Crimes against women at alarming levels in Bengal

19216.otherhorror1PUBLISHED IN THE HINDU

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on crimes against women, including trafficking in West Bengal, have shown alarming highs.

What happened?

The NCRB report for 2016, which was released on November 30, 2017, recorded 283 incidents and 307 victims under Section 326A (acid attack) and Section 326B (attempt to carry out an acid attack) in the country. Of these, West Bengal recorded 76 incidents of such attacks and about 83 victims, accounting for 26% of all incidents and 27% of victims. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country with almost double the population of West Bengal, recorded 57 incidents and 61 victims.

Why can’t it be controlled?

Despite guidelines from the Supreme Court on regulating the sale of acid, there is little monitoring on the ground in West Bengal. While the guidelines ban over-the-counter sale of acid without identity proof, no restrictions have been imposed in rural and semi-urban areas where most of the attacks take place. The easy availability of the corrosive substance has resulted in high incidence of acid attacks in the State, according to the police.

What about other crimes?

Acid attacks are not the only crime directed at women in Bengal. One of the highest contributors of crime against women are cases registered under Section 498A of the IPC (cruelty by husband or his relatives). During 2016, 1,10,434 cases were registered across the country, of which West Bengal recorded 19,305 cases (over 17% of the total cases in the country).

When it comes to human trafficking, West Bengal is not only the highest contributor to the crime but it alone accounts for 44% of all cases nationally. Of the 8,132 cases of human trafficking reported in 2016, West Bengal accounted for 3,579 cases. In terms of missing children, which is related to human trafficking, the State recorded 8,335 cases of children gone missing in 2016. As the State shares a border with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, it has become a transit route in human trafficking. The distress-ridden tea gardens of north Bengal, the remote islands of Sunderbans and the districts of Malda and Murshidabad with poor human development indicators and high density of population serve as ideal source point for traffickers luring young girls on the pretext of jobs or marriage to other States. Some experts say that the number of cases of human trafficking are high as the police are proactive in registering cases of human trafficking and missing children. One of the aims of the Kanyashree Prakalpa launched by the West Bengal government was to curb trafficking by providing conditional cash transfer to school-going girls but the numbers clarify that a lot more needs to be done.

Who is to blame?

West Bengal has been recording a high crime rate against women over the past several years. In 2016, West Bengal ranked second with 32,513 cases of crime against women, contributing 9.6% to all such crimes in the country. Uttar Pradesh with over 17% of the female population of the country — Bengal has 7.5% — accounted for 14.5% of all crimes against women. But despite the high levels of crimes against women, it has failed to garner adequate attention from the authorities. The State government has not taken note of the numbers, and the Opposition too has not raised the issue.

Statutory bodies such as the West Bengal Women’s Commission and the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights have failed to put any system in place by which crimes against women and child trafficking can be arrested. According to non-governmental organisations working in the field, the commissions need to improve victims’ access to legal services and put in place concrete steps that can act as a safety net for women and children. The overall conviction rate for crime against women in India stands at 18.9 %. For West Bengal, the conviction rate is the lowest in the country at 3.3 %.

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Rise in number of rescues, arrests as well: Almost half of India’s trafficking victims from West Bengal, reveals NCRB data

A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country in 2016, of which Bengal recorded the highest, 3,597 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 1,422 cases

Published in The Indian Express

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Forty-four percent of the nation’s trafficking victims are from West Bengal, according to fresh data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Though the data also showed a rise in the number of rescues and arrests in such cases, experts called for more grassroots intervention by the state government and NGOs.

After West Bengal, Rajasthan is a distant second at 17.49 per cent. A total of 8,132 cases of human trafficking were reported in the country in 2016, of which Bengal recorded the highest, 3,597 cases, followed by Rajasthan with 1,422 cases.

