A “CONGESTED prison” in West Bengal; mentally ill women “found rolling on the floor” in UP; an HIV patient who is not receiving any medication in Odisha; a shelter home that exists only on paper in Karnataka’s Bengaluru.
These are some of the findings of a probe conducted by the National Commission for Women (NCW) during August and September into the central government-funded, NGO-run short-stay homes for sexually abused, destitute, or battered women in four states. With the probe revealing “gross violations” in 25 of the 26 homes that were inspected on a random basis in Karnataka, UP, West Bengal and Odisha — many were functioning as working women’s hostels — the NCW will soon extend the enquiry to all 500 such homes across the country.
Speaking to The Indian Express, NCW chief Rekha Sharma said: “They are meant to serve as temporary homes for destitute or abandoned women but women who should not be there were inmates in most of them, many living there for ten to 20 years. There is no skill development provided whatsoever. We are now finalising a methodology in consultation with academicians and activists after which we will carry out an enquiry in all states.”
These short-stay homes were launched in 2015 by merging two separate schemes under the Swadhar Greh initiative. The plan is to set up one such facility, with a capacity for housing at least 30 women, in every district.
Women who are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, suffering from HIV/ AIDS, or rendered homeless due to domestic violence or any such reason can stay in these homes for a maximum of five years. During this period, the norms stipulate, they have to be made self-reliant through vocational training, provided counselling and any necessary medical or legal aid.
NCW advisor Dr V R Tripurana Venkataratnam, who headed the three-member enquiry panel, termed the situation at the homes that were inspected as “extremely pathetic”.
Following an inspection of the infrastructure and interviews with inmates, the NCW found that most of the homes have no clinical psychologists, and that mentally challenged women are housed in the same complex with no care or separate medical attention.
Similarly, no special care is made available for inmates with special needs or disabilities. The enquiry further found that there are no provisions for medical or legal aid, or counselling.
Consider some of the key findings in the NCW’s probe report:
* In Karnataka, an inmate, who is a rape victim and found to be under severe mental trauma, had received no counselling or assistance. In Bengaluru, the enquiry panel visited a Swadhar Greh address in a plush area in the state list to find that the home did not even exist.
* In UP, the inmates were not destitute women but young girls who stayed there while their parents went to work; mentally-ill women were “found rolling on the floor at the time of inspection”.
* In West Bengal, one home has been described as a “congested prison”.
* In Odisha, several inmates complained that they were forced to stay in the house by NGOs despite them wanting to return home. “One inmate with a child, a trafficking case, complained to the committee that she is a HIV patient and comes from… Andhra Pradesh and the NGO is not providing any medication to her” nor sending her back home, the report said.
“Of the 26 Swadhar Grehs we inspected, only one (in Odisha) was in decent condition and in keeping with the rules. No one has bothered to inspect these homes or monitor its running. Even the data on the homes is inaccurate. The list that is centrally available with the Woman and Child Development Ministry is different from the one with the state government while on ground it is an entirely different picture,” Venkataratnam said.
The homes are provided 60 per cent funding for its running by the centre government and 40 percent by states. In hilly regions, the funding pattern between Centre and states is 90:10 while in union territories it is 100 per cent central funding.
The findings of the NCW come months after the Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) unearthed several instances of sexual abuse at a shelter home for girls in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur as part of a social audit covering 110 shelter homes in 35 districts of the state.