Violence and sexual harassment against fisherwomen
This file analyses the cases of violence and sexual harassement towards fisher women as against their right to work.
Violence and sexual harassment against fisherwomen are on the increase due to various domestic and social factors. A document of the Department of women and children: Ministry of Human Resource Development says: “The annual publication of National Crime Record Bureau is the only source of available information on atrocities against women and children in the country. It is the general perception that these reports do not fully capture the ground realities, since a large number of crimes against women and are not reported. Some of the recent reports of UNCHR, ICRW, and Amnesty International etc have shown a large vacuum in the available information base on the subject. It may be worthwhile to commission a few studies in some select areas to assess the magnitude of crime committed against women, both within the family and outside, to find out the extent to which these get reported in the formal system and the various constraints in the delivery of justice. Studies can also sponsor to develop indicators to measure gender based violence”.
The case with the fisherwomen does substantiate this observation. Many of the domestic violence are not even considered as violence against women and sexual harassments are not reported due to fear of social stigma. On the other hand the cases which are reported to the police do not get serious attention or follow up and eventually the culprit escapes using political influences or threatening the victims for dire consequences. Theeradesa Mahila Vedi was aware of this dreadful situation and decided to take up issues of violence and sexual harassment against fisherwomen on the domestic as well as social circumstances.
There were several instances of violence and sexual harassment, which the organization took up to the agitation front and managed to book the culprits.
In 1987 Baby, a fisherwoman from Pulluvila was tortured and killed by her husband. Mahila Vedi took up the issue and started an agitation, which resulted in the arrest and detention of the criminal. The body was exhumed and postmortem was done again after the agitation.
In 1989 one such case was happened in the Palayam market. Sharlet,a pregnant fisherwoman from Vettukadu was attacked inside the market by a porter when she refused to give him fish for free of charge. She fell down during the commotion and was brutally beaten up by him resulting in abortion and a long period of hospitalization. MahilaVedi went for a big fight against this inhuman act using several means of protest like poster campaign, protest march, legal procedures etc. Finally the culprit got arrested and detained for four years.
In 1997 Fazila, a union worker who resides in Perumathura was arrested from the KSRTC bus stand on false charges of immoral trafficking. She was locked up in the police station and tortured for two day and night. Mahila Vedi activists under the leadership of Mercy Alexander and Magline Peter immediately went on action and staged protest march in front of the secretariat. Around 300 women participated in the agitation demanding the immediate release of Fazila. Eventually the police released her from the lock up agreeing that they mistook the person.
In 1998 some criminals sexually tortured a girl child of twelve year old and Mahila Vedi took up the issue and launched an agitation in front of the secretariat. Following the agitation and subsequent consultations the authorities took stringent action against the culprits.
In 2000 a gang of criminals stormed in to Pongumoodu market, threatened the shopkeepers with knives and got the shops closed. Then they abducted a fisherwoman by name Flory, who comes from Veli, took her to a remote destination and raped. The other women who were with her in the market immediately went to the police station and filed a complaint. Sensing the indifferent attitude of the police these women approached Magline peter and other activists of the Theeradesa Mahila Vedi and urged them to act urgently. Suspicion was mounting that the gangsters might have killed the woman. The women activists immediately contacted the police and cautioned them of dire consequences if something untoward happened to the woman. Not feeling comfortable with the police investigation they contacted the city police commissioner who took up the case with a personal interest. He directly went to the concerned police station, got convinced of the casualness of the police in this issue which resulted in the suspension of two police officers with immediate effect. Then he alerted the flying squad and other forces for rapid action to find the woman and after an hour and a half they could find her in a remote place. The woman had to undergo treatment for several days before she recovered completely. Theeradesa Mahila Vedi, then, went on a strong agitation including police station march demanding the arrest of the culprit and as a result they were arrested and detained within 45 days of their remand period itself. This agitation enhanced the confidence level of the fisherwomen to fight with tooth and nail and made them ever vigilant and gender conscious.