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Concern at rise in Gender Violence against Juveniles in Kandhamal

JOINT NATIONAL FACT FINDING TEAM ON GENDER VIOLENCE IN KANDHAMAL-ORISSA
PRESS STATEMENT
BHUBANESWAR, 26th February 2013

CONCERN AT RISE IN GENDER VIOLENCE AGAINST JUVENILES IN KANDHAMAL
ADMINISTRATION, POLICE FAR AWAY FROM “ZERO TOLERANCE” OF RAPE; COMPENSATION STILL NOT PAID TO VICTIMS
NEED FOR FAST TRACK COURTS, HELP LINE AND COUNSELLING

The Government of Orissa needs to take urgent steps to enforce a “Zero Tolerance Regime” against rape cases in the State, especially in vulnerable hinterland districts such as Kandhamal with large populations of marginalized Dalit and Tribal people.

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.

However, in the case of the murder of the 13 year old girl in Dodohmah, Simanbadi village, the police have filed a charge-sheet in the court against two men. A third accused is a juvenile.

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. 
Another area of concern was the situation in the government–run hostels in the district where as many as 10,000 tribal and Dalit girls stay and study in attached schools. The security of these schools and hostels has not got the attention it deserves from the authorities, and there have been cases of girls from hostels being lured and seduced by outsiders.

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.

ANNEXURES
FINDINGS AND SUGGESTIONS MADE BY THE FACT FINDING TEAM ON GENDER VIOLENCE IN KANDHAMAL
BASIC FINDINGS:
1. Sexual violence against women in Kandhamal is due to the breakdown of the law and order situation in the district that gives a feeling to the culprits that they can get away with the law easily.
2. Gender violence including child molestation, rape and murder has led to moral breakdown and manifested in incest, adultery and bigamy with desertion coupled with cruelty.
3. Lack of medical examination facilities for the victims impede and delay the process of justice.
4. An imposed culture of silence in which victims are not willing to voice the assault on them is due to threats from the accused and their families and friends.
5. Lack of fast track courts for women, Mahila Thanas (Women Police Station) and women police officers discourage the victims of sexual violence to follow up their cases.
6. Lack of juvenile homes in the district while the juvenile crimes are on the increase is a violation of the human rights of the juvenile criminals.
7. Lack of education and awareness about their rights especially among the dalit and tribal communities lead to their sexual exploitation by Upper Caste people.
8. Absence of payment of compensation, lack of rehabilitation facilities and trauma counselling centres for victims of rape continue to traumatize them
9. Prevalent dowry system and patriarchal mind set of people make them utterly vulnerable to sexual violence.
10. Lack of gender sensitivity among the police officials leads to further humiliation, insults of the victims of rape.
11. Negligence and passive role on the part of the police to accelerate the process of justice by refusing to register the FIRs destroys the confidence of the victims and their families to speak out against the atrocities being committed against them
12. After the communal riots of 2008, the minority communities are being threatened especially targeting their women and children for sexual exploitation.
13. Forcible inter caste marriages happening for acquisition of the tribal property and desertion of the women after acquiring their property seems to be a common phenomenon.

SUGGESTIONS TO THE ADMINISTRATION:
1. Adopt Zero tolerance policy to curb violence against minor girls and women.
2. Justice Verma Commission Report to be implemented with immediate effect.
3. Adequate compensation to be given to the victims.
4. Set up Fast Track courts to try the rape victims.
5. Conduct a survey on Gender violence in Kandhamal and bring out statistics in order to take adequate measures to prevent sexual assault and rape against minor girls and women.
6. Organize awareness programs regarding the rights of the victims and their families.
7. Make medical examination of rape victims mandatory.
8. Filing of FIRs to be made compulsory in every police station and officers who fail to perform their duties should be prosecuted.
9. Establish child care centres/crèche for children of daily labourers and wage earners.
10. Adequate women police officers to be posted in every police station and establish Mahila Thana (Women’s Police Station) in order to protect the integrity and dignity of the victim.
11. Sex education should be given to the children from Class I onwards.
12. Special focus on abandoned and deserted women and set up homes for women in distress.
13. Establish self defence schools for girls and women.
14. Establish and maintain help lines for women and children.
15. Establish trauma counselling centres and rehab centres in every block for the victims
16. Make provision for rehabilitation and employment opportunities including vocational training and education to victims of rape and other forms of gender violence.
17. Juvenile Homes and cells to be set up for rehabilitation and reformation of the juvenile offenders.
18. Review existing security measures of the girl’s hostels run by the government and ensure security for the girls. Establish hostels for working women.
19. Implement and utilise Govt. funds for the benefit of victims of rapes and gender violence.
20. Deploy adequate police force both male and female during major festivals and ensure frequent patrolling in sensitive areas and hamlets
21. Provide financial help to run minority women’s and girls’ hostels.
22. Village Committees to have 50% of women participants and to ensure that the justice process is carried out.
23. Activate all Government Commissions with adequate representation of women.
24. Adequate representations of SC, ST, SCBC communities in State Legislature and all women’s commissions.

Reported by:
Kasta Dip
Director, India Peace Centre