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Kerala High Court seeks setting up helpline number for sexual assault survivors

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The Kerala High Court has ordered the state government to clarify its stance on setting up a toll-free helpline number to assist the survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and submit its views by February 14

Justice Devan Ramachandran on Friday considered suggestions for implementing an effective victim protection protocol for sexual assault survivors that would enable them to get assistance without having to repeatedly visit police stations.

The issue of lacuna in protecting survivors came to the notice of the Court, when a survivor, represented by Advocate Dheeraj, approached the Court alleging that after she had approached the police, she was facing harassment from the accused as well as the police officers.

The suggestion came from Senior Advocate VP Seemandini, who pointed out that involving the Kerala State Legal Services Authority from the get-go while dealing with such cases, could be effective in reducing the re-traumatisation of survivors.

Taking in view the submissions made by Senior Counsel V.P. Seemandini, the Court observed that the involvement of Kerala Stage Legal Services Authority, even at the time of receipt of information regarding sexual assault or domestic violence, would become a very effective measure against continued traumatization of the victims.

The survivor had said that she had to go to the police station again for permission to medically terminate the pregnancy that resulted from the assault.

During one of the previous hearings in the matter, the Court had called for an overhaul of the victim-protection system for sexual-assault survivors, especially in light of the fact that most survivors are forced to approach the Court seeking police protection when the same should be afforded to them at the first instance.

It had asked members of the Bar to put forth any suggestions they might have to put in place a system to ensure that sexual assault survivors are not re-traumatised by repeatedly having to visit police stations.

It heard the suggestions put forth by Senior Advocate VP Seemandini, instructed by advocate Parvathi Menon, who is also the Convener of the Victim Rights Law Center of the High Court of Kerala, and advocate Sandhya Raju.

One of the suggestions made at the Bar with respect to reporting of instances of sexual and domestic violence was that a dedicated toll-free number be set up manned by sensitised officers, with the Kerala State Legal Services Authority in the loop, along with social workers.

The Court directed the State government to clarify its stance on this suggestion by February 14, when the matter will be taken up next

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