Ernakulam has miles to go before it can be declared a ‘women-friendly’ district.

The Kerala Women’s Commission (KWC) and the District Panchayat had recently mooted setting up a Jagratha Samithy or a redressal cell in each panchayat to address women’s issues. But, as of now, only a few panchayats have taken steps in this regard.

Lisie Jose, KWC member, told The Hindu that the ‘women-friendly’ tag could not be conferred on the district until effective samithis were constituted. A circular was sent to local bodies asking them to form samithis to look into women’s grievances. Each samithy is required to send out a message that a forum exists to help women in distress. But, certain panchayat presidents said there was no need for the constitution of such samithis as their local bodies were not ‘problem areas’ for women.

However, statistics show that crimes against women have been on the rise in the district. There has been a steady spike in the number of women who have sought the State Women’s Commission’s intervention to solve family problems. While 478 and 529 cases came up before the KWC adalat in 2011 and 2012, a total of 360 cases were registered with the body till September 3 this year. Domestic violence topped the list of grievances.

Former KWC member H. Subbalakshmi said despite alcoholism being a cause for marital conflict, hardly any cases were registered under the category ‘Nuisance after Drinking’. Only six such cases were presented in 2011, five in 2012 and five so far this year.

The Jagratha Samithy could work towards bringing such cases to light. Women would prefer local intervention to approaching a formal State agency, Ms. Subbalakshmi said.

Biju Palady, president of Mookannur panchayat, said the local body set up a samithy in 2005, but hardly any cases were dealt with. However, supervision by Integrated Child Development Services co-ordinators and Anganwadi supervisors was effective and quite a few issues were resolved at the ward level, he said. The samithy met once in three months, he said. M.S. Raji, president of Aikaranadu panchayat, said their samithy, reconstituted four months ago, met on the last Thursday of every month. “We handle an average of three to four cases,” she said.

Now, work is on to get the corporation, municipalities and panchayats to fulfil their commitment to ensure women’s safety. Seminars and campaigns will be held in schools and colleges to create awareness of women’s safety.

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