Chennai: Tens of thousands of women had set the Internet on fire with the Me Too hashtag, after a call from actor Alyssa Milano, encouraging women to speak up if they had been sexually harassed. It saw dozens of women in the city too standing up to show their solidarity on social media. It starkly revealed that harassment is widespread and routine – and depressing.
But it sets off another question as to why a majority of victims who joined the #Me Too, have failed to approach the all women police stations (AWPS) that handle crimes against women, to punish someone under law. The city alone has 35 AWPS.
According to data available from the Crime Records Bureau, the AWPS have registered a total of 205 cases in 2016. The AWPS still handle a huge chunk of cases related to dowry harassment – 177 cases in 2016 – whereas only 17 rape cases, two kidnappings and nine molestation cases were registered in the same year.
Similarly, this year, the AWPS has registered only 124 cases till now. As many as 99 cases relate to dowry harassment, five molestation cases and 20 rape cases.
The AWPS registers various cases, including dowry harassment, dowry deaths, eve-teasing, molestation, attempt to rape and kidnapping.
Inference from data is that harassment of women in educational institutions and public places and transport is nil.
Speaking to News Today, an official at the Kilpauk AWPS said, “We conduct regular patrolling near educational institutions and busy junctions to provide safety to women. This should be the reason for the fewer number of molestation and eve-teasing cases.”
Confirming that a majority of the cases handled by AWPS are related to dowry harassment for various unknown reasons, the official said, “The petitions received from women are referred to counsellors who help in sorting out differences between the couple. If women petitioners have suffered physical or mental abuse in the relationship, then we register a case under the Dowry Harassment Act. The petitioners visit us umpteen times bringing up the same issue, but we keep counselling them in order to strengthen the woman.”
Apart from it, the AWPS conducts awareness programmes at regular intervals in schools, colleges and important junctions in the area.
“We lay emphasis on posting our helpline numbers during the orientation programme. We address major issues like eve-teasing, implications of having a love affair during studies, and tell them not to trust strangers,” she adds.
Besides, mentally challenged women disowned by their families, who roam the streets, are rescued and sent to homes or mental asylum, she notes.
|PUNISHING THE VICTIM|
|Pointing to the cumbersome procedure that discourages victims from complaining, Sherin Bosko of NGO Nakshatra, says, ‘The victims are reluctant to come forward and complain against someone who abused them for the main reason that the process takes a long time.’
It is an another ordeal where the victim has to produce evidence to substantiate her claim. Otherwise, it is tough for the case to stand. Also, facing interrogation while registering a complaint is another kind of harassment, she sighs.
She assures, “We have stringent rules and strong AWPS are working round-the-clock to safeguard women here. The public are not aware of it. They have to stand up for victims and be willing to appear as witness in such cases.”