There is no escaping regular crime against women and children. It is rampant all over the world. These sections of the population are weakest and therefore easy to attack. Moreover the ones who are attacked are always from the economically and socially marginalized sections of the society. There is not much retribution either for even heinous crimes of rape, torture and murder against women or children. More than convictions the public has seen the criminals/accused go free for lack of evidence or because the witnesses were killed or bought or threatened off. It is no different in Meghalaya, a state which proudly displays its matrilineal traditions. Some quarters go further to claim that it is not only matrilineal but boasts of matriarchal traditions. With such a heritage, one would expect that the rate of crimes against women and children would be low or even if there were crimes, the whole society and state system would be tuned towards getting justice for the victims and exemplary punishment for the criminals.
Unfortunately, facts say otherwise as the shocking truth displays it through the numerous cases. Far from rallying around to help the victims get justice, the system and the society have often worked to stigmatize, further victimize and oppress the survivors. Convictions are hard to get in the law courts, which, it is important to point out, is not fully the fault of the judiciary, but rather the negligence of the prosecution and in many cases the police who have the constitutional duty of investigating the case to bring enough evidence to prove the crime. Without sound evidence or sound arguments, the courts can hardly make a sound judgment, and therefore, one will find that most cases of violence against women are children flounder without responsibility being fixed for the crime.
Besides justice being almost non-existent for them, they face the wrath of the people and even institutions for daring to raise their head and demand justice for themselves and punishment for the criminals. There have been many cases in this state where the victims and their families have been ostracized with terrifying frequency, while the accused were welcomed back to the village with fanfare. There have been cases where the village authorities, traditional or otherwise, have been hand-in-glove with the oppressors of women and children and the police department has stood by as mute spectators.
It is incidents and happenings such as these that have eroded the respect and confidence that people have on the administration, the institutions, the departments, the churches, the various commissions and the people who are supposed to protect and uphold the law. Time and again they have been tested and they have not measured up to the mark leaving the society in a pall of depression and insecurity.
It is only when there is the spark of activism in some of these wings that there is as momentary break through the heavy coat of indifference of the society and government and shines the light of justice as we have in the various causes taken up by the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly Committee on Empowerment of Women offering a shoulder of support to the women and children who are the most victimized. One can only hope that their ilk increase.