There has been a manifold increase in the number of reported cases of sexual assaults against girls and women with disabilities. Considered as soft targets, disabled girls and women are more vulnerable to sexual assaults. While specific provisions are contained in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act as well as the amendments to the criminal laws post Verma Committee with regard to disabled girls and women, it is a mater of grave concern that provisions contained therein are not implemented at all or are not implemented in full.
Backed by several case studies about the implementation of these laws with respect to girls and women with disabilities from several states, a delegation from the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, CREA and the Sruti Disability Rights Centre met the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam on September 18, 2015.
- The delegation pointed out the provision that the statement of a disabled victim of sexual assault should be recorded at the residence of the victim or a place where she was comfortable was not followed in many cases.
- Though the amended law and POCSO lay down that sign language interpreter/special educator, as the case needs, should be provided, this is rarely done.
They also impressed upon the NCW chair the necessity of making mandatory, training/sensitisation of police officers, judiciary and medical professionals on issues concerning persons with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities and the violence they face. Besides, there is a general lack of awareness and misconceptions surrounding sexuality and sexual abuse of women with disabilities.
The delegation also stressed upon the need to have mechanisms to monitor institutions where disabled girls/women study or are lodged, one of the recommendations made by the Verma Committee.
They also urged upon the Commission to intervene to see the National Crimes Records Bureau maintain statistics with regard to sexual attacks on disabled women, as a sub-category as in the case of dalits, minorities etc.
In the hour long interaction, the NCW Chair gave a patient hearing and concurred with the concerns raised by the delegation. The Chair has promised to immediately look into a few cases in which lapses on the part of the investigating agencies were pointed out. She also promised to create a module for training on disability specific issues as part of its legal awareness programme. Ms. Kumaramangalam also assured of speedy action on the other issues raised by the delegation as also to make the NCW premises accessible to persons with disabilities.
The full text of the memorandum given to the NCW is attached herewith.
The delegation consisted of Rupsa Mallik (CREA), Shampa Sengupta (Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata), Muralidharan (National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled) and Sharmista Atreje and Rupmani Chettri (Delhi Viklang Adhikar Manch).
On behalf of the Organisations
Released from the Office of:
National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
36, Pt. Ravishankar Shukla Lane, New Delhi 110 001
Full Text of the Memorandum
September 18, 2015
Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam
National Commission for Women
4, Deendayal Upadhaya Marg
New Delhi 110 001
We the representatives of various organisations representing persons with disabilities would like to bring to your attention certain aspects concerning the non-implementation or partial implementation of certain provisions of the amendments made to the criminal laws, post Verma Committee recommendations, as well as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act & its Rules with respect to girls and women with disabilities.
During the course of the last couple of years there has been an increase in the number of cases of sexual assault on girls and women with disabilities. It needs no reiteration that such cases are largely unreported.
Girls and women with disabilities are more vulnerable, as they are considered soft targets.
India ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Apart from various other Articles, Article 6 of the Convention mandates that the country make specific provisions to end discrimination and violence faced by women with disabilities.
The Verma Committee on the basis of the representations received from disability rights organisations had recommended several changes in criminal laws. Some of these were incorporated into law.
Experience from the cases in which we have intervened shows there is much to be desired in its implementation.
We have herewith annexed several case studies of violence against girls and women with disabilities that have occurred after these amendments were made. This would enable us to have a clear picture on the implementation of these laws and the intervention that would be required.
Lodging of FIRs
As the Denkanikotta (Krishnagiri, Tamilnadu), case will show, the victim who was a deaf girl had to be carried by her father on his shoulders for kilometres together to reach the police station and lodge an FIR.
The provision that her statement should be recorded at the residence of the victim or a place where she was comfortable with was not followed.
We are here not going into how the police and administration connived with the rapists and their powerful collaborators to see that evidence is tampered with, problems with medical examination, pressure exercised on the family etc.
In two separate cases from West Bengal, one under the Pandua Police Station & other under the Dankuni Police Station, the victims who had multiple disabilities had to visit the concerned police stations. In the latter case the police detained the victim at the Police station the whole night totally violating the provisions of POCSO and Criminal Law amendment Act. Even after FIRs were lodged, in both cases the threat of withdrawing the cases is constantly made.