After Rajasthan (5767) and Madhya Pradesh (4817), Bengal recorded the third highest number of victims rescued by police, at 2,793 (77 per cent). Of those rescued, 2,323 are females whereas 470 are males. The numbers of persons arrested in West Bengal in connection with sex trafficking (1,847) is also the highest in the country. The police were also able to charge a large number of those arrested (1,795). However, in 2016, only 11 were convicted, while 224 were acquitted or discharged by court.

“Somewhere, government and NGOs are failing to identify the vulnerability in villages. We are all to blame for this. (That) West Bengal contributes 44% of the nation’s trafficking victims is alarming. Also is the fact that these are registered cases and just the tip of the iceberg,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Bahini, an NGO that works towards rescue and rehabilitation across the country, while speaking to The Indian Express from New Delhi.

“Police seem to be playing a proactive role with a large number of arrests and rescues in 2016. But the district administration and NGOs, which are supposed to reach out to vulnerable families, are not doing their job to a satisfactory level. Bengal remains the hotbed for trafficking,” added Kant.

Experts said poorer sections of society in villages are most vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers have a good network in villages through touts and utilise poverty and lack of jobs as bait to lure victims. According to the NCRB report, sexual exploitation, prostitution and forced marriage remain the main purposes of trafficking.

“It is mainly through marriages and lure of jobs that girls are trafficked out of Bengal. There is a need of a placement agency Act in the state. The Act will enable proper tracking of agencies (many of which operate from outside Bengal) and whoever they have placed for jobs (possible victims). Secondly, more awareness is necessary to prevent child marriages. Early marriages are still a menace in Bengal. A number of initiatives have been taken like Kanyashree in Bengal, which has been beneficial,” said Chittapriyo Sadhu, general manager, state programme (West Bengal and Assam).

“The modus operandi of traffickers has also changed as compared to five years ago. Also is the fact that more cases are reported now by parents of victims,” added Sadhu. “We are trying our best to rescue girls when a case is reported. In many cases, family members do not report it, mostly when victims are lured for jobs. There is a need for NGOs, civil society, panchayats, police and government to come together for prevention of the menace,” said a senior police officer.

Delhi family to pay Rs 2.18 lakh for employing trafficked woman

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Published In Times Of India

RANCHI: Twenty-five-year-old Anjali (name changed) is excited to return home to her family after five years. She was lured to Delhi by a cousin on the pretext of a job five years ago, but things did not turn up as she had expected.

On reaching Delhi, her cousin sister took her to a placement agency, from where she was placed as domestic help in a household in Pashchim Vihar area. Anjali spent over three years with her employee. She was not only confined inside the house but beaten up brutally. She was neither given any proper food nor paid a single rupee for her work.

The girl was finally rescued by Delhi Police and Shakti Vahini in May last year, following which she was kept in a shelter home in Delhi. The police managed to trace her family and now, Jharkhand police has left for the national capital to bring her home.

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It was only recently that Anjali got to know that her mother had passed away three years ago. Talking to TOI over the phone, Anjali said, “I still cannot believe that I am not going to see my mother again. I wish I had never left. However, I am looking forward to meeting my father and my three siblings after such a long time.”

Meanwhile, the girl’s employers were booked under various sections of Indian Penal Code, mostly grievous hurt, unlawful labour and unlawful confinement. The employers were also booked under the Bonded Labour System (abolition) Act, 1976.

The employers told Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) that they hired the girl from Kamat Placement Agency and paid Rs 22,000 for the first year and Rs 20,000 for the second year to the agency. They admitted that they did not pay any wages to the girl.

The commission has directed the employers to pay a total of Rs 2.18 lakh to the girl as compensation. Once the girl arrives at Chaibasa, her bank account will be opened by the district administration in which the compensation amount will be deposited.

NIA likely to investigate human trafficking cases

nia-likely-to-probe-human-trafficking-casesPUBLISHED IN ECONOMIC TIMES

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) could be empowered to investigate cases of human trafficking, in what seems to be a breakthrough in the nearly year-long consultations among various stakeholders, including the home ministry and the ministry of women and child development.

