Statistics may not be alarming but cases of violence against women up

At a time when the country is grappling with issues related to sexual violence against women, how safe are women in Madurai, the temple city whose presiding deity is Meenakshi?

Statistics provided by the Madurai city police to an applicant under the Right to Information Act show that the number of cases registered on charges of rape and other forms of sexual violence had increased manifold between 2008 and 2012.

In 2008, the city police registered four cases — two at Subramaniapuram and one each at the Thideer Nagar police station and the All Women (city) Police Station (AWPS).

The number rose to 11 in 2012 with Anna Nagar and Sellur police registering three each. Of the rest, two cases were registered at S.S. Colony police station and one each at K. Pudur, Jaihindpuram and AWPS.

The police had arrested 40 people in the last four years in connection with these cases and all of them were enlarged on bail granted by different courts.

Though 29 cases of rape and sexual violence had been registered since 2008, only one (booked in 2009) ended up in conviction.

A majority of 23 cases were pending trial and two led to the acquittal of the accused. The rest were under investigation.

The scenario in localities under the jurisdiction of Madurai district police was no different.

The Tirupparankundram sub-division had registered 16 rape cases, 34 were reported at Melur sub-division, 12 at Tirumangalam, 19 at Usilampatti, eight at Samayanallur and 23 at Oomachikulam between 2008 and 2012.

Cases pertaining to sexual offences against children numbered three at the Tirupparankundram sub-division, four at Melur, six at Oomachikulam and five at Peraiyur in the last four years.

A majority of these cases were also pending trial before the courts concerned.

Says D. Geetha, an advocate practising at the Madras High Court Bench here, “Statistics provided by the police are only the tip of the iceberg as most of the cases pertaining to sexual violence go unreported owing to factors such as shame, reputation of the family and so on.”

“The rise in the number of cases reported is due to the fact that people are not willing to accept these assaults any more as in the past. I am sure, if we have a friendly police who can conduct proper investigation without any bias, many more cases will be reported,” she adds.

T.R. Parvatha Varthini of Littles Trust, a non-governmental organisation here, states that many cases do not find a place in official records because the perpetrators of the violence are mostly their own relatives such as fathers, brothers and uncles, apart from outsiders such as teachers, coaches and drivers.

She specifically points to the plight of a 17-year-old girl at Nagamalai Pudukottai here, who was subjected to sexual harassment by her alcoholic father. “Unable to bear the torture, the girl got married to one of her acquaintances and is now in the family way,” Ms. Varthini adds.

With regard to the high number of rape cases registered in Melur sub-division compared to other rural pockets, Ms. Varthini says it is because the women around Melur are docile and vulnerable compared to those in places such as Usilampatti.

“The protection of a girl child depends largely upon her mother. If the mother is outgoing and outspoken, they make sure that their children learn to protect themselves. Therefore, our district administration must come forward with a plan to sensitise mothers,” she suggests.

According to her, caste, class and colour of skin also play a role in determining the vulnerability of women.

“When it comes to gender discrimination, Madurai is no exception. It has a long way to go before it reaches a stage when men and women are treated equally,” she concludes.

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