Delhi High Court- Having sex with woman on false promise of marriage is #Rape #Vaw


PTI : New Delhi, Sun Jun 09 2013,
High courtHaving sex with woman on false promise of marriage is rape: High Court. (Reuters)
Having sexual relations with a woman on false promise of marriage amounts to rape, the Delhi High court has said.”Having sexual relations with a woman against her will or without her consent also amounts to rape under the IPC. If the consent was obtained on a false assurance or promise of marriage, the consent cannot be considered to be full and free and it would be a case of rape,” Justice R V Easwar said.The court made the observation while rejecting anticipatory bail plea of Abhishek Jain in a case lodged by his wife alleging that he had sex with her prior to their

marriage on the promise that he would marry her.

In her complaint, the woman also said that he married her only after she lodged the case with police against him.

“It would prima facie appear that the marriage was gone through only to persuade the complainant to withdraw her complaint of February 25, 2013.

“Immediately after the marriage, the applicant started physically abusing the complainant, apparently, in the hope that she would leave him, but when she filed a complaint, the accused was forced to apply for bail,” the court said.

The woman had filed a complaint in February, 2013 with the Rani Bagh Police Station alleging that on several occasions before the marriage, the applicant (Jain) had raped her after falsely promising to marry her.

However, on March 4, 2013, the applicant and the complainant got married at the Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir, Ghaziabad and the marriage registration was done by the

Registrar, Hindu Marriages, Ghaziabad, the complaint said.

Referring to the contents of the FIR lodged by the woman against her husband, the court said, “The FIR narrates the physical abuse which the complainant had suffered at the hands of the applicant after the marriage…The FIR further narrates that the accused even used to tell the complainant that ‘he had married me (her) only to make me withdraw the complaint.’

“Several instances are narrated in the FIR about threats and physical abuse suffered by the complainant not only from the applicant but also by his family members who had conspired together to cheat her and get her married to him only to make her withdraw the complaint of rape against him.”

 

#India- Political Parties afraid of #RTI


 

Let’s ask the political parties what makes them fear public scrutiny
Shailesh Gandhi

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

Illustration: Vikram NongmaithemIllustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

The recent decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to bring political parties within the ambit of the Right to Information () Act is a welcome step. And there’s nothing surprising in the way the political parties have reacted to it. After all, no one in a position of power wants to be transparent. It’s almost a human tendency. In this case, the political class clearly does not know what the  is. In fact, a common user of the knows it better than them. The negative reactions of the political class stem from the typical mindset of “why should I?”

Three key questions must in turn be asked of the political parties. Firstly, are they not financed by government funds? If they are not, the CIC’s judgment is flawed. But if they are, then they must come under the RTI. The RTI Act clearly says any non-government organisation that is substantially financed by government funds is a public authority — and that includes political parties. In this judgment, the bench has clearly cited instances of the massive tax exemptions they get, the huge subsidies on the government land allotted to them and so on.

Secondly, are they are not receiving funds in crores? Isn’t that substantial? They cannot refute that it is and so they are public authorities as defined by law. If they still object, they must explain why they should not be subject to RTI.

Thirdly, do the political parties believe transparency will do them good? If they don’t, then we must ask them what harm it would do.

If you are a public authority, you come under the RTI. but the Act also provides exemptions to protect you from disclosure of certain types of information. based on these exemptions, various public authorities have now functioned for over seven years without any major damage to the institutions.

The parties ask, how can people dictate how they choose candidates. The answer is, they cannot. The information that parties do not have on record, is not information and hence does not have to be provided. but citizens have the right to ask if there is a process and what are the criteria laid down. beyond that, this law doesn’t in any way allow the citizen to “dictate” any terms. besides, the humble Indian citizen cannot dictate to the powerful, but can hope to speak the truth to power, and make them truthful.

Parties also argue that they are already monitored by the Election commission. come election time, they go and beg for votes. Are they saying they don’t want ordinary citizens to monitor them? That they are not answerable to individual citizens, and find the idea abhorrent? Let them answer that and we will know where we stand. Some political parties even declared themselves as private organisations. Do they really think they are businesses?

