Crimes against women in Nagaland: Patriarchal behaviour impedes justice

Crimes against women in Nagaland: Patriarchal  behaviour impedes justice
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Page News Desk

Dimapur, April 19: While protests and agitations against increasing cases of rape and violence against women continue across India, Nagaland, with a declining crime graph against women, can be considered one of the safest States for women in the country.
Crime data from the Dimapur Police Commissionerate indicates that in the past 3 years there have been 121 cases of crimes against women in Dimapur district, out of which 14 were rape cases (including a case where the victim was a minor).
Of the 14 rape cases reported in Dimapur in 2016, 2017 and 2018 (till April 19), two were reported in 2016 (including one minor), 9 in 2017 and 3 in 2018. During the period, there were 19 cases of molestation (2 in 2016, 17 in 2017 and none in 2018), 5 cases of murder (1 in 2016, 3 in 2017 and 1 in 2018), 17 cases of attempted murder (1 in 2016, 16 in 2017 and none in 2018), 5 cases of cruelty by husbands and family members (2 in 2016, 3 in 2017 and none in 2018).
However, women activists and professionals said the crime data provided by the police does not paint the real picture of crime against women in Nagaland, as most crime against women go unreported. Even some police officials admitted that many women victims in the State don’t come forward and report incidents of violence against them due to the social stigma attached and family/societal pressure, which are typically patriarchal behaviour.
“There is a sense of self-stigma in the society and victims don’t want to report against husbands or family members because of ‘family matters’ and outsiders don’t want to get involved for the same reason,” said a well-known women activist from Dimapur who has been instrumental in steering many cases of crime against women in the district and State into proper light through her NGO.
The activist, who did not want to be identified, also pointed out that even if one gathers enough courage to report abuse, the system makes sure she is disappointed. “And this discourages others from coming forward,” she said.
There are also many instances of cases of rape and violence against women being settled within village councils, communities, family members, etc., under customary laws, and such cases do not find mention in the crime data of the State. She said in most such cases, it is the women who get further victimized and ends up receiving a biased judgement.
The social activist blamed the justice delivery system for people’s lack of confidence in the police and courts, and pointed out that even the ‘fast-track courts’ are not fast enough and takes years for a case to reach its conclusion. And most of the time, it is the powerful and the person with most connections that end up winning the case and those who cannot afford it or get frustrated simply give it up despite of being on the side of the truth, she said.
“Even it gets frustrating for us, imagine the marginalized,” she said and added that as a case progresses and gets stretched for years, the witnesses start to disappear and a selective justice is served in the end. She called for collective efforts by whole communities when justice and support is needed to someone regardless of tribe, community or religion.
There is nothing to be elated or women to feel safe in Nagaland just because the police crime data shows a declining crime rate against women, she said while calling upon authorities and communities to wake up from their false sense of security and clean up the mess.
Just like the Unnao’s rape case, she reminded that in 2013 a case of similar nature had shaken Nagaland when a woman was raped, murdered and dumped, and there was an outrage throughout the State and particularly in Dimapur but the case eventually fell silent. Nothing positive came out of the case and people moved to the next case to show their outrage.
In the context of Nagas, she rued that communities don’t want to get involved unless the victim is directly related to them and “all of us are to blame for the things happening (crimes and violence against women) and not happening (delayed or no justice).”
As per the crime data, 2017 witnessed a surge in crime against women from 13 (in 2016) to 100 in Dimapur, an almost 8-fold increase. A top Cop, who doesn’t want to be named, attributed it to the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp among the youths who get “connected to new people easily”, and the unregulated night-life of people in Dimapur District.
On the question of what ‘new’ steps the police is taking to check the rising cases of such crimes in the district and state, he said the police is trying to create awareness by going to schools and colleges as well as disseminating information through the official Facebook handle of the police to reach to youths. He added that the police are now more careful when it comes to handling cyber crimes.
Priyanka Debnath, a Professor at Tetso College, Dimapur, who tours with her students to different parts of the country told Nagaland Page over phone that Nagaland is a far better place for women compared to the rest of the country, including Delhi and Pune.
Commenting on the rise of violence against women, particularly sexual crimes, she said that the subject of ‘sex’ is still a taboo in India and there needs to be more discussion on it both at public places and homes and there should be healthy discussion between the parents and children on how the children should behave in front of the opposite gender.
On the rising crimes against women in Dimapur, she said it wouldn’t be totally correct to blame the social media alone for the surge as it has much to do with the confused mentality of people who are trapped between having a westernized lifestyle, but at the same time are not becoming westernized enough.

Crime against Women

2016

2017

2018 (till April 2019)

Rape

2

9

3

Molestation

2

17

Murder

1

3

1

Attempted Murder

1

16

Cruelty by husbands & family members

2

3

Other cases

5

52

4

Total

13

100

8