#India – Sexual Harassment at Workplace #Vaw #Womenrights #mustread


Workplace Sexual Harassment

The Way Things Are

Vol – XLVIII No. 24, June 15, 2013 | Naina Kapur , EPW
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Sixteen years after the landmark Vishaka case judgment of the Supreme Court, the government introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 2012 a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill. The Act, as it stands, has failed to draw on the extensive research on sexual harassment that has been done in this country and elsewhere. Further, its inaccurate phrasing of workplace sexual harassment and mismatches between subheadings and content of the text eclipses the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment.

Naina Kapur (naina.kapur@gmail.com) is an advocate who pioneered the Vishaka directions on workplace sexual harassment.

Before 1997, “sexual harassment” had never settled into the Indian legal lexicon. We were instead saddled with an archaic Victorian template which criminalised “outraging or insulting” a “woman’s modesty”. It made us pretend that we had it all covered. But we never did. Unwelcome words, gestures, images, language, and all those subtle intangibles which sexually violate a woman, were comfortably woven into the pattern of life rather than the fabric of law. It all became a silent and acceptable part of “the way things are”.

Bhanwari Case

It was not until the 1990s that the sexual torment endured by a rural level change agent in Rajasthan and her subsequent determination to challenge what led to her violation gave rise to a long overdue common-sense approach to what needed to change. It was us. Sexual harassment hit the Indian legal map when Bhanwari, a saathin in Rajasthan, prevented the child marriage within an upper caste community. In doing so she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment through words and gestures from men of that community. When she reported the harassment, the local authority did nothing. That omission was at great cost to Bhanwari – she was subsequently gang-raped by those very men.

Surprisingly, nationwide calls for justice hovered around demands for a stringent criminal law response, i e, the filing of a first information report (FIR). With a history of failures by the criminal justice system to stem the pandemic of violence towards women, such demands appeared futile. At the risk of offending purists of criminal law, it has always struck me as somewhat offensive that a breach of criminal law is effectively treated as a crime against the state. Each FIR becomes the pursuit of a culprit by the police for a harm which the “State” has endured. At most the complainant woman is only ever a witness.

Bhanwari’s experience invited us to change that pattern. Rather than perceive sexual harassment in the home, on the street, at work or in accessing justice as individual personal injuries, we needed to experience it as a constitutional concern. The microcosmic commonality of Bhanwari’s experience of sexual harassment mirrored what scores of working Indian women faced in India – everyday, everywhere, all the time. In the absence of any existing legal response to “sexual harassment”, the opportunity was ripe for a comprehensive approach. In 1992, therefore, we approached the Supreme Court of India in a public interest litigation to do precisely that – rethink “the way things are”.

Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment was a form of discriminatory conduct at the workplace. It hampered women’s constitutional rights to equality and dignity. It sabotaged work performance, affected working environments, impaired women’s progress, resulted in absenteeism and cost both individuals and institutions in terms of qualitative health and growth. The statistics of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reveal how 55% of women from the ages of 14 to 55 in Italy have been subjected to sexual harassment (2004); sexual harassment in the United States army has cost close to $250 million (1999 survey); 40 to 50% of women in the European Union have faced some form of sexual harassment; and a 2002 survey by Sakshi (a non-governmental organisation) of 2,000 persons across workplaces found 80% acknowledging that workplace sexual harassment existed in India.

Statistics apart, constitutional equality was never the lens through which we viewed women’s experience of sexual harm at work. It took that rare creative courage of a judge, the late Justice J S Verma (then chief justice of India) to rise to the occasion and in 1997 we were given Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan. Unlike anything before it, Vishaka was a visionary decision. Primarily, it filled a legal vacuum. Second, it viewed sexual harassment through an equality lens and thus prioritised prevention. Third, in the absence of legislation, it became legally binding on all workplaces. Unlike the criminal law, it was the State, the employer, and the institution that had to own up for the equality and dignity of women at work.

Finally, it gave us a map for creating accountability. Workplaces, organisations, institutions (including educational establishments) were compelled to raise awareness about sexual harassment, take steps to prevent it and to offer effective redress. We sought and were granted the presence of a third party expert on complaints committees for sexual harassment, a mechanism mandated by Vishaka for all workplaces.

