The seriousness of State governments in dealing with violence against women, particularly heinous offences like sexual assault, can be gauged from the fact that the Home Ministry’s advisory on crimes against women has gone unheeded.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on September 4, 2009 sent a detailed advisory to the States and Union Territories carrying a set of instructions to deal with cases of rape.
Most important among these was setting up of Rape Crisis Centres (RCCs) and specialised Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs). A random check revealed that none of the States had set up any centre to deal specifically with rape cases.
The RCCs were to be set up by the Health Departments to assist rape victims and facilitate coordination between the police and health department facilities for medical examination to establish forensic evidence and to treat the after-effects of trauma. Hence, these RCCs could act as an interface between the victims and other agencies.
The specialised Sexual Assault Treatment units were to be developed in government hospitals having a large maternity section.
The administration should also focus on rehabilitation of the victims and provide all required support, the advisory had said. Counselling is required for victims as well as her family to overcome the trauma.
However, a random check with Maharashtra, Kerala, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and several other States revealed that no RCC was ever set up. “It only goes to show how serious the governments are in dealing with crimes against women,” Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association said.
Even the national capital does not have an RCC. Several years ago, the Delhi Police and the Delhi Commission for Women entered into an agreement with the Centre for Social Research under project “Do Kadam” for sensitisation of the police force with the help of counsellors and liaisoning with rape crisis intervention centres. However, the project wound up gradually for lack of resources.
“The government is responsible for providing the resources. There was no money to pay the counsellors for transport which is the basic requirement,” Ranjana Kumar of CSR told The Hindu.
The advisory had further said that concerned departments of the State governments could handle rape victims at all stages — from filing a complaint in a police station to undergoing examination — and in providing all assistance including counselling, legal help and rehabilitation. Preferably these victims may be handled by women to provide a certain comfort level, it added.
All that the State governments have for women’s security are helplines and on-call counsellors.