Violation against women is a serious problem in India and it is putting a huge strain on a nation’s social and legal services and leads to heavy loss of productivity. It is an epidemic that losing self-confidence be afraid/angry, and blame/feel guilty.
The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo
Tuesday 23 April
Venue: UNICEF (behind the UN Office), Carol Bellamy Room, 73, Lodi Estate, New Delhi
Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) www.pvchr.asia
Savitiri Bai Phule Women Forum http://dalitwomen.blogspot.in
Shruti Nagvanshi and Shirin Shabana Khan
Savitiri Bai Phule Women Forum
Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights
SA 4/2 A, Daulatpur, Varanasi – 221002
We are living in such a society today in India where women are not in a position to oppose any act of violence, and misbehaviour with her. She might be educated or may be living in a village the situation is the same. India’s traditional patriarchal system puts women at the lowest ebb of the community, whatever be the society but the dalit, minority and poor women are further pushed to the wall under the caste system and poverty.
Dalit, minority and poor women are subjected to discrepancies on the basis of the religion, caste, poverty by the patriarchal and caste based society. Women being subjected to violence, rape and inhuman behaviour are a matter of shame for any society however progressive the society might be. But in India such attitude towards the dalit, minority and poor women is not only common and is at extreme. Even today the age old myth of a women becoming Dyan (witch) is followed and women are killed under this belief. The law is unable to act in such cases and, even does not lodge reports, forget action. If women raise a voice against such practice not only the women but her entire family and her advocates have to bear the brunt and is ostracized by the entire society/village. Atrocity upon women and children continues without even thinking what circumstances they face and what mental torture they have to bear or what kind of security they need. The society instead of helping the victim of such violence keeps mum and thereby extends a quiet support to the offenders. Similarly the ones who work for victim women, the human rights defenders are also attacked so that they may retract their support. By all means the women are forced to step back if she is resisting the violence and torture.
Women who manage to reach police station to lodge complaint and not behaved with properly and they are made to sit for hours together with the family before anyone listens to them. And later on the women is pressurized to take back her complaint. There have been many cases of custodial rape with women and girls child who went to lodge report and for protection with police. Women are blamed for any act of violence with them. The worst is those women victims are made to sit with her offender inside police station, which is another way of psychological torturing her. Presence of the offender beside gives shocks to mind and thoughts of that act often give pain to the victim, which is difficult to even understand.
The women and her family are made to feel down but the offender is not even once made to realize what offence he has done. Investigation in cases are started late hence the criminals get enough time to remove evidences and thereby the case becomes weak. Even the women officers are no less than their male counterparts and behave the same way with women victims as the male officers do. The support to women victim depends upon how much she can pay as bribe to the investigating officer.
Usually justice comes delayed as ‘justice delay is justice denied’ under the present judicial system. The judiciary itself has less number of women judges. But the court’s utmost delayed process in cases of atrocity with women is point to be noted. When justice is delayed often women victim are forced to make out of the court settlement on the conditions proposed by the offender itself. Delay in judgement given the entire benefit to the criminals. In many cases it has been seen that the lawyer appointed to fight the case for victim join hands with offender and delays the perusal of the case.
In the courtrooms the attitude of the lawyers towards cases of women rights is traditional based on patriarchy and they are themselves unaware about the rules that protect a woman from violence and make the case complicated.
Not even the national and state women commissions are taking steps that can help women positively. Women commission itself is governed with patriarchal mind set. The selection of women commission office bearers is totally political and only those women who are close to the ruling party are appointed here, which in unscientific and irrational. These appointed members lack even the basic of women rights which is reflected in the decisions they take. Of the cases brought before the women commission very less are taken up by the commission.
As far as social security and development is concerned dalit, tribal and minority women have little access and are subjected to dual atrocity thereby. Those bodies that are responsible for women’s’ health services are engaged in money making from these women only and ignore their needs. At times women have lost their lives due to such an attitude.
A mother dies during child birth in India every eight minutes. For every maternal death in India, 20 more women suffer from lifelong health impairments that result from complications during their pregnancies. Worldwide an estimated five hundred thousand woman die as a result of pregnancy each year. Approximately one quarter of all pregnancy and delivery related maternal deaths worldwide occur in India. In Uttar Pradesh (Indian State), caste discrimination is an ingrained part of the medical system, doctors and activists say.
"Upper-caste health workers refuse to visit Dalit communities," said Lenin Raghuvanshi, a rights activist. "Because of that pregnant Dalit women do not get (nutritional) supplements and the majority of them are anaemic."
It's not just mothers who died. Babies were stillborn and few of them were premature. Many of these children who survived, many are at risk without their mothers to take care of them.
Why Do Mother’s die:
According to WHO, the major complications that account for 80% of all maternal deaths are:
• Severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth)
• Infections (usually after childbirth)
• High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia)
• Unsafe abortion.
There are 3 major reasons/delays for which even a well-educated mother is succumbed to death during child birth. If taken care of below delays caused, 90% of deaths can be avoided.
The First Delay: Pregnant mothers or their families often fail to recognize and seek medical help quickly enough, when a pregnancy related complication happens. This is due to illiteracy, not just in the family but also in the community that does not have adequate education or access to the right information necessary to spot the early warning signs. Women might also use ineffective home remedies due to traditional myths.
The Second Delay: Many mothers die at home or on their way to hospital due to lack of preparedness for any complication, lack of access to transportation or because they were referred from one hospital to another. The incidents of mothers dying because they cannot get to the right hospital at the right time is high because more than half of the child births in India still happen at home, and in most cases a skilled attendant or midwife is not available.
The Third Delay: Even if a mother gets to a hospital in time, there is no guarantee that her life is safe. The third delay happens when the right medical facilities, trained professionals, medicines and other critical inputs like blood are not available.The health care service system in India consists of three tiers. The facilities available, the expertise level of health care workers and quality of care differs widely at each level because of the lack of standards. For example, according to the National Family Health Survey II, less than 30 % community health centers had an obstetrician available; less than 10 % had an anaesthetist.
Many rural and low income urban families first go to either a private nursing home or a primary health care facility. These centers are not equipped to handle complications that arise during a delivery. Some of them do not have access to basic services like a blood bank. The poorly trained medical staffs take a long time to recognize complications that occur during labour or immediately after birth.[i]
The need is that preventive steps from the government come. The government should identify the problem and find solution instead of waiting for accidents/incidents. The steps should be made in collaboration with social organizations and should be strong enough to support women.[ii]
So, in India, an ideal woman is supposed to be silent that nourishes the system of patriarchy; men in the society take decisions and women silently follow them. Society asks its women to be silent and obedient, following all its norms and keeping up the same values as before.[iii]
The global development projects initially made women invisible; being heavily male biased, women’s productive role, often not directly linked to the market or the formal economy, was ignored. Instead, their role as reproductive individuals was made ultra-visible. Programmes to control population growth, seen as a primary cause of poverty, began to spring up, with women as targets. The socio-economic status of women declined following their exclusion from agricultural development schemes. Development not only ignored women but also had extremely detrimental effects on women’s economic position. Women’s productivity began to exist only in relation to its market value and how it could better be exploited.
Indian women have been endowed with several responsibilities concerned with the household and family circle. Nonetheless, now with the drift in development and political policies, the onus of decision-making is also laid on women. To provide enhanced representation to rural women in a political world, specific provisions were incorporated in the Constitution of India through the 73rd Amendment Act in 1992. A significant provision of this Act is the reservation of one-third seats for women in all positions in the local self-governance. The 73rd amendment[iv] was a landmark for women’s empowerment.
Through this amendment, participation of women from all caste was encouraged at the village level. Education is an imperative factor for the empowerment of human beings. But education is given little or no importance in rural villages. The situation of women is even worse as least interest is shown towards their education. After all, education develops insight and helps the representative carry out the day to-day activities and making political decisions. Lack of or low literacy level hinders women’s active participation in panchayat (Local self-governance) activities.
It also makes women more dependent on men for paper work. In fact, most women sarpanchs (village heads) are not allowed to work freely. They are either forced to sign on papers prepared by influential lobbies or become part of their husbands’ politics.
They are victims of politics by influential persons or the ploys of panchayat secretaries, corrupt administration system and the tactics of powerful locals in the villages. They are removed from office through forced no-confidence motions. They have been threatened and humiliated. At the village level, officials, whether junior or senior, are often found to be anti-women even though it has been proven that these women sarpanchs can make a difference if they are allowed to perform.
Lack of preparation on the part of rural women for political affairs is also a factor for their low enthusiasm. The rural population, especially women, is less equipped with the information on the rural governance system. Lack of awareness about the systems and procedures regarding functioning of governance are main cause for subdued leadership in panchayats. Information helps elected representatives understand their roles and responsibilities with regard to Panchayati Raj (local self-governance). Women elected representatives who are more active and aware perform brilliantly in their political offices whereas women who are less aware do not perform that well and end up becoming dummy elected candidates.
In rural villages of India, culture and traditions are observed very rigidly, the patriarchal family set-up as well as caste plays an important role in directing the course of life for the individuals. [v]
Indian women bear the burden of many cultural taboos. Primarily in rural scenario, women were supposed to perform the social roles (related to family), in some cases economic roles (working on their family land as a labourer) and caste traditional role for Dalit women and men were likely to perform the economic and political roles (decision-making at community level). Women were always kept away from the political frame.
Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women in general and all women of all castes as shudra[vi] by Manusmriti[vii] in India particular, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and prevention of the full advancement of women. Violation against women is a serious problem in India and it is putting a huge strain on a nation’s social and legal services and leads to heavy loss of productivity. It is an epidemic that losing self-confidence be afraid/angry, and blame/feel guilty.
Witnessing violent actions can be mentally damaging as people tend to copy the violence they witness. While the impact of physical abuse may be more visible than psychological scarring, repeated humiliation and insult, forced isolation, limitations on social mobility, constant threats of violence an injury and denial of economic resources are more subtle and insidious forms of violence. The intangible nature of psychological abuse makes it harder to define and report, leaving the women in a situation where she is often made to feel mentally destabilised and powerless.
