#India – Every Move She Makes. They’ll Be Watching Her #moralpolicing #Vaw


skirtfinal

Rising hemlines lead to rising TRPs. Aradhna Wal examines a commercial news industry committed to sleaze, to lechery and to shaming young women

There’s something rotten in the states of  and . And it seems the Kannada and Telugu news channels have identified the problem — girls gone wild, fuelled by alcohol. On 14 May, Karnataka’s leading regional news channel, TV9 Kannada, ran a programme, Olage Serideru Gundu (literally, ‘once alcohol is inside’), a fine assortment of video nasties from across the country, showing the great evils of girls drinking — the ruckus on the street, clothes askew, clashes with cops.

For some years now, the disapproving cultural policing of a class of girls — ones who can afford to go out to drink — has become a staple on regional news in both states. There is massive viewership, particularly of sleazy ‘true crime’ reports, and so editors and programming heads encourage reporters to follow women and young couples, to stake out pubs, nightclubs and make-out spots. A cursory search on YouTube reveals the many news reports with such eye-catching titles as ‘Drunk women causing hulchul’, ‘Drunk women causing hungama’, or ‘How to ban rave parties to save the youth’.

“We show boys too, but a girl being daring on screen instantly catches the viewers’ attention,” says Shreeti Chakraborty, senior producer with a leading Kannada channel. One clip was of an altercation between four female students of NALSAR University of Law and reporters from the Telugu news channel ABN Andhra Jyothy, outside Rain pub in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills on the night of 11 April. Shruthi, Megha, Prachi and Adwitiya angrily confronted a drunk man filming them on his phone. The confrontation attracted a mob and reporters from ABN. Apparently, the drunk man was a reporter who had telephoned his colleagues. The footage was picked up by other news channels. Several of them branded the girls immoral, drunk and half-naked and even questioned the pub’s licence.

Watching the ABN footage is instructive. The camera pans up and down the women’s bodies. It is exploitative; consent is not an option, probably not even worth a thought. The viewer is implicated by the camera’s roving eye, a fellow voyeur leering at barefoot girls in short dresses. The cameraman follows the girls to their taxi, thrusting his camera through the door, his taunts provoking the girls to shout insults. Their expressions of fury at being cornered were circulated on primetime news as the faces of unacceptable modernity, of aggressive young women out at night, women who must be checked.

One irate senior journalist with a leading Telugu news channel described the girls as “public nuisance”, and launched into a tirade about “minors” getting drunk, abusing reporters and partying late into the night. He blames this “anti-social behaviour” on both NALSAR and the students themselves: “They even shot a promotional video for the ‘daaru party’ on campus. Look at the things they say in that.”

Confronted by this (self ) righteous indignation, the students launched an online campaign on change.org to prove that they had been harassed by the media. They compiled evidence to show that they were neither minors, nor drinking after legal hours (11 pm), and the leaked video that the news channels broadcast was not a promo for the party. Raj Singh, the owner of Rain, has stated that the ages of everyone at the party were checked and the girls left around 11 pm, not past midnight as the reporters alleged.

“The police raided us at 11.45 pm after the incident was over,” says Singh. “At 12.45 am the reporters barged into my club, beat up my security guard and placed bottles on the bars to suggest that the pub was still open.” His decision to stand up for the girls has meant that his pub “has been raided almost nightly by every department imaginable looking for some illegal activity”.

In response, Andhra Pradesh’s Electronic Media Association of Journalists put up a counter petition on change.org, asking for the girls who “assaulted reporters” to be condemned. It garnered over 5,000 signatures. But during routine checks, change.orgtraced the bulk of these signatures to one IP address, proving that most were fake. After they removed those signatures, only 132 were left.

The girls’ determination to stand up for themselves sets them apart in a state where reporters looking to manufacture lurid stories appear to operate without any kind of sanction. “We had to fight back,” says Shruthi Chandrasekaran, one of the girls involved in that now infamous April incident. “What’s happening is just wrong and too many people seem resigned to it. We don’t even know what motivates the media’s malice towards us.”

Andhra Pradesh has some 16 regional news channels. Sevanti Ninan, editor of The Hoot, an online media watchdog, has written about how corporate ownership sets the terms and how the need to be profitable means a redrawing of the lines between public and private. In a market exploding with money and fierce competition, no channel can afford for viewers to switch off. Thus, there’s little distinction between what channels define as eyeball-grabbing reportage and salacious entertainment. News seems to essentially mean reality TV served with an indigestible side dish of hypocritical, moralistic commentary.

GS Rammohan, associate editor with ABN Andhra Jyothy, accepts that TV news has gone insane, driven by ratings and profit. According to the , what sells is sex and crime. “People enjoy watching other people’s private lives on TV,” he says. As long, apparently, as the “other people” are comely young women. The same senior journalist who denounced the NALSAR students stated matter-of-factly that channels look to show beautiful women onscreen as de facto policy. Local media in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Rammohan says, are similar in this regard. Though Karnataka has six regional news channels as opposed to 16, its crime news coverage is famous for stings, both successful and attempted, on bars in Bengaluru, Mangalore and Manipal. Many of these stings are the work of reporters employed by Suvarna News 24×7 and TV9 Kannada, the two most popular regional news channels in Karnataka. Both blame the other for lowering the tone of the public conversation with leering, tabloid journalism.

Raoof Kadavanad, a crime reporter with a leading English daily in Hyderabad, watches the tactics of TV reporters with some bemusement. He describes how crime reporters seek out couples in public spaces and film them with hidden cameras. The footage is then screened to bolster the argument that the behaviour of young women in the city is deplorable. After the NALSAR incident, TV5 aired a segment about Hyderabad’s nightlife that deplored what was “happening to our sisters and daughters”

In July 2012, Tonic, another pub in Banjara Hills, was raided for having a party long after legal hours. The media filmed the raid, focussing largely on the women in that familiar, creepy style. Depressingly, this behaviour is typical. In January 2012, Suvarna broadcast a ‘sting’ on illegal bars in Bengaluru. The ‘illegality’ of said establishments was, of course, of less concern than filming the girls on their cameras. In 2011, a medical student was photographed at a party in Le Rock Cafe in Bengaluru. Her picture was published in a Kannada newspaper belonging to the Telugu channel Sakshi TV as an example of the malign influence of western culture on the present generation.

The combination of sanctimoniousness and aggression is visible. Girls are hunched over, hiding their faces, surrounded by baying men. The footage is edited insidiously, with strategic blurring implying nudity when a girl is wearing a dress deemed insufficiently modest. Shame is thrust on the girls. “It was terrifying,” remembers Shruthi, “to be chased by this man with a camera, who won’t even let you shut the car door.” Her fear has been felt before by innumerable women running away from cameras, desperately covering their faces with dupattas, scarves or their own hands.

