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Gender-based violence must end: delegation

Christian activists urge stronger action in Orissa

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

February 27, 2013

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A group of Christian activists have called on the Orissa government to take more effective measures to end sexual violence against women, especially in the state's Kandhamal district, which was the focus of fierce anti-Christian violence five years ago.

The All India Fact Finding team on gender violence, a nine-member delegation, toured Kandhamal from February 23-26, and spoke with state and district authorities, as well as the family of a girl who was raped and killed last year.

“We found out that there have been large-scale incidents of gender violence against girls in the age group of 12 to 16 years and of human trafficking," said John Dayal, a member of the delegation.

In a press release the team said, “People seem not to fear the law as much as they should,” adding that the “very large number of acquittals in criminal cases” connected with the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in past years might be responsible for this.

The delegation included members of the Women’s Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the National Council of Churches in India.

Officials in the district recorded 21 rape cases last year, down slightly from the 31 cases reported in 2011, according to government data. Local NGOs say they have registered nine rape cases between October 24 last year and February 15.

Dayal, who is also the secretary general of the AICC, said the delegation has recommended gender education for police personnel and administration because in many cases of sexual assault and rape, authorities have shown insensitivity towards victims and forced them to reach a settlement with their attackers rather than filing a criminal complaint.

Sister Mary Scaria, a lawyer and member of the delegation, said more women police officers should be deployed in police stations and in public places to help ensure the safety of women and girls.

“The authorities also need to speed up the process of medical examination of the victims and filing of police complaints to lessen the agony of the victim,” she said.

Dayal said the fact-finding mission was conducted because “we wanted to know the response of the government and civil society toward gender violence and the status of the victims.”

In many cases, he added, victims have received no statutory compensation.

“It is absurd that the victim has to make an application pleading for compensation. The authorities must give such compensation suo motu,” the delegation statement said.

The delegation will present a final report to national and state agencies responsible for the security of women.

“We will also continuously monitor the situation,” Dayal said.

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