A group of cyclists are on a mission to spread awareness against child abuse. They are pedalling to raise funds so that children from the economically weaker sections could be provided education. Meet the Team T3 cycling group – Manas Arvind, Dr Chiro Mitra, Jasbir Singh, Nitish Bajaj and Sayantan Chakraboti who have taken up the noble cause. All acheivers in their own right, they say they want to contribute for the welfare of the future leaders of the country. Arvind, a businessman by profession, said, “Cycling is our passion but now it is our mission. Sometimes people bid saying if we cycle 200 kilometres, they would contribute Rs 200 and that’s how we are generating money.”
Dr Mitra, a veterinary surgeon, said, “We ride miles to bring smiles. We just need to open our eyes and realise that there are many children who are being exploited.” Members of the organisation feel that though the police department has introduced a child helpline number (1098), many people are still not aware. “We also have a Facebook group. Presently, we have 50 members who have started cycling with a mission,” Arvind added. In February this year, the group cycled from Gurgaon to Ajmer and raised funds to purchase a rescue vehicle for Shakti Vahini, an NGO.
- Childline Gurgaon / Shakti Vahini – Inaguration of the New Vehicle . (activistindia.wordpress.com)
- New van to help needy children (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Sex racket busted in Gurgaon, two held (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Three young women rescued (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Bengal Police arrests Gurgaon Job Firm Staff (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Body Shop/ Shakti Vahini to fight human trafficking in India (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Child rescued, but not rehabilitated (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- India Against Corruption, Arvind Kejriwal appeals for support (panasianbiz.com)
- Complaints of growing abuse by placement agencies in Delhi (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
PRABHU RAZDAN , HINDUSTAN TIMES
The officers were lectured to be sensitive while dealing with cases of domestic violence, human trafficking, child abuse, etc. “Faridabad‘s Central Police station has been designated as the nodal police station to deal with cases of human trafficking,” said AK Rao, Joint Commissioner of Police, Faridabad.
“The cops selected for working in this special cell of Central Police station will receive proper training and also study about human trafficking through distance education,” Rao said. The workshop of police officers was held to change the “mindset of the policemen” towards sensitive issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, etc.Some of the policemen attending the workshop presented a grim view of the actual situation on ground. They said it was totally different than what the prescribed laws preach.”Police has to deal with cases in which women and children are involved very carefully so that their rights are protected,” said Ravi Kant, a supreme court lawyer and head of NGO Shakti Vahini while making presentation before the policemen at the workshop.”But on the ground we come across many cases when a woman snatches chain of another woman. It then becomes difficult for the police to handle such cases,” said SHO SGM Nagar Ravinder Kumar.
“We had a case in which a woman got a case registered against her husband under 498A(dowry), took money from him, married another man and leveled similar charges against him too,” Kumar said.”In such a situation what are we supposed to do?” he asked.The police officers said the Central police station in Faridabad is among one of the three such police stations to deal with human trafficking cases in entire Haryana. “One is in Panchkula and another one in Gurgaon,” Rao added.
- Workshop on Child Protection and Violence Against Women Held at Faridabad in Collaboration With Police Department (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- NGOs under scanner for child trafficking (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Texas to Get Tough on Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking (sleepingbeautyslavery.wordpress.com)
- Workshop on Child Protection Held at Gurgaon in Collaboration With Nipccd and Childline (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- Child protection committee to be set up soon (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- ‘Human trafficking’ victims saved (bbc.co.uk)
- 14-year-old trafficked Manipur girl rescued in Gurgaon (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
Shakti Vahini, a national level voluntary organization has conducted a Sensitization Programme on Child Protection and Violence against Women in collaboration with the Police Department today at the Faridabad Police Lines. The Programme was inaugurated by Sh. Anil Kumar Rao, IPS, Joint Commissioner of Police, Faridabad by lighting the lamp. During his speech he said that the Faridabad Police will give more importance to the issue of human trafficking and sensitization programme on this issue will be conducted in the police station level. He stressed on registering each cases related to human trafficking so that the issue can be monitored properly the law enforcement agencies. He added that Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) would be set up in every district of Haryana.
