While the majority of forums in the city choose to celebrate International Women’s Day amidst a lot of fun and gaiety and awards distribution for the women achievers Association for Advocacy Legal Initiatives (AALI), a feminist legal advocacy group working for socio-legal aid for women, adopted a different mode of saluting women. They invited the media to a panel discussion on combating violence against women and shared with them the data-analysis document they had prepared on this while doing research in 10 districts of Uttar Pradesh in 2016 While reporting of sexual offences against women and children has increased, yet justice is still delayed or denied in majority of the cases. .The report states that there is a mere 14 per cent conviction of rape accused in Uttar Pradesh against the national percentage of 26.
The findings of AALI, which has been working on the attainment and realisation of human rights of women for the past two decades, both shocked and at the same time, raised the level of concern of those working for the upliftment of womenfolk in the state.
Data suggests that Uttar Pradesh alone reported 35,527 cases of crimes against women in 2015, which is 10.9 per cent share of such crimes in India. A total of 34,651 rape cases (Section 376 of IPC) were reported in 2015. This is as per the latest National Judicial Data.
It is a fact that the state judiciary is overburdened. It has the highest pendency of cases in the country. It has almost 40 lakh criminal files pending as of July 2016. Each judge in Uttar Pradesh has an average pendency of more than 2,500 cases. There were many eye opening findings in the document brought out by AALI . The first being the unwarranted delay that the victims/survivors had to suffer while lodging their the FIR
“In 79 per cent cases, the FIR is not lodged on the same day of incident, while in cases registered under Protection of Children from Sexual offences Act 2012 (POCSO), only in 30 per cent cases the F.I.R was lodged on the same day”, said AALI member lawyer Shubhangi Singh.
The findings revealed that in over 50 per cent of the cases perused the statement of the victim/survivor under section 164 Cr PC was recorded before the magistrate as many as 10 days after the FIR got lodged where as the statement has to be recorded within 24 hours after the incident. “Such delay further victimises the complainant as they have to suffer through the ordeal of dealing with a lot of pressure from the accused, community and her family to let go of her fight for justice and settle the matter by exonerating the accused, all in the name of saving so called ‘honor’” said Renu Mishra, Executive Director, AALI.
UP alone reported 35,527 cases of crimes against women in 2015, which is 10.9% share of such crimes in India
The findings revealed that there is a total gross violation of the 1983 law which provides for the “in camera” trial. According to the rules only the judge, the court staff, the public prosecutor, victim, her lawyer, accused and his lawyer are allowed to be present in the courtroom but this rule is not being followed. There is a huge crowd in camera trails which imposes a lot of psychological pressure on the victim and her family. Another finding says that in 80 per cent of sexual assault cases, the medical examination was not conducted on the same day as the FIR was lodged and in 19 per cent of the cases, the medical examination was done for as much as a month after the incident.
“While this delay points towards the fact that violence against women is treated as low priority by the medical and health response system it also causes obstruction in access to critical medical care and treatment for health consequences of sexual abuse victims/survivors along with loss of vital evidence which could be used as an advantage by the defense at the time of trial,” says lawyer Apoorva Srivastava, part of AALI team who conducted this study.
Another shocking fact that came to light was that in about 84 per cent of the cases two finger tests were conducted during medical examination even on children as young as 5 years old.
“This tests has been highly condemned by the Supreme Court as it is infringing towards the bodily privacy and dignity of a victim, “ said Apoorva, adding that this also against the /survivor but also in the guidelines for medico-legal care of victims/survivors of sexual assault, released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2014. The new guidelines now provide for a standardised performa that is applicable all of the country.
Surprisingly, there was no evidence of any medical investigation of the accused, even though provisions in law exist, to check for signs of forced penetration or resistance or DNA etc. This say AALI team could be useful evidence at the time of trial for the prosecution to support the argument for conviction.
In the cases of sexual assault, forensic test reports play an important evidentiary role but are never placed on record which is also one of the lapses in collecting the evidence. During the research analysis, it was found that only in couple of cases forensic reports were placed before the court.
An analysis points out that only in couple of sexual assault cases, forensic reports were placed before the court
Besides punishment to the perpetrator, the victim requires trauma counseling. No mental health facilities seem to exist in hospitals, police station or courts or any separate government institution in Uttar Pradesh. Justice for a victim/survivor of rape and sexual abuse entails the ability to move on in life and put the traumatic experience behind her and not only punishment of the guilty.
Though Uttar Pradesh government has also formulated a victim compensation scheme to help in facilitating the reintegration process for the victims/survivors of sexual abuse but granting of compensation is still at the nascent stage. This is state failure to provide a life of dignity, free from violence to the victim/survivors. The responsibility of this scheme has been given to the Legal Services Authority and the victim/survivor has to make an application to the district office.
Panelist Ram Kumar, who works for the rights of Dalit, put forth forcefully the plight of rape victims from the Dalit community. He said women hailing from this community have to face double the pressure as they are already discriminated in the society. He therefore suggested that efforts be directed to change the mindset of society that views these women as vulnerable and easy prey for men from higher castes.
• In 79 per cent of rape cases FIR is not lodged on the same day of incident.
• Gross violation of guidelines of Medical Act 2014
• Primitive and inhuman two finger test conducted on 84 per cent victims.
• Findings show two fingers test used on even five year old kids.
• UP has only two forensic labs
• No awareness about compensation by state for victim
• Gross violation of 1983 Act for “in camera” trial found.
• Fast track courts for rape cases missing.
• No medical examination for Rape accused
• 35,527 cases of crimes against women reported in 2015. This is 10.9 per centshare of such crimes in India.
• A total of 34,651 rape cases (Section 376 of IPC) were reported in 2015.
• UP has highest pendency of cases in the country.
• 40 lakh criminal cases pending in UP as of July 2016.
• Each judge in Uttar Pradesh has an average pendency of more than 2,500 cases”.
• Trauma counsels missing:
No mental health facilities
exist in hospitals, police
station or courts etc in state for rape survivors.
Tahira Hasan, General Secretary of All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA) in her presentation, emphasised on the role of civil society and mass media in breaking the silence and taboo around sexual offences in order to create a supportive environment for victims/survivors who are seeking justice under difficult environment and certainly not on a fair playing field.
Wrapping up the session, Mishra stressed that public participation and a combined effort by members of the civil societies can be the only answer if the rape victims can be provided succour. “Rape survivors gather lot of courage and despite a lot of risk and public flak report the matter, but they get discouraged because of the practical challenges that they confront during the legal process which delays justice and their hope fades”, she said.
She suggested sensitisation of Police Department and Judicial system towards the victim/ survivors of sexual abuse. She said that under the circumstances groups, media and individuals have to come forward and take the lead. Emphasizing the big responsibility of the media, she said that it is important for the stakeholders to apprise the media of the facts so that they can through their writings spread awareness on this vital issue. She said the media must know that despite stronger laws, many loopholes make access to justice and a life of dignity a farfetched reality for victims/survivors of sexual violence.
She suggested that a vigilant society and a powerful voice of the media raise their joint voices against the state policies and judiciary. A mass awareness be created and
accountability sought of the state government and judiciary. She said that AALI is working on getting the rape victims get justice.