The Maharashtra State Commission for Women is going to start a helpline for women to exclusively cater to victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence or sexual harassment. In a bid to expand the commission’s outreach, women can now dial the helpline number where two trained counsellors will be available to register their complaints. The commission will then inform local police, collector or women and child development (WCD) officer to intervene and assist the complainant. “The service will start this month,” said Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson of the commission, adding the helpline will help women living in interior Maharashtra who are forced to travel all the way to the commission’s office to file their complaint.
Each complainant will be given a token number that will be registered on an online database for state government or complainant to track.
The commission has also sought approval of the state government to appoint each child development project officer (CDPO) as a protection officer for women in their blocks. The additional posting have been implemented in Marathwada, Mumbai, Amravati, and Nagpur so far. Other districts are to follow suit. The CDPO will be asked to assist the victim in their jurisdiction once she files a complaint.
The state government already has 104 helpline for mental health counselling. The women commission’s helpline will focus on counselling services to women in conflict and extend help to those requiring legal intervention. “If there is a domestic violence case, the counsellor will guide the victim and also her husband,” Rahatkar said. “Women in distress should know there is a commission for redressal just a call away,” she added. In the unorganised sector, where a company has less than 10 employees and no internal complaint committee under Vishakha guidelines, the commission helpline will also raise awareness on attending sexual harassment complaints from workplace.
In the helpline, a victim will get her token number by message. The offender against whom the complaint is registered will receive either an e-mail or message about the complaint. According to state government officials, counsellors have been trained on handling calls, and training sessions have been conducted for police and CDPOs to activate response and immediately provide aid to victims.