Ms. Hema Kaushik, the Protection Officer welcomed all the participants and the resource persons. She appreciated the Police for their proactive policing in the matter related to children and women.
Altogether 70 police personnel including SHOs and IOs of Inspector and Sub-Inspector rank of different police station of Faridabad have attended the programme. Mr. Ravi Kant, Advocate Supreme Court of India conducted the session on Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act, Bonded Labour Act, Domestic Violence Act and Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
All the police personnel present in the programme showed their keen interest about the women and children. The Law Enforcement Agencies should know about issues connected to trafficking of women and children. It is an organised crime so it is extremely important for all of us to join hands in order to curb this crime. The need of strengthening of the restoration and repatriation of the victims was stressed. The impact of low sex ratio in Haryana which leads to human trafficking also dwelt at length. As a part of this programme a few recent case studies were also shared with the present gathering. Some of the case studies handled by particular police stations in Faridabad were shared by concerned police personnel themselves.
The workshop also focussed on the increase of child labour for Domestic work and the role which Police needs to play in combating it. The role of convergence of all agencies in Child Protection was stressed.
Advocate Kant also discussed about the JJB and legal aid. He requested the police officials to follow the guidelines of J.J Act very carefully and methodically. It was emphasised that the police should be very sensitive and affectionate while handling cases pertaining to children. It was requested to the police personnel to treat each and every child as their own child and they should never take J.J Act with any kind of fear or hatredness. They should try to come out with positive measures in order to fill the gaps. Police personnel present over there discussed the challenges faced by them while they deal with cases pertaining to children.
Domestic Violence remains one of the most prevalent yet largely invisible forms of violence. Contrary to the general belief, Domestic Violence is not restricted to certain social sections. Domestic Violence occurs in many forms physical, emotional, sexual, economic, verbal, etc. Woman faces Domestic Violence as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, or a partner in her lifetime. As per the NCRB Report 2003, 36.1% of the total reported crimes against women relate to domestic violence.
Advocate Kant said, “Violence affects the lives of millions of women and girls in all socio-economic classes around the world. There are different forms of violence against women like Trafficking in Women which involves both sexual exploitation and work exploitation of its victims. Domestic violence is another violation of women’s human rights. Violence directed against women by their intimate partners is an epidemic of global proportions that has devastating physical, emotional, financial and social effects on women, children, families and communities. Sexual Harassment is also a violation which causes great physical and psychological injuries to a large percentage of women in workplaces. Harassment intended for women in the workplace by their supervisors, fellow employees or third parties interferes considered as Sexual Harassment.”
The workshop was ended by vote of thanks from Ms. Hema Kaushik, the Protection Officer.
- Protecting women from domestic violence (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Oppressor’s case (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Child protection committee to be set up soon (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
- The Angel’s Dust Project (highestgood.wordpress.com)
- Workshop on Child Protection Held at Gurgaon in Collaboration With Nipccd and Childline (shaktivahini.wordpress.com)
THE TELEGRAPH KOLKATA
A recent Supreme Court ruling states that a divorce granted by a village panchayat is not legal. But unless rural folk are made aware of their rights, they may continue to abide by such unlawful verdicts, says Shabina Akhtar
Soni Kumari, 22, of Bhujrobad village in Jharkhand was divorced before a gram panchayat a month before the recent Supreme Court ruling that a divorce granted by a panchayat had no legal standing.
She is just one among thousands of rural women in India who accept the verdict of the village panchayat when it comes to separation and divorce.
According to Krishan Murari Sharma, founder of IDEA, a non governmental organisation (NGO) working for women’s empowerment in Jharkhand, 99 per cent of marital disputes in rural India are sorted out before the village panchayat. “Rarely do we see villagers moving the courts or even going to the police station to file a case related to marital disputes. More often than not, both the parties opt to go to the village panchayat and get an out-of-court settlement. Only in the case of dowry deaths do girls’ parents lodge a first information report,” says Sharma.
