Saturday, December 11, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Most offences against dalit women go unreported, says study

Most offences against dalit women go unreported, says study
M T Saju, TNN, Dec 10, 2010, 12.57am IST

CHENNAI: Fear of the local panchayat and the threat of a
counter-complaint' from the accused lead to many cases of atrocities
on dalit women going unreported in the southern districts, which are
prone to caste-related crimes. Only 84 cases of atrocities on dalit
women had been reported between December 2004 and November 2009 in
Madurai, which, according to the 2001 census, has 12.54% dalit

While Sivaganga, which has a 19.36% dalit population, reported just 33
cases of atrocities on dalit women, Theni (16.35% dalits) reported
only 25 cases during this period. While Madurai tops the list when it
comes to cases of rape, sexual abuse and other physical injuries,
Theni tops the list for murders, says a survey conducted by Evidence,
a Madurai-based NGO.

"The fewer number of cases, unfortunately, shows the rise of crimes
against women in these areas. Almost all the cases against dalit women
are settled' by the local panchayat head in many remote villages.
Women are not allowed to approach the police in many places. If
someone files a complaint, the police will not book the accused under
serious sections of the IPC. They file most of the cases under a minor
section of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act, 1989. In many cases the accused will file a false
counter-complaint against the victim and finally the case will be
settled with police support," says R Thilakam, an activist, who works
on projects on dalit women.

There are 6,051 cases of atrocities on women reported all over Tamil
Nadu in 2009. Madurai alone recorded more than 350 cases. Lack of
awareness is also an important reason for most cases going unreported.
"In many cases, women don't know how to approach a police station. If
at all the case is filed, they don't bother to check the status
because they are unaware of procedure.The conviction rate is also very
low," says K Arumugham, an advocate.

The police, however, don't agree. "I don't think most cases are going
unreported. We get a lot of complaints and action is taken on almost
all. We always give preference to dalit women. Since proper inquiry is
needed, some cases may take a little while. But there is no
unreasonable delay,' says Madurai SP M Manohar.

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