1090 Women Power Line Success Stories
Women empowerment and its vociferous espousing seem to be the new third wave feminism talk of the town. You’re bombarded these days left, right and centre with subtle and not so subtle messages where products, companies and individuals stand by feminism and yet on women’s day we see advertisements asking women to celebrate their womanhood by going out and treating themselves to a day of reckless spending. Perpetuating the stereotype much?
There seems to be a rather confusing dichotomy emerging in public opinion on women’s issues and action taken on the same. While it is all well and good that these issues are now part of everyday tete a tete; we seldom find actions that are preventive rather than corrective. The trend seems to vocally condemn and shame regressive mindsets and at the same time passively allows them to continue. That fact the even in today’s time, women do not feel safe in public spaces and must think twice before stepping out shows the disparity in talk and action. Are we really doing enough to change the way issues regarding women safety and parity are dealt with in society?
The 1090 women’s helpline launched in 2012 in Uttar Pradesh is a shining example of an initiative meant to take real time action to make women feel safe as well as promote and empower people within the society to find a solution to the social ills facing women. The 1090 was started in 2012 and is a one state one number service to handle cases of sexual harassment. Women in UP can access the helpline from anywhere in the state and lodge complaints against those who harass them. The complainant does not have to physically go to the police station to register an FIR and the identity of the complainant is kept hidden. A special cadre of women constables attends the calls and provide timely help to victims. All complaints can be tracked online. Most number of harassment complaints were reported from Lucknow (94,109) followed by Kanpur Nagar (22,593), Allahabad (16,928), Varanasi (16,599), Agra (11,067), Sitapur (10,432) and Meerut (10,356). Analysis of data also revealed that more than 52% of the distress calls were made by students (2,33,482). When it was brought to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s notice that some women were unable to get through the helpline due to heavy traffic, the CM ordered for the lines and staff at the 1090 power helpline to be doubled. The Smartphone user can use the WPL application, i.e. Shakti app. With the help of the app “Shakti 1090”, victims can record audio and video clip and send them to the police control.
The entire process is divided into stars which act as measures at each stage. For instance star one is when the victim registers her complaint and star two is when the male cop would send a first warning to the accused. Since its launch on 15 July 2012 there have been a total of 4,88,378 complaints, out of which 38,201 have been solved. DIG Navneet Sikera has seen the project germinate from an idea, at a seminar on Safety of Women organised at Kanpur by HT, to its second stage being started currently. The second phase of the women power line will see a selection of rural and urban girls assume the role of power angels who will deal with the 1090 helpline. These ‘power angels’ will work as a link between female students, Women Power Line and the police.
The helpline solves the dual issues of first tackling the incidents at hand and second allowing for a safe platform for women to discuss and deliberate on pertinent issues. Due to the stigma attached to such issues and the inability of open society to discuss them freely without victim shaming, there have been several cases in the past where issues went unreported due to the victim’s own fears of being shamed in society. Timely action also ensures that perpetrators who were previously under the false illusion that the law is not equipped to deal with such miscreants are brought to justice. Follow up with complainants ensures the safety of the women.
The response to the helpline has been very encouraging. We hope that in the future, instead of acting as a specialised intervention in ensuring the safety of women, the general police force and law and order situation in the state are sufficient to make the women feel safe. The dedication of all those who made this helpline a success and the courage of all the women who used it is admirable. Taking one step further on the normative ladder, one would hope that there is a change in the mindsets of those who necessitate the creation of such helplines and in the future fully understand the depravity of their actions.