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Bangladeshi held in Bengal nun rape case

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Kolkata: A Bangladeshi national, one of the prime accused in the rape of a septuagenarian nun inside a convent in West Bengal’s Nadia district, was arrested and sent to police custody on Thursday, police said.

Image Source: www.ndtv.com

The accused — identified as Nazrul Islam — was nabbed by sleuths of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) from Kolkata’s Sealdah railway station on Wednesday night.

“Islam, a 28-year-old resident of Jessore district in Bangladesh, was arrested on Wednesday night. He is a prime accused in the Ranaghat rape case,” CID Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Dilip Kumar Adak said.

During the day, he was presented before the court of additional chief judicial magistrate (Ranaghat) B.B. Mondal which sent him to 14 days police custody.

Police in May, had arrested two accused from the Sealdah station.

So far, six men have been arrested for the March 14 incident in which a gang stormed the Jesus and Mary Convent in Ranaghat in Nadia district and allegedly raped a 71-year-old nun.

The incident created a nationwide outrage with the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the National Human Rights Commission taking cognizance of the matter.

The survivor subsequently left the state for an undisclosed location. (IANS)

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Crimes Against Women Perpetrate in Every two Minutes: NCRB Analysis

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Crimes against women in India
Father, left and mother, center of the Indian student victim who was fatally gang raped on this day three years back on a moving bus in the Indian capital join others at a candle lit vigil in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. VOA
  • Any kind of physical or mental harm towards women is deemed as  “crime against women”
  • Domestic violence is the most dominant crime against women
  • Andhra Pradesh state is the highest to report crimes against women in the period of ten years

Sep 20, 2017: A report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that crimes against women have increased violently in the last ten years with an estimated figure of  2.24 million crimes. The figure is also suggestive of the fact: 26 crimes against women are reported every hour, or one complaint every two minutes, reports IndiaSpend analysis.

The most dominant crime against women with 909,713 cases reported in last decade was ‘cruelty by husbands and relatives’ under section 498‐A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

‘Assault on women’ booked under section 354 of IPC is the second-most-reported crime against women with 470,556 crimes.

‘Kidnapping and abduction of women’ are the third-most-reported crime with 315,074 crimes, followed by ‘rape’ (243,051), ‘insult to modesty of women’ (104,151) and ‘dowry death’ (80,833).

The NCRB report also listed three heads, namely commit rape (4,234), abetment of suicide of women (3,734) and protection of women from domestic violence (426) under which cases of crime against women have been reported in 2014.

Andhra Pradesh has reported the most crimes against women (263,839) over the past 10 years.

Andhra Pradesh state is the highest (263,839) to report crimes against women in the period of ten years. Crimes reported for insult (35,733) ranks first followed by cruelty by husband relatives (117,458), assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (51,376) and dowry-related deaths (5,364).

West Bengal (239,760) is second most crime against women state followed by Uttar Pradesh (236,456), Rajasthan (188,928) and Madhya Pradesh (175,593).

Abduction increased up to three folds over the recent years,  with Uttar Pradesh being the worst affected state. Cases rose from 15,750 cases in 2005 to 57,311 cases in 2014.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

 

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This Durga Puja Brings Narratives of Communal Harmony

Durga puja is exemplifying communal harmony at a time when the world grapples with religious animosity and social polarisation

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Durga Puja
Durga Puja in at Bhopal Madhya Pradesh. Wikimedia

Kolkata, Sep 15, 2017: For over 200 years, the Nandi family in West Bengal’s Hooghly has been feeding Muslim fakirs during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. To the Nandis, this annual ritual has its roots in a family legend that is testimony to the generosity of the local Muslim community.

It is also one of the myriad instances of the festival — the biggest in Bengal — exemplifying communal harmony at a time when the world grapples with religious animosity and social polarisation.

According to 80-year-old Satipati Nandi, the ninth-generation descendant of the family that claims to have been the “largest importer of betel nuts in eastern India once upon a time”, this Hindu-Muslim syncreticism comes naturally.

“It may sound as a big deal today but it all started centuries ago. It is said that two brothers, Kuber Shankar and Kama Shankar, were selling pakodas (fried snacks) in Halishahar in North 24-Parganas when they chanced upon a fakir who gave them a gold mohar (coin) to start an enterprise… revolving around the first thing they spot,” Nandi told IANS.

The rest is history.

The Nandis ventured into the betel nut business and eventually branched out into real estate, acquiring multiple properties across the state, including the present family residence at Pandua in Hooghly as well as land in Garia in south Kolkata.

Also Read: What makes Hindu Festival Durga Puja so popular in India? Know its Meaning and Significance 

“In remembrance of the generous fakir, we feed two fakirs on Navami (the ninth day of the festival). Now we usually do not find fakirs; so we offer khichdi to any two members of the Muslim community,” Nandi explained.