Another popular tactic used by reporters is to wait around with traffic police conducting its weekly drunk-driving tests at various checkpoints around Hyderabad. Every Friday and Saturday night, a small group of reporters armed with lights and cameras film these checks, waiting for women who might be stopped. “Channels use that footage in different packages to say different things for months. People enjoy it,” says ABN Andhra Jyothy’s Rammohan.

In Bengaluru, Ajit Hanamakkanavar, the Crime Bureau Chief of Suvarna, acknowledges that “news has crossed over the line to  and reality TV”. “In the TV business, the remote control is your biggest enemy. No one watches serious, investigative stories,” he adds. The channel has a “legal team at the ready” to deal with accusations of slander and defamation. The reporters are often tipped off about the bar raids by the police. “A commissioner will not be my source,” says Hanamakkanavar, “but a constable will be.” A senior police officer confirmed that the constabulary and reporters often share information.

Both Rammohan and Hanamakkanavar put the blame squarely on upper management. The top brass have cynically turned moral policing into a lucrative business. Many of the reporters, who often come with their own cultural baggage, actually believe they are making a valuable difference, providing a much-needed check to out-of-control youth. It is not enough for them to observe society; they feel the need to become enforcers of a particular, usually imaginary, cultural code. Sampath Kumar, a crime reporter for ABN, earnestly tries to explain how “these people” can be kept in check “through fear of the media and by being made to understand that their behaviour is wrong”. He claims the reporters have the public on their side and that tip-offs come just as often from their audience as from the police.

In Karnataka, there is also a penchant for blaming the outsider, or the ‘foreign hand’ — students and professionals, who flock to cities from other states and countries, and bring money, decadence and loose morals. The pressure to make the money to lead extravagant lifestyles also results in crime, say reporters. Rajesh Rao, the Mangalore crime reporter for TV9 Kannada, says that he’s “seen what goes on in these pubs, what drugs are exchanged. These petticoat parties where girls wear short clothes”. Suresh Kumar Shetty, the Mangalore crime reporter for Suvarna, worries about the effects the “lavish lifestyle” of rich students from outside the state have on locals.

Like Rao, Shetty admits that his channel has attempted to smuggle cameras into popular bars. He once asked two friends of his, who were not reporters, to enter a bar as a couple and film the goings-on. To validate the rightness of the cause, he refers to the tragic suicide of Sneha, an 18-year-old Mangalore girl, in February this year. A drug addict, she reportedly killed herself because she couldn’t afford the next fix. Her parents spoke about a girl who used to top her class at school until she started going to parties in hotels and pubs and was introduced to drugs.

This story fits conveniently into Rao and Shetty’s argument that local youths are tempted into vices they cannot afford and that the media must protect them. Naveen Soorinje, the Mangalore reporter for Kasthuri TV, disagrees. With vehemence. He made national headlines last year after the 23 July 2012 homestay incident in which activists from the Hindu Jagarana Vedike attacked boys and girls at a birthday party. Soorinje’s coverage shed light on what had happened, yet he was named as an accused in the case by the police. Released on bail in March this year, all charges against Soorinje were dropped by the Karnataka government on 14 June. Having consistently reported on cultural policing, he points out when right wing groups such as the Sri Ram Sene go on one of their periodic moral policing jaunts in Mangalore, the media, tipped off by these groups, is close behind. It’s a cosy relationship. The media gets political backing for its own occasional hand-waving about decadent modern culture and the right wing groups get the soapbox and spotlight they so desire. “When the right wing groups are not around,” says Soorinje, “TV channels film young people in pubs and ask ‘what is the Hindu sangathan doing now?’ When TV9 does something, Suvarna tries to catch up by doing something more sensational.”

This role of social responsibility is championed by TV9 Telugu’s executive editor Dinesh Akkula and Input Editor Arvind Yadav. According to them, the story of Telugu media is one of transformation — from a cutthroat business to responsible journalism that is the hallmark of the likes of TV9. “Maturity is coming in slowly,” says Akkula, “we stick to the guidelines recommended by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). We don’t target specific people or groups, but we show what’s in the public interest.”

In TV9 Telugu’s infamous Planet Romeo sting (February 2011), a reporter posed as a gay man on the site Planet Romeo and befriended other members, eliciting intimate details while recording his conversations. The ‘report’ was broadcast with lots of hand-wringing about how Hyderabad was falling prey to the fashionable gay culture. The conversations were played on TV, revealing identities, personal sexual preferences and histories. Prominent gay rights lawyer Aditya Bandopadhyay filed a complaint and the NBA fined the channel 1 lakh, a piffling sum for a network of TV9’s size.

That appalling piece of reporting shows that it’s not just middle and upper-middle class girls in the firing line, but all manner of easy targets. The Telugu news channel NTV 24×7 once filmed transgenders at an LGBT awareness event held by the NGO Suraksha and then aired that footage in a completely different context, when a man was murdered at a popular cruising spot. TV9 Kannada did a major expose in 2009 on the “Devdasi tradition” among sex workers of Kudligi in Bellary district. The story’s fallout, as documented in a fact-finding report by Vimochana, a women’s organisation, and Nava Jeevana Mahila Okkuta, a Dalit Women’s Collective, was that these sex workers, previously accepted by a wider community, were now ostracised. They had lost their only source of livelihood, couldn’t send their children to school and were shunned by the neighbours. The TV9 journalist, Prakash Noolvi, went on to win the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in January 2012. “The reporter didn’t hide the faces of these women,” says Akkai Padmashali, the media coordinator of Sangama, an LGBT organisation. “They cheated these women by posing as clients. One had even been visiting them for sex.” She angrily recounts the many times reporters secretly film sex workers to extort money from them.

Activists and intellectuals point to how a large section of society gives legitimacy to the media and other self-appointed moral police. People will be outraged by a girl being beaten up, but will also say that she should not have been out drinking in the first place. Conservatives who might be of completely different backgrounds find common ground when setting limits on women’s behaviour. Shaming is a cultural reality. Madhavi Lata, a scriptwriter and former reporter for NTV, is honest about the fact that truth is often warped to fit viewers’ preconceptions. But even she asks why “these girls give people the chance to say something about them. They could go out for a drink in more decent clothes”.

Hyderabad-based activist Tejaswini Madabhushi recalls media reaction to the 5 January ‘Midnight March’ in the city, an attempt to take back the night from sexual predators and the moral police. “Vernacular news reporters,” says Madabhushi, “kept asking us why we wanted to go out in the night and provoke men like them.”

