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Atrocities Against Women

Not just as political agenda, cases of women atrocities and abuse must be seen from a social perspective

They are considered to be the decent half of the society, yet they live a life of vulnerability. They fall victim to atrocities and the criminal instincts of people of their own community with whom they grow from a baby girl to a woman.The recent cases of abuse and atrocities on women in the state of Odisha have made social thinkers and even the common man to look for the reasons behind the increasing vulnerability of women in the society.

While the much hyped case of alleged assault and attempt to kill the 19 year old girl from a Dalit family of Arjungoda village under Pipili Police Station in Odisha’s Puri district hit the headlines of almost all media and impacted politics in the state where a minister had to quit the cabinet to save the face of the government, a series of cases of attacks and atrocities on women have raised questions on the safety of women in the society.

The victim of the Pipili case is now struggling to come out of the coma she entered since the incident that took place between 7 am and 8.30 am in rural Odisha, when the girl went to attend nature’s call. The case of Pipili is not the lone case of assault on women in Odisha. A few months back, a girl student in Odisha’s Baliapal also fell victim to the demonic instincts of some men. Another girl who was travelling by bus was not dropped at the destination and was allegedly raped by the bus driver and other staff. In the month of January 2012 alone, about 10 cases of rape, rape and murder, assault and attempt to murder have been registered of which one of the victim is an 8 year old girl and another a deaf and dumb Dalit girl. As per claims made by the President of Odisha’s women wing on the basis of a white paper tabled in the State Assembly, about 4,100 cases under section 376 (rape) were registered in different police stations of Odisha during the last three years. This statistic is not only shocking but is also a stark indication of how women have become vulnerable to the unmanly instincts of men in the society. “The way such incidents where a part of the society suffers badly in the hands of the other half are increasing, many of us are forced to rethink if we are really living in a civic society,” says a Konark based social activist N A Shah Ansari who feels agitated while remembering the particular day of 2007 November when a young woman was dragged out of a bus and was gang raped by four persons in a deserted spot beside the Konark - Puri marine drive road. “The incident shows how the society, once ruled by morals, is getting detached from the roots of it and how individual morals are being degraded,” says Ansari.

About 4,100 cases under section 376 (rape) were registered in different police stations of Odisha during the last three years.

While moral degradation is one of the primary reasons behind the increase in the number of cases, the mechanism that should act strongly to locate the culprits and book them under law is also failing to deliver. For example, the police didn’t receive the FIR from the family of the victim from Pipili. Nor did the medical officer attended to the girl who was in a serious condition. Instead, the doctor predicted a quick death for the girl and asked the family to take the unconscious victim back. Finding no other way, the family of the victim went to the State Women Commission and then to the State Human Rights Commission to seek justice and avail required treatment. It was when the Human Right Commission realised the gravity of the case and ordered for immediate treatment in the hospital and immediate inquiry by the police that the victim was admitted to the hospital and police started investigations. However, things started to move a month after the incident.

The victim was targeted because she was the only witness of a case of assault on her friend in the year 2008. While the girl who was raped in 2008 committed suicide a few days later, the surviving witness received repeated threats to withdraw the police case or face dire consequence, said the family members of the victim. Instead of respecting her courage and acting promptly, the unwillingness of police to receive the FIR in the Pipili case indicates how callous the police are about the issue of safety of women. It’s only after strong directives issued by the Human Rights Commission that the Puri district police had to start an inquiry and the State Government also ordered a probe by Crime Branch (CID) Police. “Why after directives? What stopped the police from acting promptly against the alleged culprits? Can we expect more women to come forward against such injustice if the police continue to behave in the manner it did with the Pipili victim? When safety of women is a concern for all and women are more often falling victim , the police and other law enforcing agencies have to change their attitude, says a veteran journalist Prashanta Patnaik who also happens to be the Convener of a civil society body Odisha Gana Samaja.”

When the case came to light, political parties, social activists and civil society bodies took to the streets to place the ruling party at fault and to mount pressure on the government to nab the culprits and take action on all involved in it. This is definitely a good step by the opposition political parties to ensure justice to the specific victim. But, the larger issue of safety of women was again overshadowed. During the last 64 years, all such cases of atrocities have been raised for political purposes and used as a weapon against the government.
The first and foremost questions are why and how a woman becomes vulnerable to the violent instincts of people with whom she grew up from childhood? Why the society that often behaves to be protective fails to protect and uphold the rights of women and secure them from any kind of vulnerability? ‘The primary reasons are lack of understanding of social relationship and almost no moral education,’ says a veteran journalist and social thinker Vivekanand Dash adding that, ‘Such cases are increasing in our society because the current generation doesn’t take any interest in the moral roots and the parents also take least interest in moral teaching till something happens to them or their offspring’.

The rule of law has to be established. However, the dismissal of the concerned Police Inspector and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s strict instruction to all officers to receive the FIR and take immediate action in such cases bear some hope for sure in ensuring prompt aid to the victims.

What is most important in order to protect women from atrocities and provide justice to the victims of any kind of assault is that the rule of law has to be established with strong conviction. Any case of assault must be treated as violation of the law of the land and the constitutional provisions that guarantee the individual rights of citizens and actions must be taken promptly as prescribed by law. The observations of additional Sessions Judge of Delhi Kamini Lau in the case of rape of a six year old girl by her 30 year old uncle are surely some points to be given a serious though by the leaders and legislators. While giving judgment on February 17th, 2012 in the case, Kamini Lau observed, “Castration is the most befitting sentence which can be imposed on any paedophile or serial offender but the hands of this court are tied as the statute does not provide for it” while the judge urged that, “Indian legislators are yet to explore this as an alternative to conventional sentencing”. The recent judgment reminds of legendary personality Biju Patnaik who openly urged the Chief Minister of Odisha that any person attempting to rape a woman should be castrated.

Not only the police and law enforcing agencies, but also the administration, judiciary and civil society bodies and the women rights bodies have a greater role in achieving social security and safety of women. The issue has to be seen from a social perspective rather than just political agenda.

Basudev Mahapatra