With another molestation case on a train, the question is whether the culprits who perpetrate such crimes end up in prison. The police say that often the victims are reluctant to file a written complaint, giving the criminals safe passage. But activists say the law-and-order system works in a manner unfamiliar to women.
What makes women hesitant to take the legal recourse against molesters? Even when molested in front of the eyes of the public, as on Parasuram Express at Vadakara on Saturday, many women try to back out from preferring a written complaint to the police. Why?
Over five recent cases of molestation on trains in Malabar have reached such a dead end, allowing the depraved culprits to escape prison and emboldening them to continue their anti-social ways.
“In molestation cases, the victims will have to be very specific in their statements to the police. If they cannot share the incident with the police from being shy, it will definitely pave the way for the easy escape of the criminal,” P. Muraleedharan, sub-inspector with the Kozhikode railway police station, says.
On Saturday morning, the police officers from the station had to come across such a situation when the victim and her parent were against filing a written complaint against the accused, Jambuli Biju, who created a nightmare for them aboard Parasuram Express. Though the police and some of the fellow passengers advised them to do so, they were apprehensive of the legal formalities. Finally, a civil police officer had to meet them personally and convince them of the requirement to proceed legally.
“We are aware that a woman in shock may not be able to share her bad experience with the police, but now the department is offering moral support and fielding woman officers to help the victims overcome their fear,” Mr. Muraleedharan says.
But the case does not rest on women’s reluctance to file a complaint out of shyness or ignorance of the law. Women’s rights activists say giving the victims access to a woman police officer will be of no help when police stations do not enjoy popularity as people-friendly places.
Some of them say they have come across several instances when police officers have downplayed cases of attacks on women. They say the approach of the police in handling molestation cases should change if the victims were to open up their minds. The entire system works in a manner unfamiliar to the women, they add.
Police records show that complainants in most molestation cases reported from the city are the relatives of the victims. Though such petitions are legally valid, they will never have the same effect of the complaints and statements made by the victims themselves.
Mr. Muraleedharan, who recently dealt with five molestation cases on trains, says the five victims, including a 45-year-old homemaker and a 17-year-old schoolgirl from Kozhikode, were reluctant to give statements in the required manner to the police. “They may be ignorant and shy, but these have to be surmounted for punishing the guilty. The family members have a role to play for changing the attitude,” he says.
Railway police officers say ignorance and fear of legal procedures prevent a majority of the women from giving accurate statements. If their version is clear, they will not be summoned to the station more than two times. The court proceedings will be smooth if the victim boldly sticks to her statement, they say.
Railway Protection Force officers say they give moral support to the victim and her relatives to handle the situation boldly and fight it legally with the support of the local police. “Since we noticed an increase in such attempts against women, police escort on trains has been strengthened with the available force,” an officer said.