#India Six years after #gangrape, Sukma women give up on justice #Chhattisgarh #Vaw


HAMSHETTI (SUKMA), December 29, 2012

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

Lakshman Sori (the name changed) doesn’t want curious visitors to his house, especially journalists. “My wife and I are trying to rebuild our lives, and your visit will ruin everything.”

Mr. Sori’s wife, a Muria Gond, is a rape survivor, but the Sori family, of Shamsetti village in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, is concerned more about mundane issues than justice. “We cannot afford justice any more, please do not ask us why,” he said.

This was not always the case. The women of Shamsetti, a nondescript village of about 130 families, did testify in court to how, in July 2006, four of them were beaten up and gang-raped, allegedly by special police officers (SPOs) at the peak of the state-sponsored anti-Maoist campaign.

Today, the SPOs and Salwa Judum — the State-supported militia that waged war against the Maoists — are officially non-existent. But its members still hold power and influence and have the connections to work the system. Five of the 12 accused in the Shamsetti case have government jobs and at least two of the SPO accused are now police constables. While in urban India the delays inherent in the legal process often hold up rape cases, in Sukma and elsewhere in the tribal belt of central India, conviction is virtually non-existent.

Soon after the rape though, the Shamsetti women bravely came forward. One survivor testified that while she was working at her place, a team of police and SPOs arrived in her house. “They forced me to a nearby field and took their turns to rape me, while my parents were beaten and locked in a room,” her statement says. The SPOs allegedly raped the women in the village itself. Yet another testimonial records, “A group of 200 police men and SPOs raided our village. Someone caught me from behind while I was chaffing the paddy at my house. Three men raped me in my house.”

The testimonies run into dozens of pages and discuss how the police refused to accept complaints and the women were threatened with “severe consequences” if they registered complaints. Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer for the complainants, says it was an “uphill task for the women and their witnesses to get their statements recorded, given the repeated adjournments” in the Konta court, about 25 km from Shamsetti. “But the brave women still appeared while the culprits were hovering around the small court room.”

#India Violence against Women: IS ANYONE LISTENING? #Vaw #Womenrights


Will gender equality and justice remain a hollow claim or will there be a sincere effort to make them real?

Umakant New Delhi , hardnews

The brutal gang-rape and the attempted murder of a 23 year old young woman in a moving private bus in the night on December 16, 2012 in South Delhi came as a bolt from blue and even numbed the sensitivity of every right thinking person. While recovering this numbness, the students from Jawaharlal Nehru University mustered enough courage to speak out against this barbaric act of rape and attempted murder by leading a massive protest at the Vasant Vihar Police Station on December 18, 2012 and blocked the traffic for couple of hours in Munirka in South Delhi. On not getting any reasonable and satisfactory assurance from the Police, the students continued with regular protests at India Gate, Safdarjung Hospital and even near the seats of power- the President House, Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs and so on. Women organisations, students both boys and girls from several other places joined the protests and have continued to fight pitched battles with Delhi Police.  The fight with a war cry “We Want Justice” goes on. The spontaneous and largely leaderless protests in the capital city may or not continue, but it has certainly jolted the Government and the entire country. Its effectiveness further would be tasted how much pressure it is able to mount on the Government to commit to bring in measures in principles and also in practice to end violence against women.

The spontaneous protests after the brutal gang rape in Delhi has galvanised similar protest though not in the same manner at several other places in different parts of the country. However, rape cases are being reported at regular intervals from Delhi and other States. The brutality with which rape and other kinds of violence happens against women not only highlights the failure of the criminal justice administration in the country, but also testifies to the fact about moral/ethical and cultural decay and insensitivity on gender issues in the society at large. But most importantly it is also an opportunity to make an honest and sincere assessment about the status of criminal justice administration system as practiced in the country and an attempt to find out whether ending violence against women and girl child is a priority or not? Will gender equality and justice remain a hollow claim or will there be a sincere effort to make them real?

Taking a suo motu cognisance of this brutal rape on 19 December 2012 the Delhi High Court decided to monitor its probe by directing the Police to carry a “high standard” investigation and file the charge-sheet only after the court’s perusal. “None of the details we sought have been mentioned. The bus couldn’t be detected for 40 long minutes so we asked who were the policemen on duty on the route who manned the barricades and PCR vans? When we had asked specific questions why the report is evasive?”. Standing orders were passed on to Delhi Police on 21 December 2012 to report on 9 January 2013 with all the detailed information that the Court had sought from the Police and ensure forensic examination in the crime be “expeditiously conducted by experts” since in many cases delay in DNA and CFSL reports affects the prosecution case.

In the meantime owing to pressure from all quarters, the Government has appointed a three member Committee of Jurists headed by former Chief Justice J. S. Verma to give recommendations on amending laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in sexual assault cases. The committee will look into possible amendments to the criminal law for faster trial and proper punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women. The other members of the committee, constituted by the government, are Justice (retd) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, and Gopal Subramanian, former Solicitor General of India. The panel has been given 30 days to give its report to the government.

In another development a Commission of Inquiry headed by former judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Usha Mehra has also been constituted which will look into all aspects of the shocking incident which has caused national outrage and led to angry demands for fixing responsibility among the top brass in city police. The commission of inquiry will suggest ways to make Delhi safer for women. The report is to be submitted in three months.

Whatever may be outcome of these initiatives by the Government, what is pertinent in this regard is to raise some uncomfortable question/s too. The enactment of proper legal instruments in the form of fast track courts and other necessary requirements are being called for but the much needed Police reform remains on the back burner. And the debate continues whether capital punishment is the exemplary form of punishment and whether it should be applied in the “rarest of the rare” cases/s of rape or not? 140 countries around the world have abolished capital punishment from their statute book but India retains it and also justifies it. The experiences of capital punishments have not led to deterrence in crimes, whether hanging of Auto Shankar and Dhananjoy Chatterjee on charges of rape and murder, or for that matter any other such case, the capital punishment has failed to deter crimes being committed at regular intervals. So the question remains: Is capital punishment the only form of exemplary punishment?” “Is life imprisonment not a better alternative?” Are there any other alternative available or not?

Is it not a fact that laws do not operate in isolation? As a matter of fact they operate in a socio-cultural and religious milieu which to a large extent is discriminatory and has allowed the persistence of obscurantist and regressive practices which in turn in many ways have led to growing crimes against women in the country. The combination of a weak criminal justice administration system and the prevalence of wicked cultural norms in society at large gets reflected in large number of crimes being committed against women across the country on a regular basis. The impunity that the perpetrators and even the duty-bearers enjoy along with the non-accountability of the political establishment have nullified the chances of getting justice and human rights to a large extent.

