According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Andhra Pradesh has one of the country’s highest rates of crimes against women. While the state has been in the news for a series of acid attacks on women, the state commission for women claims that Andhra tops in sexual harassment cases at the workplace, especially in government offices and the IT sector. The Commission received 28 cases of harassment at workplaces, mostly in government departments, between March 1 and July 31, 2009. Between January and July 31 this year, 17 acid attack cases occurred in the state.
While the state is contemplating a special legislation to deal with acid attacks to ensure stringent punishment for the accused, the existing laws against sexual harassment and dowry demands don’t seem to be a deterrent.
According to the NCRB, the state has the worst record of crimes against women with 24,738 cases, including 613 dowry deaths and 1,070 rape cases in 2007-2008. Hyderabad recorded 1,931 crimes against women, making it the most unsafe city after Delhi. In 2008-09, the state recorded 930 rape cases and 345 dowry deaths. In addition, there are up to 12,000 domestic violence cases annually.
K Rajalakshmi, project director of the District Women and Child Development Agency in Hyderabad — which deals in all cases related under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 — says that alcoholism and the depiction of violence against women in the Telugu film industry compound the problem. “We receive at least three cases a day. Reasons such as alcoholism and dowry demands lead to domestic violence, with women ending up abused and battered.” In all, the state
commission for women deals with nearly 1,000 cases every year, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, kidnapping and acid attacks.
Incidentally, the Commission has been under a cloud since September 2007 when its chairperson Mary Ravindranath was caught red-handed while demanding a bribe of Rs 50,000 from a woman victim.
But, Secretary to the Commission P Sandhya says that irrespective of the absence of a chairperson, the commission has been filing cases and counselling victims. “Depending on the seriousness of the matter, we ask police stations to file FIRs in case of domestic violence. We receive a number of petitions alleging harassment at workplaces, especially government offices. There are complaints from the IT sector also. It is also increasing in schools and colleges where girls complain of harassment from employees,” Sandhya says.
Sreenivas Janyala, Indian Express, Aug 10, 3009