#Meghalayagangrape- 16 men raped an 18 year old , Yet No Outrage in the Hills #Vaw #India


Gangraped by 16 Men. Yet No Outrage in the Hills

Women are not safe from sexual predators even in Meghalaya’s matrilineal society. And it’s not a poll issue either, says Ratnadip Choudhury
Ratnadip Choudhury

Ratnadip Choudhury

January 31, 2013, Issue 6 Volume 10

Survivor The William Nagar gangrape victim with her parents, Photo: Ujjal Deb

ON THE night of 13 December last year, an 18-year-old girl was gangraped by 16 boys in William Nagar, the headquarters of the East Garo Hills district in Meghalaya, 240 km from Shillong. She was returning from the winter festival in the town along with two friends when the incident happened. “While my friends managed to escape, the boys hit me with stones and I lost consciousness,” says the victim. When she came to her senses, she found that her clothes were torn and the boys were raping her. Nine of the rapists were juveniles, and one a distant relative.

In the past decade, Meghalaya has seen over 800 rape cases, 500 of which are still pending trial in various courts. Contrary to the popular belief that women have greater control over their lives in matrilineal societies such as in Meghalaya, the condition of women seems to be no different here from the rest of the country.

“Our matrilineal society has become mere words on a placard, while the factors contributing to crimes against women in Meghalaya remain the same as in Delhi or Assam,” says Patricia Mukhim, editor of The Shillong Times. “There is little political will to change the situation.” In fact, there was a six-fold rise in cases of rape registered annually in the state between 2001 (26 cases) and 2010 (149 cases). In a state that boasts of women’s empowerment — where women inherit property and are seen at the forefront of domestic and public life — 830 rape cases between 2002 and 2012 should have shaken the conscience of the political parties and the administration, and forced them to act. Instead, the conviction rate remains awfully low, compensation is hardly awarded and there are only three fast track courts dealing with rape cases — one each in the Jaintia Hills, West Khasi Hills and East Khasi Hills districts. In the Garo Hills alone, which does not have a single fast track court, 23 rape cases, including two gangrape cases, have been pending for over a decade.

Though the William Nagar rape victim received a compensation of Rs 25,000 after human rights groups took up her case with the government, she asks, “What will I do with the money when I can no longer lead a normal life?” Her mother alleges that the doctors at the William Nagar Hospital refused to get her daughter admitted even though she was bleeding profusely. “Not only had the boys raped her, they had also mutilated her private parts and perhaps tried to kill her.”

The victim’s father thinks that the alarm bells are ringing for the community to wake up. “Earlier, there was no ‘culture’ of harassing women, but now the youngsters from the community — most of them school dropouts — are becoming violent and girls like my daughter become their victims.”

However, local community leaders and the political parties do not seem to care. “When we organised a public meeting after the William Nagar gangrape, none of them turned up. They only talk about the insurgency,” says Jaynie N Sangma of the Peoples’ Movement for Democratic Rights.

Even as Meghalaya goes to polls on 23 February, no party has raised the issue of sexual violence despite at least 13 women candidates expected to join the fray, including the lone woman in the Meghalaya Assembly, Urban Affairs Minister Ampareen Lyndoh. Also, of the total 14.8 lakh voters, 7.49 lakh are women, clearly outnumbering the 7.32 lakh male voters.

Deborah C Marak, one of the most prominent Congress leaders in William Nagar and the working president of the party in the state, did not even visit the rape victim. She did not respond to TEHELKA’s repeated attempts to contact her. “When she was attacked by militants in November last year, we took out protest rallies. She should also show the political will to fight for women,” says a woman Congress supporter on the condition of anonymity. The MP from Tura constituency in Garo Hills, Agatha Sangma from the NCP, also never took up this issue.

Jaynie has an explanation for this pervasive apathy. “Why would the politicians take up the William Nagar rape victim’s case and risk the wrath of the families of the 16 accused? In Meghalaya, each vote counts. As the community itself is least bothered about the issue, the political parties can afford not to speak out,” she says. Another factor is that women politicians have never had a strong voice in any political party in Meghalaya, as Mukhim points out.

