Recent Resources for Feminists
India: Nation's Abuse of Women is the Biggest Human Rights Violation on Earth Print E-mail

 London ~ Friday 27 April 2018

India's abuse of women is the biggest human rights violation on Earth

Tragic rape cases have shocked the country. But the everyday suffering of 650 million Indian women and girls goes unnoticed

By Deepa Narayan

Women protest against violence against women and children in Bangalore, April 2018. (Jagadeesh Nv/EPA)

India is at war with its girls and women. The planned rape of eight-year-old Asifa in a temple by several men, including a policeman who later washed the clothes she was wearing to destroy evidence, was particularly horrific. Asifa's rape has outraged and shaken the entire country. Yet sexual abuse in India remains widespread despite tightening of rape laws in 2013. According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, in 2016 the rape of minor girls increased by 82% compared with the previous year. Chillingly, across all rape cases, 95% of rapists were not strangers but family, friends and neighbours.

The culturally sanctioned degradation of women is so complete that the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, launched a national programme called Beti Bachao (Save Our Girls). India can arguably be accused of the largest-scale human rights violation on Earth: the persistent degradation of the vast majority of its 650 million girls and women. And this includes the middle classes, as I found when interviewing 600 women and men in India's cities.

India's women are traumatised in less obvious ways than by tanks in the streets, bombs and warlords. Our oppression starts innocuously: it occurs in private life, within families, with girls being locked up in their own homes. This everyday violence is the product of a culture that bestows all power on men, and that does not even want women to exist. This is evident in the unbalanced sex ratios at birth, even in wealthy families. But India also kills its women slowly. This violence is buried in the training of women in some deadly habits that invite human rights violations, but that are considered the essence of good womanhood.

The first teaches girls to be afraid of their own bodies. When a girl is not supposed to exist, 1.3 billion people collectively pretend that girls don't have bodies and especially no sexual parts. If girls do not have bodies, sexual molestation is not possible, and if it does happen, it has to be denied, and if it cannot be denied, the girl must be blamed.

Denial of sexuality in homes is another habit that is deadly to girls. Almost every woman I interviewed had experienced some form of sexual molestation. Only two had told their mothers, only to be dismissed, "Yes, this happens in families," or "No, this did not happen." Indian government surveys show that 42% of girls in the country have been sexually abused.

Speech is another basic human right. To have a voice, to speak up, is to be recognised, to belong. But girls are trained in silence. They are told to be quiet, to speak softly, dheere bolo, to have no opinions, no arguments, no conflicts. Silent women disappear. They are easy to ignore, overrule, and violate without repercussions. Impunity flourishes.

It serves a culture of violence to create pleasers, another habit that further erodes a woman's sense of self. Pleasers compromise and sacrifice, all disguised through the ubiquitous phrase beta thora adjust kar lo - "darling, please adjust a little". It means to be punished to force you to fit in, to do what others want you to do and never say no.

Women whose sense of self has been worn down, by definition must depend on others, which only serves to breed fear and violence. Over 50% of Indian men and women still believe that sometimes women deserve a beating. One woman is killed every hour for not bringing enough dowry to a husband. But dependency is still presented as a virtuous habit and independence as a bad characteristic. Dependent women have no separate identity and are legitimate only as mothers, wives and daughters. Such women are trained to put duty over self - the suicide numbers are highest for housewives.

The right to assemble is a right taken away by dictators. In India it is the culture that subverts women's desire to organise. The cultural design of oppression is so clever, that it instils a habit of distrust and trains women to demean, dismiss and discount other women. Almost no woman I interviewed belonged to a women's group. They said, "I don't have time for gossip."

The real genius of this system lies in the fact that oppression has been recast as a virtue. So erasure of self - the most treacherous human rights violation - hides in plain sight, sanctified by loving families, perfumed by our definitions of goodness. And the private sphere, the family, remains impenetrable and untouchable.

We have underestimated the power of culture in creating violence within our families. To reclaim our humanity we need a national conversation about what it means to be a good woman and a good man in India today.

• Deepa Narayan is a social scientist and author of Chup: Breaking the Silence About India's Women

Thursday April 19 2018

Saving the girl child, against all odds

By Giridhara R. Babu

Estimates indicate that for every 100 girls in rural India, only one or two complete class XII. (DH File Photo)
Nearly 40% of girls leave school before completing the fifth standard. (DH file photo)
The misery starts for a girl child even before she is born in India. According to the 2011 Census, Haryana had the worst sex ratio with only 861 females to every 1000 males. Legislation has barely made any effect in stopping female foeticides or in arresting the declining sex ratio in India. The World Bank estimates indicate that compared to 961 women per 1000 men in 1971, it is reduced to 939 in 2011; it is projected to be 904 in 2021, and 898 in 2031.

Of those fortunate girls who do not get killed in the womb, very few get good nutrition and education. Estimates indicate that for every 100 girls in rural India, only one or two complete class XII. Nearly 40% of girls leave school before completing the fifth standard. Evidence also suggests that low maternal literacy is related to the poor nutrition status of young children. Poor nutrition, in turn, is the topmost factor for continuation of malnutrition across generations (in their children and so forth). Low birth weight also predisposes the girls to obesity during adolescence.

Not only malnutrition, young girls are increasingly affected by obesity. India has 14.4 million obese children. Several studies suggest that obesity in girls contributes to the early onset of puberty. Also, the latest study in the American Journal of Epidemiology indicates that the early onset of puberty in girls aged between 6-11 years is related to obesity and high glucose levels in mothers. Obesity in pubertal girls may be associated with higher levels male sex hormones such as testosterone and a high risk of adolescent polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Polycystic ovary syndrome affects nearly 9 to 25% of Indian women. PCOS leads to insulin resistance and therefore increases the risk of diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels, heart disease, stroke and cancer of the inner lining of the uterus. Adult women suffer from several health risks. For example, indoor air pollution that peculiarly affects Indian women is also the second largest killer with 1.3 million deaths each year.

In 2017, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and injury (self-harm and violence) constituted the top three causes of death in the women in India. Among the 60 years and older, the women outnumber with 1,028 for every 1,000 men (2011 census). Elderly women have poorer health outcomes compared to men, and yet the hospitalisation rates are higher for elderly men. Nearly one in three elderly in India would have lost their spouses; 50% of female elderly are widows who are most vulnerable to disability, illness and are also less likely to avail any healthcare.