Sources say the additional responsibility for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would be part of the proposed anti-human trafficking law unveiled by Maneka Gandhi last year.

The move will also require amending the law that gave birth to the counter-terrorism agency — the National Investigation Act, 2008.

The Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, proposed setting up a National Bureau on Trafficking in Person for “prevention, investigation of the trafficking of persons cases and protection of the victims of trafficking” — a role which could be performed by the NIA, sources said.

“The ministry of home affairs (MHA) wanted NIA to investigate trafficking and we have agreed to that. MHA has also given its approval for the draft Bill. After we get a green flag from Prime Minister’s Office, a Cabinet note will be circulated,” according to a top official of the ministry of women and child development.

Another official said “a cell within NIA” could be probing human trafficking cases.

After the Union Cabinet gives its approval, the draft bill will be tabled before Parliament.

“Traffickers enjoy immunity because local police agencies are not able to probe inter-state or cross-border crimes. We require a nodal agency as 80-90 per cent of trafficking cases span across various states,” said Ravi Kant, Supreme Court Advocate & President of NGO Shakti Vahini,  explaining why activists have been seeking a central body to probe human trade.

Government officials say to empower the NIA to investigate trafficking cases the National Investigation Act, 2008, will have to be amended.

The NIA was set up by the previous UPA government in 2009 to probe terrorist activities in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people.

As per the National Investigation Act, the anti-terror body is empowered to probe offences under eight specified laws, including the Atomic Energy Act 1962, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, and the Anti-Hijacking Act 1982.

The proposed anti-human trafficking legislation will be independent of the existing law on trafficking in relation to prostitution — Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 — while a section of the civil society has sought an umbrella law.

The draft law divides offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”.

The punishment for offences in the former category is rigorous imprisonment between 7 and 10 years and a fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, while aggravated forms of trafficking will invite a jail term of between 10 years and life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh.

Aggravated trafficking will include trafficking of children, transgenders, differently-abled, pregnant women and those which involve use of drugs and alcohol.

There is also a provision for a national committee as well as a central fund for the relief and rehabilitation services for the victims.

Create Jobs for NE Women to stop Trafficking: NCW chair

shadow-abuse-holding-background-black-imprisoned-retarded_1791dccc-b9b5-11e7-970b-e502f534a12ePublished in Business Standard

“False dreams given by traffickers, the internet, financial weakness of the family and no mean to sustain their livelihood in their homes is fuelling trafficking of women from the northeastern region,”

National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Rekha Sharma on Tuesday stressed the need to create employment opportunities for women from the northeastern states to restrict trafficking of women.

“False dreams given by traffickers, the internet, financial weakness of the family and no mean to sustain their livelihood in their homes is fuelling trafficking of women from the northeastern region,” she said on the sidelines of an official function here in Meghalaya.

Sharma said there were reports of trafficking of women from the region, who were trapped by traffickers through dubious means.

She underscored the need to create enough employment opportunities in the region’s rural areas so that unscrupulous people are not able to lure unsuspecting victims in search of better opportunities outside the confines of their homes.

“Trafficking (of women), especially from Assam, and also, in certain cases, from Mizoram has come to our notice. They are taken away to work in massage or beauty parlours but are often used for different reasons,” Sharma said.

She said that in some cases, these women were trafficked out of the country.

Stressing that rehabilitation of the rescued women is often a problem, especially with the families refusing to accept them, Sharma said: “There is a need to rehabilitate them by offering them skill training and also by providing them shelter.

“Although there is a perception that women in the northeastern region are better off than their counterparts in the rest of India, females in this part of the world, too, are a disadvantaged lot.”

Earlier addressing a meeting at the North East Council on recommendations of the study on social, economic and political empowerment of women in northeastern states, Sharma said: “Women in the northeast are disadvantaged under the customary practices.

“Women are not seen participating politically. There are few women MLAs and (women) MPs are even rarer. Though economically women are seen working in every sphere, they still are being deprived of the right to land,” she said.

Meanwhile, the report stated that many women of the region are engaged in agricultural activities and earn less than their male counterparts.