Pop culture too reflects this attitude. Audiences cheer when Telugu heroes verbally and physically abuse heroines. It’s part of a nationwide acceptance of . Sandhya, a leading gender rights activist in Hyderabad, says people “want to see women as sex objects. Studios call us for panel discussions and pit us against someone from the right wing. We tell them to leave the girls alone and start telling the boys how to behave.” R Akhileshwari, a senior print journalist, points out that it’s “always the woman’s body” that is the locus of censure or dispute. “Why do these channels not look at the liquor shops on the road, where men buy drinks, enjoying a session right there by the roadside?”

Perhaps legal challenges will force TV channels to modify their intrusive behaviour. “It is a violation of privacy,” says Bengaluru-based lawyer Akmal Rizvi. “It can be interpreted as stalking, which comes under Section 354D of the IPC.” One of Hyderabad’s eminent lawyers says, on the condition of anonymity, that some reporters “blackmail people for money by threatening to show their faces on TV”. The NALSAR students cited the reporters’ violations of the NBA’s regulations concerning stings and media ethics. The reporters argue that roads are public areas.

“Moral policing on TV goes back to the ’90s when crime shows started,” says Deepu, a Bengaluru- based documentary filmmaker with Pedestrian Pictures. He reiterates the point that journalists are part of the social fabric that consumes these shows. But the very morality these channels pretend to is hypocritical. “Why would you want to see that picture of the skimpily dressed girl if you are so moral?” asks Nisha Susan, freelance journalist and writer, who began the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign in 2009 in response to Sri Ram Sene goons beating up women in a Mangalore pub. Thousands of people around the country responded to her call to send the thugs the aforementioned items of women’s underwear. She adds that each generation must push the boundaries for acceptable female behaviour and be prepared for the inevitable friction.

As of now, vernacular media is working hard to play to its audience’s prejudices. An audience that tunes in repeatedly to be scandalised. Perhaps one day, these channels will be overtaken by their viewers as they’re forced to adapt to changing times. One day, the audience will note the rage on a young girl’s face as she is backed into a corner by a reporter wielding a camera. And then they’ll no longer listen to the reporter’s claims that it is the young girl whose behaviour is immoral.

aradhna@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)

 

#India – Dr Soonawala rape case in Mumbai shows how elite privilege works #Vaw


http://sunday-guardian.com/administrator/iupload/rape-case-final_1371904787.jpg

Illustration by Megha Roy Talukdar | Dev Kabir Malik Design

Police conduct, elite reaction and the manner in which this story was reported illustrate how hard it is for a poor woman to accuse a privileged man of rape in India, writes Richa Kaul Padte
Richa Kaul Padte  22nd Jun 2013
There are many stories within this story, often manufactured, and almost entirely contradictory. Perhaps then we should begin with the story that has been told the least: the story of a 26 year old woman who was allegedly raped by her general practitioner Dr. Rustom Soonawala on 17 May at 6pm at his clinic in Mumbai. The narrative begins clearly enough: on leaving the clinic, she told her husband what had happened. At 10.30 pm the same day, an FIR under Section 376 – rape – was registered at the Khar Police Station. The following morning, two police constables accompanied the survivor and her husband to Soonawala’s residence at Dadar Parsi Colony, where she identified the doctor as her rapist. Here, however, is where the story begins to splinter.

The constables sent the couple back to Khar, and told Soonawala that he must accompany them to the police station. Choosing to travel in his own car (questions around why an immediate arrest wasn’t made or why an accused rapist is permitted his own transportation remain unanswered), Dr. Soonawala revved up his engine with a police constable in the front seat and another in the back, along with two of his sisters. Here is precisely where all coherent narratives disintegrate, because over an hour later, the police officers returned to the station, saying that Soonawala had absconded. One account says that one officer had to leave the car to let a patient inside, and the other got out to prevent Soonawala from escaping. Another suggests that there was only ever one constable involved, who was lured out of the car on the pretext that everyone was getting out — before the car sped away. Any police account, however, raises several burning questions: why was the licence plate of the car not recorded? (‘We forgot,’ say the police) Why was the control room not telephoned with a description of the car to be halted at the next signal? (‘We didn’t think of it,’ they say).

On 11 June, over two weeks after the FIR had been lodged, the still-absconding doctor and accused rapist was granted anticipatory bail. And the shock-horror-anger following last year’s Delhi gang rape was nowhere to be seen.

Speaking at a public meeting organised by the Aam Aadmi Party on 18 June in Mumbai, Justice Suresh Hospet said, ‘This reminds me of what the first CPI Chief Minister of Kerala said: If in a court of law there is a rich, well-dressed, suited and booted person standing on one side, against an ill-clad, starving poor man on the other side, the court has an inherent tendency to lean in favour of the former against the latter. This is exactly what is happening today. It is the rich against the poor.’ As a member of the upstanding Bombay Parsi community, which has always held a position of social and cultural privilege dating back to British Imperialism, Soonawala’s respectability was vouched for from all sides. From a lawyer-community with personal ties to the doctor to medical professionals (‘if this can happen to him it can happen to us’: a perverse twist in the logic of vulnerability that normally exists between doctor and patient, says Sujatha Gothoskar from the feminist collective Forum Against the Oppression of Women) to the wider Parsi community, efforts to clear the doctor’s name were aggressive and multi-pronged.

{

The crux of the issue here lies not in Soonawala’s guilt or lack thereof, but in the fact that the law was prevented from taking its own course – singularly because of the social and economic standing of the accused.

Activists who had worked with Soonawala to strengthen laws against hawkers alleged that the case was fabricated by the hawker community in an act of vengeance. But the survivor is no hawker. She is a quiet, soft-spoken wife of a tailor from Orissa, with little money and no one to speak for her. In an unprecedented movement of support for a man accused of a crime that recently made every second Indian a feminist, over 300 people attended the first hearing for anticipatory bail in the Mumbai’s Sessions Court, where the victim was heckled from all sides. How does a judiciary rule in the face of such overwhelming, ‘respectable’ support?

he Order issued by the Mumbai High Court judge on 11 June was a regressive about-turn from the strides made by the Ordinance that resulted from the Justice Verma Committee Report. ‘Facts’ like ‘why didn’t she scream?’ and the 5 hour ‘lapse in time’ it took the survivor of a physical, sexual and mental assault to reach the police station took precedence over forensic evidence of semen on the examination table; an appointment book listing only the survivor’s name for the day; and clear police negligence in locating an absconding Soonawala. Other ‘facts’ cited were that the survivor was unsure about the extent of penetration, and that a forensic report dated 20 days after the incident found no traces of male DNA on her vaginal smear —factors that have been dismissed by the Supreme Court in several rape cases where the survivor is accustomed to sexual intercourse. In a note on the subject Justice Hospet writes, ‘In most…rape cases, there is the victim and the accused — and it happens in a closed room, and there are no eye witnesses.’ It comes down to what the judiciary believes. But as the evidence shows, this ‘belief’ does not exist free of classism and privilege. Aam Aadmi Party members Anjali Damania and Preeti Sharma Menon ask, ‘What if the case was reversed? What if a tailor raped a Parsi lady doctor? Would we say that he should get anticipatory bail? No, we’d say, “Arrest him and put him in jail immediately.”‘

Says Sujatha Gothoskar, ‘What [supporters of Soonawala] don’t seem to understand is that this sets such a dangerous precedent with much wider implications than the case itself…Whether you believe her or the doctor, let the law take its own course; let him be arrested.’ The crux of the issue here lies not in Soonawala’s guilt or lack thereof, but in the fact that the law was prevented from taking its own course - singularly because of the social and economic standing of the accused. Now being heard in the Supreme Court, if the current ruling is not overturned, will the Soonawala case be the new litmus test for rape cases of the future? Fast track for poor rapists, bail for the wealthy? The more support in court, harassment of the survivor and reportage from an uncritical media, the better the chance for acquittal?

