Their stories are heart-wrenching, but the authorities remain negligent. As crime against women rises, safe spaces for them continue to decline. Many of us find shelter at home, but what about those who don’t have a roof over their heads?
Social activist Satinder Kaur Sachdeva set out on a mission to evaluate the Short Stay Home Scheme for destitute women and girls in Punjab and Chandigarh, visiting shelter homes in Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Faridkot and Dhariwal. After interviewing 62 women, the results were discouraging.
“Most women in shelter homes are stark targets of patriarchy, whether it’s domestic violence or sexual assault. The stories stemmed from violence and how no one spoke out for them. You see, a culture of silence leads to a cycle of violence,” said the 49-year-old, who is the first to conduct such a study.
Number of inmates low
There are 10 inmates at Nari Niketan in Chandigarh, 20 in Jalandhar, 11 in Amritsar. There were three in Faridkot and 18 in Dhariwal, but these homes were shut in 2015.
“I got into this research because the numbers didn’t match up. I wanted to know why this happened since crime against women is on the rise,” said Satinder, adding that this scheme was started in 1969.
Not much has changed
Under this scheme, women cannot stay at a home for more than three years. The government provides for doctors, case workers, counsellors and vocational training to make women self-sufficient.
However, the author said the reality was different from what was on papers. The conditions in these homes violated basic provisions listed under the scheme.
She added from male superintendents and roofless toilets to inadequate nutrition and outdated skill training, these shelter homes did nothing to provide a secure environment for women.
“I met so many educated women in these homes ranging from postgraduates to graduates and diploma holders. But the trauma they’ve faced is so strong, they are incapable of earning their own living. The homes do not have competitive counsellors who can cater to specific cases. Many women don’t have bank accounts. Most of the employees work on an ad hoc basis and there’s no record of personal details of inmates. I couldn’t trace a single beneficiary from these homes,” she said.
Not a writer, but researcher
She added that her aim was to recommend policy changes for a more effective impact. “I have recommended modern methods of skill training, public utilities and collaboration with education centres and libraries. I was deeply affected by their stories, but my passion to know more carried me through. I am not a writer, but a researcher and this is not a novel. So, I hope that enough people are interested to know the stories of these abandoned women and understand their place in society,” said Satinder.