It was an innovative moment in the history of women’s constitutional rights within all workplaces. That is what a visionary approach does for people’s rights. It expands and uplifts them through an inclusive process. Vishaka changed the map of how we could respond to other forms of violence against women. Unfortunately, the moment and momentum was frittered away by a state unable and unwilling to adhere to the bar Vishaka had set. Despite the Government of India’s own ratification of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the women’s convention which promised to uphold the equality rights of women in all aspects of life, its commitment rang hollow. Added to this was increased public immunity to the daily sexual exploitation of women who never took adequate notice of what Vishaka had to offer.

‘To Do Something’

Still, Vishaka made it impossible for us to slip back to the way things are. It gave us language. Women’s experience of unwelcome sexual conduct was no longer a patronising moral transgression of her ”modesty”, it was sexual harassment – a violation of her constitutional equality.

Sixteen years post the landmark judgment, the Government of India introduced a new bill. Such delay might have been justified had excellence and improving on Vishaka been the goal. In reality, the state simply awoke from its lengthy slumber to “do something”. Amidst the din of the coal block allocations scam in the Lok Sabha, a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill was allowed to pass into law without debate in September 2012. Before the Rajya Sabha, a feebler introduction was made by the minister whose “vision” suggested that it was a bill “to make them economically empowered so that they can do their work properly” – a condescending preface to constitutional equality which was the backbone of the Vishaka judgment. Adding insult to injury, nowhere does the debate find mention of constitutional equality.

Apart from the statement of objects, there is little in the language and content of the new Act which has continued to raise the bar, let alone retain the spirit of Vishaka. An itemised definition of what constitutes “workplace” might have been more easily stated as any place where a woman is present by virtue of her work – a suggestion supported by many at a consultation held in the presence of parliamentary standing committee members. Educational institutes have complained that the definition does not go far enough to include students who, while not workers, frequently suffer coercive sexual harassment on campus or otherwise linked to their educational growth, a concern endorsed by the Justice Verma Committee. Such institutes will need to adopt a creative approach to ensure students are covered. Extensive cross-country research carried out for the Vishaka hearings provided contemporary approaches to the definition and a road map for preventing workplace sexual harassment.

Use of such knowledge was scarcely evident in crafting the latest Act. Inaccurate phrasing (a trait which characterises much of the Act) of hostile workplace sexual harassment eclipses the relevance of the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment. Mismatches between subheadings and content compound that perception. A section titled “Prevention of Sexual Harassment”, for instance, fails to deliver on anything related to preventive measures. Instead, the section highlights “circumstances” which may amount to sexual harassment. Such glaring oversight betrays an abysmal lack of homework by the legislative draughtsperson and ignorance about the issue by parliamentary representatives across the political spectrum.

Diluted Version of Vishaka

As for the internal and local complaint committees now mandated under the Act in all workplaces, political understanding of what was intended to be an inclusive and informed redress mechanism simply is not there. Diluting third party presence on these committees to persons committed to “the cause of women” demeans the skill and specialisation required to meet the nuances of workplace sexual harassment. In a recent example, a lawyer committed to the “cause of women” was inducted into a government department complaints committee. Post the proceedings, my office was contacted by the department for a follow-up. Amazingly, the record revealed how the person accused of sexual harassment was allowed to openly question the complainant as part of the committee proceedings – a fundamental violation of the non-intimidation principle designed to protect complainants from just such practices. Third party persons (lawyers or not) must bring knowledge, skill and capacity to the table to ensure processes are professionally informed and unbiased. Vishaka envisaged an inclusive complaints committee to build ownership of the issue, ensure fair treatment and enhance knowledge and experience around workplace sexual harassment.

Of all sections, the most disturbing provision in the Act (Section 14) is one which punishes a “false or malicious complaint”. Such inventions are only ever peculiar to gender-specific legislations which relate to women and violence. In no other area of law do such penalty clauses exist as a matter of practice. Its presence in the new Act has no legal basis.

Investigations (and this is true of any law) are designed to determine whether a harm occurred or not. That is it. To premise an Act on the assumption that women are potential liars about their human rights abuses reeks of stereotyping women and for that reason would be constitutionally untenable. Flawed drafting further amplifies the lack of political seriousness towards socially relevant legislation for women. The “false” charges section provides that “mere” inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof “need not” attract action against the complainant, but does not enlighten us on what “need not” means. Does it imply that if a complaint does not succeed, it “ought not to but still might” attract action for false charges?