I think the political parties don’t really know where they might get hit. The  scam got exposed because of RTI. It’s an unknown animal, and so political parties believe it’s best to avoid it. Some of their illegal acts, their arbitrariness, may come out, hence the fear.

If you become transparent, you become better. Transparency is a tool for self-improvement and in the long-term interest of the political parties. Today, we have a trust deficit that may lessen if they become transparent. Tomorrow, if the  says they will do it, the congress will also fall in line, provided there is a national clamour.

If they choose to take the CIC order to court, it will be unfortunate and cause an indefinite delay, in case the court stays the order. One of the respondents, the Association for Democratic reforms, a civil society group, has already filed a caveat in the Delhi High Court, asking to be heard before any political party gets a stay against the CIC order.

The rhetoric on news channels has been mostly along the lines of “shouldn’t the citizens know?” That’s a side comment, but not a valid legal argument. An organisation doesn’t become a public authority on the grounds that “a citizen must know”. we have a strong case as the parties are substantially funded by the government, and are therefore public authorities as defined in the RTI Act.

As a believer in transparency, I think a ‘No RTI, No Vote’ campaign is a great idea. If we can build up a nationwide clamour for it, there is some hope that this order will be effectively implemented. That will be an extremely important step for democracy.

(As told to )

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magaz

 

Delhi HC- Guidelines for recording of evidence of children in criminal courts #mustshare


Guidelines issued by Delhi High Court for  Courts to record evidence of children. These guidelines are in force across Delhi and all criminal courts are bound to follow them.

These guidelines provide remedy for all the possible problems witnesses face in criminal cases and take care of concerns we all face while assisting children in criminal proceedings.

Here are some key features of these guidelines :

*A child who has not completed 18 years of age is to be treated as ” Vulnerable
Witness”. *

*Practice of “Court House Tour” has been introduced which means that a
pre-trial tour of court room will be conducted  to familiarize a vulnerable
witnesses with the environment and the basic process of adjudication and
roles of each court official. *

*These guideline have recognised Stress causing factors of adversarial Criminal Justice System which cause stress on *
*child witness, rendering them further vulnerable witnesses,* *and impeding complete disclosure by the.

These factors include Multiple depositions and not using developmentally appropriate language; Delays and continuances; Testifying more than once; Prolonged/protracted court proceedings; Lack of communication between professionals including police,doctors, lawyers,prosecutors, investigators, psychologists, etc. ;
Fear of public exposure; Lack of understanding of complex legal procedures;
Face to face contact with the accused; Practices are insensitive to developmental needs;Inappropriate cross-examination; Lack of adequate support and victims services;
Sequestration of witnesses who may be supportive to the child;
Placement that exposes the child to intimidation, pressure, or continued abuse; Inadequate preparation for fearless and robust testifying;
Worry about not being believed especially when there is no evidence other than the testimony of the vulnerable witness;
Formality of court proceedings and surroundings including formal dress of members of the judiciary and legal personnel.

 

Subramanian Swamy tweets ‘being gay is a mental disorder’ #WTFnews #Homophobia


Former cabinet minister and president of Janata Party Subramanian Swamy‘s anti-gay tweet attracts criticism
29 MAY 2013 | BY ANNA LEACH
Former cabinet minister and president of Janata Party Subramanian Swamy

Indian politician Subramanian Swamy, the president of the Janata Party, wrote ‘Being gay is a mental disorder’ in a tweet on Monday (27 May).

The tweet attracted instant criticism although some thought it was a joke and others agreed with him. ‘Gay is not natural, it’s hormone problem,’ said one.

Indian LGBT rights campaigner Harish Iyer tweeted Swamy saying: ‘I think swamy you need to get educated. Let’s meeet. I offer free counselling to homophobes.’

Swamy appeared to be unfazed by the accusations of homophobia and tweeted ‘Looks like most CRTs are “queer”.’ CRT is a derogatory reference to members of the Congress political party,Gaylaxy reports.

Swamy, a right-wing Hindu, is a former cabinet minister and was an assistant economics professor at Harvard. He has caused controversy for anti-Islamic views, for example in an ‘incendiary’ article in response to the Mumbai bombings in 2011 which prompted the National Commission for Minorities to press criminal charges.

