In February, a creep from Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad, was arrested by the SHE team of the Hyderabad police for stalking a woman on Facebook, sending inappropriate messages, obscene photos and harassing her over the phone. The man was booked under Section 70(c) City Police Act (using threatening, insulting or obscene words or gestures) and Section 290 (public nuisance) of the Indian Penal Code. A special court sent him to jail for a period of seven days and fined him Rs 550.
Since its inception in 2014, the SHE team has sent more than 700 such stalkers and harassers behind bars for a short term. According to the police, short term imprisonments, like in the case mentioned, deter offenders from repeating the crimes.
In the past seven months, the SHE team has imprisoned and imposed fines against 21 offenders out of the total 598 complaints filed.
ACP Narmada tells TNM that sections which guarantee such short term imprisonments are included in the FIR.
â€śWe specifically book them under 70 (c) and 290 IPC which guarantees imprisonment. Such a stern action is required,â€ť she says. The maximum punishment under these sections is 10 days imprisonment with a fine of Rs 550 and a minimum of two days imprisonment with a fine of Rs 250, respectively.
â€śThese imprisonments are working as a great deterrent,â€ť says another police officer.
But the work of the SHE teams does not stop at imprisonments. They also provide counselling to students and first-time offenders who are caught harassing women. â€śWe call their parents and warn the accused against repeating the offence,â€ť the ACP says.
On an average, the SHE team of the Hyderabad police receive at least 10 complaints of sexual harassment, mostly through direct visits to the Bharosa centre, which is the office of the SHE team, and through WhatsApp.
The SHE team, headed by women police officers, are sensitized on how to deal with victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. These teams, besides receiving complaints through emails, the hawk-eye app, Dial 100 and direct visits, also go in plain clothes to bus stations, videograph incidents of harassment and catch the culprits red-handed.
Data indicates that the number of complaints has shot up drastically after this wing became more accessible and gaining wide publicity. In 2015, the police received 188 complaints and in the following year, the number shot up to a massive 613. The number rose to 736 in 2017 and the SHE team received 1,051 complaints in 2018.
â€śThe increasing number of complaints increasing is a healthy sign. It means that people trust SHE team,â€ť says the ACP.
Latest data accessed by TNM shows that in most cases, women are sexually harassed over the phone â€“ 174 sexual harassment cases were registered in 2019 till date â€“ followed by stalking and harassment over WhatsApp. The SHE team has registered 69 cases of stalking and 66 complaints of harassment through WhatsApp.
Interestingly, most complainants are students (173 in number) between the age group of 20 and 24 and the accused are mostly persons between the age group of 25-29 (71 in number).
Out of the 598 complaints received in 2019 so far, out of which cases under Section 70(c) City Police Act and Section 290 IPC were filed against 46 persons and FIRs were registered against 62 persons, 173 complaints were withdrawn, 30 cases were reported where the complainant did not respond and 41 other cases were referred to the police station.