Terminology matters. Many feminist groups insist that the term survivor is used while describing a woman who faced sexual violence. But it takes a long path for a “victim” of sexual violence to become a “survivor”. Need of the victim of any crime is beyond prosecution. While a court case is required to punish the guilty, the victim have to go through turmoil at different stages of same. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system is more about “crime” than “just”. And in this process of following criminal justice system, victim compensation scheme can become an empowering tool. Recently, at a State Level Consultation on Strengthening Access to Victim Compensation by Survivors of Human Trafficking, organised by the Department of Women & Child Development & Social Welfare, West Bengal Government in collaboration with Sanjog, a non-profit organisation whose focus of work is to combat human and child trafficking, in Kolkata, many survivors of trafficking shared their experiences of regarding the process of getting compensation under Victim Compensation Scheme.
It is a known fact that for victims of any sexual violence including trafficking, the trauma remains for many years. She needs counselling and medical care even after 6 of 7 years have passed of the incident. The shame and stigma that is attached in these cases often make life after the incident an ordeal. A person needs a range of services to get back the social position prior to these incidents which society often denies. Here lies the role of government.
Unfortunately, our criminal justice system is more about “crime” than “just”. And in this process of following criminal justice system, victim compensation scheme can become an empowering tool.
Though in many cases, compensation comes with the judgement. However, since this is a long drawn process and the person needs compensation more immediately after being victimised, Section 357 A CRPD of Indian law fulfills these gaps. Here is a glimpse of what this section says –
Every State Government in co-ordination with the Central Government shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who, require rehabilitation.
Whenever a recommendation is made by the Court for compensation, the District Legal Service Authority or the State Legal Service Authority, as the case may be, shall decide the quantum of compensation to be awarded under the scheme referred to in sub-section (1)
If the trial Court, at the conclusion of the trial, is satisfied, that the compensation awarded under section 357 is not adequate for such rehabilitation, or where the cases end in acquittal or discharge and the victim has to be rehabilitated, it may make recommendation for compensation.
Where the offender is not traced or identified, but the victim is identified, and where no trial takes place, the victim or his dependents may make an application to the State or the District Legal Services Authority for award of compensation.
On receipt of such recommendations or on the application under sub-section (4), the State or the District Legal Services Authority shall, after due enquiry award adequate compensation by completing the enquiry within two months.
The State or the District Legal Services Authority, as the case may be, to alleviate the suffering of the victim, may order for immediate first-aid facility or medical benefits to be made available free of cost on the certificate of the police officer not below the rank of the officer incharge of the police station or a Magistrate of the area concerned, or any other interim relief as the appropriate authority deems fit.
The compensation payable by the State Government under section 357A shall be in addition to the payment of fine to the victim under section 326A, section1 376AB, section 376D, section 376DA and section 376DB of the Indian Penal Code.
Also read: Victim Blaming Promotes Rape Culture. Here’s How.
However, lack of information about this scheme seemed to be predominant in the above-mentioned Kolkata seminar. Trafficking survivors said they came to know about this scheme years after they were rescued. Until and unless an NGO is coming forth, there is difficultly in finding a lawyer who will guide them properly in such cases. The State and the District Legal Service Authorities fail miserably in this matter. Who should be accountable remains a big question is such cases. Some experts felt that police, while taking the FIR, should inform the victim, some others felt it is the role of public prosecutor to file for compensation as soon as a court case begins.
Who should be accountable remains a big question is such cases. Some experts felt that police, while taking the FIR, should inform the victim, some others felt it is the role of public prosecutor to file for compensation as soon as a court case begins.
Rubina (name changed), a survivor, said that getting the required documents for demanding the compensation is difficult to get. Since compensation is age specific (children below 14 years can claim more), it is important to give age proof. However, most of the trafficking survivors do not have any documents with them. They do not even have FIR copies. When trafficking happens inter-state, coordination between different state authorities becomes another problem. Since compensation is given only through bank account, the process of opening bank account needs to be hassle-free as well.
Renuka (name changed), another survivor, said that her family wants to marry her off and keen that her past is forgotten. As a result, they are not interested in demanding compensation from government.
Fund allocated under Victim Compensation Schemes differ from state to state. Different states have formulated their own scheme but there is very little awareness raised about details of these schemes. Even lawyers are sometimes unaware of how to fill the form of VC schemes.
Also read: Why We Need to Stop Setting “Perfect Victim” Expectations on Survivors
It is duty of the state to give protection to each and every citizen. When crime occurs and a person is victimised, rights enshrined under Article 21 of India constitution is violated. Therefore, the state has to take responsibility. While following up a case against the accused person is essential, it should be mandatory to provide compensation to the victim. This action can make the road from victimhood to survivor hood lot more easier.
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