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Helpline


Introduction

The violence against women is the cruelest expression of disparity in power equation between men and women in our society. It is the ultimate reflection of male domination and oppressive patriarchal values. And contrary to myth it is resorted to violence against women cut across class, caste and creed by males to silence, dominate and subjugate the women folk.

Violence against women is not a new phenomenon, but has existed in our society ever since the patriarchal values began to dominate social norms. It is a weapon used to maintain the unequal power dynamics between men and women. The modes of violence have changed but the aim remained the same. The recent researches show that approximately :

  • Every 54 minutes a women is raped
  • Every 51 minutes she is sexually harassed
  • And every 100 minutes there is a dowry death.


These are the estimates based on reported crimes whereas many of such cases do not even see the light of the day. The magnitude of the problem is very alarming.

Before going any further it is necessary to understand what we mean by Violence:

“Violence is that degrading behavior on the part of the person committing it, which refuses to acknowledge the worth and dignity of the person and even the existence itself. It is a complete denial of every norm of humanity. It is a deliberate action to deprive a person from the basic opportunities in life and to maintain the oppressive status quo. It is an intentional attempt to restrict the choices available to women through inappropriate and inadmissible behavior.”

Violence is not only physical. Constant verbal violence is as degrading and harmful as physical violence. The scars may not be visible from outside, but it equally damages to the dignity and well being of the victim.

In our society the male aggressiveness is considered to be a desirable quality while for female it is just the opposite. The more docile and subservient the girl is, the more cultured and good she is considered to be. The double standards in our socialization pattern perpetuate violence against women.

Over a period of time this issue has started attracting large scale interest. With the spread of education and acceptance of human rights concepts, people started responding to violence against women negatively. But the magnitude of the response is still very small as compared to the level of the offence. And the most alarming part is that even now interveners seldom want to venture in the area of domestic violence as it is considered it as a private affair. This dichotomy between public and private, and apathy of the society towards this issue has grave effects on the affected persons. This is the most common form of violence against women but the least attended issue among all forms of VAW.

Considering violence within family as a private affair of the family has its own backdrop. In the Indian society the existence of a female as an individual, independent entity is seldom imagined. They are most often considered as property of men in the forms of wives, daughters or sisters. So it becomes a private matter of the owners how they will treat their property. Secondly in our Indian culture the family has always been glorified although at times it is the most oppressive institution. Rarely are people are ready to question it. This also leads to perpetuation and non-recognition of domestic violence as a social evil and is disastrous for individual growth and development. Yet whatever be the rationale, it is high time to acknowledge and respond to such issues and the sooner we understand this, the better it is

Responding to issues of violence against women is difficult because of the mindsets, biases and non-co-operative societal attitudes towards this issue. The cases of atrocities on women are seldom reported because people fear that it will only bring dishonor to the family. In situations where the matter gets reported, the possibility of getting justice remains dismal. This is because, like other forms of oppression VAW is also a systemic violation of women’s rights and dignity. With patriarchal values pervading all the spheres, walks and systems of the society, women end up being sidelined and marginalized.

Considering the exigency to respond to such issues the DEPT. OF WELFARE, Govt. of Bihar in collaboration with UNICEF had taken an initiative and started organization called HELPLINE. It is a unit within the system of the government (Dept. of Welfare), which is committed to respond to the critical needs of the victims of violence. We at HELPLINE have taken this challenge because we believe :

  • Woman is as much an individual as man is.
  • There is no justification of violating her dignity and rights, through whatever means and under whatever circumstances.
  • Human rights for all.
  • Society has the responsibility to protect its members.
  • There are people in society who wants to make a difference in whatever way possible big or small.

Background

HELPLINE was established in Patna in September 1999 as a crisis intervention center for women in distress. At present Helplines are functional at 19 Districts of state & to be functional in rest districts by Nov. 2009.

The problems and needs of women are numerous, however HELPLINE restricts itself to the issues of violence against women as its area of intervention. While HELPLINE is focusing on the issues of VAW, the long-term objective of HELPLINE is to establish a supportive network which can respond to every need of women by using the potential available within the system itself. And in this context HELPLINE thrives to become a resource and referral center.

HELPLINE is committed to respond to the needs of the victimized women in every manner possible. The HELPLINE scheme is to respond to both practical and strategic needs of the issue at hand. It is to be understood that our ultimate goal is to realize a gender-just and violence free society. The goals and objectives of the HELPLINE can be summarized as

  • Crisis intervention in cases of atrocities on women.
  • Assist the women in seeking justice and help from the society.
  • Activate the system to respond to the issues of violence against women.
  • Working towards deinstitutionalization of violence.
  • Strengthening a network of support systems for women in need of help Sensitizing and influencing the policy makers towards the gender aspects of policies, laws and other related documents concerning women.
  • To broaden the base of HELPLINE and facilitating the replication of it throughout the state.

Keeping these objectives in mind the HELPLINE is working on two levels i.e. provision of direct basic services to women in need and working towards the ideological shift in the favour of a gender-just society.

1. Provision of Services

When the formation of HELPLINE was conceptualized utmost care was taken to evolve a system of services, which can take care of immediate as well as strategic needs of the women victims of Gender-violence. Following are the services that are being provided through HELPLINE :

  • Counseling : to woman in order to support & encourage her to come out from sense of despair and hopelessness. The counseling service covers family members also in order to reconcile relationships and to strengthen family ties. During the whole intervention the emphasis remains on building the self-confidence of the victims to fight back the injustice & violence and lead a dignified life.
  • Free legal aid : Free legal aid has been considered as an integral service in HELPLINE as ultimately law is the customary guardian of justice. Through HELPLINE a panel of committed and learned lawyers is providing legal advice as well as services.
  • Temporary shelter through collaboration with other organizations : There are situations when woman finds no place to turn on for shelter. In such cases HELPLINE does provide option for half way homes with the help of other organizations.
  • Medical assistance : When we are talking about violence against women the need for medical assistance, at some point or the other, seems important. Through HELPLINE such assistance is being provided in cases where it is required.
  • Facilitation in reporting of crimes (FIR) in Police Stations : Accompanying woman for registering FIR and follow - up of complaint registered at various levels also forms one of the functioning of HELPLINE. Apart from this HELPLINE also lodges FIRs on the basis of complaints registered by victims.

HELPLINE team makes comprehensive efforts to bring matters to some logical conclusion. The efforts include counseling sessions (individual, joint & family), home visits, visits to official authorities/police station, consultation with lawyers and follow-up in courts, mobilization of social pressure etc. Special attention is paid for documentation of each and every step in all the cases through separate files, visit registers and incoming & outgoing phone calls.

2. Advocacy Works

The issue of violence against women has a range of attitudinal dimensions to it. The gender inequality in our society is interwoven in our socialization pattern, our cultural practices and thus became a very part of our attitudes and thinking process. And this situation obviously has its bearing on the issues of violence against women as well. And therefore to counter this problem it is necessary to direct our efforts towards changing the apathetic and ignorant attitudes towards the issue. In this concern HELPLINE envisaged to undertake following efforts:

Documentation Centre-HELPLINE has an established documentation cum resource unit, which is involved in documentation and dissemination of various information bearing on women’s issues. It has a rich collection of books & journals on Women’s issue, which is used by various people.

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