The National Commission for Women has found “gross violations” at 25 out of 26 government-funded short-stay homes for sexually abused or destitute women that it inspected randomly earlier this year, The Indian Express reported on Monday. The commission will soon extend its inquiry to all 500 such homes across the country.
The shelter homes that the NCW inspected are located in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha. The inquiry took place in August and September.
The short-stay homes were launched in 2015 under the Swadhar Greh initiative. They are funded by the central and state governments and run by non-governmental organisations. Women can stay at these homes for a maximum of five years, during which period they are to be provided vocational training, counselling and medical or legal aid.
The inquiry found that many of the short-stay homes were functioning as working women’s hostels and most of them did not have clinical psychologists. Mentally challenged women were housed in the same complex as other women, with no care or separate medical attention. The inquiry found that care was not available to inmates with special needs or disabilities and there were no provisions for medical or legal aid.
“They are meant to serve as temporary homes for destitute or abandoned women but women who should not be there were inmates in most of them, many living there for 10 to 20 years,” National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma told The Indian Express. “There is no skill development provided whatsoever. We are now finalising a methodology in consultation with academicians and activists after which we will carry out an enquiry in all states.”
The commission’s adviser VR Tripurana Venkataratnam, who headed the three-member inquiry panel, said the situation at the homes was “extremely pathetic”.
A report of the inquiry said that at a short-stay home in Odisha, women were forced to stay back at the house despite wanting to return home. At a shelter home in Uttar Pradesh, mentally ill women were found “rolling on the floor at the time of inspection”, while a home in West Bengal was described as a “congested prison”.
“No one has bothered to inspect these homes or monitor its running,” said Venkataratnam. “Even the data on the homes is inaccurate. The list that is centrally available with the Women and Child Development Ministry is different from the one with the state government, while on ground it is an entirely different picture.”
The inquiry comes months after an audit report of 110 shelter homes in Bihar exposed alleged sexual exploitation of children at one home in Muzaffarpur. The audit had been ordered by the state government, which then filed a first information report against 11 people. A medical report confirmed the sexual assault of 34 inmates at the shelter.