The isolation of women in their families and communities is known to contribute to increased violence, particularly if those women having little access to family or local organisations. Lack of legal protection, particularly within the sanctity of the home, is a strong factor in perpetuating violence against women.
Increasingly, however, states are seen as responsible for protecting the rights of women even in connection with offences committed within home. The challenge is to end impunity for the perpetrators as one means of preventing future abuse.
2.Family: An undemocratic and anti-women Institution in India:
Violence in the domestic sphere is usually perpetrated by males who are, or who have been in position of trust and intimacy and power – husbands, boyfriends, father, father-in-law, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, sons or other relatives. Domestic violence is in most cases perpetrated by men against women. Women can also be violent in patriarchal society due to patriarchal socialization, but their actions account for a small percentage of domestic violence.
The Domestic Violence Act, 2005, is the first significant attempt in India to recognise domestic abuse as a punishable offence, to extend its provisions to those in live-in relationships, and to provide for emergency relief for the victims, in addition to legal recourse. The Act is so liberal and forward-looking that it recognises a woman’s right to reside in the shared household with her husband or a partner even when a dispute is on. Thus, it legislates against husbands who throw their wives out of the house when there is a dispute. Such an action by a husband will now be deemed illegal, not merely unethical.
In 2005 at the age of 15 Sapana Chaurasiya was forced to marry marriage with her husband Mr. Sunil Kumar Gupta resident of Varanasi. She says with pain and agony mixed with fear, “As soon as I reached his home he started misbehaving with me in front of his other family members and when I resisted he slapped me in front of them. I was not aware about his family till then. It was after reaching his house that I got to know he had a son and a daughter (who were 17 and 15 years of age by then). I was not aware of all this till then. By the evening I told him that I will not stay any more with him then he convinced me to stay on making an excuse of illness. I thought it to be fait accompli and became ready to stay.
But my husband was a horrible man who abused me every now and then. There was nothing in between us as there is a sweet relationship between husband and wife in common. He never treated me like wife. Whenever I asked to leave for my mother’s house he would refuse permission. He made sure I do not talk to anyone in his family, among his relatives or friends. He had asked everyone and threatened them to stay away from me.
He never treated me like a wife is treated by her husband and neither did his family members considered me their daughter-in-law. In fact I never got treated as human in that house. My parents were not allowed to some and see me either.
My husband made MMS of our physical relationships and whenever I refused to make a relationship he threatened me that he would make those MMS public and defame me. He regularly threatened me that he would kill my brother.”
The police’s attitude that such crimes are a “private matter” is most plain with regard to police treatment of criminal offenses involving domestic violence, for which police are empowered to make an arrest without a warrant. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 was enacted to augment women’s immediate protection from violence through emergency relief, including access to temporary protection orders and domestic violence shelters. But due poor implementation of the law, women facing imminent and life-threatening violence remain almost solely reliant on police aid.
The question arises as to why women put up with abuse in the home? The answer lies in their unequal status in the society. They are often caught in a vicious circle of economic dependence, fear for their children's lives as well as their own, ignorance of their legal rights, lack of confidence in themselves social pressures and patriarchal attitude of different institution at government level. These factors effectively force women to a life of recurrent mistreatment from which they often do not have the means to escape. The sanctity of privacy within the family also makes authorities reluctant to intervene, often leading women to deny that they are being abused. This is equally common in the higher as well as in the lower segments of the society.
A woman who lodges a complaint of abuse is often forced to withdraw the complaint or drop the charges not only by her family and society but also by the authorities. Social prejudices reinforce domestic violence against women. They are treated as their spouses' property; husbands assume that this subordinate role gives them right to abuse their wives in order to keep them in their place as status of Shudra.
Victims often turn to the police only as a last resort and typically when the violence has escalated. Virtually all police including those working at women’s cells and departments they do not treat domestic violence as a normal criminal offense to be registered and investigated, with the perpetrators arrested or monitored. Instead, they encourage “compromise” between domestic violence victims and their spouses or spouses’ families, even when women allege repeated physical abuse. Police fail women victims of violence when they promote reconciliation and ignore police obligations to promote safety and enforce the rule of laws.
Against this background is the traditional dowry, where the father of the bride is compelled to give the groom/groom’s parents substantial cash and/or other assets. In a majority of Indian families a boy has inheritance rights while the girl is given a hefty sum at the time of marriage in lieu of her rights in the parental property. The evil of the dowry system has spread its tentacles in almost all parts of the country, all communities and all sections of the society. When the boy’s parents’ expectations of dowry become exorbitant, one can imagine the anxiety it may cause to bride over the consequences if her parents are unable to meet the demands. Women’s physical and violence includes verbal abuse, harassment, confinement and deprivation of physical, financial and personal resources. For some women emotional abuse may be more painful than physical attacks because they effectively undermine women's security and self-confidence.
PVCHR member Ms. Pinki Singh brought Ms. Jyoti to the PVCHR office. She narrates, “In 2009 I got married with Neeraj Soni. For eight days after marriage the in-laws behaved well with me but when I visited the house for a second time after visiting my parent house there was my mother-in-law said that my father had given all fake items in marriage and she demanded those items should be given again. My in-laws sold off all that was given by my father in the marriage and demanded for again giving those items. When I asked my husband why things like fridge and cooler were being sold he started beating me and my mother-in-law said, “Beat her up properly she is insolate.”
I slept with tears in the eyes that night. In two months all that happened with me in my in-laws house had made my life hell. I became pregnant but they never thought of giving me relief. They made me work for hours and then offered less food that was not sufficient for me. I used to fall down out of weakness and hunger but they never used to ask why I was getting weak every passing day.
On top of this my mother-in-law used to comment I was trying to make fool of others by falling down. My husband joined her and used to ask me to go to my parents’ house if I were to behave like this.
I used to think my father had given so much of dowry and even then I get beating from these people. My mother-in-law used to feed my husband against me and my husband used to believe her. When I tried to tell him the truth and what all those women do with me, he never trusted me and always started to beat me. I could not do much about it and always though the child in my womb should not take birth in such a situation.
After some time my father came to take me. He said to my in-laws if he could take me to home for a few days. Hearing this, my father-in-law started abusing my father. For long heated words were exchanged between the two and then my mother-in-law stood up to say, “take away your witch, inauspicious daughter and I came back with my father weeping. Daughters always feel happy after coming back from their in-laws house but I never felt anything was making me happy.
I used to think what was the shortcoming in me that I got such a treatment from that family. Neither is my husband interested in me nor is he paying attention towards the child who is going to take birth soon.
After a few days a daughter was born to me and the information was sent to my in-laws house. But no one from came to see the child. I thought if not for me they could have come to see the child at least.
Whenever someone knocked at the door I used to run and see hoping it were someone from my in-laws family but when it found it was someone else I used to come back with tears. My mother and wife of my brother always consoled me saying things will get better soon.
Then on March 01, 2010 my mother-in-law and sister-in-law came to take me and my father told me to go with them. But when I came to my in-laws house they repeated the behaviour. My husband never used to see my child for she was a girl. All of them used to say it was a girl child. What was the fault or that child or even mine if she was a girl child. They didn’t allowed her to have milk. My mother-in-law used to say, “give her flour with water instead of milk.”
Her words made me cry and I asked her, “She is just two months old and if I do this she will die. You may not give food to me but please allow my daughter to have milk.” It was then turn of my sister-in-law who said, “Your father hasn’t given money for her milk then how could you feed her.”
When I used to give her breastfeed they snatched her from me and put her on the floor and compelled me to work. My sister-in-law used to spit upon me and made me clean her footwear. When my husband was at home they used to feed him against me and made him beat me up. They thumped my child on floor instead of playing with her and cursed my parents. My father-in-law used to say, “We are the court and your father will not be able to do anything.”
Even then I used to think that things will get better soon. But nothing got better but became worse.
One night my husband brought me down from the first floor while thrashing me and all other family members including my mother-in-law and sister-in-law too came there. Father in-law tried to make me drink acid kept in a bottle while my husband kept on beating me. I was crying and asking mercy at the feet of everyone. None had sympathy for me. My father-in-law said, “go and get money from your father else we will kill you.” I replied, “Father, how would my parents bring more money.”
Listening to my reply he dragged me by the hair and beat me up.
On May 22, 2010 my father came for vidai to take me home. When he asked them to allow me to go with him my husband pushed my brother as a result of which his head got bang with the wall. He said no one is going from this house unless you people bring money. Hearing my father left the house.
I was afraid and though if my father left the house who will then save me from these demons. They will kill me. I rushed and picked up my child and went behind my father crying, “father takes me along with you else these people will kill me.”
I was afraid and though if my father left the house who will then save me from these demons. They will kill me. I rushed and picked up my child and went behind my father crying, “father takes me along with you else these people will kill me.”
One of the main causes why domestic violence prevails and continues is the lack of alternatives among the victims due to patriarchy and caste system. Women and children may be economically dependent on abusers. Elderly people and children may feel too powerless to escape. Language or cultural barriers may isolate victims from seeking help.
Victims generally feel, it is better to suffer in silence than to be separated from loved ones. They keep hoping for improvement, but it is normally observed that, without help, violence gets worse.
Victims may also feel helpless, guilty or worthless. They may feel ashamed of the poor quality of the relationship. Abusers may fear the consequences of seeking help, unaware that continuing as before may be even more dangerous.
Family members may be unaware of the help that is available from the local agencies. They may also be unaware of their legal rights.
Sapana narrates “Once when I was upset with the torture and escaped to her mother’s house he had sent me a packet in which there were clothes that was cut in to tiny pieces. He told me that I have sent your clothes now but if you do not return back soon I will do the same with your children so if I wanted children to live I should come back.