WOMEN ARE unsafe not only in the underdeveloped Garo Hills, but also in the coal-rich Jaintia Hills and the relatively more developed Khasi Hills. In 2007, a 16- year-old girl was raped by her boyfriend and her throat slashed in Nongstoin in West Khasi Hills district. Though the girl survived after a month in hospital, the police passed it off as a “family matter” and the magistrate suggested a “compromise”.

“The entire system is indifferent towards rape victims. And if the accused are related to the powerful coal lobbies, there is huge pressure on the victim’s family to withdraw the case,” says Agnes Kharshiing, president of the Civil Society Women’s Organisation, which has been agitating against improper handling of rape cases.

The report of a committee on crime against women formed by the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly showed gross delays in the investigation of rape cases, but there is little pressure on the candidates of the 23 February poll to raise their voice for the rape victims. As the William Nagar rape victim puts it: “Women voters in the area should collectively decide not to support any political party unless they make crime against women a poll issue, but I guess women in Meghalaya are too weak to take such a bold step.”

ratnadip@tehelka.com

*NAMES WITHHELD TO PROTECT IDENTITIES

 

Traveling Uranium Film Festival in India- start from New Delhi on 4th Jan 2013 #mustshare


 

The Traveling  International Uranium Film Festival  is going to be inaugurated  in New Delhi  on January 4th  in Siri Fort auditorium no. 3 and will be on  road  to  major Indian cities  like  Shillong , Ranchi, Hyderabad,  Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and  finally end its journey as part of VIBGYOR International film festival , Thrissur ( Kerala )  in February, 2013.  The festival will offer wide range of animation videos, short films, documentaries and even feature films from  all over the world.  International Uranium  Film Festival was  first held in Rio (Brazil) and then travelled to cities in Portugal,  Berlin (Germany )  and  would move to  New York  after the Indian edition.

Green energy vs. Nuclear energy is today the most engaging contemporary debate in India. In this crucial period, there is a need to move the debate further and we feel that  art and culture is the best medium to reach a large audience. Today when India  and other  developing countries need energy to meet the needs of the people ,  establishments   are ambitious to go to any  limit to achieve their goal . As  down south,  our fisherman brother and sisters have been raising  concerns  and anxious about clean environment ,  unfortunately instead of addressing their concerns, they  are being   labeled as anti-national and anti-development. We need to just stop and ponder. Shouldn’t we learn from experiences of the communities of the past to take new decision? asks National award winning  documentary filmmaker Shriprakash, Festival director of the India edition.

“ Independent information is the base for independent decisions. The festival stimulates the discussion about the nuclear question and stimulates the production of new documentaries, movies and animated films about any nuclear or radioactive issue. In addition Uranium Film            Festival creates a neutral space to throw light on all nuclear issues .Societies and peoples have the right of choice if they want to follow the nuclear road or not” says Mr. Norbert,  international festival director

 

“  All the local organizers  are working  hard on the last minute work related to this event and  we are  excited for the response of the people towards this festival “   adds  shriprakash

Here is the schedule for the festival :

 

Delhi–      Siri Fort auditorium no.3 (4-6 Jan 2013)

Shillong–   Hotel Majestic , Shillong (10-11 jan 2013)

Ranchi–    Mass com auditorium,  Central University,  Jharkhand , Ranchi  15th Jan /Ranjendra  institute of medical sciences, ranchi, 16thjan    International Library and Cultural Center , Club Road Ranchi- 17 jan 2013

Hyderabad –  Golden Threshold Campus  auditorium /  Main campus auditorium ,  S.N  School of communication & art (Central university of Hyderabad)  and Humanities auditorium (University of Hyderabad) ( 22-24 January , 2013 ) and lamkaan,  road no.5, Banjara Hills   ( 25th January )

Pune–   Bal Gandharva  auditorium , Jungli  Maharaj Road, Pune ( 27- 31 January, 2013 )

Mumbai –  Ajmera house, next to grant road station west/Bupesh Gupta Bhawan Prabha devi ,   ( 2-3 February , 2013 )

Chennai–  Asian collages of Journalism, behind MS Swaminathan research foundation ,Taramani ( 5- 7 February , 2013 )

Thrissur   –  Kerala Sangeet Nataka Academy campus, Thrissur ,  VIBGYOR Film Festival  (  7-12 February , 2013 )

 

for further details contact-

Shriprakash
09431580434/08809854907

 

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