Women remain disadvantaged for many reasons throughout their life. This can change through affirmative actions. For instance, women with higher autonomy, are less likely to have a stunted child or poor health outcomes. Access to money and freedom to choose to go to the market or visit a healthcare facility will constitute such autonomy.

Equal pay
A simple measure to make it happen is equal pay for equal work. The government must ensure it if it believes in equality at all.

Besides, financial incentives and subsidies to women, reduced tax, and providing access to education are some measures that the government can take. To implement all these, the government needs major policy overhaul. And we need to involve women in making policies that will have major implications for women. Moreover, girls should be beneficiaries of modern technology, through which tele-education can be imparted. Representation and role models of successful women can help girls work towards realising their dreams. Besides, we need to empower self-help groups that help women in need.

Even as the country rightfully mourns the grievous atrocities against girls and women, we need to introspect - what are the chances for girls to be born, survive and thrive in this country? As the agony of the daughters, wives, sisters and mothers echoes in the minds of the people, attention is needed on several threats a girl faces through her life.

While it is wishful to think that there are easy solutions, the policymakers need to show clear intent and careful planning to implement specific actions with a deeper perspective. Community participation in the entire process is the key to success. It's not rhetoric, we need to take action, and soon.

(The writer is an additional professor at the Indian Institute of Public Health, PHFI, Bengaluru)

India: MAKAAM condemns the rape & murder of an 8 yr-old girl in J&K and all such acts ... Print E-mail

which violate women's bodies to terrorize marginalised communities and deny them their traditional lands and resources



MAKAAM expresses grave anguish and outrage at the rape and atrocities perpetrated on the 8-year old minor girl of the Bakarwal community from Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, as reports pour in of numerous other instances of sexual violence against minors in other cities, towns and villages. We also oppose the forced evictions of the Bakarwals -Gujjars from their customary territories by the J&K administration and condemn the atrocities committed against the community. The deliberate efforts at communalization and land grab forms the social and political backdrop of this heinous atrocity.

The instance of violence against the minor girl in Kathua is not an isolated incident, but one among numerous others that bear evidence to the increasing incidence of rape and brutality against women and girls as sites for the assertion of increasingly masculinized caste- and religion-based patriarchies. In a context of exacerbating vulnerabilities of women, children, dalits, adivasis, minorities the increased resource grab across the country only serves to further worsen their situation. We condemn the marginalization, polarization and dispossession of marginalized minority pastoralist communities in Jammu and Kashmir and their denial of rights in their traditional territories where they have maintained their seasonal livelihoods.

Gendered Sexual Violence as an instrument of oppression
The atrocity, rape and murder of the 8 year old minor girl in Kathua brings to light the manner in which sexual violence against women and children is used as a tool to further subjugate marginalised communities. In this case, the brutalization of the minor girl is evidence of not only the grave physical insecurities within which Bakarwal women in J&K meet sustenance and livelihood needs in the context of communalization and violent dispossession from their traditional forest areas, but also exposes the perpetrators’ attempts to humiliate  the community by targeting its most vulnerable members.

While prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence against women and children is already fraught with challenges in a patriarchal society, the endorsement of violent and exclusionary politics and laws by the present government further compounds these challenges and offers impunity to dominant groups. In this case, these phenomena are evident in the rallies subsequent to the incident of rape and murder by some elements among the settled villagers and lawyers against the filing of the charge-sheet, preventing the community from burying the minor girl in their traditional burial grounds, as well as orders mandating eviction of Bakarwals from their customary forests and refusal to extend the Forest Rights Act to Jammu and Kashmir (details below)
The J&K government has failed in its legal and constitutional duty to secure the life and liberty of the minor girl who  was marked by multiple marginalizations of  age, gender, religious and tribal identity, and her vulnerable situation compounded by sustained efforts to evict her community from their land,. Instead, the government was instrumental in magnifying her vulnerabilities by attempting to forcefully evict her family and community, jeopardizing their livelihood and way of life, and then failing to provide any form of redress for the sexual violence.

Instead of implementing the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee 2013, the central government has chosen to issue an ordinance, bypassing Parliamentary procedures, to introduce the death penalty in case of rapes of minors, further encouraging cycles of violence upon marginalized communities, despite studies that demonstrate the inefficacy of Death Penalty to curb such incidents of rape, and that a majority of those awarded the death penalty are themselves Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes revealing  a further reinforcement of the vicious cycle of oppression and discrimination.

Marginalised and threatened communities and livelihoods

MAKAAM views this heinous crime against the young girl as an aggression against the community and as part of systematic attempts to intimidate, terrorize and drive out the community in response to their growing assertion for forest rights and secure livelihoods, as is in evidence in other parts of the country as well where communities have staked claims to their traditional rights. The Bakarwals- Gujjars are traditionally pastoralist communities, who spend summer in the high altitude pastures of the Kashmir and Ladakh regions. In the winter, they move with their livestock to the Shivaliks and the plains of Jammu province. The community was classified as a Scheduled Tribe in 1991, and continues to remain largely marginalized owing to their nomadic lifestyles and general apathy of policy makers towards their rights and livelihoods. The appropriation of the customary lands of this tribal community by the state and some sections of the neighbouring communities on communal grounds is rendered evident by their refusal to allow the minor girl’s body to be buried on lands owned by her own family!
Owing to the non-recognition of the rights of the community to their customary forest lands, the Bakarwals continue to be viewed as ‘encroachers’ on the same forests where they have been practicing their traditional vocation for centuries, a fact expressly recognized by the Jammu and Kashmir government in 1975 through its executive orders in 1975. However, the control of the colonial-era forest bureaucracy continues to be legally and institutionally entrenched in the region, as the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA) does not extend to Jammu and Kashmir, denying traditional rights to the 27 lakh Bakharwal- Gujjar population. In other states in India, the FRA recognizes the authority of the Gram Sabha over Community Forest Resources (CFR) under sections S.3(1)(i) and S.5, and the historical rights of forest-dwelling communities to cultivable land, grazing pastures, minor forest produce under S.3, among others. In the neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh, the seasonal rights of pastoralists is duly vested and recognized under S.3 (1)(d), FRA. The non-extension of FRA to J&K permits the forest bureaucracy and state administration to prevent the community from using forest land for grazing and restrict access to traditional migratory routes. Areas used by the Bakarwals-Gujjars for seasonal migration have also been cordoned off , rendering habitation, collection of forest produce and water, grazing and movement difficult and also criminalizing them in the eyes of the state. Other issues like infrastructure, development of tourist resorts and linear infrastructure projects on traditional grazing areas have also made pastoralism  difficult and risk-fraught  for the community, already enmeshed in the midst of the  other deeper issues that have plagued the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Grazing restrictions and lack of access to grazing grounds implies that they have had to wander further off from camps and villages hitherto familiar to them, exposing them to unfamiliar terrains and having to establish new social relationships in an environment fraught with suspicion. This has also created safety issues for women and children who are primarily responsible for tasks like collecting fodder and firewood, while also sometimes helping out with rounding off animals and collection of minor forest produce to augment family incomes.

