#India-SC slams wife beating, says not accepted social norm #Vaw #Justice #domesticviolence


Utkarsh Anand : New Delhi, Fri Jan 04 2013,

While a sessions court in Karnataka thought that “one or two beatings is not the kind of cruelty that could drive a woman to commit suicide”, the Supreme Court on Thursday deprecated all kinds of “insensitivity” shown by people as well as judges towards crimes against women.

Appealing for no-tolerance towards any sort of physical violence on women, the apex court said that “mindset” of people, including that of the judges, must change to make sure that the protection granted to women by the Constitution and other laws are proved “meaningful”.

In a judgment, a Bench led by Justice Aftab Alam reprimanded the trial court judge for making certain observations that suggested that “giving one or two beating was not cruelty to drive the deceased to commit suicide”.

The trial court had acquitted the man of the penal charges after noting that there was no concrete evidence to suggest his actions forced his wife to end life in 2002. The Karnataka HC however sent the man to jail for five years for abetting her suicide.

Expressing “anguish” over the insensitivity shown by sessions judge, the Bench said, “The tenor of the judgment suggests that wife beating is a normal facet of married life. Does that mean giving one or two slaps to a wife by a husband just does not matter? We do not think that that can be a right approach. It is one thing to say that every wear and tear of married life need not lead to suicide and it is another thing to put it so crudely and suggest that one or two assaults on a woman is an accepted social norm,” said the court.

The Bench upheld the five-year jail term for the accused.

 

Hearing PILs on fast-track courts today

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will on Friday hear the PILs on setting up fast-track courts across the country for trying sexual offence cases and creation of a national register of convicted sex offenders, besides other safety measures for women. “We understand the importance of the matter. That is why we are posting it for tomorrow,” said a Bench led by Justice K S Radhakrishnan on Thursday. ENS

 

#India-Towards a Decisive Victory in the Historic Battle for Women’s Rights


ML Update Editorial
The 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim finally succumbed to her injuries on 29 December morning after battling on bravely for 13 days. The unknown young woman will go down in history as one of India’s most memorable martyrs for the cause of justice and freedom for India’s women – freedom without the fear of violence and fetters of patriarchal domination.
If the government had thought that by transferring the 23-year-old victim of gang-rape to Singapore it would succeed in defusing the people’s anger and diluting their action and resolve, it could not have been more mistaken. The news of the courageous fighter finally succumbing to her injuries in a Singapore hospital triggered a renewed countrywide wave of collective anger and mass mourning.
The government that betrayed shameful insensitivity to the brutal incident and the agitation that erupted in its wake is now desperate to score political points. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, who never showed the courage and sensitivity to reach out to the protesters, were at the airport to receive the victim’s body. The funeral was held in the shadow of high level state security away from the reach of the public. And the Delhi government has now come out with the announcement of a compensation of Rs 15 lakh and a job for a family member of the victim.
But the scar inflicted by the brutal gang-rape can surely not be healed with token gestures or pious platitudes. Rape is the most violent and sordid expression of a deep-seated prejudice and structural discrimination against women that defines mainstream society and culture in India today. That a Congress MP, who also happens to be the son of the incumbent President of India, could make such a vicious comment about women participating in the ongoing anti-rape agitation and then get away with an empty apology with the party refusing to take any action against him, comes as a shocking pointer to the misogynist mindset of the ruling elite. And the Indian state, the judiciary included, has little will to combat this mindset – on the contrary, more often than not, it behaves as a custodian of this mindset. No wonder then that India has such a high incidence of custodial rapes.
It should be remembered that the two key milestones of the anti-rape agitation in the last three decades were both related to custodial rape. The well-known Mathura rape case which galvanised women’s organisations in the first frontal battle on the issue of rape was a shocking instance of a custodial rape condoned by the apex court. In fact it was the acquittal of the accused constables by the Supreme Court overturning the High Court verdict that triggered the first powerful wave of anti-rape protests in the country in 1979 and led to some stringent provisions in the anti-rape law by 1983.
The second powerful wave came in July 2004 in the wake of the rape and killing of Thangjam Manorama by the Assam Rifles regiment of the Indian Army. The women of Manipur drew the attention of the whole world with their bold protest, and this, together with the historic hunger strike of Irom Sharmila Chanu, has placed the call for the repeal of the draconian AFSPA firmly on the agenda of the democratic movement of the country. Indeed, the democratic movement has been increasingly aware of the fact that state and state-sponsored violence, from Kashmir to Gujarat to Chhattisgarh and beyond, has unfailingly been marked by the targeting of women for horrific sexual violence.
The ongoing agitation which has already galvanised the people on such an encouragingly big scale marks the third major milestone in the epic battle against violence against women in India. It is important to grasp and stress the linkages of the current phase with the previous phases in the history of the women’s movement because the government is bent upon reducing it to a passing event to be buried under the bureaucratic framework of investigative committees and token legislative changes. Changes in rape laws and other laws dealing with women’s rights, and more importantly with the mechanism of implementation and the justice delivery system, are of urgent importance and the government must be forced to adopt an inclusive and transparent democratic process in proper consultation with women’s organisations to bring about much-needed and much-awaited changes in this direction. The issue of change in rape laws can certainly not be left at the mercy of a Parliament which has been busy holding back for the last two decades a legislation for one-third reservation for women in legislative bodies.
But the impetus generated by the December upsurge in Delhi and across the country cannot and must not be allowed to be lost in a battle exclusively concerned with legal provisions for justice to rape victims. For the first time in modern India, the issue of patriarchal violence against women has occupied the centre stage of the democratic movement with great force. In 2013, we must carry forward this great momentum towards a decisive defeat of all the patriarchal ideas and forces which fetter women’s freedom and violates their dignity and democratic rights. Victory to the power of the protesting people that has begun to make its presence felt on the streets of India!

Indian State honours monster – Justice for #SoniSori #Vaw


Friday, January 4, 2013

There was a recent gathering at Jantar Mantar to protest against the gruesome sexual violence committed on Soni Sori while in custody in Chhattisgarh under the supervision of Ankit Garg.

Superintendent of Police, Dantewada. Ankit Garg was awarded with a presidential police medal on Republic Day (January 26) in 2012.
Soni Sori’s petition at the Supreme Court is due to be heard .
While politicians from many parties in parliament have demanded fast track courts to deal with the Delhi Gang Rape case, there has been no clear response so far to the demand made by several women’s organisations for fast-track proceedings with regard to the 100,000 cases of sexual assault pending within the judicial system.
Amongst these are numerous cases of sexual assault conducted by members of the Armed Forces, Paramilitary Forces and other Police Forces, especially, but not only in states governed by the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
Soni Sori’s case, where, armed policemen use sexual torture and humiliation on a woman in custody has been repeatedly invoked in demonstrations and gatherings in Delhi to protest against the gang-rape of the 23 year old paramedical student which resulted in her death.
Justice for the unknown citizen can only be done when Soni Sori and many others like her also get justice.

 

#India -States against #deathpenalty, want rapists to stay in jail for life #goodnews


INDIA, Posted on Jan 04, 2013

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Friday met Director Generals of Police and Home Secretaries from all the states over providing more security to women. Several aspects of crimes against women were discussed at the meeting in the national capital.

According to sources, the states said at the meeting that they were not in favour of awarding death penalty to rapists. Sources said that there was a consensus in the meeting that in cases of rape, the punishment should be life term, which is as long as the convict is alive.

They further said that some states also suggested amending the Juvenile Justice Act to lower the juvenile age from 18 to 16.

