Unending agony

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Unending agony

Sunday, 25 August 2019 | Shalini Saksena and Musba Hashmi

Unending agony

The misery of rape survivors doesn't end with the crime. Shalini Saksena and Musba Hashmi tell you that there is much more to their stories — the traumaof reporting the crime at a police station, to the agony of the two-finger test, to being shunned by society, to being shamed and stigmatized

It was a bright and sunny day. One of those usual afternoons when 14-year-old Mansi (name changed), was taking lunch for her parents, who were toiling in the field. But the day didn’t turn out to be usual. Mansi was kidnapped on her way, by a perpetrator who had his eyes on her for a long time. He forcefully took her to a river bank, beat her up and raped her.

Mansi’s parents were waiting for her to come for lunch unaware of what had transpired. After some time, Mansi’s mother Geeta Devi saw her daughter coming towards her. It brought a smile on her face only to fall into doom.

Devi’s daughter was trembling with fear. She instantly knew that the devil was back.

This was not the first time that Mansi was raped by the same man.

“It was in 2013, when a boy from the neighbourhood gatecrashed into our house at 2 am. My husband and I were away for work. My daughter was alone. It was one horrible night as he raped my daughter. My daughter was in shock and pain. She was only 10 then. The incident devastated her. We complained about the boy to his family. But, no action was taken,” Devi tells you.

In 2016, history repeated itself. While Mansi on her way to school, the same boy forcefully took her to a deserted place and raped her again. A traumatised Mansi stopped going to school.

The boy belonged to a powerful family and no action was, thus, taken against him.

“It was again in 2017, that the devil raped my daughter. But I knew that I had to put an end to it. That was when we decided that complaining to the panchayat or the boy’s family would get us nowhere. We went to the police station to lodge an FIR. We were surprised by their behaviour. We were made to wait for five hours before an FIR was finally registered. We were treated like we were the culprits,” she recalls.

The police, a word that instils fear in some and is a ray of hope among others, was of no help. Instead, the officers insisted that the girl’s family should make a compromise and the matter be settled amicably between the families as the boy was from the same village and of the same caste.

“When we didn’t agree, everyone in the village stopped talking to us. My daughter stopped going out of the house. I felt like my world had fallen apart. The thought of seeing my daughter in that condition where I was a mere spectator, was killing me every day. So, I gathered courage and decided to leave the village. I knew that place was not safe for my family. We shifted to Jhansi. Then we came to know about Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan. We contacted them and they are helping us. My daughter has started going to school,” she tells you.

Devi has only one request to the Government — that the rape survivors should not be humiliated and justice should be delivered in time. “There are many girls who fall prey to such crimes. They are not able to speak up and their voice goes unheard. My only request to the Government is that justice should be delivered on time. No girl should ever have to beg for justice. It is their right. If this wouldn’t happen, then people like Hitesh will not hesitate in committing such crimes in future too. Strict actions should be taken against such criminals and they should be put behind bars,” she opines.

Geeta Devi and her daughter are not alone. Thirty five-year-old woman — Nisha (name changed) has a similar story.

Nisha, a resident of a village in Ujjain, was raped by middle-aged Bhagwan Singh, Arjun Singh and Bajrang Singh, from the same family, in 2016. Nisha used to work as a domestic help. It was on one unfortunate day, when Bhagwan lured her with finding her more work at his village. He raped her there with the other two.

Nisha’s miseries started when her husband refused to keep her with him. She had nowhere to go, even her parents refused to take her in.

“Those were tough times. When I reported the incident to my husband and in-laws, they said that I could no longer live with them, they refused to accept me. They beat me up. Even my parents said that agar mar bhi jao toh bhi yahaan mat aana. I was a mother of two. My husband kept both the children and threw me out,” Nisha recounts, tears up.

Even the police didn’t come to Nisha’s rescue. She went to the police station for four days and only then a complaint was registered. “No one was listening to me. The policemen said I was making false claims. When I went for the medical test, the doctor conducted a two-finger test. Nothing came in the report, no injuries were shown even when there were clear marks on my body. The case came to  court. The lawyers blamed me for implicating the culprits. No one believed me,” she tells you.

