The government is serious about launching a service to make women and young girls feel free to seek help when subjected to stalking or other serious forms of sexual harassment.

It is all set to extend the ‘108’ service, at present covering accidents and medical emergencies, for protection of women too.

Drawing flak

With the Police Department drawing flak about its insensitivity and apathy towards complaints related to harassment and offences against women which more often than not make them suffer the harassment in silence than approach an ‘unresponsive’ police station, the Home Department has hit upon the idea of using the popular 108 service to give confidence to women.

All a woman or a girl facing sexual harassment or assault has to do is ring up ‘108’ and give information and contact details.

The 108 call centre in turn will alert the local police station concerned.

Minister getting calls

Speaking to The Hindu, Home Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy said that several women and young girls had been calling her to share their experiences and expressed a desire for prompt response from police officers. “We have been working out the details. A formal announcement will be made soon,” she said.

Based on the details registered with the 108 service, one can keep a tab on the action taken by the police stations concerned.

Such prompt response in the early stages itself should act as deterrent in prevention of serious crime like rape and assault.

In the unfortunate instance where a serious offence has been committed, it will help in rushing immediate help to the victim and nabbing the culprits, she said.

Counsellors

The department also proposes to advise educational institutions and work places to have counsellors to enable women to talk freely about incidents of sexual harassment or violation of their space so as to take preventive measures, she said.

After the heinous acid attack case on two engineering students of Warangal when a girl lost her life and the perpetrators of the crime were killed in an encounter three years ago, State Government proposed a Bill providing for stern punishment against acid attacks and forwarded it to the Centre.

For immediate action, the Home Department had also launched 1091 helpline service but it did not gain popularity as the number was not easy to recall and there were also technical snags, the Minister said.

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