To put censure on acts that end up violating the safety of women is necessary but to mark out certain cases to suit the political mandate of a certain group is unfortunate. A scan of the news of the day is testimony of the increasing number of cases of violence being meted out to women and children ranging from cases of domestic violence, abandonment, molestations and physical assault, rape and murder. Apart from a immediate neighbors and family members forming Joint Actions Committees calling for justice, there is still a gap when it comes to taking recourse of legal measures. Often, the unhelpful nature of the police system starting with an insensitive approach to cases related to women and a judgmental attitude that points to women as being responsible for the crimes committed against them are cited as the biggest stumbling blocks for cases that do not reach the stage of a police complaint being filed or a legal case taken up. The other rationale given is that when police get involved, they get into bribe taking mode from both parties and skim through ‘arrangements’ instead of facilitating counseling or police action.
For a woman who has undergone domestic violence for instance, there are various layers of challenges starting from her own social conditioning that prevents her from getting due justice. In a highly patriarchal set up where men are meant to be appropriated, the immediate reaction is whether the domestic act of violence has been meted because of her failure in some way. With an abysmal lack of marital counseling support systems, it is no surprise that most cases of domestic violence cases go unreported. It also does not help the cause that women who leave their marriages are socially looked down upon. The lack of social support is such that even though the law entails a woman to seek property share from the husband and also from her own family, women who undergo acute abusive marriages have to continue with their experiences given that she would not have the social sanction to seek property rights and other financial support. This leads to only a few women who are economically self independent to be able to pursue legal cases.
Reporting cases of rape and other forms of sexual assault have interestingly gone up, partly because rape is seen as more of an external issue while domestic violence is seen as an internal issue. Having said that, it is travesty when certain cases are highlighted only because of which communities are involved. A case of any form of violence against a woman; be it rape or domestic violence need to be given justice regardless of who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. In cases of rape and molestation and other forms of sexual violence, the stand alone pointing out of the identities of victims and or perpetrator, the pointing of guilt to the woman, the questions of the moral character of the victim and what time the crime was committed that points to the question of what the woman was doing what, with whom and in what attire are what holds back the discussion on what can be done in terms of addressing and curtailing incidences of violence against women. More than anything else, such cases must be left out of the purview of people and agencies who will get on the support bandwagon for their political statements as such posturing can only end in diluting the more serious issue of safety for women.
Another aside to the area is how Meira Paibis in the state are vocal and active in matters of the state starting from territorial issues to identity to social ills but are only prone to playing a mediating role without really having a grasp over legal redressal that is due to women. This comes mainly because Meira Paibis themselves fail to question patriarchal areas and norms in social practices, which leads them to come in as mediators looking for compromise and often on the part of the woman. In matters of rape, the lack of sensitivity can lead to bizarre announcements like the perpetrator marrying the victim which has been known to have happened in many instances while in cases of domestic violence, it can mean subjecting women to more elongated spells of violence that can even lead to drastic measures like death and grave injuries resulting from physical violence and death by suicide or homicide as an end result. Violence against women is a grave issue that needs a serious engagement and not token protests or token mediation. But before it can be tackled, there must be a genuine acknowledgement that violence against women is not about the who gets to be the perpetrator and the victim but about the fact that there is no consensus on what must be done to prevent such acts and what mechanisms must stay in place to give justice.