Even then I refused to go back. Then my brother Shyamsunder was lifted by cops and held captive in the police station. He was set free only when I went back.”
In India we have no provision for protection of a complainant, not even under the Prevention of Dowry Act. A woman who has complained of harassment goes back to the very people against whom she has complained. What security can she possibly feel in such a situation, and how can she continue to act on her complaint? She obviously continues to be victimised often paying the ultimate price (Bedi K, 1999).
Many complainants are faced with eviction from the family home, are cut off without maintenance, and are unable to follow the complaint precisely because they have no means to do so.
Frequent, unexplained injuries, reluctance to seek medical treatment for injuries or denial of their existence, fear in the presence of certain family member/s, social isolation, disorientation or grogginess, especially in elders indicating misuse of medication and decline in physical appearance and personal hygiene indicating increased isolation and a lack of desire to continue living are some of the indicators of violence (Aravamudan G, 1995)
Sapana’s husband filed habeas corpus on basis of manipulated fact that his wife was illegal detained by organization. Sapana provided her statement before Hon’ble High Court. The Hon’ble Court gave order[viii] “Corpus is set at liberty she may go anywhere as per wish and desire. Her husband, Sunil Kumar Gupta is restrained from making any kind of interference in the peaceful life and liberty of the corpus.”
But, there is no order against the false petition by Sapnas’ husband. It is noted that High Court issued notice to Lenin Raghuvanshi, Executive Director, PVCHR to appear before High Court of Uttar Pradesh[ix]. We are providing time line Sapna case to understand the hurdle and non-cooperation of many actors in India and at International level.
2.1 Timeline in case of Sapana Chaurasiya:
3rd December, 2012
5th December, 2012
PVCHR released the urgent appeal in Hindi and sent it to the given below authorities as follows: http://www.pvchr.net/2012/12/blog-post_5732.html
13th December, 2012
15th December, 2012
16th December, 2012
17th December, 2012
17th December, 2012
20th December, 2012
16th January, 2013
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi got threat
19th January, 2013
21st January, 2013
22nd January, 2013
23rd January, 2013
24th January, 2013
regarding providing security to Lenin, his family and Sapana Chaurasiya and demanded for CBCID enquiry
25th January, 2013
27th January, 2013
28 January, 2013
29 January, 2013
1st February, 2013
7th February, 2013
13th February, 2013
Hon’ble Governor, Uttar Pradesh directed to Principal secretary, Home Affair to look into the matter letter no. P – 538/G.S
The District Probation Officer wrote letter to SSP Varanasi for the investigation and taking appropriate action.
23rd February, 2013
letter sent to Mrs. Suman Yadav, Upadhyaskha, State women commission through registered post ARU120297648IN
28th February, 2013
Habeas Corpus writ petition no 8753 of 2013 filed by Sunil Kumar Gupta on behalf of Sapana
13th March, 2013
18th March, 2013
Sunil Kumar Gupta, the husband of the corpus has appeared before this court along with five years child who his admittedly born out of wedlock. The question of his country of his custody may arise but for the purpose, corpus may apply before the proper forum in separate suit if she is so advised. The petition stands disposed of, accordingly, her husband, Sunil Kumar Gupta, is restrained from making any kind of interference in the peaceful life and liberty of the corpus http://www.scribd.com/doc/132395197/Order-of-High-Court-in-case-of-sapana
25th March, 2013
The order of the Habeas Corpus sent to S.O Mahila Thana, S.O Bhelupura, S.O Cantt, SSP, Varanasi, DGP, Lucknow
28th March, 2013
Sapana mother died due to illness of shock
18 April 21, 2013
Sapana gave her statement before court in mediation and mediation cancel
The rule of Domestic Violence Act 2005 mentions that each police station at the block level will comprise two social workers, one of whom could be designated as additional PO. A full-time PO will only be at the district level, housed again at the police headquarters. A PO is to be assisted by a legal assistant, field coordinator, social worker, accountant-cum clerk, data entry operator and multipurpose worker.
Due to the no appointment of social workers at block level reports the less cases of domestic violence and Poor and hapless women who doesn’t have money to travel to the district office to file or do follow up of the case. Even in DOP office they have to pay to 10 Rs each time to get the new dates and even also during the time of the mediation of the both parties.
Due to lack of knowledge many lawyers filed in court under domestic violence. A number of crucial components that have been laid down in the Act remain neglected due to paucity of funds. In light of the above findings, it is disappointing that states reporting a higher incidence of violence such as Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have still not committed any resources for implementation of PWDVA. Instead, they claim that they are able to meet the expenses for various provisions of PWDVA through the existing schemes of women’s - welfare.
What clearly follows from the above analysis is that while some states have initiated some action with respect to providing resources for implementation of PWDVA, there are a lot of issues, especially the specific components of the Act that remain neglected and the expenditure of the allocations made. Worse still, there are many states that have not committed any resources for PWDVA. They claim that the existing women’s welfare programmes will be sufficient to fulfil the provisions under the Act. Thus, the first and foremost step that needs to be taken is financial commitment by all states for PWDVA. While many states have initiated a State Plan Scheme, initiation of a separate budget head for this purpose would go a long way in committing resources for this crucial legislation.
2.2 Tara: A story of domestic violence & re-victimization of victim with help of international media:
Tara says, “I was a branded as a witch and they asked me to leave the house along with children and they dragged me out. I started crying and asked my mother in law that where I would go with children. My sister in law said there was no space for evil spirits inside the house.
I had to spent days without food and whenever I got something I shared it with my children. One day my sister in law dragged me on road from near the house and I came to my mother’s house with children. Upset and in tension my husband climbed up a Guava tree.
I don’t want my husband to climb down the tree which he is living on due to my mother in law and my sister in law. I don’t want to stay with my in laws and once my husband gets down I will bring him to my parents house. My children are crying for their father and I am crying for my husband. Until I am able to live with my husband and children I will not get relief. I fear what my husband might be eating and when I try to eat something I cry.”
But it is mostly a story about the media's chase for news with a sensational value of patriarchal mind set at the expense of the truth-value to whom Sanjay and his wife Tara became victims. On the eve of international women day PVCHR is delighted to share the video “The Man in the Guava Tree: A Story on Media Ethics and Global Responsibility” http://vimeo.com/59711847
One of founder of PVCHR Shruti read the story published in media and she immediately doubts on patriarchal manipulation from local media people. After she shared the story and her doubt to the activist of PVCHR, immediately the activist went to verify the information and talked with Sanjay his mother Kushma Devi and also with Sanjay Sister Nisha.
After knowing the one side fact the activist went to meet with Sanjay’s wife Tara. She said that I was a branded as a witch and they asked me to leave the house along with children and they dragged me out. I started crying and asked my mother in law that where I would go with children. My sister in law said there was no space for evil spirits inside the house.
But without knowing the fact few media published “Man lives in tree for nine months - and won't come down until wife says sorry for cheating on him.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250695/Man-lives-tree-months--wont-come-wife-says-sorry-cheating-him.html
Cuckolded Indian man lives in tree for nine months waiting for apology:
During that time a volunteer Ms. Sofie Rordam from Denmark was in PVCHR for technical assistance in corporation with Dignity: Danish Institue against torture. She went along with activists and prepared the documentary.
2.3 Domestic Violence Affecting children:
Children can witness domestic violence in a variety of ways. For example, they may be in the same room and may get caught in the middle of an incident, perhaps in an effort to make the violence stop; they may be in another room but be able to hear the abuse or see their mother's physical injuries following an incident of violence; or they may be forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim. Children are completely dependent on the adults around them, and if they do not feel safe in their own homes, this can have many negative physical and emotional effects. All children witnessing domestic violence are being emotionally abused, and this is now recognised as 'significant harm' in recent legislation.
Children will react in different ways to being brought up in a home with a violent person. Age, race, sex, culture, stage of development, and individual personality will all have an effect on a child's responses. Most children, however, will be affected in some way by tension or by witnessing arguments, distressing behaviour or assaults - even if they do not always show this. They may feel that they are to blame, or - like you - they may feel angry, guilty, insecure, and alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. They may have ambivalent feelings, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent.
These are some of the effects of domestic violence on children:
• They may become anxious or depressed.
• They may have difficulty sleeping.
• They may have nightmares or flashbacks.
• They may complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches.
• They may start to wet their bed.
• They may have temper tantrums.
• They may behave as though they are much younger than they are.
• They may have problems at school, or may start truanting.
• They may become aggressive.
• They may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people.
• They may have a lowered sense of self-worth.
• Older children may start to use alcohol or drugs.
• They may begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves.
• They may develop an eating disorder.
Violence may also interfere with your children's social relationships: they may feel unable to invite friends round (or may be prevented from doing so by the abuser) out of shame, fear, or concern about what their friends may see. They may feel guilty, and think the violence is their fault, or that they ought to be able to stop it in some way. There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement: some children will stay home in an attempt to protect their mother, or because they are frightened what may happen if they go out. Worry, disturbed sleep and lack of concentration can all affect school work.
You may feel that you will be blamed for failing as a parent, or for asking for help, and you may worry that your children will be taken away from you if you report the violence. But it is acting responsibly to seek help for yourself and your children, and you are never to blame for someone else's abuse. It is important that you - the non-abusing parent - are supported so that in turn you can support your children and ensure that they are safe, and that the effects of witnessing (and perhaps directly experiencing) the violence are addressed.
3. Witch Hunting: a game play of patriarchal community with mind of caste against women:
Witch hunting is still prevalent and brutally practiced in the twenty-first century in the rural part of India. Almost every other day, a woman is branded a witch or victimised for witch-hunting in the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh.
The frequency of such assaults and the dismal conviction rate, despite the existence of the Prevention of Witch Practices Act, has terrified victims into a silent acceptance of the cruelty. Some of the most common concerns in relation to witch hunting are that in very few cases have the authorities actually responded to the complaints, and witch hunting is severely under reported, poorly investigated and prosecuted with negligible rates of conviction. The police often do not register FIRs.