The politician’s daughter Suhasini Haider is a news anchor for Indian TV channel CNN-IBN.

Gay sex was decriminalized in Indian in 2009 when the Delhi High Court repealed Section 377 of the British colonial era penal code.

 

Statement Condemning the Maoist Politics of Murder in Chhattisgarh


Statement Condemning the Maoist Politics of Murder in Chhattisgarh!

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the horrific massacre of leaders
and workers of the Congress Party and the security forces accompanying
them, carried out by the CPI(Maoist) in Chhattisgarh on Saturday. We
also wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of all
those killed in the convoy of Congressmen returning from an election
rally at Sukma in Bastar district.

The killing of senior state Congress leaders and their cadre is
particularly barbaric and reprehensible as they had, in the course of
the Maoist ambush, become captives or had surrendered voluntarily.
This is tantamount to cold-blooded murder of prisoners in custody, an
act that goes against all norms even in a state of civil or
international war. The targeting of a political party in this fashion
by the Maoists is also highly disturbing.

The latest Maoist action will only invite even more state repression
in the area that might as well swell the numbers of CPI(Maoists). If
that is the case then this politics is as evil as that it claims to be
fighting against and should be shunned by all those who stand for
democratic norms in political struggles for peace with justice.

We call upon the state and central governments to exercise great
restraint in their response to the Maoist atrocity.  It is high time
the spiral of violence in the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh be stopped
as it has already claimed innumerable lives.

Abha Dev Habib, Associate Professor, Miranda House, DU

Apoorvanand, Professor, Delhi University

Anivar Arvind, IT Engineer, Bangalore

Arshad Ajmal, Social activist, Patna

Dilip Simeon, Academic, New Delhi

Jagadish, Trade Unionist , Bangalore

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights Activist, Mumbai

Kavita Srivastava, PUCL, Rajasthan

Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi

Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD, Delhi

Vinod Raina , Educationist, Delhi

Also Endorsed by .

Arati Choksi, PUCL, Karnataka, Bangalor

Reetika Khera, Associate Professor, IIT Delhi

Dr Sunil Kaul, Public Health Activist,

Dheeraj, Coordinator, The Right to Food Campaign

Biraj Patnaik, Social Scientist with the Right to Food Campaign

Trideep, Advocate, Delhi High Court and Supreme Court,

Sachin Kumar Jain, Journalist and Writer with Vikas Samwaad

Radha Holla, Public Health Activist, Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India

Gurjeet Singh, Right to Food Activist, Ranchi, Jharkhand

Father Jothi, SJ, Social Activist, West Bengal

Prem Krishan Sharma, President, PUCL, Rajasthan, Jaipur

Radha Kant Saxena, VP pUCL, Rajasthan, Jaipur

DL Tripathi, VP, PUCL Rajasthan, Ajmer

Anant Bhatnagar, Organising Secretary, PUCL Rajasthan, Ajmer

Sawai Singh, Rajasthan Smagra Sewa Sangh, Jaipur

Endorsed, also by

Harsh Mander, Director Centre for Equity Studies

RAjinder Sachar, EX Chief Justice Delhi and Sikkim High Court

Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM convenor

Aruna Roy,Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Lal Singh, Bhanwar Meghwanshi,
Narayan Singh

Shail Mayaram, Senior Fellow,CSDS. , Ps change wars to the singular if you can

Anjali Bhardwaj, NCPRI National Convenor

Vidya bhushan Rawat, Social Activist

Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign

Saito Basumatry, People’s ForumAssam

Sejal Dhand, Anna Adhikar Suraksha Manch

 

Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s wife moves SC for stay on execution of death penalty


Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 13:32 IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

The apex court had on March 26, 2002 dismissed Bhullar’s appeal against the death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2001 and endorsed by the Delhi High Court in 2002.

Devinderpal Singh Bhullar.

1993 Delhi blast convict Devinderpal Singh Bhullar‘s wife today approached the Supreme Court seeking stay on execution of his death sentence till her review plea against its verdict is decided.

She submitted in her plea that she has filed a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict of April 12 in which the court had rejected her petition to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment on ground of delay on the part of the government in deciding his mercy plea.

Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist Bhullar was convicted and awarded death penalty for triggering a bomb blast here in September 1993, killing nine people and injuring 25 others, including then Youth Congress president M S Bitta.

The apex court had on March 26, 2002 dismissed Bhullar’s appeal against the death sentence awarded by a trial court in August 2001 and endorsed by the Delhi High Court in 2002.

He had filed a review petition which was also dismissed on December 17, 2002. Bhullar had then moved a curative petition which too had been rejected by the apex court on March 12, 2003.

Bhullar, meanwhile, had filed a mercy petition before the President on January 14, 2003. The President, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed his mercy plea on May 25, 2011.

Citing his delay, he had again moved the apex court for commutation of the death sentence but his plea was rejected.

The apex court had on May one commuted the death sentence awarded to murder convict M N Das, whose mercy petition was rejected by then President Pratibha Patil.

The court had allowed the plea of Das who had approached it for commutation of his death sentence on the ground that the President had taken twelve years to decide his mercy plea

 

#India – Little Girls Are Most at Risk #Rape #Vaw


Little Girls Are Most at Risk: Legislation alone cannot save women trapped in a patriarchal culture
Cold-hearted legal system sees no shame in serving the interests of sex offenders
When news of a five-year-old girl’s brutalisation and rape in east Delhi was followed by news of the police attempting to bribe her parents to prevent them from filing a complaint and beating up anti-rape protesters, it exposed the police officers as patriarchy’s foot soldiers.
Courthouses haven’t fared much better than their police station counterparts either. Kirti Singh and Dhivya Kapur’s 2001 study on law, violence and the girl child pointed out glaring incidents of the Indian judiciary‘s misogyny in the case of child rapes: The Delhi High Court considered penetration of a girl child and forced oral sex as ‘molestation’; another judge ruled out child rape in the absence of injury to the man’s penis; when a woman accused her husband of attempting to rape their three-year-old infant, the Supreme Court said in its opening statement that incredulous, eerie accusations had been made, blamed the mother for manipulation of the child’s vagina and refused to believe the victim’s assertion that her father violated her. When the police force normalises the occurrence of rape and the cold-hearted legal system sees no shame in serving the interests of sex offenders, it becomes clear that the state machinery has divested itself of the responsibility of protecting children.

Meena Kandasamy
Meena Kandasamy

Given the high incidence of sexual and physical abuse within families-statistics show that in a majority of the cases, the abusers were known to the children-no one can take shelter in the naive belief that children are safe in their homes or neighbourhoods. The unearthing of skeletons of at least 17 child victims who had been sexually assaulted and murdered in Nithari (Noida) in 2007 sent shockwaves, but it made the middle classes mistakenly assume that such gory things happened only to poor people’s children. This February, three Dalit sisters aged 11, nine and six were raped and murdered, their bodies dumped in a well in their native Bhandara, Maharashtra. There was not much noise because ‘they’ were not ‘us’. But when such unchecked sexual violence leaves its safe zones and comes knocking at any random door, people sit up, angry and shell-shocked.

Convenient assumptions such as rape of children is foreign to Hindu/Indian culture or that this perversion is merely a strange import from paedophile pornography is to wilfully forget history. The Age of Consent Bill of 1891 set a minimum age of 12 for girls with regard to cohabitation-a law that was structured because of cases of girl children dying from premature consummation (read rape) on their bridal nights. Nineteenth century religious conservatives raged against this Bill and upheld the marital right of husbands (frequently older men) to have sex with their child brides. They also opposed the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929: Raping young girls through the institution of marriage was constructed as a religious obligation in the Hindu framework.

Eighty-odd years later, India is still caught in the tentacles of the same religion-neither its patriarchy, nor its caste system has been dismantled or ruptured. In a society that voids sexual self-determination through its rigid caste system and compromises the bodily integrity of Dalit/Adivasi/Muslim women through its cultural sanction of rape, the commodification of women by treating them as mere tools to perform the acts of reproductive labour and pleasuring men is a natural progression.

