Gender-based violence plagues Odisha despite govt efforts

Odisha reported the highest cases of assault against women in the country, according to 2018 NCRB data

By Naba Kishor Pujari
Published: Wednesday 06 January 2021
Odisha reported the highest cases of assault against women in the country, according to NCRB report 2018.

Gender-based violence and inequality in Odisha continues to be pervasive, despite several state initiatives to strengthen safety of women and girl children, create awareness, deter crimes, expedite pending cases and introduce behavioural changes.

The state contributes to about three per cent of India’s population; but the rate of crime against women in the state was 5.6 per cent, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 2017.

It has been ranked the second-worst state in the country after Uttar Pradesh in this regard. As many as 11,318 cases of molestation against women were reported in the state in 2019.

Odisha reported the highest cases of assault against women in the country, according to 2018 NCRB data. It was the second in the country to report the highest number of cyber-crimes.

Cyber-crimes increased 76 per cent in the state in 2019 (1,485 cases) from 2018 (843 cases). The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 report suggested 35.2 per cent women in the state faced spousal violence.

“We are happy to be a part of the United Nation’s 16 days of activism campaign against gender-based violence. We will vow to never be a silent bystander. There is a need for concerted efforts from governments, non-profits and other stakeholders to help end gender-based violence,” said Ruchi Kashyap, executive trustee, Atmashakti Trust, a non-profit that helps initiate development in rural and urban areas.  

A big task

The state government in 2019 added a unique feather to its cap: It became the first state in the country to elect women as a third of its political representatives. The government has also put in place various policy provisions to eliminate gender-based violence.

One of them is Pari Express, an initiative of the Odisha Police in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund, to create awareness against child sexual abuse. The department has set up women and children cells at district-level police headquarters as well.

It has been making efforts to ensure that existing schemes, such as One Stop Centres and Emergency Response Support System, remain operational.

Similarly, the state has set up a ‘fast track special court’ scheme under National Mission of Safety for Women, to dispose of several pending rape cases of women and children below 12 years. However, despite several policy arrangements and institutional mechanisms, execution remains slow and uncertain.

Pramila Swain, convener of Odisha chapter of National Alliance of Women Organization (NAWO), said:

“No one knows it better than a woman / girl the hurdles that she has to face to enjoy the same rights and privileges as men. How can women feel safe when their environment is unsupportive? We need a better implementation of gender-based laws and policies.”

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent closure of schools, loss of jobs as well as confinement intensified the risk of violence against women and girls. The Odisha State Commission for Women in April 2020 issued a WhatsApp helpline number to address the increasing cases of domestic violence.

It later launched a single helpline 112 to provide various forms of assistance to people in distress.

“Despite the state government’s effort to address gender-based violence issues, there are many cases related to violence and discrimination against women that come to us. This means that people need to be sensitised on the issue. The change should begin at home,” said Snehanjali Mohanty, member of State Commission for Women, Odisha.

The Odisha government’s Economic Survey report 2018-19 also revealed a worrying trend on women’s productive performance: Women earn nearly three times less than men in the state.

Stagnant gender-responsive budget

Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) emerged during 2004-05 by introducing a women component plan (WCP). Odisha became the first state in the country to bring a separate budget on gender.

While presenting the state budget for 2020-21, state’s finance minister Niranjan Pujari announced the state has as many as 77 schemes targeted to making lives of women better.

The spending under various combined schemes with greater than 30 per cent on the budget outlay was increased to 51,008.94 crore in 2020-21 from Rs 40,294.67 crore during 2018-19. However, despite its promise, Odisha’s gender budget remains skewed and ineffective.

According to Pravas Mishra, a budget analyst working with non-profit Oxfam India, the state government allocated merely Rs 2.32 out of Rs 100 for women in 2019-20, whereas the spending had further dropped down to Rs 1.79 in the year 2020-21.

“A gender budget cell also functions under the women and child development department of the state government to facilitate the process of gender-responsive budget. But a lack of adequate resources has limited performance,” he said.

“Gender-based violence is a long-term development challenge. Girls and women often experience violence — from physical punishment to sexual, emotional or psychological violence. However, any violence must be reported,” said Pragyan Paramita Bastia, state programme manager at 181 women emergency helpline service.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of  Down To Earth

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