The easiest way to grab a woman’s property in rural hinterland is to brand her a witch. Unbelievable but horrifically true in 21st century India, women in the interiors of states are beaten, paraded naked, disgraced, ostracised and then robbed of their land by anti-social elements and sometimes even greedy relatives. Witch hunting is a tool to oppress the critical thinking and wider participation of women in decision making process in the patriarchal society. In our Bhojpuri language they are called as Kan – Dayan (initial form of witch hunting).
However, the conviction rate for witch hunting crimes is dismal. The perpetrators, in most cases, are male relatives and their motive is to usurp the property of single women. The modus operandi is to disgrace and ostracise the victim. "
The fact is that it is not superstition that is at the root of many of these accusations of witchcraft but socio-economic factors: land-grabbing, property disputes, personal rivalry and resistance to sexual advances. In many cases, a woman who inherits land from her deceased husband is asked to disown the land by her husband's family or other men. If she resists, they approach the Ojhas and bribe them to brand her a witch. This strategy of branding a woman a witch is also used against women who spurn the sexual advances of the powerful men in the community.
Manbasia (45) is another woman who has been subjected to inhuman ordeal in Ghaghari Tola Sahgora village, under Babhani police station, in Myorpur block of Sonebhadra district. After the demise of a boy in the village, she was not only attacked with sharp weapons but also paraded naked in public on July 17, 2010. "I was not a dayan, then why was I paraded naked?" she questioned. Her husband Jodhilal said he had to mortgage his land for his wife's treatment.
It is impossible for Jagesari Devi (32), a tribal woman of Sonebhadra district, to forget the fateful day when she became a victim of witch hunting and her tongue was chopped off. She was branded a 'dayan' (witch) by a local 'ojha' (sorcerer). Though her wounds have healed, the scars remain forever. The unforgettable nightmare has rendered the Holi festival colourless for her.
"Am I really a dayan," wonders Jagesari, and following this inhuman act of others, today she can neither speak properly nor can eat or drink with ease.[x]
4.Rape: A crime against dignity of women
PVCHR notes with concern that the entire public debate arising out of the recent Delhi gang rape[xi] incident has centered round the issues of “enacting a strong law” and “prescribing harsher sentence”. It has failed to recognize more basic issues as follows–
• The enormous social obstacles due to caste based feudal and patriarchal system encountered in registering complaints, in the conduct of thorough investigation, in the protection of witnesses, in fast and efficacious prosecution and in unbiased adjudication – in other words, the issues of implementation of the law, and the functioning of the police and judicial machinery – which necessarily precede sentence in absence of police reform and judicial reform.
• The debate has also largely failed to take into account the deeply patriarchal character of our social institutions with caste biases, and law enforcement machinery which render women in general and dalit, Tribal and Minority women in particulars vulnerable to violence in the family, in the larger community, in their work places and public places.
In particular, in this representation, PVCHR would like to focus on the even more serious situation that arises when patriarchal attitudes are reinforced by caste, communal and class inequalities or perpetrated by the state, that is, when sexual violence is inflicted as a part of an assault by a dominant community as in a caste attack or communal riot; or when sexual violence is inflicted on women in custody in a police lock-up or jail or state institution; and when sexual violence is perpetrated by the police, security forces or army. In this regard we have the following suggestions[xii]:-
A. In regard to Sexual Violence by Police and Security Forces
Defining custodial violence: Any incident of sexual assault by police/ security forces or SPOs accompanying them, irrespective of where it occurs, should be treated as custodial violence since the perpetrators exercise power and control over the people of that area owing to their position of authority. Such sexual assault should be considered to be a case of aggravated assault.
Security of women detainees: The lack, especially in remote/ small police stations, of women constables (in whose presence women under-trials and prisoners are more likely to be safe), is a serious issue. If there is no woman constable on duty, that particular police station must not be allowed to detain women. Women constables must be present throughout any interrogation of women detainees. Arbitrary or proxy arrests and illegal detention of women and children during search operations in conflict areas, which render women extremely vulnerable, have to stop.
Rule of law: There must be strict adherence to the procedures and safeguards for protecting women in custody and women should be produced before the court at the earliest opportunity, even before the mandatory 24 hours, to be able to disclose original violations as well as further ill-treatment (if any) while in custody of police or jail authorities. Their families also must be intimated within this time period of their whereabouts.
Judicial recognition: The judiciary must take suo moto cognizance of any irregularity in the arresting procedure and delays in presenting the accused before the magistrate. Any non-compliance of the D.K. Basu guidelines and other provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code should attract strict action and accountability from the Court. Once the woman has been presented before the magistrate, it is the responsibility of the judiciary, to ensure that her dignity and safety is ensured and her complaints of violations of her rights addressed. If any violation of the rights of a woman takes place in police or judicial custody, the judiciary should take the strictest action against the perpetrators in a time bound manner, and she must immediately be given the option of being transferred to custody outside the state.
Investigation and registration in cases of custodial or state violence: It cannot be expected that an aggrieved person/family who has been violated by personnel of the police station of her/their area, will go back to report the violation to that very same police station. She should have the option of registering cases in another district or state, and the case must be investigated by an authority not involving local police if they are the perpetrators. Special guidelines must be evolved for such cases along the lines of the NHRC guidelines for encounter killings.
Vulnerability in conflict situations: There must be a quick and effective response from the district and state administration when a woman shows the courage to make a complaint of sexual violence. Instead, the rape survivor, her family and other witnesses are only further terrorised by the people in authority. The administration should take suo moto cognisance of such complaints, whether they come directly, through the media or any other source. Third-party complaints of custodial sexual violence should also be allowed to initiate the process of safeguarding the survivor behind bars from further assault in custody.
All state-supported private militias and vigilante groups, such as Salwa Judum and others in the conflict areas of Central India, Manipur and Kashmir must be disbanded. Action must be taken against the members of these groups accused of sexual violence and other human rights violations as it would apply to the police and security forces, i.e., treating their cases as aggravated sexual assault.
Registering cases: The FIR of all victims should be registered, even where the perpetrators are from the Central Armed Police Forces or the Army, and refuge must not be taken under impunity provided under unjust laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. In particular if a Superintendent of Police receives a complaint that a particular police station has refused to register an FIR, he must be made personally liable to get the FIR registered immediately and to conduct an enquiry against his erring subordinate, with legally enforceable consequences for not doing so within 48 hours of being informed.
Criminal prosecution: Sexual assault by the Central Armed Police Forces or the Army must be brought under criminal law. In cases of sexual offences, the law should clearly state that the Army has no jurisdiction to prosecute the accused member of the armed forces. The accused must be handed over and all investigation must be done by the police strictly in accordance with the law, and supervised by a senior police officer. The requirement of sanction for prosecution under Sec. 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code should be done away with in cases of custodial sexual violence and other human rights violations.
Facilitating investigation: Immediate arrest of the accused and suspension of all accused from their posts, once the FIR is registered orsuo moto cognizance of the crime is taken, is essential. The accused should not be allowed to exercise any authority in the area where the complaint of sexual violence is made, till the final determination of the complaint.
Command responsibility: In cases of sexual assault committed by State personnel, the authorities higher up in the hierarchy (SP and the Collector or any other senior officer in the chain of command of the Central Armed Police Forces) should be held criminally liable for crimes committed by those under their command or within their control. Ignorance or lack of information about sexual violence committed in his/her jurisdiction cannot be an excuse for inaction.
Sentencing: The sentences for custodial rape and sexual assault must be enhanced compared to the sentences for civilian rape and sexual assault, to act as a deterrent for security officers misusing the power they have derived from being officers of the state.
Speedy investigation: The responsibility of a proper investigation falls on the investigating agency. Any delay, shoddiness, partisanship and inefficiency in collection of evidence, and lack or delay in medical examination etc should be seen as a criminal offence and negligence of duty, and the concerned officers or personnel should be penalised for negligence or dereliction of duty and/or charged with complicity in the crime.
Protection of victims and witnesses: Protection of victims and witnesses has to be ensured, from the pre-trial to post-conviction stages, in accordance with the recent jurisprudential developments, the Law Commission’s 198th Report of August 2006, and decisions of the Supreme Court.
Liability and damages: It is the government’s responsibility and duty to protect the rights of women, the responsibility grows manifold when the woman is in the custody of the State. Considering the gravity of the crime, the rape survivor has a right to reparation. While financial compensation cannot erase the pain and suffering caused, it is the duty of the State to pay exemplary damages without any bureaucratic delays.
Reparative Justice: The State must be obliged by law to make provisions for free and high quality medical treatment, psychological care, shelter and livelihood in order to overcome possible destitution and social ostracism. This should be done through effective implementation and budgetary support of existing legal provisions and schemes for compensation/ rehabilitation for sexual assault. Such compensation should not be linked to the criminal trial and prosecution. Schemes include, but are not limited to, the Victims Compensation Scheme (brought about through a 2008 amendment to section 357A of the Cr PC) as well as the National Commission for Women’s scheme for assistance and support services to victims of rape.
B. In regard to sexual violence against marginalized groups or by dominant groups.
1. While dealing with the violence against women belonging to marginalised groups like Dalits, Adivasis, denotified groups, religious and other Minorities, the dominant position of the perpetrators must be kept in mind and such cases should be probed under the specific laws applicable to these atrocities. Sexual assault in situations of conflict based on community, ethnicity, caste, religion and language, ought to be treated as specific circumstances of aggravated sexual assault.
2. Khap Panchayats, casteist-communal organizations and other kinds of vigilante groups are responsible for spreading and normalizing misogyny. The perpetrators of honour killings, honour-related crimes and other moral policing, including those who abet this brutal crime, must be promptly prosecuted and awarded severest punishment.
3. Refusal to file an FIR based on caste, class, gender identity, profession, of the survivor must be legally punishable through reporting to superior police officers or officers at other police stations. Once such a complaint is made, the officer who hears it must be legally liable to file an FIR immediately and conduct an enquiry against the police officers who refused to file the FIR.
