Many police stations are not women-friendly

Many police stations are not women-friendly

Amidst an intense electoral battle, the ‘development’ discourse, which the state government is putting across, is perhaps in stark contrast with what is being put forth by some of the government bodies. If data and statistics were to be the parameters of development, the state has a daunting task to accomplish when it comes to the safety of women. According to the latest figures by the National Crime Records Bureau and the National Commission for Women, Karnataka is one of the top 10 states with the highest number of complaints on violence against women or by women against violence.

Even though the situation across Karnataka is not as worst as it is in some of the northern and western states, the steady increase in one or the other type of crime in several districts is indeed an alarming sign and presents a grim picture of what lies ahead. Evidently, the number of victims knocking on the doors of the Karnataka State Commission for Women (KSCW) in Bengaluru is only swelling with every passing day.

Lack of coordination

While the KSCW is content that there is greater awareness among women about their rights, there is a general dissatisfaction about the way the cases are handled. And for people who are away from the capital city, getting their cases registered is in itself a big task. The lack of coordination between various agencies in addressing the issues makes the situation worse for the survivors of violence. 

In 2018-2019 alone, the KSCW received about 2,696 complaints on various grounds out of which about 973 are pending. “Some of the cases are so sensitive and complex that they require detailed investigation and we have ordered the superintendent of police and other district officials to probe them further and submit a fresh report,” Nagalakshmi Bai, the chairperson of the KSCW, told DH.

Data show that the violence and incidents of crime against women have crept into the elite working class as well. “It was a shock for all of us when a civil magistrate and district magistrate turned up asking for justice in a spurned love relationship. Similarly, several software techies and qualified professionals are emerging as victims,” a senior counsellor at the KSCW told DH.

While the KSCW’s complaint registry is flooded with various types of complaints, domestic violence and lack of protection for women top the crime chart. Considering that a woman IPS officer is leading the police force in the state, rising incidents of ‘reluctance by the police’ are also disturbing. There have been about 150 complaints on reluctance by the police in protecting the rights of women in the last two-and-a-half years.

“Even in a city like Bengaluru, there are not many police stations where women find it easy to walk-in and complaint. Having an all-women police station is a distant dream in many places,” activists told DH.

Problems vary with region

Depending on the geographical location and the social fabric, the nature of the crime against women differs from region to region. Prostitution and trafficking of women and children are rampant in border districts while incidents of rape and sexual offence are high in the interior districts of central Karnataka. As more and more women are migrating to urban centres in search of livelihood and to pursue higher education, cases of love marriages resulting in violence and polygamy have also shot up. 

Similarly, female foeticide cases and abortion are also on the rise in Chikkaballapura especially in Bagepalli and Gundibande taluks where people from the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh too flock these towns for sex determination and abortions.

The data collated by the KSCW based on the proceedings of the Karnataka Development Programme reveal that Mysuru — the cultural capital of the state has the highest incidents of love marriages among the minors who could either be students or school dropouts. Last year, around 120 such cases were registered.

There is an increasing number of incidents of rapes and female foeticide in Chikkamagaluru and Mandya. “Considering the population of Mandya, the number of nursing homes and ultrasound scanning centres in the district is more. Medical stores are fast mushrooming across the district. In Chikkamagaluru where migrant labourers have been working in coffee estates, the cases of abuse are on the high,” Nagalakshmi told DH.

Bengaluru, the hub of IT and ITES activities with a strong working force is also not exceptional when it comes to violence on women. “Most of the cases that we get to hear are living-in relationships where women are cheated or sexually abused by their partners. Similarly, cases of NRI marriages and cyberstalking of women are also threatening the rights of women,” a senior counsellor at the KSCW revealed.

“While more and more women are coming forward to report about the crime, redressal mechanism in the state has not been satisfactory. The need of the hour is to strengthen it by giving additional infrastructure, humanpower and sensitisation among the workforce,” women’s rights activists said.

Officials don’t cooperate

Beset with problems and flooding complaints, Karnataka State Commission for Women (KSCW) has consistently picked up issues and sent proposals to the state government. However, the lack of political will has stalled the entire process aimed at bringing about an overhaul in the system. According to the officials, the commission has sent over 30 proposals to the state government seeking legislative intervention. While six to seven such proposals were addressed immediately, several other proposals are pending before the government.

According to senior staffers at the KSCW, the proposals include addressing of problems of acid attack victims, separate coach for the Metro travellers, a dedicated patrolling wing comprising women, providing incinerators at hostels and hospitals, regulation of objectionable content in television serials and films, cybercrime, etc. 

The KSCW officials also alleged non-cooperation of district-level officials during the visit. “During one of the visits to Mysuru to hold a review meeting, the superintendent of police did not turn up despite our prior communication. If a police officer holding the charge of the district responds in such a way, how can you expect us to deliver justice on issues? In the absence of their cooperation, the problems will further be dragged,” an administrative officer at KSCW told DH.

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