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Friday, April 16, 2021

Safe houses and helpline for interfaith, inter-caste couples in Delhi

In 2018, the Supreme Court had directed the state to create special cells in every district comprising the superintendent of police and district social welfare officers.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 28, 2021 9:04:56 am
interfaith marriage newsThe helpline for women in Delhi, 181, will double up as a 24-hour helpline for special cells created to help inter-caste and interfaith married couples seeking protection from harassment(file)

The helpline for women in Delhi, 181, will double up as a 24-hour helpline for special cells created to help inter-caste and interfaith married couples seeking protection from harassment. The couples will also be moved to safe houses if needed, and protective service officers will be provided to them based on threat perceptions, states a new standard operating procedure the Delhi government has come up with.

In 2018, the Supreme Court had directed the state to create special cells in every district comprising the superintendent of police and district social welfare officers.

The Social Welfare Department made the procedure public earlier this month.

“DCPs shall bring the entire facts in the knowledge of the district magistrate and convey the requirement of the couple for their stay in ‘safe house’ if the facts so reveal and the couple in distress require the same. Adequate security shall be provided to the couple in the form of PSO (protective service officer) and the safe house shall also be secured by the DCP of the area. The couple shall be briefed about the threat to them and in no case will they be exposed till the issue is resolved,” it states.

At present, a safe house has been set up in Kingsway Camp, spread over an area of 60 square yards with two rooms, a toilet and a kitchen. It can accommodate three couples “whose relationship is opposed by their families or local community and khaps”. Another safe house is being set up at the same location.

However, it is not mandatory for couples to stay at safe houses. “In case the couple does not want to stay in such safe houses, the special cell shall provide protection to them, as per the threat perception, at place of stay,” the SOP states.

The apex court had in 2018 passed an order to protect couples choosing interfaith or inter-caste marriages after NGO Shakti Vahini filed a petition against “honour killings”.
The bench headed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had asked states to look into the creation of safe houses for such couples.

Telecallers working with the 181 helpline will have to follow the SOP and inform callers about ways in which the state can help them. They will refer cases to the special cells in each district.

The area DCP will then take over and take down the complaint, following which an enquiry will be initiated. It will also be established that both individuals are adults.

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