Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gender. Show all posts

July 18, 2018

Araku Valley takes baby steps to address maternal health

An initiative to reach healthcare services to pregnant women and new mothers in the underdeveloped Araku Valley, bordering Odisha's Koraput district, has seen a measure of success in tribal communities ruled by superstition and regressive practices

In a lively anganwadi or daycare center in Godiguda village, an auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) conducting health check up of over 10 women, some pregnant and others lactating, reflected the changing scenario in maternal and child health in the Araku Valley of Andhra Pradesh.

Traditionally, delivery cases handled by a dhai, elderly women from the village or the community, being the practice, and pregnant women visiting a medical or a doctor considered an act against norm, pregnant mothers had to submit themselves to their fate despite high rate of maternal and neonatal mortality in the valley, Malati (35), who has decided to go for an institutional delivery for her sixth child, told VilageSquare.in.

Since undergoing family planning surgery, using contraceptives and an abortion by choice are all considered sins against humanity, multiple pregnancies up to five-six children is quite common across the valley inhabited mostly by tribal people.

To add to the plight of women were the rough terrain and lack of communication facilities to reach the government primary and community health centers in times of urgency.

Awareness the key

“In a predominantly tribal society ruled by stigma and superstitions, influencing behavior to make these women folks attend regular health check up during pregnancy and opt for institutional delivery was a herculean task,” Pramila, a girl from the Araku Valley who works as ANM in the Asara tribal health project of Piramal Swasthya, told VillageSquare.in.

Piramal Swasthya works in coordination with the government system to make health services available to tribal communities, particularly pregnant and lactating mothers and their newborns, in times of need. “Despite being from the local communities, we were threatened initially by a few male members for misleading the pregnant women by suggesting them to go for medical check-up and institutional delivery,” Pramila said.

If the mothers and their newborns were to be saved, bringing awareness on maternal and child health, possible complications during pregnancy and benefits of institutional delivery were essential. This idea drove Pramila and her colleagues like P. Padma to reach out to people, trace pregnant mothers and motivate them as well as other family members, such as the husband and elderly members, to avail health services for a safe delivery.

Now, most of the pregnant women like Malati of Godiguda and Vasanta (35) of Muliagalagu are not only coming for health checkup and consuming iron folic tablets as well as other nutrient supplementations, but also have decided to go for institutional delivery. “Earlier, we were unaware of the benefits of institutional delivery,” Vasanta said.

Making services accessible

However, accessing public health facilities was an issue for most hamlets. One had to walk miles through rough terrain to reach a paved road and get an ambulance to a health center. The time required to reach a hospital always remained crucial to pregnant mothers.

In order to make the facility reach people in need, a mobile hospital service with all facilities to handle a delivery case has been started under the Asara project. “Many pregnant mothers from remote hamlets who were at the last stage have delivered their babies in the mobile hospital vans,” T. Swarnalatha, program manager of the project, told VillageSquare.in.

While the ANMs visit every hamlet to attend the pregnant mothers, the telemedicine centers with necessary equipment, nurses and a doctor work as the points for periodical health checkup, necessary treatment and expert consultation through teleconferencing. Mothers diagnosed with diseases that need further treatment are referred to government health care centers or district hospitals.

“Most mothers come with anemia and diseases like malaria and hypertension,” said medical doctor Sanmukha Reddy of Dumbriguda telemedicine center.

Nutrition-related challenges

As is the case with tribal communities of India, “anemia is most common among pregnant mothers and children of the Araku valley,” nutritionist Sweta Kuralla of Nandivalasa nutrition hub, a center under the Gosthani project to deal with nutrition-related issues, told VillageSquare.in.

About 88.9% of adolescent girls are anemic, 17.8% being severely anemic. Highest prevalence was seen in the age group of 12-13 and 14-15 years that is 85% and 86.5% respectively, says a study on anemia among adolescent girls in the tribal areas of Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh.

According to National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), 60% of women in Andhra Pradesh have anemia. Malnutrition being particularly common in the younger age groups of the scheduled tribes, 59% of children between the ages of 6 and 59 months are anemic. Girls are more likely than boys to have anemia.

While tribal mothers have high rates of anemia, and girl children receive less than the desired nutritional intake. All told, the whole tribal community is deficient in adequate food intake, says a report on reproductive health status, issues and concerns of tribal women.

Nutrition hubs

The nutrition hubs work to address the issue of undernourishment among pregnant women and children. Apart from advising them to take iron folic acid tablets during pregnancy, as provided by the government, “mothers are told to consume variety of vegetables, leaves and ragi in different forms for adequate micro-nutrient supplementation,” Kuralla said. “The nutrition hub trains the community on how to grow leaves and vegetables and prepare different types of foods for better nutrition.”

After years of efforts, “during pregnancy, women are now taking iron folic tablets,” Golleri Lakshmi, the accredited social health activist (ASHA) at Godiguda village, told VillageSquare.in.

However, there are many issues to be overcome for sustainability of the changes that have come after the interventions.

Child marriage

The primary social issue in the valley is child marriage. As per NFHS-4 data, in rural Visakhapatnam, 34% of women between 20-24 years of age married before 18, and at least 10.5% of women between15-19 years of age have either become pregnant or become new mothers.

The scale of child marriage and early motherhood could be higher in tribal population. At least three in every five marriages involve brides below 18 years of age. “Normally girls in the communities marry after 14 years of age,” B. Abhiman, a political worker in Araku valley, told VillageSquare.in.

It is established that girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s, and girls under 18 face a higher risk of pregnancy-related injuries such as fistula. Infants born to early adolescent mothers have a three-fold higher risk of post-neonatal death compared with adult mothers, studies found.

Need for education

Promotion of education among girls of tribal communities can address the issue and minimize the risk of child marriage and early pregnancy, says UN report, The Girl Child. In Visakhapatnam, female literacy in the tribal population has remained 34.67% only, according to the statistical abstract of Andhra Pradesh government. Rate of girls completing 10 or 12 years of education is abysmally low.

In regard to nutritional status of newborns, it is believed that the newborn must not be fed with the first milk of the mother, which deprives the child from highly nutritious colostrum and the antibodies the first milk contains. Apart from this, the tribal people of the valley do not consume cow milk, believing that it’s for the calves only.