Crime against Women: A Snapshot

  • West Bengal reported 12.7% of total such cases in the country (29,133 out of 2, 28,650). Tripura reported the highest crime rate (37.0) as compared to the National average rate of 18.9.
  • The proportion of IPC crimes committed against women towards total IPC crimes has increased during last 5 years from 8.8% in the year 2007 to 9.4% during the year 2011.
  • Madhya Pradesh has reported the highest number of Rape cases (3,406), Molestation (6,665) and Importation of Girls (45) accounting for 14.1%, 15.5% and 56.3% respectively of total such cases reported in the country.
  • Andhra Pradesh has reported 42.7% (3,658) of Sexual Harassment cases.
  • Cases under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act decreased by 2.6% (from 2,499 in 2010 to 2,435 in 2011). Andhra Pradesh (497) followed by Tamil Nadu (420) reported the highest incidence of 24.1% and 17.2% respectively of total cases (2,435) under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  • Highest cases of Kidnapping & Abduction 21.2% (7,525) and Dowry Deaths 26.9% (2,322) were reported in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Offenders were known to the victims in 92.9% of Rape cases (22,549 out of 24,270).
  • Cruelty by husband and relatives accounted for 99, 135 cases. Whereas the molestation cases reported during this period was 42, 968.
  • A total of 33,789 cases of crime against women were reported from 53 mega cities out of 2, 28,650 cases reported in the country during 2011. And rate of crime in these cities at 21.0 was comparatively higher as compared to national rate at 18.9.
  • Among 53 cities, Delhi (City) accounted for 13.3% (4,489) of total such crimes followed by Bengaluru 5.6% (1,890) and Hyderabad 5.5% (1,860).
Sl. No. Crime Heads Crimes Reported
1. Rape  24, 206
2. Kidnapping & Abduction  35, 565
3. Dowry Deaths  8, 618
4. Cruelty by Husband and Relatives  99, 135
5. Molestation  42, 968
6. Sexual Harassment  8, 570
7. Importation of Girls  80
8. Sati Prevention Act  01
9. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act  2, 435
10. Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act  453
11. Dowry Prohibition Act  6, 619
Total  2, 28, 650

Source: “Crime in India 2011”, National Crime Record Bureau,  Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi

The reported cases of crimes against women as shown in the table here is only an overall picture about the growing cases being reported at the Police Stations across the country. Owing to several factors whatever happens with women within homes and in the society at large which could be classified as crimes do not get reported at all, and there is a genuine apprehension that the actual number of cases may be quite high.

Issues of Concern

Whatever is being reported is still very high cases of crimes against women. What is more worrying is how these reported cases are dealt with by the Police and the Courts.

Status of Cases at the End of the Year 2011

SL no. Crime Heads Cases Convicted Cases Acquitted or Discharged Cases Pending Trial at the end of the Year
1. Rape 4, 072 11, 351 79,476
2. Kidnapping & Abduction 3, 174 8, 110 71, 078
3. Dowry Deaths 2, 163 3, 887 29, 669
4. Cruelty by Husband and Relatives 8, 167 32, 171 3, 39, 902
5. Molestation 6, 969 18, 174 1, 62, 277
6. Sexual Harassment 3, 676 4, 358 25, 099
7. Importation of Girls 5 59 294
8. Sati Prevention Act 0 0 1
9. Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 918 1, 077 10,115
10. Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 372 57 1, 006
11. Dowry Prohibition Act 750 2, 858 17, 468
Total 30, 266 82, 102 7, 36, 385

It is very clear from the table shown above that cases ending in conviction are small whereas the cases ending in acquittal are very high and on top of that a very large number of cases were pending trial at the end of the year 2011. How do we explain this? During the course of investigation several cases are closed at the Police Station itself, these may be genuine or even may not be genuine. The Police should file a charge-sheet within three months from the time of the filing of First Information Report (FIR), but in many cases either it is not possible to do so or there are other considerations due to which charge-sheets are not filed up in the Courts. In many cases the alleged perpetrators are not arrested, and if arrested may be released on bail. The long time taken to arrest an alleged perpetrator/s affects the investigation and charge-sheeting. In several instances witness/witnesses may turn hostile and that affects the chances of accused being convicted. There could many more practical problems due to which large number of cases ends up in acquittal and large pendency of cases for trials. These kinds of situations reinforce the much needed reforms in the Criminal Justice Administration in the country.

The brutality with which rape and other kinds of violence happens against women not only highlights the failure of the criminal justice administration in the country, but also testifies to the fact about moral/ethical and cultural decay and insensitivity on gender issues in the society at large

Police Reform 

Though several changes have been made over the years, the Police set up in the country is guided mainly by the Police Act of 1861. The Policing and maintenance of Public Order is to be carried out by the Police. The “law and order” is listed under State list and that is why it is the responsibility of each respective State Governments to bring reforms keeping under consideration the changing scenario and the need for better policing. However, there have several attempts by the Central Government through constituting Commissions and Committees to bring forth the much need Police reforms. The Gore Committee on Police Training (1971-1973); The National Police Commission set up in 1977; Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms (1980); Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms (2000); Group of Ministers on National Security (2000-01); Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System (2001-03); Soli Sorabjee Police Act Drafting Committee (2005-06) and even the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily (2005-07) had a report on Public Order with several recommendations on Police reforms.

A writ petition filed in 1996 in the Supreme Court and heard over a period of 10 years, resulted in a landmark “Seven Directives” for immediate compliance so as be operative till such time a new model Police Act is prepared by the Central Government and/or the State Governments pass the requisite legislations”. The landmark judgement of the Supreme Court delivered on September 22, 2006 still remains not complied with fully by several State Governments/Union Territories. The matter remains sub-judice.

The moot question remains unanswered: “When will the wretched of the earth be treated equal in dignity and rights along with others”?

Years after years and the not so satisfactory role of the police set up in containing communal, caste and other kinds of disturbances along with its normal functioning, there does not seem to be any urgency on part of the Central Government as well as the respective State Governments and Union Territories. What is preventing the Central Government in promulgating a new model Police Act? It is quite baffling! The protector turning perpetrator/s of serious crimes, their complicity in several illegal activities, shielding of culprits, politicisation on caste and communal lines and several other unsavoury experiences so far has put a question mark on their integrity and accountability. And on top of all these instances of ineffectiveness and gross failure of integrity, there have been clamour for more powers to the Police to check the growing menace of criminal and terrorist activities. The signs of India becoming a Police State is imminent if the hawkish and rabid communal/casteist elements in the Government and administration are allowed a free hand. The fact, however, remains that if India is to remain a democratic country with a built-in system of check and balance and accountability, the Police and the Internal Security set up in the country must adopt human rights standards and laws. Until and unless the Police reforms takes place following human rights based approach, the crisis of governability will remain a sad feature of Indian State.

