Police Didis to now train sights on slums & housing societies, apart from schools

Mumbai: After the 'Police Didi' campaign, a brainchild of the former Mumbai commissioner of police, Dattatray Padsalgikar, was a runaway hit, these 'didis' were last week received training to carry forward the initiative to reach slums, as well as housing societies. Experts from various fields conducted the training session, in which female police officers were instructed in how to sensitise school kids to sexual abuse, said a senior policeman. The prime motive behind this initiative was to reduce the rising incidence of child molestation cases. Police Didis are designated female officers who talk to women and young girls from particular areas about the problems they face, especially those pertaining to sexual harassment.

Thus, the Police Didi becomes not just an authority in uniform, but also someone young girls can think of as their caretaker. Female police officers working with non governmental organisations (NGOs) are trained to assist minor survivors and provide the much-needed delicate touch in such cases. After the initiative got a tremendous response from schools, the recent training session taught these Didis to not just limit themselves to sensitising schoolkids about sexual abuse and harassment, but to also reach out to slums and housing societies, according to a police officer. Moreover, they are taught how to sensitise teenagers to cybersafety, in the light of the fact that teens have been increasingly falling prey to cyber crime lately. The initiative also resulted in certain cases of sexual assault in schools coming to light.

As part of the ‘Police Didi’ campaign, women officers have been assigned to various schools in their areas. A Police Didi attached to the MIDC police station, who conducted several awareness campaigns said, “We use different approaches for different age groups and visit them regularly. For students up to the age of 10 years, we teach them the difference between good touch and bad touch, telling them how to stay cautious when someone tries to lure them with chocolate." This is important because the accused change their modus operandi depending on their target's age. "Similarly, for teenage students, along with good and bad touch, we educate them on the pros and cons of cellphone usage. With the increasing use of social media, they are taught how to keep accounts safe. We caution them that creating a fake Facebook profile is also a crime and also talk to them about the ill-effects of narcotics," a Police Didi said. After the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act came into being in 2012, the city has seen a rise in the number of cases of child sexual abuse. The spurt is in no small measure because of children confiding in their parents after receiving training from Police Didis.

Making a difference

On January 28, a nine-year-old boy revealed during a session on good and bad touch at a Tardeo school that he was sexually assaulted by the leader of the stall-owners' union in his area. The 35-year-old accused was immediately arrested and booked under the POCSO Act.

In November 2018, a man was arrested for sexually abusing his 13-year-old daughter, after the teen confided in police during a 'Police Didi' session at a DN Nagar school. Police contacted Versova police station and got the accused arrested.

In 2017, a five-year-old attended a Police Didi outreach programme where she had been educated about the difference between good touch and bad touch. When the minor girl was taken to the terrace by one of her father's employees, who touched her inappropriately, she raised an alarm. She later told the police she knew it was a ‘bad touch’ when the accused asked her to sit on his lap.

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