Later, addressing a press conference after the meeting in the national capital, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde conceded that conviction rate in cases of crime against women was low, and the time had come for the police to get stricter.

Shinde also reiterated his stand on increasing the number of women police officials, saying the women representation in police force should be increased.

 

#India- Women with Disabilities submit to Justice Verma #Rape #Vaw #Law #disability


 

January 4, 2013

Justice J.S. Verma

New Delhi

 

Sir,

 

Suggestions to the Committee

From the Perspective of Women with Disabilities

 

We the representatives of various organisations representing persons with disabilities while welcoming the setting up of this committee under your chairmanship are concerned over its limited terms of reference. It would have been better if the terms of reference of the committee had been much broader and not limited to two issues.

 

In the event, we would like to place before the Committee certain suggestions from the perspective of women with disabilities.

 

During the course of the last couple of years there has been an increase in the number of cases of sexual assault on girls and women with disabilities. Despite the increasing number of incidents being reported, sexual assaults and violence against women with disabilities continue to remain underreported.

 

Girls and women with disabilities are more vulnerable to exploitation. They are considered as soft targets with the perpetrators assuming that they can get away easily. In many cases such women are unable to comprehend or communicate about such acts of violence or assault they face.  Some reports suggest that they are upto three times more likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse as compared to other women.

 

In many cases they are not taken seriously either by the police or the judicial system. Their difficulty in expressing themselves compounds matters even further.

 

India ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Article 6 of the Convention mandates that the country make specific provisions to end discrimination and violence faced by women with disabilities.

 

Further, Article 16 of the UNCRPD under the head “Freedom from Exploitation, Violence and Abuse” mandates that:

 

“1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, educational and other measures to protect persons with disabilities, both within and outside the home, from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including their gender-based aspects.

 

“2. States Parties shall also take all appropriate measures to prevent all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse by ensuring, inter alia, appropriate forms of gender and age-sensitive assistance and support for persons with disabilities and their families and caregivers, including through the provision of information and education on how to avoid, recognize and report instances of exploitation, violence and abuse. States Parties shall ensure that protection services are age, gender and disability-sensitive.

 

“3. In order to prevent the occurrence of all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, States Parties shall ensure that all facilities and programmes designed to serve persons with disabilities are effectively monitored by independent authorities.

 

“4. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote the physical, cognitive and psychological recovery, rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons with disabilities who become victims of any form of exploitation, violence or abuse, including through the provision of protection services. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment that fosters the health, welfare, self-respect, dignity and autonomy of the person and takes into account gender and age-specific needs.

 

“5. States Parties shall put in place effective legislation and policies, including women and child-focused legislation and policies, to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against persons with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted.”

 

There is an urgent necessity for laws in the country to be amended to provide for these and harmonise them with the UNCRPD.

 

Compilation of Data

 

Unfortunately, there are no consolidated figures with regard to violence against women with disabilities. But the magnitude and scale of the attacks can be gauged by the fact that in the year 2012 alone there have been dozens of cases of sexual violence on women with disabilities reported in media from the state of West Bengal alone. Despite this high incidence, no attempt has been made to even map the magnitude of the problem. Consequently, neither the NCRB nor any other source has authentic figures.

 

It would therefore be pertinent that when such cases are registered, crimes against women with disabilities be also recorded as a sub-category like in the case of crimes against women from the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes etc.

 

Provide Adequate

Support to Victims

 

A team from the National Commission for Women visited West Bengal on April 3 and 4, 2012 in the wake of reports of increasing attacks against women with disabilities. It had made the following recommendations:

 

“We would like to recommend that the requirements of persons with special needs have to be kept in mind by all police stations and medical establishments so that they are provided with handholding support including services of interpreters, readers, professionals, psychologists and NGOs depending on the nature of the case. A panel of experts for this purpose can be prepared for each district in consultation with the Disabilities Commissioner and the WCD Department”

 

It would also be pertinent here to look into the rules framed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012.

 

Rules framed under this Act mandate that:

 

(1) In each district, the DCPU shall maintain a register with names, addresses and other contact details of interpreters, translators and special educators for the purposes of the Act, and this register shall be made available to the Special Juvenile Police Unit (hereafter referred to as “SJPU”), local police, magistrate or Special Court, as and when required.

 

(2) The qualifications and experience of the interpreters, translators, Special educators, and experts, engaged for the purposes of sub-section (4) of section 19, sub-sections (3) and (4) of section 26 and section 38 of the Act, shall be as indicated in these rules.

 

(3) Where an interpreter, translator, or Special educator is engaged, otherwise than from the list maintained by the DCPU under sub-rule (1), the requirements prescribed under sub-rules (4) and (5) of this rule may be relaxed on evidence of relevant experience or formal education or training or demonstrated proof of fluency in the relevant languages by the interpreter, translator, or special educator, subject to the satisfaction of the DCPU, Special Court or other authority concerned.

 

(4) Interpreters and translators engaged under sub-rule (1) should have functional familiarity with language spoken by the child as well as the official language of the state, either by virtue of such language being his mother tongue or medium of instruction at school at least up to primary school level, or by the interpreter or translator having acquired knowledge of such language through his vocation, profession, or residence in the area where that language is spoken.

 

(5) Sign language interpreters, Special educators and experts entered in the register under sub-rule (1) should have relevant qualifications in sign language or special education, or in the case of an expert, in the relevant discipline, from a recognized University or an institution recognized by the Rehabilitation Council of India.

 

(6) Payment for the services of an interpreter, translator, Special educator or expert whose name is enrolled in the register maintained under sub-rule (1) or otherwise, shall be made by the State Government from the Fund maintained under section 61 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, or from other funds placed at the disposal of the DCPU, at the rates determined by them, and on receipt of the requisition in such format as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf.

 

(7) Any preference expressed by the child at any stage after information is received under sub-section (1) of section 19 of the Act, as to the gender of the interpreter, translator, Special educator, or expert, may be taken into consideration, and where necessary, more than one such person may be engaged in order to facilitate communication with the child.

 

(8) The interpreter, translator, Special educator, expert, or person familiar with the manner of communication of the child engaged to provide services for the purposes of the Act shall be unbiased and impartial and shall disclose any real or perceived conflict of interest. He shall render a complete and accurate interpretation or translation without any additions or omissions, in accordance with section 282 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

 

(9) In proceedings under section 38, the Special Court shall ascertain whether the child speaks the language of the court adequately, and that the engagement of any interpreter, translator, Special educator, expert or other person familiar with the manner of communication of the child, who has been engaged to facilitate communication with the child, does not involve any conflict of interest.

 

(10) Any interpreter, translator, Special educator or expert appointed under the provisions of the Act or its rules shall be bound by the rules of confidentiality, as described under section 127 read with section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

 

It would be in the fitness of things if similar provisions are made for adult women with disabilities who are subjected to sexual abuse.

 

We suggest that concerned Ministries and Departments be directed to issue advisories to police stations, courts, legal services authorities, government hospitals and health centres to provide all the required support including, access to interpreters and social workers to the women with disabilities who approach them.

 

Also there needs to be accountability in the matter of making services of an interpreter/counsellor available to victims.

 

Training Of Police/Judiciary

& Medical Professionals

 

Training/sensitisation of police officers, judiciary and medical professionals on issues concerning persons with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities and the violence they face should be made mandatory.

 

We suggest that there must be Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in place for the police to follow while investigating cases of sexual assault. These SOPs must refer to the specific needs of women with disabilities, at each stage of the investigation and the role of the police during trial.

