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November 12, 2003

NGOs plan action in S'rashtra as crime against women mounts

From: Times of India, India - Nov 12, 2003


* A 10-year-old girl, married off to a deaf and dumb man in Baroi village of Mundra in Kutch district, is subjected to physical and mental torture by her husband. She bears two children but later seeks a divorce as the ordeal becomes too unbearable. She is then forced to re-marry, only to push her into more suffering as her second husband begins to torture her two daughters along with her.

* In Vishalia village of Amreli district in Saurashtra, woman is administered electric shocks for days, turning her virtually insane.

* Being handicapped in an intolerant society was perhaps not trouble enough for this woman from Pithalpur village of Ghogha taluka of Bhavnagar district. Married to a handicapped youth, she is tortured for dowry leading to her death.

* A woman in Khambha village village of Amreli district, who had to bear severe beating for not bringing in dowry, is not spared even when she was pregnant. Tied to a tree, she is beaten as the villagers side with her in-laws. She's driven out of the house without her children.

RAJKOT: These are a few of the shocking revelations made in a report brought out by a group of NGOs working in the Saurashtra and Kutch region.

Alarmed by the trend, about half-a-dozen NGOs working for women's issues have begun a movement to inculcate mass-awakening about violence against women and safeguard their interests.

The movement--¡®Stree Hinsa Virodhi Jagruti Zumbesh' or a campaign to create awareness on violence against women, is being taken up at the grassroots levels in villages along with active help from the men in the area.

The alarm bells were sounded by these women NGOs when a survey on violence against women in the last five years in Surendranagar, Bhavnagar, Amreli and Kutch acted as an eye-opener.

The survey,which reported 927 incidents, indicated that Surendranagar district topped the list in violence against women in 2002 alone. The survey covered 140 villages directly and 800 villages indirectly. Incidents of violence ranged from murder, attempt to murder, rape, severe beating and physical torture to mental torture and harassment for dowry.

The NGOs, which have taken up cudgels against this scourge include Mahila Vikas Sangathan in Kutch, Utthan, Navjyot Mahila Vikas Sangathan and Samaj Kalyan Kendra in Bhavnagar and Amreli and Mahila Samkhya Society and Swati in Surendranagar district.

The NGOs now are taking a two-pronged approach--help women in distress and seek the help of males to combat the menace. They have also raised a force of women workers who would fan out in the region and help inculcate a sense of confidence among the victims and help solve their problems.

The survey reveals that apart from dowry menace, other reasons which accounted for such violence against women included illegitimate relationship of husband, drinking habit,weak economic condition, infidelity and even indifference, in collusion of the police.

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