If the public and media conscience and consciousness were so righteously raised by the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape, the Soonawala case shows the falseness and elitism of that consciousness to begin with. When it’s the tailor, the plumber, the masked villain in the night, the country (as represented by social media, at least) is up in arms against this ‘dishonouring’ and violent act against its women. When the culprit is ‘one of us’, the silence is chilling.

 

#India- Medical student sexually assaulted by four men at Manipal #Vaw


 

U

Daijiworld Media Network – Udupi (UM)

rape

Udupi, Jun 21: A young woman was allegedly assaulted sexually by four men late night on Thursday June 21 at Manipal here.

The girl is a fourth year MBBS student from Kerala, sources said.

It is said that at around 11.30 pm the girl had been waiting outside the Manipal University library, when an auto with four men came and stopped near her. The men, all said to be auto drivers, allegedly took her away forcibly and sexually assaulted her.

The identities of the men are not yet known, but the police is hopeful of catching them with the help of CCTV footage.

The girl was admitted to hospital.

Investigations are on.

 

Press Release – Delhi protests against the arrests of peaceful protesters in Kolkata


Protest outside West Bengal govt’s bhawan, Rajiv Bhawan, New Delhi
Photo courtesy: Bijayalaxmi Nanda

June 14th

To,

The Resident Commissioner

West Bengal Bhavan

NEW DELHI

We, members of the Citizen’s Collective against Sexual Assault, women’s groups, progressive groups and concerned citizens from across the country are outraged at the unwarranted arrest of a peaceful gathering of feminist and human rights activists on June 13, 2013. We strongly condemn these arrests. We strongly uphold people’s democratic right to peaceful and non-violent dissent and protest.

The activists were trying to seek an appointment with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, in order to hand over a letter of protest against the incidents of gang rape and murder of two young girls in Barasat and Nadia. The CM had earlier refused to meet civil society activists at Writers Buildings. Therefore, on June 13, 2013, members of MAITREE Network (a network of women rights groups in West Bengal) decided to gather outside her residence to seek an appointment. They were not even allowed to enter the street leading to the CM’s residence.

When they wanted to hand over a protest letter to the CM, they were told to hand over the letter to the police instead. They rejected this on the ground that it was the CM who was the elected representative and the head of the government. Without any prior warning to disperse, the totally peaceful gathering, modest in size, was suddenly dragged by the police and bundled into police vans. Thirteen activists were arrested and taken to the Lal Bazar Central lock-up. Surely, activists of women’s organisations are not perceived by the WB State Government as a security risk? Especially when they were there to express their concern about the gang rapes of women and girls in the state.Is that an act that threatens the CM or the Government of WB?

The attitude of the West Bengal government with respect to cases of sexual assault and sexual violence against women has, at best, been dismissive. This is evident in the Chief Minister’s response to the statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). It recorded 30,942 incidents of crime against women in West Bengal in 2012 as against 29,133 the year before. The government’s disclaimer was, “The situation in the state has improved and rape incidents have come down considerably”. Even as the state battles the shame of the Barasat and Nadia rape and murders, Bengal has again topped the country in crimes against women, accounting for 12.67% of such cases across India. Further, as the statistics reveal the state also recorded the third highest number of rapes (escaping the second slot by a whisker) while Kolkata registered the highest number of assaults on the ‘modesty’ of women among all the metro cities in the country.

We, the undersigned, condemn the increasing incidents of sexual assault and atrocities on women and girls in West Bengal. We deplore the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in the state and how that is severely affecting the safety and mobility of women, especially high school and college-going girls in suburban and rural areas.

Some zones have become particularly unsafe, like the Barasat belt in North 24 Parganas where an undergraduate student–daughter of a day-labourer–was gangraped and killed on 7 June on her way back from college. Women are being regularly harassed, molested and raped in that area and several such incidents have been reported in the local media in the last two years. But the administration refuses to act. As the panchayat elections are drawing near, activists fear an escalation of violence against women in the state.

We also condemn the way in which women rights and human rights defenders have been treated by the Government, in complete opposition to the democratic principles of the country.

We demand:

  1. Immediate action initiated against the police personnel responsible for their arrests.
  2. That the West Bengal government accept the right of all, regardless of political leanings, to protest peacefully and democratically on important issues.
  3. That the Government, judiciary and law enforcing agencies initiate speedy action and arrest the culprits responsible for cases of atrocities against women, including the latest two cases of rape and murder against the young girls in Barasat and Nadia.
  4. That proper investigation and a fair and unbiased trial be fast tracked that would enable victims and their families to access justice and lead culprits towards due punishment.
  5. Further, steps should be taken to end instances of violence against women in the state, in consultation with the women rights’ and human rights’ groups.

——

Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA), New Delhi, is a group of individuals and organisations that has come together to protest against the extreme culture of sexual violence against women and girls in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. We raise these issues with the public, as well as the administration and the police of Delhi-NCR and work in different ways to stop and prevent sexual harassment against vulnerable groups. CCSA can be contacted at ccsaindia@gmail.com and ccsaindia@ymail.com.

 

Indian priest arrested for sexually assaulting girl in US #Vaw


The diocese has placed the priest on administrative leave.

Posted on June 12, 2013, 

Blue Earth:An Indian Catholic priest has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth in Minnesota, US.

Father Leo Koppala, who is serving the Winona diocese in the US, is currently lodged in the Faribault County Jail.

The priest’s name still remains on the Marquee at his church in Blue Earth, despite facing second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges.

The diocese has placed the priest on administrative leave, saying that they had not received complaints on his conduct in the past.

The alleged incident happened last week at the home of the girl’s grandmother where he had been invited to dinner.

A criminal complaint filed in Faribault County says after dinner the young girl went downstairs to watch television.

It goes on to accuse the 47-year-old priest, who belongs to Nellore diocese in Andhra Pradesh, of grabbing the girl, kissing her, touching her breasts.