Encouraging outcomes

Changing customary and normative beliefs and practices take time, said Vishal Phanse, Chief Executive Officer of Piramal Swasthya. “However, through the interventions so far in coherence with the government and district administration and by making use of technology for social good and development in public health sector, maternal mortality rate in all registered cases in the valley has come down to zero,” Phanse told VillageSquare.in.

This is despite the fact that Visakhapatnam district has a maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 115 per 100,000 registered live births. “Our focus is now on improving the status of health of adolescent girls,” he added.

Once restricted to their communities, pregnant tribal women are now showing interest in medical check-up, taking medicines and nutritional supplements, and in institutional delivery for their own safety and the health of the child, Vasanta, a pregnant mother of Muliaguda village said.

“Covering 181 villages under the Asara project, we deal with 250-300 cases of pregnant mothers almost every time,” said T. Swarnalatha, the program manager.

Changing scenario

Overall, the scenario is changing. Women have understood the benefits of modern healthcare facilities. As the women and others in the communities are changing their minds, the government mechanism has also become active to respond to health related issues of women, B. Abhiman said.

“Tribal women in the valley have become conscious about their health during pregnancy, a safe delivery and the health of their babies,” Sanmukha Reddy said.

Other than the issues like child marriage, education of girls and normative beliefs left to be addressed through a holistic approach to make the impacts sustainable, results of intervention in the arena of maternal health and nutrition in Araku valley, on the northern edges of Andhra Pradesh bordering Odisha's Koraput district, have no doubt made it a model for wider replication across tribal India.

This report first appeared at the VillageSquare on July 16, 2018.

May 30, 2018

Enterprising Odisha women take to selling fish to improve lives

Women in Odisha’s coastal fishing villages have turned to selling fish and value-added fishery products after eliminating middlemen and abolishing the home brewing of country liquor, the root cause of their problems.

Selling fish at the local fish market, Dulana Das (40) of Rambha village in Odisha’s Ganjam district took pride in introducing herself as a businesswoman instead of a fisherwoman. “I buy fish every morning from fishermen who fish in Chilika Lake and the nearby sea,” Dulana told VillageSquare.in.“With a designated place for me in the market, and a 20% profit, I earn a good income.” 

“Women like Dulana have not only contributed to economic progress of their families, but to improvement of their social status too,” said A. Kaleya, a young man engaged in community development work. An ignored lot, the women rooted out problems one after the other, and emerged as successful entrepreneurs. “We are now treated like human beings,” said 75-year-old B. Chittamma (75) of Kotturu village.

Disregarded women

Decades ago, families and the community ignored their women. “Boozing being common among male members of almost all fishing villages, women didn’t get any respect, but always bore the brunt of alcoholism,” Chittamma told VillageSquare.in.

Despite standard catch, the income was low because middlemen siphoned off the profit. They never paid the fishermen on time. The fisher families had to struggle for survival under economic pressure. Whether it was lack of money or the men’s frustration caused by paucity, women were the victims.

Chittamma came to Kotturu village as a young bride from neighboring Andhra Pradesh. “She suggested mobilizing fisherwomen to end their plights,” Mangaraj Panda of Ganjam-based non-profit United Artists’ Association (UAA) told VillageSquare.in.

Women band together

As a first step, nine groups of fisherwomen, with 20 members in each group, were formed under Kalyani Nari Shakti Sangha in Kotturu. The number of groups soon increased to 14, when women formed five groups in an adjacent village named Arjipalli. The women first fought against brewing of country liquor and succeeded.

Their success in abolishing country liquor production in the villages encouraged the fisherwomen to address their financial problems next. They pooled in money and ventured into fish business in local markets.

The women paid cash immediately for the fish they purchased. They demanded outside vendors and middlemen to pay likewise while lifting the catch. “Though the vendors resisted initially, since they had to supply fish to the markets as per commitment and since our men supported us, they paid up,” said Chittamma.

Federating women’s groups

“This was the game-changer,” said Mangaraj Panda. “With this positive development, women in other villages across coastal Odisha formed groups and they too fought to end exploitation by middlemen.”

There were still some issues. Every group did not have equal access to the market to sell their stock. Prices of fish differed from place to place. In order to bring all the fisherwomen under one umbrella and develop common market linkages, they formed a federation named Samudram.

Started with 68 marine fisherwomen self-help groups (SHGs) having 1,360 members in 1998, Samudram now has 149 SHGs from 52 fishing villages of four coastal districts, namely, Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Balasore. The women conduct business individually as well as through groups.

In order to empower the fisherwomen as entrepreneurs, Samudram organized training sessions for them on hygienic methods of producing dry fish and other fishery-based products. “It opened up new earning opportunities for us and fetched better profit than the raw fish,” K. Eramma of Nolia Nuagaon village told VillageSquare.in.

Samudram has set up fish procurement and processing centers equipped with refrigeration and drying racks for fresh fish, besides weighing and packaging machines at different places. Women own and manage the facilities.

Sustainability

“Even though income was important, catching and selling fish was not all, because the catch was falling day by day,” said Chittamma. “Instead of overexploiting this marine resource, we had to ensure long-term availability.”

“We didn’t know this resource is limited and the catch may fall further, and make us go out of business,” P. Kaumudi (50) of Nolia Nuagaon told VillageSquare.in.“As experts explained the reasons for dwindling catch and actions needed, we changed our fishing practices.” The fishermen started using nets to spare the seeds and fingerlings. They declare no-fishing days periodically.

“Women also took up poultry and goat-rearing as alternate livelihoods during no-fishing months,” Kaleya told VillageSquare.in.This helped them make a living during the fishing ban from November to May, in the coastal seas of Ganjam, Puri and Kendrapara districts for the protection of Olive Ridley sea turtles during their annual nesting phenomenon called arribada.

According to fishermen, government and regulating authorities turn a blind eye to trawlers that violate norms and pose bigger threat to the ocean, its ecosystem and fish population. “Living on the coast and depending on the sea for livelihood, we have to protect the marine ecosystem and the visiting turtles to keep our sea healthy and dependable,” fisherwoman Kaumudi told VillageSquare.in.

Tax hurdle

Samudram now faces the toughest hurdle since the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST). “As GST mandates 12% tax on packaged dry fish items, prices have increased, and so many of the wholesale buyers have stopped buying,” said Panda.

