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Tweet with #HelpmeWCD to complain about harassment or violence: Maneka Gandhi urges women & children

#HelpmeWCD is a small but powerful step by the government towards empowering women and children.

Written by Sandhya Raghavan |Updated : May 15, 2017 5:11 PM IST

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has set an example in innovation. By harnessing the social media platform Twitter, the ministry has urged women and children to tweet #HelpmeWCD if they find themselves in situations of danger. This will help the department in tracking down and addressing cases of abuse and harassment and minimising any bureaucratic hassles.

India has always received bad press internationally for its attitude towards women and child safety, and rightly so. When Daughters of India by Leslee Udwin was released, we also witnessed the misplaced sense of indignation we as a nation felt. Some of us were more offended by how India was portrayed to the world than what Mukesh Sharma and his advocate said on camera. Even a feminist figure Barkha Dutt who has been one of the most vociferous voices against the ban on women in temples, cut a sorry figure trying to argue with an American panellist at a talk show about the rape statistics in the US. This goes to show that as a nation, we are more worried about our image than the safety of our citizens. And from the looks of it, we haven t learnt much from the Nirbhaya incident. In the last few days, two news items have stood out highlighting women s vulnerability in the nation. A girl in Rohtak was mercilessly raped, mutilated and bludgeoned to death for spurning the advances of a suitor and a 23-year old newly-wed was smothered to death and hacked to pieces by her in-laws in Worli, Mumbai. In our mad rush to save our reputation as a nation, we have overlooked the need for reinforcing safety for our women. India, it seems, has missed the wood for the trees. That s why initiative needs to be welcomed. It understands that people have lost faith in the system and may think twice before actually filing a FIR. So a distress system gives their problems the visibility it deserves. When the Union Minister herself is accessible to the complainant, it gives her the assurance that problem will take care of. And there are enough testimonies to prove that the complaints are being promptly addressed.

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It s not without its shortcomings though. The complainant will have to compromise her identity on the public platform. This can make her vulnerable to trolls online and offline. In cases of rape and sexual abuse, the identity of the victim is kept secret, which won t be possible if the woman chooses to tweet on the social media site. In the hands of the wrong person, it can also work as a tool to smear reputations. Honestly, it is barely a cure-all for women s problems in the country.

But is it a right step in the right direction? Yes! This has instilled a sense of safety among women and children whose voices would have otherwise disappeared in the cacophony. It s an empowering tool for the marginalised who have long suffered under abusers who are probably more powerful than they are. Here s hoping the ministry spearheads more such innovative steps in the direction of women and children s safety.

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