Months after her ordeal, Hasina (name changed) finds it difficult to eat. Her only solace is reading the Quran. Her husband used to work as a watchman — something he regrets today. He came home one morning to learn that his wife was raped by his brother’s son while four others tied her up and gagged her.
That morning Hasina accompanied her husband to a nearby hospital where he is under treatment for a terminal illness. Since she knew the doctors there, they examined her after she complained of abdominal pain. She went to the police station with the medical report to file a case but no one believed her. Hasina told The Hindu, “The police said how can my nephew rape me, such an old woman (she is 35). They said I had paid the doctors to give me a false certificate. Then they made me wait all night since they felt I should be taken to the police hospital at Nagpada although doctors there decided another examination was not necessary. They shouted at me for going to the doctor on my own.”
In an analysis of 94 rape cases in Mumbai between 2008 and 2012 by the Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT), which carries out rape crisis intervention in three city hospitals, survivors say the anxiety was not only about the assault but also because of the constant police interrogation, and being called to the police station.
Social activists point out that the number of people who do not want to report rape is rising, especially in the case of minors, as the procedures are fraught with delay and disbelief.
In December, a 16-year-old deaf mute girl alleged she was raped by two boys on her way back from school and a complaint was registered. However, Quaiser Khalid, additional commissioner of police (East), says that the timing and the location the girl mentioned seemed all wrong. “Ï visited the place — it was a toilet near a busy marketplace and she said the two boys raped her for three hours. But by evening she had changed her mind,” he said.
When the girl later said that she was raped a month ago, police filed a fresh case. One person has been arrested. A lawyer who was part of the medical examination said the girl had injuries caused by a sharp object on her arms and the doctors said that rape cannot be ruled out. But the police went around saying she was habituated to sexual intercourse although that was not mentioned anywhere in the medical report. The girl was communicating through an interpreter and her mother and there may have been difficulties in understanding what she was saying but at least the police could have refrained from going public till a proper inquiry was done, social workers felt.
CEHAT had written a letter recently to the police raising the ill-treatment of survivors of sexual assault, delay in referring for medical examination, insisting on medical examination of the survivor at the police hospital than a nearby Government or Municipal Hospital, interrogation by police in an extremely humiliating manner and delay in registering FIR and collection of evidence. The police in some cases took down a victim’s statement in a hospital ward, asked the victims to identify the culprit on a mobile phone in the ward, and in one case a woman police constable examined a minor in the police station, all of which violates existing procedure.
Mumbai joint commissioner of police (crime) Himanshu Roy accepts there should be no delays in filing FIRs or medical examination. “We do have a protocol for rape cases and it is being improved upon with the help of an NGO Majlis and activist Flavia Agnes,” he said.
Surprisingly this protocol is not public and has restricted access. Ms. Agnes says that she is moving heaven and earth to get the existing guidelines or protocols. “It’s so difficult to improve things you cannot access immediately. All protocols to probe crimes against women must be available easily,” she adds.