This has led to a halt in businesses by the groups and the federation. “The fisherwomen work individually now,” said Kaleya. The members contend that they are not educated enough to keep accounts and file GST. Some advised the women to hire a professional.

“It’s not feasible since we are not a corporate business, but make a living out of it,” said Chittamma. “Our progress will stop if community development and livelihood activities do not get tax exemption.”

Beyond business

Notwithstanding the let up in business due to GST, Samudram has not only helped the women earn, but has also empowered them to identify their potential and dream a better future for their children.

The women claimed stopping brewing of country liquor and stopping child marriage as their biggest achievements. They have helped construction of schools in villages to educate their children. “Girls go to college now, whereas they were not allowed to complete primary education earlier,” said Chittamma.

Undergraduate students like S. Puja and A. Kamla of Nolia Nuagaon are proud to be the first girls from their village to have joined college. “Our aim is to pursue higher studies and find jobs,” they said.

The groups have become sources of support to members in time of emergencies. “Samudram and the SHGs helped us overcome the damages caused by two major cyclones, namely, the Phailin in 2013 and the Hudhud in 2014,” B. Mahalaxmi (40) of Huma village told VillageSquare.in.
The report first appeared on May 28, 2018, at the VillageSquare.

October 20, 2017

Community radios in Odisha help improve gender parity

Broadcasting programs on gender inequality and against stigmas suffered by women in Odisha, community radio stations have effected a positive change in rural communities where girls are still the ignored population
As news of rampant female feticide in the Nayagarh district of Odisha broke in July 2017, it shocked Usha Patnaik, a social activist and president of Gania Unnayan Committee, a non-profit organization, as it did the rest of India.

Working for more than two decades on issues such as trafficking of girls and women, child marriage and gender-based discrimination, the news made her wonder about the very existence of females in society. “Being a female, I was scared,” she told VillageSquare.in. “How can a society imagine its future by eliminating a sex selectively at the fetal stage?”

However, 10 community radio stations are working in Odisha on changing the mindset of the people, to enable a better environment for the safety of girl children and women.

Endangered sex

Indicating decline in the sex ratio, female population in Nayagarh district has come down from 938 per 1,000 males in 2001 to 915 in 2011, as per the 2011 census report. More worrying is the sex ratio at birth during the last five years — the population of girl babies is 725 for every 1,000 male babies born, as per the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS4). As per the 2001 and 2011 censuses, the sex ratio of children below six years in Nayagarh dropped from 904 to 855.

Apart from declining sex ratio, Nayagarh district has remained the epicenter of trafficking of girls under the guise of marriage since the 1990s. According to NFHS4, it is the sixth district of Odisha with high prevalence of child marriage. In the district, 31.3 % of women between 20 and 24 years of age got married before the age of 18.

“Nayagarh has a conservative patriarchal society where girls are still the ignored population. The indications of it are that many are killed selectively at the fetal stage, many are given in marriage at an early age and many are being trafficked to other states in the name of marriage,” Patnaik told VillageSquare.in.

Change through official machinery

With statistics indicative of the status of the female population, Nayagarh is included in the list of 100 districts covered nationwide under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save a Girl Child, Educate a Girl Child) program. The Government of Odisha in association with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other agencies has taken steps to strengthen implementation of the PCPNDT (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act, 1994 to check pre-natal sex determination and female feticide in the state.

In accordance with the state policy for girls and women and the state policy for youth, several other programs have been implemented to address gender-based issues and to create an enabling environment for girls.

As a result of the programs, administrative dynamism has improved. Sex ratio at birth in Nayagarh has increased to 883 by September 2016, as per the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) reports. Through various campaigns, girls are encouraged to enroll in schools.

“The situation is changing. But to address the issues related to gender inequality, what still remains a challenge is, changing the behavior of people, despite the proactiveness of the administration and government machinery,” Pritikant Panda, District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) at Nayagarh, told VillageSquare.in.

Communicating achievements and awareness

Making its contribution to address the issues facing the female population of the district, the Daspalla-based Radio Surabhi, the only community radio station in Nayagarh, has started a program named Suna Jhia — the golden girl.

“The objective of the program is to tell positive stories highlighting small as well as big achievements of girls in the district through radio so that the parents feel proud of their daughter,” Sisir Kumar Das of Indian Institute of Education and Care, a non-profit organization that promotes Radio Surabhi, informed VillageSquare.in.

Prompted by the poor status of the girl child in the district, Suna Jhia program aims to bring awareness and build scientific temper in the communities while sensitizing the local administration on the ground realities, Das added.

“Now I realize that the two abortions I suffered and the several illnesses I suffer from are the results of my marriage at an early age. Now that I have learnt from the Suna Jhia program, I will advise girls not to marry early and have an ill fate like mine,” 55-year-old Kainta Gadatia of Adakata village in Daspalla administrative block told VillageSquare.in

Appreciating its objective and reach, though within a radius of about 15 km, “The DCPU is supporting the program from the beginning,” said Panda, the Nayagarh DCPO, adding that Suna Jhia has tremendous impact at the community level.

“In many cases, young boys are consulting officials and deferring their marriage when they find their bride-to-be younger than 18 years,” Sanjukta Dasgupta, a Daspalla-based social activist, informed VillageSquare.in.

Change through community radio

With 10 Community Radio Stations (CRS) operating in Odisha at present, issues related to social justice, gender equality and community development have got a stronger voice in their respective areas of coverage.

The Balianta-based Radio Kishan has successfully changed the mindset of betel leaf farmers who restricted women from working in the betel vine farms because of the women’s natural monthly menstruation. Women are now allowed to work in the betel leaf farms.

“Initially we faced resistance from the community. But things changed in favor of the women as our campaign was based on scientific facts and evidences,” Pradeepta Dutta of Radio Kishan told VillageSquare.in.

In Nuapada district, the Khariar-based Radio Swayamshakti has its focus on issues reflecting gender inequality and health problems in the community. Talking to VillageSquare.in, Biswajit Padhi, chief functionary of the CRS said, “We strive to make the radio an open forum, facilitating free convergence between communities and the Nuapada district administration.”

Way ahead

CRSs in Odisha have done tremendously well in keeping people as well as the administration informed during natural disasters, besides highlighting issues encountered by the grassroots communities. But there are several challenges to be overcome to keep the CRSs running and acting as an effective medium for community level convergence and development.