The absence of user-friendly, unambiguous and accessible language throughout the new Act renders it prone to typical gender stereotyping in such cases. In all consultations on the bill, this retrograde provision was rejected outright. To foist it into the legislation can only be perceived as an attempt to discourage women from making complaints of sexual harassment.

In the 16 years since Vishaka, progressive developments have taken place in international guidelines and practices on workplace sexual harassment. Prescribing “duties” under the new Act as a way to compel employers to prevent sexual harassment runs contrary to contemporary human rights emphasis on promoting “responsibilities”. It is the difference between what employers feel obliged to do (and hence resist and scuttle) from what they would responsibly own and do (and hence, be proud of).

Clearly, the absence of urgency and enhanced vision has given us a diluted version of Vishaka. Dilution is what traditionally allows sexually inappropriate conduct to fester, spread and eventually escalate into rape in the first place. That is how it all began in Bhanwari’s case. For that reason, a 16-year wait offers no excuse for not getting a law that mirrored global standards of excellence and understanding in systemically tackling workplace sexual harassment.

At the same time, legislation, flawed or otherwise, cannot excuse us from implementing change, one which calls upon our own willingness to connect the dots. At most, legislation has reignited attention towards the plague of workplace sexual harassment. Owning the constitutional subtext to make it work is our job. Unexpected but welcome initiatives have begun to dot the landscape even pre-legislation. A recent award by the industrial tribunal in West Bengal offers an unusually credible direction in the sexual harassment case of senior journalist Rina Mukherjee against The Statesman.

Rina Mukherjee vs The Statesman

Within six months of joining The Statesman, Rina Mukerhjee lost her job. While the company alleged that her work was “tardy” and “lacking in quality”, it suppressed Rina’s complaint of sexual harassment against the news coordinator, Ishan Joshi. Within her first month of work, Rina had taken her complaint directly to the managing director (MD), Ravinder Kumar. Understandably, she expected him to act professionally and intervene, but time passed and nothing happened. Exploiting her status as a probationer, Rina was fired by The Statesman.

Such patterns are common to organisations who fail to see the importance of promoting a workplace free from sexual harassment. Frequently, a woman on probation will find it impossible to make a complaint, let alone succeed with one. Hence, most women hesitate and tolerate the behaviour. Rina was an exception. Post her termination she filed a formal complaint with the MD, The Statesman’s owner, C R Irani and the West Bengal Women’s Commission with the firm belief that her termination was a result of her sexual harassment complaint.

The matter was eventually heard by the Industrial Tribunal (West Bengal). In a rare display of social context, insight and clarity amongst the judiciary, judge Kundan Kumar Kumai, rejected The Statesman’s claim that Rina only referred to “professional” harassment in her complaint to Ravindra Kumar. In Kumai’s view, Kumar’s failure to dig deeper was clearly suspect. In the judge’s words:

He [Ravindra Kumar] never started any enquiry however discreet it may have been. Fairplay demanded at least an explanation from the senior executives as to why there was an allegation of professional harassment against them. Rather he has gone hammer and tongs over the delay made in making the sexual harassment public, in writing. What else could she have done… she made a verbal complaint of sexual harassment and professional harassment and she was dismissed from her service even without completion of her probation period.

It should also not be forgotten that the lady workman was not only well-educated but had about ten years of journalism, with other well known publications, behind her and not a novice or a rookie journalist, at that relevant time.

Moreover…it becomes clear that there was no Committee on sexual harassment, as per the Honb’le Supreme Court’s direction in Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan, existing in The Statesman, at that relevant time…to expect-the lady workman to file a written complaint and not to believe the same, when it has been filed ‘at a later date’ is sheer bias.

The Statesman was ordered to reinstate Rina and grant her full back wages from the time of her termination to the date of the order. It took 11 years but Rina won an order that dispels assumptions about why women take time to complain about sexual harassment, how those in power try through sheer numbers and gagged employees to dismiss such claims, and how workplaces can no longer take legal compliance on sexual harassment lightly. HadThe Statesman taken her complaint seriously at the outset and complied with Vishaka, the result could have been beneficial for all – for Rina, women workers, the workplace environment and inevitably the company’s reputation.

Conclusions

Repetition creates a life pattern. Enduring workplace conduct which sexually demeans, intimidates, offends, excludes and limits women is not only about the patterns of sexist behaviour, it is also about the repetitive nature of our own complacency. We have become immune to the pervasive harm of sexual harassment and its unconstitutional character.

