Suha came to Delhi as an 18-year-old nanny-cum-domestic help to a middle class household in Janakpuri. The going seemed fine enough -- her employers paid her full wages, did not force her to do overtime and even gave her an occasional holiday. The dream run got murky with the neighbour’s 20-something-year-old son “discovering” Suha. He would use every opportunity to harass and molest the young girl. One dreadful day her employers returned home to find a frightened Suha standing outside the house crying. She accused the neighbour’s son of trying to sexually assault her. “Badly beaten and bruised, Suha had managed to escape the worst. But she was so frightened by the severity of the assault that she refused to eat, talk or even come out of her room for several days,” said Jincy Thomas her employer.
Suha’s story ended the most predicable way. No case was registered against the perpetrator and Suha was sent back to Kerala.
“What else could be done in the situation? Though we had gone to the police, no First Information Report was registered. Also neither Suha nor her parents was keen on a police case. They told us to just send her back home. Case closed,” added Ms. Thomas.
“Cases like this are abundant across the country,” insisted Maya John from the Centre for Struggling Women. “It’s a win-win situation for all. The police can claim to have resolved a complaint within a day or two, the family ‘honour’ stays intact, the government crime figures remain at a ‘comfortable’ stagnation level. Only the victim is deprived of having anyone accountable for the crime committed against her; her honour and self-respect shattered and because technically there has been no crime, no social or institutional help is offered to rehabilitate her emotionally or mentally,” she said.
“Women who face crime often also don’t speak up because they simply have no financial support to seek justice,” Ms. John added.
Stating that social shame and barrier at home itself are huge deterrent from women seeking justice, Centre for Social Research’s Dr. Ranjana Kumari said: “Often the attitude of law enforcement agencies is that the woman is responsible for crime committed against her. Coupled with this, the insensitivity adds to several women not pursuing their cases and complaints to its logical end.”
On whether anyone can be held accountable for women withdrawing their complaints or their (the victims) turning hostile, she said: “The sheer bulk and number of cases and delay in getting justice from courts makes pursuing a hostile victim/witness an elusive proposition. Also crime against women is often viewed as soft crime, which adds to the problem.”
(The name of the victim and her employer has been changed).