Intersectionality: A Tool for Gender Justice

In a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society it becomes all the more important to look at issues taking into consideration the role different social, religious and ethnic groups play in society, economy and polity. Intersectionality therefore becomes an important tool to understand the problems faced by women belonging to different social, ethnic and religious groups. The well entrenched discriminatory practices in society prevents road blocks at every possible stage for women belonging to different social, ethnic and religious groups from accessing justice and human rights. In the context of a largely diverse country like India, women belonging to Dalits, Adivasis, religious and other ethnic groups face multiple set of discrimination and human rights violations in particular apart from being women that they have to face in general. In several instances in the past and even in present times, be it during communal violence, caste violence, or militancy affected states and regions, the women belonging to these groups have always remained at the receiving end as far as securing justice on account of gross human rights violations by the State and even Non-State actors are concerned. It is only through recognising the intersectionality that runs through gender discrimination and violence that their problems could be addressed.

What we have been witnessing in the country is the complete lack of commitment on part of the Government and its agencies at several levels about the need for addressing the gender violence issues in an unbiased and judicious ways. The victims and survivors of Gujarat massacre are still being denied justice. The women in the zones of internal conflict (North Eastern States and Jammu & Kashmir) face violent situations in their day to day life and there have not been any significant progress as far as upholding their human rights are concerned.

Soni Sori is still languishing in jail. Her plea for a probe against the brutal torture and degrading treatment by the Police still remains unheeded. In Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, Adivasi women remain caught in cross-fires between security forces and the rebel Maoists and end up being the worst sufferers of violence.

Dalit women continue facing harassment, violence and their human rights violated across the country. Even if we focus only on the time period in last two decades, it remains a distressing scenario in the country. From Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan, Bathani Tola and Lakshmanpur Bathe in Bihar to Khairlanji in Maharashtra and several places in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and in other States as well, large number of rape and other kinds of violence against Dalit women are being reported and many still remain unreported. The moot question remains unanswered: “When will the wretched of the earth be treated equal in dignity and rights along with others”?

National Action Plans on Violence against Women  

Considering the enormity of gender based violence in the country the need for an all inclusive and a comprehensive national action plans on violence against women should be accorded top priority now by the Central as well as State Governments and Union Territories. The significance of legal framework, due diligence, cracking impunity and fixing accountability of State as well as non-State actors must be recognised and adhered to while trying to address the issues related to violence against women.

National Action Plan on violence against women as advocated by International Organisations like UN Women and other Human Rights Mechanisms within the UN, stress on three aspects to start with:

v  Acknowledge that violence against women is a violation of human rights;

v  Define violence against women according to international norms; and

v  Respond explicitly to State obligations under international human rights treaties.

Explicitly acknowledging and defining violence against women according to human rights standards in plans provides a strong and coherent framework to Government and civil society stakeholders for cooperative effort. It does not preclude other approaches to preventing and eliminating violence, such as education, health, development and criminal justice efforts, but on the contrary encourages an indivisible, holistic and multi-sectoral response.

The development phase for National Action Plans is a critical period during which these structures should be set up or strengthened to ensure the formulation and later implementation of a coherent, comprehensive and sustained programme of activity

Linking National Action Plans to human rights treaties recognizes that claims to secure rights, including the right of women to live free from violence, do not represent ‘new demands’ but are rightfully claimed as part of the duty of States under international law. National Action Plans provide an opportunity for States not only to develop an effective, comprehensive and nationally-relevant response to treaty obligations and international standards related to violence against women, but also to demonstrate that response, and so aid the reporting process to international bodies. The plan becomes an articulation of Governments’ accountability to women themselves, to all their citizens and to the international community.

National Action Plans on violence against women should:

  • Acknowledge that violence against women is a form of discrimination and manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women.
  • Recognize and address the multiple and intersecting forms of violence against women.
  • Draw on and include international research on the root causes, nature and impact of violence against women worldwide.
  • Collate and communicate data and research on the nature, prevalence and impact of different forms of violence against women in the country in question, and identify gaps for future work.
  • Recognize that women’s experience of violence is shaped by factors such as their race, colour, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, marital status, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status, migrant or refugee status, age, or disability.
  • Tailor strategies and actions with regards to the specific issues faced by different groups of women, aiming for equality of outcomes for all women.

Ending violence against women requires change at every level — from State systems and laws through to organizations such as schools, workplaces and support services, local and cultural communities, and down to individual relationships and behaviours. The challenge for the development of National Action Plans is how to translate this imperative into ‘a blueprint for action’ — to identify, coordinate and prioritize the most effective forms of action in the short, mid and long-term.  Because National Action Plans are multi-sectoral and often cross-jurisdictional, their development is not just about drafting actions, but setting up the structures and engaging the stakeholders necessary for its effective implementation. Engagement, advocacy and cooperation, between government departments, between government and non-government organizations, and between people and communities are essential to coordinate and sustain the document’s actions.

Structures for coordination, information sharing and networking, and for the ongoing communication of, and advocacy for, the plan’s messages, are just as important as the plan itself. The development phase for National Action Plans is a critical period during which these structures should be set up or strengthened to ensure the formulation and later implementation of a coherent, comprehensive and sustained programme of activity.

Soni Sori is still languishing in jail. Her plea for a probe against the brutal torture and degrading treatment by the Police still remains unheeded. In Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, Adivasi women remain caught in cross-fires between security forces and the rebel Maoists and end up being the worst sufferers of violence

The above mentioned framework on national action plan on violence against women as developed by the UN Women may help in preparing and executing a comprehensive action plan as per the local requirements. UN Women Office in the country should also share its expertise with the concerned Governments Ministries and Departments in this regards.

It high time a top priority is accorded by the Government and also by the society at large in tackling the ever growing violence against women in the country. The gruesome and not so gruesome incidents of violence against women happening all across the country on a regular basis every day are black spots on the face and destiny of this country. Every effort must be made to change this or else the goal of an egalitarian society would remain unattainable. Is anyone listening?

The writer is an independent researcher and human rights advocate based in New Delhi.