“They work in fields which they do not own, because landed property can be owned by only the men in their families. Women working in family fields do not earn any wages for their labour. Here also, it is the man who is in control of the management and income from such farming,” the report said.

It also noted that women cannot own immovable property, like ancestral fields and homesteads, according to prevalent customary laws of many tribes of the region.

“Some women who have no land of their own — widows or single mothers — often go out of their homes to work as daily labourers at construction sites or even in other people’s farms, where they earn less than their male counterparts for the same kind of work and hours,” the report said.

It also revealed that women in the northeast are politically lagging behind their counterparts elsewhere in the country.

“The toughest hurdle being the continued sway of tribal customary laws which intrinsically exclude women’s entry and participation in governance starting from the village levels,” it stated.

“In an already deeply entrenched patriarchal set-up through which these people had been governing themselves, the newly protected and almost un-touchable customary laws only hardened such a mindset.”

As a result, women have not been able to make much headway in wresting any political power for themselves in local, state and centre politics too, it said.

“Ironically, the very same provision which protects the traditional rights of the people, failed to take into account the human, civil and political rights of women of these states — rights which are enshrined and guaranteed in the same Constitution.”

The report also stated that it would only be fair to assume that along with the traditional bias against women entering politics, lack of economic power of women in general has acted as a strong deterrent for many “would-be-legislators”.

 

The Gender of Violence

Published in The Outlook

01_11_2017-human_traffickingThe torture must have been so unbearable that the 13-year-old waif of a girl thought it was better to jump from that 11th floor balcony. The minor had been ens­laved for two years by then. Her employer, 23-year-old Sneha Yadav, studying at an upscale private university in Faridabad. Luckily, the girl did not fall to her death but got stuck in a bird net on the floor below. “She was so thin and emaciated that the net did not break under her weight,” says Rishi Kant, one of the founders of the NGO Shakti Vahini that helped residents of the high-rise building rescue the girl. “Had she fallen and died, it would have been treated as a case of suicide and all would have been forgotten”

As it happened, the story tumbled out…through tell-tale signs first. “The burns on her body, bruises on her head and deep scars on her arms  would have been overlooked, like in so many other cases. Her hands are gnarled and doctors say she probably suffered from broken bones because of the beatings and was never taken to a doctor,” says Rishi Kant. The usual postscript followed: a police case was filed against the young woman, but she received bail wit­hin 24 hours. The victim is still in the hospital, in a state of trauma.

More than the particulars, what merits attention is the very real but under-attested phenomenon of  woman-on-woman violence and exploitation. It’s nothing new—social analysts have always talked of how in dowry killings, for example, patriarchal violence was often enacted through women. But is a new phase of this setting in? Urban women lead lives marked by incredible stress these days, often having to summon up much higher degrees of resoluteness, even aggression, than the average male as they go about the world, while still being expected to hold up all the sky back home in their ‘nurturing’ role. Is that producing a new form of violence

?This case was a cinch, though—plain old class privilege. Both the minor and the employer hail from Bihar. The latter’s father is a landed mine-owner, who employs the minor’s father. “The girl is rude, arrogant. Once or twice we tried asking her about the cries emanating from her flat. She turned back and asked us to mind our own business,” a schoolteacher living in the same building says.

Rishi Kant, who has seen hundreds of such cases, says it’s shocking how women are doing this to their domestic helps. “Maybe they’re under too much pressure. Women are working outside, have deadlines, and also have to look after the house. They need a full-time help. Problem is, they’re not treating them with respect, like workers providing a service, but like slaves,” he tells Outlook.

Clinical psychologist Dr Rajat Mitra, who has worked with both criminals and victims of trauma, says this kind of behaviour is inh­erited—it comes from the culture of the family. “She has probably seen servants and employees being treated like this, and thinks such exploitative behaviour is acceptable,” says the psychologist. In most instances, it also ties in with what they call the ‘kicking-the-cat’ syndrome—how a socially or financially stronger person displaces his or her frustrations by abusing a weaker, defenceless person. It’s one anger chain reaction that commonly connects offices and workplaces to homes. The Faridabad case is hardly the first of its kind.

