Matrilineal or Monster-real Meghalaya: The pseudo security of women in ‘Abode of Clouds’
~~ By Sushmita Nath
Meghalaya, being a matrilineal state where women are said to be respected and who enjoy a secure place in society, is however plagued with the recent rise in crime against women and children.
Since the past few years, the state has seen a surge in criminal activities meted out against the women and children even as the question of their safety and security is being raised by concerned citizens from time to time.
According to latest statistics available with the police, total number of cases of crime against women from 2007-2016 in the state stands at 2865 while in 2017 (Jan till June), total number of cases registered is 293.
Meanwhile, the total number of cases of crime against children registered with the police from 2007-2016 is 1414, while in 2017 (Jan till June), the number stands at 179.
CASES REPORTED IN THE MONTH OF AUGUST 2017 (WOMEN/CHILDREN)
Crime against women and children has no parameters; most of the cases go unreported for fear of stereotypical mindset of the society. Statistics shows that in just one month (August 2017), as many as 6 cases of crime against women and children were reported in the state.
02 August 2017 – A woman lodged a complaint that on Aug. 2 circa 11 pm, one Raj Kumar Hajong forcibly entered her house at Hat Mawdon (EKH), molested and strangulated her and also snatched her money bag.
03 August 2017 – Doni Chyrmang lodged a complaint that on Aug. 3 circa 3 am, one Thianghun Biam (37 yrs) assaulted his wife at their residence at Lum Chyrmang, Mihmyntdu (WJH). As a result, victim sustained grievous injuries and was admitted at CH Shillong for treatment.
04 August 2017 – Jessica Myrchiang lodged a complaint that on Aug. 4 around 11.40 am, one Riya Pale along with accomplices assaulted and attempted to murder her by stabbing her with a scissor at Mihmyntdu village (WJH) and also snatched her cell phone.
08 August 2017 – A complaint was lodged that on Aug. 8 circa 1 pm, one forty-eight year old man raped a seven year old girl in a village under Pynursla (EKH). Police arrested the accused.
16 August 2017 – A woman lodged a complaint that on Aug. 16 around 2.40 am, her husband –Aphasuddin (36 yrs) assaulted her with a knife, causing injuries to her in their residence at Pyrkan, Shella (EKH).
20 August 2017 – On Aug. 20 around 3 pm, one person (policeman) Rajesh Sharma (29 yrs) stabbed his wife and later himself in their quarter at Shillong Sadar PS Complex. As a result, both sustained injuries and were shifted to CH Shillong and were referred to NEIGRIHMS.
The recent figure raises questions as to – Whether women and children are safe or not?
Out of the many crime cases, rape is one such offence which has increased over the years.
PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL OFFENCES
Police records depict that in a span of 10 years, minor rape has gone up from 41 in 2007 to 122 in 2016. And the total number of cases registered from 2007-2016 is 706. Data also highlights that the year 2016 recorded the highest number of rape cases registered.
In the crime against women section which is available in the Meghalaya Police website it was reported that the total number of rape cases registered from 2007-2016 is 1309 and 2016 recorded the highest number of rape cases. The number shot up from 82 in 2007 to 190 in 2016.
WHY CRIME AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN IS ON THE RISE?
In a conversation with East Khasi Hills Superintendent of Police (City), Vivek Syiem, it was made known that one of the reasons behind the increase in the number of cases is attributed to awareness amongst the women folk. He said that nowadays, people are more aware of the law than they were 10 years ago.
Women no longer fear discrimination, rather they choose to come out in the open and expose the heinous crime so that justice can be served rather than hiding / shushing the crime through compromises.
Syiem also divulged that the other reason behind the rise in crime against women, particularly children is due to broken families, single parent, distant relationship between child and parents and also due to easy accessibility to internet.
"All these factors put together can be attributed as the main reasons why crime against women and children is on the rise. In the case of easy accessibility to internet, parents should be careful and knowledgeable about the devices given to their children and also ensure that all the adult sites are filtered to prevent their kids from viewing porn sites," Syiem said.
It was informed that the victims who often fall prey are those children who belong to broken families and the culprits are none other than their own people like father, stepfather and relatives.
HOW TO TACKLE THIS PROBLEM?
The SP (City) maintained that people need to change their mindset regarding the issue and the victim should not be ignored or treated differently but the perpetrator of the crime should be punished and held guilty.
Syiem also highlighted on the need to educate the young people both boys and girls on the different meanings of 'TOUCH'. "The students should be taught in school on how to differentiate between a good 'touch' and a bad 'touch'", says Syiem adding that awareness is the need of the hour.
Counselling is another very important yet an ignored solution to the problem. In most cases, the victims are in need of somebody to confide upon, to share their problems and to seek guidance. This, however is missing from our current society and the need for the same cannot be overlooked.
It was informed that since the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was enforced in the state on November 14, 2012, an average of 40-50 cases have been registered. Children are being used for pornography, penetrative sex and sexual assault and in cases like these, the POCSO Act has been helpful in differentiating sexual offence for adults (Above 18) and sexual offences for minors (below 18).
"POCSO cases are mostly investigated by the women police. They are specialised in handling offences against children and we have put them on priority basis," Syiem said adding that special report cases, charge-sheets and investigation is monitored on all levels while maintaining "If there is an offence against a child, we are very sure that we bring up the evidence and ensure conviction."
ABETMENT OF CRIME
It was informed that most rape victims were denied justice and forced to compromise for fear of tarnishing the image of that family or the village as a whole. Meghalaya has witnessed two-three cases where a rape victim was forced to compromise by either the family members or the Dorbar Shnong for fear of stigmatisation and this is a result of 'ignorance and selfish motives'.
The SP (City) warned those people who attempts to suppress or tries to negotiate on sexual offences. "They will be penalised," he said.
ROLE OF DORBAR SHNONG IN TACKLING THIS MENACE
Except for one or two cases, the Dorbar Shnong(s) have always been a backbone for the society and an agency in maintaining law and order. "The Dorbar Shnong(s) are very supportive, especially in Shillong, the local stakeholders are very helpful in apprehending the culprits and maintaining law and order," Syiem said adding that the Dorbar Shnong has played a very positive role in this regard.
"Violence against women is a public health problem. It can be prevented"
By Sushmita Nath for TNT- The Northeast Today News
The present article is part of an internship programme by Sushmita Nath of Sikkim Manipal University, Shillong