Nisha’s problems were compounded when she couldn’t find work. “After that, I left my village and shifted to Ujjain. But, there too I faced a lot of difficulties. No one was willing to keep me as a domestic help. I was jobless for six months. The moment I used to narrate my horror story to people, their behaviour towards me used to change. Even the men in their families would start looking at me weirdly. They would think of me ki yeh toh aisi hi hai. It felt like it was all my fault. But, I stood strong. I knew it was not my fault,” she tells you.

Another woman who went through the same trauma is Gauri (name changed), a resident of Indore. Seven years back, she was raped by a 35-year-old man from her neighbourhood. The reason behind this heinous act — he wanted to take over their house.

“He had been eyeing our property for a long time. Initially, he came and threatened us that if we didn’t leave our house, he would kill us. When we didn’t take him seriously, he came and beat us up. Then, also we were not willing to leave our house and why would we — it was our property. That was when one night, around 3 am, he forced himself into our house, beat up my husband and raped me. Somehow I managed to free myself from him and ran to the police station. The police made me sit there till 9 am before they finally lodged a complaint against him. The reasons they gave for not filing a report was abhi bade sahab nahin hain, vo aayenge toh report likhenge. At 11 am they took me for a medical test. The doctor did a two-finger test,” she tells you.

The good part in this horror situation was that her husband, who works as a labourer, stood with Gauri through thick and thin, giving her the confidence to fight.

“Now, whenever I come to know that a girl is going through an ordeal or is not speaking up about rape, I go to her and explain that reporting a crime is important. If you don’t, then it will only give the culprit more courage to repeat the crime. I ask them to go the police and file a complaint. People usually don’t understand it at one go. It is only after insisting upon them a couple of times, when they finally go and register a complaint,” she tells you.

The one thing to look out for in these stories was they all were similar — not only in terms of what happened to them but for the fact that they all survived and stood strong. They are the real fighters, who dared to raise their voice against the evil and didn’t fear the culprit or his power.

Vijay Raj, Jansash Development Society, Madhya Pradesh, Devash and working in Ajmer and Jaipur, tells you that the problem lies in the fact that there are some communities who force the girls into prostitution. “These communities, for generations, have been forcing their daughters into this profession. Take the case of the Rajnak community. Most of the girls from these communities end up as beer bar dancers or in prostitution. The young girls get lured by the glamour. They see other girls dancing in bars, wearing fancy clothes and golden jewellery. They see only one side of the coin. They don’t see the dark side of this business until they are there. By then it is too late. There is no escape then,” Raj opines.

He tells you that the reason why girls from the community are in this profession because it is expected of them. “Then there is there the age old traditions that families follow,” Raj tells you.

But not all is lost. Over the last five to eight years, a lot of work has been done to educate the girls by holding workshops and telling them about the pitfalls of getting into this profession. “The good is that many families have realised this and are now open to sending their daughters to school. These girls are now studying beyond Class VIII, something that was unthinkable in 2010. The achievement is that three girls from a small village near Ajmer are in college,” Raj says.

A 20-year-old from the Bachda community who has been working to improve the plight of the girls in her community agrees with Raj and tells you that the girls of her community are forced into prostitution because when the sons get married they have to give Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh to the girl. Obviously, the parents can’t give this kind of dowry. So they force their daughters into prostitution,” she tells you.

She is lucky that her father studied till Class XII and hence made sure that all his daughters studied. However, this didn’t sit well with their community. “They feel that my father is going again the tradition.  It my father put his foot down. He told all my sisters that they should concentrate on their studies and not worry about what the people are saying. This has not been easy for us. We have been looking for an alternative for a long time. We want to leave our small in Madhya Pradesh and start over some place else. For this we need to sell our land to start afresh, but we are not getting the correct price,” she says.