 

Abuse within Institution

 

A large number of women with disabilities are abused within institutions like hospitals and shelter homes.

 

Apart from sexual abuse, at times in some institutions these women are not clothed properly and are also subjected to verbal abuse. The guidelines issued by the NHRC should be strictly adhered to in such cases.

 

A monitoring and regulatory authority has to be established at the district level consisting of activists and specialists from the district who will have visiting rights and access to these places for regular check ups. Periodic inspection of these institutions by the authority so established should be made mandatory.

 

Counselling and Rehabilitation

 

Policy and legal measures to prevent and reduce violence against women with disabilities and shield them against such abuses by themselves are not enough. Necessary legal aid/help to bring the perpetrators of such crime to justice has to be provided.

 

Victims of such crimes have to be provided with adequate and appropriate counselling facilities. In the case of a victim getting pregnant consequent to sexual abuse, appropriate counselling and options should be offered to the victims.

 

Rehabilitation of such victims is also paramount. Rehabilitation measures should equip the victims with knowledge and skills to be able to engage in productive livelihood.

 

In the annexure appended herewith we have cited certain instances of sexual assaults against women with disabilities to demonstrate the nature of the vulnerabilities faced by women with disabilities and how they have been handled by the existing institutional and legal machinery.

 

We hope that the Committee will consider these issues also seriously as also the wider issues involved.

 

 

Signatory organisations, in alphabetical order:

 

 

  1. Aarth Astha, Delhi
  2. Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi
  3. Centre for Care of Tortured Victims, Kolkata
  4. Differently-Abled Welfare Federation, Kerala
  5. Gujarat Viklang Adhikar Manch, Gujarat
  6. Haryana Viklang Adhikar Manch, Haryana
  7. Himachal Viklang Adhikar Manch, Himachal Pradesh
  8. Human Rights Law Network, Delhi
  9. Janarth, Aurangabad, Maharashtra
  10. Jharkhand Viklang Morcha, Jharkhand
  11. Karnataka Rajya Angavikalara Mattu Palakara Okkota
  12. Lakshwadeep Disabled Association, Lakshwadeep
  13. Manipur Rights for the Disabled, Manipur
  14. Marg, Aurangabad, Maharashtra
  15. Mehac Foundation, Delhi
  16. Paschim Banga Rajya Prathibandhi Sammelani, West Bengal
  17. Platform for Rights of Disabled, Orissa
  18. Point of View, Mumbai
  19. Sangarsha Apang Ani Palak Sangh, Aurangabad
  20. Snehi, Delhi
  21. Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata, West Bengal
  22. Tamilnadu Assn for the Rights of Differently-Abled & Caregivers, Tamilnadu
  23. The Banyan, Tamilnadu
  24. Vikalangula Hakkula Jathiya Vedika, Andhra Pradesh

 

 

Prepared by:

 

National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled

4, Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110 001

Tel. 23369598, 9868768543

 

Annexure

 

 

Certain Instances of Sexual Assaults Against Women With Disabilities Demonstrating The Nature Of The Vulnerabilities

 

Sexual Assault

On a Girl with Intellectual Disability

 

A young girl with intellectual disability was repeatedly raped and abused within Ashreya, a government residential institute in Chandigarh. The girl was an orphan who was raised by the Missionaries of Charity and later shifted to this home. She did not complain at any point of time. The abuse came into light when she was found to be pregnant.

 

The Supreme Court Judgement CIVIL APPEAL NO.5845 OF 2009 (Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No. 17985 of 2009) Suchita Srivastava & Anr. …Versus Chandigarh Administration …  observed:

 

“On 16.5.2009, a medical social worker and a staff nurse working at ‘Ashreya’ observed that the victim was showing signs of nausea and had complained about pain in her lower abdomen in addition to disclosing the fact that she had missed her last two menstrual periods. Acting on their own initiative, the medical social worker and the staff nurse conducted a pregnancy test with a urine sample and found it to be positive. Following this development, a medical board consisting of two gynaecologists and a radiologist was constituted on 18.5.2009. The gynaecologists then examined the victim in a clinical environment and concluded that she had been pregnant for 8-10 weeks at the time. The radiologist also confirmed the fact of pregnancy on the basis of an ultrasound examination and recorded a gestation of approximately 9 weeks on the same day.”

 

The girl was unable to comprehend that she was being assaulted. Secondly, she was also unable to identify the perpetrators. This case is being cited to underline the fact that in cases where women with mental illness or intellectual disability are assaulted they are often not able to complain and even their care-givers in some cases are unaware of the abuse they are subjected to.

 

In a case reported from Aurangabad, Maharashtra a few days back, an attempt was made to molest a 29 year old woman with intellectual disability who at the time of the incident was alone in the house. She stays with her brother. The brother was initially reluctant to even lodge a complaint at the Police Station.

 

Sexual Assault

On A Blind Girl

 

Given below is the testimony of a Blind girl at a Public Hearing on Issues affecting Women with Disabilities organised by the Jadavpur University in collaboration with Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata.

 

“I face sexual abuse regularly. I have to commute to college by public bus. I need help of others in crossing roads and even during bus rides. One day I asked a man who was standing at the bus stop to help me to get into the bus. I asked him to hold my hand and then I realised he was touching my body also. I was very nervous – I thought if I protested he will let me go off and I will meet with an accident. You know how crowded buses in Kolkata are. This man kept on touching me in an inappropriate manner inside the bus. But I could not protest. And if I would have said anything, who would have believed? I can not see, so for me to identify him would be difficult. And others would think that he held my hands just to help me board the bus. So would they believe me?

 

“These kinds of incidents happen regularly. I do not know if it happened to any of my friends, I never discussed the same with them. This is something, I think shameful to discuss.”

 

 

Incidents of Rape of

Women with Hearing Impairment

 

Several cases of rape/assault on women with hearing/speech impairment have been reported during the course of the last year.

 

In one such case in February 2012 a hearing impaired girl was raped by a doctor inside the premises of the Bankura Medical College in West Bengal. According to the complaint lodged by the victim’s mother, the resident doctor of the hospital took the victim for medical examination inside his room and raped her. She could not identify the accused in the identification parade as she later told her mother that she was not informed by police or any concerned person what to do when she was taken inside for the same. As she was hearing & speech impaired and illiterate as well, the authorities did not know how to communicate with her.

 

In another case, again from West Bengal a national level Para athlete who had won several medals including at the National Championship in 2006, was on her way back from Raiganj to her house in Hemtabad on June 23, 2012 in an auto-rickshaw.  Taking advantage of the fact that the girl was hearing and speech impaired, the auto-driver took the girl to his house where he raped her. In this case, the girl was able to give a complaint in writing.

 

Assaults within Institutions

The Case of Dulal Smriti Samsad (Hooghly, West Bengal)

 

A young woman’s body was found buried within the compound of a NGO run home, Dulal Smriti Samsad, in July 2012. Investigations found out that Guriya, a destitute woman who was mentally ill, was brought to this home by West Bengal police was subjected to sexual abuse regularly and killed.

 

The incident came to light after one of the villagers staying nearby got wind of it. He informed others and later on the story was picked up by the media.

 

It was found that despite the home being registered under the Persons with Disabilities Act, National Trust Act as well as Juvenile Justice Act, there was no monitoring by any government agency. During investigations it also came to light that several other inmates (most of them were destitute mentally ill or women with intellectual disability) were routinely sexually abused. Men from outside the home, with connivance of officials of the home committed the crime after dusk. Some of the women when interrogated were also able to give names of men who exploited them. Medical examination of some of the victims also revealed signs of regular sexual intercourse. Copper-T was found inserted in the bodies of a few inmates.