In defence of their traditional way of life and to secure livelihoods, the community had recently begun to assert their rights to forests and resources, and called for  an extension of the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA 2006) to J&K. We acknowledge that the implementation of the Forest Rights Act has been a long-standing demand of the Gujjar and Bakarwal associations in the state and join our voice in solidarity with these groups in demanding that the Act be extended to the state as  deemed appropriate and necessary within the context of Jammu and Kashmir, in order to secure the lives ,livelihoods and bodily safety of women pastoralists and their brethren and to allow them and other communities to live amicably in the practice of their traditional occupations in the region. We urge the government to take necessary steps to adopt the enactment of the FRA 2006 for the state ensuring that women’s rights to forests and to forest resources and to representation are secured to ensure them their livelihoods and traditional practices. We press for the issue to be taken up and settled to ensure justice urgently in the upcoming assembly session of the state

Communal fault lines and resource contestations
The circumstances described above are affecting the pastoral lifestyle of the community, and have led to many within the community preferring to lead a sedentary lifestyle, choosing to settle down in their villages around Jammu division and in some cases also buying land. This has led to resource contestations between the Bakarwal community and other resident villagers. Since 2014, however, the situation has become increasingly tense, and the community has alleged that selective evictions and anti-encroachment drives against them have increased in the Jammu Division. They have also alleged incendiary speeches by the members of the ruling parties to incite violence against the community. In this case the selective implementation of the order passed in 2015 by the Jammu Development Authority, authorising evictions of pastoralist/ nomadic and forest-dwelling communities from forest areas, has been used for further communalization and exacerbated local conflicts. Subsequently, several settlements belonging to Gujjar and Bakarwal nomadic tribal community were destroyed and the families evicted from their traditional migratory routes. Incidents of desecration of religious structures of the community allegedly by the forest department, police department as well as the Jammu Development Authority for being situated on forest and ‘custodian property’ in the Jammu division have only aggravated the situation, and even led to the death of a Gujjar youth; These same authorities  have also been unable to prevent the lynching of members of the Bakharwal- Gujjar community from communal mobs that attacked them on allegations of engaging in cow slaughter.

In this context, where the security, lives and livelihood of the nomadic Bakarwal and Gujjar community are presently in great danger due to the polarization of the local communities, and in the absence of any policy to currently secure their rights of access and stay on forest and grazing land, we appreciate and register our support of the step taken by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to  issuing a directive in February 2018, taking heed of the  crimes perpetrated, which states that no member of the nomadic communities will be evicted without prior approval of the Tribal Welfare Department of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We register our firm opposition to the demand that the order be withdrawn.

We strongly condemn all forms of sexual violence against women and girls, as well as the attempts of the government, Lawyers Bar Association and vigilante groups of the majority population in the region to hinder constitutional access to relief and remedy. The non-extension of FRA to J&K, the eviction and dispossession of Bakarwals from their traditional homelands in a context of increasing communalization compounds the vulnerabilities of women and children to atrocities and violence. We stand in solidarity with the Bakarwal – Gujjar communities for their rights to sustain their pastoral nomadic lives and livelihoods and access to resources to sustain the same.

OUR Demands

We call upon the J&K and central governments to:

  • 1)    Bring perpetrators of the heinous crime of rape and murder of the minor girl to justice
  • 2)    Extend the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Forest Rights Act), 2006 to Jammu &Kashmir with full provisions for securing community and individual forest rights and rights to forest produce and to representation of women at least to the extent provided for in the FRA Act 2006. 
  • 3)    Ensure continuance of directive of February 2018 until a policy is in place to safeguard rights of pastoralists.
  • 4)    Withdraw the Central Government ordinance for the death penalty in cases of sexual violence, and demand that the POCSO be duly implemented to address such crimes against minors.
  • 5)    The state government should enact a law to protect the rights  and livelihoods of the Pastoralist communities
  • 6)    Restore the Bakarwal- Gujjar community rights to their traditional livelihoods and ensure the security of their community and especially the girls and women as equal citizens


Drafting team:
Shubhada Deshmukh             Soma KP                       Radhika Chitkara                    Nikita Sonavane
NFT MEMBER                    NFT MEMBER                    Lawyer, Member Makaam   Lawyer, Member Makaam

India: BJP patronage of gang rapists in Kashmir & Uttar Pradesh shames nation & hinders justice Print E-mail

The Hindu ~ Friday April 13, 2018

No place for young girls

By  Brinda Karat

In Kathua and Unnao, the common feature is the blatant support given by BJP leaders to those accused of rape

The child was just eight years old. The beautiful image showing her wide-eyed innocence, a semblance of a smile caught by the camera, is widely shared on the Internet. She looks even younger in the photograph. She belonged to the Bakherwal nomadic community, and went missing on January 10 from the camp site in Rasana village in Kathua, Jammu where she stayed with her family.

Grim chronicle
Her father registered the missing child case with the police on January 12. Her battered body was found on January 17. Six men were arrested, among them a special police officer, a retired revenue official and his family members; later two policemen were arrested for connivance and destruction of evidence. Three months later, on April 9, the Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, which took over the investigation, filed a chargesheet in court. Its contents have been widely reported.

Can any human being remain untouched, unmoved by the horrors the child had to face, depicted so graphically in the chargesheet? Is there anyone who will not be shaken with rage and anger against the extreme brutalities committed by the accused? They are accused of abducting her, sedating her, raping her in turn, inviting an associate from Meerut to "satisfy his lust," postponing the moment of her death because one of them "wanted to rape her" again.

But there are such people who are not only unmoved but who are straining every nerve and it would seem muscle to sabotage and prevent the processes of justice. These are not ordinary men. They are men who are Ministers in the State government, they are men who lead organisations, they are men who wear the black robes of lawyers, those who are supposed to serve the ends of justice.

