Gender bias is not endemic to any particular region and exists all over the world, in both the developed and developing countries.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) is similarly a global health, human rights and development issue transcending geography, class, culture, age, race and religion affecting every community and country in the world.
Article 1 of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence, 1993 defines gender-based abuse as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.
Scenario in India
In India, gender based violence has multiple manifestations, from the more universally prevalent forms of domestic and sexual violence including rape, to harmful practices such as sati, dowry, honour killings, acid attacks, witch hunting, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, child marriage and sex selective abortion. India is also grappling with violence perpetuated by development, displacement, and communal incidents.
The Working Group on Women’s Agency and Empowerment, of the 12th Plan states that “Violence against a woman (VAW) affects her sense of self-esteem, demolishes her self confidence and is often used as a potent tool of subjugation and disempowerment” where women, constitute 48.46% of the country’s population.
Though the Constitution of India grants equality to women and also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women, so as to neutralize the cumulative socio-economic, educational and political disadvantages faced by them, women continue to be victims of disparate treatment, violence and crime.
Why a Bharosa Centre?
Over the years, the legal framework has been strengthened through women specific legislations, the most recent being the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, and Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. However, in spite of these enabling, protective and empowering legal provisions, the incidence of violence, harassment and torture, directed at women remain rampant in our society.
Apart from advocacy and awareness on existing laws and programmes, a Bharosa Centre that lends a helping hand to women affected by violence is an immediate requirement. Provision of handholding through designated Centres Studies have shown that setting up Bharosa Centres that provide medical, legal and psychological support services under one roof to women survivors of violence is a powerful step in the right direction towards resolving women’s issues.
Don't re-victimise the victim
Women survivors of violence face tremendous physical, emotional and psychological trauma which often re-victimizes them or throws up difficulties in the continuance of legal processes. Ensuring that women are not re-victimised and are treated with sensitivity provision are major concerns for the provision of these services.
As per current practice, a victim of sexual violence (accompanied or unaccompanied) has to go to a police station to lodge a complaint regarding the incident which may take between 6-10 hours. Sometimes the victim may directly go to the hospital in the first instance and then to the police station to lodge a complaint going back to the hospital for detailed medical examination and treatment if necessary. Once the complaint is registered the complainant has to be sent for medical examination under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC)
There is no provision for immediate psychological or legal counselling for such victims.
A Hand to Support, A Clenched Fist to Fight, A Voice to Raise, A Team to Console..
Usha Mehra Commission recommendations and success records of other countries
OSCC (One Stop Crisis Centre) which is a combination of organised intervention operating in woman-friendly environment and which has worked well in many countries is one of the key solutions to address this critical problem. For example in Malaysia, OSCC’s are based in public hospitals, and are jointly staffed by NGO and hospital representatives, providing a range of services including psychological, medical, legal, and social care. The same is also true for countries like Bangladesh, South Africa, England and Wales, Rwanda, Zambia and Australia.
Measures suggested by Justice Usha Mehra Commission to improve the safety and security of women, particularly in Delhi and the national capital region, include the setting up of One Stop Crisis Centres (OSCC) across India in order to provide support to the aggrieved woman in her struggle for justice
Drawing from experiences of different countries of the world and the one stop centres already functioning in India, the Hyderabad City Police and the Telangana Government have come up with the idea of Bharosa Centre which is a One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) with modifications to extend support to and instil confidence in women seeking justice.
The first of its kind centre in the country, Bharosa is an innovative and victim friendly centre set up by the Hyderabad City Police, with the sole aim of providing help at different levels under one roof till the victim is confident about dealing with her problems.
Unlike the existing one stop centres in the country, the Bharosa Centre works from the Centre of the City, is under the supervision of police officers, with the coordinated efforts of government departments, private organisations and NGOs.