As several cases of violence against women in India are increasingly highlighted in the world media efforts are also on increase to stop it. AID has been in forefront of women empowerment and rescue from several years. AID has consciously supported projects where women are at the forefront or equally benefited from the efforts.
AID JHU has supported Short Stay Shelter for female survivors of violence in Rajasthan with AID Partner Tara Ahluwalia of Bal Evam Mahila Chetna Samiti (Child and Women Welfare Committee). This shelter will give temporary relief to women rescued from sex trafficking, rape cases and sexual assaults. Tara Ahluwalia also provides legal assistance to the survivors. Violence against women in India come in several forms and cases are related to such as Dowry, Female Infanticide, Child Marriage, Rape, Sexual Assaults, Trafficking, Witch Hunting, Nata Pratha (Divorce settlements) and Prostitution.
Over 700 women were killed across India in 2007 after being declared a witch. Tara Ahluwalia’s work against witch hunting led to anti Witch Hunting Act in Rajasthan State Assembly called ‘Dayan Virodhi Act’. A case study of Chandi Kumhar (2001).
Sex determination test of fetus is banned in all clinics in India to curb the rate of female Infanticide. Several doctors had been caught secretly providing sex of the fetus by Tara Ahluwalia sting operations.
Few of the statistics are
- 3 women are killed publicly in Bhilwara every year.
- 4 cases of witch hunting every month.
- 62 cases of witch hunting registered by Taraji.
- Assistance in 370 cases in the last 2 years.
Tara Ahiuwalia has been working with women’s issues in the Bhilwada dist. of Rajasthan since 1986. She started her stint in the area as a social-worker in UNICEF funded “Women’s Development Program.” After the decade-long project ended, she stayed on to serve as an advocate for the rural women who continue to seek her out. Taraji holds degrees in Psychology and Social Work, and has authored many articles on women’s issues. Her book on witch-hunting in Bhilwada is awaiting release. Taraji continues her fight to raise awareness about violence against women in every form- female foeticide, dowry deaths, domestic violence, rape. Her work with witch- hunting victims has led to the Govt. of Rajasthan drafting the “Dayan Virodhi Act.” She is working to educate UNICEF and other organizations about “natha-pratha.” Her sustained work with women has led to a community that is more sensitized towards this issue and a more supportive judiciary. She hopes to conitnue with her initiatives and idea in in Bhilwada with some upcoming projects like Sangharshsheel Mahila Mela: To organize a mela inviting about 200 women who have fought brave struggles to provide a platform for collective strength to emerge. The mela can build a solidarity and help in identifying women who can take this work forward. The women will be honored and the team of lawyers and sensitive police officers will also be honored.
Name Tara Ahiuwalia
Location Living in Bhilwada district of Ralasthan for the last 25 years with her family
Education Degree in Psychology and Masters in Social Work from Udaipur specializing in Labour Welfare Impact 10 years from 1986 to1994 she worked with UNICEF funded Women Development Program.
Since 1994 individually helping women with: violence within families, sexual harassment within homes, schools and supposedly safe and unsafe places, rape victims, witch hunting victims, victims of caste based atrocities.
Affiliated with Bal Evam Mahila Chetna Samiti since 1994, org will be renamed to Pahal now.
• For the last 5 years, with support from Ministry of Health, Rajsthan, she has initiated a FCC (FamilyCounsellingCenter) in BhilwadaGovernmentHospital.
• With support from CFAR (Center for Advocacy and Research, Delhi), she worked on identifying clinics which were providing specific services for female foeticide and got the Govt. to cancel registrations for 11 clinics under PCPDNT act.
• Se had supported more than 350 women who were victims of rape (gang, custodial, child). murder, dowry, witch hunting, sexual harassment at home and work, domestic violence, eve teasing, property rights etc.
• In aN the 43 cases of rape reported to her, she could get the criminals convicted Has rehabilitated about 25 women
• Taraji worked towards making UNICEF aware of the practice of NathaPratha The lawyers she works with do not charge any fee. There were atleast 90 cases
that this lawyers group had taken up for her.
Taraji worked with National Women’s Commission to highlight the plight of witch- hunting victims. She took 10 victims to a seminar in Jaipur, so they could speak about their experiences. Govt. of Rajasthan has drafted “Dayan Virodhi Act”
• Form a team which will work full time on issues related to women and build a support network as well as deal with individual cases of violence.
• Organize a 3 days mela of all the women who got justice by approaching her.
• Organize self defence classes (venledo) for young girls in high schools
• Document some of the case studies highligting struggles of these women who have approached her and fought till the end for their rights.
• Continue the work on fighting against institutionalized Female Foeticide and increase awareness in public.
• Use local individual donations to set up a basic office for her team and a support center for victims.
• Register as a service provider for counseling under Domestic Violence Act.
Recourse Rare for Witch Hunt Victims in India
Run Date: 07/16/07
By Swati Saxena
Women in some parts of India remain vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft that push them out of home and family. Advocates say there is little recourse for victims. Khemi Balia was cleared of the charge by a village council, a rare vindication.
