Vadodara: Seventeen-year-old Hamida Saiyed (name changed) was planning to run away from her home in a village in Bharuch with a male friend of hers. But, when her family members came to know about it, her brother tied her up with chains in a room.

On knowing about the incident, Abhayam counsellors reached Saiyed’s home and rescued her. They counselled her family members that tying her up in chains is crime and the counsellors also told Saiyed that marrying before 18 is illegal.

In July last year, Abhayam received a call from a school teacher that a girl studying in standard XI in Bardoli in South Gujarat was being sexually harassed by her step-father. When the counsellors went to the girl’s rescue, it was learnt that her mother too did not protect her from the exploitation. In spite of going through the cruel act for months, the girl did not want to register any complaint against her parents. She was, however, shifted to child protection home in Surat.

Recently, the helpline also stopped a tribal family in Chhota Udepur from getting their minor girl married off forcefully. When the counsellors told the family about the punishment for marrying off a minor girl, they called off the marriage.

The south zone of the helpline, that covers all districts Vadodara onwards, have been getting at least four such calls on average daily. But, in last few months the victims have started to come forward to call the helpline without any fear, the officials of the agency said. “Initially, we used to get calls from unknown people or somebody from the victim’s neighbourhood. With the success ratio of our rescue going up, the victims too have started to approach us,” said Chandrakant Makwana, south zone project coordinator, 181 Abhayam.

Makwana added that the victims have now started to understand the problems they are going through. However, only the victims of domestic violence, stalking and family problems dial the helpline. While, the victims of rape, confinement do not easily approach them.

There have also been instances where apart from rescuing the victims, the agency counsels the family and the victim to help them reach a settlement. “In cases of family issues or confinement we counsel the victim as well as family members. We try that a settlement is reached but, if the victim refuses to stay with the family then we send her to Nari Sanrakshan Gruh,” said Suman Pal, a counsellor with the helpline.

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