Women Helpline Scheme was Launched in India
To support women in distress women helpline scheme was launched in India, The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India has launched a scheme titled, Women Helpline 181.
The scheme of universalization of the WHL is intended to provide 24 hours immediate and emergency response to women affected by violence by providing referrals to appropriate authorities such as police, one-stop center (OSC), hospital, and information about women-related government schemes and programs across the State through a toll-free single uniform number—181.
Overview – Women Helpline Scheme was Launched in India
The following self-explanatory screenshot gives us an overview of the WHL in India:
Universalization of WHL
The scheme of universalization of women helpline scheme was launched in India is exclusively designed to support women aﬀected by violence, both in personal and public spaces, including in the workplace, community,family, etc.
Inaddition,women facing any kind of violence due to attempted honor-related crimes, acid attacks, witch hunting, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, traﬃcking,etc. will also be provided with immediate and emergency services.
There shall be no discrimination of any kind which aﬀects the treatment of the aggrieved. This is specifically with reference to married women/women in consensual sexual relationships who are raped by their intimate partners, sex workers, and Third Genders who might be sexually assaulted but are refused treatment due to patriarchal mindsets and prejudices.
Objectives – Women Helpline Scheme was Launched in India
The following are the objectives of the universalization of the women helpline scheme was launched in India:
- To provide toll-free 24-hours telecom service to any women who are affected by the violence seeking support and assistance.
- To facilitate the crisis and non-crisis intervention through referral to the appropriate agencies such as police authorities, hospitals, ambulance services, district legal service authority (DLSA), protection officer (PO), and OSC.
Modalities – Women Helpline Scheme was Launched in India
Accessing Women Helpline
The WHL will be accessible 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to any girl or woman suffering from violence or in any distress in the following manner:
- Telephone—landlines, mobile phones through calls, SMS/text messaging, mobile apps, and fax messages
- Internet—emails, webposts, webinterface, social networking sites such as web page, Facebook, Twitter, my gov, etc.
It should be noted here that with reference to the requirements of persons who are hearing and speech impaired or people with disability, the WHL is very sensitive.
The scheme has a provision to locate or track the number from which a call has been received.
In case a woman/girl has been interrupted during her call or is unable to give details on her problem or her address due to being sick or disabled then the same would be tracked and then within minutes the WHL will facilitate an emergency response through the nearest police station, hospital, or OSC.
Service Provided under WHL
The following service is provided for the women under this scheme:
Prevention of violence against women (VAW): Any aggrieved woman (AG) or somebody on her behalf upon contacting the WHL, her information will be attended to by the call responder appointed there.
Based on the emergency and the requirements that are explained by the caller, the responder will refer her to the appropriate support services such as medical aid, police assistance, or connect her to an OSC for professional counseling, shelter, legal aid, etc.
If the woman needs to be rescued from a violent situation or needs medical assistance then the police control room (PCR) van from the nearest police station or ambulance from the nearby hospital or 108 services would be dispatched.
Any woman in need of such assistance or someone on her behalf would call the WHL that will provide these details or refer the woman to the relevant department to access the same.
It is pertinent to note here that the WHL will provide assistance to the women regarding processes to be adopted to avail of the benefits of these government schemes and programs.
With reference to monitoring mechanisms, National Steering and Monitoring Committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Secretary, WCD comprising representations from the Ministry of Law and Justice,Ministry of Home Aﬀairs, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology,Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,along with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
The prime objectives of the National Steering and Monitoring Committee are to monitor and evaluate the functioning of all the WHL son a yearly basis.
A web-enabled management information system has been developed to provide user friendly, easily accessible single portal giving due regard to the confidentiality of women aﬀected by violence.
Let us suppose that an aggrieved woman approaches the WHL; then,her personal and case details will be fed into this system in the prescribed format.Further, a unique ID would be generated. Based on this ID alone the case would be followed up by the authorities right from the district to the central level.