 

#Delhigangrape- Murder charges invoked #Vaw


PTI

People light candles during a protest against Delhi gang-rape case in Mumbai on Thursday. File Photo
PTIPeople light candles during a protest against Delhi gang-rape case in Mumbai on Thursday. File Photo

Dec 29,2012

Delhi Police on Saturday invoked murder charges against the men allegedly involved in the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus after she died in a Singapore hospital and decided to file the charge sheet in court on January 3, 2013.

Police said it will be their endeavour to ensure the “harshest punishment in the book” to the culprits.

“We hope to file the charge sheet by the 3rd of Jan., 2013. Section 302 of IPC, which is the penal section for murder, has been added in the case,” Dharmendra Kumar, Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), said.

He said a Special Public Prosecutor of eminence has been appointed to conduct the trial in a Fast Track Court on a day- to-day basis. “It will be our endeavour to ensure the harshest punishment in the book to the culprits,” he said.

The autopsy of the victim was done by a Singaporean Medical Team and the report will be made available to investigators at the earliest.

“In this moment of national grief following the loss of a young and innocent life to a barbaric crime, we appeal to members of public to stay calm and maintain peace.

“We, in Delhi Police, as citizens of this country are equally saddened, if not more. Our sympathy goes out to the bereaved family,” he said.

Police had initially booked the six men under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 201 (destruction of evidence), 365 (kidnapping or abducting), 376 (2)(g) (gang rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 394 (hurting in committing robbery) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

The girl had boarded the bus, thinking it to be a legitimate public carriage, from Munirka but was attacked and gang-raped even as her male friend accompanying her tried to protect her. He was also injured in the incident.

The arrested persons are driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Akshay Singh alias Thakur, Pavan and Vinay. The sixth person apprehended claimed that he is a minor and police have sought the court’s permission to get a bone test to ascertain his age.

One accused remanded to judicial custody

Meanwhile, Thakur was remanded in judicial custody for 12 days by a Delhi court.

Thakur, who was the last one to be arrested in the case, was produced before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Lokesh Kumar Sharma after expiry of his day-long police custody.

“He (Thakur) is remanded to judicial custody. Let he be produced on January 9,” the court said after the police did not seek his further custody.

Thakur had been remanded in police custody on Friday for a day to recover the remaining case property and clothes which he and other arrested five co-accused were wearing while allegedly raping and brutally assaulting the victim.

After the day-long custody, the police did not seek his further remand as they recovered the articles, which had not been recovered earlier.

The investigating officer in the case told the court that they have seized the clothes of the accused worn on the night of incident and also the mobile of the girl and ATM card of her male friend and other valuables at the instance of Thakur.

It also said the victim’s male friend, a 28-year-old software engineer had identified the valuables, which were robbed from them after the incident.

The police told the court that victim’s friend had even identified the ring, which girl was wearing on that night.

Thakur was arrested on December 21, 2012 and underwent test identification parade on December 26.

Besides him, the others arrested in the gangrape case are in judicial custody till January 6.

How Do We Break The Indian Penile Code? #Vaw #Rape #Justice


REUTERS (FROM OUTLOOK 14 JANUARY 2013)
OPINION
How Do We Break The Indian Penile Code?
This cultural sanction of rape must stop, the state has to speak
MEENA KANDASAMY, in Outlook Jan 14, 2013

The endless discourses of the elite point fingers everywhere: except at the real cause, which is the cultural sanction of rape in India. Arundhati Roy was brave to label it India’s rape culture. Rapes are not just numbers (24,206 in 2011), but categories: first, there is the not-a-rape marital rape. Then, the easily dismissible she-asked-for-it rape to be applied to urban women. There is patriotic rape: singular nights of horror courtesy the Indian army as in Kunan-Pushpora and Shopian in Kashmir; its second cousin, the long-lasting disciplinary rape to teach a lesson to a population seeking self-determination such as by the ipkf in Eelam, or the afspa-empowered army in Manipur; the minority rape as in the rape of Muslim women in Gujarat, custodial rape as in what happened to Chidambaram Padmini and, above all, the commonplace, everyday caste-Hindu rape of Dalit women, as in the rape of Surekha Bhotmange and her daughter in Khairlanji, and a thousand other instances. Please add the word ‘alleged’ in front of every mention of rape, so that we carry this pretence of political correctness.

  • Talk of crime is followed by talk of punishment. The 23-year-old paramedic’s gangrape in Delhi shakes the nation. Seizing the opportunity, violence drapes itself in the clothes of justice, and from the comfort of its kangaroo court, calls for chemical castration and the imposition of a death penalty. Behind this bloodthirsty demand is the propaganda machinery of big media. Out of a hundred questions that come to mind, here’s the obvious one: I do not believe in a hierarchy of victimhood, but why was such a campaign absent when the rapists were not the easily criminalised working classes, but feudal caste-Hindus, army, paramilitary or police personnel, or the rich and powerful? Does caste status, army uniforms, political clout and money grant immunity from media outrage?
  • Then there is patriotic rape, singular nights of horror courtesy the Indian army as in Shopian in Kashmir.

    These phenomenal protests draw the veils over our passive acceptance when we resign our fates to rapes in the private realm. Bleeding from a night of forced sex, when you go to the hospital, brace yourself for disappointment when doctors flash a congratulatory smile at your husband for proving his manhood yet again. You cannot go to the courts afterwards; there is no provision in the Indian Penal/Penile Code to deal with marital rape. In a judgement delivered this December, Delhi district judge J.R. Aryan said, “IPC does not recognise any such concept of marital rape. If complainant was a legally wedded wife of accused, the sexual intercourse with her by accused would not constitute offence of rape even if it was by force or against her wishes.” Translation from the legalese: your husband owns your body. Postscript: marriage is a licence for a man to get free sex and get away with repeated rape. Let us begin by exposing the sexual violence in our homes, tackling the rapists, child abusers and wife-beaters whom we shelter with our silences.

