Crime To Be A Girl?
YES, SHAME ON INDIA!
By Dhurjati Mukherjee
New Delhi, July 21 : The outrageous incident of a young girl being publically molested in Guwahati, evoking national rage, has once again spotlighted the abysmal state of women in India. Coming on the heels of the shocking Bhanwari Devi case along-with many other incidents bear testimony to the fact that crimes, including sexual harassment and rape of women have become a major problem and threat to society.
Kudos, to the Centre for finally waking up and setting up a high-level Committee to comprehend the status of women vis-à-vis socio-economic, health and nutrition conditions and evolve policy interventions based on contemporary assessment of women’s needs. Headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ruma Pal, the 15-member panel including experts from various fields will have a two years tenure.
Undeniably, these incidents especially Bhanwari’s case draws attention and raise questions about powerful people including our MPs and MLAs exploiting women. Arguably, if responsible people act in this way, one wonders what respect women, specially the poor, can hope to command?
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Andhra Pradesh topped the list with 23,569 cases of crime against women, followed by UP (20,912) and Bengal (20,291) in 2008. In fact, Bengal is second on the list of cruelty and domestic violence. Of the 81,344 country-wide incidents about 13,663 were from Bengal.
Undeniably, this is just the tip of the iceberg as many cases of women exploitation and torture go unreported in hundreds of villages. Coupled with changes in societal behaviour and attitudes, incidence of girls becoming victims to abuse and violence are increasing in rural and urban areas.
Government statistics show Maharashtra reporting 2433 cases, Andhra 1174 and Karnataka 1103 cases last year. This includes suicide to hide extra-marital relations, failed love affairs, physical relations with a family member and rape by a person of the same sex. Add to this, trafficking of girls from poor families for prostitution as also educated ones from middle class backgrounds. Alas, social prostitution has increased thanks to the lure of money. .
Worse, abortion of over a million of female fetus has resulted in a skewed sex ratio: 933 females per 1000 men, that too in prosperous agrarian Haryana and Punjab. Recall, in the early 1980s, Punjab families which had two or more girls went in for sex determination but by the late 90s many families there and in neighbouring Haryana and Delhi resorted to the practice in the first pregnancy itself.
Though the 2001 PNDT Act reduced female infanticide to some extent, it did not eliminate it in any appreciable manner. Notwithstanding, laws to protect the girl child, experience shows that implementation remains only on paper. The law enforcement agencies are either not well conversant with laws or are reluctant to tackle such problems with an iron hand.
In cities women fall victims to various types of abuses, both physical and mental, including domestic violence. This is not all. Over 70,000 women die of pregnancy-related issues and another 74,118 die from cervical cancer. No matter, the recent Women Deliver conference to discuss women’s health and a declaration for universal access for cervical cancer prevention to fight the problem issued in Washington recently.
Undoubtedly, the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) has successfully raised the number of births to poor women in rural areas in recent years but this is far from adequate. The need of the hour is investments in family planning. Not just to control population growth but also to ensure that the mother has a healthy life.
Towards that end, the National Rural Mission (NRM) has, to some extent, contributed to setting up village-level health and sanitation committees and employing Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) for guiding pregnant women and girls and also in matters of family planning.
Significantly, all indicators, be it literacy rate, nutrition and health facilities, per capita purchasing power parity (PPP), work participation rate et al one can clearly discern that women are always at the receiving end. Deprived in all respects and treated like chattels compared to their male counterparts in all spheres of life.
Obviously, the root cause of all women-related problems is not just about poverty but also ignorance and lack of proper guidance. Despite, women being granted reservations in Panchayats, in most cases the women were being guided either by their husbands, sons or Party. Recently, observers in West Bengal detected that 70 per cent of the women representatives in Panchayats confessed to this. Women who were the sabhadipatis – depended entirely on the upa sabhadipati!
What next? India clearly needs more resources and efforts at the grass-root rural level and backward and tribal areas. Specially, in educating them, creating awareness about their health and well-being. Civil society too needs to give a helping hand by generating awareness about the girl child’s rights to protect them from every and all abuses.
In the ultimate, forget international donors, the Government and private sector must work hand-in-hand to help NGOs carry out Mission Women & Girl Child in rural and semi-urban areas in a sustained way so that women become aware of their problems and take necessary steps to protect themselves. Unless the socio-economic status of women and the girl child is improved, the country’s aim of becoming a super power might not be fully successful. Give more Power to Women, what says you? — INFA
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)