 

It is obvious that this abuse and exploitation of hapless women was happening over a period of time, as the victims were unable to express themselves or those who were hearing them did not believe their versions. Even during questioning after the first death was reported, the women were unable to narrate their experience, given their mental condition.

 

 

Gerda Lerner, a Feminist and Historian, Dies at 92 #Obituary


“Fireweed: a Political Autobiography”/Temple University Press

Gerda Lerner and her husband, Carl, in 1966, at her graduation from Columbia with a doctorate.

 

By 
Published: January 3, 2013
Andy Manis for The New York Times

Gerda Lerner in her office in Madison, Wis., in 2002.

Her death was confirmed by Steve J. Stern, a history professor and friend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Dr. Lerner had taught for many years.

In the mid-1960s, armed with a doctorate in history from Columbia University and a dissertation on two abolitionist sisters from South Carolina, Dr. Lerner entered an academic world in which women’s history scarcely existed. The number of historians interested in the subject, she told The New York Times in 1973, “could have fit into a telephone booth.”

“In my courses, the teachers told me about a world in which ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn’t exist,” Dr. Lerner told The Chicago Tribune in 1993. “I asked myself how this checked against my own life experience. ‘This is garbage; this is not the world in which I have lived,’ I said.”

That picture changed rapidly, in large part because of her efforts while teaching at Sarah Lawrence College in the early 1970s. In creating a graduate program there, Dr. Lerner set about trying to establish women’s history as a respected academic discipline and to raising the status of women in the historical profession. She also began gathering and publishing the primary source material — diaries, letters, speeches and so on — that would allow historians to reconstruct the lives of women.

“She made it happen,” said Alice Kessler-Harris, a history professor at Columbia. “She established women’s history as not just a valid but a central area of scholarship. If you look at any library today, you will see hundreds of books on the subject.”

Gerda Hedwig Kronstein was born on April 30, 1920, in Vienna, where her father, Robert, owned a large pharmacy. Her mother, the former Ilona Neumann, a free-spirited bohemian at heart, tried unsuccessfully to reconcile her budding career as an artist with her duties as a housewife and mother. This struggle made a marked impression on her daughter.

Immediately after Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Dr. Lerner’s father, a Jew, was tipped off that he was about to be arrested. As a hedge, he had started a pharmacy in Liechtenstein, and there he fled, whereupon the Gestapo arrested his wife and daughter to force his return. Five weeks later, after he sold his Austrian assets for a nominal sum, his wife and daughter were released and left for Liechtenstein as well.

“It was the most important experience of my life, because I didn’t think that I was going to come out alive,” Dr. Lerner told The Chicago Tribune in 1993.

A more thorough investigation by the Gestapo might have revealed that their young prisoner had been doing underground work for the Communists for several years.

Through a marriage of convenience, Gerda Kronstein made her way to New York, where she worked in menial jobs and trained at Sydenham Hospital in Harlem as an X-ray technician. As a saleswoman at a Fifth Avenue candy store, she was fired after she reported her employers to the Labor Department for paying their factory workers less than the minimum wage.

In 1941, she married Carl Lerner, a theater director and Communist who helped her polish her halting English by having her repeat tongue-twisters like “Mae West is wearing a vest.” The couple moved to Hollywood, where Mr. Lerner became an apprentice film editor.

Dr. Lerner placed a short story based on her jail experience, “Prisoners,” in The Clipper, a liberal literary journal, joined the Communist Party and began working with community groups to organize supermarket boycotts and neighborhood child care centers.

“I was unduly intense, super-serious, incapable of small talk or the kind of friendly gossip that hold acquaintances together,” she wrote in “Fireweed: A Political Autobiography” (2002). “My perfectionism, insistence on anti-fascist commitment in word and deed, and general ‘heaviness’ as a person set me apart from others.”

Because of his politics, Mr. Lerner found it increasingly hard to find work in Hollywood, so in 1949 the couple returned to New York, where he became a top film editor, working on “Twelve Angry Men,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “Klute” and other films. In 1964, the two collaborated on the film “Black Like Me,” based on the 1961 book by the Southern white journalist John Howard Griffin that recounted his experiences disguised as a black man in the Deep South. Mr. Lerner directed, and together they helped adapt the book for film.

Mr. Lerner died in 1973 after a long illness that Dr. Lerner wrote about in “A Death of One’s Own” (1978). Her survivors include a sister, Nora Kronstein; a daughter, Stephanie Lerner; a son, Dan; and four grandchildren.

Dr. Lerner, with great difficulty, found a publisher for “No Farewell” (1955), a novel about the coming of fascism to Austria, but by the late 1950s she faced uncertain prospects as a writer. With thoughts of writing a historical novel, she began researching the lives of Sarah and Angelina Grimké, daughters of a wealthy plantation owner, who traveled throughout the United States proselytizing for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

The novel never materialized, but her research led to a new career. She began taking history courses at the New School for Social Research, where, while still an undergraduate, she taught “Great Women in American History.” It was one of the first courses ever given in the United States on women’s history.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from the New School in 1963, she enrolled at Columbia, her work on the Grimké sisters in hand, to study women’s history. Bending the rules, the university allowed her to complete her master’s and doctorate in three years. In 1967, she published “The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina: Rebels Against Slavery.”

At Sarah Lawrence, where Dr. Lerner began teaching history in 1968, she was the driving force behind what is widely credited as the first graduate program in women’s history in the United States, established in 1972.

At the same time, after writing the textbook “The Woman in American History” (1971), Dr. Lerner began gathering documentary material that would allow other scholars to write women’s history. Her material was published in two important sourcebooks, “Black Women in White America: A Documentary History” (1972) and “The Female Experience: Documents in American History” (1976).

In 1980, she joined the history department at Wisconsin-Madison, where she created the university’s doctoral program in women’s history. She retired from Wisconsin in 1991. In 1981, she became the first woman in 50 years to be elected president of the Organization of American Historians. The Lerner-Scott Prize, named in honor of her and Anne Firor Scott, another pioneer in women’s history, has been given annually since 1992 for the best doctoral dissertation on women’s history in the United States.

Dr. Lerner wrote two ambitious studies on women and society: “The Creation of Patriarchy” (1986) and “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness” (1997). Many of her essays were collected in “The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History” (1979) and “Why History Matters” (1997).

“I want women’s history to be legitimate, to be part of every curriculum on every level,” she wrote in “Living With History/Making Social Change” (2009), a collection of autobiographical essays. “I want people to be able to take Ph.D.’s in the subject and not have to say they are doing something else.”

