Three hours later, the audience stayed in their seats and the questions kept coming at the public forum on ‘Crime and Punishment: The fight against rape and sexual violence’.

That crimes against women and their prevention have as much local resonance as they are universal, was evident from the priority accorded to the event by various city organisations.

Organised by The Hindu and the Centre for Women Studies, Cauvery College for Women, the debate had a mixed audience drawn from colleges, service organisations, and consumer forums who made up the 1,700-strong audience chiefly comprising young women from the host institution. Representatives from Consumer Protection Council, Childline, Exnora, Tiruchi Intra-City Development Endeavours (TIDES) and various NGOs made it to the forum. The lion’s share of the questions was directed to City Police Commissioner Shailesh Kumar Yadav, including one from an 81-year-old woman who stood up, propped up by a walking stick.

To an anxious father’s complaint that many youngsters, including adolescents indulged in eve-teasing and speed racing, the commissioner promised increased patrolling. “There are already 14 motorcycle patrols and we have asked four more which we are confident of getting.”

Admitting that a communication gap existed between police and the people, he said a police officer in each station was assigned the role of child welfare officer to address grievances in crimes involving children within 24 hours. On the request of participants, he agreed to make the contacts of the child welfare officers public.

Call helpline

Responding to a student’s query, the Commissioner said women could contact helpline 1091, whose functioning he tested regularly. Efforts to control crime was not limited to the police alone he said soliciting public co-operation. “I seek your co-operation. Everybody is accountable and has a role to play in preventing crimes against women.”

Speakers suggested that such forums should be conducted in men’s colleges and co-educational institutions to bring in change in women’s attitude towards women. “Are we not being too idealistic in advocating changes?,” a student wondered. “Do not get frustrated. Let us look at this positively and start with small change,” Nirmala Rani assured her.