearest police station fearing social stigma, the call centre-based strategy is being adopted as it would ensure anonymity of the victim. The harasser would be counselled and reprimanded initially and if that fails then an FIR would be lodged. The focus will be on relief to the victim than punishment to the offender,” said the official.

Odisha’s Director General of Police (DGP) Abhay said it would be too early to comment on it till it gets approval from home department. “Once it is approved, we would let everyone know,” he said.

According to the latest statistics released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crimes against women are on the rise in Odisha as 20274 cases were registered in 2018, 20098 cases in 2017 and 17837 in 2016. The State reported a rise of 2,261 cases in 2017 than the previous year. Assam recorded the highest crime rate of 143 per lakh population, Odisha came second with a crime rate of 94.

Odisha recorded 1241 cases of sexual harassment in 2018, 1134 cases in 2017 and 979 in 2016.

Concerned over the rise in crime against women, chief minister Naveen Patnaik in November last year said it will be one of his topmost priorities and he will leave no stone unturned to ensure justice.

The Odisha project is likely to have a toll-free number in which the victims of harassment may call up for registering their complaint. Like UP, the Odisha projct may have three layers. The first layer consisting of a group of women would listen in to the grievance of the woman caller and transfer the matter to the second layer consisting of a group of male counsellors.

The counsellors, if required, would confirm the genuineness of the complaint and then ascertain the actual identity of the perpetrator and counsel and if necessary can reprimand him if he doesn’t mend his ways on counselling. In the third layer, there would be all-women police personnel who remain in touch with the victim at regular intervals continuing up to three months or till resolution of her complaint.

Sources said the home department is also considering whether it would be integrated with the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) that would be rolled out this year. The ERSS started with funding from Nirbhaya Fund has a special facility for women in distress who can press a button in mobile phone for immediate assistance.

Former director general of police Sanjiv Marik said the move to start a call centre was a good idea as police stations are normally wary of lodging new cases of crime, particularly those against women. “Normally policemen don’t like to register new cases as it would add to their work burden. More often the policemen discourage women victims from lodging cases of sexual harassment. I think it is a good effort and would lead to registration of more and more cases of sexual harassment,” said Marik.

Women activists too welcomed the move, but said it should be executed well. “The Domestic Violence Act enacted in 2005 is still a work in progress as police stations hardly work on the complaints of women. For any woman who has faced sexual assault, getting a copy of the FIR is a huge task. Besides, the police stations are ill-equipped to handle the rising cases of atrocities against women. The call centre project is fine, but it has to work on ground,” said Tapasi Praharaj, a leading woman activist in Odisha.

Close Story
Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, January 26, 2022