With instances of sexual harassment on the rise and widespread ignorance of many victims on how to file a complaint, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to open ‘One stop health centres’ in the city. For starters, two centres will be opened on January 1 at KEM and Nair hospitals and their number will be increased subsequently, according to a civic official.
These centres will offer under one roof all kinds of assistance to the victim – legal, medical and psychological counselling. The centres will be manned by qualified staff, specially trained women so that a victim feels assured of getting proper assistance.
The victim will be helped to lodge a complaint against the man or men concerned. The aim is to ensure that the victim, who is already traumatised, is given proper guidance. At present, rape victims are sent by the police to their hospital at Nagpada. With the opening of these centres, the medical examination of the victim can be done at more hospitals.
The move is likely to be a morale boosters for several victims of sexual harassment, who often choose to keep quiet despite being educated. In a recent case, a law intern who was allegedly sexually harassed by a former Supreme Court judge last year took nearly a year to muster courage to talk about her ordeal.
The BMC is also planning to have a tie-up with NGOs which are focusing on women’s issues. It is felt that volunteers from such NGOs would be sensitive to gender issues and thus better equipped to handle the victims. The BMC will also take the help of the NGOs to lodge police complaints.
Dr Suhasini Nagda, director of medical education, BMC, confirmed the proposal to start the centres. She said: “Several experts are working on this unique project. We are giving finishing touches to the project and I am confident of starting it on January 1.”
Nirmala Samant-Prabhavalkar, member, National Commission for Women (NCW), has welcomed the move. She said there was a need to open more such centres across the country.
She observed that often a victim prefers to keep silent since she does not know whom to approach for assistance. Given this background, the setting up of the help centres will go a long way in encouraging victims of sexual harassment to come forwards and lodge complaints. Also, they will get timely and quality medical help, she noted.