He also adds that in general it is women who are at the receiving end of these panchayat verdicts. “If a man seeks a divorce, rarely does the panchayat give a verdict that goes in favour of the woman,” he says.
So will panchayats stop granting divorces now that the Supreme Court has ruled that such divorces have no legal sanction? Probably not, say experts. Says Supreme Court advocate Ravi Kant, who is also the president of Shakti Vahini, an NGO, “In north India, the panchayats are really strong and rural people go to them to get verdicts on issues related to rape, violence and marital disputes. Panchayats are so deep rooted in the social system that it will definitely take some time before people stop going to them and instead approach the courts to get a divorce.”
Sharma too agrees that it would take years for people, especially women, to become aware of their rights and take a case of marital dispute to the courts rather than to the gram panchayat.
Of course, there are some women who refuse to take an unfair panchayat verdict lying down. Sheela Devi, a school teacher, had married Mahendra Nath Yadav in 1990, but owing to the nature of Yadav’s job the couple couldn’t lead a normal married life. This eventually led to the dissolution of her marriage both before a village panchayat and then a family court in Allahabad. But when Sheela Devi asked for maintenance, Yadav was quick to approach the Allahabad High Court to get a stay. But instead, the high court ruled that the divorce granted by the panchayat was not legal.
Subsequently, Yadav approached the apex court, only to be told that the high court verdict was apt and that a divorce granted by a panchayat was indeed not legal. It said that the dissolution of marriage through panchayats in accordance with the custom prevailing in the area cannot be a ground for granting divorce under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Experts say that though such “illegal” divorces are routinely handed out by panchayats, there are no reliable statistics to indicate just how widespread the practice is. “Despite the fact that such divorces are rampant in rural India, no statistical data is available on the number of these cases,” says Kaushik Gupta, a Calcutta High Court advocate who specialises in marital disputes. “Since panchayat rulings on marital issues are not recognised by law, the government has no data related to such rulings,” he adds. Gupta, though, maintains that such divorces are not so popular in West Bengal.
But what of the recent verdict of a kangaroo court in Murshidabad that forced a married woman to do sit-ups holding her ears and decreed that her divorce was not valid? The court chose to ignore her divorce certificate that had been issued by a qazi (who is empowered under the Muslim Personal Law to grant a divorce). Not only did it thus ridicule her in public, it also decreed that her present husband would have to leave the village and pay a fine of Rs 8,000.
Going by the recent Supreme Court verdict, are not such panchayat rulings illegal? Certainly they are, admits Gupta. “The apex court verdict is applicable to each and every citizen of India. And that means that divorce granted by anybody not authorised by the government will be considered illegal. In the case of Muslims, it’s the qazi who has been entrusted with the right to grant divorce and not the panchayats,” he says.
Needless to say, most activists and legal experts have welcomed the Supreme Court judgment. Says Calcutta High Court advocate Protik Prokash Banerji, “The ruling makes it clear that the dissolution of marriage by panchayats is illegal.” Adds Ravi Kant, “The verdict makes the point that panchayats annulling marriages is not legal. In a way it empowers NGOs to bring cases of panchayats granting divorce to the notice of the Supreme Court.”
However, there is no denying the fact that this is one judgment that will be hard to implement on the ground. “The SC ruling can only be effective if the executive enforces it across India,” says Gupta.
Will that happen? Time, as they say, will tell.
- Honour killings: Saved from India’s caste system by the Love Commandos (guardian.co.uk)
- What Do Divorce Mediators Do? (brainz.org)
- What Is Marriage Dissolution? (brainz.org)
The desire for sons has created a severe shortage of marriageable young women. As their value rises, unscrupulous men are trading them around the subcontinent and beyond as if they were a mere commodity
By Justin Huggler , 3 APRIL 2006 ,The Independent, London
Tripla’s parents sold her for £170 to a man who had come looking for a wife. He took her away with him, hundreds of miles across India, to the villages outside Delhi. It was the last time she would see her home. For six months, she lived with him in the village, although there was never any formal marriage. Then, two weeks ago, her husband, Ajmer Singh, ordered her to sleep with his brother, who could not find a wife. When Tripla refused, he took her into the fields and beheaded her with a sickle.
