Chuppi tod, #MeToo campaign in Bihar’s rural areas
Several cases, related to sexual harassment and sexual exploitation of women, are coming to fore on a day-to-day basis in urban as well as rural girls. To provide a platform to such girls and women in rural areas, who otherwise do not have much access to social media, where they can raise voice against sexual harassments, a mobile app has been developed by a group of city-based activists.
CASE -1: A girl in her early 20s from Patna
I was 19-year-old and was waiting to get admission in Patna Women’s college. My cousin, who was around 30 years, used to help me in my studies. One day, he came upstairs while my parents and other guests were sitting downstairs. He asked me to take out my books so that he could help me. I have always trusted him. But that day, when I was taking out books, he came from behind and held me tight and started harassing me. He pushed me on the bed and started undressing me. I somehow gathered courage and screamed. He threatened that if I said anything to anyone, I would have to face the consequences. My worst was not over. I tried to convince my parents that I did not want to take tuitions from him, but they accused me of having lost interest in studies. I was beaten by my mother, even though I was trying to give them hints that something terrible had happened with me for which my cousin was responsible. My health deteriorated, I lost peace of mind and was so disturbed that I could not attend college and had to waste one precious year of my academics.
CASE -2- Girl (15-20 years; Patna)
My sister is very shy and timid but very intelligent and beautiful. She was studying in a famous school in Patna. Suddenly, it became very apparent that my sister was refusing to go to school and had lost all interest in her studies. She used to sit silently in her room, often crying. We failed to understand that she was suffering from depression. My mother mistook it for a hormonal changes taking place in her body. One night, she was inconsolable. After much pursuance she relented. She said that a boy in our neighbourhood had been constantly stalking her, sending her nude pictures on WhatsApp and asking her for sex. Since she was not able to say anything, she went into depression.
These are just two of the numerous cases that are coming to fore on day-to-day basis about the harassment being suffered by urban as well as rural girls. To provide a platform to girls and women in rural areas, who otherwise do not have much access to social media, where they can raise voice against sexual harassments, a mobile app has been developed by a group of city-based activists.
Bandhan Tod 2.0 (Break your shackles) app is an upgrade of its earlier version, which only catered to cases of child marriage and domestic violence. The main, new additional feature of the app is ‘Chuppi Tod’, meant for airing grievances related to sexual harassment and stalking cases.
“We have now completely revamped our old app, and especially after the #MeToo movement in the country, so many people opened up about their previous cases, on Twitter and Facebook. But, that is only a very select urban sample of the cases, such incidents are also happening in rural areas,” said Prashanti Tiwari, an official of Gender Alliance, the NGO behind the app said.
And, this new app seeks to give girls and women in rural areas, “a voice, a platform to vent their angst and frustration”, when they feel helpless, she said.
The official explained that the app has been modified keeping in mind that not girls in rural areas are social media-savvy or use Twitter or Facebook. This gave birth to ‘Chuppi Tod’ feature and like the old app for child marriage cases, a sexual harassment victim can raise an SOS through a button.
The app, now available in Hindi only, can be downloaded by any user of a smart phone, rural or urban, adding, smart phone penetration is there in rural areas too.
“We will first vet the allegations, and then take actions accordingly, which could either be a legal intervention or counselling in person or connecting her with the National Women Commission,” the official said.
The Gender Alliance official said, its team has already met with the Bihar police chief and he has encouraged its use to address such cases, adding seven cases have already been reported through ‘Chuppi Tod’ before the formal launch of the app.
Bandhan Tod App
Bandhan Tod aap, launched in 2017, registered 47 cases of child marriage. One of the girls, Rinki Kumari, 13, who hails from Benipur block of Darbhanga, was getting married to a man, aged 22, in a neighbouring village.
On the day, her parents were supposed to meet the would-be spouse, she raised the SoS just a day before. “She was extremely nervous and crying continuously. We informed the DSP and the Mukhiya. The marriage was stopped,” said an official.
The girl was later felicitated by chief minister Nitish Kumar for bravely resisting the evil practice.
How does the app work: The application through an SoS feature will be able to immediately reach the women and girls in distress and needing help in cases of sexual assaults and sexual harassment and child marriage. Gender Alliance would be immediately notified with all the geo coordinates as to from where the message has been raised and will respond immediately on the number to provide help and support.
The ‘Chuppi Tod’ feature (tab) has three components, a user can discuss an issue in a public forum; message privately after which a counsellor will call her back and offer guidance; or raise SOS, which then comes to base handler.
•Bihar government’s policy against child marriage launched on: October 2, 2017
•Bihar has one of the highest incidences of under 18 marriages of young girls in the country: 40%. (Source: The National Family Health Survey 2015)
•Out of 84,746 cases of Sexual assault in the country in 2016, only 324 were registered in Bihar with a rate of 0.6 as per National Crimes Record Bureau 2016.
•Out of 324 cases in Bihar in 2016, only 124 were on Sexual Harassment, 7 against voyeurism and 4 against stalking. This implies that Bihar registered just 0.3% of cases against sexual assault in 2016.
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