Bhopal Archdiocese fights crimes against women

The church is trying to improve the state that has one of the worst records of gender-based violence in the country
Bhopal Archdiocese fights crimes against women

Police official Neetu Kansariya addressing a group on school children in Bhopal, the Madhya Pradesh state capital, during a workshop to mark the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25. (Photo by Saji Thomas)

Young people in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are looking to church personnel to help them fight violence against women.

"Violence against women, especially domestic violence, is common. Most women are victims and the only difference is the degree to which they suffer," said Teenager Chirag Tiwari,  the 18-year-old studying at the church-run Queen Mary Senior Secondary School in Bhopal, the Madhya Pradesh state capital.

He was participating in a Nov. 25 workshop that Bhopal Archdiocese organized with the school to create awareness and mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Tiwari said India has several laws and regulations to protect women "but laws alone cannot eliminate violence against women, especially when it takes place within homes." 

Women should have the courage to speak out about violence at home, he told the gathering that included girl students. "They also should raise their voice against any atrocities committed by their husbands or relatives. Otherwise they will continue to suffer," he said.

Smita Kaithal, another grade 12 student, said the trafficking of women was a grave concern as it not only lowered the dignity of women but also made the world a dangerous place for them.

Dowry (demands on brides to bring cash and jewellery as a pre-condition for marriage) is another scourge of Indian society, said student Ankita Tigga. Despite claims of advancement in science and technology even the educated shamelessly demand dowries, he said.

"Women have been killed for not bringing enough money to the husband’s home. It is very necessary to educate the younger generation against this evil tradition," she told the workshop.

Sexual assaults increased 2.5 percent in 2015 but incidents of crimes like rape have come down, albeit marginally. The abduction of women increased in 2015, from 57,311 in 2014 to 59,277. At least half of the cases were to force victims into marriage, according to federal government data.

Madhya Pradesh has the worst record in the country with 4,391 cases of gender-based violence reported during 2015. Government data shows that at least 13 women are raped in India's Madhya Pradesh state each day. 

The National Crime Records Bureau showed the central Indian state accounted for 5,076 rapes in 2014, nearly 40 percent higher than the next highest state. Madhya Pradesh is home to some 75 million people and is second largest in terms of area and sixth largest in population,

Sister Quiteline, the school’s principal, wanted female students to "keep their eyes and ears open" so that they may not become victims. The Order of Servants of Mary nun reminded them of the old saying, "prevention is better than cure."

Father Maria Stephen, public relations officer for the archdiocese, said that the violence women face "is a matter of serious concern" for the Catholic Church. Programs such as these will help create "a generation of people aware of this social evil and fill them with energy to stand against it."

The city police’s Sub-Inspector Neetu Kansariya, who heads a special cell to tackle crimes against women, addressed the gathering asking girls to be "more courageous and not to be frightened" to speak out about the violence they face.

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