Sign Language Interpreters/Special Educators
Though the amended law lays down that sign language interpreter/special educator, as the case needs, should be provided, this is rarely done.
- In the Denkanikotta case, the police did not arrange for a sign language interpreter. It was the local organisation which took up the issue that arranged for one.
- In the Jehangirpuri case, where a girl with intellectual disabilities was raped, the police had arranged for a sign language interpreter whereas what was needed was a special educator.
- In the Mongolpuri case, where again a girl with intellectual disabilities was raped, no special educator was present while recording her statement before the Judicial Magistrate, though this is mandatory.
- In both the cases from West Bengal, police either did not call any special educator or were not aware of what his/her role is. In the Pandua Police Station case, police turned sympathetic on seeing a bruised and raped young girl with multiple disabilities and offered money to the family to buy her chocolates. But were unaware of the rules framed under POCSO.
Most of the police stations or districts do not maintain a list of educators/sign language interpreters available in their area whose services can be utilised.
Training Of Police/Judiciary
& Medical Professionals
Training/sensitisation of police officers, judiciary and medical professionals on issues concerning persons with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities and the violence they face should be made mandatory. As the cases cited here will show, either the police or judiciary is not aware of the amended clauses or are not following it wilfully.
States like Delhi have Standing Orders that are to be followed while dealing with rape cases. But these do not address specific issues concerning disabled women. These Orders or SOPs must refer to the specific needs of women with disabilities, at each stage of the investigation and the role of the police during trial.
The Verma Committee had also recommended creation of mechanisms to monitor institutions where disabled girls study or are lodged. The recently released report of the Human Rights Watch also underlines the need for putting in place such mechanisms.
The Verma Committee had recognized that sex education must also be provided to disabled children and young people by professionally trained teachers and care givers, to ensure their safety and holistic development.
Such education can help in making intellectually disabled children and their wardens/caregivers aware of the issues and enable them to attempt to ward off or report such attacks. It needs to be emphasised that a majority of such abuses and attacks take place within homes and neighbourhoods.
Besides, there is a general lack of awareness and misconceptions surrounding sexuality and sexual abuse on women with disabilities.
No specific norm is followed while awarding compensation. “Victim Compensation Fund” or schemes in many states offer a pittance to rape victims in general. Even in a major state like West Bengal the compensation designated for a non-minor rape victim is just Rs. 20,000/-.
While a majority of states offer compensation to rape victims, Odisha does not offer compensation to rape victims. It only offers compensation to those who have suffered “Loss or injury causing severe mental agony to women and child victims in case of human trafficking)”. In the case of Goa, it is “In case of injury causing severe mental agony to women and child ….(in cases of human trafficking, rape cases, acid cases). In Union Territories and Delhi the minimum compensation for rape is Rs. 2 lakh and the maximum Rs. 3 lakh.
Discrepancy is not just in the matter of the designated amount. In cases which hog the media limelight compensations are announced immediately and the amounts also tend to be higher and decided arbitrarily.
- In the case of a mentally disabled woman who was subjected to gang rape and murdered in Rohtak, a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh was paid by the Haryana government.
- In the Jehangirpuri case, a compensation of Rs. 50,000/- was given.
- In the Mongolpuri case, compensation is yet to be given
- In the Denkanikotta case, compensation is yet to be announced. The High Court, on the intervention of the TARADAC, had ordered to pay a relief of Rs. 20,000/- to the father of the victim to meet medical expenses.
- In both the cases from West Bengal, no compensation has been given by the state government till date. In the Pandua case, the girl died a few months after the incident.
Though law and order is a state subject, mechanisms should be evolved wherein there is uniformity in the award of such compensations and it does not seem to be arbitrary or discretionary.
Compilation of Data
There are no consolidated figures with regard to violence against women with disabilities. But the magnitude and scale of the attacks can be gauged by the fact that in the years 2012-2014 alone there have been innumerable cases of sexual violence on women with disabilities reported in media from the state of West Bengal alone.
