TRIVANDRUM — After taking various steps to prevent atrocities against women and children and to ensure speedy prosecution in such cases, the Kerala government has initiated measures to protect and rehabilitate the victims.
State Chief Minister Oommen Chandy opened the first shelter home for rehabilitating the victims of sexual abuse in the state capital on Tuesday. The centre is equipped to help the victim heal, recover, empower and reintegrate back into society.
Coming under the Nirbhaya (fearless) scheme, which was launched by the government last year with the aim of turning the state women-friendly where women can safely travel even during night. The Nirbhaya homes will offer medical aid, counselling, education, job training and legal protection to the victims.
Currently, 360 victims of sexual abuse are lodged in children’s homes and other shelter homes across the state. The centre at Trivandrum can accommodate 50. Another new home will be ready at Venjaramoodu in the outskirts of the city soon. The existing shelter home at Calicut will be renovated as Nirbhaya home and a similar home will be set up in Ernakulam.
Services of specialised trained personnel from Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society, which was set up to empower women in rural areas, will be initially utilized to take care of the victims at the Nirbhaya homes.
Subsequently, the social justice department (SJD) will ensure the services of trained permanent personnel to work as ‘child development programme officers’. To begin with 80 master trainers will be trained to take up the task. Their major task is to ensure that no child is abused in the state.
They will be assisted by the Jagrata Samithis (vigilante groups) under the Women’s Commission, Kudumbashree and other agencies. They will strive to prevent sexual assault against children and women by training them in self-defence and providing them, moral education and counseling.
They will also aid prosecution of culprits with the support of police and government officials. The government has decided to set up special fast track courts for the early disposal of sexual harassment cases and other cases involving violence against women. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has already taken up the matter with State Chief Justice.
The initiatives under the Nirbhaya scheme were drawn up by a five-member expert committee consisting of poetess, Sugathakumari, former director of public instruction Lida Jacob, bureaucrat Sarada Muraleedharan, danseuse and social activist Mallika Sarabhai and Sunitha Krishnan, director of Prajwala, a Hyderabad-based NGO. Sunitha is now the state adviser to Nirbhaya.