When Rishi Kant, an Indian human rights campaigner, tracked down Tripla’s parents in the state of Jharkhand and told them the news, her mother broke down in tears. “But what could we do?” she asked him. “We are facing so much poverty we had no choice but to sell her.”
Tripla was a victim of the common practice in India of aborting baby girls because parents only want boys. Although she was born and lived into early adulthood, it was the abortions that caused her death. In the villages of Haryana, just outside Delhi, abortions of baby girls have become so common that the shortage of women is severe. Unable to find wives locally, the men have resorted to buying women from the poorer parts of India. Just 25 miles from the glitzy new shopping malls and apartment complexes of Delhi is a slave market for women.
Last week, an Indian doctor became the first to be jailed for telling a woman the sex of her unborn baby. India is trying to stamp out the practice of female foeticide. But in the villages of Haryana, the damage has already been done. Indian parents want boys because girls are seen as a heavy financial burden: the parents have to provide an expensive dowry for their weddings, while sons will bring money into the family when they marry, and have better job prospects.
But in Haryana, so many female foetuses have been aborted that there aren’t enough women for the men to marry. The result is a thriving market in women, known in local slang as baros, who have been bought from poorer parts of India. Anyone in the villages can tell you the going rates. The price ranges from 3,000 rupees (£40) to 30,000 rupees for a particularly beautiful woman. Skin colour and age are important pricing criteria. So is whether the woman is a virgin.
When the police arrested Tripla’s husband, he could not provide a marriage certificate. Generally, there is no real marriage. The women are sexual “brides” only. Sometimes, brothers who cannot afford more share one woman between them. Often, men who think they have got a good deal on a particularly beautiful bride will sell her at a profit.
Munnia was sold when she was only 17. Considered particularly beautiful, she was resold three times in the space of a few weeks. Like Tripla, she came from Jharkhand, but she was lucky: she escaped. Today she is in a government shelter for women. As she tells her story, she breaks down in tears several times.
“My father sold me to a man called Dharma,” she says. “I don’t know if he paid for me or not. I came to Delhi with my mother on the train, and then Dharma took me to his village. He used to beat me very badly. He used to hit me until I allowed him to sleep with me. Usually it went on for half an hour.”
She was with Dharma just 20 days before he sold her. Her route criss-crossed northern India: Dharam took her to his home in Rajasthan, before selling her to a man in Haryana. “He told me: ‘I have sold you to a man for 30,000 rupees’,” she says. “But when we got there I realised that man wanted to sell me on as well. Then I ran away.”
She found a social worker who helped her escape. In that she was fortunate: few of the women who run away from the villages where she was make it out alive. Government medical tests found she had been raped by two men. She was only 17 at the time, and the age of consent in India is 18.
“My father told me Dharma would marry me, but the marriage never took place,” she says, blinking in the sun. She is deeply traumatised by her experiences; all the time she speaks, her hands play nervously with her shawl. When we ask if she wants to go home, she says: “I don’t know anything. I have no will and no hope in this world.”
She is the lucky one, all the same. In the villages she escaped from, hundreds of women are trapped in similar slave marriages. The village of Ghasera is a world away from nearby Delhi. It is still walled, like a fortress from centuries ago, and you enter through a narrow gateway. The roads are dirt and the houses ramshackle huts: It is hard to believe you’re just an hour and a half’s drive from the bright new India that is being courted as an ally by the US and attracting investors from across the world. More than 100 brides have been imported to this village alone, according to locals.
The people are hostile and crowd round strangers suspiciously. Even the police don’t risk coming in to these villages unarmed. Villagers have attacked police who tried to rescue the brides, and set their cars on fire.