For two months, ever since the arrests were made the area has been witness to mobilisations and agitations. These have been organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, a platform set up by affiliates of the Sangh Parivar. What is their agitation about? One may have thought they were agitated because the horrific crime took place in the prayer room of the local temple. Were these men on the streets because they wanted more stringent punishment against those who defiled a temple prayer room with their dastardly acts?

Far from it. The Hindu Ekta Manch has been pursuing just one aim, to prove that the investigation is wrong, the arrests are wrong because all those arrested happen to be Hindus whereas the child victim belonged to a Muslim family.

It is not just the fringe elements involved. Two Ministers of the coalition government belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Forests Minister Lal Singh and Industries Minister Chander Parkash Ganga, had joined an agitation against the arrests. Lawyers, or a section of them, went on strike to prevent the police officials from filing the chargesheet. Yet none of them have been arrested. They have the patronage of their leaders in the BJP.

This blatant communalisation of cases of sexual assault has very serious implications for India. Imagine if ‘Nirbhaya' had happened to be Muslim, would the streets of Delhi have been filled not with young people demanding justice, but with Hindu Ekta Manch supporters protesting against the arrest of Hindus?

In Kathua, it is not only the processes of justice post the rape and murder which are being communalised and sought to be subverted. But shamefully, according to the chargesheet, communal considerations determined the selection of the victim too.

A deliberate plan?
The rape was a deliberate plan to terrorise the Bakherwal community to leave the area. The Bakherwals and the Gujjars, recognised as Scheduled Tribes, are Muslim by belief. The child was raped, going by the chargesheet, because she was a Muslim.

While the Gujjar communities do own land and a substantial section are involved in the dairy industry, the Bakherwals are a nomadic tribe who migrate along with their herds of animals to the Valley and Ladakh in summer and return to the forests of Jammu in winter. They have been camping in these forests for decades.

The resurgence of Hindutva ideologies and politics in Jammu led to a campaign against the presence of the Bakherwals and Gujjars and any permanent settlement for them, it was said, would alter the demography of the region to benefit Muslims. This utterly warped understanding of citizenship rights also led to another hypocrisy. Whereas in every other case the Sangh Parivar has been campaigning for the abolition of Article 370, in the case of the Bakherwal and Gujjar communities the Sangh Parivar has taken shelter under Article 370 to deprive these communities of their rights on forest land under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006. Thus whereas under the FRA the rights of the Bakherwals on forest land would have to be recognised, Article 370 prevents its automatic applicability in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Mehbooba Mufti government has rightly been criticised for not acting swiftly enough. Nor did she take any action against the Ministers of her coalition cabinet in spite of their objectionable role in supporting the wholly unjust communally triggered demonstration against justice for the child. Ms. Mufti has now publicly stated that her government will ensure that the case is followed up and that the guilty brought to book. One can only hope that considerations of power do not interfere with this public commitment. She should also ensure that the Bakherwal communities are given the land, implementing the spirit of the FRA.

As far as her Sangh Parivar partners are concerned, she should know that they have double standards as far as women's security is concerned. A communal reading of women's "izzat" is a potent weapon in the armoury of the Sangh Parivar. A typical method of the RSS mobilisations to further communal divisions is to use cases where the perpetrator of the crime happens to be a Muslim and the victim a Hindu, and to mobilise against the entire Muslim community. Where there are no such cases, rumours are spread. The dreadful communal violence in Muzaffarnagar started on a rumour deliberately spread of Hindu girls being harassed by boys who were Muslim. In Jamshedpur the same thing happened although there was no such case, as the police later confirmed. But in the large majority of cases, where the perpetrator and the victim belong to the same religion, what then is the role of the Sangh Parivar?

Over in Unnao

What is happening right now in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh? A 17-year-old had tried to file a case of rape against an MLA who belongs to the ruling BJP government. The alleged rape took place last June, but in spite of all her efforts, the police refused to file an FIR against the MLA. She was forced to stage a protest before the Chief Minister's house, but even that made no difference. On the contrary, the girl and her family were harassed. Her father died in police custody.

What would that young woman have faced ­ traumatised, humiliated and then to see her own father being arrested and killed because she had dared to make a complaint against a powerful man, backed by the Chief Minister. This is enough to discourage any complaints of sexual harassment against men with powerful connections. It was only after mounting public outrage that the MLA's brother has been arrested for her father's death and an FIR filed against the MLA. However, he has still not been arrested and has the freedom to make outrageous and defamatory statements against the girl and her family.

In the Kathua and Unnao cases, the common feature is the blatant support given by BJP leaders and their Sangh Parivar partners to those accused of rape. India has seen the results of the marauding violence of "gau rakshaks". Now a new brand of politics has appeared of "rapist rakshaks".
When Union Minister V.K. Singh tweets on the Kathua rape victim that "we failed her as humans", he should clarify that the "we" in his tweet means all his colleagues in Jammu and U.P., who are even today standing not with the victim but with the accused ­ whether they can be considered human is an open question.

The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign and the Prime Minister's words on "women's empowerment" get exposed as mere rhetoric when perpetrators of such horrific crimes are protected by those in power and he remains silent.

*Brinda Karat
is a member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau and a former Rajya Sabha MP
 Wednesday April 11 , 2018

Hindu ‘nationalists' defend accused rapists and shame India

by Barkha Dutt

An Indian social activist holds a placard in February 2017 during a protest against a rape at Hauz Khas village in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images)

Dear India: Where are our candlelight marches, our outrage and our mass protests? Why have we been so muted in our response to the reported gang rapes of two girls, an 8-year-old child and a teenager? And no, our lazy tweets and our commiserating hashtags do not count.

This week, two cases of rape and murder ­ one of a shepherd girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, the other in Unnao, in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh ­ have been moments of acute national shame. They have proved how the powerful conspire to enable and protect sexual abusers. Worse, they have exposed the ugliest underbelly of India. Political and societal responses to these charges of rape have revealed entrenched misogyny, religious hatred and a shameful class bias. They have held up a mirror to the worst in us.

We must confront this: The India we thought had changed has not changed at all. In 2012, a massive popular uprising against the gang rape of a medical student in Delhi, dubbed the "Nirbhaya" (fearless) case, led to a tough new set of anti-rape laws. It was considered an inflection point in our conversation about gender. Now we know that not much is better or different. Not our politicians, not our hate-mongers ­ and sadly not even we, the people.