Ashif Shaikh, Convenor National Survivor Forum tells you that there are several challenges when it comes to dealing with rape and sexual abuse survivors. First, there are several communities in the country especially in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where the girls are forced into prostitution because it is a tradition. “The parents force their daughters into this. We have come across many cases where young girls have been made to service up to 30 men in a day. The police look the other way because they feel that the women are being paid and hence it is consensual. The truth is that these girls have no say. These girls are forced. The money they earn goes into building a dowry that they can give to the girl their son marries. But they forget that nobody will marry their daughters. Since it is an ageold tradition, they are not bothered as long as the money keeps coming in,” Shaikh says.

The second challenge is that there are over 600 women who are yet to get the compensation that that has been set even though their abuser has been convicted. The amount varies from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 7 lakh that has been set by law. “This money goes a long way into rehabilitating these women,” Shaikh says who has recently submitted a letter to the Chief Justice of India with signatures of over 1500 women and their families pulling their attention towards the plight of the rape survivors.

“We are also in the process of submitting more data that will help our case. This included data of the States where despite conviction, the survivors have not received compensation,” Shaikh shares.

However, he doesn’t agree that providing compensation will escalate rapes in the country. “The truth is that timely conviction will go a long way to curb crime against women. Another thing that needs to be done is that instead of supporting the perpetrator, the survivor should be supported. As of now, it is always the survivor who is shamed. In almost 90 per cent cases when a survivor goes to the police to report, she is one who is blamed. Worse, people don’t believe that she is telling the truth.

In such cases the perpetrator goes scot-free. This when only one or two per cent cases are reported. Almost 98 per case still go unreported especially where minors are involved. In many cases, the survivor only comes forward after she has been rapes repeatedly by the same person over a prolonged period,” Shaikh says and paints a horror picture by telling you that the reason why the woman is shamed is because there are thousands of cases where it is a relative who has d the minor.

“Fathers and uncles being most common. We live in a patriarchal society. The man wants to show his domination over the weak. Women are vulnerable. Raping them and abusing them is easy. It proves that the men are in control and can get away with whatever they dish out to the woman,” Shaikh explains who is now working towards gathering national data of sexual abuse in shelter homes for women and children.

“We believe that there are over a million children involved in sexual exploitation in India. However, the police and the Governments opine that they are sex workers. But we believe that they are being raped by more than 20 different men in a day. So we are initiating a national survey in such cases. These cases therefore needed to be reported under POCSO Act. Third, we are interacting with over a crore students in schools creating awareness about what constitutes sexual abuse,” Shaikh says.

It was a bright and sunny day. One of those usual afternoons when 14-year-old Mansi (name changed), was taking lunch for her parents, who were toiling in the field. But the day didn’t turn out to be usual. Mansi was kidnapped on her way, by a perpetrator who had his eyes on her for a long time. He forcefully took her to a river bank, beat her up and raped her.

Mansi’s parents were waiting for her to come for lunch unaware of what had transpired. After some time, Mansi’s mother Geeta Devi saw her daughter coming towards her. It brought a smile on her face only to fall into doom.

Devi’s daughter was trembling with fear. She instantly knew that the devil was back.

This was not the first time that Mansi was raped by the same man.

“It was in 2013, when a boy from the neighbourhood gatecrashed into our house at 2 am. My husband and I were away for work. My daughter was alone. It was one horrible night as he raped my daughter. My daughter was in shock and pain. She was only 10 then. The incident devastated her. We complained about the boy to his family. But, no action was taken,” Devi tells you.

In 2016, history repeated itself. While Mansi on her way to school, the same boy forcefully took her to a deserted place and raped her again. A traumatised Mansi stopped going to school.

The boy belonged to a powerful family and no action was, thus, taken against him.

“It was again in 2017, that the devil raped my daughter. But I knew that I had to put an end to it. That was when we decided that complaining to the panchayat or the boy’s family would get us nowhere. We went to the police station to lodge an FIR. We were surprised by their behaviour. We were made to wait for five hours before an FIR was finally registered. We were treated like we were the culprits,” she recalls.

The police, a word that instils fear in some and is a ray of hope among others, was of no help. Instead, the officers insisted that the girl’s family should make a compromise and the matter be settled amicably between the families as the boy was from the same village and of the same caste.