However, this system is also be used to access accurate information regarding the network of institutions and resources available and able to provide medical, legal, and shelter support to the distressed women in a State/Union Territory (UT).
For this purpose, a resource directory has been collated from resourcemappingattheStatelevelanduploadedtothecomputermanagedbytheITstaﬀ.
Furthermore,thissoftwarewillbeutilizedtoprovideinformationaboutalltheschemesand programs run by the Central/State Government for the empowerment of women and girls.
For example, if a woman calls seeking information about the widow pensionscheme, the same would be provided to her along with details of the oﬃcer concerned (in theparticular district where she resides) whom she needs to approach for accessing the same,etc.
Location of Helpline Center
The WHL is universalized through short code 181 toll-free number by using/augmenting the infrastructure of the existing helplines that are working at the State/UT level.
The States and Union Territories will have the choice of locating the Helpline Centre as per their requirement in the capital or in any other city.
Choosing an appropriate location for the WHL is very important due to the fact that its integration with the OSC is mandatory for both the State and Union Territories.
Responses of the WHL
The immediately aggrieved caller is always provided with details of primary support on its way through PCR van/ambulance, etc. pertaining to the rescue, medical, or shelter requirement, and within 2 minutes the information will be sent to the relevant station house officer (SHO)/district magistrate/superintendent of police/deputy superintendent of police/chief medical officer/project officer/district officer/OSC. The case will be followed up within 24 hours of time.
The requested information will be provided to the caller and the case will be closed.
Guidance and counseling needing calls:
The responder will make a reference call to the OSC for providing emotional counseling and the case will be closed.
Harassment of Women via Phone Calls
The distressed caller has to provide relevant information to the WHL number. Then the Helpline will forward the information of the number from which calls are being received to the police.
Thereafter, the police authorities will note down the details and call the number to instructthe concerned person to refrain from calling and texting.
As a final step in this regard, the WHL will followup with the complainant in not more than 24 hours.
Harassment of Women through Social Networking Sites
The caller has to provide information to the WHL number. The uniform resource locator (URL) is requested through the email and will ask her whether she wants to take action against it.
If she says yes, then the written complaint will be filed and the complaint will be forwarded to the cybercrime cell for further investigation.
In other cases, the URL is sent to Facebook, Google, and other social networking sites office with a request for blocking the page, email, etc. and finally, the webpage will be blocked.
Sexual Harassment of Women
The caller has to provide information to the WHL number. The call responder will initiate a conference call with the additional superintendent of police, SHO, Mahila Thana, concerned police station,or any other dedicated number of the police authority of the specific location.
Then they connect to the woman through a conference call directly with the specified police officials of the concerned location. Then the concerned officials will trace her location and within 10 minutes, the help will reach the woman.
As a follow-up, the helpline call responder will call the woman in distress after 25 minutes to record her feedback regarding the complaint.
Police Not Registering the Complaint of Women
In case the police are not willing to register a complaint from the distressed woman,then a call will be made from the helpline to the concerned police station asking for the information about that particular complaint.
Consequently, the concerned police station will register the complaint of the distressed woman.
After that, a first information report (FIR)is lodged to be sent to the Helpline Manager with the attestation.
In other cases, if the police officials allege that it is a false complaint, then the conference call will be initiated between the woman and the concerned police station stating her complaint is false.
Let the woman respond to the allegations made by the concerned police official through a conference call. Then a call back to the concerned police station after 4 hours is made to ascertain the lodging of a complaint and take action upon it.
Awareness Generation and Outreach Activities
Needless to say, outreach and awareness-generation activities are the two key components of the WHL. In addition, these awareness activities will also act as a measure to ensure the prevention of VAW.
The grass-root workers and field functionaries under the Department of Social Welfare and other concerned departments at the state/district/village/urban/rural levels along with civil society groups, self-help groups (SHG), and individuals are sensitized to create awareness of the WHL.