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Updated: November 21, 2013 00:32 IST

Victims of gender violence often left in the lurch

Staff Reporter
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Savita
Savita

Savitha’s case points to inadequacies in the justice system

In her eighth month of pregnancy, 22-year-old Savitha is waging a battle on many fronts: she’s fighting her husband and his family who’ve allegedly forced her to have three abortions in the two years of marriage, while petitioning the State police to take action against them based on the first information report (FIR) she filed in March.

Till now, Ms. Savitha says, no charge sheet has been filed in the case. It’s been nearly eight months since she filed the complaint at the Ulsoor Gate all-women’s police station against her husband, his mother and her sisters-in-law under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. They were initially detained and then released, after which no action has been taken in the case, she alleged.

Subsequently, she was also kidnapped by her husband and kept in a room in Nelamangala for three days; she was released only after a habeas corpus was filed by her lawyer in court.

In her FIR, Ms. Savitha says she was not only harassed, physically and mentally, for dowry, but also made to undergo three forcible abortions. “The first time they took me to the hospital. When I refused the second time, they mixed the medicine in my food, and the third time, my husband kicked me on my stomach,” she says, adding that her mother, a domestic worker, can ill afford the dowry demands. “If this is how the system treats a pregnant woman, then of what use is the law? Even the court ordered the police to properly investigate this,” she says. She also alleges that the police asked her to withdraw the complaint.

Need for coordination

Ms. Savitha spoke to The Hindu on the sidelines of a conference held by the Being Women Society on Bharath here on Wednesday. Her case was highlighted by the NGO as an example of how battered women are often left with no help from the criminal and justice system.

Her lawyer, Nikitha Swamy, president of the society, said there is a need for better coordination between the police and the legal system to ensure justice in such cases. The society has also demanded at least one more women’s police station in the city, as the Ulsoor Gate one is overworked and there is little awareness about the one in Basavangudi.

Awareness

Home Minister K.J. George, who presided over the conference, said that cases like these deserved more attention and promised to look into its particulars.

He called for a people’s movement to counter social mindsets leading to gender violence. “These cases of violence were always there, but they were confined to the four walls of a home. Now, with women getting more independent and aware of their rights, this is coming out. The only way to bring about change is for women to fight back,” he said.

Mr. George said the government had allocated substantial budgets to schemes for women and children. However, the biggest impediment was lack of awareness about these. He called on NGOs to help the government spread the word about these schemes.

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