According to CRS managers, the primary issues include sustainability of the non-commercial radio serving the communities and its limited reach within a 10 km radius. Limited reach makes it difficult to achieve desired goals because geographically, communities do not live as a concentrated population. As the habitations are scattered even beyond the coverage area, community-focused radio programs do not reach all the intended audience.

Highlighting that government support is limited, Padhi in a note of dissent said, “UNICEF, which could support CRSs offers to broadcast content produced by it in association with BBC Media Action free of cost. If reputed global institutions start such practice, how can the CRSs sustain?” However, no comment on this could be obtained from UNICEF, despite attempts.

“Some international NGOs (iNGO) have started networking with local CRSs with their own agenda. If they push issues of their interest into the radio content, some of the issues concerning communities would be ignored by the local CRSs,” Sisir Das told VillageSquare.in, referring to a recently held national level consultation on community radios, organized by an Odisha-based CRS in partnership with an iNGO in Bhubaneswar.

“Such networking with iNGOs can help develop new models of sustainable community radio stations. This would be possible if the iNGOs support capacity building in the sector to identify and present issues that concern the community instead of interfering with the content,” according to him.
Padhi highlighted that minimum support for sustainability and capacity building would encourage more CRSs to be established in the state and energize them to be catalysts of change at the community level.

This report first appeared on October 18, 2017, at the VillageSquare.

July 28, 2017

Time’s Up, Age-Old Beliefs! Odisha Is Saying No to Child Marriage

Post-2008 riots in Odisha’s tribal populated Kandhamal district, when Rashmita Bagarti (now 27) started the Antarang (literally meaning intimate) Club in the Phiringia block to spearhead peacebuilding activities in the community, she had about 45 members. But to her worry, the number went down to 20 in about a year. As she looked for the reason behind such a drop in membership, she found that at least 12 young girls of the club had got married at an early age and left their villages.

"It was alarming! Because early marriage was the practice in tribal and Dalit communities and it was difficult to ensure long-term participation of young girls in the club. So, I decided to fight against child marriage alongside our peace-building activities," said Rashmita Bagarti, Social Activist.

According to Indian laws, marriage of a girl before the age of 18 and a boy before the age of 21 is child marriage.

Age-Old Beliefs

Home to 62 tribal communities, including 13 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG), making 22.85 per cent of the state population, child marriage is still a norm in the tribal-dominated districts of Odisha, as in Kandhamal.
"This is an age-old practice. Again, having a girl for a longer time at home after puberty is a big risk. While it’s always difficult to get a groom for a girl who doesn’t fit the conventional concept of being young, there is also the risk of love relationships and elopement" - Sanmati Durua (65), Resident, Chanchraguda village, Koraput
"Poverty, deep-rooted gender discrimination and dowry system increase the vulnerability of girls to early marriage" - Puspashri Debi, Member, ActionAid India, Bhubaneswar
According to Jitendra Pattnaik, a Nuapada-based social activist, “Girls are married off early to rid the family from their burden. Parents believe, delay in marriage of a girl would cost more dowry and cause difficulties in getting a groom.”
"Parents in left-wing extremism (LWE)-affected areas are almost compelled to get their children married to save them (the children) from being picked up by extremist groups, who are on a look out for new cadres regularly, said a development activist of Kalahandi district on conditions of anonymity."
The 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS4) indicates that the top five child marriage prevalent districts are all tribal dominated and affected by LWE. While the percentage of married women in the age group of 20-24, who got married before they turned 18, remains 39.3 percent in Malkangiri, it is 37.9 percent in Nabarangpur, 35 percent in Mayurbhanj, 34.7 percent in Koraput and 34.4 percent in Rayagada.

Statewide Prevalence

Of other districts, Nayagarh has 31.3 percent of married women in the age group of 20-24 who married before 18. In Khordha, of which the state capital of Bhubaneswar is a part, it is 18.1 per cent.
In Odisha, nearly 21.3 per cent of the currently married women in 20-24 age group married before 18. It was 37.2 percent during NFHS3 (2005-06). Similarly, 11 percent of married men within the age group of 25-29 got married before 21, as per NFHS4, which was 22.2 percent during the NFHS3.
Although child marriage is more prevalent in rural and tribal hinterlands, its presence in urban areas is equally concerning. The difference between urban and rural prevalence is only 2.2 percent for women and 3.6 percent for men of the aforesaid age group.

Health Issues

“Child marriage violates children’s basic rights to survival, development, protection and participation,” said Laxminarayan Nanda, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF, Odisha.
"It limits the freedom of girls and boys and narrows down the scope of dreaming a future of choice. Child marriage also results in the loss of lives and hampers any effort of reducing IMR (infant mortality rate) and MMR (maternal mortality rate) as it leads to malnutrition among mothers and children" - Ghasiram Panda, Activist, ActionAid India.
Another flip side of child marriage is the higher risk of contracting HIV, along with domestic violence and teenage pregnancy, which are among the leading causes of death in girls aged between 15-19.
A World Bank-ICRW joint report has warned earlier that child marriage will cost the developing world trillions of dollars by 2030 because of discontinuation of schooling, health issues, malnutrition, maternal and infant mortality etc.
Ray of Hope

Odisha, however, has been successful in scaling down the prevalence of child marriage in many districts between NFHS3 (2005-06) and NFHS4 (2014-15).

Due to the actions and interventions by both government and non-government agencies, young girls like Daimati Santa of Koraput, Phulmani Raita of Gajapati, Minakshi Guru of Jajpur have stood against child marriage. Many boys have also said no to marriage before turning 21.
"This has become possible due to the transformation of girls into change agents. Having their own space in the form of adolescent girl clubs so that they can discuss their issues freely, is enabling them to spread awareness across the community, thus ensuring an appropriate environment for a smooth transition to adulthood" - Sanjukta Tripathy, Activist, PREM (UNFPA-supported programme).
PREM is a non-profit organisation that manages the UNFPA supported programme under its Action for Adolescent Girls (AAG) initiative in Gajapati’s Gumma block.

“Communities that were hesitant to talk about this issue earlier are now discussing it. Many have even resolved to stop child marriage in their respective communities,” Ghasiram Panda observed.

Need to Spread Awareness

“Yet, the mindset of people who believe in it, promote it and encourage the practice. It has to be changed through reinvigorated action and intervention,” said Laxminarayan Nanda.