 

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

 

#India- Chastity, Virginity, Marriageability, and Rape Sentencing #Vaw #Justice #mustread


The horrific gang rape incident in Delhi has led to demands for amending the law to provide for more stringent punishment for rape, including introducing the death penalty. Over the last few days, there have been various debates about the advisability of making such changes to the law. An issue that has not been highlighted in these debates is the existing state of rape sentencing. Any attempt at law reform needs to include an examination of this issue. In this piece, I provide a brief account of a few problems plaguing the current rape sentencing regime in India. This is based on my doctoral study at Yale Law School, in which I examined all rape cases decided by all High Courts and the Supreme Court over the last twenty five years.
Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.) prescribes the punishment for rape. For non-aggravated forms of rape, the minimum punishment is seven years imprisonment, and the maximum is life imprisonment. The minimum punishment for aggravated rape (gang rape, rape of a girl under the age of twelve, custodial rape) is ten years imprisonment, and the maximum is life imprisonment as well. In both these circumstances, courts have the discretion to sentence below the prescribed minimum term of imprisonment, if they provide “adequate and special reasons” for so doing. The crucial question is: how do courts determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed on an offender? A basic understanding of the trial process is essential to understand the procedure involved. The Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) divides the trial into two distinct phases – the guilt determination phase and the sentencing phase. In the guilt determination phase, the court either convicts or acquits the offender on the basis of evidence presented in this regard. If the offender is convicted, then the sentencing phase begins. In this phase of the trial, the court considers evidence and arguments on factors relevant to the determination of sentence. Ruling on the factors that a court should consider in deciding on sentence, the Supreme Court has held that the nature of the offence; the presence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances; the prior criminal record of the offender; his age, professional, social, and educational background, amongst others are relevant. Another important consideration is the theory of punishment that should be followed – deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, etc. Since the I.P.C. does not provide guidance to courts on any of these issues, except for prescribing maximum – and in some cases, as in rape – minimum punishments, judges have the absolute discretion to determine the sentence for each individual offender. Unlike some other countries, such as the United States and England, India does not have sentencing guidelines, which provide rules and principles for judges to follow while sentencing. These guidelines generally list out factors that the court should (and should not) consider while sentencing. The absence of such guidelines in India is one of the reasons for the rampant disparity that exists in sentencing across crimes, including rape. In fact, the Supreme Court has itself repeatedly acknowledged the existence of disparity in its death penalty practice. It has observed that sentencing has become “judge-centric,” instead of being based on principles. The same critique applies equally to rape sentencing as well. However, the causes for disparity in rape sentencing, as compared to capital sentencing or sentencing in other crimes, are entirely different.
What makes rape sentencing different from sentencing for other crimes? Unlike other offences, the crime of rape carries its own baggage. Over the years, stereotypical and patriarchal notions have developed with regard to women’s sexual behaviour. Most of these notions are based on the assumption that the chastity and virginity of a woman are her most important “assets.” Popular notions consider rape as a fate worse than death since it robs women of these “virtues” and casts a stigma over victims for the rest of their lives. In these imaginations, rape is not a crime against a woman’s sexual autonomy or bodily integrity, but an irreparable loss to her chastity, “modesty,” and social standing. A woman who has already “lost” her chastity and modesty by having sexual relations before or outside of marriage, is not considered to have suffered too much harm; and the perpetrator is therefore not required to be punished too severely. In order to ensure that such stereotypical notions relating to the sexual behaviour and sexual mores of women are not considered in rape trials, the Indian Evidence Act was amended in 2003, prohibiting the defence from impeaching a rape victim’s testimony on the basis of her past sexual history. Unfortunately, the amendment appears to have impacted only the guilt determination phase of the trial, and not the sentencing phase. The site of stereotyping has merely shifted from the guilt determination phase to the sentencing phase of the trial, and stereotypes have an adverse impact on rape sentencing. In cases where the woman’s behaviour does not adhere to stereotypical constructs, the men who raped them end up getting lower sentences.
But, if the law prohibits past sexual history from being considered, how does it continue to impact rape sentencing? The answer to this is the nature of evidence required to prove rape, and the manner in which such evidence finds its way into the trial. The crucial fact that the prosecution has to prove in rape cases is the lack of the woman’s consent to sexual intercourse. Unlike laws of various other countries, Indian law does not require the prosecution to prove that the offender knew that the woman had not consented, or intended to rape the woman. The woman’s testimony that she had not consented to intercourse is sufficient. In fact, the Supreme Court has consistently held that conviction can be based solely on the testimony of the woman, and there is no need for any other corroborating evidence. However, the court has to be satisfied that the woman’s testimony is reliable, and she is in fact stating the truth. It is in the determination of the reliability of the victim’s testimony that stereotypes enter rape adjudication.
An important piece of evidence in rape cases is the report of the medical examination of the rape victim. Medical and forensic evidence enables the prosecution to show that penetration of the vulva by the penis (a pre-requisite for the offence of rape) had in fact taken place. Doctors are required to testify to this fact, as also the presence of body fluids and injuries, if any. Note, however, that the law does not require ejaculation. The protocols followed by doctors in examining rape victims across India go much beyond determining whether penetration had occurred. They continue to make assessments of the woman’s sexual history, and play a major role in advancing stereotypical notions relating to women’s sexual mores, by providing a scientific veneer to the process. This process includes the examination of the woman’s hymen and the distensibility of her vagina. Whether the hymen is torn, and if so, if such tears are old or new are noted. Doctors conduct the “two-finger test,” ostensibly to determine whether penetration has occurred. This highly invasive procedure involves the doctor inserting one, two, or more fingers into the woman’s vagina to determine the elasticity of the orifice. If the doctor is able to insert two or more fingers, it ostensibly indicates that the woman has had prior intercourse. The rationale behind this “test” is that if two fingers can pass through the vagina, a body of the size of an erect penis could have passed through the orifice at an earlier point of time.
Let me provide a concrete example of how the stereotypes find their way into the trial process through medical examination.
Assume that in examining an unmarried rape victim, the doctor notes the presence of old tears on her hymen. The doctor also notes that she was able to insert two or more fingers into the vagina of the victim. Although the doctor does not expressly opine that the woman was sexually active, this information is conveyed to the court by way of the medical report. My study showed that in cases where the medical report indicated that the woman had been sexually active before marriage, lower sentences were imposed on the offenders who raped them. In contrast, in cases where the offender had raped a virgin, the sentence was relatively higher. Thus, the sexual history of the victim had an impact on the sentence imposed on the offender.
Another factor related to virginity is the perceived loss experienced by an unmarried victim, in terms of her marriageability. The Supreme Court has in a number of cases noted how rape adversely affects the chances of a woman finding a suitable groom. In this context, the Court has even held that the marital status of the woman can be a relevant factor in rape sentencing. It is not surprising then that offenders who raped unmarried (and virginal) women got higher sentences in contrast to men who raped married women. Further, courts tend to impose lower sentences when a victim who was unmarried when the offence was committed, gets married during the trial. Since the rape did not impact the victim’s ability to get married, the harm caused by the offence is discounted. An egregious example of this approach is the Supreme Court’s decision in Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab (2011), another gang rape case that got a lot of media attention. One of the reasons that the Court gave for reducing the sentence in this case was that the victim was now married.
The second stereotype that affects rape sentencing is the perception that rape is a matter of shame for the victim. The Supreme Court has in fact frequently observed that a woman experiences a “deep sense of deathless shame” as a consequence of being raped. Combined with the notion that a woman considers her chastity and virginity to be invaluable, a myth has developed that on being inflicted with this “shameful” act, a woman will necessarily physically resist her attacker, when sexually assaulted. Such physical resistance, it is believed, leads to injuries on the woman’s body, which then demonstrates that sex was not consensual. Note, however, that the law does not require the woman to resist the attack. The presence of injuries might corroborate lack of consent, but the absence of injuries should not imply consent. Although courts do not appear to infer consent from absence of injuries, I found a marked decrease in sentences in cases where no injuries were present on the woman’s body. Hence, unfortunately, the notion that a woman should physically resist rape makes its way into rape sentencing.
The third interesting finding of my study was that courts consider acquaintance rape to be less traumatic than rape by a stranger. Offenders who were in a romantic relationship with the women they raped got lower sentences, compared to their counterparts who raped women they did not know. In cases of statutory rape where the under-aged girl had consented to intercourse, courts consistently imposed lower sentences on the offenders, based on the understanding that the young woman had otherwise “contributed” to the offence.
Law reform movements, as well as policy-makers have not paid much attention to issues pertaining to stereotypes surrounding rape sentencing. For justifiable reasons, their focus has been on steps to ensure higher convictions in rape cases. In addition to these efforts, there is need for reforms to rid rape sentencing of stereotypes. This would include: first, changing the nature of medical evidence collected in rape cases. Protocols for medical examination of rape victims should be modified, and corresponding changes should be made to medical education syllabi. The second reform required is the formulation of principles to be followed by judges while sentencing rape offenders. Factors that should not be considered in sentencing rape offenders (such as the victim’s sexual mores) should be listed. Currently, a large number of rape offenders whose victims do not adhere to the stereotypical construct of a rape victim get relatively lower sentences. Ensuring principled sentencing, one that is in tune with our constitutional values, is a better guarantee for justice to rape victims, rather than legislative steps providing for capital punishment, chemical castration and the like.
Mrinal Satish is an Associate Professor at the National Law University, Delhi. His doctoral dissertation at Yale Law School examines the issue of rape sentencing in India. He can be contacted at mrinal.satish@aya.yale.edu)
Source- http://www.lawandotherthings.blogspot.in/