C. In regard to the definition of sexual assault.
Expansion of definition of sexual assault: The expansion of the definition of penetrative sexual assault under Sec. 375 IPC, beyond peno-vaginal penetration (rape) as proposed in the Criminal Law Amendment Act is a step in the right direction. It is imperative that the definition of sexual assault is broad enough to include anal, oral rape, digital rape, rape with objects etc. and also includes sexual assault against transgender people.
Gap in law of sexual offences: However, there continue to be serious gaps in the codification of crimes of non-penetrative sexual assault. The gap between ‘outrage of modesty’ (S. 354 IPC) and ‘penetrative sexual assault’ remains large. We believe that sexual crimes form a continuum, and that the graded nature of sexual assault should be recognized, based on concepts of harm, injury, humiliation and degradation, and by using the well-established categories of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual offences.
‘Outraging modesty of a woman’ to be replaced with ‘violation of bodily integrity: S.354 and S. 509 IPC, which contain archaic notions of ‘outrage of modesty’, ought to be repealed, and a clear gradation of offences and punishment as mentioned above should be inserted. We believe that ‘sexual assault’ should rest firmly on the concept of violation of bodily integrity and dignity.
New sexual offences to be defined: New crimes need to be formulated to punish acts of stripping, parading naked, groping, tonsuring of hair and mutilation which are intended to sexually assault, degrade or humiliate women who are so targeted. Further stalking, flashing, gesturing, blackmailing as well as sexual harassment must be codified as crimes under the rubric of sexual offences. These should include any electronic and other forms which promote rape as a game, promote electronic stalking or forced viewing of pornography, etc. We welcome the introduction of a specific offence for acid attack.
Gender neutral sexual assault: The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutral in all circumstances, as proposed in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, makes the perpetrator/ accused also gender neutral, i.e a woman or man can be accused of sexual assault. We believe that the perpetrator has to remain gender-specific and limited to men as perpetrators, as there is no empirical evidence to support a finding to the contrary. Across the country women and transgender people are facing severe sexual violence and we strongly oppose the gender-neutrality clause in relation to perpetrators under Sec. 375 IPC. Gender neutrality of the victim: The survivor of sexual assault should be treated as gender neutral with respect to the law, even if the perpetrator is still defined as male. With respect to all forms of violence, the victims/survivors should not be described just as women, but as women and transgender people. In some cases of state and custodial violence the victims can also include men.
Marital Rape: Rape within marriage should be recognized and should be strictly penalized. The punishment for rape should be the same irrespective of whether the perpetrator is married to the victim or not.
Consent: Consent must be clearly defined as verbal agreement which can be withdrawn at any point during sexual activity. Initiation of sexual activity or sex work is not an invitation to rape or sexual assault and battery. The lack of marks on the body cannot be used as evidence of consent (as in the Suryanelli case) because sedation, rape based on threats of retaliatory violence, and rape where the perpetrator holds economic, caste, communal, custodial or state power over the survivor can all be perpetrated without leaving signs of force.
Age of consent: The age of consent should be lowered to 16 years of age.
Consent during sex work: Rape during sex work must be recognized explicitly as a sexual offence. Sex work should be legalized and regulated so that what takes place without consent can be clearly distinguished from the specific acts the sex worker is paid for and has consented to.
Inclusion of women in drafting process: Local women’s' groups in India, including those of adivasi, dalit, religious minority women, transgender women, self help groups and woman panchayat representatives must be consulted in drafting laws upholding women's rights at home and in public.
C. In regard to pre-trial, trial and evidence procedures.
• SOPs like those of Delhi police should be reviewed to ensure that they reflect a gender sensitive and meticulous approach to investigation and officially adopted by all police departments in states and UTs, and should be made publicly accessible.
• The two finger test which is widely used during medical examination of the rape victims to determine whether they are ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’ or not, must be explicitly barred. Testing should be done by women doctors, and forensic tests must include DNA tests for which laboratories and a DNA database must be set up. Victims should not be subjected to lie detection tests as is done in some parts of the country, and they should be able to be accompanied by a counselor or chosen family member at all times.
• Police personnel and all state officers who deal cases of sexual assault must undergo compulsory sensitization about handling these cases, so that they do not traumatize the survivor of assault with irrelevant and traumatic questions or statements of judgement or dismissal. Each complaint of sexual harassment and molestation must be taken seriously and failure to file an FIR must be punishable by law.
• Women police officers should be available and visible at a women’s help desk in every police precinct to take such statements and should be used instead of male officers for each step of processing a sexual assault or harassment complaint. The number of women at all levels of the police force must increase to 50% and for their retention, proper housing, women’s toilet, and training facilities as well as a cell to address sexual harassment complaints within the police force must be made available.A minority of policewomen deployed to ensure safety for women prisoners are not able to be effective if they are pressured by a male majority in their workplaces.
• Trials in rape cases should be concluded within a 90 day period, and all pending cases of rape (all India-100,000, Delhi 1000) should be dealt with by specially constituted courts with both rural and urban accessibility within 90 days. Concomitantly with this demand, bail should be cancelled for new and all the on going cases of sexual assault in court, so that the accused cannot continue to assault others while the case is pending. Speedy resolution of cases should ensure that justice for innocently accused is not delayed.
• Trials pertaining to sexual offences should be conducted as far as possible by women judges, and in cases of SC/ST or communal violence, by women members of the minority community. The number of judges, especially women judges, must also be increased in lower level courts and vacancies in these courts must be filled up.
• There should be specific provisions for recording the testimony of disabled victims or witnesses. Cases involving sexual assault against disabled women often end in acquittal as their testimony is either not recorded at all, or is recorded without the help of independent interpreters.
• Guidelines for victim and witness protection should be available for victims of violation of bodily integrity (outraging the modesty in the current law) as well as all forms of sexual assault, and bail should be cancelled for cases where intimidation can be shown.
• In trials of sexual offences, the complainant/ victim, her family members or members of women’s organizations representing the complainant should ordinarily be permitted to engage a counsel of her choice to assist the prosecution. In addition free legal, medical, psychological and rehabilitative services should be made available to enable working class women to pursue legal justice.
• Even in an in-camera trial, on the request of the complainant/ victim, her representatives should be permitted to remain present.
• Guidelines must be laid down for the cross examination of a victim of sexual violence, particularly highlighting the changes in the CrPC sections which now do not allow character assassination or looking at past history of the victim.
• There should be a strict code of conduct and binding jail-time punishment for officials holding public office, including ministers etc while commenting on cases pertaining to sexual assault or rape. Judges who deal with sexual assault/ rape cases should be sensitized and held accountable with legally enforceable punishments for dismissing rape cases based on violating the constitutional right of every person to a fair hearing - by disbelieving the rape of a dalit woman as in the Bhanwari Devi case, or for suggesting extra-legal remedies or marriage to the accused instead of strictly pursuing legal justice for the crime.
• The pending cases against security forces, police and wardens of Nari Niketans and other protective homes for girls and women must be dealt with on a priority basis so that instead of inflicting further violence these institutions play their role of providing thorough investigation and appropriate support.
• A date base of cases of sexual assault be maintained online and be publicly accessible, to track the implementation and performance of the law in each registered case, to help identify weak links. The name of the survivor must not be mentioned, but that of the accused and the neighbourhood where the assault took place, and the progress on the case must be made publicly known on the internet and local information especially on habitual sex offenders must be available at each local police station.
• Any media establishment that publishes the name or contact information of a survivor of rape should be routinely punished. There should be publicly available letter boxes and an online site where such reports can be directly sent.
E. In regard to punishment for rape.
In cases of aggravated sexual assault, punishment should be for life imprisonment with no remission or parole. Sentences should run consecutively instead of concurrently in sexual crimes. PVCHR does not support death penalty or chemical castration as a punishment for rape. We need to evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large number of men who commit these crimes. Cases of rape have a conviction rate of as low as 26% showing that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of charges. Our vision of justice does not include death penalty, which is neither a deterrent nor an effective or ethical response to acts of sexual violence. We are opposed to it for the following reasons:
1. We recognise that every human being has a right to life. We refuse to deem ‘legitimate’ any act of violence that would give the State the right to take life in our names. Justice meted by the State cannot bypass complex socio-political questions of violence against women by punishing rapists by death. Death penalty is often used to distract attention away from the real issue – it changes nothing but becomes a tool in the hands of the State to further exert its power over its citizens. A huge set of changes are required in the system to end the widespread and daily culture of rape.
2. There is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to rape. Available data shows that there is a low rate of conviction in rape cases and there is a strong possibility that the death penalty would lower this conviction rate even further as it is awarded only under the ‘rarest of rare’ circumstances. The most important factor that can act as a deterrent is the certainty of punishment, rather than the severity of its form.
3. As seen in countries like the US, men from minority communities and economically weaker sections make up a disproportionate number of death row inmates. In the context of India, a review of crimes that warrant capital punishment reveals the discriminatory way in which such laws are selectively and arbitrarily applied to disadvantaged communities, religious and ethnic minorities. This is a real and major concern, as the possibility of differential consequences for the same crime is injustice in itself.
4. The logic of awarding death penalty to rapists is based on the belief that rape is a fate worse than death. Patriarchal notions of ‘honour’ lead us to believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. There is a need to strongly challenge this stereotype of the ‘destroyed’ woman who loses her honour and who has no place in society after she’s been sexually assaulted. We believe that rape is a tool of patriarchy, an act of violence, and has nothing to do with morality, character or behaviour.
5. We also believe the law should punish rape with murder more strongly than rape without murder, so that the law does not provide an incentive for the perpetrator to kill the survivor of rape.