We would therefore recommend that crimes against women with disabilities be also recorded as a sub-category by the National Crimes Records Bureau.
Counselling and Rehabilitation
Policy and legal measures to prevent and reduce violence against women with disabilities and shield them against such abuses by themselves are not enough. Necessary legal aid/help to bring the perpetrators of such crime to justice has to be provided.
Victims of such crimes have to be provided with adequate and appropriate counselling facilities. In the case of a victim getting pregnant consequent to sexual abuse, appropriate counselling and options should be offered to the victims. Very few one stop crisis centres have been established.
Rehabilitation of such victims is also paramount. Rehabilitation measures should equip the victims with knowledge and skills to be able to engage in productive livelihood.
We urge upon the Commission to look into these aspects and intervene to not only ensure that the laws and implemented in full but also address the other concerns raised herein.
(Muralidharan) (Rupsa Mallik) (Shampa Sengupta)
Secretary, NPRD Director, CREA Director, SDRC
Mongolpuri Case, Delhi
Rape of a Girl with Intellectual Disability
A report appeared in The Hindu of July 24, 2015 which stated that a 17 year old with intellectual disabilities from Mongolpuri, Delhi, was admitted to a hospital and that she was six months pregnant. A seven member team from the Delhi Viklang Adhikar Manch (an affiliate of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled) met the family of the victim, the school where she was studying, the doctors at the hospital where she is undergoing treatment and the SHO, Mongolpuri Police Station.
What we have gathered from these interactions is as follows:
The girl and her younger brother (also intellectually disabled) are enrolled at the Vision Viklang Evam Punarvas Kendra, managed by the Vision Institute of Advanced Studies, located at 218, Rajapur village, Behind Prem Kutir Apartments, Sector 9, Rohini, Delhi 110085. The Kendra has 70 students on its rolls, with an average attendance of 40-45 students. The Kendra is registered under the PwD Act 1995.
A van from the Kendra used to pick up the siblings from their residence and drop them back. A special teacher, Meenu Bhatia, who is also head of the Kendra, used to come in the vehicle which used to pick up and drop the children back home. According to the girl’s mother, there were a few occasions on which the van reached back late, without the special teacher Meenu accompanying the children. When questioned by the mother, the driver used to reply that there was some function at the school which went past school hours and hence the delay.
According to the mother, apart from the school, her disabled daughter did not go anywhere else and besides the parents and children, no else lived in their house.
Since the girl was missing her periods for some time the mother got worried and consulted a doctor on June 29, 2015. A urine test was done on the advice of the doctor, which established that the girl was pregnant by six months. An FIR was filed at the Mongulpuri Police station under Sec. 376 of the IPC and Sec 6 of the Pocso.
The girl in her statement recorded before the magistrate had identified the driver as being the culprit.
- When we enquired whether a special educator (mandated by law in such cases) accompanied the I/O and magistrate while the statement was being recorded, the reply from the mother was in the negative.
After the arrest of the driver on July 13, the wife of the driver and another male relative of hers had visited the hospital on a couple of occasions and sought to exert pressure on the victim’s mother to withdraw the FIR. The mother also claims that the school authorities had asked her to withdraw the FIR.
The victim girl has now told her mother and our team during our over hour-long interaction at the counselling room at the hospital that the male relative of the driver, who accompanied the driver’s wife to the hospital, was also involved. This fact is not contained in the statement made before the magistrate, as it emerged after the statement was recorded.
- Despite our repeated requests for recording an additional statement in the light of new facts emerging, and even approaching the Commissioner of Police, the police have not recorded such a statement.
- Given the fact that the victim, who is intellectually disabled will become a mother, who would not be capable to take care of the child independently, support systems would be needed, which would include rehabilitation and counselling.
- Though the school is registered under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, there is no monitoring of such schools
- Though the school said that they do teach girl students about menstrual hygiene etc. and also help them during periods, the fact that she was missing her periods for six months was not noticed.
Jehangirpuri Case, Delhi
Rape of a Girl with Intellectual Disability
A few Delhi newspapers of August 15, 2013 reported — “Hearing-impaired girl raped; neighbour arrested”. The incident took place Samta Vihar, Mukundpur of Jahangirpuri, North Delhi, on August 14, 2013.