Anwari Katun was sold for £130 and brought here from Jharkhand. The house she is living in now is thick with flies, so many they make patterns in the air as they swarm. A small girl is asleep in the corner, flies crawling over her face.
Ms Katun wants to tell her story, but the villagers crowd into her house and stand by menacingly as she tries to speak. Her fear is evident as they stand by. Most prominent is an old woman who moves forward threateningly when Ms Katun says she is not happy. Cowed by the crowd she says: “I accept what happened to me. I’m not happy but I accept it. This is a woman’s life. The only thing I want is that this doesn’t happen to my sisters, that they never get sold like this.”
With that, she sits in silence. Desperation is written on her face, but she is afraid to say any more with the villagers crowding around. Once they are here, with no family and no friends the women are helpless.
Rishi Kant has spent the past four years rescuing women like Ms Katun. A jovial man in designer sunglasses, he once spent four nights in Delhi’s notorious Tihar jail when police carried out mass arrests of protesters at a human rights rally. His organisation, Shkati Vahini, has rescued more than 150 trafficked women. But he says he can do nothing for Ms Katun at the moment. The government women’s shelter in Haryana state has places for only 25 women, and it is full. When there is no space, he can do nothing: there is nowhere else safe for the women to go. As soon as a place opens up, he says, he will go back for Ms Katun.
To get the women out of the villages, he has to enlist the help of the police. In villages such as Ghasera, the police only raid in heavy numbers, and only in the middle of the night, when they can take the villagers by surprise. Otherwise, the heavily armed villagers will resist by force. But the police are co-operative, and do get the women out. Then the long process of tracking down their parents, and trying to get them home, if possible, begins.
Getting the women out of the villages is often not easy. Recently, Mr Kant found a trafficked woman who convinced him that the man who had brought her to Haryana was running a business, and had several more women. He and the police waited in the hope the woman could lead them to the trafficker. But when they got back the next day, it appeared he had become suspicious. The woman had disappeared. Mr Kant believes she was probably sold to another part of India. He hasn’t found any trace of her.
Many of the trafficked women in the villages are minors. Shabila came to Ghasera from Assam, a thousand miles away. She says she is 25, but she doesn’t look a day over 15. One of the women in the government shelter, Havari, looks the same age. She is highly disturbed and talks at one moment of having had a baby, then denies it the next. She has hacked off all her hair. There is no psychiatric counselling for the women.
One of the women in Ghasera told us her sister had been sold to the village along with her, then kidnapped from it and exported to Oman. She was desperate for help to get her out.
Some of the trafficked women become traffickers themselves. Maryam, who was sold here from her native Maharashtra in 1985, has just arranged the sale of another woman, Roxana, to the village for 10,000 rupees. Although Ghasera is poor, it is better off than many of the remote villages the women come from. With their contacts there, the trafficked women can easily entice others to come voluntarily. But once they come, there is no way out. Some of the women become reconciled to their lives. Afsana speaks openly in front of her husband of her unhappiness over the years here: she is not afraid of him. Although there was no formal marriage, they have stayed together.
“I never thought I would come here. I never even thought about where Haryana was,” she says. “There are several girls who do not want to stay, but what can they do? They are in a helpless situation.”
Her husband, Dawood, could not get a wife locally because he has a damaged eye. He travelled to Bihar and saw several women before choosing Afsana. He paid £40. He complains that there aren’t enough women in Haryana, but he does not see the link between aborting female foetuses and the shortage of women.
In Asouti, a village a short drive away, you can find the reason behind all the suffering of the slave brides of Haryana. Lakhmi Devi had five abortions, each because the child she was carrying was a girl. She had already given birth to four daughters.
She is still tortured by guilt over the abortions. “It is better for a mother to die than to kill her daughters,” she says. “I was under immense pressure from my husband’s family to provide him with a son. My mother-in-law even demanded I get another woman to sleep with my husband to give him a son.” Eventually, she gave birth to a boy, Praveen, and her agony was over.