6. An overwhelming number of women are sexually assaulted by people known to them, and often include near or distant family, friends, husbands, workplace superiors and partners. With death penalty at stake, the ‘guardians of the law’ and the perpetrators will make sure that no complaints against them get registered and they will go to any length to make sure that justice does not see the light of day. Who will be able to face the psychological and social consequences of having reported against their own relatives when the penalty is death?
7. In cases of sexual assault where the perpetrator is in a position of power (such as in cases of custodial rape or marital rape or caste and religion violence), conviction is notoriously difficult. The death, penalty, for reasons that have already been mentioned, would make conviction next to impossible.
F. In regard to the urgent need for making workplaces and homes of women safer.
1. The Committees against Sexual Harassment which are to be constituted in various state and private establishments as per the Vishakha judgment, should be constituted with priority and urgency and renewal of workplace licences to employ workers should be made contingent on this. The said Committees should function independently and effectively, and create an atmosphere of no tolerance to sexual harassment. Section 16 of the proposed amendment to the sexual harassment bill which punishes a woman for a so-called false complaint must be scrapped. This would go a long way in ensuring dignity and empowering women at their workplace.
2. It is a common observation that the Domestic Violence Act is poorly implemented in most States with government servants being given additional charge of Protection Officer, lack of proper Shelter Homes for women victims of domestic violence, abuse within those shelter homes and on the streets for those rendered homeless by domestic violence, and poor understanding of judicial officers of the powers of civil injunctions and specific reliefs available to them
3. Women employees working in night and early morning shifts should be provided safe public transport facilities by the employer, and both public and private forms of transport must be effectively regulated and monitored for safety by the government. The routes from public transport sites to housing areas must be well-lit and tinted window vehicles should be strictly monitored.
4. There should be an expansion of the public transport system and the government should bring a public-transport-for-women-on-demand facility for any neighbourhood with a number of working women coping without public transport, including dispersed adivasi settlements and urban slums, functioning in the same manner of response to demand as anganwadi-on-demand. Strict implementation of women’s general compartment in all trains and women’s seats in all inter-city buses is necessary.
5. The number of affordable working-women’s hostels to ensure safe accommodation for single working women must be increased. All out-station girl students studying in colleges must be provided cheap and safe accommodation by their respective institutions.
6. Due to its impact on physical and mental health and a high degree of mortality, rape is also a public health issue. The public health workforce (ASHA and ANM workers) need to be trained in sensitizing at the family and community level in destigmatizing rape-survivors, enabling them to file FIRs and access legal provisions, providing medical care and counseling, and encouraging women to speak out and seek justice. All public hospitals must be equipped to immediately file an FIR and conduct a preliminary medical exam on behalf of patients who have survived rape for this the budget allocation of the government to the women and child, health and public transport departments must be accordingly increased by the next Budget.
7. Effective women helpline and other emergency services should be provided around the clock and should be well advertised by video and audio messages in rural and urban areas. Emergency telephones to this helpline must also be available at all bus and train stations. Calls should be addressed by specially trained staff and automatically recorded for later review, and the staff should be able to dispatch immediate vehicles to assist women facing an emergency. Disciplinary action must be taken against staff for inappropriate or inadequate responses.
8. The state should take over agencies which provide women domestic workers, the conditions of service of domestic workers must be laid down and effectively implemented, and complaints of sexual violence made by them promptly redressed.
9. Institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Schedule Castes (NCSC), National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), National Commission for Minorities (NCM), National Commission for Women (NCW) and the corresponding State Commissions, created for safeguarding constitutional provisions and protection of vulnerable groups must be more proactive. They should be made to respond to all complaints lodged with them in a time-bound manner. There should be systematic and regular review processes by independent bodies involving women’s groups, put into place to audit the work of these institutions
10. The system of shelters for women should be greatly expanded, and every state-based shelter home for women, nari niketans, remand homes, juvenile delinquent homes, shelters for disabled children, orphanages, as well as schools, prisons and areas under army patrolling or combing operations should have a schedule of inspections to probe for ongoing sexual harassment or assault by committees whose members are independent of the government. The people confined within should have the right to insist on 1 person whom they trust outside jail to accompany the team when it does these surprise checks
11. The current policy of clearing the streets of vendors, closing shops by a specific hour of night and chasing away other people who occupy public space at night makes the street more unsafe for women. This policy should be stopped as a greater presence of people and well-lit public areas at night are essential in reducing the danger to women traveling to and from work as well as homeless women. Women should be given priority in being given vendor licenses and employment in public transport.
12. Women should not be forced to comply with gender specific dress codes and women employees should be able to able to chose their dress code. .
G. In regard to Discouraging Patriarchal Culture.
1. All those persons against whom charge sheets have been filed for rape cases must be tried and either cleared of those charges, or sentenced and barred from contesting elections for public bodies by the Election Commission.
2. Advertisements, movies and public materials that condone, trivialize or misrepresent violence against women and sexual harassment should be banned.
3. Women have been carrying out powerful movements against liquor which is found to be connected to increase in domestic violence and incidents of sexual assault. The demands made by women in their local areas must be responded to by local authorities, rather than being suppressed by the liquor mafia.
4. The sale of acid, guns and other dangerous substances used to intimidate women must be strictly regulated.
5. Restrictions on movements and intimidation of women’s groups and democratic rights groups, while conducting fact-findings of incidents of sexual and other forms violence in conflict areas, have to stop. Repression, labelling and intimidation of women activists and human rights defenders must end.
6. Mass visible and audio messages on what constitutes sexual offenses and what are the remedies and punishment for the same, should be displayed in all public vehicles and public places such as markets, bus stands, train stations, etc. These areas should be accessible by people with disabilities to reduce their vulnerability due to being confined at homes or shelters.
7. School curricula should include basic information on how stalking, harassment, and touching another person without consent constitute unacceptable and illegal behavior, and the government should set up a training module for at least 2 staff members from each school to help children to report cases of domestic sexual assault. Caste, communal, gender identity and disability based discrimination against dalit, adivasi, religious minorities, gender and sexuality minorities, people with disabilities, homeless and working class people, etc. should be clearly and unequivocally taught to be unacceptable. This will greatly decrease their vulnerability to sexual assault.
8. All departments that deal with disability pension administration should have a clearly marked desk where people can go to report sexual harassment and assault. They as well as police stations should carry information for complaints procedure and all awareness material in accessible formats to cater to people with disabilities (Braille, audio, audio-video with same language sub-titling, large print, easy to read and pictorial guidance and availability of sign language interpreters). The inaccessibility of police stations and their present lack of capacity to interpret complaints from women with disabilities must be addressed in the long run.
H. In regard to sexual assault of transgender persons
1. The chosen gender of a transgender or intersex person should be respected during trial. Transgender people are often punitively raped for crossing the boundaries of assigned gender and the rape trauma is compounded by their bodies and minds being handled in ways to remind them of their assigned gender. The trial should not further increase that aspect of the trauma.
2. Acts like the Karnataka Police Act and the Hyderabad Eunuch Act that place the entire transgender community under suspicion and demand their routine reporting to the police act as a vehicle for police harassment and sexual violence against transgender women. These should be immediately repealed.
3. Transgender people must be handled by women police officers and not male police officers. The rules about arresting and detaining women at night should strictly apply to transgender people and sex workers.
Case of Krishna: cry of a child suffered with sexual abuse
Krishna (Name change) says she was raped in June 2012, when she was 12 years old. She said her attacker was a young man from a neighbouring village in eastern Uttar Pradesh, who was from a politically influential family. When she went to report the case to police, she said they detained her for 12 days to get her to retract her complaint. She told Human Rights Watch:
When I got to the police station I was interrogated by the station chief. When I told him what had happened he said I must have agreed to go with him [her attacker]. The policeman then abused me and called me a “motherfucker” and other rude words. They refused to accept my side of the story. I was kept in the police station and was locked up. The woman officer-incharge insisted that I sleep in her bed. I had to sleep at her feet. They kept insisting that I change my statement otherwise they threatened that something would happen to me. My parents kept trying to see me but they did not allow them to talk to me because they thought my parents would tell me to speak the truth…. They kept me in jail for 12 days. They didn't let me meet my parents. When I think of that time I'm afraid.
This intimidation did not work however, and when Krishna was taken to see a magistrate, she told him exactly what had happened to her. “I knew I had to tell the truth,” she said.
She was released and an NGO is currently helping the family pursue the case.
Health care providers play a crucial dual role in the response to sexual violence. They provide therapeutic care after an assault and yet they also assist in any criminal investigation. On the one hand, they must provide medical treatment for any injuries suffered by the survivor, address any adverse psychological, sexual, and reproductive health consequences of the assault,17 and can also provide referrals to legal and social welfare services. On the other hand, doctors conduct forensic examinations of survivors seeking evidence of a crime, and may later interpret this evidence as witnesses in court.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that health care and forensic services be provided at the same time, and by the same person, to reduce the potential for duplicating questions and retraumatizing the survivor of assault. The WHO guidelines state that the health and welfare of a survivor of sexual violence is “the overriding priority” and that the provision of forensic services cannot take precedence over health needs.
Many of our rape survivors have told us how police and doctors treat them. The experience by and large is humiliating for all victims. It adds to their overall trauma after rape. Some of them just become numb. Others find the whole process entirely dehumanizing. The insensitive manner and distrust with which they are treated negates their very being.
Women report specific difficulties with the ways they are treated during the process of forensic evidence collection. Police officers and doctors often send survivors from one hospital to another to take various tests, and often make them wait for hours, subject them to multiple uncomfortable examinations, and sometimes publicly identify them as “rape cases” in hospital corridors[xiii].
