To ensure that cases of sexual violence that may have taken place during the lockdown do not go unreported, police stations in northern suburbs of Mumbai, which has a high density of slums, are holding counselling meetings at slum colonies.
Since last Monday, police officers have held 86 such meetings with women from these areas. In all, the northern suburbs have 152 slum colonies.
Additional Commissoiner of Police (North Region) Dilip Sawant told The Indian Express, “To ensure that no case of sexual assault goes unreported, we have come up with a strategy to reach out more to slum colonies, make a list of habitual offenders and teach children the difference between good and bad touch.”
Usually, interventions by social organisations in schools and the community or through sensitive programmes like ‘Police Didi’ help in reaching out to children or their parents. But with the Covid-19 pandemic, experts fear that in case children face sexual abuse, these usual support systems, including teachers and school friends, may not be available for them to confide in.
Aware that most rapes are committed by those known to the victim, the police are also encouraging families to come forward and file complaints even against relatives. “In our experience, if a relative is involved in some such offence, families are hesitant to complain against them. We are trying to assure that they do not need to fear anyone,” said an officer.
Another officer said that they are taking the help of local area corporators to reach out to more people. “While so far, no specific complaint has come forward that would result in an FIR, we have made a list of 63 people, who were found to be habitual sexual offenders in the last 10 years. We have taken preventive action against these people, so that they know that the police have an eye on them,” the officer added.
He further said that they are asking women about men who are known for harassing them and taking action.
Besides, the police are focusing on crimes against children. “We have held counselling sessions on good and bad touch so that children can report any attempts at sexual assault. We also encourage family members to report any such cases even if the person is a relative,” an officer said.
Maintaining that the police are taking cases of sexual harassment on priority, Sawant said that in a recent case of a four-year-old girl being raped at Aarey, a chargesheet was filed against the accused within 12 days before the court.
“Our aim is to prevent such cases rather than look into the matter after a sexual offence is registered,” he added.
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