A recent study by Indian and Canadian researchers found 500,000 girls are aborted every year in India. Today Haryana has only 861 women for every 1,000 men. Strict laws have been put in place to prevent the practice. Abortion is legal in India but testing the gender of a foetus is not. Anil Singh, a Haryana doctor, was sentenced last week to two years in prison for telling a woman she was carrying a girl and offering an abortion.
But still, the abortions go on. To get round the police, doctors have started using codes to tell the people the sex of their baby: if the ultrasound report is written in blue ink, it’s a boy; if it’s in red ink, it’s a girl. If the report is delivered on Monday, it’s a boy, if it’s Friday, it’s a girl.
Meanwhile the trafficked women keep coming, from across India, to fill the places of the unborn women.
- In rapidly modernizing India, clashes with ancient marriage rules often lead to bloodshed (foxnews.com)
- Divorce or die _ old rules clash with new India (sfgate.com)
- Prostitutes of god (independent.co.uk)
- India court ‘honour crimes’ move (news.bbc.co.uk)
Violence against women is rooted deep in the way girls are brought up to become ‘women’ and boys are made into ‘men’
Shaweta Anand , Delhi
That women are not treated with dignity unless they shout from rooftops is to say the least. Women often find that they are treated as non-intellectual objects meant to entertain men at workplaces, perhaps so that the latter can perform better in a competitive, aggressive environment. Many office-going, educated women complain about not being treated in their day-to-day dealings with men in public and private spaces as human beings with intellect and their own subjectivity.
Talking about the subtle violence against women in media offices, Smriti Singh (name changed), a media professional who has worked for at least three Indian TV channels in the last ten years, says: “We often find the camera men or their assistants desperate to put the lapel mike (small microphone wired from under the clothes) on women celebrities or news reporters, just for that ever-so-slight touch of pleasure while adjusting the wires. Sometimes other male co-workers in the studio wait through the process to see if the woman’s cleavage would get accidentally revealed, even for a fleeting moment. And then this becomes the staple of the men’s gossip sessions, which get more graphic and enjoyable, but only for them.”
Even walking the city streets alone can make a woman feel very unsafe. “No matter what I wear, men ogle at me. When I was in school, I stopped walking to tuition classes alone because boys on bikes would ride past making kissing sounds. It became very annoying and a constant source of anxiety for me,” shares Vidhi Choudhary, a student from the Centre for Media Studies.
“I HAVE A car now, so I feel much safer when I travel,” she adds. But a far greater number of women have to depend on public transport. “Travelling in buses is such a nightmare. During monsoons, even metro travel has become so unpleasant. Someone or the other is always on the lookout for that split second when he can touch a woman’s private parts as it is easy to blame the overcrowding when confronted,” says Savita Sindhu, a Delhi University student.
So what do women do when they are harassed? “Some stay silent and ignore troublesome men while others choose to confront them. Either way, we should not let our work get affected,” says Choudhary.
Even the relatively progressive Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is not free of incidents of harassment of women. “Physical mobility gets restricted for most girls once they are out of the JNU campus. However, even within the campus we keep getting cases of violence ranging from mental to physical torture faced by women despite being in consensual relationships, and even after marriage,” says Akanksha Kumar, former student representative of the JNU’s Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), a pioneering institution that acknowledges and punishes harassers on campus, both men or women, after a rigorous formal enquiry and fact-finding process.
“At least three recent cases of violence faced by girl students from their male teachers have come to light. The power dynamics in such cases come into play much more strongly. If the girls speak up, they might lose out on grades, but if they don’t, they will certainly lose their self-esteem. Understandably, speaking up is a difficult choice at this point, but a few women do make that choice,” says Kumar.
