Woman IAS Officer Highlights Rampant Misogyny In Criminal Justice System In Viral Facebook Post
A young woman IAS officer, who was being sexually harassed by a man, has described her harrowing experience at a Judicial Magistrate’s court when she went to record her statement, exposing the rampant misogyny even in India’s criminal justice system — often the only recourse for millions of women facing violent crimes.
Riju Bafna filed an FIR against Santosh Chaubey, the Ayog Mitra of Madhya Pradesh’s Human Rights Commission in Seoni district.
The website of Madhya Pradesh’s Human Rights Commission describes an Ayog Mitra as a “person who is having excellent character and who is neutral, non-political, social worker and distinguished person and who is appointed by the Commission to discharge the duties conferred under the Act, without any salary or honorarium”.
However, Bafna alleged that Chaubey was harassing her by sending indecent messages. After she wrote to her senior — Seoni Collector Bharat Yadav — Chaubey was vacated from official responsibilities with immediate effect.
But her ordeal started once she reached the court to record her statement.
“As a young woman facing the Court for the first time in a sensitive matter of sexual harassment, I realized why women do not want to come out in the open and report sexual harassment cases. The entire experience was horrible and traumatic. On reaching the Court, I requested the Hon’ble Judicial Magistrate to kindly allow me in camera recording of statement,” Bafna wrote in her post.
“Even before the Court had decided on my request, an advocate, who happened to be standing there, started screaming at me as to how dare I make such a request. He started using very rude language and said that I might be an IAS officer in my office but this was his Court and he was not leaving.
“I requested him to allow me some privacy, which I sought not as an IAS officer, but as a woman reliving the horrible experience of sexual harassment. But probably this advocate was more interested in demeaning me than facilitating justice against perpetrator of sexual harassment. He was not even a party to the case but just a bystander and he still did not allow me my privacy and kept arguing and using rude language. Finally after much argument, he left,” she recalled.
What was shocking during the whole incident, was that the Judicial Magistrate remained silent, she said. “He was a spectator to the abuse I had to face for asserting my dignity and privacy,” she alleged.
The Magistrate went a step further and allegedly implied that because she was a young, new recruit, she had unrealistic expectations of privacy.
“It is no surprise that crimes against women are increasing and that so many women remain silent in cases of sexual harassment. My offender has had a history of such abuses which were never reported earlier. I empathize with those women who remained silent, as the criminal justice system expects us to relive the experience in the glare of open Court and the so-called ‘officers of the Court’ are more keen to teach me my place as a woman than to help me assert my rights and get justice,” she wrote.
“It is absolutely right when one says that plight of an ordinary woman is difficult to imagine when such apathy and insensitivity you have to face in the court despite being with a privileged position of an IAS. What about the underprivileged?