For the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the government of Narendra Modi, the cases have been especially embarrassing, given the prime minister's oft-quoted slogan of "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" ("Save our Girls; Educate our Girls"). In the Unnao case, one of the accused rapists is a legislator of the BJP. The victim tried to commit suicide outside the house of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed monk once billed as a possible successor to Modi. She alleged inaction by the state administration on her complaint, which she had filed last year. Instead, her father was arrested and died in police custody. The hospital report confirmed that he suffered 18 assault injuries, and he is on tape, not long before he died, naming the man whose goons beat him up: the brother of the lawmaker accused of the rape.

In the Kathua case, you cannot read the police charge sheet without feeling nauseous. It details how a little child from the Bakherwal nomadic community had taken her family's horses to graze in a nearby forest and never returned. The charges say she was repeatedly drugged, taken hostage and hidden inside a temple. One of the accused rapists (eight men have been arrested in connection with the case, including local police officers) was reportedly " invited" from Meerut, hundreds of miles away, to participate. The child was strangled with her own scarf; a stone was then slammed on her head to "make sure that the victim [was] dead," according to the charges.

There is a photograph of her, smiling, wide-eyed and full of hope, in anticipation of a life yet to come. And there is a second photograph of her defaced body abandoned in the forest. You cannot look at the two pictures together without looking away almost instantly. The police say the rape and murder were part of a plot to " dislodge" the shepherd community, which is Muslim, from the village. The case quickly took a hideous communal twist, with a self-appointed Hindu group (named the Hindu Ekta Manch, or Forum for Hindu Unity) staging marches in defense of the accused rapists, sounding nationalist slogans and waving the national flag ­ defiling all that the flag stands for. Two BJP ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government also criticized the police's investigation. Some local Congress leaders also criticized the police action. Worse, a mob of lawyers blocked law enforcement officials when they arrived at court to file the charges, again seeking refuge behind the flag and slogans. Their demand was to take the case away from the state police and hand it over to a central agency. This was a hideous sectarian politicization of a child's rape.

The silence of the top women ministers in the Modi cabinet on both the Kathua and the Unnao cases has been disturbing, and only undermines their track record as trailblazers. Women hold key portfolios of defense, foreign affairs, and information and broadcasting, among others. But what good are these path-breaking positions of authority if the women don't speak for female victims of violence and abuse? Not that men shouldn't lead by example. In 2012, the Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi raised similar questions about whether it made any difference that a female politician governed Delhi and that the then-ruling party ­ the Congress ­ was helmed by a woman.

Finally, we must reflect on our own responses. Sure, Indians are angry. We are tweeting furiously and writing posts on Facebook. But our class bias, especially in the media, has been unveiled. The Delhi rape of 2012 was close to the bone; it could have been any one of us or those who watched and read us. So the coverage that case got was instantaneous and intense. It has taken months for these cases to get to prime time. And even so, how many of us will move beyond our keyboards and spill over onto the streets ­ as we did for Nirbhaya?

Kathua and Unnao are now known not just nationally but internationally. And yet, some will complain about this column appearing in a "foreign" newspaper. How "anti-national," I will be told on social media by people missing the irony. These Hindu "nationalists" who spoke for accused rapists have shamed India, our constitution and, of course, Hinduism.

 Friday April 13 , 2018

In India, Modi government fumbles its response to gang-rape cases

by  Barkha Dutt

Supporters of India's main opposition Congress party participate in a candlelight vigil in Ahmedabad on Friday to protest the rapes of an 8-year-old girl and teenager. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

On Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally spoke out on the two gang rapes gripping India this week ­ one of an 8-year-old and the other of a teenager. Millions of Indians have been shocked and saddened that the men accused of raping the children were being protected instead of prosecuted. Modi unequivocally promised that no one would be spared. On the same evening, a legislator accused in one of the rape complaints in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, was arrested. In the other case in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, two state ministers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were sacked for defending the suspected rapists. One of the ministers was on tape exhorting a mob to demand justice ­ not for the little shepherd girl who was kidnapped, raped and then strangled inside a temple – but for the men who did this to her.

Despite the fact that one of the cases is three months old and the other happened almost a year ago, protests over the cases reached critical mass only this week. Modi's intervention, though woefully delayed, is welcome. But that his words have come so late remains bewildering. When Modi finally spoke, the moment appeared as having been forced by a furious public. His diffidence was compounded by coarse "whataboutery" by many right-wing supporters on social media, as well as the initial silence of all the women ministers in his cabinet.

In delaying his response, Modi was repeating the serious political mistakes of the Congress party. Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh was always mocked for being the silent prime minister. The Congress leader governed India for 10 years and handled the scandals of his second term with reticent helplessness. That said, he could not have been more different from the current prime minister. Modi has been the master of the message, a superb orator with a keen instinct for the image and the narrative. One of the reasons for his historic win was that he made the Congress look like stragglers in a new age of political communication. And unlike the incumbents he defeated, Modi was sure-footed and agile. If Manmohan Singh was reserved, Modi, too, does especially not like the English-language media. He sees us as hostile to him and has often pushed back against opinions of liberal journalists. However, Modi has almost always used his sharp political acumen to bypass the mainstream press and talk directly to the people as needed.

Until Friday, as the rage kept mounting, there was no such straight talk. Meanwhile the Congress, perhaps having finally learned from its decimation in the 2014 elections, is borrowing from Modi's playbook.

Late Thursday evening, Congress President Rahul Gandhi suddenly announced that he would lead a midnight street vigil to demand justice for the victims of Kathua and Unnao. Gandhi has also had to learn the hard way that in the information age, ivory tower politics and long silences are destined to fail. Modi's success has forced Gandhi to change. And like the prime minister, he has also understood that you don't actually have to talk to established reporters to make your point ­ you can seize the moment and script your own story. Indeed Thursday, Gandhi was at Delhi's India Gate, with his sister and other party workers ensuring that the media remained focused on his march for the women. In contrast, the BJP was left to explain why its party men were marching for rapists and murders. That same day, the prime minister was on a day-long fast to "protest" the opposition's stalling of Parliament; in a first for a politician who usually grabs the headlines, it barely made any impact. By focusing on an unrelated issue, rather than the gruesome rapes of two young girls, the BJP government grossly miscalculated what people care more about.