Since dear old monster capitalism lurks around absorbing every evil into its own image, this commodification and consumerism spiral out of control. The obsession over virginity provides the market for 18 Again which sells a gel promising tighter vaginas. Tata Sky‘s ad puts women in the protective custody of their older brothers, seemingly oblivious to but actually celebrating the implicit threat of honour killings. The caste-ridden patriarchal standard is the norm. In this frenzied love-making between capitalism and the caste system, we, as women, are reduced to a mere fragment of our beings. We become less than our bodies. When sexual abuseis allowed to fester within such a culture fixated on sexual purity and the virginity fetish, little girls are the most vulnerable victims.

Even as our search for quick-fixes goes on, we must remember that to eradicate and curtail this crisis in the long run, we must smash the oppressive structure of caste, class and religious patriarchy that regiments our bodies and sanctions our rape. The collective struggle for our liberation will not end with just a piece of legislation.

Meena Kandasamy is a poet and activist.

 

Sajjan Kumar acquitted in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases #WTFnews


Protests erupt inside & outside court, shoe flung at the judge

30 Apr 2013, , AGENCIES

Unhappy with acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in an anti-Sikh riots case, a man hurled a shoe at the judge as protests erupted inside and outside Karkardooma court here today after pronouncement of the verdict, with police detaining several people.

Protesters gave a tough time to police as they tried to enter the court complex this afternoon. A large number of people had gathered outside the court before the pronouncement of the verdict and tried to enter the courts but police prevented them.

Anticipating trouble, police had deployed personnel in strength and barricaded the area but some of the protesters managed to enter the complex. However, they could not enter the courtroom.As soon as the judge acquitted the Congress leader while convicting five persons, angry protesters shouted slogans against Kumar and tried to enter the complex. Complainant Jagdish Kaur sat on protest inside the courtroom saying she would not leave until justice is done.

One of the victims, who lost her son and husband in the riots after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, said there was “no justice” for them. “There is no justice for us. My son was killed, my husband along with his brothers were killed. There was reign of terror for three days (during the riots). People were burnt alive,” the victim said. Police detained several protesters, including the one who threw a shoe at District and Sessions Judge J R Aryan after the pronouncement of the judgement.

Sajjan Kumar acquitted in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases

Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: April 30, 2013 21:34 IST

New Delhi Sajjan Kumar, a former Congress MP, has been acquitted by a special CBI court of all charges in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases against him. He was accused of murder and of instigating a riotous mob that killed five Sikhs in Delhi’s cantonment area on November 2, 1984. Five other people accused in the case have been convicted, three of them of murder.

Here are 10 developments in the case:
  1. In court, the families of riot victims protested as the Congressman’s acquittal was announced. A man named Karnail Singh threw a shoe at the judge and has been arrested.
  2. An eyewitness in the case, Jagdish Kaur, who claims to have seen Sajjan Kumar leading a mob that killed her husband and father 29 years, broke down in court.
  3. Outside court, an elderly man said, “Where do we go now? How much longer do we fight for justice. It’s been 29 years. We have gone from being young men to old.” “Today,” he said, “is worse than 1984.” The families of the victims have said they will appeal against the verdict.
  4. In its concluding arguments in the case last week, the CBI had told the court that there was a conspiracy of “terrifying proportion” between Mr Kumar and the police during the riots 29 years ago.
  5. The Delhi cantonment riots case was registered against Sajjan Kumar in 2005 on the recommendation of the Nanavati Commission. The CBI had filed two chargesheets against him and the other accused in January 2010.
  6. Mr Kumar, who was then the Congress MP from Outer Delhi, is also accused of instigating a mob during riots in the Sultanpuri area. Six people were killed in the violence there.
  7. The Delhi High Court deferred a decision in that case yesterday and posted the next hearing for May 15. The High Court is hearing Mr Kumar’s petition challenging a trial court order to frame charges against him in the Sultanpuri case. He is accused of murder and rioting and spreading enmity between two communities in that case. He is also facing trial in another case related to anti-Sikh riots in the Nangloi area of Delhi.
  8. In 2010, the Supreme Court had refused to quash charges against Mr Kumar and said the trial would continue against him. It had also pulled up the CBI for failing to conclude its arguments and taking too much time.
  9. Earlier this month, a Delhi court reopened an anti-Sikh riots case against another Congress leader Jagdish Tytler. He is accused of inciting a mob that killed three men during the riots.
  10. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. 3000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone. In the 29 years since the riots, only 30 people have been convicted, none of them high-profile politicians, though several Congress leaders have been accused of inciting violence.

