Women's safety in Chennai: Solutions to fight sexual harassment

Trauma not easy to overcome, but support systems can help them feel safe

Published: 26th March 2022 07:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th March 2022 09:03 AM   |  A+A-

Police app, government schemes, and counselling centres offer the much-needed support for survivors of sexual harassment | R Satish Babu

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Women undergo various form of  sexual violence in public spaces, from unwelcome sexual remarks, gestures to rape. The safety of women has become a concern, but the following support systems are available to help them feel safe.

Also read: Footover bridges unsafe for women in Chennai

Kavalan SOS

Developed by the Tamil Nadu police, the SOS app has been downloaded over 10 lakh times. People residing in Tamil Nadu, especially women and the elderly, can use the app whenever they feel threatened. Police help will reach them at the earliest.

There is a red button on the app, which, when pressed, sends a distress call to the nearby control room.

A senior police officer spoke about an incident in Kancheepuram wherein a woman was being molested by a duo while walking home from work.

“She opened the app and pressed the button while she was being tailed by the duo. The distress call reached the control room and based on the phone location, the personnel identified a nearby patrol,” said the officer. When the patrol reached the spot, the men had waylaid her.

They were arrested, the officer said. Though the app has been available for years, it gained popularity after mentioning in Etharkum Thuninthavan, a Suriya-starrer.

Also read: Women's safety in Chennai: Police apathy aiding predators?

Thozhi scheme

When a harassment survivor is undergoing trauma, the arrival of police, which evokes the interest of the neighbours, adds to the injury. In some cases, survivors neither wish to visit a police station nor want a visit by police. To help them, pink patrol personnel visit the house dressed in civilian clothes to record statements.

The survivors, while contacting the control room or police personnel, can ask the officers to arrive discreetly. “The scheme is used mostly while dealing with child survivors. The officers park the vehicle a couple of blocks away from the house and visit the family posing as kin. The statement and counselling is done by visiting personnel,” said G Shymala Devi, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime against Women and Children. 

Counselling centres

The counselling centre was established under Safe City Projects for women safety in public places from Nirbhaya Fund at the Office of the City police commissioner. It is named, “Nirbhaya Specialised Counselling and Support Centre for Women”. Social counselling, legal counselling, and child psychological counselling are provided at the centre. 

The counsellors said that since the inauguration they haven’t received anyone who faced harassment in public places. However, women with family issues or abuse sometimes recount the first instance they faced harassment.

This TNIE series examines issues faced by women in public spaces & what can be done to address them

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