Why Kerala’s Malappuram district consistently records the highest number of crimes against women
Religion, patriarchy and literacy are the main reasons behind the high number of cases of crimes against women in the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district in Kerala, social activists and officials said.
According to Kerala Police’s Crime Record Bureau provisional data , the number of cases of crimes against women in 2017 was 1323, which is the highest among the 14 districts in Kerala. In 2016, it was 1419 and in 2015 it was 1476.
And unfortunately, among the 1323 cases, the number of cases filed on charges of cruelty by husbands and relatives against women in the same district is 367, which is again the highest among all 14 districts in Kerala.
VP Suhara, a women’s rights activist in Kerala, said that the main reason for the high number of cases in Malappuram district is that people in the district are becoming more conservative.
“Already northern Kerala, especially, Malappuram district follows patriarchy very strictly. In addition to that, many are becoming more religious nowadays. By misunderstanding the religion and its true values, women are treated like second class citizens, confined at home and abused,” Suhra said.
In the 2011 census Malappuram had a population of 41 lakh and the district is the 50th most populous of India’s 640 districts.
Its population growth rate from 2001 to 2011 was 13.39%. As per the census data, Muslims constitute 70.24% of Malappuram’s population. Sex ratio in the district is 1096 women to 1000 men.
Suhra added that rise in literacy is also one of the reasons behind the high number of cases. “First of all, there are no big joint families in the district like in the past. There would be one or two girls only in one family. If a girl child is facing abuse at her husband’s house, then the parents will not leave it unnoticed. They all now know how to deal with it legally,” Suhra, who is running an NGO for the last three decades, told The Lede. The district’s literacy rate is 93.55%.
The police data also reveal that 356 cases were filed against people under Indian Penal Code section 354. Section 354 says that whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will there by outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Meanwhile, Myna Umaiban, an assistant professor at MES Mampad College in Malappuram, said girl children are seen as a burden, which families have to get rid of as early as possible. “Most of the girls at the age of 18 itself, are married off reportedly against their will. In many first year classes, we can see married girls,” the professor said.
“After marriage either girls lose focus on studies or drop out of classes in a few months. Then they get confined into their own family life,” the professor said adding that chances of young married girls displaying naivete is quite normal which may sometimes lead to trouble and violence in families.
Umaiban also said that more than gender equality, there is a lack of gender justice in the district. Since 2010, the number of cases of atrocities against women in Malappuram has been highest when compared among the 14 districts in the state and is always above 1000. Only in 2009, it was 923. But even then, it was still the highest in the state.
“Society is too patriarchal. Men doubt women for each everything in this district. Most of the men are in the Gulf. So unnecessarily, they create an illusion that their women are ‘bad’, which often becomes a reason to start a fight leading to more troubles,” the professor added.
PE Usha, Kerala State Project Director of the Mahila Samakhya Society, said that there is poverty and desertion in the district, which put women in a vulnerable situation. “The state has passed the Domestic Violence Act in 2005. But it is not implemented properly. The number of women protection officers who have to address the women grievances are too low in this district,” Usha added.
Meanwhile, P Abdul Hameed, MLA of Vallikkunnu constituency representing Indian Union Muslim League, said that the number cases are high because the population in the district is high. “So, there is no surprise element in seeing high number of cases. Additionally, now women are literate. If you see the school and college results, girls from Malappuram district do well when compared to other districts. So, when they are educated, they know how to deal with exploitation,” the legislator told The Lede.
The legislator also added that religion has nothing to do with gender equality. “In Islam, we follow gender equality and ensure gender justice. So, I don’t see that religion plays a role behind these cases,” he added.
National Crime Records Bureau data says that in Kerala, there were 11,451 cases of crime against women, in 2015 it was 9767, and in 2016 it was 10,034.
Global data shows that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.
However, some national studies show that up to 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Women who have been physically or sexually abused by their partners are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence.