Meghalaya: the Abode of Crime against Women

In just two and a half months in 2017, Meghalaya has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons. Twenty five reported cases of rape and sexual assault in the state is something that we should all be ashamed of. And yet, our very own ‘honourable’ public representatives shamelessly compete to prove who is guiltier and who is not.

If our leaders are seriously concerned about women’s safety, they should have chastened the rapist even before a public uproar. The Dorphang rape and trafficking case which also has connections with the Home Minister Mr. H D R Lyngdoh’s family guest house, Marvelene’s Inn, raised a lot of unanswered questions. I would salute this brave young girl who came forward to report, otherwise such sexual assaults would have died its unsung death.

Much has been said about the recent incidents of molestation at the Raj Bhavan which is a misuse of public office. Unfortunately there are fringe elements that still want to defend this crook. If such conduct can come from the legislators and a constitutional head who supposedly knows the law, what else do we expect from ordinary citizens? The recent rape cases are more heinous with dead bodies of women after being raped lying abandoned on the road- this is blatantly cursing us as a society that has turned a blind eye to the torture that women in the state face. Waking up every day with such catastrophic news of rape and murder leaves us with the sense of guilt and rage for not being able to do anything about what is happening lately.

The circumstances of abuse, harassment, sexual assault, exploitation, discrimination in public offices are so common that no one ‘dares’ to complain against the perpetrators. It is too much to expect that whistle blower will come forward and report on the crimes against women being committed by these felons in the Secretariat, the Raj Bhavan and elsewhere. Institutional silence has done more harm than good. The recent case of harassment by the director of one government department is startling. How many times will the subservients bow down to these ‘Sahibs’?  The elitist attitudes of government servants need to be questioned seriously. I am sure each one of us does not want that crime in any form to top the chart in the state but silence in such instances is even more harmful and more destructive.

Crime against women in Meghalaya is not a non-issue anymore. Gang-rape happens almost every day and they don’t spare children and the aged- this is sickening. We have not even been able to digest the tragic rape and sexual assault that happened in the beginning of the year but the same case happened few days back which left us dumbfounded. In such a Khasi society of ‘Tip Briew Tip Blei'{literal: Know human, know God} who will think that such a thing would happen and regrettably it has become the order of the day. This is a matter of sheer ignominy in our society where female on one hand are considered to enjoy social status and are being celebrated over the years and on the other hands girls, notwithstanding their age, are just considered as objects to be violated. This has to be addressed massively by all quarters including the Church and other Religious Institutions. More than sympathies and solidarity the victims of sexual assaults be it at home, work places, public places instead are being blamed for being the reasons of why such heinous crime happen in the first place.

The Meghalaya budget session is going on, the debates on various aspects in the state is at its peak. Incidentally, it is ill-fated that the new Governor who we expected to bring forth the issue that sparked in the news on cases of crime against women, dejectedly remained mute in the address to the ‘August House’. His silence speaks volumes as to why Meghalaya is still lacking behind in terms of women safety. The need of the hour in the state is to bring forth the stern laws which can by any means thwart women from being victims of sexual assault; the unbiased Internal Complaint Committee and the Fast Tract Court are fundamental avenues through which speedy justice to the victims could be delivered more effectively. Also, these should be the top priority of the government. The smooth cooperation between the government functionaries, the court and the police department is indispensable in this regard. It is a welcome slant on the part of the opposition in the ‘August House’ by addressing the earth-shattering concern of crime against women. This shows the light of the day but will they do the same if they are in the government? I hope their approach does not have any hidden agenda. Nonetheless, it is inauspicious to see that the women legislators who also hold key portfolios in the government did not come forward to speak out even in the session of the house. I remember the Labour minister said ‘Silence does not amount to inaction’; from her statement it is well understood by now as to what it actually means. It clearly reflects the analogy of why the ruling party did not speak against the crime. I think at least in terms of crime against women, we should not turn it as another ‘political gimmick’.

While expecting much from the institution on the safety and security of women and children, it is also imperious that we as a citizens should outstandingly be more accountable in terms of such issues and if such cases happen we should not shy away from reporting to the authorities. The approach and discernment towards women should not be haunting them in whatsoever way. We should be more vigilant and understand the problems being faced by women across the state.

Wretchedly, just like any other ‘patriarchal society’, Meghalaya also is very much ‘ingrained’ to such unwarranted practice that has done more harm to the lives of children and women. ‘Sexploitation’ is a cancer which seems to be impossible to cure and a lot of questions have to be put in place against the jeopardy of matrilineal tradition of Meghalaya. It seems to me that this jeopardy has eroded to a system where women are at the verge of living in agony and uncertainty. I think it is important that such a tradition should be more vigilant in women’s security. We should stop romanticizing matrilineal convention because with such sugar-coated traditions we have become so snobbish and use it as an excuse of a society that does not harm women. With a deep sense of guilt we should not shy away from answering and letting the world know that we are also patriarchal.
It is high time we should become more human rather than being the problem because at the end of the day, a society is peaceful and progressive because the citizens behaves like real human beings. We should cut across differences if we want to see that women can still walk free wherever and whenever she wants. The delusion that women cannot think and act should be completely smashed. The responsibility of addressing the issue on the part of every member of the community regardless of any ethnic groups is crucial. Sexual assaults and rape cases are being reported everyday and I am sure that there are many unreported cases. It is about time that people will become aware and the resistance should be more robust against these heinous crimes. The spectral question haunting us is who is responsible for the heinous crimes that happen every day and what will happen in the next hours ahead of us? It is difficult to answer but not impossible if our attitudes change.

 

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Raiot

Banshan Marwein Written by:

Studies International Organizations at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi

2 Comments

  1. Darilyn Syiem
    March 13, 2017
    Reply

    Thank you for your brave article Banshan! Rape and the state has become the everyday news. The newspapers and the news channels might lose any other piece of news event, but these incidents of sexual assault are never a miss now. There is an urgent need to change this culture of violence. Whose responsibility is this? It is everyone’s responsibility. “Everyone needs to be responsible and involved in stopping this terrible scourge. But more so,, the state with its power and resources and its commitment to international conventions and goals. I have been working on VAW in Meghalaya for almost two decades but this surge of violence now, makes me feel so helpless and I ask myself: ‘What happened to all those efforts???

    Violence against women is everyone’s issue and everyone’s responsibility.

  2. Ritz
    March 14, 2017
    Reply

    Thanks you for addressing this social evils and issues. It’s a high time the govt and its bodies must be vigilant about it. Most importantly we should raise our voice against such atrocities prevalent in our society. And hopefully the voice should make an effort to bring a change.

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