Indian Police Recruit Local Housewives To Help Them Crack Down On Crime

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In a country that has been known for its epidemic of gender violence, we’ve seen India step up to the plate in a number of ways to try and curb the number of incidents. Ever since the horrific news of the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in 2012, there has been an international media spotlight exposing a problem that has for far too long been kept under wraps in a society that prefers to present a conservative and positive image outwardly.

To learn more of the shocking gender-rooted violence and assault problem in India, we highly recommend reading our exclusive interview with Leslee Udwin, director of the ground-breaking documentary ‘India’s Daughter’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken publicly about wanting to tackle the issue and even launched a program that is focused on allowing more girls to be empowered by having access to an education, rather than be burdened with social stigmas that dictate gender roles.

The collective movement to free women from the scourge of violence that in many cases, sadly, is seen as a right and justified action on behalf of men who believe women are not equal to them (this is clearly shown in ‘India’s Daughter’), has seen initiatives to arm local women from being attacked, female-run local businesses spring up to cater to women who feel unsafe in society, and the media and celebrities bringing more awareness of the problem simply through their amplified voices and platforms.

A fairly new initiative is not just raising awareness about the deeply-rooted (in a number of ways) gender violence problem, they are also engaging women to be part of the solution. In May of 2015, the Mumbai police formed an alliance of local housewives as secret unofficial “detectives” for them, supplying them with information about rapists and attackers in the area after a spate of assaults had been reported.

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The Mumbai police trained 5 women from 5 different precincts to spot womanizers, drug addicts and anyone exhibiting anti-social behavior which could potentially be a threat to people in the community. A local officer told the press at the time that because of an increase in kidnappings of young girls, they started this pilot program with the intent to expand it to other areas in society such as colleges.

The program is now being replicated in other cities in the hope that it could add a layer of protection for women, by women. in a way that has not necessarily been utilized before. The Hindu paper reports that the Delhi police are enlisting the help of local housewives to be their eyes and ears in their focus to prevent and better prosecute crimes of domestic violence sexual assault and harassment.

The city of Delhi is referred to as the “rape capital” in the country because of its high rate of rape crimes. The city reported 1,813 rapes in 2014, up from 1,441 in 2013 according to the National Crime Records Bureau. In Mumbai the number of reported rapes was comparatively lower but there was a sharp spike between 2013 and 2014, from 391 to 607 cases. Nearly all of India’s custodial rape — 189 of 197 cases — was reported in Uttar Pradesh, which along with Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest numbers of alleged gang rapes.

Since the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident, the NCRB said there was a huge spike in incidents being reported, as it gave some the confidence to capitalize on the national and international spotlight being given to the gender violence epidemic. However, the raised awareness also allowed a dip in the number of reported attacks a few years later, which means anti-crime initiatives must continue.

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The Delhi housewives initiative is called ‘Operation Veerangana’ where the Central District police has decided to train dozens of housewives to spot and report crimes taking place in their immediate neighborhood. If successful, they will expand to all districts in the capital city.

A police representative told The Hindu that they see local housewives as the “silent observers” in society, and their involvement in community activities makes them valuable sources of information. These women are well-placed to hear about incidents involving domestic violence and sexual abuse, and that victims are more likely to open up to them as trusted peers.

Like the initiative in Mumbai, the Delhi “detective” housewives will be trained to spot certain crimes such as domestic violence, sexual abuse in the home and in places such as schools, as well as molestation and street crimes, and and report them to the police.

“The selected women volunteering for us will be trained to judge whether the revelations qualify as a crime and then gather further necessary details about it before informing us about it. We will try to convince the victims to allow us to pursue legal action against the perpetrators,” said senior police officer Mr. Parmaditya.

Another officer mentioned that the women will also receive a 15-day self-defense training course, although they will not be required to engage in any sort of physical confrontation as part of their duties.

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As the program builds up, the Delhi police want to also start enlisting younger girls and women in the workforce in order to expand their reach on tackling gender crimes. The women communicate with the central police through a WhatsApp chat group and are encouraged to take photos to document the attackers they see.

Initially they had a shortlist of 250 women, but it looks as if this could continue to grow based on the positive response. They plan to meet with the women every two weeks. The Hindu report states that many private detective agencies already enlist the help of local women in their investigations because of their ability to blend in to society.

In 2015 The Delhi police launched a similar program called ‘Operation Nirbheek’, where woman police officers engage with girl students at various schools, to spread awareness on sexual offenses. The campaign has led to dozens of girls coming forward with shocking revelations about sexual abuse by family members, teachers or unknown persons.

If this is anything to go by, utilizing women as valuable sources of information and the key to exposing more of the gender crimes which still happen silently and behind closed doors, it could go a long way to changing the cultural mindset toward women and gender equality, which is, in essence, at the root of many of these crimes. When women are not given equal status or opportunity in any society, they suffer.

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  1. Pingback: All New Cell Phones In India Will Have A Panic Button To Protect Women & Prevent Assault - GirlTalkHQ

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