#India-Youth attempts rape, attacks girl with blade for raising alarm in #Chhattisgarh #Vaw


CHILDRAPE
Published: Friday,
Jan 4, 2013, 16:51 IST
Place: Bilaspur | Agency: PTI

A 16-year-old girl was attacked here with a blade allegedly by an unidentified youth, when she tried to resist his sexual advances, leaving her critically injured, police said on Friday.

The incident took place yesterday in Paraswani village under Gaurela police station area when the Class XI student was returning from school in Kodri near her native, Superintendent of Police Ratanlal Dangi said.

The accused allegedly stopped the girl on her way back home at an isolated place between the two villages and attempted to outrage her modesty, he said.

He attacked her with the blade when she raised an alarm and fled the spot, Dangi said.

The girl has been admitted to a government hospital with severe injuries, he said.

Three suspects have been taken into custody in this connection and further investigations are on, police add

 

Of Sex Offender Databases and “Chemical Castration” #Vaw #Rape #Justice


Avoid Criminal Justice Reforms in Rage or Fear

Vol – XLVIII No. 01, January 05, 2013 | Vijay K. Nagaraj , EPW

The groundswell of response to the tragic incident in Delhi may have precipitated a political moment, providing impetus for much needed reforms in legal, policing and other aspects of the criminal justice system. However, in seeking to quickly seize the political moment there is a distinct danger of acting in haste or ignoring the insights and experience developed over the years within the women’s movement and by civil liberties activism in India not to mention lessons from elsewhere.

Vijay K. Nagaraj is an independent researcher

The horrific rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi has sparked widespread public anger as well as media and political commentary on the need to change many aspects of India’s criminal justice system, particularly with respect to crimes against women. While this is to be welcomed it is of concern that the plethora of new measures being advocated includes the introduction of something along the lines of a sex offender registry or database as well as “chemical castration” of offenders. Unfortunately, it is all too common for laws pertaining to sex offences to be made “by rage and fear in a hurry”.

In fact, contrary to conventional wisdom, the immediate aftermath of a heinous act of criminality, like the brutal gang-rape and murder in Delhi in a moving bus, is not always the most conducive of moments to actually carry out any significant criminal justice reforms. Heinous crimes that shock and arouse strong public reactions and call for compelling institutional responses present both an opportunity and a danger as far as criminal justice reforms go. Experience around the world has shown that criminal justice policies are particularly vulnerable to being governed by populism and force of instrumentalised sentiment rather than being built on a sound evidence base, reasoned assessments of what is really needed and effective, and a commitment to the fabric of fundamental human rights. Lest I am misunderstood, I agree with the many assessments of the serious shortcomings in India’s criminal justice system, especially with respect to crimes against women and gender based-violence, and the need to address them swiftly. However, it is precisely the very depth of these shortcomings and the scale of the challenge that must necessarily lead us to think carefully before we leap, be it the creation of publicly accessible registries or databases of sex-offenders or “chemical castration”, the twin focus of this brief commentary.

Publicly accessible registries or databases of sex-offenders

report in The Guardian of 28th December focuses on moves to establish a publicly accessible database or registry in India of those convicted of rape. It quotes the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, RPN Singh: “We are planning to start the process [of identification] in Delhi. Photographs, names and addresses of the rapists will be uploaded on the Delhi police website also.” The same report quotes senior women’s rights activist, Ranjana Kumari, voicing support for such a move on the grounds that it will shift the burden of shame and social ostracism normally borne solely by the rape survivor: “This will make sure the rapist is shamed. He won’t get a job, or somewhere to live and will be cut off from society. This is a powerful deterrent.”

No doubt this measure will have many other supporters, including within progressive sections of civil society. Nevertheless there are many serious issues and questions to be considered before endorsing it. These pertain not just to the specific measure itself but what this means for the orientation of criminal justice policy in the county as a whole.

The use of publicly accessible sex offender registries has grown internationally. Two months ago the state of Western Australia published the country’s first publicly accessible database of child sex offenders. The USA has a relatively long history of using publicly accessible sex offender registries and community notification laws. In 2007, Human Rights Watch (HRW) produced the first ever assessment of the impact of these sex offender registries in the USA. No Easy Answers underlines several problems with the system, including the over-broad scope of the registration, the overly lengthy duration for which names remain on the registers and the vulnerability of those registered to harassment, intimidation and even violence. Moreover, and this is crucially important, the HRW report makes the significant point that there is no convincing evidence of public safety gains from sex offender registration, community notification and residency restriction laws.

In the USA, the registries coupled with de jure residency restrictions on sex offenders, which are almost inevitably aggravated by a range of ­de facto restrictions, has given rise to many serious problems and concerns. For example, in 2009 the BBC carried a report on how scores of offenders in the city of Miami, having served their sentences, were forced into homelessness and living under a bridge because of stringent regulations that prohibited them from living within a particular distance from anywhere where children congregate.

Highlighting the problems with sex offender registries, an editorial in Canada’s The Globe and Mail last year argued: “Naming, shaming and giving addresses of sex offenders on the Internet is an easy grab for votes that would push people into the shadows, where they are most dangerous.”

It is important to note that at the moment it appears like India’s proposed sex offender database or registry will be limited to those convicted of rape while in the USA the scope of registration is much broader. However, the point is that such measures are more likely to serve the purpose of appeasing public sentiment rather than really addressing the problem of crimes against women or gender-based violence, let alone eroding the deep-rooted patriarchal hetero-normativity that pervades our institutions, state and non-state.

Unfortunately the deterrent value of sex offender registries is far from well established. Chris Dornin notes that research fails to support claims that public sex offender registries deter sex crimes or prevent recidivism. He quotes Karl Hanson, a corrections researcher for the Canadian Department of Public Safety: “The recidivism rates before and after implementation of registries are essentially the same. […] When policies are going to affect other people, it is worth collecting data first.”

What sex offender registries in the USA have however helped contributed to, in the words of a counselor who worked with sex offenders, is the creation of the “last class in society that it’s politically fashionable to hate.” Isolation, segregation and ostracism do not reduce the possibilities of such crimes in any way, if anything it is more likely to result in additional problems. Such is the concern with sex offender registries that in one case rape crisis centres in the USA filed an Amicus Brief in support of a sex offender who had challenged the sex offender public registry law in Ohio as anex post facto punishment. They argued: “More onerous sex offender registration and community notification laws threaten to harm the very people they are intended to protect and to undermine goals of community safety and treatment of offenders. These laws perpetuate myths and create a false sense of security. Research demonstrates that victimization can be reduced when sex offenders successfully reenter the community.”

