Survivors of rape and their case workers are often denied their right to register a First Information Report in the state of Uttar Pradesh, a punishable offence under the section 166 A (c) of the Indian Penal Code, reveals an e-report released by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI) recently.
“The police is the first official body to whom survivors can complain and speak about the incident that has occurred. The role of the police in filing an FIR is very important and that is when the legal process begins for the complainant,” said Programme Head of the Police Reforms Programme at CHRI, Devika Prasad. “When the complainant first comes to file an FIR, they must not doubt the survivor nor can they refuse to file the FIR for them,” she added. The problem worsens if the victim is a Dalit survivor, who experiences double discrimination of gender and caste. As per the report, none of the 14 survivors mentioned as case studies in the report, could register an FIR immediately.
In most cases, the first step in the legal process itself becomes challenging for the victim. Project officer of CHRI, Ankur Otto presented the findings of the detailed report that reflected a delay in the legal process of FIR registration by the Superintendent In charge and the disbelief of the victim through an “insensitive attitude” reduced the belief that the survivor had in the legal system.
This insensitive attitude is brought out time and again in the 14 cases covered by the report, one of which is that of a survivor in Aligarh. She had alleged that her husband’s friend raped her in her home in May, 2017. She went to the local police station on the same day of the incident by herself, but no FIR was registered. After 15 days, she was beaten up and molested by the same perpetrator. She visited the police station and submitted her written complaint to a male chowki in charge of the rank of Sub-Inspector (SI) who remarked, “You aren’t even that beautiful that someone will trouble you, you aren’t even a young girl that someone will sexually assault you.”
National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights independent leader, Shobhana Smriti narrated her experience of a time when she assisted the case of a minor Bahujan survivor in Jaunpur. She stated that after multiple attempts of submitting a written application as a caseworker, she met with the Superintendent of Police, who, in the presence of the retired Inspector General of Police, S. R. Darapuri said, “Sir, you don’t know. This child’s mother is characterless, she can do anything for money that’s why she is getting such work done by her daughter.”
As per the findings of the 2020 report, “There is an overwhelming feeling that women are harassed, victimised and targeted by the police based on their gender. Survivors and caseworkers feel that the police disbelieve them from the onset”
Former Director General of Police in Uttar Pradesh, Sutapa Sanyal emphasized the need for our policing system to become more “victim centric” in it’s approach towards rapes and other crimes of sexual violence. She stated that the laws have already incorporated that change of attitude, but the police force is still using the “accused centric” approach, which must be changed.
The first woman IPS to serve in UP, Sanyal, suggested that a method of “compassionate policing,” be used in such cases. She specified that the shift of attitudes should be part of the police force’s training material and infrastructure to better equip them with updated knowledge and the urgently required sensitivity when faced with such situations.
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