There has been growing consciousness about woman human rights movements and change in patriarchal legacy as a global phenomenon.
Many of the concerns of gender discourses have been visibly reflected in Government’s development policy relating to education, employment, governance and budget. But in many parts of Odisha, women are struggling amid age-old socio-cultural systems, male dominance, caste and ethnic barriers and bad economic policy of the Government.
The violence against women includes poverty, unemployment, gender discrimination, girl child labour, trafficking, sexual exploitation with false promise of marriage and sexual harassment at workplace. The issue of unwed mother in Odisha is very well known to the StateCommission for Women (SCW), National Commission of Women (NCW) and the State Government. In 2004, the then NCW chairperson Dr Purnima Advani had expressed deep anguish over the rising cases of violence against the working women in the State and urged the State Government to intervene in the cases.
Moreover, many survey reports by women groups and news by print media established the fact that the issue of single mother is more visible in mines and industrial areas like Joda-Badbil in Keonjhar, Talcher, Jharasuguda , Koida, Sundergada and Sukinda, etc.
Women organisations and national platform of mining affected communities like NSS, Angul and MM&P came off with study reports on single mother to highlight the issue.
It is evident that women are prone to different types of violence in mining areas and cases of single mother suffering the worst are rampant. Marginalised poor, resourceless, unskilled and illiterate families, a majority of whom are farmers, Adivasis, landless Dalits, fisher folk and mines workers, are under pressure to earn a livelihood while coping with the changing local economic scenario.
Mineral extraction activities caused huge displacement, pollution, loss of livelihood of people dependent on agriculture, water and forest based subsistence economy which was providing them food security and informal self employment in a number of ways.
There has been growing poverty, dislocation of families and breakdown of community life due to multiple displacements that affect women and make their position vulnerable, encouraging girl child labour as domestic maids, wage workers in mines, distress migration in families in search of livelihood, sale of girls by parents and social insecurity in family and community.
This kind of situation makes young women vulnerable when they go out to earn a living as they become easy prey of false promises of marriage and sexual exploitation through cheating.
Mining attracts the inflow of outsiders, truckers, casual workers in mining, contractors, and encourages consumer culture, liquor and different types of addiction, impacting the local people, mostly poor young women to get into easy trap of sexual exploitation by cunning male. Consent of young women for sexual co-habitation is taken fraudulently which results in unwed mother.
Leave apart mining, there are also male perpetrators in the villages, protected by dominant people of the locality, who are denying marriage in demand of dowry and avoiding the girls on caste, religion and community ground in the plea of their parent pressure and fear of imposition of social sanctions by villagers. In these cases, girls are being insisted to go for illegal abortion and threatened with gross atrocities if they expose the case in public.
It is observed that almost all single mothers are poor and live in extreme poverty while a majority of them are illiterate, unskilled and lack legal awareness to protect them.
The girls are routinely discouraged to go against the male as a culture and in case of single mother, most women victims are being seen as culprit by the family and society. There has been very limited awareness about law and the local law enforcing agencies, Government officials and police and others.
The provisions of IPC Sections 493,417,317 and 506 are mentioned by police in the FIR but in a majority of cases, there has been no action.
It is observed that the protective laws for single women are not strong enough and the victims have to pass through a tedious legal procedure as a result the perpetrators easily manage to escape with very less punishment or without punishment. In the absence of compulsory and valid marriage registrations, the issue of DNA test has been a challenge to single mothers.
The single mothers face the problem of legal identity when it comes to rehabilitation and resettlement because they are not being recognised as a family for any Government benefits. Many of the schemes are not recognising single mother as women in distress.
The Odisha Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2006 has provision that the unmarried girl of 30 years of age in a family should be treated as a separate family but this has not been applied in case of single mothers staying in the mining areas. There is no specific scheme of rehabilitation for single women who are deserted by act of sexual exploitation.
The police, PRI leaders, media, CSO and local officials are very less aware about the issue who needs to be sensitised. The police play a crucial role in criminal justice administration but it is unfortunate that the role of police is very insensitive and discouraging in terms of filing of FIR and helping the young women victims with all sympathy and handling the case with a human face.
The police need gender training and orientation to deal with such sensitive cases. There has been absence of women police station and women and child desk in police stations of mining areas along with adequate trained woman staff to intervene in women violence cases.
The SCW, Home and WCD departments and other related bodies should have proactive role in intervening in the cases. The women bodies like SCW should have adequate legal power to deal with such issues. The PRI institutions can identify them to rehabilitate through different schemes like homestead land, housing, food under PDS and employment etc. The periphery development funds should have provision for their rehabilitation and they should be treated as separate family for rehabilitation in case of displacement.
The Government should ensure adolescent girls’ health education, sex education, and awareness about compulsory and valid marriage registration in high schools, colleges, Anganwadi and Mahila Mandals in mines areas.
The single mother should have socio-psychological and moral counseling support and guidance in their crisis when they are without support and getting non-cooperation from both the sides, parents and the perpetrator. The Government should encourage women organisations in mines and industrial areas to play a pro active role of counselor and facilitators along with all kinds of support and training to handle the cases in their locality.
Government and the women organisations should provide multi level services like socio- psychological support, minimum financial assistance for livelihood, employment, and emergency child health care, legal aid to access justice and must promote understanding in society for women to have a life with dignity.
(The writer, a rights activist, can be reached at [email protected])
Read more here — http://www.dailypioneer.com/state-editions/bhubaneswar/violence-galore-against-hapless-single-mothers.html