It is imperative that if such a move is being considered in India, we must demand more information as well as the rationale to enable a thorough analysis. What is the evidence of anticipated effectiveness of such publicly accessible databases? And how has such evidence, if any, been generated? We must ask what are likely to be its consequences, for offenders, victim-survivors, their respective families and the wider community? Moreover, what is the legislative framework within which these registries or databases are to be established and operated? How will they be governed? We must review the lessons from jurisdictions where such measures have been in existence for some time now. Last but not least, we must ask whether this is another slippery slope that will lead to demand for similar measures in case of other crimes and the broader implications for society at large.

“Chemical castration”

Following the Delhi rape and murder, so-called “chemical castration” of convicted rapists has also been widely advocated. In fact, some major political parties have also voiced their support for such a move. Anup Surendranath has argued cogently in The Hindu as to why “chemical castration” is not necessarily the right legal response. It no doubt draws the focus away from the manner in which the wider socio-political contexts as well as more intimate sites, such as family and community, are implicated in perpetuating patriarchy, gendered violence and misogynist attitudes. The advocacy of “chemical castration” as a punitive measure does not account for the complex reality of sexual crimes in India, whether against women, men or children. Moreover, in its very focus on biological masculinity, “chemical castration” arguably echoes dominant patriarchal and hetero-normative constructions of rape.

However, an equally serious concern is that in its very framing, “chemical castration” as a punitive measure medicalises rape by instrumentalising pharmacological interventions to treat paraphilias such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, sexual masochism, paedophilia, etc. Biological psychiatry is a double-edged sword and advocates of “chemical castration” have to bear in mind that legitimising its use as a punitive instrument within the criminal justice system is another very slippery slope, which may have serious unintended consequences in the future. The abuse of so-called narcoanalysisin criminal investigation in India is a case in point.

In 2010, the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP) published guidelines bringing “together different views on the appropriate treatment of paraphilias from experts representing different continents.” The WFBSP publication, noting the long history of the use of antiandrogens (the most widely used family of drugs) and more recently the use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs—largely in cases involving “less dangerous sex offences” like exhibitionism), makes several observations, which are very relevant to bear in mind. These include:

  • While there is evidence that pharmacological interventions may indeed reduce paraphilia and help reduce recidivism amongst sex offenders, “little is known about which treatments are most effective, for which offenders, over what duration, or in what combination.” (p. 644)
  • Moreover the “great majority of pharmacological studies are uncontrolled studies without placebo comparison” and that some methodological problems are observed.
  • Importantly, the WFBSP maintains that treatment must “include freely given informed consent. Indeed, these treatments must remain a choice to be made by the patient on the basis of medical advice.” (p. 644)
  • Further, “[n]ot every sex offender is a candidate for hormonal treatment, even if it has the benefit of being reversible once discontinued.” (p. 643)
  • Pharmacological interventions are to be “part of a more comprehensive treatment plan including psychotherapy and, in most cases, behaviour therapy” with the added caution that “antiandrogen treatment may increase psychotic symptoms if any.” (p. 645)
  • Finally, the guidelines also stress the need for systematic risk assessment prior to treatment, consistently high level of medical and psychosocial monitoring of those receiving treatment and several other measures.

Indeed, other studies have also underlined that chemical castration can cause significant psychological impacts such as increased anxiety and depression, which may have its own consequences for offenders and the communities they live in, not to mention a range of other longer term physiological problems. Lack of consistent treatment or stoppage not only has potentially serious consequences for the person undergoing the treatment but can also lead to reoffending.

It is rather ironic that one of the most widely used drugs in “chemical castration” is ‘medroxyprogesterone acetate’, the key active ingredient in Depo Provera, against the use of which women’s rights groups have long campaigned owing to its serious side effects. Not only are the doses given to men far greater but the manufacturer, Pfizer, in fact introduced a ‘black box’ warning in 2004 that prolonged use leads to loss in bone density noting further that “[b]one loss is greater with increasing duration of use and may not be completely reversible” (Stinneford 2006: 575-576).

Last year, The Guardian ran a debate on the subject, which highlighted the complications, risks and concerns of such procedures while underlining the conditions under which such medical interventions can possibly be accepted. The latter include free and informed consent, judicial supervision, sound medial and psychosocial support during treatment and that such medical interventions are best used, as for example in Denmark, when limited to a very small proportion of sex offenders and is closely regulated.

However, whatever the condition under which it is undertaken, the effects of “chemical castration” are closer than it appears to physical castration. In fact, to the extent that it undermines the physical integrity of a person, exposes one to long-term adverse health consequences and “involves administration of a mind altering drug purely for purposes of incapacitation (as opposed to medical treatment)” “chemical castration” amounts to a cruel and unusual punishment (Stinneford 2006: 595-597).

Even if this argument were to be rejected, the question is whether India’s criminal justice system possesses the range of resources and institutional capacities required to effectively administer what is a very complex and long-term individualised medical and psychological treatment protocol? Given the struggle of the country’s public health system to deal with public health including mental health challenges and the woefully inadequate health infrastructure of the prison and probationary services, the answer is a clear and resounding ‘No’. A study published in 2011 by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) on health challenges in the Indian prison system, using the Bangalore Central Prison as a case study, makes it clear that the criminal justice system is far from able to deal with even the most basic health issues and challenges (and there are many) confronting it. Foisting on such a system a complex and demanding procedure in the name of “chemical castration” is more than a recipe for failure. It is downright dangerous as it is most likely to do little more than provide a false sense of security while exposing victims, offenders and the community to further risks.

The politics of criminal justice reform

Time and again, around the world, tragic and horrific crimes have been used to play the rights of “victims” and “offenders” against each other, often resulting in populist but counter-productive criminal justice policies, which, in the long run, create more problems than meaningful solutions. More often than not politically popular criminal justice reform, which invariably claims to privilege “victims”, has meant a shift away from liberal rehabilitative approaches towards measures such as indeterminate sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, mandatory charging, reversal of burden of proof, etc. While such measures may appear to be vindicated in specific individual egregious cases, their overall impact has remained far from positive, including in crime prevention. In fact, more often than not these measures, often justified as ‘exceptional’ or ‘special’, tend to get normalised with significant negative consequences, often for the very marginalised communities they are supposed to protect.

In fact, “protection” and “prevention” are two other discourses that are just as vulnerable to being instrumentalised to further strengthen the coercive and controlling apparatus of the state. A well-known example from India (and in fact elsewhere in South Asia) is the use of ‘protective custody’ to remand women ‘rescued’ from brothels in ‘homes’ where they are then highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The truth is that requiring the state to protect individuals from abuse by private actors often has very many unforeseen effects, chief among which is the strengthening of the state’s coercive powers. It is critical that India’s human rights community takes up the challenge of ensuring that instrumental use of “victims”, “prevention”, “protection”, etc. are not used to foist further irrationalities on a criminal justice system already suffering from multiple deficiencies.

