CHRI-AALI study records testimonies of 14 survivors
Survivors of sexual assaults in Uttar Pradesh face long delays in FIR registration, are often disbelieved by police personnel, subjected to misogynistic slurs and even forced to compromise with their perpetrators, according to testimonies of 14 survivors recorded in a new report launched on Monday. The vicious cycle of violence perpetuated at police stations is more pronounced for Dalit survivors who face the double burden of discrimination on the basis of gender and caste.
The report, titled “Barriers in Accessing Justice”, is a joint effort of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI). It documents the experiences and challenges of women survivors due to non-registration of cases of sexual offences by the police. Fourteen survivors and nine caseworkers were interviewed from 2019 to 2020 for the study from seven districts – Aligarh, Amroha, Auraiya, Lucknow, Jhansi, Jaunpur, and Muzaffarnagar.
None of the 14 cases saw an FIR being registered immediately after the survivor reported the crime at the police station. Out of these, an FIR was registered only in 11 cases, but police personnel took between two to 228 days to do so. In two cases, the survivor and her family had to compromise under pressure and no FIR was registered. In the third case, the FIR was registered with the main offence as sexual harassment and not rape as alleged by the complainant. The delay in registering an FIR often resulted in women survivors being repeatedly assaulted by their perpetrators.
In all the 14 cases, the police disbelieved survivor testimonies, scrutinised the allegations and demanded “evidence” from the women or their families even at the first stage of reporting the crime.
Deep prejudice among police personnel about women often result in survivors and their families being insulted, the study records. As a result, when a survivor in Aligarh alleged that her husband’s friend raped her in her home in May, 2017, her written complaint was not accepted and no action was taken. When she returned after 15 days following more assaults from her perpetrator, the chowki in-charge of the rank of sub-inspector remarked, “You aren’t even beautiful that someone will trouble you, you aren’t even a young girl that someone will sexually assault you”. It took the police 181 days to file an FIR despite appeals made to the SSP, the DM and the State Women’s Commission.
On June 5, when a Dalit survivor in Lucknow visited the local police station a day after she was raped in an agricultural field, an SHO of the rank of Inspector told her, “you are poor, you shouldn’t pursue this case, and you are getting a false case registered so the case won’t be registered”. She was then asked to return home.
In the same city, another Dalit survivor alleged that her brother-in-law raped her at a hotel in December 2017. She was told, “you are doing it for money, that’s why you want to register a false case”. You are coming here with a fake case, women make up such cases”. The police took 117 days to register an FIR.
On December 10, 2017, a Dalit survivor was kidnapped and gang-raped in Jaunpur. She escaped after six days and when she and her father visited the police station, they had to wait for “2-3” days to meet the SHO, who took no action. A month later, the family got an order from the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court asking the police to register a case. Yet the SHO refused to comply. He remarked, “earlier you were making your daughter solicit, and now you are coming here to file a complaint”. The police ultimately took 40 days to file an FIR.
The report also notes that often the police “mount pressure and intimidate them to look for solutions outside the legal system. Police try various coercive tactics to push survivors to settle or compromise by threatening to implicate their family members, or forcing marriage of the survivor and alleged perpetrator; and/or by forcing the survivors to dilute their written complaints”.
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