By Shounak Ghosal, TNN | Jan 7, 2013,
Among all the cases of assault on women with disabilities cited in the petition, a majority took place in Bengal.
“Girls and women with disabilities are more vulnerable to exploitation. They are considered soft targets, with the perpetrators assuming they can get away easily. In many cases, such women are unable to comprehend or communicate about such acts of violence. Some reports suggest they are up to three times more likely to be victims of abuse as compared to other women,” says the petition. Three Bengal organizations – Centre for Care of Tortured Victims, Paschim Banga Rajya Prathibandhi Sammelani and Sruti Disability Rights Centre – are part of the petition prepared by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD).
“There are no consolidated figures on violence against women with disabilities. But the magnitude and scale of the attacks can be gauged by the fact that in 2012 alone there were
dozens of cases of sexual violence on women with disabilities were reported in the media from Bengal. Despite this, no attempt was made to map the magnitude of the problem. Neither the NCRB nor any other source has authentic figures,” says Muralidharan, NPRD assistant convener.
Several cases have been cited in the petition, with one case each from Chandigarh and Aurangabad and the rest from Bengal. It contains the testimony of a visual impaired girl at an event by Jadavpur University and Sruti Disability Rights Centre, who said: “I face sexual abuse regularly. I have to commute to college by public bus and need help in crossing roads and during bus rides where people take advantage of my condition. I can’t see, so identifying the molester is difficult. And others think he was just helping me board the bus. Who would believe me?”
Among the cases cited are the Bankura Medical College case, where a hearing-impaired girl was allegedly raped by a doctor in February 2012, the case of a national-level para-athlete who was allegedly raped by an auto driver in North Dinajpur in June 2012, and the Hooghly tragedy where a woman’s body was found buried at a home run by an NGO Dulal Smriti Samsad in July 2012.
The petition suggests several measures on compilation of data, support to victims, sensitization of police, monitoring of institutions and counselling and rehabilitation.
After a spate of attacks on women with disabilities, a team from the National Commission for Women visited Bengal in April 2012, and recommended that the requirements of persons with special needs have to be kept in mind by all police stations and medical establishments so that they are provided with support including services of interpreters, readers, professionals, psychologists and NGOs depending on the nature of the case. “A panel of experts for this purpose can be prepared for each district in consultation with the disabilities commissioner and the WCD department,” it said.