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Updated: January 31, 2013 11:45 IST

Justice delayed, denied for women victims of harassment

Nidhi Surendranath
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Delivery of justice to victims of harassment is a long process.

“It’s been almost a year since it happened,” says poet M.R. Jayageetha. In February 2012, Ms Jayageetha filed a complaint against two ticket examiners on the Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai Super Fast Express accusing them of harassing her.

A year later, the case is still in the courts.

Delivery of justice to victims of harassment or sexual abuse often becomes a long process in the State.

Eighty-eight cases of rape were pending in district courts in Ernakulam as of September 2012. The figure does not include cases of molestation and sexual harassment. Some of these cases have been pending for more than five years.

The trial in the rape and death of 23-year-old Soumya in a train near Thrissur in 2011 is one of the few cases where speedy justice was delivered.

Public outrage and media attention over the brutal rape and murder ensured that the proceedings were fast-tracked and completed in about eight months. Several other victims are quietly waiting for the wheels of the justice system to turn.

A special court to try atrocities and sexual violence against women and children began functioning in Kochi on Monday.

Twenty-six cases relating to rape, attempt to rape and other sexual violence charges have been transferred to the new court, according to court officials. Fourteen of these cases involve crimes against minors. “The new court will ensure that cases of violence against women are children are tried faster,” said a court official. The court will take about a month to achieve a steady pace of work.

“The procedural delays in the legal system, however, are only one side of the problem. Culprits often try to create delays to buy time during which they can intimidate the victim or tamper with evidence to turn the trial in their favour.

“There is a lot of corruption involved in causing these delays,” said activist K. Ajitha. Members of the police, judiciary, and political power are actively involved in delaying justice for victims of sexual harassment, she said.

Extended trials could be as traumatic for women as the harassment itself. “After I decided to fight the case, I received several threats and anonymous letters. Those who harassed me also spread several rumours about me,” said Ms. Jayageetha.

The traumatic procedures and difficulties involved in getting justice also keep women away from approaching the police to register a case of sexual harassment.

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