Jagriti Singh, wife of former BSP MP Dhananjay Singh, allegedly used to kick and beat her three domestic helps. She was arrested on charges of murder in November 2013 after one of them, Rakhi Bhadra, died of grievous injuries inflicted on her by Jagriti, a senior dentist in Delhi’s RML hospital. Rakhi was burnt with a hot iron, hit with sharp objects, including antelope horns displayed in the hall of their South Avenue residence. That Dhananjay himself had over 25 criminal cases pending against him at one point—murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion, rape—may not be an irrelevant fact.

The Jagriti case had come soon after a horrific case in south Delhi’s posh Vasant Kunj where Vandana Dhir, a senior executive with a multinational, was arrested for torturing her dom­estic help, an illiterate tribal girl from Jharkhand. According to the FIR, the girl was assaulted with sticks, knives, brooms, a hot tawa and bare hands by Dhir. A senior police official, recalling the 2013 incident, says the girl had maggot-infested wounds when she was rescued. She was said to be kept in a semi-naked condition to prevent her

In my 30 years of policing, I have not been able to figure out what makes educa­ted, ­urban women behave like this. I have seen cases of torture for dowry in well-to-do families. Even cases where women ill-treated the mother-in-law as she lay on her deathbed. Cases of domestic helps being beaten and tortured are very common. Most of them don’t get reported; the illiterate village girls are coerced or bribed into not filing cases. One generally does not expect women to behave in this brutal manner,” the police officer tells Outlook.

Dr Samir Parikh, director, department of mental health and behavioral scien­ces, Fortis Hospital, warns against the stereotyping that leads to statements like “women aren’t expected to behave like this”. He says it’s not about ‘women’ ill-treating their domestic helps. “The fact is violence, aggression, frustration and crime have increased in society due to increased stress levels, and it’s affecting both men and ­women,” he says. Dr Mitra agrees. “Both genders commit violence and torture. It’s definitely less in degree where women are concerned, but it exists. It comes primarily from the culture of the family,” he adds.

All experts—sociologists, mental health specialists, doctors and even energy healers—hew to this point. That ‘violence increasing among women’ would be a very simplistic reading: because forms of it always existed, regardless of the gendered stereotype of women being more ‘maternal and empathetic’. What has indeed happened is the spike in stress levels faced by them—levels unknown to men—and this may actually be a contributory factor in increased aggression.

Photograph by Getty Images

An energy healer talks in terms of yin and yang balance, grasping at the phenomenon in her traditional vocabulary. She says the role of a woman is changing from a nurturer to a provider, resulting in an increase in yang or masculine energy. “Yin and yang is present in each individual. An increase in yang energy can actually make a woman more aggressive. Beating a weaker person than you is a manifestation of that. If yin and yang energies can be balanced, it will reduce stress,” says the healer.

Working women have the additional ­burden of having to manage the home, and the guilt and despair that she is ­perhaps failing.

The diagnosis broadly matches the modern ones. Says Dr Parikh: “There are smaller families, less interdependence on extended families, like in a village. There’s pressure at work as conventional timings don’t exist any longer. Both men and women are expected to be available anytime. So working women face far more stress. They are virtually doing two full-time jobs,” he explains. At work, the woman is expected to perform equally at all levels. Yet, she uniquely feels the strain of having to manage home, and the guilt and despair that she’s perhaps failing. Worse, says Dr Parikh, with the “primary res­ponsibility” of being “supposed to look after others” still app­lying in an unstated way, women are not encouraged to take care of their own health. “She has to be encouraged for self-care, to take time out for herself and invest in social support. Nobody has super powers. There are no Supermoms,” he iterates.