It is especially important to guard against the tendency to overly privilege “prevention”, important as it is, because that path leads to the adoption of a risk-based as opposed to a reformatory or rehabilitative approach to criminal justice. As Lianos and Douglas (2000) have argued, a risk-driven approach is necessarily illiberal because it perceives and analyses the world through categories of menace. In other words it institutionalises continuous scanning for threats and the dominance of fear and anxiety. As Lee (2007) underlines, since the fear of crime came to be established as a “criminological concept” and “an object of social scientific enquiry” in the late 1960s in the USA, it has ascended to become a ‘new regime of truth’, the obsession with which is so great that we have come to see the reduction of fear of crime “as almost as important as the reduction of crime itself.” (ibid: 203)

Two examples from the an ICHRP report on the topic underline the systemic impacts of risk-based penal policies in the West: a) the Federal Bureau of Prison regulations require psychologists working with offenders in US prisons, particularly sex offenders, to perform a dual role of therapist and evaluator in relation to their risk of recidivism; and, b) the English Probation System’s risk assessment indexed factors related to indicators of poverty, homelessness and disadvantage, leading Vivien Stern to note: “[s]o if you score highly on measures of poverty, you are by definition ‘risky’. If you are risky you will be subject to more controls and thrust more deeply into the suspect part of the population from which it is hard to get out.”

Naming and shaming, one of the motivations driving the move for sex offender registries in India, fits well with such risk-based penology and is in fact already at play in the Delhi case, but with quite different consequences. Residents of Ravidas Camp, the basti that was home to the alleged rapists, already find themselves named, shamed and thrust into the suspect population. The Deccan Herald quotes a resident, Kamla, as telling IANS: “I wish I could go to India Gate to join the cause but I fear I might be outcast if people come to know that I am from Ravidas Camp.” Another resident is reported as saying: “I don’t know how will I get my children admitted to a school as the incident has earned a bad name to this place (Ravidas Camp).”

And underlying all this is a more basic fear, in the words of another resident: “You never know when a mob may attack the slum and torch or ransack our houses. But we want to say that we are as angry as the whole nation. We want them to be hanged.” Of course they would, for it is not just the alleged rapists but also the whole of Ravidas Camp that is now “risky” and on trial.

The predicament of Ravidas Camp illustrates tellingly the problem with legitimising ostracism and stigma (through devices such as sex offender registries) as an instrument of criminal justice policy; more often than not it simply attaches itself to the least powerful social classes. It cannot however overcome the impunity enjoyed by the powerful: Narendra Modi, is widely touted as potential Prime Minister despite remaining an unapologetic Chief Minister who presided over an episode of the most horrific mass sexual violence imaginable; ex-Haryana DGP SPS Rathore’s teenage victim Ruchika, ended her own life unable to bear the torment that her battle for justice had become; SP Ankit Garg was awarded the President’s Medal despite being named by Soni Sori as the one who supervised her torture and sexual violence against her… sadly, the list is long.

The groundswell of response to the tragic incident in Delhi may have precipitated a political moment, providing impetus for much needed reforms in legal, policing and other aspects of the criminal justice system. However, in seeking to quickly seize the political moment there is a distinct danger of acting in haste or ignoring the insights and experience developed over the years within the women’s movement and by civil liberties activism in India not to mention lessons from elsewhere. It is especially vital to check the institutionalisation of dramatic new measures or knee jerk responses and under- or ill-informed demands, which may end up proving counter-productive and hard to reverse in the long run. On the other hand, it is crucial to focus on addressing chronic weaknesses in basic policing, investigation and prosecution functions, long crying out for attention. If populism triumphs over purposefulness it will only be at the cost of justice.

References:

Lee, Murray (2007), Inventing Fear of Crime: Criminology and the politics of anxiety, Willan Publishing, Devon, UK.

Stinneford, John F. (2006) “Incapacitation through Maiming: Chemical Castration, the Eighth Amendment, and the Denial of Human Dignity,” University of St. Thomas Law Journal: Vol. 3: Iss. 3, Article 10. Available at:http://ir.stthomas.edu/ustlj/vol3/iss3/10

Lianos, M and Douglas, Mary (2000) ‘Dangerization and the End of Deviance: The Institutional Environment,’ British Journal of Criminology, Volume 40, Number 2, pp.261-278.

 

 

Bharat Mukti Morcha condemns linking of Aadhaar Cards to cooking gas cylinder subsidies #UID


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 Goa , Friday, 4 January 2013,

Bharat Mukti Mocha Goa Unit today January 4, 2013 triggered off meeting of customers of HP Gas supply agent in Siolim, Bardez, Goa M/s Veeresh Gas service with company’s customer service cell based in Kundaim Industrial Estate. The company was represented by its office Mr.Arvind Singh. The delegation of customers included Sandhya Gawde, Florence D’Souza, Sarpanch of Siolim-Marna Panchayat Anita Chari, Diego Rodrigues, Lawrence Braganza of Consumer cell, and Sebastian Rodrigues of Bharat Mukti Morcha. Veeresh Gas service was represented by Mr.Dangui jr.
It was disclosed that the subsidized rates for the cylinder is Rs.418/- and non-subsidized rate is Rs.911/-. During the meeting it was revealed that home cylinders cannot be taken from the storeroom the practice that is being followed by the Siolim HP agent. Cooking cylinders are to be booked by the customers prior to the delivery.
Agent is to provide home delivery of the cylinders, the service that was stopped by the agent in unilateral decision. The weekly schedule of the delivery is to be given to the villagers of Siolim, Marna, Oxel, Sodiem, Assagao, Badem, Chapora and Camurlim areas.
Siolim agent was instructed to issue proper computerized receipts instead of current practice of issuing ad hoc hand written receipts.
The problem of underweight of gas cylinders was discussed and the Siolim dealer is instructed carry weighing scale in the delivery van whiled cylinders are delivered in the villages. In case of underweight cylinders customers can take recourse to complaint book at the showroom and register their complaints. The inspection of complaint book revealed that since March 2011 not a single complaint is registered on the complaint book. Lack of organized movement of consumers has led to the inefficient and even often arrogant behavior of the Siolim dealer.
Mr. Singh instructed the dealer to create awareness about gas delivery and other issue amongst the public in Siolim.
New connections which were blocked are directed to the released as per the instructions of the petroleum ministry that were communicated by Mr. Singh at the meeting.
It was also revealed by Mr.Singh that subsidy will be given on the production of Aadhaar card from the month of February onwards. This decision of the Ministry is highly condemnable. Aadhaar cards are violation of every individual’s privacy through figure prints, iris scans, bank account, pan card, and are done only to promote surveillance as ruling bamons in the country and Goa state are scared of ongoing freedom struggle of mulnivasis against Brahmin tyranny who are Eurasians and miniscule minority of 3.5% of India’s population but having share of 79% in governance Bureaucracy, Judiciary, Executive, Press . Democracy has been subverted into brahmanocracy. This is the reason as to subsidies are linked to Aadhaar card. There is no restriction of sharing of the data under Aadhaar Card which is the case for the data gathered under census Act. There is every possibility that this data will shared with the vested interests in various parts of the country and we will be enslaved. All the major political parties Congress, BJP, Communists – CPI, CPI (M), are controlled by Bamons and that’s the reason they are deliberately silent on this dangerous conspiracy against the mulnivasi people. Bharat Mukti Morcha condemns linking of subsidies to the Aadhaar Card. This is nothing short of blackmailing of mulnivasis people of India. If not, then why there are no entitlements on this card? Linking subsidies to Aadhaar Cards is only a matter bait to get crucial private data of the mulnivasis people so that they can be controlled on the computer screen of Silas super computer.
First of all it is a conspiracy of bamons ruling this country to withraw subsidies under the influence and dictates of satanic international powers of darkness.
It was decided to carry on the awareness program in collaboration with various public bodies. Long battle here seems to be a necessity.