According to Dr Amrita Patel, State Project Coordinator of Odisha State Resource Centre for Women, “Community awareness, building on girls’ education and capacity building of families are necessary. Alongside, implementation of the law and awareness are also needed.”

Raising the issue of almost nil registration of cases under the Prevention of Child Marriage Act, Dr Patel urged, “Prosecution has to be strong.”
"On the other hand, prevention is also a critical strategy. However, in today’s world, skill building and making the girls economically independent will take more than curbing the problem of child marriage" - Dr Amrita Patel, State Project Coordinator, Odisha State Resource Centre for Women.
Bringing to fore the issues of dowry as exploitation leading to an unsafe atmosphere for girls in the society, Puspashri Debi sought proper implementation of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Anticipating growing incidents of elopement due to media exposure from childhood, she insisted that “priority should be on creating a safe space for the adolescent to discuss sexuality and personal issues in a free environment.”

The report first appeared on July 25, 2017, at The Quint

April 28, 2017

Interventions to stop child marriages raise hopes in Odisha

The practice of underage marriage is acute in the tribal-dominated southern and southwestern parts of Odisha, but interventions on the ground are planting the seeds of change among adolescent girls and their parents

The pensive look on the face of three-year-old Devati Durua of Chanchraguda village in Koraput district could very well change to distress if she is married before she comes of age at 18. That remains a distinct possibility in the underdeveloped area where indigenous people are known to widely practice child marriage.

Although India has laws to prevent child marriage, it remains prevalent in many parts of the country. The country is said to lose $56 billion (Rs 3.6 trillion) a year as a result of adolescent pregnancy, high secondary school dropout rate and joblessness among young women, according to the State of World Population 2016 of the United Nations Population Fund. As per the Indian laws, marriages of girls before the age of 18 and boys before the age of 21 are considered child marriages. 

Pan-Odisha problem

The situation is particularly alarming in the eastern state of Odisha. As much as 21.3 percent women between the age of 20 and 24 years married before the age of 18 and 11 percent of men between the age of 25 and 29 married before attaining the age of 21, according to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4) report. Unsurprisingly, the number of child marriages is more in rural Odisha. However, “there is significant variation amongst districts,” Amrita Patel, State Project Coordinator of Odisha State Resource Centre for Women, told VillageSquare.in.
The prevalence of the practice is wider in the tribal populated backward districts of the state. “Over 50 percent of marriages in the tribal communities are underage or child marriages,” said Gopi Durua, 25, of Devati’s family who too had married before the age of 21.
“This is a pan-Odisha issue although the practice is further acute in the tribal-dominated southern and a few southwestern districts of the state,” Ghasiram Panda, communication in-charge at ActionAid, Odisha, and an advisor to Odisha Child Right Commission, told VillageSquare.in.

An adult girl child being considered a burden on the family in most tribal and backward communities, lack of awareness and a host of socio-economic problems including abject poverty and a poor female literacy rate are often blamed for such wide prevalence.

“The tribal communities also believe that early marriage is their tradition. When you ask them to stop the tradition, they think you are trying to mobilize them against their traditional practices,” said Bhanumati Santa of Gamkapadar village in Koraput district.

“As cases where boys and girls falling in love and opting to marry in elopement have been increasing, most of the parents also see a kind of social risk in allowing their daughters to continue studies instead of getting married at a tender age. They believe that marrying the girls at an early age is the safest way to escape such risks that would otherwise demean the social status of the parents and the family,” said Sanmati Durua, 60, of Chanchraguda village.

Possibility of change

Basanti Jani, 16, of Janiguda village in Koraput district, however, sees greater possibilities with continuous awareness programs. “Our parents must be made aware of the possible impacts of early marriage on the health of their daughter and the future of her family. They must be explained how they are putting the lives of their daughters at risk by marrying them at an early age,” she told VillageSquare.in.

Talking about the social fallout of child marriage, Panda stated that “such a practice not only affects the health, education and status of victim women in the society but it also endangers the future generation in many ways while affecting their physical and mental health.”

“Unless child marriage is stopped, it would be difficult to achieve the goal of controlling infant and maternal mortalities in the state,” he added.

In order to stop child marriage, recent initiatives by Odisha’s Women and Child Development department include facilitation of interdepartmental convergence on the issue of child marriage. The government also has plans to conduct training programs for Child Marriage Prohibition Officers, gender sensitization of college and University students across the state and orientation of high school students in 12 tribal districts, according to Patel.

Changing scenario

Interventions from the government as well as non-government agencies to stop the practice have brought in some changes.

Sensitized by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan or Ekta, a Koraput-based non-profit, on the ill impacts of child marriage and the importance of education for a girl, Daimati Santa of Gamkapadar village has dared to stand against the proposal of her marriage when she is only 16-year-old.

Daimati has been successful in convincing her parents and the groom’s family to defer the marriage til she turns an adult and, also, to allow her to continue with the higher secondary studies.

Though sporadic, such cases of girls opposing early marriage and expressing their desire to continue with education are being seen in different places of Koraput and other tribal populated districts of Odisha.

Some regions like the Gumma block in Gajapati districts have even made them free from child marriages where the practice was rampant a few years back.

After intervention by the United Nations Population Fund, “child marriage has almost stopped. Dropout students go to school again and girls from this tribal populated block are now working outside and make an earning,” said Mariyam Raita, a local woman leader.

“The change has been possible due to the engagement of the community and all other stakeholders in the process of change. Adolescent girls participating and taking the lead to bring in the change in their lives remained the key to the success achieved,” said Sanjukta Tripathy of the Berhampur-based non-profit People’s Rural Education Movement (PREM) who works as the project manager of the UNFPA supported intervention.

More action required

“The changes that have come in the tribal dominated regions raise hope about addressing the problem. The tribal communities have started realising the bad effects of early marriage and are now discussing the issue,” said Ghasiram Panda.

In order to stop the practice, “more community awareness, building on girls’ education and capacity building of the families are necessary. But, alongside, use of the law and awareness about the law is also needed,” said Amrita Patel.

Insisting that the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006 should be made more stringent and enforceable, Patel highlighted that “in today’s world skill building and making the girls economically independent will go a long way in curbing the problem of child marriage.”

This report first appeared on April 24, 2017, at the VillageSquare.