 

Justice A P Shah – “One hardly finds a rich or affluent person going to the gallows” #deathpenalty


Justice Shah talks to AmnestyDeath Penalty in India: “One hardly finds a rich or affluent person going to the gallows”

In November 2012, Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was hanged in the country’s first execution in more than eight years. Three months later, Afzal Guru was executed after his clemency petition was rejected by the President; Guru had been convicted in 2005 of being involved in the 2001 attack on Parliament.

More recently, the government has expanded the scope of the death penalty by amending laws to provide for this punishment in certain cases of rape. The Supreme Court last week also rejected an appeal against the decision by the President to reject Devender Pal Singh’s mercy petition. In a trial that has raised serious fair trial concerns, Devender Pal Singh was found guilty of planning an explosion that killed nine people in 1993. His sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2002 and he has been on death row since.

The recent decision of the Supreme Court is likely to affect at least 17 more prisoners who are asking for commutation of their death sentences on the grounds of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the President. Justice A. P. Shah, a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, is one of the most outspoken opponents of capital punishment in the country. He shared his views on the death penalty in this interview with Amnesty International.

What is the state of the death penalty in India?

India has carried out only very few executions since the 1990s. However, the brutal gang rape of a 23-year old woman in Delhi last year intensified public calls for the imposition of the death penalty.

Why should India abolish the death penalty?

Whether an accused is sentenced to death or not is an arbitrary matter and depends on a number of factors, ranging from the competence of the legal representation to the interest of the central government in a particular case and the personal predilections of the judges. It is beyond any shred of doubt that in India, it is the judges’ subjective discretion that eventually decides the fate of an accused. Also, confessions and witness testimonies play a more vital role in India than in many other countries, given that forensic and other scientific evidence are not so frequently adopted here. Most death sentences are awarded on circumstantial evidence alone. Even the use of professionally trained witnesses by the police is common.

Why do you say the death penalty is discriminatory?

In India, it is largely cases involving the poor and the down-trodden – who are the victims of class-bias – which result in an imposition of a death penalty. Here one hardly finds a rich or affluent person going to the gallows. Therefore, it is apparent that the death penalty, as it is used now, is discriminatory. It strikes mostly against the disadvantaged sections of society, showing its arbitrary and capricious nature – thus rendering it unconstitutional. You have expressed concerns about the execution of Afzal Guru, who was convicted of being involved in 2001 attack on Parliament in Delhi Several disturbing trends emerge from his execution, which must be highlighted. For example, the rejection of his clemency petition by the President on 3 February 2013 was kept a secret and was not communicated to his family. Afzal Guru was executed within a week without his family being informed and his body was buried secretly. There are also serious doubts about the quality of evidence and whether he was adequately represented legally during his trial.

What’s the future of the death penalty in India?

The global trend is increasingly and overwhelmingly in favour of abolition. We would be deluding ourselves if we were to believe that the execution of a few persons sentenced to death will provide a solution to the unacceptably high rates of crime. In reality, capital punishment does not have any deterrent effect.

Justice A. P. Shah is one of 14 retired judges who last year called on the Indian President to commute 13 death sentences that, they maintain, were imposed in a manner inconsistent with the law. –

 

Another Gang Rape in India Puts Focus on Survivors #Vaw


A poster against the Dec. 16, 2012, gang rape in Delhi.

 

By Swapna Majumdar

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The new rape law in India steps up punishment of rape, stalking, voyeurism and acid attacks; a big achievement for safety activists. But they say it’s not enough to focus on the perpetrators. The government also needs to help people who survive these attacks.

NEW DELHI (WOMENSENEWS)–Women’s groups here are hailing a new law, passed March 21, that stiffens punishments of sexual violence in the aftermath of the notorious gang rape last December that left a medical student dead.

“The bill has made some huge improvements. By making stalking and voyeurism punishable for the first time, the law has recognized insidious forms of sexual violence against women. This is a big step forward,” says Kamla Bhasin, a veteran activist and advisor at Sangat, a South Asian feminist network based in Delhi.

