Help centres for women give no legal aid, only send cases to cops

Bengaluru Safety Women

Help centres at police stations whose main function is to provide legal assistance to women complainant have been working only as counselling centres.

It is mandatory to have a women’s help desk in every police station in accordance with the Nirbhaya scheme. While there are help desks functioning in major police stations, they do not appear to give legal assistance.

Afreen A, who works in the help desk in a major police station in Bengaluru, informed The Observer: “There are many cases that come to us. We usually make both parties compromise and settle the matter among themselves. We usually just deal with family conflicts and issues like them. We don’t deal with serious issues; we just forward them to the police.”

Women complainants who face abuse from their family members are often sent back to their families without filing a complaint. 

“There was this old woman from Mysore who came to us to file a complaint regarding her family not letting her stay in the house. We called up her family members, who asked us to send her back, and we sent her to the bus stand,” Afreen shared.

Rashmi (name changed), a complainant who was sent by the police to the Nirbhaya Kendra in Majestic, said: “Police sent me here as they wanted me to settle the matter with the help of counsellors here. They have asked me to write a request so that I get the help I need. I don’t know how to move the matter legally.”

The Nirbhaya Kendra office was opened earlier this year to assist women and children if they faced any issue. There were no lawyers present in the office. There were a few counsellors. 

When The Observer asked for public domain information regarding the number of lawyers hired and the number of women getting legal assistance, Soumya S, the administrator of the office, said: “We don’t provide any kind of data regarding the office to anyone.”

Mohan, one of the officials concerned with the Nirbhaya Kendras scheme, denied The Observer permission to access data regarding the same. He said they avoid journalists. 

T. Chandrappa, a Bengaluru lawyer, said: “These help desks are mandated to provide legal assistance to complainants.”  If they are refused legal aid, complainants can take the matter to the court.

The Nirbhaya Kendras scheme falls under the Directorate of Women and Child Development. Matters that come under the scheme are sensitive. Hence, any information that reveals the identity of the complainants must be kept private. The officials, however, refused to share information that is in the public domain.

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