Concern at rise in Gender Violence against Juveniles in Kandhamal
JOINT NATIONAL FACT FINDING TEAM ON GENDER VIOLENCE IN KANDHAMAL-ORISSA
An All India Fact finding team on gender violence which toured Kandhamal and interacted with State and District authorities from 23rd to 26th February 2013 discovered that despite the national focus after the New Delhi rape and murder case, Orissa has not yet assimilated the administrative recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee into the functioning of district police and units of the Women and Child Welfare Department. There is also a feeling that since the anti Christian violence in 2007 and 2008 and the very large number of acquittals in criminal cases, the people seem not to fear the law as much as they should. The fact finding ream consisted of representatives of CBCI Women’s Desk, National Council of Churches in India, All India Christian Council, EFI, ADF, and YWCA National Council.
A grass roots survey involving interviews with victim-survivors and families of murdered girls shows a shocking state of affairs typified in the rape of a six year old of K Nuagaon Block in one case, and 13 to 14 years old girls attacked in Daringibadi. The situation demands that senior officials be held accountable for dereliction of duties by the subordinate police.
None of the rape victims have yet received any of the statutory compensation. It is absurd that the victim has to make an application pleading for compensation. The authorities must give such compensation suo motu, as was done in the case of the Delhi victim.
Police have not been able to explain the high number of acts of sexual violence against young girls. One senior officer dismisses them as “failed love affairs”. The team expresses disappointment at official statements that they register FIRs because of the pressure of parents “even where no actual rape had taken place.” Many parents insist there has been refusal to register complaints, or long delay at the police station. In some cases, police and village committees have sought to force the victims into compromising with the assailants instead of dealing with the crime under law.
According to data given by District Superintendent of Police J.N.Pankaj, the number of rapes has come down in 2012 to 21 cases from a high of 32 cases in 2011 and 25 cases in 2010.
However, NGO groups have said they had recorded at least nine cases from 24th October 2012 till 15th February 2013 and there were many other cases they were probing.
The absence of a forensic science laboratory in the Kandhamal district, the absence of women personnel in many police stations, the fact there is no Special Juvenile Police Unit, and skeletal staff with almost no facilities in the women’s welfare units in the district aggravates the situation making women more vulnerable.
The fact finding group was also disturbed at the very large number of women in Kandhamal who had been deserted by their husbands. In most cases, the women were from Dalit or Tribal communities, and the men from other castes, specially “outsiders” including many traders doing business in the small towns.
There is an urgent need for a gender situation survey in Kandhamal district which should cover the girls’ hostels, the issue of abandoned women and the crisis of human trafficking in Kandhamal girls in particular and Orissa girls in general. Police admit they have identified the vulnerable blocks and villages, but there is no system in place to check the crime. Step need be taken to ensure change in the mindset of all people, especially officials.
In its suggestions, the team has called for urgent steps to sensitize police and officials at all levels on gender violence issues, apart from launching education programmes through mass media, TV and extension services. Sex education as a subject in schools, orientation of village committees and gram panchayats need to be taken up immediately. Local hospitals must carry out medical examinations by women doctors whenever a victim comes, instead of making the girl and her parents to go from one place to another.
In prevention of crime, patrolling has to be intensified where large crowds congregate in the urban areas for fetes and fairs and people have to return home in the dark, making young girls especially vulnerable to sexual predators.
Other measures suggested include steps for counseling and rehabilitation of victims of gender violence, especially very young children apart from legal services percolating to the grassroots. The Helpline for women must be activated.
The fact finding team consisted of Dr. John Dayal, Member of National Integration Council and Secretary General, All India Christian Council, Advocate Sr. Helen Saldanah [CBCI office for Women] Advocate Sr. Mary Scaria, Advocate Loreign Ovung [ADF_EFI], Sr. Justine, Ms. Lena Chand [YWCA India], Mr. Sukant Nayak and Mr. Ashish Bhasin [Light Foundation] and Mr. Kasta Dip [Director, India Peace Centre - National Council of Churches in India]
Copies of their suggestions are being forwarded to the State and Central governments and the Commissions for Women and Children.