If you are a women, the chances are that you have been at the receiving end of sexual harassment in some form or the other; being groped on a moving bus or being catcalled at, or even being made to listen to sexist jokes. Unfortunately, what happens in most cases is that women accept it as a sad reality of living in India. And unless the assualt is severe, very few women actually come forward to report it to the police. According to Amnesty International, only 1 in every 100 women reports sexual violence.
To empower women to come forward to report, Amnesty International India is running an online and on-ground campaign called #WhenIFileAnFIR this Women's Day. The campaign which went live on March 1st, asks for women to share videos about what they want from the police when they file an FIR pertaining to sexual violence.
This campaign comes on the heels of the NGO’s Ready To Report campaign which was launched in collaboration with the Bengaluru City Police in July 2015, to enable women in the city to report sexual violence with safety and dignity. As part of the campaign, police officials in around 10 police stations around Bengaluru took a pledge to ensure that women feel safe and confident while filing an FIR. Several gender sensitisation workshops to be held at the stations have been planned too.
Participants at the workshop at Indira Nagar. Pic: Gopika Bashi
Women share their concerns when they approach the police. Pic: Gopika Bashi
Gopika Bashi, Women's Rights Researcher and Campaigner at Amnesty, shares what some police constables stated at the workshop which was held at the Indira Nagar police station: “Today, I understood the public's sense of fear and discomfort with the police,” and “I learned that we must treat each and every case equally”.
“Do not ask me to go to another police station”
Amnesty has created a microsite which has information on the #WhenIFileAnFIR campaign. Videos, photos and social feeds that women share in response to the campaign will be collated here.
And the responses received so far have been varied, with women being vocal about their expectations from police personnel, as well as recounting some of their experiences. One young woman says, “When I file an FIR, don’t ask me to go to another police station“. Another says, “When I file an FIR, I want to feel safe walking into the police station at night”.
A reaction from a woman who was sexually assaulted is particularly disturbing. She says, “I addressed the complaint to the police inspector and wrote the subject - ‘Kidnap, sexual assault and molestation’. They told me not to mention sexual assault and kidnap, and asked me to keep only molestation in the subject.”
To participate in the campaign, all you need to do is take a short video/photo where you express yourself. Keep the message short and clear. For eg: “When I File An FIR, I don’t want to be judged”. Upload your video/photo on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) with the hashtag, #WhenIFileAnFIR.
Amnesty is also organising a roundtable discussion on March 8th at the Mangala Kalyana Mandapam in Koramangala from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm. This discussion is being organised in collaboration with the Karnataka State Police’s ‘Gender Sensitisation Police and People Friendly Project’.
Women from diverse backgrounds, including garment workers and young women, will be part of the discussions. The event will consist of round-table group discussions with mixed groups of police officials and women, during which women will have an opportunity to discuss their challenges and concerns related to reporting sexual violence. Around 40 women and 15 fifteen city police personnel from across the city are expected to attend.
Gopika says, “We will be sharing a compilation of the responses we receive from the #WhenIFileAnFIR campaign with the police officials at the roundtable.” Through this, police officials could possibly become cognizant of the behaviour (of police officials) that does or does not help women report sexual violence in a safe and dignified manner.
Gopika adds, “Unlike Delhi or Maharashtra, the Karnataka Police currently does not have guidelines that need to be followed for reporting and investigation of sexual crimes. These guidelines are typically issued by the DGP. What we are looking to do in the long run is ensure that there are government mechanisms in place which will list out the due process to be followed, and the systems to support this.”
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