This communal integration has spilled on to the state capital Kolkata as well.

In the heart of Kolkata is Kumartuli — the potters’ enclave — which is in a state of frenzy with Durga Puja that is round the corner. The clay idols of Durga and her pantheon are being daubed in paint and their curves clothed in vibrant saris.

Their bald heads are carefully draped in jute wigs that have been painstakingly fashioned into braids and curly tresses for the Hindu goddess by Muslim craftsmen.

Neither blinding rain nor religion get in the way of business in this buzzing maze-like colony of potters and their assistants, labourers, decorators and tourists with selfie sticks — the point of origin of around 5,000 clay Durga idols each year.

Around 400 “shilpis” (craftsmen) churn out Durga and her children in crammed 6 by 10 foot studios, cloaked in tarpaulin sheets. The final touches, which begin around a fortnight before Mahalaya (September 19), include decking the idols in accessories.

“Draping the hair is an essential part of the process. The jute wigs are fashioned by Muslim families from Parbatipur near Howrah and other areas. A typical ‘sabeki’, or traditional idol, usually dons a curly and wavy wig. Essentially, they are mostly black but we do have variants of the wig in dark brown, rust and beige,” Babu Pal, a spokesperson for the potters, told IANS.

Slightly rough in texture, they are almost indistinguishable from your average wigs. Packed in bundles starting off at Rs 100, these are available as plaits, straight extensions for the sides or as wavy locks.

“Everyone comes to look at the idols. They admire, take pictures and go away. But it’s not just the idols… you have to assemble the goddess piece by piece. Muslim craftsmen usually fashion the dress material and the wigs. You may talk about cow politics and put a religious spin on it, for us it’s the way of life here… no one talks about this (Hindu-Muslim issues)… it’s business,” Pal elaborated.

According to Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, Hindu-Muslim integration during the Durga Puja was not uncommon in undivided Bengal.

“It has continued despite geographical barriers because the festival now is a huge industry. It provides employment to people from all communities. It’s only some politicians and communal-minded people who give it a different spin. During immersions too, everyone comes together to bid adieu to the goddess and family. She is looked at as a source of strength and not as a religious symbol,” Bhaduri added.

And you don’t have to look further than Begampur town in Hooghly district to see several Muslim families celebrating Durga Puja as a symbol of the common culture of the festival that unites Hindus with other minorities, at least in Bengal.

(This story is part of a special series that will showcase a diverse, plural and inclusive India and has been made possible by a collaboration between IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at sahana.g@ians.in)

-IANS

 

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End of the ‘Culture of Silence’ : Somalia Gets its First Forensic Lab to Handle Cases of Rape and Gender-based Violence

Rape and sexual assault are pervasive in Somalia, where decades of conflict have created persistent instability and crippled the institutions meant to uphold the law

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The newly opened Puntland Forensic Center is funded by the Swedish government and supported by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) (VOA)

Somalia, September 16, 2017 : A new forensic lab launched in central Somalia could transform how the Puntland state government handles cases of rape and gender-based violence, and possibly create a model for the rest of the country to follow.

The Puntland Forensic Center, funded by the Swedish government and supported by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), was opened September 6. It brings advanced DNA testing capabilities to a country still lacking in paved roads and reliable electricity.

The lab opened less than a year after Puntland enacted its Sexual Offenses Act, the first law in Somalia to criminalize sexual offenses and impose harsh penalties, including jail time, fines and public lashing, on the perpetrators.

Rape
The Puntland Forensic Center, funded by the Swedish government and supported by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), was opened September 6 in central Somalia. (VOA)

The lab was designed to provide critical scientific evidence to the police and officials investigating and prosecuting crimes under this new law.

“As we were helping [the Puntland government] develop that piece of legislation, the question came of, ‘How do we enforce that legislation when it is finally approved?'” said Nikolai Botev, UNFPA’s Somalia representative.

“This is when the realization came that there are actually no forensic facilities within Somalia.”

Culture of silence

Rape and sexual assault are pervasive in Somalia, where decades of conflict have created persistent instability and crippled the institutions meant to uphold the law.

Thirty-year-old Fatima was collecting firewood outside her family’s home in a camp for displaced people in Puntland when she was attacked by three strangers. The men gang-raped her so violently that it caused Fatima, who was pregnant, to miscarry.

“After I came home, I started to bleed the next night. After three to four days, I lost my four-month-old baby,” Fatima told VOA in an interview at a women’s health clinic in Garowe.

Like many women in this conservative country, Fatima preferred to stay silent rather than endure the stigma of her community. The blame and shame survivors face deters many women from reporting rapes and assaults, creating a culture of silence.

