Women around the world unite to celebrate International Women’s Day every year on March 8. Yet there are many whose lives have turned into a nightmare and their daily struggle for survival go unnoticed. Priyanka (name changed), a 15 year old minor girl, is a mother of a two year old boy. At an age when, ideally, she should be in school having fun with her friends, Priyanka, carries the child on her arms and is desperately looking for a job to feed her son. The street-dweller who lives with her parents and elder sister on the pavement neat Howrah GPO, used to work at a tea stall near Howrah Police Station for a long time, till her son was born.
The minor Priyanka was raped by two men in their forties on a cold December night in 2015. She was only 13 at the time. “On that night a girl called Rani, who frequented the Howrah Court area took me to what she claimed was her home, under Bankim Setu. On reaching there, I saw two middle-aged men sitting and drinking alcohol under the bridge. Rani insisted that I drink, too, and after I was drunk, the two men raped me one after another. I fell unconscious and was lying there until my father rescued me at midnight and took me to where we stay,” said Priyanka. Her father is a rickshaw-puller and mother does odd jobs to feed her children. The area where the incident occurred is the administrative hub of Howrah town. Yet the family did not lodge any police complaint. “We are pavement dwellers. Our girls are often raped by local hooligans, but we dare not complain,” said the girl’s father. Within a few months Priyanka’s pregnancy was confirmed at a local hospital. In July 2016, Priyanka gave birth to a baby boy at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. “She is a minor and her physical condition at that time was so poor that we had to refer her to Calcutta Medical College,” said a gynaecologist associated with the Howrah hospital.
Feeding her little boy is now Priyanka’s prime concern. “Earlier, people would give me baby food for my son. Gradually that stopped and now I had to breast feed the child,” she said. Many such young girls dwelling on the pavements of the city and towns are victims of lust. So, in reality, are the girls and women of our country truly empowered?