  • Should we buy into this rhetoric of quick justice and fast-track courts, oblivious to the implications of what awaits us and lacking the wherewithal to initiate reforms in the judiciary? In handling rape cases, several judges have proved themselves to be incarnations of khap panchayat chiefs. Two years ago, in dealing with the case of a gangrape of a minor girl, Justices H.S. Bedi and J.M. Panchal of the Supreme Court of India held that “there can be no presumption that a prosecutrix would always tell the entire story truthfully”. Remember, rape trials are tests of true storytelling. Let us devote time to work on that skill so that when we are eventually raped, we increase our chances at getting justice. The above bench also shamelessly said, “In rape cases, the testimony of the victim cannot be considered to be the gospel truth.” This inherent suspicion by the judiciary is another act of silencing. The system tells you, speaking out will be a disgrace since you have to be disbelieved. Understand my contempt, it is equal and directly proportional to the Supreme Court’s misogyny and mistrust of women.
  • Beyond the false pride vested in virginity and the glorified burden of chastity, Indian women suffer because they are seen as sexual objects instead of sexual beings. Just as the Indian male imagination cannot include the possibility of a woman wanting to have sex, he cannot imagine a woman wanting to refuse sex. Their consent is taken for granted, this gives a free run to rape culture. In its most bloody avatar, this denial of a woman’s sexuality can lead to mindless violence and an indefinite moratorium on intercaste marriages. Last month, the Ramadoss-led PMK burnt 300 homes in three Dalit colonies in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu, to warn caste-Hindu women off from marrying Dalit men. Love, he claims, is an immature act. The scope of anti-caste rebellion arising out of women’s sexual autonomy singes this disturbed man.
  • We fight for ourselves and spontaneously find our strength. Sorry to disappoint you, Sushma Swaraj. We refuse to be frozen into frigidity merely to fit into your depiction of rape survivors as zinda laash, the living corpses. We are not the walking dead; every day comes alive because of us. We even own the nights. Patriarchal pride dies between our thighs. Your education in feminism will begin, Ms Swaraj, when you learn to respect us. In your spare time, you can start by questioning Hindutva hyper-masculinity and how it resulted in the rapes of Muslim women in Gujarat.

This country gave a gallantry medal to SP Ankit Garg, who ordered the torture of adivasi schoolteacher Soni Sori.

In a city comatose with its own delusions of power, this was a disaster waiting to happen. The Delhi-NCR police have legitimised rapes in the region earlier too, speaking their mind to hidden cameras, saying “she asked for it” and “it is consensual most of the time”. They blamed young women for not staying within their boundaries, for wearing short skirts, for not wearing stoles, for drinking vodka, for enticing men. A cop declared that no rape would happen without the girl’s provocation. No serious action has been taken against any of these cops. It’s difficult to expect otherwise, in a country that gave a gallantry medal to SP Ankit Garg, who ordered the torture of Soni Sori, the adivasi schoolteacher from Dantewada. She was undressed, given electric shocks, stones were shoved in her vagina and rectum. I will save other stories of custodial rapes for another day.

  • This is how the state ushers in a semblance of calm in Delhi: using expired teargas, lathicharging protesters, wielding water cannons in the December cold. Unleashing police terror is a surprise tactic with a long-term payoff, it is violence meant to shut the door on further peaceful protests. Justifying this brutality, the Delhi police commissioner spoke of “collateral damage” and the Union home minister compared protesters to Maoists. When such language is routinely employed by the state—not in reference to rebellion in the Red Corridor, but to pretty placards in the capital city—it signifies an all-out offensive on the people. When the state finds an escape hatch by homogenising all protest and labelling everyone a Maoist, it creates a sense of helplessness and isolation among the young people. Since the ruling order will not meet protesters on the roads or in Raisina Hill, are they suggesting that all of us schedule a rendezvous in Bastar? Assuming politics is an antidote to violence, the protesters at India Gate merely had a defanged demand: “Talk to us.” What they heard was the silence of the political elites and the deathly drone of the state machinery that sought to quell their protests.

The middle classes who got a taste of police violence will now, hopefully, wake up to the reality of police, paramilitary and army excesses in Kashmir, the Northeast and in adivasi villages in central India. Out of their slumbering state, they will perhaps realise the sham of the present democracy and the zero accountability that elected representatives enjoy. The prime minister robotically reading out empty words and the strategic absence of legitimate mediation from the state will not quell protests. On the contrary, it will have the unintended consequence of detonating similar struggles everywhere. The state will have to speak then. If it doesn’t, and the government succeeds in driving all anger and dissent underground, it will have to take the blame for creating guerrillas en masse. Theek hai?

Urgent Release – Kudankulam New Year event


Kudankulam all set to witness a Celebration of Peace:

People pour in from different parts of the country to celebrate the New Year with children, women and men of the anti-nuclear struggle

 

Press Release: 29th December 2012

 

Kudankulam is all set to witness a different event; where people from various walks of life, from across India will be joining to celebrate New Year with the local people of the coastal villages of Tamil Nadu.

 

All through 2012, Kudankulam – the now famous epicentre of anti-nuclear struggle in Tamil Nadu, India – was in the news for the local people’s valiant fight against the nuclear power plant. The place became renowned for the militancy of the local fishing communities, the clashes they had with police and the kind of state repression the people had to bear, despite being a democratic and peaceful struggle. It was also in the news for the loss of ecology and livelihood that will affect the local people, if the plant was commissioned. The Indian state has rubbished their struggle and with support from the state run atomic department scientists, setting aside the concerns of the local communities as ‘unscientific apprehensions’ and ‘baseless fears’. However, to the dismay of many, the local people in thousands, continue to believe that their ongoing struggle shall succeed and that the nuclear plant will not be commissioned in their neighbourhood, which will destroy their lives, livelihood and the marine ecology they depend upon. It is evident that they are not bothered about the power of the structures that they continue to oppose effectively. Their battle against the world’s highest paid nuclear lobbies is nothing but a repetition of the old story of the battle between David and Goliath!

 

However, the coastal areas neighbouring Kudankulam are all set to witness an event of a different nature and sort. Many groups across the country have gotten together to celebrate the New Year’s eve 2013, with the people of Idinthakarai and the other coastal hamlets of Tamil Nadu. The event is titled: New Year 2013 @ Kudankulam: Celebrating Resistance, Asserting Freedom. Hundreds of people from different parts of the country will reach Idinthakarai on the 31st of December to celebrate the New Year along with the peaceful struggle of the people of the region, also to salute the spirit of the people in sustaining the battle for democracy, peace and sovereignty.

 

I want to go to Kudankulam on 01.01.2013 to be with the coastal fisherfolk as well as the common people who are resisting the proposed nuclear power plant; a danger for the sea, the sand and the people”, says Mahasweta Devi, the internationally acclaimed poet and writer (Jnanpeeth Award winner).

