Odisha’s poor record on women’s safety – The New Indian Express

Just a week ago, a 15-year-old girl, sexually assaulted multiple times in the past three months by a neighborhood youth, was tied to a pole and beaten to set an example. Reason: his father went to report the matter to the police after the local sarpanch refused to intervene. This happened in Nayagarh of Odisha, a district that continues to make headlines for atrocities against women and children. In 2020, the rape and murder of a minor snowballed into huge controversy when police sat on the case and failed to even preserve crucial forensic evidence.

It was only after the victim’s parents attempted to set themselves on fire in front of the state assembly that the government woke up from its slumber and formed a special investigation team. The district, for its part, has a dubious distinction of female feticide and similar crimes. He elected some influential politicians and ministers from the BJD government. Yet nothing seems to cut the ice. A few days ago, a class 10 student from Sundargarh district committed suicide as a result of sexual exploitation by the headmaster.

In Odisha, crimes against women and girls are increasingly mobile. By the government’s own admission during the recently concluded session of the Assembly, the state reported an 11% increase in recorded rape cases in 2021. Between 2018 and 2021, the increase is 32%. The National Crime Records Bureau report suggests that Odisha is among the top states in this category. Moreover, there has also been an upsurge in cybercrimes against women. Sexual offenses against children are also on the rise.

All of this reflects very badly, mainly on the Odisha police as there is little fear of the law and the enforcement agency, which has grown systematically weak and is taken wrong time and time again. This should alarm the Naveen Patnaik government, which espouses the cause of women’s empowerment. After the panchayat polls, the BJD government boasted of giving more than 70% of the zilla parishad president positions to women. All the rhetoric of higher representation of women in the legislature would mean nothing if it did not translate into change on the ground in the safety of women and children in Odisha.

Mara R. Wilmoth