In many ways, Kathua and Unnao have been the Modi government's "Nirbhaya" moment. In 2012, the grotesque gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student (she came to be known as "Nirbhaya" or "Fearless") in the capital brought thousands of citizens onto the streets. The Congress administration mishandled the mass protests, with the police even firing tear gas to bring the crowds under control. Like the BJP now, the Congress then misread the public mood and the depth of the disgust, even among those who may have been its supporters.

In 2012, there was enormous debate on the absence of requisite sensitivity from the Congress government, in which women held powerful positions ( the Delhi chief minister and the Congress president then were both women). Today the otherwise self-assured female ministers in the BJP government have not taken the lead in speaking. Ironically, the ‘silent" Manmohan Singh did deliver a special televised national address to appeal for calm from the student protesters. This week, Modi chose to make his comments as part of a larger address at a public event unconnected to the rapes.

Many of Modi's supporters have angrily asked journalists why the prime minister of a country should comment on every rape, in a country where more than 34,000 rape cases were registered in 2016. They entirely miss the point. Of course every rape is an unspeakable act against humanity; but the Kathua rape case and Nirbhaya before it, are now both national symbols and rallying points. It is impossible to look at the smiling photo of that little girl who was killed in Kathua and not shudder at the thought of what happened to her. Or how you may feel if it happened to your own child.

What set the Kathua and Unnao cases apart is not only the brazen defense of the accused perpetrators ­ including from some functionaries of India's ruling party ­ , but the cover of nationalism and Hinduism to do so.

The prime minister's words may have contained the damage for now. But the delay was not just poor messaging to victims of sexual violence. It was bad politics too.

 Wednesday April 11 , 2018

An 8-year-old's rape and murder inflames tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India

by  Marwa Eltagouri
Protests erupt in Kashmir over rape and murder of 8-year-old in northern India
: The rape and murder of 8-year-old Asifa Bano in Kathua, India, inflamed tensions between Hindus and Muslims and lead to violent April 11 protests in Kashmir. (Reuters)

She was an 8-year-old girl who, while grazing her horses in a meadow in northern India in January, followed a man into the forest. Days later, Asifa Bano's small, lifeless body was recovered there.

Police say that Asifa was given sedatives and, for three days, raped several times by different men. Asifa's strangled body was eventually found Jan. 17. Police say she would have been killed sooner had one man not insisted on waiting so that he could rape her a final time.

To ensure she was dead, Asifa's killers hit her twice on the head with a stone, according to charging documents filed by police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and published by the Indian news website Firstpost.

In the months since, Asifa's death has brought anguish to Kathua, the small town where she was killed. But it has also brought division. Asifa's case is the latest example of India's religious friction: As some denounce sexual violence and demand justice for Asifa's family, others demand justice for the men accused.

The eight men accused in connection to the rape and murder are Hindu. Asifa was a Muslim nomad, part of the Bakarwal tribe. Asifa's father, Mohammad Yusuf Pujwala, told the New York Times that he believes his daughter was killed by the Hindu men for the sole purpose of driving her people away. To add to the volatility of Asifa's case, police say she was killed in a Hindu temple, and that the temple's custodian plotted her death as a way to torment the Bakarwals.

Asifa was the pawn. "A child of only 8 years of age who ... became a soft target," police said.
Anti-Muslim demonstrators burn tires and shout slogans during a protest Wednesday in Kathua, India, in support of an investigation into the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl. (Mukesh Gupta/Reuters)

On Monday, a chaotic scene unfolded outside a courthouse in Jammu and Kashmir, as a mob of Hindu attorneys tried to physically stop police from filing charges against the men accused. The attorneys in a statement argued for a federal investigation, stating that the government had failed to "understand the sentiments of the people." Police still managed to complete the paperwork and charged the men, who include four policemen and a retired government official.

Protests have now spread across much of Kathua. Hindu activists argue that some of the police officers who worked on the case are, like Asifa, Muslims ­ and cannot be trusted, according to the Times. Dozens of Hindu women have helped block a highway and organize a hunger strike.

"They are against our religion," Bimla Devi, a protester, told the New York Times. She said that if the accused men weren't freed, "we will burn ourselves."

The lawyers, along with a group affiliated with India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, fight on the basis of religious prejudice, even though BJP supporters are vocal opponents of sexual violence. After the brutal gang rape and murder of a medical student in New Delhi in 2012, the government promised to introduce legal reforms and support services to help victims of sexual violence. To an extent, it did ­ for example, the government amended the law to prosecute children older than 16 as adults in rape and murder cases. (Not much more has changed for rape victims, however, according to a November report by Human Rights Watch).

Notable BJP members have asked the case be moved out of the state police's jurisdiction and into that of the Central Bureau of Investigation, claiming the agency would act neutrally. The bureau, however, reports to the BJP-led government in New Delhi.

Asifa's case has shaken the state's Legislative Assembly. Weeks after her body was found, lawmakers still questioned the police's behavior in the days after Asifa disappeared: Police waited two days to file a report after Asifa disappeared, for example, and did not alert newspapers until days after she was killed, according to the Asia Times.

"The screams and cries of the girl were heard by neighbors. Why was there such a delay by police?" lawmaker Shamima Firdous said a few weeks after Asifa's body was found, according to the Asia Times.

Talib Hussain, a Bakarwal social activist working on behalf of Asifa's family, told the New York Times that Bakarwal nomads for generations have leased land from Hindu farmers so their animals can graze during the winter. In recent years, however, Hindus in the Kathua area have campaigned against the nomads. Believed to be at the campaign's helm is the accused custodian, Sanji Ram.

"His poison has been spreading," Hussain told the Times. "When I was young, I remember the fear Sanji Ram's name invoked in Muslim women. If they wanted to scare each other, they would take Sanji Ram's name, since he was known to misbehave with Bakarwal women."

Hussain could not be immediately reached for comment by The Washington Post.

Feelings of suspicion and animosity between the two communities run so deep that when Asifa didn't return from the meadow, her parents instantly feared she'd encountered danger. And when the Bakarwal nomads retrieved Asifa's body for her burial, "some baton-wielding goons appeared at the graveyard asking us not to bury her there," Hussain told the Asia Times.

The "goons," he said, feared that if Asifa was buried on their land, it would forever belong to Muslims.
Marwa Eltagouri is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. She previously worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, where she covered crime, immigration and neighborhood change.

