March 31, 2011

Express buzz

31st March, 2011

Save our daughters

HYDERABAD: Sexual harassment has been used as a weapon to suppress and subjugate women over the centuries, and in all societies.

“Child abuse at home is not something unusual. It’s been there in large extended families,” points out Kalpana Kannabiran, president of the Asmita Resource Centre for Women, and explains: “When the violation takes place within the home, as is very often the case, the abuse is effectively condoned by tacit silence, and by the passivity displayed by the State and the law-enforcing machinery.” Because the crime is perpetrated most often by a father, stepfather, grandfather, brother or uncle, the rights of the child are usually sacrificed in order to protect the name of the family.

The violence, and its perpertrator, are thus shielded by a cloak of invisibility.

Then there is the horror of forced prostitution. Sunitha Krishnan, founder of the citybased Prajwala, an institution that works to stop human trafficking and has rescued 4268 girls to date, gives an account of the kind of cruelty inflicted on young children to break them into the flesh trade: “For instance, a 12-year-old Laila, it was a never ending saga of pain and fear. Enslaved in a cellar for three years, she was subjected to physical abuse and mental torture by a number of men. An 8-year-old girl can be beaten up badly or confined with a snake to terrorise her into submission.

And there have been cases of men throwing chilli powder in the vagina of the girls to induce an orgasm”


Dire poverty is another factor that has blighted the lives of girl children. Compelled to work as domestic servants, they are open to physical, including sexual, abuse by her employers. And there is also the devadasi phenomenon.

“In the poor rural areas of Telangana, where debt bondage is rife, it is believed that it is the daughter’s duty to sacrifice herself for the well-being of the family. Young women and girls (devadasis) are ‘dedicated’ to the service of a temple. The devadasis pratha does exist, but now it is closely tied to the caste system,” observes Kalpana.

As for the menace on the streets, that is a pervasive reality for most women and girls. Kalpana recalls her own experience: “At the age of 45, I myself was violently manhandled by a 20- year-old right in front of my house. Neighbours chose to be mere spectators.’’ So what advice does she have for those of her gender? Don’t be foolhardy, but when faced with a tough situation don’t be cowed.

“So many women come to my speaking engagements and training sessions as sheep and walk out determined, strong, empowered and ready to take control of their own lives,” she says.


Abusive husbands are another menace quite a few women have to contend with. And imagine the plight of someone who meets this fate while trying to escape another unendurable one. Take the case of Karuna (*name changed) who was barely out of college when a friend proposed marriage. She accepted and eventually they left for the United States where the husband proved to be abusive. Unable to bear the torment, she obtained a divorce and stayed back to pursue her studies rather than return home.

But why did Karuna accept the very first proposal that came her way? The answer is chilling.

“Not because I really liked the guy, but I was desperate to escape from the clutches of my father.” It turns out that he had abused her sexually since she was 15.

And worse was to come when her mother died: “It only got more convenient for him. It was sickening, but then he was my dad, who was also showering me with affection and taking care of me… I breathed not a word to anyone, but at the first opportunity I left him. But the the man I chose was worse…” Then there is the case of Ankita* who too had no inkling of what she was in for when she married Arnab*. For more than a decade now, she has been subjected to mental and physical abuse. It started in the very first year of marriage, but despite her economic independence and professional success this 37-year-old marketing executive has chosen to conform to social pressures and “save” the marriage. From this one can glean the condition of other victims of domestic violence who haven’t had access to a sound education or a well-paid job. Conversely, as more women join the workforce, there is growing concern that their very success triggers the resentment of the spouse and often ends in abuse.

Shocking cases of sexual abuse have been tumbling out of schools too. Last year, one Mohammed Salauddin Ayub Khan, 55, the director of the elite Parkwood International School in Vikarabad near the city, was arrested for repeatedly raping a Plus One student over four months.

The girl, who hailed from Mumbai, became pregnant and the matter came to light. According to activists, the number of students who get molested every year in schools in the State is nothing short of a couple of hundred.

