Eight years have passed since the 24-hour helpline for women in distress was launched in 2005.

Eight years have passed since the 24-hour helpline for women in distress was launched in 2005. However, little effort has been taken to spread awareness of the 1091 helpline in Thrissur city.

Even the brutal rape and murder of Soumya on a train in 2011 failed to move authorities into action. A recent survey has revealed that only 18.2 per cent of women are aware of the helpline.

The survey was conducted in the city on September 11 as part of the ‘Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls’ initiative of UN Women, a United Nations entity working for the empowerment of women and girls. The initiative aims to reduce crime against women, build awareness and develop community into safer places to live, work and shop.

Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, and MAYA, Thrissur, conducted the survey with the help of students of the Government Institute of Advanced Study in Education, Thrissur. The survey was aimed at assessing the popularity of the 1091 helpline in the district.

According to the survey 1,227 (81.8 per cent) of the 1,500 women interviewed were not aware of the helpline. Only 273 women (18.2 per cent) had heard of the number. A mere seven women used the helpline and only three of them received a response.

A few women were shocked at the lukewarm response from the helpline.

They said some pockets in the city were unsafe for women. The helpline said it received eight to10 calls a day from Thrissur.

“Most calls are from women who are harassed by alcoholic husbands. Many women call the toll free number 100 for help. When we receive a call, we give directions to the nearest police station,” a police constable at the helpline said.

However, many a time technical glitches in the helpline deny help to women in distress. Ramadevi, a government employee who was not able to get her call through, said: “Women try the number in desperate situations. There should be an arrangement to ensure the calls are attended.”

Another major problem raised is that the helpline can be reached only using BSNL landline and mobile connections.

When this reporter dialled the number using an Idea mobile connection, the call was answered by the Thevara women’s cell.

The cold response from has often discouraged women from making further calls, the survey pointed out.

Most women said the helpline was useful and should be made more popular through effective campaigns in educational institutions, work places and public places.

Rural Police Chief Ajitha Begum said the police would launch an intensive campaign to popularise the helpline.

“The helpline is not available in the rural limits. So people can dial the toll free number 100 during emergencies,” she said.

According to studies, cities have become hubs of violence and crime. Kerala has the highest female sex ratio in India. The State also has the highest literacy rate.

However, the National Crime Records Bureau’s ‘Crime in India 2011’ report points out that Kerala stands third in the rate of crime against women (33.8%). In spite of all the positive indices, Kerala is ranked high in crime and suicide rates.

According to the State Crime Records Bureau, 3,756 molestation cases were registered in 2011.

A total of 1,904 cases have been filed up to June, 2012. There were 573 cases of eve-teasing in 2011 and 225 cases have been registered till June this year.

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