India: Majlis Report exposes hurdles at every step for Child Sexual Abuse victims Print E-mail

 Wednesday April 11, 2018

Child sexual abuse victims face hurdle at every step

By  Sonam Saigal

Report brought out by Majlis, an NGO, highlights the problems they face at police station, hospital, court, child welfare committee, and govt. dept.

Victims of child sexual abuse face hardships when they approach the police, hospital, child welfare committee (CWC), court, and even the department of women and child development. Majlis, a non-governmental organisation, which has been working with such cases for the last 25 years, released a report, highlighting the teething problems in the system, at Jan Sunvayi (public hearing) on Tuesday.

Hours at police station

The report says filing an FIR and recording the victim’s statement takes around seven hours. Even though the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) states the statement can be recorded at a venue of the victim’s choice, the child is still brought to the police station. The victim is taken for a medical examination in the middle of the night or early morning immediately after the registration of the FIR, even though there is no emergency or likelihood of loss of evidence. The police record the victim’s statement, take for a medical test, and then take the child to the place of offence, without a break, and this lasts about 15 hours. Besides, there is usually a delay of weeks in the submission of the FIR.

Trauma at hospitals
The medical examination, the report points out, takes about nearly eight hours to complete. There is no single window, and the child has to keep visiting different departments. In several hospitals, the process takes almost four days due to lack of doctors. If the victim goes directly to the hospital, there is an inordinate delay in informing the police. Many times, the victim is not given a copy of the medical examination. Many hospitals have one-stop-help centres to report CSA cases to the CWC, but they fail to do so.

No relief at court

Majlis says there is an inordinate delay in recording the evidence of the victim, which often results in the victim turning hostile or getting pressured by the defence. Special courts are designated to hear the POCSO cases, but some judges and prosecutors lack the specialised training to handle sensitive cases. Public prosecutors do not spend adequate time studying the facts due to which objections are not raised during cross-examination. A better coordination between the police and the public prosecutor is essential to ensure a strong charge sheet. Some judges and public prosecutors are not well-versed with the role of ‘support person’ (a person assigned by the CWC to assist the child through investigation and trial).

CWC has no time
A thorough home investigation report, care plan, and progress report for each case at a child care institution is the CWC’s priority. It is required to hold sittings at different children’s homes to ensure accessibility, which rarely occurs. Some CWCs do not have fixed days and timings for sittings, resulting in inconvenience to the victim and family. There is no standardised method of maintaining documents, records, and hearings before the committee, and lack of digitisation leads to a loss of dockets.

Delay in disbursement
Recent changes to the Manodhariya scheme have caused a delay in disbursement of compensation. The department of women and child development has failed to set up ‘district trauma teams’ in each district as per the government resolution. There are also issues like vacancies in the CWC, non-payment of honorarium to members, and lack of adequate infrastructure.

India: Mumbai Public Hearing reveals women brutalised by domestic violence still failed @ all levels Print E-mail

 Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Who will save these women and children?

By Kalpana Sharma

This was probably one of the most gut-wrenching traumatic days I have spent in a long while.  It was worse for the women who spoke, but those of us who listened came out with our equanimity shattered.

I have been writing about women, about violence, about neglect, about inequality, about injustice, for more than three decades.  Yet, on April 10, 2018, as I sat with a panel of four other women listening to woman after woman testifying, I saw how little has changed.

Laws have been changed.  But mindsets have not.  New laws have come in.  But their non-implementation is identical to what happened in the past.  In other words, nothing has changed.

Majlis and several other non-governmental organisations working with women on issues concerning sexual violence, divorce, maintenance, child abuse etc came together to conduct a jan sunvai.  The idea was to give women a chance to tell their stories, and then to strategise what could be done to address their individual problems, as well as the larger systemic issues that their individual experiences exposed.

Around 40 of the 72 who had recorded their testimonies with the different groups came in person to speak.  These were women cutting across community -- Hindu, Muslim and Christian.  Amongst them were middle class white-collar workers as well as poor uneducated women doing odd jobs or working as domestics.  What was common was that all of them were victims of domestic violence in one form or the other and all of them were seeking some form of justice from the criminal justice system.  And had failed in doing so.

This is why they turned to an NGO, in the hope that this would give them some respite.  But Majlis and the others narrated their frustration too at the many roadblocks on the way to getting justice for these women, many of them systemic, embedded in a corrupt and uncaring system where the word of a poor person, and particularly a poor woman, simply does not count.

By the end of the three hours, my ears were ringing and my hands were hurting from taking down notes.  Each testimony was searing.  But some I will never forget.

She is small built and spoke quietly, without any drama.  She told us that her husband is an alcoholic, that he would beat her even when she was pregnant.  As a result, she had an abortion. She described the house where she lived.  There were two rooms.  She, her husband and the child slept in one and her father-in-law in the other.  One night she found her father-in-law in bed next to her, with his hand on her chest, even though her husband was asleep on the other side.  When she shouted and woke up the latter, he refused to believe her.

She also narrated how she had weaned her daughter off the breast and got her used to drinking milk from a feeding bottle.  One night, she found her husband had the two-year-old on his chest, and then saw him slowly lower her so that she could suck on his penis. She shouted at him but he continued. Finally, she went to the police and filed a case under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) in which it is mandatory for the police to register the offence.  Despite this, the husband has not been arrested. She has also filed a case against her father-in-law for sexual harassment.  But again, nothing has happened because the husband has contacts with the police through a local politician.

Then there is a dowry case.  Who says the problem has disappeared?  After she got married, this woman's husband demanded a motorcycle.  When her parents could not pay for it, she was beaten and left for days without food.  He would tell her that the only reason he married her was for sex.  She was beaten so badly, that she had to be admitted to hospital and all this within three years of her marriage.  Her father had sold his shop to pay for the marriage and had nothing more to give.  Finally, she was compelled to move out and go to her parents. Yet when this woman went to the police to register a case against the husband, the police wanted proof of how much money had been spent on the marriage and how much had been given to the bridegroom.  She says she stood for 15 days in the police chowky and they still did not take down her complaint.  "Sometimes we went there are 12 midnight and stayed till three in the morning, waiting", she said.  Instead of helping or taking down her complaint, the police keep sending her to another police station.

Even if the police do not help, under provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, the designated Protection Officer (PO) should come to the aid of such women.  Yet several women spoke of how the PO told her that they never take note of a complaint the first time it comes and tell women to go back and try and work it out.  Even if they went with a social worker, the latter was shouted at and insulted.

