It was a coincidence that Kerala introduced a special scheme, ‘Nirbhaya’, in June 2012 for the safety of women and children. Soon after the Dec 16 gang rape in Delhi that year, the centre too introduced a scheme in that name.
Minister for Social Welfare M.K. Muneer said Kerala had made progress, going forward in a huge way to take care of its women and children.
‘We have reached a position where various departments are now collaborating in taking care of the safety and security of women and children,’ Muneer told reporters.
‘The highlight of this is a Nirbahaya cell which will be formed in a month’s time, besides extending the ‘one-stop point’ to all taluk hospitals in the state shortly,’ he said after a meeting of the executive committee of ‘Nirbhaya’ in the state capital Thursday.
Muneer explained that the one-stop point was the first place where a victim of violence could be brought. Authorities would immediately attend to her, and take necessary legal and other steps. At present, the one-stop point is located in the district hospitals in each of the 14 districts of the state, and also in seven other state-owned hospitals.
Among the agencies collaborating with the ‘Nirbhaya’ project is Kudumbhasree (the state-supported women-oriented programme), Jagratha Samithi and Mahila Samakhya (two bodies supported by the state and central governments, respectively) working in the education and empowerment of women, and the state police and health departments.
‘We are now extending this programme to all schools in the state. The childline number will have to be displayed in every classroom. As the first step, we will be giving special training to select teachers from every school, who will then impart it to other teachers and even the parents, on what should be done to protect the rights of children,’ Muneer said.
Manjula Bharathy, top official of Kudumbhasree, said so far a crime mapping exercise has been undertaken to locate vulnerable areas in each of the 77 village councils. It would soon be extended to other councils too.
‘The neighbourhood groups (grassroot-level unit of Kudumbhasree) will play the role of finding out if there is any exploitation of women and children in homes, and they will take up the issues with law enforcing authorities,’ Bharathy said.
The judiciary has already set up the first fast track court to try cases emanating from ‘Nirbhaya’ at Kochi and sanction has been accorded to set up two more such courts in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.
‘There is usually a delay in the trial in these types of cases. We are in the process of sensitising the judiciary about the need for speedy trial. For that, we will request the judiciary to conduct video trial of victims,’ Muneer said, adding that the state government had already submitted a Rs.200-crore special proposal for ‘Nirbhaya’ to the centre.
That proposal was made before the centre set up the Rs.1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund for the protection of women after the brutal Dec 16, 2012, gang rape of the 23-year-old in a moving bus in Delhi. The woman, who later died of her injuries, was referred to in the media as Nirbhaya (fearless one) as under the law a rape victim cannot be named or identified.
The centre announced the special Nirbhaya Fund in memory of the brave rape victim. An RTI application recently revealed that the Rs.1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund of the centre has lain unused.