“When we didn’t agree, everyone in the village stopped talking to us. My daughter stopped going out of the house. I felt like my world had fallen apart. The thought of seeing my daughter in that condition where I was a mere spectator, was killing me every day. So, I gathered courage and decided to leave the village. I knew that place was not safe for my family. We shifted to Jhansi. Then we came to know about Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan. We contacted them and they are helping us. My daughter has started going to school,” she tells you.

Devi has only one request to the Government — that the rape survivors should not be humiliated and justice should be delivered in time. “There are many girls who fall prey to such crimes. They are not able to speak up and their voice goes unheard. My only request to the Government is that justice should be delivered on time. No girl should ever have to beg for justice. It is their right. If this wouldn’t happen, then people like Hitesh will not hesitate in committing such crimes in future too. Strict actions should be taken against such criminals and they should be put behind bars,” she opines.

Geeta Devi and her daughter are not alone. Thirty five-year-old woman — Nisha (name changed) has a similar story.

Nisha, a resident of a village in Ujjain, was raped by middle-aged Bhagwan Singh, Arjun Singh and Bajrang Singh, from the same family, in 2016. Nisha used to work as a domestic help. It was on one unfortunate day, when Bhagwan lured her with finding her more work at his village. He raped her there with the other two.

Nisha’s miseries started when her husband refused to keep her with him. She had nowhere to go, even her parents refused to take her in.

“Those were tough times. When I reported the incident to my husband and in-laws, they said that I could no longer live with them, they refused to accept me. They beat me up. Even my parents said that agar mar bhi jao toh bhi yahaan mat aana. I was a mother of two. My husband kept both the children and threw me out,” Nisha recounts, tears up.

Even the police didn’t come to Nisha’s rescue. She went to the police station for four days and only then a complaint was registered. “No one was listening to me. The policemen said I was making false claims. When I went for the medical test, the doctor conducted a two-finger test. Nothing came in the report, no injuries were shown even when there were clear marks on my body. The case came to  court. The lawyers blamed me for implicating the culprits. No one believed me,” she tells you.

Nisha’s problems were compounded when she couldn’t find work. “After that, I left my village and shifted to Ujjain. But, there too I faced a lot of difficulties. No one was willing to keep me as a domestic help. I was jobless for six months. The moment I used to narrate my horror story to people, their behaviour towards me used to change. Even the men in their families would start looking at me weirdly. They would think of me ki yeh toh aisi hi hai. It felt like it was all my fault. But, I stood strong. I knew it was not my fault,” she tells you.

Another woman who went through the same trauma is Gauri (name changed), a resident of Indore. Seven years back, she was raped by a 35-year-old man from her neighbourhood. The reason behind this heinous act — he wanted to take over their house.

“He had been eyeing our property for a long time. Initially, he came and threatened us that if we didn’t leave our house, he would kill us. When we didn’t take him seriously, he came and beat us up. Then, also we were not willing to leave our house and why would we — it was our property. That was when one night, around 3 am, he forced himself into our house, beat up my husband and raped me. Somehow I managed to free myself from him and ran to the police station. The police made me sit there till 9 am before they finally lodged a complaint against him. The reasons they gave for not filing a report was abhi bade sahab nahin hain, vo aayenge toh report likhenge. At 11 am they took me for a medical test. The doctor did a two-finger test,” she tells you.

The good part in this horror situation was that her husband, who works as a labourer, stood with Gauri through thick and thin, giving her the confidence to fight.

“Now, whenever I come to know that a girl is going through an ordeal or is not speaking up about rape, I go to her and explain that reporting a crime is important. If you don’t, then it will only give the culprit more courage to repeat the crime. I ask them to go the police and file a complaint. People usually don’t understand it at one go. It is only after insisting upon them a couple of times, when they finally go and register a complaint,” she tells you.

The one thing to look out for in these stories was they all were similar — not only in terms of what happened to them but for the fact that they all survived and stood strong. They are the real fighters, who dared to raise their voice against the evil and didn’t fear the culprit or his power.