March 15, 2017

Ending child marriage by making young girls the agents of change

Though child marriage continues to remain a serious global concern, interventions to contrast it carried out by governments and global organisations are starting to show results. Raising hope to end the practice, the Gumma block in India’s Gajapati district, populated by tribal populations, has taken centre stage by becoming child marriage free thanks to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programme involving thousands of girls in adolescent clubs to learn and share their views on the topic. 

The issue of child marriage

Defined as marriage before the age of 18, child marriage is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. It will affect an average of a little over 15 million girls a year starting from 2021 to 2030 if present trends continue, the UNFPA cautions.

For example in India almost 27 per cent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 got married when they were still girls and a little over 20 per cent of men aged 25 to 29 married as boys, reveals India’s 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The report also states that nearly 8 per cent of women between 15 and 19 years of age attain motherhood or pregnancy.

The country loses 56 billion dollars a year as a result of adolescent pregnancy, high secondary school dropout rates and joblessness among young women, according to the UNFPA’s State of World Population 2016. Despite special laws and legal provisions for the prohibition of child marriage, objectives remain unfulfilled because of lack of public awareness and insufficient enforcement. 

The case of Gumma

300 kilometres south of Bhubaneswar, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, Gumma block – an administrative unit below that of district and above that of small town or village – has suffered social ailments such as high rates of school dropout among girls, early marriage and adolescent motherhood. This until two years ago the UNFPA decided to intervene under the Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

Adolescence among girls was almost missing. Early marriage, which often resulted in motherhood and pregnancy at a tender age placing the lives of both the mothers and their children at risk, was rampant,” according to the programme’s manager Sanjukta Tripathy from the agency implementing it, People’s Rural Education Movement. “It happened because parents weren’t aware,” community leader Mariyam Raita commented. 

Change from below

Though the task of fighting the age-old practice was difficult, it was made possible by community involvement and education, and because it was the adolescent girls from the communities themselves to have taken on the role of agents of change, Tripathy explains.

At least 3416 girls between 10 and 19 years of age came together through 211 adolescent clubs across Gumma. Resource centres called Ashakiran equipped with computers, printers, internet facilities and television sets worked as safe spaces for meeting, learning, sharing ideas, discussing issues and watching movies. “The change is now visible. These girls who didn’t know about computers are now seeing them physically, touching and operating them. This is a big thing for our girls,” said Mariyam Raita. 

Inspiring outcomes 

Girls like Ankita who stopped her education at class VIII have been sent to school again. Many like Phulmani have convinced their parents to defer their marriage until they’ve attained adulthood, whilst Ranjita and others who married early have decided to delay pregnancy. After receiving skill training many of the girls are now working outside the district and some are self-employed.

“Surpassing the shyness, these girls now speak out, laugh, play and dance without any inhibition,” Tripathy says recalling the initial days of intervention. The outcomes aren’t only inspiring but also bear enormous possibilities for wider replication to end child marriage in other areas of India and the world. 

This report first appeared on March 13, 2017, at the LifeGate

March 28, 2014

BJD red carpet for royals, short shrift to women

Democracy, they say, begins where feudalism ends. But political parties in Odisha, the poorest state in the country, obviously have other ideas. At least 13 scions of ‘royal’ families have been fielded by various political parties for the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state this time.

Curiously, as many as 10 out of the 13 have been nominated by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), a party that has never tired of tom-tomming its ‘pro-people’ and ‘pro-poor’ credentials. While seven of them have been fielded in Assembly elections, three have been nominated for Lok Sabha polls, ironically from constituencies that comprise some of the poorest regions in the state: Kalahandi, Bolangir and Kandhamal.

Known for the highest number of cases of malnutrition and starvation deaths in the state, Bolangir district alone has got five members from one royal family contesting the coming election. Of these five, three are from BJD – Ananga Uday Singhdeo from Bolangir Assembly Constituency, his son Kalikesh Narayan Singhdeo from Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency and Prakruti Devi, a woman from the same royal family, from the Patnagarh Assembly constituency.

The other two from the Bolangir royal family in fray this time are Kanak Vardhan Singhdeo and Sangita Singhdeo fighting on Bharitaya Janata party (BJP) tickets in the Patnagarh Assembly seat and Bolangir Lok Sabha Seat respectively.

In another glaring dichotomy between what he professes and what he does, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik has named only two women in the list of candidates for the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the seats, which accounts for less than 10%. It is hardly the kind of percentage that a party that incessantly talks of ‘women’s empowerment’ can be proud of.

The proportion of women in the list of candidates for Assembly elections is not much to write home about either. There are no more than 14 women in the final list of BJD candidates for 147 Assembly constituencies – which again works out to less than 10%. Revealingly, three out of these 14 are from ‘royal’ families.

The other major parties like the Congress and the BJP have not fared much better when it comes to fielding women candidates. But, Naveen and his party certainly deserve the lion’s share of the flak on this count since it is they who keep shouting from the rooftops about ‘women’s empowerment’.

Naveen’s claims on ‘women’s empowerment’ rest primarily on the large number of self help groups (SHGs) his government has helped form in the state and the reservation of 50% of seats in urban local bodies. But when it comes to the Big Prize of Lok Sabha and Assembly nominations, the BJD boss has been as stingy as the others in handing out party tickets to women.

This piece first appeared on March 26, 2014, at the Odisha Sun Times.

November 07, 2013

Fragile safety of women in Odisha

Series of fatal crimes against women in last few years and the latest one in particular make clean examples of how efficiently and promptly the whole system works to ensure enhanced security to women in Odisha.
 
Death of woman teacher Itishree Pradhan, who was set ablaze in a school hostel in Odisha’s Rayagada district, has once again brought the issue of safety and rights of women to the fore again. Growing numbers of such crimes against women have raised serious doubt over the actions of Odisha government to ensure safety to the women in the state.
Worked as a contractual teacher at Tikiri Upper Primary School in Rayagada district, Itishree was set afire on October 27 and she finally succumbed to the born injuries after struggling for life for five days in a private hospital in Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
The mishap took place in less than a month of CM’s address at the Odisha Police Duty Meet, on October 5, 2013, where he said that his government had initiated several steps to ensure enhanced security to women in the state. In the same event, Naveen Patnaik also said, “Investigation of crime is one of the most important responsibilities of police. Such investigation has to be conducted efficiently and effectively. Police has to be impartial, firm and prompt in handling crime and criminals.”
Series of fatal crimes against women in last few years and the latest one in particular make clean examples of how efficiently and promptly the whole system works to ensure enhanced security to women in Odisha. 