A team from the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) first visited the police station and later the family.
The girl, a minor, was a person with intellectual disabilities and could not speak. The police presumed her to be deaf and brought in a sign langue interpreter. What was needed was a special educator.
The statement of the victim was not recorded at her residence but at the Police Station, which militates against the CLAA 2013 which clearly specifies that statements of disabled victims should be recorded by the “police officer, at the residence of the person seeking to report such offence or at a convenient place of such person’s choice, in the presence of an interpreter or a special educator, as the case may be”. Also that “the recording of such information shall be videographed; and the police officer shall get the statement of the person recorded by a Judicial Magistrate under clause (0) of sub-section (SA) of section 164 as soon as possible”.
Denkanikotta (Krishnagiri) Case, Tamilnadu
Gangrape of a Deaf Girl
A 16 year old deaf girl was subjected to gangrape by four people in, Krishnagiri District, Tamilnadu. Though the parents went to the police and other officials, nobody intervened.
Though the incident took place on December 25, 2014 the FIR was lodged only on January 2, 2015 after a protest demonstration was held by the Tamilnadu Association for the Rights of all Types of Differently Abled & Caregivers (TARATDAC).
The father had to carry the victim for 14 kms on his shoulders to catch a bus to take the child to the Denkanikotta Government Hospital. Here also the police did not register a complaint. The (TARATDAC) on learning of the incident went to the hospital. They had to write to the Home Secretary, DGP etc seeking their intervention.
The FIR did not mention gangrape and the IPC/POCSO provisions in this regard were not included. Again a protest was held and the police made some changes in the FIR.
The police took the victim in their jeep to the thana for recording statement etc on several occasions. The statement was recorded in the thana, clearly violating provisions of the amended law.
Instead of arresting the culprits, it was the victim who along with her parents were kept a whole night in the thana and interrogated.
Sign language interpreter was not provided at any stage, though the victim was a deaf girl.
The two finger test was conducted on the victim more than three times.
Dankuni Police Station ( Hooghly district, West Bengal) Gang Rape Case on Woman With Cerebral Palsy
A 23 year old woman with cerebral palsy was gang-raped and thrown out from roof-top of a two storied building at Dankuni Police Station area in February 2014. Bengali newspaper Bartaman reported the case and when NPRD’s Bengal affiliate Paschimbang Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani heard about indifferent attitude of the police in this case, they decided to visit the victim’s family.
The young woman has multiple disabilities; she is unable to walk without a stick and cannot speak. She went out to a neighbour’s place and was lured by few men saying they will let her watch TV in their house. The incident took place in the same village where she lives. These men took her to the second floor of a building which is under construction. She later told her mother by signing that she realised something bad will happen when she was dragged into that house but could not resist as she cannot shout. There were three men who in turns raped her while the others kept a watch at the door. As she was almost unconscious and the men did not want to keep her alive in that condition – they threw her from the roof to the nearby meadow hoping she will die of injury. However some villagers spotted her lying there without any clothes and informed her family. The family rushed to the spot and seeing her bleeding took her for medical help. The doctors told the family that FIR should be lodged and police must be informed. So the family went to the police station. The police station detained the victim girl and her mother whole night and asked others to leave. The family was very nervous and abided but whatever the police officer said. So the victim of gang-rape, who also had multiple disabilities, was kept waiting in the local Thana along with her mother for a whole night. Later, when activists of Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani raised this question with police they said this was done to protect the victim and she would have been killed if she was send to the village that night.
An FIR was lodged and as the woman could by sign inform who the culprits were; one of the accused was arrested. The police called for a special educator but the raped girl was not interrogated by the special educator. Why the special educator was called is not clear as later he told us that his service was not utilised by the police. No videography was done. The arrested man was later released on bail.
From February 2014 till date (September 2015), the family of the woman is under constant threat. The mother almost developed psychological problems as she lives under fear psychosis and keeps on calling up activist Shampa Sengupta( who visited her and counselled her after the incidence) for guidance every week. As the accused and victims are neighbours, there are constant squabbles between them – sometimes in the pretext of goat raising even. There are threats that the woman will be killed. The villagers often take sides of the accused as they feels that a “productive” man at his prime age was being jailed due to an “unproductive” woman who cannot even walk or talk properly.