Since stalking is often the first stage of a crime against women, Bhasin says, if it is not stopped or punished it can escalate to rape and murder. However, she adds that the real deterrence will come from changes in cultural attitude.

“The law is necessary. But laws alone cannot bring lasting change. Society needs to change their patriarchal attitude towards women. The public outrage against the Dec. 16 rape showed that it is happening. We need to keep pursuing multipronged efforts to sensitize both men and women,” she says.

Equally important, many activists say, are protections and support programs for rape victims who survive their ordeals and need help contending with the aftermath of threats and harassment.

“Poor families need the financial resources to rebuild their lives,” says Kavita Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association, a group affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. “Relocating is not easy for economically disadvantaged victims. Neither can they afford medical care. The government must announce a fund for their rehabilitation.”

Another Gang Rape

Concern for the plight of survivors has been fuelled by the case of a 16-year–old student in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, who was also gang raped last December. The victim was attacked by 18 males, many of whom were minors.

Following the arrest of 17 men, the survivor was re-victimized by verbal taunts as well as death threats from people close to the accused. She felt compelled to move to a new town to avoid humiliation and to pursue her studies.

Last month, local authorities were spurred by media reports about the victim to ensure that she was admitted to a new school that had denied her entry.

Activists are planning to push for stronger public commitments to survivors.

“The government must announce an economic package that helps the victim access good health care and counseling,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research, a New Delhi-based nongovernmental organization working to empower women. “It is India’s constitutional responsibility to provide safety to women in the country. If it cannot do that, the least it can do is support them at the time they need it the most.”

On March 22 the Delhi High Court set aside a fast track court’s order restraining the media from covering the trial of the Dec. 16 gang rape, being held here. However, it put some restrictions, saying that the name of the victim or her family could not be revealed. It also barred the media from reporting the names of the witnesses in the case.

Activists and opposition parties have welcomed the lifting of the gag, saying it will help keep the spotlight on the issue of safety for women.

The case could see some more revelations with the bizarre death of one of the accused, Ram Singh, found hanging in Delhi’s Tihar prison on March 11. The parents of 33-year-old Singh have alleged foul play, claiming their son could not have hanged himself in his cell at around 5 a.m. since his arms were disabled. An inquiry has been ordered by Tihar jail authorities.

Slow Fund Implementation

Safety activists, meanwhile, are impatient with government’s pace of implementing a $184 million remembrance fund for the medical student who was killed in December.

A month after the Indian government announced the fund, there is no spending plan; no indication of whether it will fund existing women’s safety and empowerment programs or be spent to improve policing.

Called Nirbhaya (fearless), after the pseudonym given to the victim, the fund was announced Feb. 28 by the Indian finance minister during his budget speech in Parliament.

“Firstly the fund is inadequate,” says Krishnan, of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. “It is more of a token gesture. Nevertheless, if the government really wanted to show its support to women, some directions on how this fund will be used and by which department should have been given.”

Kumari, of the Center for Social Research, says she filed an application under the government’s Right to Information Act questioning how the fund will be used.

On March 21, both houses of India’s Parliament passed an anti-rape bill. Under the changes, the minimum sentence for gang rape, rape of a minor or rape by police officers or a person in authority will be doubled to 20 years, from the previous seven to 10 years, and can be extended to life without parole.

The bill stipulates the death penalty for repeat rapists and, for the first time, makes second occurrences of voyeurism and stalking non-bailable offences. Also for the first time, acid attacks are now defined as a crime and perpetrators face a minimum 10-year jail term.

Although the new law imposes stricter punishment for police officers who fail to properly register complaints of sexual assault, more police training and gender sensitization is needed, says Kalpana Vishwanath of Jagori, a New Delhi-based advocacy group for women’s rights and gender equality.

While Delhi police have shown a willingness to improve their services, more work is needed in other parts of the country, she says.

A 10-year-old rape victim in the Bulandshahr district of the eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was put behind bars by police last week after she approached them with her mother to file a complaint of rape. It was only after local protest that the victim was finally released after being detained for several hours. The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on the matter.

Swapna Majumdar is based in New Delhi and writes on gender, development and politics.