People like judge Kumai, justice Verma, Bhanwari and Rina remind us that this need not be so. They inspire the rest of us who care, to use our carefully crafted skills, know-how and passion to innovate and transform the most ill-crafted provisions in law to work for us rather than limit us.

Sexual harassment need not be “the way things are”. It is up to us as political leaders, judges, responsible workplaces and individuals to change that pattern of thought. Having found its way onto our constitutional map for all to follow the direction and visibility of workplace sexual harassment will be determined by the men and women who understand the professional and human worth of speaking up. As frightening as that can be, it will enable us to own our constitutional equality not has some elusive right we should continue to aspire for, but as something we can live, experience and embrace everyday. That is not the way things are, that is the way things should be.

 

 

My Tribute to Grand old Lady of Feminist Movement – Ace Kractivist #Womerights #Sundayreading


 I pay tribute to Vina Mazumdar, the Grand old lady of the Feminist Movement and the Grandmother of women’s studies in South Asia

Photo credit: CWDS and the Mazumdar family

For me, the inseparable Vina Mazumdar and Lotika Sarkar are the founding gardeners who nurtured the garden of feminism in India , with their rich contributions to the women’s movement, especially sowing the seed of women political empowerment with the of ‘Note of dissent’, demanding women’s reservation in the path-breaking report, ‘Towards Equality’.

The Garden of feminism bloomed under their guardianship with twin movements — the women studies movement and women’s movement. According to Vina Di the ‘traditional approaches’ to women questions ,always have top down approaches , looking at them as a social and cultural one and not political. In Asia, women constitute the largest group engaged in agriculture and production of food and as such any concept of development of women should adopt ‘bottom up approach’, one that recognizes women’s claims to own agricultural land in their own right when they are tillers.

Vina Mazumdar, lovingly and famously known as Vinda Di for all, will always remain the Grand old lady of the Feminist Movement and the Grandmother of women’s studies in South Asia. Born into a middle class Bengali family in 1927, she studied at a Diocesan Girls School run by the British Protestant Mission, graduating from the Benaras Hindu University. She went to Oxford in the 1960s and, later, in the 1970s to complete her Bachelors and Doctorate. Her first job was in Patna University, where she worked between 1951 to 1960, and got involved in the teacher’s union. She energized the curriculum and the examination system, especially during her tenure as first secretary of the Patna University Teachers Association. Her resolute interest in educational reform prompted her move to the University Grants Commission, the apex body for the national university system.

A radical shift in her life and work came with her appointment in the Committee on the Status of Women in India. The committee, appointed by the Government of India in 1971, was reconstituted in 1973 with Vina Di, as member secretary. The committee was given an extended term of one year to finalize its report, to enable the government to face the first UN-sponsored World Conference on Women at Mexico in 1975, after debating the Report in Parliament. The resurgent women’s movement of the 1970s acknowledged the Report, Towards Equality, as its “Founding Text”. The concern and challenges thrown up by Towards Equality became a lifelong passionate commitment.

Vina Di establiished Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) in the middle of the International Women’s Decade, as a sustained campaign to extend the understanding of women’s studies beyond academy. Armed with ‘Action Research’ then began the Journey of Vina Di’s transformation from an activist academic to a grassroots intervention worker began with the ‘Bankura project’ that took her across the country . She was very distraught about the conditions of women migrant laborers, and the immense concern made her take upon the challenge of an experiment on use of wastelands to provide sustenance for explored the travails of poor migrant women workers who travel from place to place, especially on foot every year for about nine months in search of wage labor.

She organized a rural women’s camp which revealed that the annual migratory process meant high infant mortality, indebtedness, and violent sexual exploitation. In 1981, she organized a group of asset less women from Bankura district, West Bengal; they managed to obtain eight acres of wasteland, which was registered in the name of the organization. It was the first time that these women owned an asset. It took three years of backbreaking labor by the group to demonstrate that wasteland can be regenerated to provide sustenance to women.

A major lesson that Vina Di always referred through the Bankura experience was to ‘listen and learn’ through collaboration with poor (rural) women while developing any research priorities and strategies. The impact was for all to see, the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests made an explicit policy pronouncement to involve poor women in wasteland development and joint forest management.

I still vividly remember watching , Paromita Vohra’s, Documentary ‘Unlimited Girls (2002) ‘, where Vina Di said that the government always uses the word “empowerment of women”, she would ask back ‘who is empowering whom?’. In the film she also stated that she did not believe that donning traditional role of wife, mother, were subordinating women. ‘One should not accept subordination position’, wherever women are.

