A 16-day campaign, protesting violence against women, has been organised by Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective

When 18-year-old Kamala (name changed) left her house one morning after an argument with her mother, she didn’t expect any of the harrowing experiences lying ahead of her.

With only Rs. 50 in her pocket, she took off in a bus to Villupuram, where she met a woman who tricked her and locked her in a room for three days without giving her any food or water. She managed to escape, only to end up in a government hospital in Tiruvannamalai, weakened by hunger and fatigue, where she was molested by a doctor.

Every year, many schoolchildren like Kamala face molestation at schools which leaves a lasting impact on them. Marking the International Day for Violence against Women, the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective has organised a 16-day campaign, protesting various forms of violence against women in society, from November 25 till December 10.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, most of the cases were of domestic violence. But in the past decade, a significant number of schoolchildren have been victims of sexual harassment,” said Sheelu, president of the women’s collective. The organisation’s volunteers work in 16 districts in Tamil Nadu, counselling women and children traumatised by sexual harassment and helping them get back on their feet. This year, out of a total of 128 such cases, the counsellors worked with 17 cases involving schoolchildren.

Parents of the victims are left with the responsibility of nursing and helping their children move on. Kamala’s mother complains about the lack of sensitivity on the local police’s part. “The police have the wrong outlook when it comes to these cases. Instead of helping, they threaten the victims. They need to be educated to be able to handle such cases well,” she said.

Students of colleges including Stella Maris, MOP Vaishnav, Queen Mary’s and Presidency came to show their solidarity with the cause at the walkathon rally held on the Marina beach on Monday.

The campaign aims to get the Chennai Corporation take up the responsibility of dealing with unsafe areas in the city. Apart from poorly-lit public places, a few students complained about the MRTS station at the Triplicane Beach.

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