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Women have no place to report crimes

Kavita Kishore
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The Pondicherry Women’s Commissiondoes not handle cases anymore

The office of the Puducherry’s Women’s Commission bears a haunted look as it has no permanent staff or chairperson to handle cases.Photo:T. Singaravelou
The office of the Puducherry’s Women’s Commission bears a haunted look as it has no permanent staff or chairperson to handle cases.Photo:T. Singaravelou

It has been almost two years since the State of Puducherry’s Women’s Commission has stopped taking cases and, since then, there have been few options for women who have had their rights violated. As a result, several crimes against women go unreported and unsolved, without a suitable platform for them to air their views.

Many women are reluctant to file a complaint in the police station, even if it is an all-women’s station. The Women’s Commission was earlier acting as a mediator between the two to ensure that the women’s rights were protected. Now, however, with no chairperson, no members or permanent staff, they have been dysfunctional, since late 2011, according to former chairperson of the Commission S. Kamalini.

The State Women’s Commission was set up in 2004 and since then they have taken up 2000 cases that include dowry problems, marital problems and harassment. However, since September 2011, the Commission has stopped taking cases. Now, even though it is still open, the government has neither provided salaries to the employees for the past 21 months nor have they taken steps to appoint a new chairperson to the commission. So far, apart from the Member Secretary – a Deputy Director in the Women and Child Department – there are no higher officials in the Commission.

Since there is nobody with absolute signing authority in the Commission, they are unable to even take up the most trivial cases. Even the Marriage Registration Department, which was one of the highlights of the Commission, now lies defunct, staff members say.

According to the staff, even though they were willing to work and come in to the office on a daily basis to sign their attendance, say they want to provide whatever support they could to the people that come in.

However, since there was no signing authority in the Commission, it was not possible for them to take up any cases.

Since early 2011, none of them have received salaries despite the Madras High Court issuing a direction to the government to pay the pending wages. In late 2011, the Commission stopped taking cases. However, even now they have been acting as a mediator for around 10 to 15 destitute women and children who receive maintenance from their next of kin.

According to an official from the Women and Child Department, the government was currently processing the paperwork to appoint a new chairperson. Till such time that they appointed someone, they would not be able to handle any cases.

For persons who are bold enough to approach the women police, there is another problem. For the past three days there has been no inspector in charge of the all-women’s police station in the North region. The previous Inspector, S. Anjammal, retired on December 31. So far they have not appointed anyone to take over the post and the station is under the charge of a Sub Inspector. The only woman inspector in the service is now in charge of the Villianur All Women’s Police Station.

The station in the North deals with women’s issues pertaining to those who live in Puducherry town and the surrounding areas. The Villianur station deals with all crimes against women taking place in Villianur and the rural areas.

Speaking on the issue, Deputy Inspector General of Police I.D. Shukla said the lack of an inspector was not a major problem, since the station came under the charge of the Superintendent of Police (North). However, the main issue was that they did not have the required personnel.

According to Ms. Kamalini, however, the police stations – including the all-women’s stations – did not provide an atmosphere where the victims felt comfortable enough to report a crime. With the lack of a Women’s Commission as well, several crimes against women were going unreported, she said.

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