One day, the supervisor visited the children while the parents were working and sent Surjit to buy some snacks.
Terrified by the threat, Meera did not say anything to her parents. Instead, she simply coped with the intense pain and secretly cleaned up the continual bleeding. Meera’s mother eventually found some of the blood stained cloth and, with the pain becoming unbearable, Meera confided in her mother.
Meera’s mother then confronted the supervisor, but with his colleagues support, he fled. Meera’s parents next went to the police and contacted the Sai Maa Women’s Empowerment Center. Counselors from the center offered support to the girl and her family, assisting the family to lodge the case with the police, get medical aid and other needed services.
Based on the initial complaint, police located the supervisor and took him into custody. The initial results from the mandatory medical tests at the government hospital infuriated Meera’s already enraged mother further as they only reported sexual activity. A second medical examination was arranged, but then inexplicably delayed. This was one of a series of procedural issues which could have brought into question the integrity of the case, compromising the possibility of justice. Important paperwork appeared to be inaccurate or improperly distributed. There were also unexplained delays and seeming inaccuracies in information. Additionally, Meera’s mother was allegedly approached by two separate parties to accept a monetary “compromise and settlement” rather than pursue the charges.
An important role for the staff of the Sai Maa Women’s Empowerment Center is supporting women faced with seeming disregard and resistance from the establishment and/or others around them. When pressure was applied, Meera’s angry and grieving mother felt afraid and questioned her strength to continue. This is not uncommon when these women are faced with strong resistance from an institution or the accused. Counselors not only bolster the women’s confidence, encouraging them to continue, but offer the expertise and action to show that it can be different.
With the case not moving forward through formal channels, the counselors took the case directly to a child protection agency. Protocols require that the agency be notified immediately of all police cases involving children, and as this had not occurred the agency took immediate action. Indian law supports children and women in these situations with dignity and fast action. It is when the law is not upheld, or not understood, that the system appears to lack support for these women and children. There were still other small incidents that arose after contacting the agency, including a fake medical report and Meera being refused entry to a children’s shelter despite having the necessary paperwork, but the case began to move steadily forward. Meera was moved to a children’s shelter as her safety could not be guaranteed at the construction site while her mother and father worked – and the parents had to work for the survival of the family. Both mother and counselors agreed that, although not ideal, this was safest for Meera.
This case is now in the court system having been recorded in front of a magistrate. Even filing the case at the court was not without incident. In a waiting room surrounded by police, the building supervisor’s wife pleaded with Meera’s mother to withdraw the case, offering her whatever she wanted, including the expensive jewelry she was wearing. When the counselor arrived, the pleading wife was quickly removed and Meera’s mother was taken to the magistrate.
Presently, the Sai Maa Women’s Empowerment Center continues to support both Meera and her family as this case moves through the judicial system and Meera’s healing continues.