 

Renowned poet and award winning writer, K. Satchidanandan emotionally added: It (the struggle) is all about the politics of life against the politics of death… I would like to be at Kudankulam this New Year day as I would like to be part of this politics, which is my politics and the politics of my poetry that sings life against death and the merchants of death. I want to sing the green, to sing love, to sing the undying dreams of the people, to celebrate the people’s right to survive, to work and to enjoy their brief existence on earth in a clean environment free from Hiroshimas and Chernobyls, without having death ticking nearby like a dark nightmare concealed in concrete. Because I want many more happy New Years to dawn at Kudankulam and everywhere on our dear little planet!”

 

 “Our people are joining in this celebration of resistance, to salute the spirit of the struggling people of Kudankulam. We want to use this occasion to wish the children, men and women of the coastal area a meaningful and peaceful 2013”, said Surinder Tirkey, General Secretary, Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (JMACC). “Democratic struggles for rights and dignity are not about some poor people in utter distress trying to battle some corporations or the Indian state. It is about celebrating the resilience of the people, their faith in the democracy and constitution of India. This is why me and our cultural team are going to Kudankulam to celebrate the New Year”, states Shankar Mahanand, award winning playwright and convener of Sanskrutik Andolan, Odisha who was instrumental in leading a cultural yatra for peace and harmony after the Kandhamal riots in the state.Fishworkers from different coastal unions will be joining the people of Idinthakarai and other nearby fishing hamlets, stated T. Peter of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF).

 

“For twenty years now, Kudankulam has seen a struggle against the commissioning of the existing two reactors. The actual work has been completed only recently but they have not been able to load the fuel rods. They promised us that they would not, unless they implement the 17 safety regulations given by AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board). And they have admitted that 11 of these are still outstanding and will take another two years to fulfil… We are going to join the people in ringing the New Year bells in the hope that we will not let this disastrous project happen”, said Admiral R Ramdas, the former head of the Indian Navy.

 

“The Kudankulam struggle is a remarkable, peaceful & courageous movement. Yet Close to 7000 people have been charged for sedition & war against the Indian state. This is not just an issue of nuclear energy but of rights of people & the violation of those rights. The people of Kudankulam are in truth fighting for the kind of India that we all want”, remarked Prof. Achin Vanayak of Delhi University, who is also a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament & Peace (CNDP).

 

Filmmakers, artists, musicians, activists and intellectuals from academia alike are expected to attend the gathering to be held in Idinthakarai on the 31st December evening. Prior to the New Year celebrations, filmmakers and theatre experts will be holding workshops for the children of the area, traumatised by the repression in 2012.

 

Special guests on the occasion will be the youth and children from Bhopal, who are themselves victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984, or who are victims of the continuing water contamination by Dow Chemicals in Bhopal. They will be joined by adivasi and dalit groups and cultural teams from Central and North India.

 

In a message sent to the people in the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), Aruna Roy, a senior activist associated with the Mazdoor Kisan Sakti Sanghathan, Rajasthan stated: “If distances were short, I would be with you for both these days to celebrate your extraordinary courage & determination in fighting a very difficult battle with the state for democracy. For my democratic rights as well as yours! And for establishing that people have a right to decide what kind of development they should have…”

 

Dignitaries like Adv. Prashant Bhushan, Mallika Sarabhai, Xavier Dias, Kamla Bhasin, Praful Bidwai, Nikhil De, Ambai, Gabriela Dietrich, Prafulla Samantara, Lalitha Ramdas, Ajitha George, Bishop Geevarghese Coorilos Nalunnakkal, CR Neelakandan, Sr. Celia, Abhay Sahoo, Vilayodi Venugopal, Prof. Niveditha Menon, Ashok Choudhary, Laha Gopalan, some political leaders and others have expressed their solidarity with the event. More than seventy groups from across the country are expected to join their Kudankulam hosts in taking forward the struggles against destructive development paradigm.

 

For details contact: Magline (09495531555), Bhargavi (09999563950) & Lakshmi (09791009160)

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE-#Delhigangrape survivor dies in Singapore: Why was she shifted ? #Vaw


OMEN AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT AND STATE REPRESSION

29 December 2012

DELHI GANG RAPE SURVIVOR DIES IN SINGAPORE

 WHY WAS SHE SHIFTED?

We are anguished beyond words at the news this morning of the death in a Singapore hospital of the young woman who was brutally assaulted and gang-raped in a moving bus in Delhi on 16th December.

We hold the Government of India, which took the decision of moving her out of the country despite her fragile condition, against medical advice, responsible for hastening her death.

It is clear that this was a political decision, taken with a cynical and callous disregard for the survival of the young woman.

According to Dr Samiran Nandy, a renowned transplant surgeon of the country, “I just can’t understand why a critically ill patient with infection in blood and body, high grade fever and on the ventilator is being transferred.  It will take weeks in this case to even look into the possibility of an intestinal transplant, so why hurry and take the patient out from a facility which works so well.  It seems more of a political move”.

Dr Kaushar Mishra of Primus Hospital has expressed similar views, “There is no question of a transplant at this stage.  The infection has to be controlled first, and the patient stabilized.  I do not understand what the hurry was to take the patient out.  Safdarjang Hospital, like other major hospitals in India, has excellent medical facilities and doctors to take care of the critically ill’.

Yet another senior doctor of AIIMS has said, “When the Prime Minister can be treated and operated here, what is the specific medical need to move a patient to Singapore?  What the government is saying does not seem to add up”.

Medical experts across the board are of the view that the doctors at Safdarjang Hospital were doing an excellent job and were taking good care of her.

Indeed, at a time when the government itself is promoting and advertising India as a destination for medical tourism and does not tire of boasting of the excellent medical expertise that the country has, we fail to see why this hurry to move the young woman out of the country on supposedly medical grounds of good treatment, and contrary to expert medical opinion?

The Head of the JPN Apex Trauma Centre, AIIMS, is reported as saying that `the decision was okayed keeping in mind the best interest of the patient and as directed by the Government’1. According to newspaper reports the CM Sheila Dixit was among the first to suggest this idea of treatment abroad.

The manner in which this lethal decision was taken, with even Health Ministry officials being kept in the dark, shows that it was no more than  another cynical gambit in the game of evading accountability for violence against women – yet another attempt to hide from the justified anger of the thousands of citizens on the streets of Delhi who are no longer taken in by  the paeans to  “good governance” and “progress” trotted out by the government.

The cynicism, callousness and sheer barbarity with which the ruling establishment has handled the public protests of the last weeks matches the brutality of the rape itself and proves their complicity in creating and sustaining a ruthless social, political and economic order that subjects millions of Indian women to violence on a daily basis.