5.KHAP PANCHAYAT: anti-women traditional institution:
Khap is a cluster of villages united by caste and geography. It was started in the 14th century by upper caste to consolidate their power and position. The main rule is that all boys and girls within a Khap are considered siblings. KhapPanchayat governs the Khap formed by same gotra (clan) families from several neighbouring villages. KhapPanchayats are prevalent in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan. Love marriages are considered taboo in areas governed by Khap Panchayat. Those living in a Khap are not allowed to marry within the same gotra or even in any gotra from the same village. Many young couples have been killed in the past for defying Khap rules. KhapPanchayat imposes its writ through social boycotts and fines and in most cases end up either killing or forcing the victims to commit suicide. All this is done in the name of honour and brotherhood. It is due to the inherent weakness of democratically elected Panchayati Raj institutions, that the KhapPanchayats have been powerful. The government has not been able to do much to control their power. The 10-15 men who constitute a Khap settle disputes and control the lives of young people. Many villagers defend these caste-Panchayatsas they deliver a verdict in one sitting whereas court cases drag on for years.
According to them, in many cases innocent people get harassed in the court and by police. Here as everyone is known so they cross check everything to ensure neutrality. In some Haryana villages, young girls are routinely threatened, abused and killed all under Khap verdicts. The onus of maintaining siblinghood rests on the girl. She is the keeper of village honour. Sometimes rules are bent for the boys but never in the case of a girl. In keeping with the Khap rules, older villagers try to keep the young people apart. Some schools are also forced to have separate timings for boys and girls. Fearing their daughters would go astray, many parents marry them off at an early age. People have unquestionable faith in the justice meted out by the Khap Panchayats
6. HONOR KILLINGS: an instrument of patriarchy and mind of caste in communal understanding against freedom
To be young and in love has proved fatal for many young girls and boys in parts of north India as an intolerant and bigoted society refuses to accept any violation of its rigid code of decorum, especially when it comes to women. Many such killings, which go by the name honour killings, happen with regularity in Punjab, Haryana Status of Women in India: Problems and concerns. The usual remedy to such murders is the suggestion that society must be prevailed upon to be more gender-sensitive and shed prejudices of caste and class. Efforts should be made to sensitize people on the need to do away with social biases. So far, there is no specific law to deal with honour killings.
Attempt to honour killing case of Mahjbin Medha Nagar:
The Hon'b High Court allowed her to go and live at a place and person of her own choice but she was forcibly taken by her father Abhay Ram Nagar from the Court. When Faij ur Rehman and Mehjabeen resisted and advocate Manoj Mishra intervened the cops then said they would release her from the Nari Niketan. Cops then took Mehjabeen to Varanasi in the car provided by Abhay Ram Nagar in which Abhay Ram Nagar and his associates were also sitting.
Full details of case:
Women are trafficked for bonded labour, sex slavery and forced prostitution. But not a single woman from upper caste is trafficked in India.
Radha(name change), 15, says that an improperly conducted medical examination in Varanasi after she was repeatedly raped in February and March 2012 is impeding her legal case.95
Radha told Human Rights Watch that her abuser was the owner of a brick kiln factory in Uttar Pradesh, where she was forced to work as his maid for two months. Radha, who is originally from a tribal community in Jharkhand state, is among India's vast population of trafficked children, who are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse.She told Human Rights Watch:
I was with my family when a woman called Shanti visited us and told me to come with her. She was from the same village so I trusted her. She said she was going to take me to a fair. But this woman had tricked me and forced me to go to the brick kiln factory. There I had to work for the owner, doing his cooking and cleaning, and also massage him. Two days after I arrived he forced himself on me. He used to give me a tablet, and then he would force himself on me. My room was next to where the owner worked and every time he wanted me, he would come to my room. He would come two or three times a day. I told that woman Shanti that I didn't like it, and she said that “If you tell anyone, the owner will kill you.” One day I opposed it, and the owner beat me up brutally. I was so scared. The brick kiln owner was in his sixties, had no teeth, used to drink a lot, and force me to drink alcohol as well. When I refused, he used to hit me. I'm still in pain from the rapes. After two months there, in March 2012, Radha was able to escape and eventually make it to Varanasi where she was assisted by the People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR). They took her to the police and to a hospital, where a doctor carried out a medico-legal “two-finger test.
On the basis of this degrading and unscientific test, the doctor stated that Radha had not been raped. As a result, the police have refused to listen to her complaint and investigate the man she said had raped her repeatedly.
Radha, with the support of PVCHR, is challenging the doctor's findings. In September 2012 the police in her home district in Jharkhand agreed that Radha’s testimony could form the basis of a charge against her alleged assailant.
The United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power and Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to A Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law specify that both state and non-state actors should treat victims “with compassion and respect for their dignity and human rights” and “measures should be taken to ensure their safety and privacy.” The state has a special obligation to ensure that “its domestic laws, as much as possible, provide that a victim who has suffered violence or trauma should benefit from special consideration and care to avoid his or her retraumatization in the course of legal and administrative procedures designed to provide justice and reparation.”
8.Health of women:
India is failing to protect its women and children and is crawling towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which targets to cut child death rates by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters between years 1990-2015.
According to a report that tracks the progress made by 68 priority countries, which account for 97 per cent of maternal and child deaths worldwide, only 16 (24 per cent) were on track to meet the MDG compared to 7 of 60 (12 per cent) in 2005. India, however, is not one of them. While India’s target under the MDG for mortality of children under the age of five is 38 per 1,000 live births,51 the number of children who die before their fifth birthday stands at 76 at present.
Infant mortality rate in India stands at 57 per 1,000 live births while neonatal mortality rate – deaths in the first month of life – stands at 43 per 1,000 live births. Early initiation of breastfeeding benefits both mother and newborns. Yet, only 46 per cent infants under six months are being exclusively breastfed.
Also, only 41 per cent births have been registered. Malnutrition is direct cause of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and the health of mothers is directly related to a child’s health and without due attention to the causes behind high maternal mortality ratios, an important determinant of the health of our nation is being ignored. India, along with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia, contribute over 50 per cent of all maternal and child deaths globally. What is worse, India is not making sufficient progress. India’s population is massive and even if the ratio of maternal and child mortality may not be high, the numbers are staggering.
According to the report brought out by the International Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH), an umbrella organisation comprising nearly 240 members such as UNICEF, WHO and Save the Children, India’s average annual rate of reduction of child deaths between 1990 and 2006 has been just 2.6 per cent. The report also identifies a series of missed opportunities. It says only one-third of the women in 68 priority countries are using a modern contraceptive method – a proven means of boosting maternal and infant survival.
Only 50 per cent women and newborns benefit from a skilled birth attendant at the time of birth globally. Only about onethird of children with pneumonia, the biggest single killer of children, get treatment while under-nutrition has been the underlying cause of 3.5 million child deaths annually, and as many as 20 per cent of maternal deaths. Unsafe abortions result in the death of the mother as well, and skilled birth attendants are lacking in villages (there is a high rate of abortions until a woman conceives a male baby).
One in 48 women in India is at the risk of dying during childbirth. The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in India is a high 407 per 100,000 live births and other sources put the MMR at a higher 540.53 Reducing the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) by three-quarters by 2015 is a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for all countries including India. Achieving this means reducing the MMR to 100 by 2015. Part of the problem is this measurement – MMR data is just not there and if it is, it varies widely depending on what method was used to get it.
Studies show MMR among Scheduled Tribes (652) and Scheduled Castes (584) is higher than in women of other castes (516, according to one study). It is higher among illiterate women (574) than those having completed middle school (484). The key determinant seems to be access to healthcare and land as well as other means of source for livelihood. Less-developed villages had a significantly higher MMR (646) than moderately or well developed ones (501 and 488 deaths, respectively).
The main reasons for maternal deaths related to pregnancy are anaemia, post-partum bleeding and septic abortions with anaemia being the most rampant. There is a total neglect of a mother’s health in India. The situation is disgusting because a big chunk of all this is preventable. The real problem is food. It is all about food, the cost of food and the nutrition content therein.
These pregnant women have to fetch the water, make fuel, and look after the buffaloes, all on the measly amount of food they can afford. It becomes a negative calorie balance. Nutrition for pregnant mothers is very important and the ICDS Anganwadi Scheme has clearly not achieved the expected results.
While antenatal care is of paramount importance in the prevention of pregnancy-related deaths, septic abortions are more insidious. What is worse, the latter tends to go unreported due to the nature and circumstances surrounding it. In many rural areas, couples do not use any spacing methods and women conceive within 7 months of having given birth.
The abortion rate in these areas is high. With it comes hidden mortality from septic abortion deaths. Since the PHCs (Primary Health Centres) do not have MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) facility, the abortions are performed by quacks. And even if the PHCs or district hospitals have MTP methods, people opt for local help. “It saves them money. These are very poor people and transport costs and medical costs can be saved by walking to a local resource.” As a result, there are a high number of abortion-related deaths which do not get reported under maternal mortality.
Mahmood ul-Hasan, a resident of Bhatti, Lohta, Kashi Vidhyapeeth block of Varanasi district, took his wife for delivery to the primary health centre in Kashi Vidyapeeth. He was asked to pay bribes to the staff. He was asked to pay Rs 20 for application to get maternity benefit through the Auxiliary Nursing Mother (ANM). Asha Gupta is the ANM for the village.
At the centre, Afsana was given one injection, and no one took care of her for the rest of the day. The injection given was saline drips. No medical staff was available on duty at night.
Mahmood’s wife needed constant care as she was expecting her baby. Given these conditions at the centre, Mahmood did not have any other option but to leave the primary health centre with his wife on the following day.
When Mahmood was about to leave the primary health centre with his wife, he was again asked to pay bribes to the staff at the health centre and to the pharmacist, Krishna Ram, for the injection. Since he did not have money to pay any more, the pharmacist did not register Afsana’s case at the centre and failed to give them a receipt which is necessary to apply for the maternity benefit scheme. Afsana had to return home without proper medical care. Afsana gave birth to a baby girl, but the baby died six hours later.
Abortion (MTP) being legal in India, no one is turned away. Second trimester abortion is a big reason for rising MMRs. “People come late for the abortions and complications arise. And apparently these are not only driven by spacing problems.”