The Women’s Studies movement under the leadership of Vina Di scored another goal in getting Education for Women’s Equality incorporated in to the new National Policy on Education (1986). The government was also forced to mention minorities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes having made space for women’s equality as part of a new thrust in the NPE.

I had the great opportunity to meet Vina Di at a conference to strategize our campaign on sex selection In 2005, I vividly remember she warned all of us involved in the campaign that historically it will be wrong to connect sex selection and female infanticide, as the present trend in sex selection is directly linked to the arrival and availability of technology. She also emphasized that it’s high time the social scientists and economists also took responsibility of the campaign, that putting it solely on women’s movement, as it’s a burning issue for all to address. In fact, ‘Towards Equality’ was also the first report to mention about the dwindling sex ratios. They looked at the 100 years of census data and it was first time when declining sex ratio was identified as a serious problem in the country.

In her Memoirs the Rolling Stones, published in 2010 by Zubaan Book in her own words, “My earlier struggles represented an individual woman’s efforts to balance the demands of professional and familial responsibilities. The new struggle was increasingly a collective, ideological one — to rediscover the Indian nation, the world, the past, the present and the future — from the perspective of India’s hidden and unacknowledged majority: poor working women in rural and urban areas.

Vina Di’s indisputable combination of canny academic entrepreneurship with activism provided opportunities to tribal and dalit women in non-threatening ways, and helping them break their shackles of poverty and deprivation. She has been a catalyst to crack the culture of silence that kept tribal and dalit women in segregation and deprivation and for centuries. Vina Di was an ace Kractivist, to bridge the Gap between Academics and Activism. And bring the Change.

Vina Mazumdar’s Rolling Story


vina
Pamela Philipose

Many known and unknown women have helped build up that seeming inchoate, open-ended, work-in-progress that is the Indian women’s movement. Among this remarkable sorority is Vina Mazumdar, known widely as ‘Vina-di’, who being endowed with tremendous energy, intelligence and an interest in ideas, has contributed immensely to the intellectual growth of this movement.

In her eighties now, Mazumdar has recently written a memoir, entitled ‘Memories of a Rolling Stone’, brought out by Zubaan. To have a woman who was a notable educationist, who anchored the 1974 Report of the Committee on the Status of Women, who is widely seen as the “grandmother of women’s studies in South Asia”, and who remains a feminist/activist/”trouble maker” to this day, set down her recollections of a lifetime spanning eight decades is in itself cause for celebration. So many of her contemporaries have, sadly, passed on leaving their footprints behind, but not their words. In her acknowledgements, Vina-di indicates one of the factors that motivated the work: “I view this book as part of my tribute to the Indian women’s movement to assert the rights they had earned through participating in India’s freedom struggle.”

The freedom struggle certainly helped to shape this young life. When Mazumdar joined the Delhi University, she could sense the political turmoil in the air. The Constituent Assembly was in session, and she would occasionally make her way to the visitors’ gallery to listen to a galaxy of leaders hold forth on their idea of India. One abiding memory was that of witnessing the Union Jack coming down and the Tricolour going up at Delhi’s India Gate, the other was of a caption-less David Low cartoon she saw in a British newspaper as a student at Hugh’s College, Oxford, which appeared soon after Gandhi’s assassination, depicting Socrates with the bowl of hemlock, Christ on the cross, and Gandhi with his ‘dandi’ (stick).

Here then was a women shaped by pre-Independent India, who would go on to try and shape, in her own way, post-Independent India. The challenges Mazumdar faced were many, and they included domestic upheavals caused by professional choices. There was also the backlash from entrenched hierarchies – notably during her courageous attempt to breathe fresh life into the stagnant academic scenario of the University of Berhampur in Orissa.

Relatedmore news tagged with "Feminist movement" ]

Meanwhile, the world began to focus more on women. The United Nations marked 1975 as the Year of Women, and went on to declare 1975-1985 as the decade of women. This meant that UN member-states had to submit Country Reports on the status of women in their respective countries. That was how fate and a visionary bureaucrat called J.B. Naik, conspired to introduce Mazumdar to the subject of gender. She was taken on as Member-Secretary of the committee that was drafting India’s report on the status of its women. The whole experience was to prove a life-changer. As Mazumdar puts it in her memoirs, “My earlier struggles represented an individual woman’s efforts to balance the demands of professional and familial responsibilities. The new struggle was increasingly a collective, ideological one – to rediscover the Indian nation, the world, the past, the present and the future – from the perspective of India’s hidden and unacknowledged majority: poor working women in rural and urban areas.”

