Published in The Times of India on Aug. 20 ::
A study has revealed that women in Assam are the worst sufferers of ethnic clashes and other incidents of violence. Such incidents are a regular occurrence in the state, particularly in the fraught Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD).
The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has urged the government to adopt internationally-accepted measures in dealing with displaced individuals, particularly women, in its general recommendation.
“Conflict-induced displacement is a serious concern which has both long-term and short-term consequences,” said CEDAW.
A 2011 report by the Norwegian Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre stated that about 4,50,000 people were displaced in the northeast in that year, with 1,70,000 displaced in Assam alone. In 2012, about 4 lakh people were displaced in the violence that broke out in BTAD. This is considered to be one of the highest in modern history.
“Displacement affects women enormously and causes physical, mental and economic insecurity. It makes them more vulnerable to trafficking and sexual abuse. When the basic needs of women in relief camps are not met, the issue of their safety remains a distant agenda for the government,” added the CEDAW report.
At times, school girls in such camps are married off because they are vulnerable to sexual violence and other health hazards.
CEDAW’s general recommendation on displacement ask state parties to be responsible for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), regardless of their territory.
“We want this provision to be adhered to as it is greatly relevant to the northeast which shares its border with several countries and has a migrant population which is often affected by ethnic violence,” it said.
CEDAW has also urged the respective governments to adhere to international ‘guiding principles on IDPs’ in planning and implementing rehabilitation packages and programmes.
It said, “We urge the state to set up an independent committee to monitor the progress of rehabilitation schemes and their implementation. To ensure psychological recovery, social reintegration of survivors of violence is also recommended, besides gender-sensitive healthcare, sanitation facilities and trauma management.”
The India report of the UN Special Rapporteur was presented in the UN Human Rights Councilin June this year. Both of these are believed to be significant processes within the UN Human Rights system and mechanism.
Noted human rights activist from Imphal Babloo Loitongbam said, “India has been the focus of the human rights discourse in recent times. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the country to re-examine its human rights performance with reference to women’s rights.”