!BHILWARA, India (WOMENSENEWS)--At midnight, !inside her home in a remote village in India, 16-year-old Chaandi Balia started rolling on the floor, (thrashing about violently while making strange sounds. As the entire village gathered to watch her “playing,” as it’s called in the local parlance, Chaandi Ba/ia announced that a spirit had taken Jover her body and told her that Khemi Ba/ia, her old aunt, was a witch and must be burned. rri, (jO, accused witch. Led by Chaandi Balia and her family, the villagers worked themselves into a frenzy and started gathering sticks to prepare a funeral pyre. That night, knowing that her only chance of survival was escape, Khemi Ba/ia silently slipped out of the village. The frail 60-year-old woman traveled barefoot through the cold fields; she did not know where she was going, and was not even sure if she would live to see the morning.
Ba/ia safely reached a village strange to her where she did not know anyone. Reluctant to place her faith in the police, she befriended a local village woman who advised her to approach Tara Ahiuwalia, a social worker in the nearby town of Bhilwara who helps victims of witch-hunting. From experience, Ahiuwalia knew that Balia was being persecuted because of the one-acre farmland she owned, her only source of livelihood. By labeling her as a witch, Balia’s accusers effectively removed her from the village and could now possess her land,
Cases of witch-hunting occur largely in rural areas of half a dozen states, primarily in the northern and central parts of India. About 700 women were killed last year under suspicion of being a witch, according to news media reports.
“These areas face acute poverty, with little or no access to the most basic health care, education and sanitation,” says Ahluwalia. “In these circumstances, superstition gains a force of its own. The problems are many- -bad crop, death in the family, loss of a child, persistent illness or drying up of wells--but the solution remains the same: locate the witch (esponsible for the problem and punish her.”
jCommon Ploy to Harass Women
Labeling a woman as a witch is a common ploy to grab land, settle scores or even to punish her for turning down sexual advances. Cases have a/so come up where a strong-willed
woman is targeted because she is assertive and is seen as a threat. In a majority of the cases, it is difficult for the accused woman to reach out for help and she is forced to either abandon her home and family, commit suicide or is brutally murdered.
Most cases are not documented because it’s difficult for women to travel from isolated regions to file reports, Ahiuwalia says, and because the violence is largely directed toward women, the police often fail to take it seriously when they do.
“At best, they dismiss it as a social evil to be resolved within the community,” she says. “In cases where the women do manage to reach the police station, the apathetic attitude of the police makes the process of lodging a complaint even more tedious.”
Ahiuwalia helped Balia not by going to the police station, but by leveraging the platform of a “jaati panchayat,” a respected group of people from the community who hear disputes in front of the entire village and issue a decision. Social pressure ensures that the decisions are obeyed. Ahluwa/ia has used the system for the past 25 years to resolve disputes.
Ahiuwalia gathered people from the entire village and threatened to expose the family and have them arrested. The accusers had not bargained for the intervention of a powerful outsider. Cowed down, they admitted the witch-hunt was a charade and publicly apologized to Balia. It was an exceptional case and she was able
The ju: panciaya resoles vce ctes.
PROJECT TO PROTECT FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO LIVE AND WORK WITH DIGNITY, EQUALITY AND LIBERTY
Vision: To create a society where women live with dignity, equality and liberty.
Mission: To reach out to help every woman whose rights of life, liberty and equality are hampered or violated.
I. To attack patriarchy by creating a gender just environment in the society;
2. To start legal aid programmes br women o all sections of the society to help them preserving their human rights, health rights, property rights etc.;
3. To run gender sensitization sessions in various schools and colleges;
4. To train young girls and women for their self defense keeping in view the increasing cases of violence against women;
5. To start a cell which can provide every kind of help to women in need, for example, shelter, reproductive health counseling and service; helping them in dealing with police and judicial administration, running training programmes that can make help women being self dependent.
Status of Women in context of India, Rajasthan, and area of intervention
As we all know, society is openly male-dominated. Even in the 21st century, as we pride ourselves on the developments our nation is making, our women are strides behind this so-called progress. In our patriarchal society, the condition of women is not improving, particularly in rural societies. Just because a handful of girls are now educated we should not be under the impression that the majority of women in India have entered into mainstream development. This process will need a lot of effort and time.
If we examine the feminist movement in Rajasthan, we find that historically it has been a major force in affecting the lives of women in this state. Even today, Rajasthan is not as developed as Kerala in women literacy rate. So, we really need take up efforts to increase the status of girl-child education.
In regards to the area of intervention, Bhilwara is also known as the Mewar Belt. It is socio-culturally backward, still following the feudal system. It is strongly connected to Chittorgarh where Mughal rule established certain norms; these norms are visible in the structure of families and society in Bhilwara. Today, there are numerous social evils within the family that prevent a woman from progressing in life. Education in rural districts of Bhilwara is mainly a privilege for boys. Girls regularly become victims of gender-discrimination in the family. A woman does not have the decision-making powers over her reproductive rights.