The complaint also alleged that the priest told the 11-year-old girl that when she was done with school, he wanted them to… quote… “be free together.”

If proved guilty, the priest could face up to 25 years in prison.

Source:  http://www.ucanindia.in/

 

 

#RIP – Mourning Reingamphi Awungshi, 21 year old from Manipur #Rape #Vaw


JUNE 11, 2013
This is a guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI:  Kafila.org

imagesWhen the police found Reingamphi Awungshi, a twenty-one year woman from Ukhrul district in Manipur brutalised, assaulted and dead in her rented apartment in Chirag Delhi on 29 May 2013, they did not file an FIR. Rather, the Malaviya Nagar police station, a site of anguished protests, began by designating her death as suicide, even as they waited for a post mortem report! Although the family argued that the state of her bloodied and injured body clearly indicated sexual assault and murder, the police ended up filing an FIR, after three days, as a case of abetment to suicide.

It seems very clear that the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape protests have not made a dent in practices of policing—it should not take hundreds of protestors to ensure the registration of a police complaint. Nor is it reasonable for the police without thorough investigation and competent medical examination of the body to conclude that the death was a suicide rather than murder; and that the injuries on the body, the outcome of substance abuse rather than assault. This is evidence of bias, rather than an impartial investigation.

But for protests, the case would not have been transferred to the Crime Branch, nor an FIR filed for murder.

485711_176998665800763_1475018579_n

Image from Justice for Reingamphi Awungshi

The police’s initial stance that this was suicide illustrated bias. The dead woman’s character was maligned to generate a motive for suicide. The police claimed it was suicide since the door of her room was locked from inside, ignoring the fact that her room led to another door opening into the landlord’s house. The police concluded that she overdosed herself without forensic analysis to determine whether or not the medicines found in her room, if consumed, could have led to toxicity. The police concluded that rodents nibbled her face and other parts of the body leaving her eye and nose in a bloody mess, without waiting for forensic analysis to establish rodent bites. The police assumed that this young woman who had shopped for her next breakfast would kill herself and then rodents in a reasonably well-kept room would assault her. Thereafter, the scene of crime was not secured and it is not even clear whether forensic samples were collected from the scene of crime.

The second post mortem, while the histological reports are awaited, after five days by a three-member panel of forensic experts, concluded that opinion of death could only be offered after the analysis of the viscera by chemical analysis and histopathology report. The PM report further held that two-fingers could easily pass through the vagina, hence the dead woman was habituated to sex—making it impossible to determine whether she was raped, without other forensic tests. Yet again the Delhi protests failed to persuade doctors that while clinical findings of whether or not the vaginal passage is distensible in a dead survivor may have very limited evidentiary value, such a victim cannot be characterised as a habitué. To characterise the victim as a habituated to sex, especially when she is dead, is to assume that the vagina can be examined as if it were a record of past sexual history of consensual sex. Surely it is equally possible that the vagina is a record of past sexual history of sexual violence. To characterise the victim, as a habitué is not only unconstitutional, it prejudices investigation and the framing of charges, if any person is ultimately held responsible for sexual assault.

Surely it is reasonable for Reingamphi’s family and supporters to suspect sexual assault and murder. It is reasonable to suspect the landlords’ relative who was stalking this young woman for over a month. It is reasonable to be suspicious because the family was not informed when the landlord called the police to break into the dead woman’s room. It is reasonable since sexual assault; stalking and/or murders of women from the North East in Delhi are a statistical high.

Why is there such toleration of violence against women from the North–East in Delhi? The fact is that sexual harassment of women from the North East is both sexist and racist. It is also a social fact that women from the North East are targeted as sexual objects. They are subjected to a racist and sexist gaze, which positions them as vulnerable “outsiders”. Branded, stigmatised and caricatured, they are extremely vulnerable to violence, in particular, to sexual assault.

Such forms of targetted violence of tribal women in Delhi is sufficient to declare Delhi a scheduled area or zone of emergency on the grounds that targeted atrocities against tribal women by non­–tribal men is routine. A provision permitting such declaration is available under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 which specifies that the state government is under obligation to identify ‘the areas where the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are likely to be subjected to atrocities’ and adopt ‘measures so as to ensure safety for such members’.

However, the police almost never mobilises this law to protect Naga, Manipuri or Mizo tribal women from the discrimination they face in the city. Surely the police know that as a form of historic discrimination, such forms of violence have been classified in the law as atrocity. They should also remember that as per Section 4 of the PoA Act ‘whoever, being a public servant but not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, wilfully neglects his duties required to be performed of duties by him under this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year’. Non-registration of an FIR in sexual offences is also an offence, by virtue of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Let alone do their duty under these laws police officers routinely treat a complainant from any North–Eastern state as an exceptional and abject subject. It is as if the zone of exception—dramatized by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act—lives in the heart of our city in everyday and ordinary ways.

The impunity and immunity bestowed on men who think that a Tangkhul Naga woman’s life can be exterminated without any investigation, prosecution, or without inciting a collective demand for justice has been permitted by our legal system. Our politicians too permitted this by ignoring the powerful protests against the AFSPA—a demand to recognise citizenship and justice—instead of repressing populations and suspending constitutional law. Our city permits this by creating zones of sexual exceptionalism where some cases find horrified publicity and others do not produce similar public anguish.

Our city does not experience the same horror today, as it did months ago, at the painful and brutalised death of this young woman—perhaps the details of brutalisation are not titillating enough! Perhaps most of us do not identify with a woman whose identity seems so far removed from what we know as familiar? Perhaps it is less disturbing to believe the police version of suicide?

Yet even as we recall every painful instance of violence that was called out, in the aftermath of the December protests, we must remember than Tangkhul Naga women struggling to make the city their home also want azadi from violence. Tangkhul Naga women also protested with us to make Delhi safer.

As we mourn for Reingamphi Awungshi, we must also continue to raise our voices against violence against women, especially sexual assault. Yet, should we also now not reflect where we failed? Fact of the matter is that far from creating prevention of violence and increased safety for women, the forensic detailing of what men do to women’s or girl’s bodies in the media, even though their names were withheld, acted as public pedagogy of what men can do women. Sadly, rape cultures thrive despite the protests, and some may argue, because of the voyeuristic representations of the protests.

Alas, change is a long way away. The cry for transformation demands the sustained energy of the Delhi protesters, who should not be satisfied with increased punishment in the statutes. The aspiration for freedom demands that minimally we say to Reingamphi Awungshi, we are desperately sorry.