Contraceptives are used only by women and failure of these is common. Of course, abortion of female foetuses is routine and it goes on until the woman conceives a male child. The whole scenario makes one shudder. Falciparum malaria leads to abortion and stillbirths and can severely compound anaemia. Orissa has one of the highest rates of MMR in India at 738. Another key reason for deaths during pregnancy is post-partum bleeding or haemorrhage. The need for blood in such cases is imperative and access is less than ideal.
Early diagnosis of high-risk pregnancies and complications and quick referrals are of paramount importance. The so-called Primary Health Care units are so dirty that infection will probably increase because of them. Corruption is not a new problem. Poor people end up spending huge amounts due to over-prescription of medicines that should be made free to them. This is the real problem and no amount of infrastructure improvement will bring down MMR if governance is not improved. Now, if there were a skilled birth attendant (SBA) at the time of each delivery or for antenatal check-ups for each pregnancy, he or she can recognise a high-risk pregnancy or a potential complication and refer the mother to a district hospital or closest emergency care unit. The incidence of death from complications would be reduced.
In Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam and Orissa, where the MMRs are well above the national average, it will require serious political will and accountability to change the status quo. Verticals tend to be donor driven and are cost intensive. MMR is not a disease unto itself. Clearly, high MMR is a symptom of a larger and wider problem in healthcare, namely the overall health of the woman, and should be treated as such and across verticals.
In today’s society, child marriages, one of the main causes of MMR, are still very high in percentage mostly in rural, poor, less educated girls and those from central or eastern regions of the country. The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2006, makes child marriage voidable for the woman who was a child at the time of marriage. However, many laws are unable to control child marriage in India and social awareness and shared responsibility from all sections of society are necessary. Concern of violation of human rights: both woman’s rights and children’s rights, defined as marriage before the age of 18.
The caste-based and patriarchal feudal society of India played a great role in creating this practice: balance of power between the various kingdoms and fiefdoms. By marrying off children at a very young age where there is no question of them having any sense of choice about their life partner, it is easy for the parents to create matrimonial alliances among families. Caste also had a role to play in perpetuating this system: Marriages between members of different castes were not allowed so to preserve itself, the caste system could have helped in creating the practice of child-marriage.
In poorer economic environments, marriage expenses are kept to a minimum, so a child-marriage not as grand an affair as adult marriages. Impoverished families often use early marriage to get rid of the financial burden of a daughter and the laws can be slow to react. Sometimes, many parents do not want a girl baby and seek to get over with the responsibilities of their daughters by getting them married off as minors. Women who were married as children more likely to have had three or more childbirths, a repeat childbirth in less than 24 months, multiple unwanted pregnancies, pregnancy termination, and sterilisation. Other health problems include sterilisation in young women due to them having their desired number of children at an earlier age, inadequate fertility control (high numbers of unwanted pregnancies), risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Janani Suraksha Yojana: Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is perhaps the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world which was launched by the MOH&FW, Government of India in 2005 with the goal to reduce maternal and infant mortality through accelerating institutional delivery and other continuum of services at government health services, particularly among the poor and marginalized groups. Since the introduction of the JSY program, a major increase has been taken place in institutional deliveries
It is a 100 percent centrally sponsored scheme and links cash assistance with delivery and post-delivery care. In availing institutional delivery services, the client would need to be escorted to an institution, would need transport to reach the institution and in case of complications, referral services are required. The scheme has considered all these elements and has made provision for transport including referral and escort (by ASHAs) and at the same time invested in improving public health institutions and services through the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) Programme interventions. Moreover, the states have flexibility to evolve public private partnership (PPP) mechanism and accredit private health institutions for providing institutional delivery services.
Among SCs, STs, and OBCs the percentage of women who had at least one ANC visit or three or more ANC visits was below the national average. The OBC women, however, were relatively better placed than SC and ST women. The ST women suffer the most on this account and this can partly be attributed to the fact that they are concentrated in rural areas
Female foeticide is an extreme manifestation of violence against women. Female foetuses are selectively aborted after prenatal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls. As a result of sex-selective abortion, between 35 and 40 million girls and women are missing from the Indian population. In some parts of the country, the sex ratio of girls to boys has dropped to less than 800:1,000.
The sex ratio has altered consistently in favour of boys since the beginning of the 20th century and the effect has been most pronounced in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. It was in these states that private foetal sex determination clinics were first established and the practice of selective abortion became popular from the late 1970s. Alarmingly, the trend is far stronger in urban rather than rural areas, and among literate rather than illiterate women, exploding the myth that growing affluence and spread of basic education alone will result in the erosion of gender bias.
The adverse sex ratio has been linked to the low status of women in Indian communities in all religions. The status of women in a society can be determined by their education, health, and economic role, presence in the professions and management, and decision-making power within the family.
Religion operates alongside other cultural and economic factors in lowering the status of women. The practice of dowry has spread nationwide, to communities and castes in which it had never been the custom, fuelled by consumerism and emulation of upper caste practices. In the majority of cases, the legal system has no impact on the practice of dowry. It is estimated that a dowry death occurs in India every 93 minutes. The need for a dowry for girl children, and the ability to demand a dowry for boys, exerts considerable economic pressure on families to use any means to avoid having girls, who are seen as a liability. “Freedom for Rs 200!”(£2.85) exclaim the large painted doors of Mukti Clinic in Varanasi. Ostensibly a maternal health centre, it is only one of the several prenatal gender determination clinics that have sprung up all over the state.
Heavily protected by local mafia, clinics such as these offer parents the option of aborting female foetuses right up to the fifth month of pregnancy and could be one of the biggest factors in the state’s abysmal sex ratio. A large body of academic and statistical work has illustrated that economic prosperity is actually one of the largest contributing factors towards worsening sex ratios.
Prosperity gives parents access to ultrasound machines that allow for gender determination and surgical procedures to eliminate female foeticide. However, as Mukti Clinic illustrates, a complete package of gender determination and subsequent abortion can cost as little as Rs 200 in the first month and Rs 950 in the fifth month – a period when abortions are rarely performed. A district wise examination of per capita income in the state only substantiates this prosperity-sex ratio thesis.
Reena is married to Jitendra Vishwakarma of Tendui village, under Jansa police station of Varanasi. She alleged that her husband, who is a compounder (medical assistant) by profession, took her to an ultrasound centre when she was pregnant. After learning that she was bearing a girl child in her womb, he gave her injections and medicines which led to miscarriage. She also alleged that her in-laws were torturing her for dowry since the beginning of her marital life.55 Taking serious note, the District Magistrate, A K Upadhyaya, instructed the police to lodge an
FIR against the accused and take necessary action. The Savitri Bai Phule Women Forum, an organisation of rural women working for the cause of women’s rights, has demanded the immediate arrest of the accused on charges of female foeticide and action against the ultrasound centre for sex determination under PNDT (Pre-natal Diagnostic Test) Act.
Interestingly, though the FIR was lodged against Jitendra on 16 June 2010, the police are yet to arrest him. According to the station officer of Jansa police station, Jitendra was absconding.
On the other hand, the health department is investigating the matter of sex determination. The instant wedding phenomenon in the eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh highlights the disturbing fact of the state’s very low sex ratio. The chatpat shaadis (instant marriages) can be seen as the point of intersection of two separate and disturbing aspects: the pull factor that makes men from western UP search for brides in the eastern districts and the push factor that makes the women accept these men.
While a ratio of 950 females per 1,000 males is considered normal in India, most countries tend to have more women than men. The national average in India, as per Census 2001, is 933. A state-wise break-up of the data ranks UP, with a sex ratio of 898 below in the rankings, only slightly better than Punjab, Haryana and Sikkim. The sex ratio of the population in the western districts of the state is below 900, while it is above 1,000 in some of the eastern districts.
“There are no women in western Uttar Pradesh,” said Motilal Rajbhar. Gita, Motilal’s daughter, is one of the most recent brides to have married a boy from Moradabad, a district in western UP with a sex ratio of 885. “So any boy from Moradabad who does not belong to the upper caste, who does not have a steady job, who is above 25 years of age, or who is looking to get married for a second time, cannot hope to find a local girl willing to marry him,” says Motilal.
Gunja, a 16-year-old from Sarai Mohana in Varanasi, and her parents took all possible precautions before marrying her off to a young man from Nandapur village in Agra district. Her parents met the groom’s parents, and even visited their house in Agra. However, it was only after she was married and went to live with her husband that the nightmare began. She spent the next six months practically captive in a one-room mud hut before her parents arrived and rescued her. She now lives with her parents and refuses to return to her matrimonial home.
Uttar Pradesh’s chatpat weddings are the latest addition to the larger national marriage market that functions along a complex and intricate network of brides, grooms and agents. States like Punjab and Haryana have taken to sourcing brides from states as far away as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Tripura, apart from neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. Chatpat weddings are usually arranged with the help of a local facilitator or dalal. The dalal, who is often a woman, is usually one who is either from Varanasi and has married someone from western UP or viceversa, and so has family in the villages of both the bride and the groom. Channoo Rajbhar is the dalal in Sarai Mohana and has got 30 young women from his village married off to young men from Moradabad over the past three years.
The dalal has to verify the antecedents of both sides and arrange the modalities and logistics for the wedding. “Since the weddings are usually conducted within days of the couple meeting, a lot of planning is required,” explains Rajbhar. “Pandits have to be arranged, a village feast has to organised, gifts have to arranged.” However, the ultimate responsibility rests with the parents. “We usually arrange a meeting of the parents; after that we are no longer accountable,” confirms Channoo.
The biggest draw of a chatpat wedding is the limited economic burden placed on the parents and no right of choice to girls under patriarchal hegemony. While each case is different, dowry is very rarely taken in such alliances. In fact, the financial insecurity of the marginalised community implies that the groom’s side often pays the lion’s share of the wedding expenses.
The dalal extracts a percentage of the costs as commission and these are entirely borne by the groom’s family.
[iii] Justice Liberty and Equality: Dalits in Independent India: Lenin Raghuvanshi