MP rights panel not to scrap offensive report


The Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) has refused to withdraw a study report branding three castes of the state as prostitutes and pimps. This, despite the Unicef, which funded the study, dissociating itself from the report.

The report, titled ‘Caste-based prostitution in Madhya Pradesh’ has made sweeping generalisations about the Bedia, Banjara and Sansi communities. The study even claims that at least 50 per cent of the women of these communities were HIV positive. Among other things, the report describes prostitution as the "hallmark" of these castes.

"Parents and brothers initiate their daughters and sisters into flesh trade, procure customers for them and live on their earnings", the 80-page report says.

Taking strong exception to the report, several NGOs and women's organisations demanded that it should be withdrawn and that the MPHRC should apologise to the communities it had hurt.

After protest letters to UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Unicef, the latter admitted that the concerns about the report were "legitimate" and that the "Unicef had reservations about the survey and its conclusions".

In a letter to Ms Brinda Karat of the All India Democratic Women's Association, Maria Calivis, the Indian representative of the Unicef said that though it was not involved in any way with the supervision of the research "we take responsibility for not having guided its outcome". The Unicef also wrote to the MP Human rights commission asking it to withdraw the report.

The MPHRC, however, refused to withdraw the report. In a letter to Mr Purushothaman Mulloli, general convener of 'Joint action council Kannur', the commission has demanded to know the exact paragraphs and page numbers of the offending portion of the report so that the "matter can be reconsidered and corrective action may be taken.”

"This smacks of arrogance", Mr Purushothaman told a press conference here today. Mr P V Rajagopal, convener of the Ekta Parishad and representatives of other NGOs present at the meet announced that an agitation, with the participation of members of the stigmatised communities, would be launched unless the MPHRC immediatelywithdrew the report and tendered an unconditional apology. Ms.Mustari Bai, a Bedia woman, told the scribes present that therewas anger among the community women over the HRC report, whichhas been translated into Hindi by the NGO reps.

"Our concern is that a constitutional body, fundamentally created to protect the rights of the people has become an instrument to abuse and criminalize human rights", Mr Purushothaman said.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: June 6, 2001
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