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News : Flaws Revealed in the India's Women's Helplines
Ahmedabad, India, Oct 27, 2015 -- A 34-year-old Ahmedabad woman called the state's women's helpline after she was a assaulted by her former boyfriend. However, after listening to her trials, the only advice the counselor could come up with was to ask her to call back the next time the same man attacks her.
Detailing the woman's troubles, an Ahmedabad Mirror report says that the counselor from the helpline also asked the woman to approach the women's crime branch.
"The helpline's counsellor suggested that "this time", the woman should go to the women's crime branch to file a complaint. But when the Vastral resident went to the Mahila Crime Branch, she was asked to go to the local police station," the Mirror report states.
However, the victim's troubles didn't end there. Once she went to the women's crime branch, she was told that she should actually file a complaint at the local police station and the crime branch doesn't handle cases like hers.
The victim then filed a complaint in the Ramol Police Station in Ahmedabad.
According to the Mirror report, the woman was in a relationship with married man, who had fooled her saying that he was stuck in a bad marriage he wants out of. As days passed, the woman realised the man had been lying and had no intention to get out of the marriage. So she ended the relationship. Enraged, the dumped boyfriend turned up in her apartment at 1 am and assaulted her. He also threatened her with dire consequences while leaving.
However, later the woman called the women's helpline on advice from freinds only to be offered unhelpful and misleading information.
The women's helpline, Abhayam, was launched in March this year by Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel amid much fanfare. While launching the helpline, ironically, Patel, had said that the helpline was especially aimed at women who suffer from domestic abuse and are afraid to complain. The victim in question's case, therefore, falls exactly in the category of crimes Abhayam intended to help fight.
Patel had said during the launch, "The helpline will be confidential and anything you say to the helpline will not be revealed to anyone else. That should encourage you to share problems. Do not be afraid of the society or the law."
However, the problem faced by the Ahmedabad victim when she called up the helpline is symptomatic of a majority of women's helplines set up across the country. According to an article published on the website of the Press Institute of India, Delhi-based Multiple Research Action Group (MARG) had undertaken a study of the 100 and 1091 helplines in late 2012. The findings were somewhat disappointing.
The article quotes Anju Talukdar, executive director of MARG, as saying: "The training we found was largely focused on technical aspects rather than on developing empathetic communication skills. There was also no system of monitoring. For instance, we found many women who were unhappy with the res-ponse they received, but there was no way that those who ran it could have learnt of this and corrected procedures. Monitoring and evaluation, even if done randomly, is important."
The Ahmedabad victim's call to the 181 helpline perfectly demonstrates the problems revealed in the research. Maybe, it's high time governments realise that their job doesn't end with just setting up helplines.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, October 28, 2015