Increasingly, states are seen as responsible for protecting the rights of women even in connection with offenses committed within homes. The challenge is to end impunity for the perpetrators as one means of preventing future abuse.
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.
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.[i]
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[ii] 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.
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.
(Material for this article was taken from my book 'Justice Liberty and Equality: Dalits in Independent India' and an article in Competition Master)