In order to help women in distress, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) started the phone ‘Helpline’ in March 2000. The phone number is advertised and the women in distress are encouraged to seek counseling through telephone between 9.30am to 6.00pm from Monday to Friday.
Trained Counselors listen to the problems narrated on phone and counsel the complainant to solve her problem as far as possible. Problems which require counseling of the other party against which complaint has been made, are advised to be registered in the Commission personally from Monday to Friday between 9.30am to 6.00pm. These are attended by DCW Members in the family Counselling Unit cell ‘Sahyogini’.
The ‘Helpline’ attends to 20-25 calls per day. The areas in which counseling is provided and cases have been registered include:
- Matrimonial discord
- Family adjustment problems
- Physical and mental harassment by in-laws
- Harassment by neighbours or others
- Child custody
- Maintenance, divorce and desertion
- Physical abuse
- Emotional distress
- Harassment at work place
- Legal advice and implications
- Other miscellaneous problems of women
- Harassment related to police
- Non co-operation from police
- Sexual harassment at workplace
- Property dispute
- Missing / kidnapping
The ‘Helpline’ number is 23379181
‘Sahyogini’ the family counseling cell
The Commission has a family counseling unit called ‘Sahyogini’ from the time of its inception in 1997. Sahyogini has a panel of Members, usually 5 in number, each of them are assisted by a lawyer who guides them in laws related to women. Sahyogini exercises the powers of a civil court to ensure compliance of its summons for witnesses and for evidence.
The complaints which are registered in the telephonic ‘Helpline’ are marked to one of the Members who summon both the parties for hearing and counseling. Often disputes are settled through counseling and families are reconciled. A follow up is also maintained about the cases handled by the unit. The number of cases handled by the unit has been steadily increasing since its inception. Through ‘Sahyogini’ the Commission has created a friendly space where sensitive family issues can be discussed, counseling taken and reconciliation attempted at the pre litigation stage.
Cases attended in ‘Sahyogini’ pertain to the following areas:
1. Harassment by Husband/In-laws/others,
2. Harassment of old women by relatives,
3. Dowry related issues,
4. Domestic violence,
5. Harassment by neighbours,
6. Extra marital relationships,
The aims and objectives of the CICs are to extend support to the victims of rape. This includes, counseling services for the victim and her family, get MLC done at the hospital, register FIR in the police station, give emotional support to the victim and prepare her to face the court proceedings.
The Commission is the nodal agency of the CICS and it provides financial support to the NGOs working as CICs.
Rape Crisis Cell
The Rape Crisis Cell (RCC) was started in the Commission in 2005. It was established in view of the rising trend in sexual abuse of women in Delhi, especially minor girls. The Cell functions with the help of lawyers, who are assisted by the Crisis Intervention Centres (CICs) functioning in the nine police districts of Delhi. The CICs help the RCC lawyers to identify cases of rape in different areas of Delhi. They, then, meet the rape victims and their family members and provide assistance in terms of counseling, filing FIR, facing trials in the court, free legal service etc. Besides these assistances, the Cell also acts as a co-ordinating agency for services like, medical, mental health, shelter and financial assistance to the victims with the help of a network of NGOs. The victim, who is in a traumatic state because of the sexual assault, is helped by these lawyers to prepare for facing the court proceedings. They actively oppose the bail applications of the accused and also assist the Public Prosecutors in preparing the charge sheet and arguments to put the accused behind bars. The RCC lawyers provide emotional support to the victim and her family, by visiting them frequently. They also help in the rehabilitation of the victim.
The RCC works 24x7 throughout the year. The telephone number is 23370557.
Twenty-four hour Mobile Helpline - 1800-11-9292
In order to provide immediate relief to women in distress, the 24-hour Mobile Helpline Van was flagged off in July 2008 by Smt. Sheila Dikshit, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi. The Van was outsourced to All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) and the toll free number 1800-11-9292 was released by Smt. Barkha Singh, Chairperson DCW on 3rd September, 2009. Coordinator and three counselors can be contacted on this number by women in distress at any time during the day. When calls are received on the toll-free number, the counselors inform the concerned area police station, so that one police personnel, preferably a lady police officer, may reach the place of incident at somewhat the same time as the Helpline counselors and help the woman in overcoming the distress. They counsel the people involved in the incident or get FIR registered with the help of the police personnel visiting the site. If required, the victim is taken to ‘Bapnu Ghar’, a shelter home for the destitute at AIWC, and is provided shelter till her case is solved.
The 24-hour mobile helpline has provided relief to women of Delhi in cases which are of varied types. While a large number of calls are from women who are victims of domestic violence, the counselors have also rescued women who have been abandoned by their families and given them shelter
in Bapnu Ghar. In one case a mentally deranged woman was rescued from the street, admitted in a hospital and later sent for treatment to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAAS), where she is receiving care and treatment.
Mahila Panchayat (MP) was launched in 2001. It is an initiative taken up by the Commission for legal empowerment of women and for distress redressal at the community level. Groups of community women, identified by NGOs, form a panchayat in their area, take up local disputes, counsel the two parties and assist in reducing violence in their locality. There are two paralegal workers in a panchayat. These women are selected from the community, are trained in the different laws pertaining to women and guided in the process of handling a case and counseling women in distress.
In 2004 the Mahila Panchayats were revised and 36 MPs became active in the field under the supervision of 16 NGOs. The cases taken up by them pertained to domestic violence, alcoholism and other issues. They were able to resolve most of the cases at their level, seeking help of the Commission only when required.
In 2010 there has been a third revision of Mahila Panchayats. At present there are 58 NGOs which are managing two panchayats each in different areas of Delhi. Awareness camps are organized at the community level to create awareness in the women and men of the community about their legal rights, social, family and health issues.
The pre-marital counseling centre was started in July 2008. A growing number of failed marriages in and around Delhi necessitated the need for opening such a centre in the Commission, where Counselors can counsel the pre-nuptial couples on various issues related to marriage, such as, having realistic expectations with each other, perceiving each other as equal players in home making, being sensitive to each other’s feelings etc. The parents of both sides are also counseled to provide physical and emotional support to the new couple and positively guide them to adjust to the changed life-situations.
Cases of young adults going to get married as well as young couples recently married are regularly received at the centre. Some of the problems foreseen are adjustment in a joint family when the girl comes from a nuclear family, unwillingness to do household chores etc. The problems between married couples include intolerance of each others habits, ways of functioning and over dependence on parents etc. Sometimes counseling is also given on phone, when the client is seeking some advice regarding marriage.
The pre-marital centre functions from 9.30am to 6.00pm, from Monday to Friday. The contact number is 23370146.