She dared and died for it

As harassment by School Inspector Netrananda Dandasena gradually became unbearable, Itishree dared to register complain against him. She lodged her complain with local police on July 18, 2013; informed the district Collector and Superintendent of Police (SP) about her complaint. She also wrote to higher authorities including the Police DG, Women’s Commission and, even, the Chief Minister’s Office about the nonchalant attitude of local police and administration in her case. She informed everyone about the threat to her life from Netrananda Dandasena against whom she lodged the complaint. But all to no avail. Nobody heeded to her complaint and repeated letters till the 27 years old teacher was set afire in the school hostel she lived in.
With 90% of the body burnt, Itishree was shifted to a corporate hospital where she took her last breath on November 1, 2013.
Actions were started only after the victim teacher was torched. An Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of Tikiri police station and the accused school inspector were suspended. The DI of schools was also suspended by the Raygada district collector for not taking action against the accused School Inspector Dandasena. On November 05, 2013, four government officials including the above three officials and the In-charge Officer of Tikiri Police Station were dismissed from their services.
After death of the victim, Odisha government also ordered an investigation by the crime branch into the case of sexual assault and murder of the contractual woman teacher.
But what still remains unanswered is – why after death? Why it didn’t happen when victim was very much alive and was desperately knocking all possible doors seeking action to ensure her safety? 

Everybody knew, nobody responded

She lodged an FIR at local police station, approached the district administration, wrote to the women commission, Police DG and the CM’s Office with the hope that somebody at some point would take her case sympathetically and initiate action.
Coming across the allegations made by Itishree, the Collector of Raygada district, S B Padhi, instituted a two member inquiry committee to inquire into the case and give a report. The committee headed by District Social Welfare Officer Sanghamitra Kanungo submitted its report in the end of August where the school inspector was held guilty. The committee suggested immediate disciplinary action against him. Keeping the safety of the victim teacher in view, transfer of Itishree to another school outside Kashipur block was also suggested in the report.
But no action was initiated on basis of the report submitted by the committee. What and who stopped the district authorities from taking action immediately is yet to be answered.
The complaint was not given any importance even at higher levels. The question comes here is, why did the authorities remain silent about the complaint lodged by the school teacher? Why action was not taken immediately against the school inspector? How the women’s commission too opted to remain silent on this? Who was protecting the School Inspector? How the CMO too missed it? Or, under pressure from someone, did the CMO intentionally kept the CM in dark on this particular case? But authorities are mum to give an answer to all these obvious questions.
When the Collector, SP, DGP and officials in charge of the women’s commission and the CMO are more in doubt for opting to inaction in the case, suspension of officials of local police station and mass education department seems to be an eyewash attempt to keep the senior police and administrative officials safe. 

Political connection

While stepping up campaign against Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his government over the death of lady teacher Itishree Pradhan, opposition parties in the state held BJD MP from Koraput Jayram Pangi responsible for police inaction and administrative callousness.
In a statement, claimed to be given before death, Itishree also blamed the Chief Minister, administration and local political leaders for what happened to her.  In her statement, as aired by a local TV Channel in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday evening, October 5, 2013, Itishree said that Netrananda Dandasena was a favourite of Koraput MP (Member of Parliament) Jayram Pangi.
However, political links behind such crimes against women is not new to the state of Odisha. Political involvement in crimes against women became issue since 1980 when Chhabirani Mohapatra, a woman journalist, was raped and murdered.
Fingers were also raised against senior BJD leaders in cases like a speaker of Odisha State Assembly assaulting a lady martial; rape and murder of Babina, a girl from Pipili; and the murder of an Ayush doctor Madhabilata in Puri. While former speaker Maheswar Mohanty had to lose his post for alleged involvement in the case of assaulting a lady martial, senior leader and then the agriculture minister Pradip Maharathi had to be sacrificed in Babina rape and murder case of Pipili in order to keep the face of BJD and the government led by it clean.
As the Urban Local Body polls are to be held in western Odisha this month and as the party is preparing to face the general polls early next year, such a face saving action from top BJD leadership cannot be overruled completely. However, who becomes the sacrificial goat this time is to be seen. 

Challenge before the Government

Soon after the death of the victim teacher, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared an ex-gratia of 10 lakh rupees as he did in a few previous cases like the Pipili rape and murder case and the Mahakalpada murder case where rejection of love appeal resulted in torching and subsequent death of a minor girl.
“Announcement of compensation has become a trend for this government leading one to believe that the Chief Minister is trying to safeguard the alleged BJD leaders by bribing the surviving members of the victims’ family,” said Janamorcha Chief and former BJD leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra.
“Compensation is no wrong in this case because victim was the only earning member of the family. But it’s not all that the government should do. We need some strong laws to deal with such cases,” said N A Shah Ansari, an activist and founder of community radio station - Radio Namaskar.
According to NCRB, rate of crime against women in Odisha, in 2012, remained 58.79 per one lakh population of women in the state against a national average of 41.74. The state registered 31% increase, in compare to 2011 figures, in the number of cases of rape, the highest among the larger states of India.
So the challenges are enormous. Instead of keeping the safety of women limited to slogans and programme names, the state government needs to act strongly and promptly to stop crime and ensure enhanced security to women in the state.

This piece first appeared on November 7, 2013, at the HotnHitNews.