The Superwoman and Supermom model is putting too much pressure on women. Sociologist Dr Patricia Uberoi points to the unresolved overlaps between the old and the new. “The burden of expectations to be a good Indian woman—to behave in a certain manner—is too heavy. Family responsibilities are much larger as compared to elsewhere in the world. In addition to their jobs, they have to look after the children, old parents and in-laws,” she says.

The State abdicating does not help, says Dr Uberoi. “India is not a welfare state as it aspires to be, despite legal provisions. Welfare has not caught up with the needs in terms of old-age homes or financial aid. The care economy does not exist either at the level of the State or the private sector. All of it needs to be done at the family level, which in effect means ‘by women’. The pressures, the uncertainties coupled with the role of motherhood, which now includes educating children and preparing them for the new economy, each brings its own stress-points.”

Raising kids is one thing. The all-pervasive stress is wreaking havoc on women’s hormones and making many unable to conceive. Dr Renu Yadav, an infertility specialist in Gurgaon, says it’s rampant. “Work- and home-related stress, not eating properly, no time for themselves—all of it is having an adverse affect on reproductive health. Instances of PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) have gone up. Many women are going through depression and it’s taking a toll on marital relations too,” she says.

“The general well-being of the family still depends upon the woman. Energy travels in ripples. If she is not happy, the sense of unhappiness will pervade the entire family. If things keep going as they are, I only see increased physical and mental health issues for women in the next 10 years,” adds Dr Yadav. In short, the woman-on-woman violence that one sees from those socialised in unequal power structures is just the tip of the iceberg. The real violence lies submerged in the psyche of all women: they are absorbing it.

In UFA -BRICS Conference India Commits to Combat Organised Crime of Human Trafficking

12096157_836787289776376_7733434317553998478_nThe Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju led the Indian delegation to the first BRICS Ministerial meeting on Migration held in Sochi, Russia yesterday. After detailed deliberations, a joint declaration was issued, which is a major milestone so far as orderly and legal migration amongst BRICS countries is concerned. Following is the Text of the Joint declaration:

“We, the Heads of the Migration Authorities from the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of South Africa, guided by the Ufa Declaration and the commitment to respect human rights included in that declaration:

1)   Affirm the interest of BRICS countries in exchanging views and sharing experience on migration issues;

2)   Acknowledge the interrelationship between transnational migration and development and the need to deal with the opportunities and challenges that migration presents and take advantage of its positive impacts;

3)   Reaffirm the openness of the BRICS to deepen collaboration with other countries, international and regional organizations, based on principle of equality and mutual respect for discussing and addressing the issue of international migration including the facilitation of safe and  orderly migration;

4)   Acknowledge the impact of migration to the social and economic development and demographic situation in the BRICS countries;

5)   Express the interest of BRICS countries in sharing best practices in the development and implementation of national migration policies or procedures;

6)   Acknowledge the relevance of cooperation in the field of migration in the BRICS space;

7)   Recognize the importance of promoting the mobility of skilled workers in the space of the BRICS countries;

8)   Reiterate the commitment to combat and prevent organized criminal human trafficking and migrant smuggling;

9)   Welcome strengthening of the dialogue and cooperation in the field of migration, including migration policies, procedures and strategies as well as working meetings of representatives of the migration authorities of the BRICS countries;

Confirm our commitment to strengthen our partnership for our common development and to this end adopt this Joint Declaration, which is open for other countries to join”.

It is believed that this joint declaration will go a long way in smoothening the flow of people and would enrich social, culture and economic ties. The members also resolved to combat and prevent transnational organized crime in line with the Ufa declaration. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO), Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and other International bodies on migration.

On the sidelines of the BRICS Ministerial meeting on Migration, Shri Rijiju held a bilateral meeting with Mr. Konstantin Romodanovsky, Minister and head of the Federal Migration Service of Russia, yesterday. In this meeting various issues were raised including simplification of work permits and issue of temporary resident permits to Indian nationals. Russian Minister was forthcoming and promised to look into the issues on priority. He also invited the Indian side to visit and see the existing system regarding immigration and migration followed in Russia.