Social stigma, police apathy add to rape survivors’ woes

Social stigma, police apathy add to rape survivors’ woes

Pune: “For no fault of ours, my whole family had to face a social boycott by fellow villagers because my daughter was raped. We dared to come out and lodged a complaint,” said a distraught yet hopeful father of a rape survivor, who is a part of the ‘Dignity March’ from Mumbai to New Delhi.
‘Social stigma and neglect by the police continue to be among the major problems faced by the survivors of sexual violence,’ narrate the experiences of the rape survivors and their families from the rural Maharashtra, who are a part of a ‘Dignity March’ organised by the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan and Jansahas. 

The 10,000 km nationwide march that will pass through 200 districts of 24 states/UTs in India, started from Mumbai on December 20 and will culminate on February 22 in New Delhi.

“My daughter was raped at the age of 14 by a man in the village. We lodged a complaint against him immediately. He is behind bars now. However, the real problem that we faced after this came from villagers as they alienated us. They stopped calling us to their homes, stopped inviting us to weddings or any social gatherings and also stopped talking to us. My daughter, who was already facing a trauma, was stressed out even more due to this. So, we had to send her away for education,” narrated the man residing in a small village in Dhule district.

“Fortunately, our daughter is picking herself up and is studying in Std XI now,” he added.

Social boycott and unjust treatment remain to be the factors haunting the survivors more than the incident itself. 

“I suffered more through the shaming by people around me than the actual exploitation. I have changed five to six villages already. We cannot undo what has been done to us, but we can definitely prevent our sisters/daughters from becoming prey to abuse and sexual assault in future,” said Bhanwari Devi, activist and survivor of a gang rape, who is also travelling with the other survivors.

For a mother of a survivor, the beginning of the process to seek justice for her daughter itself was a difficult task. “The police were not ready to file a complaint for a very long time. Meanwhile, we kept getting threats from the accused all the time. With intervention from Jansahas, the process has gained momentum, but FIR has still not been lodged against them,” she said.

Explaining the Dignity March, Ashif Shaikh of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, said, “This march is a platform for the survivors to tell their stories in their own voice, to represent their own narratives without shame and for other stakeholders to create a healthy, non-judgemental and safe environment to support them. We have realised that amendments in the criminal laws and the legal forums are not enough to deal with this issue, but there is a need to start a conversation and make everyone talk about sexual violence.”

During the march, there will be community meetings in 200 districts across the country, 24 state-level meetings, a state-level convention of survivors and distribution of resource material targeted at different stakeholders to help deal with issues of violence against women and children.

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