Assistant sub-inspector Archana Patil is these days called ‘didi’ by scores of women from slums in suburban Chembur who would otherwise hesitate to talk to men and women in uniform to share their problems.
Thanks to Mumbai Police’s project ‘Police Didi’, the hesitation seems to be disappearing. Like Patil, there are over 1,000 such ‘police didis’, who after their official work hours, reach out to young girls and women of all ages in slums.
Under the project ‘Police Didi’, these female officers talk to the women and girl from slums about the problems they face, especially those pertaining to sexual harassment.
Launched around two years ago in collaboration with few city-based NGOs, the project engages women personnel from 93 police stations across the city. They are mostly constable and some are ASI level officers as well.
“Now, women living in slums are coming forward more frequently and confidently to share their problems, including that of sexual harassment. This has been made possible only because of our trained women constables have established a rapport with them through regular meetings,” Deputy Commissioner (Operations), Mumbai Police, Ashok Dudhe said.
Initially 8-10 women personnel were shortlisted from each police station and were given training on how to talk to women and young girls about sexual abuse.
The project, Dhude said, was launched with an objective to curb instances of child sexual abuse. It first began from Wadala, Govandi, Cheetah Camp, Deonar and Shivaji Nagar, all eastern suburbs, where such cases were rampant.
“After the training, they (women personnel) were asked to visit private and municipal schools under their respective jurisdiction, and conduct interactive sessions with girls. The girls were told about the difference between good and bad touch, by strangers, relatives or known person within or outside school,” said Dudhe, who is also a Mumbai Police spokesperson.
The Police ‘didis’ also keep a close eye on activities of men in their respective areas, especially around schools.
“In almost 90 per cent of rape cases of minors, rapist is a person known to the victim. Therefore, we are also alerting and sensitising girls as well as their mothers,” he said.
He said that thanks to the project, cases lodged under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act have significantly come down.
ASI Archana Patil, attached to Chembur police station, termed the project as “social responsibility” of the police.
“For the last one year I am involved with this, I have noticed a sea change in the mindset of people we have interacted with. Now, they are more open to share their problems. Even school-going girls have convinced their mothers that it is okay to come forward and report sexual abuse,” she said.
“We visit schools, particularly municipal-run ones and show them audio-video clips. We tell them the purpose of the screening the video. We also explain the same to their parents,” added Patil.
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