Mitra 181, a helpline for women and girls, launched on March 27 has completed one year. The Technopark-based initiative by Kerala State Women's Development Corporation, part of a nationwide helpline network, has handled more than 100,000 distress calls and brought solace to innumerable callers, both men and women. From domestic violence to lovers’ trysts and escapades, from child abuse to street harassment to cruelty to the aged, from emergency services such as medical aid on train journeys to ambulance services in remote locations, from cyber crimes to bizarre episodes, the requests from frantic callers have been many and varied. The centre works 24/7 in 3 shifts 365 days a year and receives an average of 300 calls per day. Of these about 17 per cent are night-time calls.
A woman and her three-year-old child are locked out of the matrimonial home by her in-laws. Their dowry demands have to be met. Her husband is in the Gulf. She calls Mitra 181 for help. The police are informed and they turn up at her doorstep but they are unable to locate the in-laws. They make enquiries with other relatives and draw a blank. The woman had already filed a request in the Magistrate’s court to obtain a protection order. That was pending too. Soon the mother-in- law throws the complainant’s bed and baggage out of the house. She complains again to Mitra 181, who in turn informs the police. Police go over and warn the in-laws. Two weeks later the absentee husband returns and demands divorce. He offers to give the aggrieved wife Rs 4 lakh and 3 cents as compensation, and Rs 3,000 monthly maintenance for his son. A few months later the divorce is finalised. The woman now lives with her mother.
A minor boy shares nude pictures of his 16-yearold girlfriend on social media sites. When blackmailing begins the girl’s brother files a police complaint and calls Mitra 181 from the police station. He is guided to the cyber cell and childline is also informed. The offender is eventually sent to an observation home. A girl reports that her neighbour is showering abusive words and exhibiting his private parts. She had already filed a police complaint and the police had warned him but the behaviour did not stop. Mitra 181 contacts the police station and finally the man is arrested and jailed. A boy and his friends land up at a de-addiction centre when his sister complains that they are consuming alcohol in her mother’s house and abusing and threatening her. A man lands up in jail when a woman informs Mitra 181 that he is mentally and physically abusing her and even trying to abuse their 11-yearold daughter. A techie lands up in jail without bail for jilting his lover after taking away 20 sovereigns from her.
A 19-year-old Hindu girl wants to marry a Muslim boy. She elopes with him, they are caught, and she is now locked up by her parents. There are death threats. She seeks the intervention of Mitra 181. Says she is pregnant. Fears her people will kill her and frame it as a suicide. Mitra 181 speaks to the boy and other stakeholders and seeks police aid. The boy is asked to file a police petition. When he goes to the police station not only is his complaint not accepted, he is also threatened and advised to withdraw from the relationship. Then Mitra 181 contacts the women’s cell but gets a lukewarm response. Suspecting some untoward influence, Mitra 181 informs the local SP, who initiates mediation talks between the families. Eventually, it is agreed that the marriage will be performed within four days. In the meantime the girl is referred for counselling and pregnancy test. Soon there is another distress call from the girl saying her mother did not let her meet the counsellor and also roughed her up. Her parents are also planning to shift residence. Once again the matter is referred to the police station but their cooperation is not forthcoming.
Once again the SI is requested to intervene. The girl’s parents are asked to bring her to the station and following her appeal she is shifted to a shelter home. The parents then refuse to hand over her certificates and other documents required for registration of marriage. Once again police intervention helps. The parents soon reach the shelter with some political leaders and try to take her back the home. She refuses. Eventually she is permitted to go with her lover. What happens to the lovelorn couple is another story. Thus Mitra 181 enters another year of effective functioning, providing instant support and solace to the women of Kerala. And the frequent thank you calls from the women beneficiaries are their instant rewards. Says Bindu V. C., Managing Director of KSWDC: “Our aim is to come to the help of women facing personal crisis situations, especially when they have no one else to turn to. I think we have been able to establish our credibility within a short period. With the support of the law enforcement authorities and other governmental agencies we can do a great deal more in the future. Our experience has shown that more shelter homes for women are needed. We are making efforts to establish as many as we can with the limited resources at our command.”...