Pratiksha Baxi is Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University

 

 

 

Court Officer Sexually Assaults Woman in Court, Arrests Her #Vaw #WTfnews


=

When Everyone in Court Ignores Her Pleas for Help

The Clark County family court is under heavy scrutiny after a video showed a woman who said she was sexually assaulted being arrested.
June 11, 2013  |
 Employees from Clark County family court in Nevada are under investigation for covering up an alleged sexual assault by a court officer,according to KLAS-TV, a CBS affiliate.

An internal affairs investigation has also revealed larger problems at the court, like more allegations of sexual assault and violence.

The story KLAS-TV focuses in on is what happened to Monica Contreras. The mother of a two-year-old daughter went to family court in August 2011 on a routine divorce case. Her husband didn’t show up, and so his request for a temporary restraining order was denied.

Things went downhill for Contreras from there, and there’s video to prove it. Court officer Ron Fox told Contreras she needed to be searched for drugs. According to Contreras and an internal investigation that verified her story, Fox touched her breasts and ordered her shirt to be lifted up. Contreras then went to the hearing master, Patricia Donninger, to tell her that Contreras’ requests for a female officer to conduct the search were ignored.

A second officer then begins to arrest Contreras. Fox says that it was because Contreras made “false allegations.” The news outlet notes that they could not find a “law that would support the arrest. It is also highly unlikely a sexual assault victim would be placed under arrest by the alleged assaulter.”

Meanwhile, the hearing master was looking away while Contreras was pleading with her to pay attention to what was happening to her. “How can you do this to me? How can you watch?” she asks.

The court lieutenant did not inform anyone about the alleged sexual assault.

Two months after the arrest, Contreras filed a complaint, and an internal affairs investigation got underway. But eventually, Fox was fired, though he maintains his innocence. His attorney said the arrest of Contreras was legal because nobody in the court tried to halt his actions.

But nobody informed Contreras about the investigation, Fox’s firing or that her claims were verified. The news outlet had to do that.

The internal investigation isn’t over yet. KLAS-TV reports: “Clark County courts are widening their investigation into why this incident, and a growing number of assault allegations, were never reported by family court management to internal affairs.”

Alex Kane is AlterNet‘s New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor forMondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 

Memorandum to Chief Justice of Bombay High Court – Complaint of rape against Dr Rustom Soonawalla #Rape #Vaw


6th June 2013

To

The Chief Justice,

High Court,

Bombay

Reference: Concerns of women’s groups regarding the manner in which the complaint against Dr. Rustom Sonawala is dealt with. (Anticipatory Bail Application No. 578 of 2013)

Sir,

We, the members of women’s groups, organisations and individuals are concerned about developments in the complaint of rape filed against Dr. Rustom Sonawala at Khar Police Station on 17.05.2013.

We have been fighting for the rights of victims in cases of sexual assault in Mumbai and various parts of the country for many decades. In view of the increasing number of cases of sexual assault and brutal rapes, laws regarding rape and sexual assault have been recently amended to bring in stringent punishments. After the Justice Verma Committee report and the recent happenings in the country, we felt that the Courts too were taking the issue of violence against women more seriously and sensitively.

 

Background: A 26 year old woman, who was taking treatment from Dr. Rustom Sonawala since August 2012, filed a complaint of rape against him on the evening of 17th May, 2013. The filing of the first information report as well as the medical examination of the complainant was concluded by 7 am of the 18th of May.

After the complainant and her husband returned home on the same day, 18th May, the police called them to Dadar to identify the doctor, as they had located his whereabouts in Parsi colony.  On locating and identifying the accused doctor, the two police personnel accompanied him in his car, asking the complainant to take a taxi. While the complainant as well as the police personnel reached the Khar police station, the accused Doctor managed to abscond while he was being accompanied by the police.

During protests that were being held against the doctor opposite his clinic, one of the neighbours informed some of the protestors, that the same doctor had also molested their daughter in the past.

This has raises several questions:

1.       Why did the police go to arrest the doctor in a taxi for which the complainant was made to pay and not in a police van?

2.       Why has no action been taken against the concerned police personnel and why have they not been suspended?

3.       Given the complicity of the entire machinery with the accused, how do we ensure a fair trial?

4.       How do we ensure that even the forensic and medical reports are not tampered with?

Further, the accused who had not been arrested and was absconding even after 10 days of the crime, on 29th May, 2013, moved the High Court seeking anticipatory bail, even as his application for anticipatory bail was pending before the Sessions Court at Greater Bombay, Mumbai. In the anticipatory bail application, the accused said through his lawyer that his blood and semen sample may be collected and he be given protection from arrest till the anticipatory bail application is finally decided in the Sessions Court. The victim’s advocate argued that the accused was absconding and in his absence no reliefs should be granted to him.
On 29th May, 2013 the Hon’ble Court passed an order directing the accused to deposit his passport and appear before the Khar Police Station. The Assistant Public Prosecutor was asked whether the court should pass an order of not arresting the accused or she would give an undertaking. The Assistant Public Prosecutor said that she would give an undertaking of not arresting the accused till his anticipatory bail was decided by the Hon’ble Sessions Court. The court asked by when they would do the medical examination and the Assistant Public Prosecutor said that there is no provision in law by which this medical examination can be done prior to arrest.  After her refusal to agree to do the medical test the court said it will hear the matter after vacation, that is, on 11th June, 2013 and till then the accused is protected, as the Assistant Public Prosecutor has given an undertaking regarding the same.

Sec. 54  of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows medical examination of the accused at the instance of the accused, if the examination of his body will afford evidence which will disprove commission by him of any offence or which will establish the commission by any other person of any offence against his body.

But the section is very clear that it is after arrest and that the accused will have to make an application to the Magistrate.

We fear that the Order of the Hon’ble High Court sets a wrong and dangerous precedent in terms of rape matters for many reasons.

The Accused was not present before the court and yet he was granted relief, which is never done, especially in rape matters. The medical evidence of semen, blood, injuries cannot be the sole basis of deciding whether rape was committed.  At present the law defines rape by penetration, [that is, penetration is enough to prove rape,]; nowhere does it say that it has to be coupled with the presence of DNA.

The FIR states that there was penetration; the presence of DNA and other factors is corroborative evidence.

If this order becomes final it not only  means that the rape accused can approach the courts to seek this kind of protection, but it will also mean that cases will be closed on the basis of DNA reports. And given the circumstances related above, one cannot be sure that these reports cannot not doctored or tampered with. DNA test can be evaluated during trial.

This also takes us to the conclusion that if traces of semen are not found, there is no rape. This goes counter to the recent Criminal Amendment Act, 2013.

The current situation also gives the accused the freedom to tamper with the evidence and witnesses considering the fact he was able to connive with police and abscond right in their presence.

The Hon’ble Court before giving relief to the Doctor ought to have considered the fact that the Doctor is a fugitive from Justice.

In fact he has obstructed the legal system by conniving with police personnel. It is obvious that in some way he was able to exercise undue influence on the police and thereby he could go absconding right in presence of the policemen.