July 04, 2012

Violence Against Women: Issue of women safety needs to be seen from social perspective


Since the murder of a woman journalist Chhabirani in the year 1980 till date, thousands of women in Odisha have fallen victim to the heinous instincts of men. As per claims made by the President of Odisha Congress’ women wing on the basis of a white paper tabled in State Assembly, about 4,100 cases under section 376 (rape) were registered in different police stations of Odisha during last three years. The statistics is not only shocking but is also loud to explain how women have become vulnerable to the unmanly instincts of men in the society.
Even though women are considered to be the descent half of the society, they live a life of vulnerability and fall victim to atrocities and the criminal instincts of people of their own community with whom they grow from a baby girl to a woman.
The recent cases of abuse and atrocities on women in the state of Odisha have made social thinkers and even the common man to look for the reasons behind increasing vulnerability of women in the society.
While the much hyped case of alleged assault and attempt to kill the 19 year old girl from a dalit family of Arjungoda village under Pipili Police Station in Odisha’s Puri district hit the headlines of almost all media and impacted the state politics in the state where a Minister had to quit the cabinet to save the face of the government, a series of cases of attacks and atrocities on women have raised number of questions on the safety of women in her own community or society.
The victim of the Pipili incident is now struggling to come out of a coma stage she entered since the incident that took place between 7 AM and 8.30 AM, time of activities in rural Odisha, when the girl went to attend nature’s call.
The case of Pipili is not the lone case of assault on women in Odisha. Few months back, a girl student in Odisha’s Baliapal also fell victim to the demonic instincts of some men. Another girl who was travelling by a bus was not dropped at the destination and was allegedly raped by the bus driver and other staff. In the month of January 2012 alone, about 10 cases of rape, rape and murder, assault and attempt to murder have been registered of which one of the victim is an 8-year-old girl and another a deaf and dumb dalit girl. “The way such incidents where a part of the society suffers badly in the hands of the other half are increasing, many of us are forced to rethink if we are really living in a civic society”, says a Konark based social activist N A Shah Ansari who feels agitated while remembering the particular day of 2007 November when a young woman was dragged out of a passenger bus and was gang raped by four persons in a deserted spot beside the Konark-Puri marine drive road. “The incident shows how the society, once ruled by morals, is getting detached from the roots of it and how the individual morals are being degraded”, says Ansari.
When moral degradation is one of the primary reasons behind increase in the number of cases, the mechanism that should act strongly to locate the culprits in such cases and book them under law is also failing to deliver what is expected from it. For example, the police didn’t receive the FIR from the family of the victim girl from Pipili who battles for life in a state of coma. Nor did the medical officer attended to the girl who was in a serious condition. The medical officer could have treated the girl immediately and informed the police about the case. In stead, the doctor predicted a quick death of the girl and asked the family to take the unconscious victim back. Finding no other way, the family of the victim went to the State Women Commission and then to the State Human Rights Commission to seek justice and avail required treatment for the victim who struggled for life since more than a month. It was when the Human Right Commission realised the gravity of the case and ordered for immediate treatment in the hospital and immediate inquiry by the police that the victim was admitted to the hospital and police started investigation. However, things started after a month of the incident.
The victim girl was targeted because she was the only witness of a case of assault on her friend in the year 2008. While the girl who was raped in 2008 committed suicide a few days later, the surviving witness received repeated threats to withdraw the police case or face dire consequence, said the family members of the victim. Finally the girl had to pay the price for her courage. In stead of respecting her courage and acting promptly, the unwillingness of police to receive the FIR in the Pipili case indicates how callous the police is about the issue of safety of women. It’s only after strong directives issued by the Human Rights Commission that the Puri district police had to start an inquiry and the state government also ordered a probe by Crime Branch (CID) Police. ”Why after directives? What stopped the police from acting promptly against the alleged culprits? Can we expect more women to come forward against such injustice if the police continue to behave in a manner as it did with the Pipili victim? When safety of women is a concern for all and women are more often falling victim to very few of men with inhuman instincts, the police and other law enforcing agencies have to change their attitude and make the face more humane than the current one”, says a veteran journalist Prashanta Patnaik who also happens to be the Convener of civil society body Odisha Gana Samaja.
When the case came to light, political parties, social activists and civil society bodies came on roads to place the ruling party at fault and to build pressure on the government to nab the culprits and take action on all involved in it. This is definitely a good step by the opposition political parties to ensure justice to the specific victim. But, the larger issue of safety of women was again overshadowed.
During last 64 years, issue of women safety has been raised for political purposes and used as a weapon against the government and the ruling party. The game was always played with an agenda, mostly political, and the root issue of safety of women continued to remain a powerful evil in the society.
The first and foremost is that why and how a woman becomes vulnerable to the violent instincts of people with whom she grew from childhood? Why the society that often behaves to be protective fails to protect and uphold the rights of woman and secure her from any kind of vulnerability? ‘The primary reasons are lack of understanding of social relationship and almost no moral education’, says a veteran journalist and social thinker Vivekanand Dash adding that, ‘Such cases are increasing in our society because the current generation doesn’t take any interest in the moral roots and the parents also take least interest in moral teaching till something happens to them or their offspring’.
The police has to have a humane face and behave as responsive to any case of assault on woman. As seen in the case of Pipili and other places, instead of accepting the FIR and initiating quick action the local police officer took a condemnable role by denying to accept the complaint from the victim’s family. The rule of law has to be established. However, the dismissal of the concerned Police Inspector and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s strict instruction to all officers to receive the FIR and take immediate action in such cases bear some hope for sure in ensuring prompt aid to the victims.
What is most important in order to protect women from atrocities and provide justice to the victims of any kind of assault is that the rule of law has to be established with strong conviction. Any case of assault must be treated as violation of law of the land and the constitutional provisions that guarantee the individual rights of citizens and actions must be taken promptly as prescribed in the laws. Some even advocate for a strong law, like the one enforced to deal the acts of terrorism, and provisions of punishment in such cases. “The moral roots of Indian society must be restored to make women a respectable entity of the society and provisions of harsh punishments in such cases must be prescribed in the law to stop men from abusing women”, says Prashant Patnaik.
The recent observations of additional Sessions Judge of Delhi Kamini Lau in the case of rape of a six year old girl by her 30 year old uncle are surely some points to be given a serious thought by the leaders and legislators of India. While giving judgment on February 17, 2012 in the case, Kamini Lau observed, "Castration is the most befitting sentence which can be imposed on any paedophile or serial offender but the hands of this court are tied as the statute does not provide for it” while she urged that, “Indian legislators are yet to explore this as an alternative to conventional sentencing". The recent judgment reminds of legendary personality Biju Patnaik who, while was the Chief Minister of Odisha, openly urged that any person attempting to rape a woman should be castrated. Then Biju Patnaik’s wish was taken as a political fun which now seems more relevant to ensure safety to women from sexual abuse.
Not only the police and law enforcing agencies, but also the administration, judiciary and civil society bodies and the women rights bodies have a greater role in achieving social security and safety of women. The issue has to be seen from a social perspective than just a political agenda.
The article was first published on February 23, 2012, at HotnHitNews.