With a patriarchal set-up,restrictions on women start from childhood itself and gradually get extended to higher institutes of learning or work spaces as well, as if restricting and silencing women is the most ‘natural’ thing to do,” explains Akhila Singh, a Delhi-based women’s activist. From the clothes they wear to how ‘gracefully’ they should walk and talk, who they can speak with, how many hours they can spend out of home – limitations on women cover almost everything under the sun. Of course, depending on where they are located – for instance, whether in the rural or urban set-up – the restrictions (and the violence or suppression if they resist) can take various forms.
Indeed, killing of couples-in-love reveals an all-time low in levels of misogyny – as if female foeticide, infanticide, high levels of anaemia and malnutrition in women weren’t enough of social problems based on deep-seated discrimination against women. Ninety per cent of the times, it is the girl’s family that attacks the duo as their ‘honour’ gets violated when she chooses to fall in love and decides to marry a man outside set social norms. This was one of the findings of a study conducted by National Commission for Women in 2009 with help from Shakti Vahini, an NGO.
Advocate Renu Mishra, who has been relentlessly fighting for women’s rights in Lucknow for the past decade, gives an interesting depiction of the subtlety in the working of patriarchal norms. She says, “If a girl straightens her spine and walks briskly with her eyes meeting the eyes of the passers-by, without her shoulders drooping an inch, she is immediately ‘corrected’ by someone in the family and asked to walk demurely, head bent downwards, to be a ‘decent’ girl. But if a man walks hesitantly, with his eyes on his feet, he’s instantly reprimanded and asked to ‘become a man’ by fearlessly looking up into the eyes of people as he walks on the street.” It is from here that the difference in socialisation begins.
Being fearful thus becomes a desired feminine trait, but ‘boys become men’ as they turn aggressive. “But in police stations and courts, women are generally asked why didn’t they fight back or resist the perpetrator hard enough. How can anyone sane expect women to fight back or strongly resist a man when all they are taught from childhood is to stay quiet and submit to them?” rues Mishra.
“For thousands of years, women have been trapped inside homes. Today, a large number of them have chosen to move out of the domestic sphere with vigour and determination. This effort to change the status-quo by questioning male domination in every possible way is being met with rising rates of crime against women,” says Albeena Shakil, member of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
The Delhi Human Development Report 2006 published by the Delhi government, in a section devoted to crime against women and safety, points to the alarming rise in the rate of crime against women in the capital. Adverse female-to-male ratio, high levels of rapes, sexual harassment, domestic violence etc make Delhi a very hostile and unfriendly city for women.
According to the ‘Safe Cities Baseline Survey’, whose findings were released in July 2010 by Kiran Walia, state minister for health and family welfare, violence against women is quite ‘normalised’ in the city. A large number of women live in a constant state of anxiety when out of home. However, as the National Crime Records Bureau data shows, this heightened state of discomfort is not a Delhi-specific phenomenon.
It is one thing to dig out studies and surveys to say how terrible this male-dominated society is. It is quite another to survive this suffocating system and to involve men as well in the process.
“Often men don’t know how to help and have to be told how to do so without confrontation with the perpetrator,” remarks Dr Suraiya Baluch, director of Princeton University’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resource and Education (SHARE) programme. Speaking at an event organised by GSCASH in JNU, Baluch acknowledged high levels of violence against women in the US and discussed community-level solutions that seek to involve everyone, especially bystanders, in stopping acts of harassment of women.
In a similar vein, Ruchi Sinha, Chairperson, Centre for Criminology and Justice, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, says it is not feasible for women alone to deal with the high rates of crime against them. For instance, all-women police stations were earlier sought as havens of justice for female victims of violence since policemen don’t take their complaints seriously. But the actual experience in states like Orissa and Tamil Nadu showed that women police officers end up being heavy-handed or indiscriminate, promoting the very stereotypes they were meant to break. Indeed, violence against women cries out for an all-inclusive approach, which doesn’t shrink from looking beyond merely legal solutions.
- Sexual harassment is not just a problem for Ines Sainz | Holly Kearl (guardian.co.uk)
- Delhi study says women unsafe (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Delhi study says women unsafe (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Delhi Named Most Unsafe City For Women (womensrights.change.org)