Vijay Raj, Jansash Development Society, Madhya Pradesh, Devash and working in Ajmer and Jaipur, tells you that the problem lies in the fact that there are some communities who force the girls into prostitution. “These communities, for generations, have been forcing their daughters into this profession. Take the case of the Rajnak community. Most of the girls from these communities end up as beer bar dancers or in prostitution. The young girls get lured by the glamour. They see other girls dancing in bars, wearing fancy clothes and golden jewellery. They see only one side of the coin. They don’t see the dark side of this business until they are there. By then it is too late. There is no escape then,” Raj opines.

He tells you that the reason why girls from the community are in this profession because it is expected of them. “Then there is there the age old traditions that families follow,” Raj tells you.

But not all is lost. Over the last five to eight years, a lot of work has been done to educate the girls by holding workshops and telling them about the pitfalls of getting into this profession. “The good is that many families have realised this and are now open to sending their daughters to school. These girls are now studying beyond Class VIII, something that was unthinkable in 2010. The achievement is that three girls from a small village near Ajmer are in college,” Raj says.

A 20-year-old from the Bachda community who has been working to improve the plight of the girls in her community agrees with Raj and tells you that the girls of her community are forced into prostitution because when the sons get married they have to give Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh to the girl. Obviously, the parents can’t give this kind of dowry. So they force their daughters into prostitution,” she tells you.

She is lucky that her father studied till Class XII and hence made sure that all his daughters studied. However, this didn’t sit well with their community. “They feel that my father is going again the tradition.  It my father put his foot down. He told all my sisters that they should concentrate on their studies and not worry about what the people are saying. This has not been easy for us. We have been looking for an alternative for a long time. We want to leave our small in Madhya Pradesh and start over some place else. For this we need to sell our land to start afresh, but we are not getting the correct price,” she says.

Ashif Shaikh, Convenor National Survivor Forum tells you that there are several challenges when it comes to dealing with rape and sexual abuse survivors. First, there are several communities in the country especially in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where the girls are forced into prostitution because it is a tradition. “The parents force their daughters into this. We have come across many cases where young girls have been made to service up to 30 men in a day. The police look the other way because they feel that the women are being paid and hence it is consensual. The truth is that these girls have no say. These girls are forced. The money they earn goes into building a dowry that they can give to the girl their son marries. But they forget that nobody will marry their daughters. Since it is an ageold tradition, they are not bothered as long as the money keeps coming in,” Shaikh says.

The second challenge is that there are over 600 women who are yet to get the compensation that that has been set even though their abuser has been convicted. The amount varies from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 7 lakh that has been set by law. “This money goes a long way into rehabilitating these women,” Shaikh says who has recently submitted a letter to the Chief Justice of India with signatures of over 1500 women and their families pulling their attention towards the plight of the rape survivors.

“We are also in the process of submitting more data that will help our case. This included data of the States where despite conviction, the survivors have not received compensation,” Shaikh shares.

However, he doesn’t agree that providing compensation will escalate rapes in the country. “The truth is that timely conviction will go a long way to curb crime against women. Another thing that needs to be done is that instead of supporting the perpetrator, the survivor should be supported. As of now, it is always the survivor who is shamed. In almost 90 per cent cases when a survivor goes to the police to report, she is one who is blamed. Worse, people don’t believe that she is telling the truth.

In such cases the perpetrator goes scot-free. This when only one or two per cent cases are reported. Almost 98 per case still go unreported especially where minors are involved. In many cases, the survivor only comes forward after she has been rapes repeatedly by the same person over a prolonged period,” Shaikh says and paints a horror picture by telling you that the reason why the woman is shamed is because there are thousands of cases where it is a relative who has d the minor.

“Fathers and uncles being most common. We live in a patriarchal society. The man wants to show his domination over the weak. Women are vulnerable. Raping them and abusing them is easy. It proves that the men are in control and can get away with whatever they dish out to the woman,” Shaikh explains who is now working towards gathering national data of sexual abuse in shelter homes for women and children.

“We believe that there are over a million children involved in sexual exploitation in India. However, the police and the Governments opine that they are sex workers. But we believe that they are being raped by more than 20 different men in a day. So we are initiating a national survey in such cases. These cases therefore needed to be reported under POCSO Act. Third, we are interacting with over a crore students in schools creating awareness about what constitutes sexual abuse,” Shaikh says.

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