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What Happens When A Female Cop Steps In To Investigate A Case Of Sexual Harassment

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Image Source: YouTube. For representation only.

Do you think she dialed 100 just for fun?” shouted my Investigating Officer(IO).

It was a Saturday morning when I woke up to receive a call from her. I was tired after a whole week of talking to the lawyers, police and my parents.

IO: “Good morning madam.

Me: “Good morning.

I thought that I would be asked to share some more mundane details about the night the incident happened. Or the police would want more information about the harasser.  But to my surprise, the IO had called to say that they had identified the car and the harasser.

She said, “Is it possible for you to come to the police station? The ACP would also like to meet you with regards to your complaint against the three male constables who were on duty that night.”

We were seated in the SHO office at the police station and this man was now trembling. All he could utter was, “please let me go…I have a wife and a six-month-old daughter”.

On April 20, 2019, I was followed and eve-teased by this man. I dialed 100 after which three male police officers called me but did nothing to help. I had barely managed to reach home. Standing in my balcony, making incessant calls to the police, I realized how vulnerable my life was. Even more vulnerable were the lives of other women who might be getting harassed at that moment and would be hoping that dialing 100 would save them.

The next morning I woke up differently. I knew I had to do something about the inefficiency of the police. Knowing that I would be asked to narrate the entire incident once again, I mustered the courage and reached the police station to file an FIR. The FIR was filed, the case was registered and I was assigned a woman sub-inspector (IO) who would look into my case.

When I first met my investigating officer amidst the humdrum of Saket District Court, I wondered if she would even follow through my case. My friends and family were humming the old narrative- “You must Thank God that you are safe. This country is like this. It is not worth your time. This is going to take a few years. It’s going to be a tedious process. Police are the worst in such matters.”

But to my surprise and to the surprise of everyone else, my IO had identified the guy within a week’s time. I was thrilled and scared at the same time. I did not want to meet the man as I was not yet prepared for the traumatic memories the meeting would bring out. I was pursuing this case out of anger. A deep sense of rage against the perpetrator’s audacity to eve-tease and follow me and well-managed anger against a system which lets these perpetrators do so.

A week later, I was at the police station to identify him and the car. In the SHO’s office, absorbed in all the paperwork, my IO prepared the documents which needed my signatures. Meanwhile, the SHO extended his apology for the male constable’s behavior and was eager to flaunt his female investigating officer’s hard work.

There is no denying that the police is exposed to a high degree of human apathy because they are faced with brutal crimes on a daily basis. They do not get enough leaves and work under strict deadlines. They are also the most undervalued and overworked as a result of witnessing the underbelly of society and the dark side of human nature every single day. But looking at my IO, I witnessed a completely different narrative.

Standing in front of me was a woman, who knew what she had signed up for. She seemed to have refused to let a perpetrator slip by because of system failure. She was standing tall with her undeterred spirit to crush any force that will attempt to commit crimes like sexual harassment or eve teasing. The perpetrator was identified and arrested. He gave lame responses when he was asked why he did what he did upon which the IO yelled at him.

The SHO, ACP told me that there is nothing to worry now as I signed the papers which reiterated that I had identified the car and the perpetrator. But when my IO told me that there is nothing to worry, it took a weight off my shoulders. I knew that I no longer have to carry the scene by myself.

I also realized that I am not just made out of flesh and bones. I felt independent as a woman. I went back home knowing that there is a woman who is dutiful and responsive towards her job and would do anything to make sure that my safety is ensured. She affirmed my faith in a system that is broken.

Anger propelled me to take action against my perpetrator. Today he knows that it is not alright to harass a woman because there are more and more women who are occupying positions of power. Unless there are more women holding important positions in the system, we cannot expect gender equality. Research conducted internationally clearly demonstrates that female police officers often respond more effectively to incidents of violence against women.

When I was leaving from the police station, I had one last chat with my IO where I told her how scared I was because people had told me the repercussions of filing an FIR. They would threaten you to take your complaint back. They may harass you again. It will take a long time before he is arrested. He will get out on bail and would follow you again. At which, she said “I know what you feel and I have seen many such cases. He will not dare to do this again. In case this happens once again and at any point in time, you feel that you are being followed just give me a call.”

When she said those words I experienced something which was not at all similar to when I heard those words from the male police officers. I felt certain of my safety. I knew that I matter and nothing can happen to me under her supervision and that was guaranteed.

One woman’s stance powers another woman’s stance. Knowing that there is another woman out there who is of my age, looks like me, who is dutiful in her job, I can rest assured of my safety. My safety will not be ascertained when I will become somebody’s daughter, sister, girlfriend or a wife. That is what women’s empowerment means.

We do not need men to support us and rescue us from men themselves. All we need is more headstrong, dutiful, standing their ground, doing their job and inspiring women like me, to lead a life that does not feel like it means nothing. Every woman’s power becomes every other woman’s power and in this so-called, careless man’s world, we need more empathetic, judicious women officers to restore a sense of balance and to let righteousness prevail.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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