The Hon’ble Court instead of granting him relief should have instructed him to first submit himself before the investigating team and also should have directed that a complaint be registered against the Doctor as well as the police for subverting the process by using undue influence.

It is indeed a question before all us citizens and women specifically, whether Justice is the prerogative of rich people only.

It is a worrying thought that this sort of judgment will act as a precedent in future cases. This goes counter to the present ethos after the 16th December 2012 rape case and its aftermath.
We hope you will relook at the judgment and do the needful.

Yours sincerely

Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai

Aawaaz-E-Niswan

Akshara

SAKHYA (women’s guidance cell)

Women Research and Action Group (WRAG)

SNEHA

VACHA

CORO (for literacy)

YUVA

Samajwadi Mahila Sabha

Stree Mukti Sanghatana

Anagha Sarpotdar

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Address: 29, Bhatia Bhuvan, Babrekar Marg, Off Gokhale Road, Dadar (West), Bombay – 400 028

Email: faowindia@yahoo.co.in

cc- Home Minister R R Patil

 

#India – Woman ‘gang-raped’, brutally murdered in Indore #Vaw #WTFnews


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

Anuraag Singh, TNN Jun 1, 2013,

INDORE: Body of a woman, with brutal injuries, found near BCM Heights in Vijay Nagar locality has revived the shattering memories of 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and killing of Delhi. The woman, aged in her 30s was sexually assaulted and the possibility of gangrape cannot be ruled out, said police officials.

The body was spotted by a security guard from a vacant plot at around 9 am. The head of the woman was reportedly smashed with a heavy object and a piece of pipe was stuffed into her privates. Police are trying to establish the identity of the victim, who appears to be a tribal by her attire and the fact that her left arm was tattooed with three names Chameli, Jawan Singh and Gulab.

The plot where the body of the woman was found was not the only place splashed with blood as blood stains were visible in the adjacent vacant plot, suggesting that the woman could well have been gang raped in the vacant plot and then dragged to the other plot where she was murdered.

“The post-mortem report of the woman has established major wounds on the head as the cause of death. The report also has clearly establishes sexual assault on the woman,” SP (Indore East) OP Tripathi told TOI.

Post-mortem conducted by a team of doctors, including a female doctor at the MY Hospital, will study the viscera and blood samples to arrive at a conclusion where the deceased was subjected to gangrape.”A case of murder and sexual assault is being registered at the Vijay Nagar police station and efforts are underway to establish the identity of the woman,” the SP-East said.The case has once again exposed the state of affairs around the posh BCM Heights apartments, which is just a walking distance from the Vijay Nagar police station. In April only, a sex racket was busted from one of the flats of BCM Heights building with the arrest of two call girls hailing from Kolkata, but the operator of the racket Ashok Chauhan and another key accused Fareida Sheikh are still on the run.

 

#India – Gang rape survivor, a Dalit, sentenced to ten days imprisonment #Vaw #WTFnews


A Rape  Story

In a country where a gangraped woman is sent to jail for going back on her statement in court, justice for sexual assault survivors is still a far cry
BY Neha Dixit EMAIL AUTHOR(S), Open Magazine, June 8, 2013
A VICTIM TWICE OVER Kiran (indoor) with her mother-in-law (Photo: ASHISH SHARMA)

A VICTIM TWICE OVER Kiran (indoor) with her mother-in-law (Photo: ASHISH SHARMA)

Sitting on a cot on the semi-terrace outside her room, 20-year-old Kiran (name changed) pulls the strings of the jute chaarpai, murmuring in rage. It is anger tempered by the presence of her mother-in-law in the courtyard downstairs. It has been five months since Kiran has gone out to answer nature’s call alone. Women like her are not trusted to be allowed out alone even for that. Kiran was raped by four men repeatedly over four days in different parts of Haryana like Panipat, Sonepat and Kurukshetra before being dumped at the Panipat Railway Station. That was on 28 September 2012. Last month, on 24 April, she was sentenced to a ten-day imprisonment. “The judge, my father, my brother, my husband, my mother-in-law and thebiraadari—they are collectively raping my head. Still,” says Kiran.

The month she was raped, 12 more gangrapes were reported. Yet, in many quarters, her case has become a cautionary tale—the risks of a woman, especially one of a ‘lower caste’ landless community, exerting her free will and demanding justice.

In caste terms, Kiran is a Dhanuk.

Banwasa village is in Gohana town of Sonepat district. It is crisscrossed by paddy and vegetable fields. The Dhanuks who live here, like in other North Indian villages, are considered untouchable. Their houses are on the outskirts of the village. Their traditional job was to remove night soil from ‘upper caste’ houses, but they have long switched to working as agricultural hands, basket weavers, midwives and construction labourers. Landless and ostracised, their only sense of security is their biraadari, which acts as a tool of social control and an informal welfare association.

As she talks about the rape for the first time in many months without the fear of being judged, Kiran starts crying.

“Don’t cry, they want to break you down through character assassination,” I tell her. “Can you tell that to my father and my husband?” she says.

+++

On 28 September 2012, Kiran was at her parent’s place in Banwasa, when Sunita, a neighbourhood housewife, gave her a message that her husband Sudeep had come to meet her near a local railway crossing.

“I had told him once that I want to meet him outside the house like they do in Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge. When the boy comes to get the girl? I thought that’s why he had come to meet me,” says Kiran.

As soon as she reached the outskirts of the village, two men of Khandrai village— Sunil and Sanjay—kidnapped her and took her to a rice field on the Gohana-Kakrohi road. They were later joined by Anil of Ahmedpur Majra village and Sarvan of Hadtari village. Two of them pinned her hands down while the third and fourth raped her. “They laughed as they ripped my clothes with a blade and described my body parts to each other. I was a toy they were trying out.”

From the paddy field to a mini-van to the Brahmsarovar in Kurukshetra to a small room next to railway tracks in Panipat, the ordeal continued. “I begged them to let me go.” They didn’t. She was asked to discard her clothes and change into an old salwar kameez. She remembers waking up the fifth day and fleeing.

Kiran registered a case with the Sonepat police. It took over a week to arrest the four rapists and Sunita, who had allegedly helped them.

According to Yashpal Singh, DSP, Gohana, “We registered Kiran’s statement under Section 164. Once a statement is recorded under this section, rape is confirmed. During the interrogation, the rapists confirmed Kiran’s accusations.” A medical examination conducted at Gohana civil hospital also indicated rape.

Over the next three months, however, Kiran was labelled a prostitute, a thief, a serial offender and a Dalit nymphomaniac. Her in-laws threatened to abandon her, the parents wanted to get rid of her.

