When distress calls

When distress calls

Help at hand

When distress calls
In a world dominated by men, the image of a woman often gets distorted. Incidents of sexual harassment and other kinds of harassment have become a daily battle for women. The harassment happens in overcrowded buses, streets, workplaces and even at homes. In such a scenario, helplines for women come as a blessing.

 Vanitha Sahaya Vani (1091), a women’s helpline initiative by the Bengaluru City Police, has rescued 279 women in distress in over two years. Rani Shetty, a coordinator with Vanitha Sahaya Vani, says that according to the records maintained by the helpline, 150 calls were harassment cases, 15 harassment calls over phone, 14 eve-teasing calls and 40 cheating by men and domestic violence related calls were received in January.

The helpline’s record also cites a case where a 14-year-old girl recently courted trouble by accepting a friend request on Facebook. “The boy constantly sent her obscene messages.

He also called her on her phone several times and became abusive. Unable to deal with it, she called 1091 and reported the case. Immediately, action was taken against the boy,” mentions the record. There are many cases like these. In a day, the helpline receives 700 calls out of which only 150 calls are genuine. In January alone, the helpline received 25,066 prank calls.

Tasneem Nakhoda, a City-based psychotherapist, says that today’s women face varied forms of harassment ranging from lewd comments to eve-teasing and rape. “Sexual harassment at workplace is also on the rise where a woman is either harassed by her senior, boss or her immediate colleague.

Any incident of sexual harassment affects the woman’s well-being, productivity and peace of mind. Knowing that there is a place where she can talk about it and seek help enables women to fight such atrocities with confidence.”

 Meghana A, a counsellor, feels that women are forced to adhere to societal norms which can sometimes put all the more pressure on them. “If a rape or any kind of harassment occurs, it is due to the attitude of the men and the society’s judgement on women. A woman must first respect herself and give utmost priority to her needs and desires and then think of her family members,” she says.

 There has been a rise in the number of cases of domestic violence in the City points out Tasneem. “A drunk husband beating his wife, a quarrel between a couple over petty issues which often takes a form of physical abuse, a husband beating the wife for money, or the husband and his family physically abusing the wife for giving birth to a girl child are some of the common cases that we get.”

Another case study mentioned in the Vanitha Sahaya Vani record says, “A school-going girl was waiting for bus near Koramangala when seven men started harassing her. A passerby immediately called 1091 who sent the police patrol vehicle to the spot. The men were arrested and action was taken against them. And the girl was sent home safely.”

One of the hurdles the helpline faces is that it receives 4500 calls a month from across the State. Rani Shetty says, “We need to have a different number for each district as providing aid to distressed women will be difficult as we cannot provide immediate help.
We have appealed, along with the BSNL, to channelise only City-related calls and reduce the number of prank calls that the helpline received.”

The helpline provides free counselling, police assistance, legal service, medical assistance, short stay, rehabilitation and crisis intervention services and the team consists of six professional counsellors and eight volunteers and six police staff who operate the telephone in different work shifts and they also have seven Abhaya or Hoysalas vehicles which will be sent to the danger spot to rescue the women.

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