We demand a public enquiry into the decision to shift the young woman out of the country.

We demand a public acceptance of culpability by the Chief Minister of Delhi, the Prime Minister and the President.

We demand justice for the young woman whose untimely and unnecessary death we are mourning today.

 

LET US NOT FORGET that this tragic incident is the latest in a long chronicle of cases of sexual violence ignored, covered up, denied and condoned by the government.

We demand immediate cancellation of bail and fast-tracking of trials in the 1 lakh rape cases currently pending in courts.

Contact <againstsexualviolence@gmail.com>

 

 

#Patialagangrape : Punjab and Haryana High Court says enough is enough


enufTribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
“Enough is enough”, the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today asserted, while taking suo-motu cognizance of news reports on suicide by a minor over alleged harassment by the police after rape.

Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri also drew a parallel between the law and order situation prevailing in Delhi and Punjab, and minced no words to say crime against women was on the rise in the state.

In a scathing indictment of the Punjab Police, the Chief Justice went on say: “The manner in which incidents have happened over the past few days is an eye-opener. Enough is enough…. The primary function, nay, the solemn duty of the police is to protect the citizens and track down crimes. However, when the police starts shielding and protecting the culprits and starts treating the victims of crime as accused persons, it is a sad day for the democracy of a country governed by the rules of law.”

Chief Justice Sikri issued notice to Punjab and Haryana along with Chandigarh, directing the authorities concerned to fix responsibility on erring officers before coming out with a detailed report on the incident and circumstances leading to the suicide.

The Chief Justice said the incident depicted a “very sordid sate of affairs”. The victim of rape was not only “harassed by policemen”, but also continuously threatened by the alleged rapists, he observed.

Compelled by “these adverse circumstances and filled with indignation, the minor girl thought the only course of action left was to end her life”.

The Chief Justice added: “Woman rights are human rights”, but in the present case the alleged rapists were “only not arrested, but were allowed to reportedly threaten the victim, as well as her family members. They were allowed to roam freely, and the repeated requests of the victim and her mother had no effect on policemen who remained deaf. On the contrary, they kept harassing the victim and her family by asking awkward questions and passing vulgar remarks, whenever the victim visited the police station”.

In his two-page order, the Chief Justice asserted: “Delhi has already acquired the dubious distinction of being labelled the ‘rape capital’ of the country. Irony is that the state of affairs is not confined to Delhi alone and the situation in Punjab is also far from satisfactory. There is not only an upsurge in general crimes against women, but also heinous and ghastly crimes like rape in the state.

“There is also a need for combating this rape culture by reforming various other institutions. Law for punishing such crimes appears on the statute book. It is the lack of adequate and enforcement system that also contributes to repeated commission of such offences. There is a need for proper law and order machinery in preventing such occurrences. In order to curb such criminality, criminal justice system also required to be revamped and strengthened.”

Notice to Punjab, Haryana

 Punjab and Haryana High Court issues notice to Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh

 Directs authorities to fix responsibility on erring officers before filing a detailed report on the incident

 Justice Sikri draws a parallel between the law and order situation in Delhi and Punjab

#PatialagangRape-What did they open first, shirt or jeans, asked cops #WTFnews #Vaw


Rape victim suicide: What did they open first, shirt or jeans, asked cops

Sukhdeep Kaur : Badshahpur, Samana, Sat Dec 29 2012, 09:24 hrs, IE
FP

“How did they touch your chest? Did they first open the jeans or the shirt? How many times did they rape you? Who touched you first?”

These are some of the questions that the 18-year-old gangrape victim who committed suicide in Badshahpur village of Patiala district on Wednesday was reportedly asked at the local police checkpost, says her mother Surjit Kaur.

Paramjit Kaur’s father works as a guard in godowns. The youngest of four siblings, she was allegedly taken away on Diwali night (November 13) by accused Gurpreet Singh, Balwinder Singh and Sandeep Singh, of nearby Kheri Nagayan village. A woman neighbour allegedly helped the accused.

“We were looking for her that night near the bridge,” says Surjit. “She seemed inebriated on reaching home around 9.30 pm. Next day, she told us about the incident. They had forced her to drink liquor and then raped her.”

Though they went to the police post, Surjit adds, “no case was registered till November 27”. She was left near the village gurdwara and three men saw her being thrown, the mother says, but all have refused to stand witness. “They told us she walked back taking support of walls of houses.”

Paramjit’s elder sister Charanjit, who teaches in a school, said they shifted her to her aunt’s house in Samana on November 29, but the “harassment” by the alleged rapists continued. Finally, 44 days after the rape, the sister says, “She consumed some poisonous substance on Wednesday and died late in the night.” The next day, the three accused were arrested.

In her suicide note, Paramjit said the three “rapists” had ruined her life.

On Friday, Deputy CM and Home Minister Sukhbir Badal and DGP Sumedh Saini constituted a three-member panel to investigate the case. A SHO and an ASI have been dismissed and a DSP suspended so far. The Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognisance of the incident on Friday.

#Mumbai-Your face does not merit a rape FIR #Vaw #WTFnews


Your face does not merit a rape FIR , says lady cop to victim

The bizarre reason a lady cop gave the victim before refusing to lodge FIR against her former live-in partner

December 29, 2012
MUMBAI
Akela, Mid day

“Tumhara chehra rape ka FIR karne layak nahin hain.” A woman who turned to the cops to lodge an FIR against a man who had duped her into a live-in relationship was turned away by a female police officer on the pretext of this bizarre rationale.

Rekha

The cop went on to sanctimoniously tell her that if she had truly loved the man who wronged her, she wouldn’t lodge a complaint against him, but would marry another man and live happily ever after.

Santosh Sharma
Victim and accused: Rekha (Top) and Santosh Sharma. Pics/Nimesh Dave

Before receiving such pearls of wisdom from the female cop, the complainant had even been told by a senior inspector that there was “no point” in lodging a rape case.

Rekha, (name changed) a 28-year-old resident of Malad, had moved in with her boyfriend after he promised he would marry her.

After he dumped her unceremoniously and married another woman years later, she turned to the police. For four consecutive days, police officers refused to register an FIR, saying ‘saheb chhutti par hain.”

She then met Senior Inspector Subhash Dafle, who also refused to register an FIR and assured her that all would be fine in a few days.

“Dafle told me, ‘Rape ka FIR karne me koi fayda nahin hai. Char din me sab theek ho jayega. Rapist to Goregaon- Malad me chhipa nahin hai ki use pakad layein (There is no use filing an FIR for rape. Everything will be fine in four days. It’s not like the rapist is lurking in Goregaon or Malad that we can catch him),” said Rekha.