“They kept saying, ‘Why did you leave the house? Why didn’t you tell your parents [where you were going]?’” she says. When she was 17, Kiran had eloped with a lover. That episode was cited as justification of her rape, as if her past record had called it upon her. “She ran away with a mechanic from a nearby village,” says a relative of hers who does not wish to be identified, “Her brother Gurmeet brought her back and tried to hang her. We intervened and saved her life. She has always been like this.”

Kiran is the second of five children born to a beldar and his daily-wage labourer wife. They share a two-room hut made of corrugated tin and decaying wood, and led a simple life until what happened to Kiran. “We suddenly did not deserve to be talked to because our daughter was raped and she filed a case. She did not know that poor people do not fight cases in courts,” says the mother. The family’s primary source of income is the daily wage of Rs 250 she earns. She also looks after a couple of buffaloes owned by land-owning Jats who have promised her 30 per cent of the proceeds once they are sold.

+++

Pressure on Kiran’s family and in-laws started mounting as soon as the four men were arrested. “We had anyway started losing days of work: to submit papers in court, to get medical reports, to visit the police station, to attend the court hearings,” says the father.

Various biraadari panchayats from Attadi, Ahmedpur Majra, Hadtari and Banwasa, the five villages the accused belonged to, came together to forge a decision on the matter. The arrest of Sunita, the woman who Kiran says misled her into the paddy field trap, was considered an attack on the pride of the village. “They said that since Kiran is now Ikdaana village’s daughter-in-law, it is Sunita and not she who deserves their support,” says the mother, “They pressured us into asking Kiran to change her statement.”

Kiran has no idea why Sunita misled her that day. “She was one person I used to spend a lot of time with. Though, I now know that she is friends with Anil.” Sunita’s husband Deepak did not let us speak to her. “Why are you questioning my family for a whore like Kiran? Ask her, why did she go?” he asked.

Kiran’s parents were told that they would not be granted work on any farm until Kiran signed a reconciliation letter.

“It’s the harvesting season and this is the time we get maximum work. How will we feed the buffaloes and kids?” asks the mother.

Kiran’s father-in-law, who sells kulfi for a living, and her husband, who sells steel utensils on his bicycle in nearby villages, were also pressured to get the case dropped. “There was a threat to my son’s life. We were anyway ready to take her back even after such a big blot on her character. Tell me, who accepts such a girl back into the family? And then you want us to help her fight the case too?” asks her mother-in-law.

Kiran is schooled only till class five. With few skills to make an independent living and no money to pursue court proceedings, she surrendered. “I thought of committing suicide,” says Kiran, “but they don’t let me out alone.” She was not just forced to change her statement, but also falsely explain her medical reports. “I was forced to say that I left my parents’ house on 28 September and stayed at my in-laws for the next four days. And that my medical reports were positive because I had sex with my husband.”

What added to Kiran’s sense of helplessness was the gap of six months from the rape to the court. Raj Kumari Dahiya, an activist of the Mahila Samiti, Sonepat, says, “This puts in perspective the demand of the women’s rights movement to try rape cases in fast-track courts and deliver verdicts within three months.”

When Gohana DSP Yashpal Singh was asked about the pressure on the family to drop charges, he said, “Who knows what compromise was made? We received no such complaint in this regard.”

On the day of the hearing on 24 April, Additional District and Sessions Judge Manisha Batra sentenced her to 10 days imprisonment for backtracking on her statement and imposed a fine of Rs 500. She had committed perjury.

“Didn’t you tell the judge what happened?” I asked her.

“How could I?” she replied, “The biraadari panchayat people were present.”

+++

If Kiran was a victim twice over, it was plainly because the Indian Judiciary—represented in this case by a woman judge—failed to take into account the power equations at play. It ignored how her voice was stifled by her social conditions, how her vulnerability within a caste-and-gender hierarchy had weakened her will to get justice.

“Did the judge talk about the lack of rehabilitative measures in her court order while charging the girl with perjury? Why could the girl not muster the courage to approach the state machinery and police following threats?” asks Senior Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover.

In January this year, a 600-page report of the Justice Verma Committee following the Delhi gangrape case documented how women face intense insecurity because of dominant caste hostility or threats of communal violence. But it made no mention of a mandatory rehabilitation package for survivors.

In 1993, the Supreme Court, in a writ petition, Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum vs Union of India and Others, had directed the National Commission for Women (NCW) to evolve a ‘scheme so as to wipe out the tears of unfortunate victims of rape’. It observed that it was necessary to set up a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and demanded that compensation be awarded to rape victims for the pain, suffering, shock and loss of earnings as a result of such an assault.

The NCW sent a draft to the Central Government in 1995. After lying in the freezer for over a decade, the Commission came up with a ‘Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Victims of Rape, 2005’. It proposed that the Ministry of Home Affairs issue directives to state governments for aid to rape survivors.

After the Delhi protests, activists revived demands to implement the scheme, but neither the state nor the Centre earmarked a budget for it. Charu Walikhanna, an NCW member, says, “We have proposed the scheme, but its implementation lies with the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare.” In the words of Krishna Tirath, India’s minister of women and child welfare, “It is the state’s responsibility to implement it, the Centre cannot intervene.” And so it gets buried in bureaucracy.

In Kiran’s context, her social status makes the need of a rehabilitation package all the more important. Jagmati, vice-president, All India Democratic Women’s Association, has long been pushing for compensation for rape survivors in Haryana. “Some people laugh at it by calling it ‘compensation for getting raped’,” she says, “They do not realise that Kiran and her parents cannot bear the expenses of a legal process. It is not enough for the State to provide a lawyer. Public prosecutors don’t take these cases seriously and private practitioners ask for upto Rs 70,000 per hearing. It places justice completely out of reach for such women. The question of loss of work, of sometimes having to shift residence, of frequent consultations with lawyers and trips to the court, incurring expenses and losing a day’sincome are all critical issues in the [victim’s] decision of whether or not to fight for justice.”

As proposed by the NCW’s original draft, the National Mission for Empowerment of Women has the funds. However, what is missing is the political will to implement it. Laughably, a circular issued on 3 April by the Ministry of Home Affairs states that financial help for rehabilitation of rape survivors should be taken care of by NGOs. Says Jagmati, “It’s unfortunate that the State has vested [donors with] the responsibility of ensuring justice for rape survivors.”

Kiran was released on bail on 25 April. The rest of her life is likely to be one of drudgery and keeping her mouth shut. Her brother-in-law, who is as old as her, studies in class ten. When she asked him what he was studying in school these days, he replied, “Nothing that you do. You focus on dancing and sleeping with people.” When I asked him, “Why don’t you learn cooking?” he roared in laughter, “For that, I will get a wife. If she doesn’t, I will beat her up with batons!”

Kiran is right. It’s unpardonable, what everyone is doing to her head.

+++

Some other names have also been changed to protect their identities