All the attention sexual violence in India has been getting across the globe, has not only unveiled the horror women face, but it has also shown the gaps in responses these crimes get, especially the low reporting of acts of sexual violence. Reporting is key to fight against sexual violence. Rape is the least reported crime, yet every country faces sexual violence. One of the primary reasons why victims prefer to stay silent, among others, is the fear of going and pressing charges at the police. They are afraid of being shamed, further blamed, stigmatized, being asked unnecessarily intrusive questions, not believed, and of being generally not well received. It isn’t’ surprising with the police’s poor record in the treatment of their victims, especially in India. But there is hope! Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) just launched a great tool called The Virtual Police Station, and many more gender sensitization trainings of the police force are happening, so the issue is starting to get some traction.
This website and initiative were created to start dismantling the fear victims feel before going to the police. I will focus on the part of the website designed towards responding to the “female victim” in particular, however, the website and its options, as you discover the virtual Delhi police station are quite useful and helpful for any Indian citizen. With just a few mouse clicks, you can enter every room of a police station and learn about important procedures like arrest, complaint registration of sexual assault, FIR registration, storage of case files, and more.
By clicking on different icons you can enter each room of the police station and learn about procedures and their rules, and about the different role of the police officers and people, such “male victim” or “witness” and “reception” and various objects. It shows short videos, and gives vital information for any citizen wanting to press charges or understand their rights. For female victims of sexual violence, the information shared on the site is vital. It takes you through all the stages of pressing charges, while providing you with the legal and illegal practices along the way to make sure any woman can assert her rights when reporting a crime. For example, at reception they inform you (among other things):
“FIRs of stipulated crimes against women must be recorded by a woman police officer, or any woman officer. Refusing to register the FIR in these cases is a punishable offence (Proviso to Section 154 (3) CrPC)”
It informs the visitor that there is a “Women’s Room” which exists for the sole purpose of making women comfortable sharing their story and complaint at the police station. This cell also takes care of children.
The website also does a good job at sharing different acts and laws on sexual violence such as the “Committee to Amend Criminal Law (“Justice Verma Committee”).”
The website is a source of information and reassurance, at all levels, for every citizen, but particularly for women. It may be the root of confidence for women to assert their rights, and demand procedures be followed and so on. When someone knows their rights, it empowers them to demand they are not taken away from them.
Giving virtual tours, hearing police officers talk, and having all this information readily available demystifies the police station, and makes it look more accessible. It may help to make victims fee just a little less helpless. Of course it is now up to the police force to transform the virtual into an everyday reality. They have a crucial role to play in the aftermath of sexual assault and rape, and are key to recovery, reporting, and indictment.
I strongly suggest you go check the website out!
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