They were supposed to be a place where women in distress could live a life of dignity, can rehabilitate themselves economically and emotionally, but instead shelter homes for women are turning out to be brothels. A social audit by a Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) brought to light the sexual abuse of 34 girls at government-run shelter home for girls in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. It was followed by another case in Deoria in UP where a 10-year-old girl escaped a shelter home and exposed the exploitation of the girls who lived there. These incidences have left the country startled, but sadly aren’t new.
Acts of horror
May 2018 | Muzaffarpur, Bihar
First FIR filed for rape and sexual assault of minor girls in the shelter home. So far, it has been confirmed that 34 girls between 7 and 17 years of age were raped
August 2018 | Deoria, UP
24 girls rescued from a shelter home after allegations of their sexual exploitation came to light; 18 girls are still missing
August 2018 | Pratapgarh, UP
26 women reported missing from two shelter homes
May 2017 | Guwahati, Assam
Alleged complaint regarding physical abuse, child labour at Children Home Fatasil, Ambari
May 2017 | Delhi
Alleged complaint regarding girl being forced to abort at Nirmal Chaya and beaten mercilessly
THE ORIGIN OF SHELTER HOMES IN INDIA
Shelter homes in India are run under the Swadhar Greh scheme – an amalgamation of Short Stay Home scheme and Swadhar scheme, set up by department of social welfare and department of women and development, respectively in 1969 and 2001.
Who can take shelter under Swadhar Greh scheme
Women deserted and without any social and economic support
Women survivors of natural disasters rendered homeless
Women prisoners released from jail and without family, social and economic support
Women victims of domestic violence, family tension or discord
Trafficked women/girls rescued from brothels or places of exploitation
Women affected by HIV/AIDS with no social or economic support
Period of stay
Women affected by domestic violence: 1 yr
Other categories: Up to 3 yrs
Above 55: Maximum period of 5 yrs
Also, girls up to the age of 18 years and boys up to the age of 8 years are allowed to stay with their mother Swadhar Greh.
551 shelter homes in the country
India has a total of 551 shelter homes under Swadhar Greh scheme. Maharashtra has most number of shelter homes, followed by Odisha and UP.
STEPPING UP THE VIGIL
As per Juvenile Justice Act 2015 registration of all children homes with state is mandatory. After the Muzaffarpur and Deoria incidents, the Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) has stepped up action and asked all states to verify homes and ordered a verification of all homes in states. But this is an ongoing process.
(Data available with NCPCR as of August 8, 2018)
The move aims to check the misuse of government grants for shelter homes and bring more in more accountability. But the task is huge and one that needs sensitization and therein lies the challenge.
Source: News reports