Faced with the blunt refusal of cops, Rekha approached the Borivli Magistrate Court on December 15 with the help of lawyer Ashok Yadav.

The court then passed an order asking that an FIR be registered against Santosh Sharma under Sections 376, 406, 420 and 498 (A) of the IPC for dowry, rape, cheating and breach of trust.

But even the court’s order couldn’t convince the cops to take action.

The honourable court passed an order asking the police to register an FIR on the same day, but Kurar police turned a deaf ear. They aren’t even obeying the court’s order,” said Yadav.

Armed with the court order, Rekha met officer Jyoti Bhopale with the court order. But instead of registering the FIR, Bhopale started giving her some unsolicited advice, replete with veiled insults.

“She told me, ‘Tumhara chehra rape ka FIR karne layak nahin hai. Agar tum usse sachcha pyar karti to uske khilaf complaint nahin karti. Jao kisi aur se shadi kar lo aur khush raho (Your face doesn’t merit a rape FIR. If you loved him truly, you would not lodge a complaint against him. Go marry someone else and stay happy,” said an outraged Rekha.

False promises
Rekha met Santosh Sharma (30) at a garment shop in 2006 and they soon became friends. They started living together. Sharma even introduced Rekha to his family as his ‘wife’. Sharma would give Rekha Rs 8,000 every month. Rekha would even give part of her salary to Sharma’s father. In 2009, Sharma went abroad for a job. He then started distancing himself from Rekha, and stopped communicating with her. When he was confronted, he refused to tie the knot with her, saying that he couldn’t do so as he was a heart patient.

“Sharma told me, ‘Main heart ka patient hun isliye shadi nahin kar sakta,’” said Rekha.

In March, Rekha went to Sharma’s native district in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. She was shocked when police officers and villagers told her that Sharma had married another woman.

Sharma’s father Guru Dayal Sharma told Rekha that since she couldn’t pay him Rs 2.5 lakh in cash and give four tolas of gold, he made his son marry another woman. “Santosh swore on his mother’s life that he didn’t know me,” said Rekha.

The other side
In spite of repeated attempts, Senior Inspector Dafle of Kurar police station could not be reached for comment. “I am not aware about the court order, but I will look in to the

#INDIA- Disturbing rise in male intolerance to empowerment of women #delhigangrape #vaw


 

PUCL press statement on Delhi gang rape, 24th December, 2012
PUCL strongly condemns the brutal, bestial and savage sexual assault of a 23 year old girl in a moving Delhi bus on 16th December leaving her battling for life. We also condemn the unprovoked, unacceptable, unlawful and brutal attack launched by the Delhi police on 23rd December, on thousands of citizens, protesting against state inaction in the rape incident in and near India Gate and the continuing attempts by state police to crush the growing agitation by young people.
The response of the Union Home Minister, Chief Minister of Delhi and the Prime Minister, has been both belated as also insensitive, mechanical and sometimes even farcical as when the Union Home Minister used the Maoists as an alibi for not meeting and addressing the agitators. The political executive has failed to understand that the agitation is not in respect of this one incident alone. The agitation is symbolic of the loss of trust and confidence of people of this country in the criminal justice institutions and the people managing them. For decades now, every single institution without exception has been manipulated and subverted with impunity and citizens are no longer willing to trust persons in power – whether ministers, bureaucrats or police officials.
The agitation has also to be seen in the context of increasing incidents of aggravated sexual assaults on young girls, some as young as 5-8 years old across the country. The situation of rape and sexual violence is particularly severe in rural areas where on a daily basis, there are reports of women from Dalit, minority and economically vulnerable sections suffering violence and sexual assault at the hands of men, on the streets, in work places and other social spaces. This apart, the sexual violence on sexual minorities, transvestites and others is also very worrisome. Most such cases never make it to national media and do not become subject of mass action in urban cities. While we welcome the mass outpouring of support to the Delhi sexual assault survivor we also urge concerned citizens nationwide to become continuously engaged with the larger issue of violence against women in each state, city and locality.
However the issue of sexual assault and violence against women cannot be addressed merely by better policing and more security for women. Very often it is the police and the security guards who become threats to women’s safety considering the current experience of sexual assaults on women and men within police stations and by armed forces. The issue is symptomatic of a much larger, complex social phenomenon. Rapes and sexual violence will have to be seen in the backdrop of rising male intolerance to assertion of independence, self reliance and empowerment of women, in the work arena, professional and social spheres. Questioning of patriarchal values of male superiority, domination and gender discriminative practices are amongst many other social and economic factors responsible for increasing sexual assaults.
PUCL strongly opposes the demand to introduce death sentence as a penalty for rape. Demanding death sentence for rapists is not going to solve the problem of increasingly brutal and bestial sexual violence. Worldwide, as also in India itself, there is no scientific evidence that death penalty acts as a deterrent. By the same token, neither are other measures such as castration of rapists useful or relevant as punishment, as put forward by a number of groups.
It is also pertinent here to point out that punishment is only the last link in the criminal justice system. Conviction and sentencing is dependent on the strength of the prosecution which is in turn dependent on proper investigation. So amending law to have harsher punishment is a non- starter when a large percentage of cases end in acquittal when investigation and prosecution are often compromised deliberately.
The subversion of law begins from the stage of registration of FIR, medical examination of survivors of sexual assault as also the perpetrators, forensic science reports, witness statements, identification of accused through `identification parades’, letting in evidence in court, threat and buying up of witnesses and trial proceedings. We should also not forget the collusion, indifference and inefficiency of `Public Prosecutors’ in the conduct of trials. This subversion is apart from inherent patriarchal attitudes and prejudices of investigators, prosecutors and judges alike. It is only cases which surmount these hurdles which results in conviction and punishment. Thus without addressing these systemic issues, merely demanding new, more stringent laws and harsher punishment is a simplistic approach and no solution.
PUCL firmly believes that apart from punishing perpetrators and providing support to the survivors there is a need for a national level debate on the issue of violence against women across a whole range of issues – starting from language and discourse and spanning social, economic, cultural and psychological factors resulting in the commission of crimes against women. There is an urgent need for men and women from all sections including scheduled castes, religious and sexual minorities to understand, analyse and find solutions to the issue of sexual violence on women. In the end, the ultimate aim should be prevention of crime against women and not just punishment.
Prof. Prabhakar Sinha, National President
Dr. V. Suresh National Gen. Secretary