"They do not provide legal aid and support to victims when they need them the most," says Asha Nayak, Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee.

Educational institutions have an important role in supporting victims of rape and kidnap, said Asha Nayak, Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee (CWC). She was speaking at a citizens’ meet to work out a support system for victims of rape and kidnap, in Mangalore on Thursday.

The same educational institutions that invited students for their money (fees) were reluctant to have them on their rolls once they become victims of such incidents. “They do not provide legal aid and support to victims when they need them the most,” she said.

Ms. Nayak said support for the victim had to be extended at various levels, including by the civil society and the police. “People do offer immediate support to the victim but it is not sustained as they do not know how to continue supporting the victim,” said the CWC Chairperson.

The victim’s family also had an important role to play in supporting her. Often succumbing to family pressure, the victim changed statements given to the police. She said, “Victims want to come out with the truth but families do not allow them to do so.” Victims also required help with rehabilitation and with the legal process.

Some participants said there was a need to gender-sensitise the police. Vidya Dinker, Convenor, Forum Against Atrocities on Women, said that was a daunting task, and till now attempts had been ineffectual. She disagreed with a citizen’s view that incidents of the past few months had created an environment of fear among people about women’s security in the city.

Narendra Nayak, president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, said there had to be a public show of strength to put fear into the wrongdoers.

Participants said that the citizens (or their representatives) would speak to heads of professional colleges, vice-chancellors of universities and medical superintendents of medical colleges to support victims. The Forum Against Atrocities on Women would coordinate with the institutions, said Ms. Dinker.

P.B. D’Sa, State president, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), said police and criminals were hand in glove with each other in such incidents, and the question was how to change that. He said he was confused whether the meeting was about how to bring the culprits to book or about bringing change in society. He asked media to show restraint in covering cases of sexual assaults, and said it had gone overboard in covering the Tarun Tejpal case.

Woman judge

Ms. Nayak said the Sixth Additional Sessions Judge will be a woman, and she will deal exclusively with cases of atrocities on women in Mangalore.

The appointment will be done “in a month or two”, she said. The requirement that a woman should occupy the post follows the amendment made to Section 376, said Ms. Nayak.