And this number is arrived at only on bases of reported cases, most of which come from private schools. The heavy lid of silence generally screens off the abuse in Government schools whether in the city or elsewhere.

Taking cognisance of the menace, the Hyderabad district educational officer has set up a call centre with two 10-digit numbers to receive grievances from parents, students, teachers and school managements. They can lodge their complaints with: 9346283557 or 9346284556

March 18, 2011



Govt spares rape victims the finger humiliation

The government has made finger test, which adds insult to rape victims’ injury, optional. It can now be conducted only when there is no other evidence to confirm rape or sexual assault and that too only with the consent of victims.

The health ministry has issued a note to all central government hospitals, asking doctors to desist from conducting the test as a practice. Medically known as p/v (per vagina) test, it involves a doctor inserting fingers in the vagina to determine its laxity.

The test is seen as physically invasive by women as it often determines a victim’s previous sexual experiences as well. According to women activists, defence lawyers often use this finding to discredit rape victims.

The change of examination pattern has been ordered by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad following a representation by National Commission for Women.

A team of technical experts has also simplified the pro forma of medical examination report for sexual exploitation to remove irrelevant information sought from victims and cut down unnecessary tests.

This pattern is expected to be followed by state government and private hospitals as well.

The health ministry note states that medical tests on rape victims have to be carried out in a more sensitive manner and should be less humiliating.

Accordingly, doctors will now have to first conduct pubic hair combing and examination of external genitalia to check swelling, injury, bruises, etc, on victims’ private parts to establish rape or sexual assault.

“P/v test has to be conducted only if there is a dire need for further examination or there are no other visible signs of rape/assault or for other findings. We have also simplified the format to remove ambiguity and doubts of various women’s groups pursuing the issue,” a health ministry official said.

March 10, 2011


Hindustan Times

Minor’s willingness is not consent for sex, says high court

The willingness of a minor, classified as a person below 18 years of age, is not considered as consent for sexual intercourse under the law, ruled the Bombay high court while upholding the conviction of a 37-year-old man from Latur district who raped a minor girl. In 1997, the then Class 10 student, aged between 15 and 16 years, met Bhima Sontakke, who made false promises of marriage to her. In October 1997, Sontakke took her to various places and allegedly had intercourse with her.
Acting on a complaint lodged by the victim’s father in November 1997, the Latur police arrested Sontakke. In August 1999, a local court convicted him for various offences including rape and kidnapping, and sentenced him to five years of rigorous imprisonment.

Sontakke appealed before the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court contending that the girl had willingly come with him, and since they engaged in consensual sex, he should not have been convicted of rape and kidnapping.

Justice SS Shinde, however, refused to oppose the trial court’s stand on the matter. The trial court asserted that since the girl was a minor at the relevant time, her willingness could not be termed as consent.

Shinde took into consideration that despite being married, the convict made false promises of marriage to the girl to have sexual intercourse with her.
The court upheld Sontakke’s conviction for kidnapping saying that the consent of a minor cannot be used as a defence in kidnapping cases.


Times of India

Budget allocation cuts relief for rape victims

MUMBAI: After the celebrations for International Women's Day, here's some grim news. Despite the rising number of rapes in the country there has been a mind-boggling reduction in the budget for the relief and rehabilitation of rape victims over the years. The budget allocation for the welfare of rape victims has been slashed by nearly 85% from the previous financial year.

A comparison of budget estimates over the years shows that the allocation for the relief and rehabilitation of rape victims has fallen from Rs 53.30 crore in the 2009-10 Union budget to Rs 36.2 crore in 2010-11 to a mere Rs 7.5 crore in the 2011-12 budget outlays. Analysts say with basic medical care for a rape victim costing around Rs 1,000 daily in a city like Mumbai, the current budgetary allocations are grossly inadequate.

Researchers on women's issues say the slash is unwarranted given that the number of rapes in the country has been steadily on the rise . Over 21,397 women in the country were raped in 2009 alone, the latest year for which the National Crime Records Bureau provides statistics. The figure is believed to be conservative at best, given the under-reporting of such crimes.