If we talk about declining of girl child sex ratio, the situation is very adverse. Tribal girls from Andhra Prdesh, Chattisgarh, and Karnataka are being brought to Bhilwara for marriage. Approximately 2500 bachelors of marriageable age remain unwed due to the lack of girls. I have realized that much focus needs to be given to this serious issue of declining sex ratio, especially on raising social and legal awareness. The root cause of declining sex ratio is hidden in various gender biased traditions and practices like dowry, nata pratha, low literacy rate among women, increasing cases of violence against women, sati pratha, dacon pratha, low percentage of working women and so on.
Perhaps the statistics about the status of women does not clearly explain the miserable condition the Indian women, and particularly that belonging to Rajasthan. Her daily life and routine simply gives some glimpses of these discriminatory practices. The discrimination begins even before birth. For most couples, a girl child is unwanted, and in almost every facet of her life, she gets a raw deal. If her life is not snuffed out by foeticide or infanticide and if she is given a chance of life at all, it is a hard journey for her all through.
Biologically, females are the superior sex. During pregnancy, more male foetuses are spontaneously aborted. Male babies have higher rates of still births and in most societies, more males than females die in the early years of infancy and childhood.
There are certain related evidences highlighted by media. For example, recently, a woman in Rajasthan killed her female child only after a few hours of the birth. The traumatic statement of the lady says, “It was my third child. The sex determination test indicated a male child. Even then my in-laws who, anyhow accepted my two girl children, had warned me before I was hospitalised that their doors would be closed in case I returned with a female child. I have no regrets of my act since I had no other alternative.” Obviously, this is only one among the several such cases which go
Literacy, the first step towards formal education, also reveals the grim scenario. The population of women who are literate has increased just by 15 per cent over the last decade from 39 per cent in 1991 to 54 per cent in 2001. And even today, 193 million women lack the basic capability to read and write.
The enrolment of girls in schools even at the primary level is lower when compared to boys. In 1999-2000, the enrolment ratio for girls was 85 per cent in class 1-V (6-1 1 years) (GOT, 2001). The emphasis laid upon their household responsibilities such as cooking and child/elderly care, training them for marriage, inadequate facilities for girls in schools, absence of adequate female teachers, fear for their safety and so on are among the reasons for low enrolment of girls in schools. This is further compounded by higher levels of dropouts among girls. In 1999-2000, 42 per cent of girls in primary schools had dropped out. Given low retention, very few girls reach primary (13 per cent), middle (9 per cent), secondary school (5 per cent) or higher levels (4 per cent) of education (while 61 per cent receive no schooling). (GOl, 2001)
The indicators selected to reflect the health status of women are: mean age at marriage, total fertility rates, anemia levels in women and couple protection rate.
Despite the legally stipulated age of 18 years at marriage, girls still get married before attaining this age in India. Here, the mean age at marriage for females stands out at 17 years (Rustogi, 2004). And the NFHS-II (1998-99) states that nearly 60 to 80 per cent of married women surveyed between the ages of 25 to 49 years were married before they were 18 years old. Early marriage often accompanies early pregnancy, with young unprepared mothers being saddled with responsibilities beyond their capacities. Pregnancies at young ages are more likely to result in underweight babies, stillbirth and abortions, especially where mothers suffer from poor health and deficiencies.
Every second women in India suffer from some degree of anemia, according to NFHS-II. Severe anemia is reported by 2 per cent women while 35 per cent and 15 per cent are affected by mild and moderate anemia levels respectively.
In spite of all this, the additional burden of contraception also falls overwhelmingly on women. The latest data available from the Department of Family Welfare (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) reveals that female sterilizations account for 95 per cent of all sterilizations (Rustogi, 2004). Since women. are viewed mainly as the means of reproduction, it is supposed to be their sole responsibility to control or protect themselves against further reproduction.
Apart from the trends discussed earlier, the Indian widows are particularly prone to risks of social isolation and cultural castigation.
According to the Hindu Dharamshastras, the man needed a wife, mainly for the fulfillment of religious duties especially procreation; on the death of the wife, man was, therefore, obliged to immediately remarry. However, on the death of the husband, the women if she survives, lives a life devoid of any status in the society. She is supposed to be bound to her husband even after his death. Sxua1ity outside of marriage is out of question for her. She also has to renounce all the other joys of life. And that may be the reason why ‘the widow’s reaction to the death of the spouse was mostly in terms of a sense of loss or feeling of deterioration in their livelihood and status, neglect by the family, loneliness, loss of respect, added responsibilities and burden’ (Muthayya, 1995).
Proposal for office of Bal va Mahila chetna samiti the organization
Work of the organization – Supporting women who are victims of gender and caste based violence
Need for this proposal – I have been doing most of the work at an individual level with support from sensitive group of people from different walks of life, neighbors, friends, lawyer, doctors all have helped and contributed towards my work. The support group of volunteers spends a lot of their time and resources helping victims of violence at the police station and relevant authorities.
After so many years of working with women and with ever increasing cases of violence that come to me, I feel a need to consolidate, organize and build a team to work constructively and effectively. A lot of the women who have fought tough and brave struggles have the potential to grow into a support network for more women. In order to tap this potential I would like to build a full time team from the violentries who have been working with me for a long time. The following are the expenses to run an office and support workers to handle ever increasing flow of victims.