The police remained indifferent to further complaints and shows extremely insensitive behaviour towards this case. Not a single specific clause of CLAA 2013 was implemented in this case. No compensation was given to her by the state. Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani gave Rs 10,000/ to the woman for her medical expenses. Even her medical expenditures were not offered by the state. The family is keen for rehabilitation package for this woman as staying in the same village is becoming difficult for her. No such rehabilitation scheme is offered by West Bengal Government.
It is noticed in this case that not only the victim but other family members particularly the parents also require counselling after such incidents but there is hardly any scope to get the same in a rural set-up.
Excerpts from Report of Fact finding team visiting Pandua Rape Case – the team consisted of Shampa Sengupta, Sruti Disability Rights Centre & Advocate Nivedita Guhathakutta, Human Rights Law Network with support from local organisation Graham Bell Centre for Deaf
On 19th June, 2013, a 12 year old girl living with Cerebral Palsy was brutally raped and tortured by her neighbour in Pandua, Hooghly District, West Bengal. She was found in half naked and profusely bleeding state in the village field by two women. The disabled child was kidnapped from her home by the culprit when her parents were away in the village fair to sell eatables. He took her to the adjoining village field and brutally raped her and after the heinous act, she was left in that deplorable state in the field.
The father of the victim girl was not present at the time of our visit as he had gone to the city. The mother of the victim girl, the aunt and few other relatives of the victim girl were present to speak to us. The mother of the victim girl narrated that on 18th June, 2013 there was a village fair where she and her husband had gone for business leaving their daughter alone in the house. The relatives in the adjoining houses were requested to keep an eye on the child which they generally do. However on that fatal date, the culprit entered the house of the victim girl in their absence, though a relative of the family did see the man entering the victims’ house but as the man was known to them, the said relative claims that he could not comprehend that the man would indulge in something so heinous. The culprit then took the child to the nearby fields and raped her and after the heinous act, left her abandoned in the field in a profusely bleeding state. The parents of the child when found the child missing at home, started looking for her frantically everywhere. In the meantime, the child was found in the field by two village women, who hurriedly informed the family who rescued the child and filed a First Information report in the Pandua Police Station being Pandua PS case no: 265 dated 29.06.13 u/s 376 (2) (i) (l) Indian Penal Code, 1860 against the culprit. The child was taken to the police station and police officers among whom one being a lady police officer visited the house of the victim to speak to the family and other relevant people.
The culprit was immediately arrested and was produced before the Court. The culprit is a middle aged man with wife and children. The parents and wife of the culprit had approached the family of the victim girl a number of times to withdraw the criminal case. They have also approached the local community based organisation, requesting them to withdraw the criminal case. They started giving threats to the victim’s family and there is a local pressure on withdrawing the case as the abuser’s family is starving, he being only bread earner of the family.
Firstly, the relevant provisions of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 were not included in the First Information Report. Secondly, since the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 were not included consequently the assistance of no special educator or interpreter was taken to record the statement from the victim girl. Again in this case too, instead of coming to the police station, the victim girl should have been asked to remain at her place of residence where a woman police officer would go and record her statement but no such step was taken. The statement of the victim girl was also not recorded by videography, thus violating Section 13 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.
Note: This fact finding team visited the girl on 21st October 2013 and saw the victim girl in poor health conditions. She died after few months of this visit though the legal case is pending in the court. No compensation or medical relief was given to her by State Government.
FACT-SHEET ON SOME RAPE/SEXUAL ABUSE BETWEEN FEBRUARY 2012 to DECEMBER 2014 ON WOMEN WHO ARE DISABLED IN WEST BENGAL – COMPILED BY PASCHIMBANGA RAJYA PRATIBANDHI SAMMELANI – AS REPORTED IN MEDIA ( CASES THAT ARE NOT REPORTED IN MEDIA ARE NOT MENTIONED HERE, BUT WE HAVE INFORMATION OF OTHER CASES FROM THE FIELD)