Sangeeta Rege, senior researcher at CEHAT (Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes) says the paltry expenditure on the welfare of rape victims is a matter of serious concern. "An analysis of the government's expenditure on the relief and rehabilitation of rape victims in 2009 shows that only Rs 9 lakh of the budget was spent, which amounts to around Rs 42 per rape victim. This will not even provide for a victim's daily dose of medication. The budget reduction since then makes one wonder how less will the government spend?'' Rege says CEHAT research showed them that basic medical care for a rape victim costs around Rs 1,000 per day in a city like Mumbai.

There seems to be a lack of clarity on compensatory relief for rape. Senior officials from the ministry of women and child development told TOI that rape victims could file for compensation under section 357A of the CrPC. They said schemes for the rehabilitation of rape victims were awaiting final approvals. Asked about the poor spending of budget allocations, officials said the funds were channelised on a need basis.

Women researchers said that rape victims were often completely unaware about provisions for financial redressal. Explaining that the reduced fund-allocation is usually due to gross under-utilization of allocated funds in the previous year, head of economics at the SNDT Women's university Vibhuti Patel says the budget slash indicated rape victims or potential recipients such as the police, women's groups or remand homes were unaware about the availability of funding. "It could also be due to the non-formation of schemes to channelize funds,'' she said.

Following Supreme Court directives, the National Commission for Women had drawn up a scheme to provide restorative justice to rape victims by means of a compensatory fund, way back in 2005. After much deliberation, it was recently proposed that rape victims would receive financial assistance of Rs 20,000 and restorative support services upto Rs 50,000, but that scheme too still awaits implementation.

The reduced allocations are just another indication of victims getting short shrift. Lakshmi Lingam, professor of women's studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences says the government seems to lack direction on how to handle the issue of sexual violence against women.

March 4, 2011



Cabinet clears child abuse bill

A pathbreaking bill dealing exclusively with sexual offences against children was passed by the Union cabinet on Thursday providing for a jail term upto seven years and a fine of Rs50,000 for such crimes.

The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011, also legalised consensual sex with a person aged between 16-18 years. The new law will cover all new aspects of sexual offences against children not covered elsewhere.

The proposed bill aims at protecting children against offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography and provide for establishment of special courts for trial of such offences.

The bill provides for treating sexual assault as “aggravated offence” when it is committed by a person in position of trust or authority including a member of the security forces, police officer, public servant, management or staff of a children’s home, hospital or educational institution.

It will be treated as an aggravated offence where the child victim is below 12 years or has mental or physical disability or the sexual offence causes grievous hurt or injury to the child with long term adverse effect on the child’s mind and body. The punishment for such an offence would be imprisonment of upto seven years with fine. The punishment for penetrative sexual assault has been proposed to be at least five years in jail and a minimum fine of Rs50,000.

Sexual assault also includes fondling the child in an inappropriate way which will invite a penalty of minimum three years in jail.
Section seven of the bill provides for “no punishment” if the consent for sexual act has been obtained with a person aged between 16 and 18 years.

There is a special provision in the bill preventing abuse of children for pornographic purpose or possessing pornographic material involving children. There will be an obligation on the media, studio and photographic facilities not to report such cases and failure to do so will attract punishment.

The media has been barred from reporting the cases without having authentic information and from disclosing the identity of the child.

March 3, 2011



Up to 5 yrs' jail proposed for sexual assault

NEW DELHI: The proposed Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill 2011 is likely to come up before the Cabinet on Thursday.

The bill — piloted by the women and child development ministry — while proposing stiffer punishment for offenders, also advocates punishing those making false complaints, except if the complainant is a child less than 16 years old.

The bill gains significance on the back of National Crime Records Bureau data that shows an increase in sexual offences against children. A ministry study in 2007 on child abuse found 53% reported one or more forms of sexual abuse. And 50% of the abusers were known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.

As per the new bill, whoever commits sexual assault can be punished with imprisonment of three years extendable up to five years and a fine. Punishment for penetrative sexual assault (where the perpetrator is a guardian, public servant or security personnel) has been proposed at 10 years, which could be extended to life term and a fine.