One of the most heart-rending cases was that of a four-year-girl who had been raped.  When the family found her, and realised what had happened, they went to the police to register a complaint and took the child to the hospital.  It took them hours to get the medical examination done. The child was traumatised and exhausted.  A few weeks later, she was raped again.  This time, she refused to let the doctors touch her when they wanted to examine her.  The mother was asked to sign a document saying that "the victim" would not cooperate.  The little girl's sister, who narrated all this, appeared equally traumatised. How can she believe that there is justice in the world if a little baby is put through this kind of treatment after being assaulted?

There were many more testimonies but there is a thread that runs through all of them.

First, the nature of the horrific violence they experience in their homes is virtually indescribable.  One woman spoke of how her husband went out and bought leather belts to beat her and that her children had to apply balm to the welts on her back. Yet despite the relentless nature of such violence, and even after filing cases, many of these women have nowhere to go and choose to live in the matrimonial home because of their children.  In one case, the abusive husband would enter the house, sit near the door, douse himself with kerosene and threaten to set himself and the entire family on fire if they complained.

Second, in almost every instance, when they did go an try and register a complaint with the police, most often because there was a social worker around to help, they were routinely told to go back and settle the matter as it was a domestic issue.  At most, the police would take down an NC (non-cognisable) complaint whereby the abusive husband cannot be detained or arrested.  

Third, even those who succeeded in filing cases, and sought help through the free legal aid service that was available, got no relief.  The lawyers assigned to their cases were indifferent, inefficient and often demanded money.  Most of them could not afford private lawyers and their exorbitant fees.

Fourth, under the Domestic Violence Act, Protection Officers (PO) are assigned to handle such cases.  In Mumbai, these POs, although still not in adequate numbers, have been given extensive training and sensitisation courses.  Yet, they continue to be rude and indifferent to the complainants, sending them home and telling them that they never register a first complaint.  The women say that both the police and the POs seem to only care if a woman is either near death, or dead.

Fifth, the experience in hospitals is as bad as at police stations.  There is a long delay before a medical examination is held, the victims are made to run around from one place to another and sometimes even turned away.  The entire process, including having to narrate details of the attack to the doctor, with others listening, makes the victim revisit the trauma several times over. And although there are funds now for one-stop crisis centres, these exist mostly on paper.

I might add here that the media has failed to bring out sufficiently these systemic problems in the justice delivery system in cases of violence against women.  Some select cases are reported in depth, but the widespread prevalence of this problem doesn't impinge on people because these issues are simply not reported.  

For instance, there is hardly any reporting on dowry harassment or dowry deaths.  If you skim through the print media, you might well believe that the giving and taking of dowry, and the torture of women in connection with dowry, has lessened.  But clearly, this is not the case.  In the 1980s, the anti-dowry campaign by women's groups, after many young women were killed within days and months of being married, brought to light the horrific nature of this crime.  It remains condemnable even today, and needs to be monitored, reported and stopped.

The only detailed media report on this public hearing appeared in The Hindu this morning.  It is a subject that is waiting for follow up by sensitive journalists who care about the lives of women, and who expect it a worthwhile cause to expose injustice.  
Kalpana Sharma
Journalist, columnist, writer based in Mumbai. Author of "Rediscovering Dharavi: Stories from Asia's largest slum" (Penguin, 2000). Worked with The Hindu, Times of India, Indian Express and Himmat Weekly. Other books include "Whose News? The Media and Women's Issues" edited with Ammu Joseph (published by Sage 1994/2006), "Terror Counter-Terror: Women Speak Out" edited with Ammu Joesph (published by Kali for Women, 2003) and "Missing: Half the Story, Journalism as if Gender Matters" (published by Zubaan, 2010). Regular columns in The Hindu, Sunday Magazine and on The Hoot (
This blog is written by a journalist based in Mumbai who writes about cities, the environment, developmental issues, the media, women and many other subjects.The title 'ulti khopdi' is a Hindi phrase referring to someone who likes to look at things from the other side.
 Wednesday April 11, 2018

Domestic violence: women left to fend for themselves

By  Sonam Saigal

Mumbai: The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV) was enacted in 2005 to include physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse. But, due to various reasons, this has failed to bring relief to victims of domestic violence.

Majlis on Tuesday released a report that enlists problems faced by such victims:
Protection officers

Some protection officers (POs) do not file a domestic incident report (DIR) on the day the victim approaches them. Many victims are made to wait for hours and asked to visit offices several times to complete the paper work that need to be filed in court for relief. They do not coordinate and meet other stakeholders to discuss the case, cross-check documents, and strengthen the pleadings. Further, they do not conduct regular monitoring as listed under the Maharashtra State DV handbook.

Legal aid

The process of getting a lawyer is cumbersome and takes months. Some lawyers ask victims for money even though lawyers are appointed by the government to provide free services. They are not well-versed with the procedures and provisions under the Act. They do not coordinate with POs and NGOs that assist victims.

Some medical officers are completely unaware of their role and they do not fill the DIR and other forms mandated under the Act.

The police deter women from filing complaints and try to settle the matter informally. They do not inform women of their rights under the Act. They delay or avoid filing FIRs. They also delay summons and filing the report of service, which in turn holds up the victim’s case in court and to obtain interim relief. The police are not thorough on maintenance orders under the Act.

Magistrates’ court
There is enormous delay in passing interim and final orders, and orders for relief are not passed before referring the case for counselling or mediation. This is in contravention of the guidelines under the DV Act. For example, the Thane court is completely uninformed about the guidelines. Documents are often misplaced and incorrect court dates are given due to which victims and their lawyers miss crucial hearings.

Officials at the homes for victims of violence are not well-versed with the Act and their role prescribed in it. They are not aware of the other laws applicable and not equipped to handle victims of trauma, distress and other challenges associated with running such shelters.

There are not adequate counsellors dedicated to victims of domestic violence. Private counselling services are not economical. Also, there is no help to avail of various schemes, financial aid, medical aid for themselves and their children, and vocational training.

 Majlis Legal Centre is a forum for women's rights discourse and legal initiatives. We are a group of women lawyers and social activists committed to informing, educating and empowering women on their legal rights. Majlis offers legal services, conducts legal awareness trainings, engages in policy level interventions, public campaigns and public interest litigation in order to help women access justice.

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