“I was shy and said to myself, ‘Don’t tell your story to anyone because it is shameful,'” Fatima said. She was dressed in a full black niqab that revealed nothing but her eyes through a small slit.

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Fatima, who was gang-raped by three strangers outside her family’s home in a camp for displaced people in Puntland, waits at a women’s health clinic in Garowe. (VOA)

Although statistics on the numbers of sexual crimes are largely unavailable, Somalia has been ranked as one of the worst countries to be a woman, and stories like Fatima’s are alarmingly common.

UNFPA says reports of rape and sexual assault have increased this year, after a devastating drought pushed women like Fatima into displacement camps where they become even more vulnerable.

“We’re seeing a significant increase of sexual violence, particularly targeting internally displaced people,” Botev said. “The whole idea of the forensic center was born out of a bigger idea of how to address gender-based violence, sexual violence in the context of Somalia.”

A broken system

Somalia’s government, even at the state level, has yet to recover from decades of war. Many Somali women do not bother to report crimes because they lack faith that the system can, or wants to, help them get justice.

Officer Kis Shamis Kabdi Bile stands out in her bright orange sneakers, blue hijab and mirrored sunglasses. As the only woman in Garowe’s Criminal Investigation Division, she handles every case of rape and gender-based violence because, she says, most male officers don’t even consider them to be crimes.

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Officer Kis Shamis Kabdi Bile is the only woman in Garowe’s Criminal Investigation Division in Somalia.(VOA)

“There are some police officers who say rape is not a big deal and consider it a minor thing,” she told VOA in an interview at the police station. “They say that it is nothing new.”

Bile hasn’t been paid in over a year, and conducts her investigations on foot, as the police department doesn’t have a car. She says the police need resources and specialized training in how to handle sexual crimes.

Many of Bile’s cases are taken over by community elders, who settle disputes through Somalia’s traditional herr system. Often the rapist’s family pays a fine of camels or goats to the survivor’s family, or the survivors are forced to marry their attackers.

It’s frustrating, Bile said. “As you are in the middle of the case, those elders will come and say, ‘We are going to negotiate before you finish the case.'”

During our interview, a young girl, no older than 15, came to plead for Bile’s help. The male police officer assigned to her rape case was insisting she lacked the evidence to go to court, she said, and was encouraging her to resolve her case through the community elders. Bile called the officer in for a strong scolding, and then took over the case.

Changing times

There are promising signs that Puntland’s efforts are already helping more rape survivors to hold their attackers accountable.

Data from Puntland’s attorney general shows that of the 108 rapes reported in Puntland in 2016, only 14, or 12 percent, resulted in convictions. Almost a third were dropped due to lack of evidence.

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Map of Puntland

But since the Sexual Offenses Act was implemented this year, the conviction rate has risen to 27 percent, while the number of cases thrown out for insufficient evidence has dropped to 21 percent.

The trend is encouraging to local politicians, who hope the forensic laboratory will build upon the law’s early success by providing authorities with stronger evidence in a shorter time so they can investigate and prosecute more cases that will stand up in a court of law.

“We used to send DNA from here to Nairobi or from here to South Africa,” said Salah Habib Haaji Hama, Puntland’s Minister of Justice and Religious Affairs. “So those restraints now are easy. We can manage this and get answers within a timely period. Within hours, within minutes, when we used to have days, sometimes months, to receive those.”

An important component to the lab’s success is providing education, both to the survivors and the wider community, about how DNA testing works and why it’s so important.

“There’s a limited time that they have to report or the results of the lab will not be successful. So we will try to educate them,” said Maryan Ahmed Ali, Puntland’s Minister of Women. “What is the time limit? What do they have to do? Do they have to take a shower? Do they have to change or wash their clothes?”

ALSO READ What Gives Husbands The Licence to Rape? Decoding Marital Rape in the Indian Legal Scenario

Understanding the implications of DNA testing could deter potential attackers from committing crimes for fear of being caught. It could also be a game changer for women like Fatima, who said she didn’t report the crime because she didn’t know her attackers’ names.

“Who am I going to accuse? I can only accuse a person I know. I can’t catch someone who I only saw in the jungle. I can barely remember the faces,” she said.

A multitude of challenges, including poor infrastructure, potential security threats and lack of qualified technicians, could impede the lab’s success, said UNFPA’s Botev. Somalia lacks advanced universities and hospitals, so the technicians overseeing the facility all studied abroad. They hope to make the lab a training ground for aspiring Somali scientists.

But the greater hope is that more successful convictions will foster increased confidence in Puntland’s new system, and encourage more women to report. Ultimately, Ali said, this will help reduce the social stigma and break the culture of silence surrounding rape and sexual assault.

“There will not be a stigma. There will not be a discussion about who did this, who did the crime, who did the rape. So it’s a big encouragement,” Ali said. (VOA)