The exercise meant, first of all, evolving a framework with which to regard the position of women in the country cutting across castes, classes, economic strata and religion and reorganising existing demographic data to yield its evidence of the large scale “marginalisation, poverty and invisibility” of Indian women caught in a “dual economy” (traditional and modern) – a concept borrowed from Gunnar Myrdal‘s ‘Asian Drama’. It was what Mazumdar describes as a “fantastic experience of the evolution and growth of collective thinking”. Despite occasional personal differences within the Committee, the process was driven by a “collective conscience”, as Mazumdar puts it.

There were major silences in the Report and Mazumdar recognises that the Committee did not pay sufficient attention to the issues of rape and dowry. Yet, it is no exaggeration to say the Committee on the Status of Women in India Report, which came out in 1974, changed the way the country regarded its women. It countered assumptions of the millennia, undermined government mindsets, helped unleash innumerable mutinies, and changed policies and laws. In fact, it was revolutionary in its impact, all the more remarkable for having emerged just before one of the darkest periods of recent Indian history – the Emergency. If the Committee, and its Member-Secretary, did not have friends and supporters in the establishment, it may have never seen the light of day. Today, decades later, Mazumdar, recalls with what one would imagine an impish smile, “Before the rest of the government could realise what the Report contained it was placed before Parliament, a report very critical of the Government of India.”

The realisation of the centrality of gender in society led to another significant process in which Mazumdar again played an important role, and that was the emergence of women’s studies as an academic discipline. Mazumdar sees the women’s movement and the women’s studies movement as “twin movements”, each influencing and furthering the other. The logical outcome of this process was the setting up of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) in May 1980, with Mazumdar as its founder-director. It was at this point that her concerned elder sister, observing Mazumdar’s penchant for embracing ever new challenges despite the fact that her daughters still needed her attention, termed her a “rolling stone” – the title of the book.

But the stone, despite such apprehensions, rolled on nevertheless and invariably into fresh fields. This included a project that came to define Mazumdar’s contribution as a social analyst-activist. To put it in Mazumdar’s own words, “Our (CWDS’s) real journey of discovery began at the ‘Reorientation Camp for Seasonally Migrant Women Labourers’, organised by the Department of Land Reforms, Government of West Bengal, in Jhilmili village in Banjura district.” That encounter with tribal peasant women proved to be an “unusual alliance of a social science research institution and groups of the poorest, migrant rural women”, and to Mazumdar it showed the possibility of arriving at development with a human face.

The CWDS had its plate full. There were a plethora of concerns that needed scholarly scrutiny, ranging from the resurgence of the practice of ‘sati’ in some pockets to one of the most serious demographic challenges facing India today: the skewed sex ratio.

When ‘Memories of a Rolling Stone’ was released in Delhi, Brinda Karat, senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s  Association, spoke for many when she observed how Mazumdar helped bring women together. Said Karat, “This was because she was convinced that if things have to be changed on the ground, it has to be a joint effort… Vina-di put things in a wider perspective, which could draw the Indian women’s movement forward. This helped it to retain a dynamism that has petered out in many movements in the West.”

By arrangement with WFS   

 

 

Raped in India? Better marry your rapist, says G P Mathur retired jurist #Vaw #Womenrights #WTFnews


To Wed Your Rapist, or Not: Indian Women on Trial

By TRIPTI LAHIRI and AMOL SHARMA

[image]Associated PressActivists in New Delhi marched on Parliament earlier this year, protesting in one of several high-profile sexual-assault cases that have focused attention on women’s rights in India.

NEW DELHI—Just weeks after a gang-rape that shocked India, the National Human Rights Commission convened a meeting to discuss what to do about violence against women.

At the January gathering, G.P. Mathur, a retired Supreme Court justice, startled the crowd: He said it can be appropriate for women to marry their alleged rapists, provided the marriage isn’t coerced. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal in which he elaborated on his views, Mr. Mathur described such marriages as “compromises” that victims and their families seek in order to avoid the stigma of a public trial.

As India engages in soul-searching after a series of high-profile sexual assaults, prominent lawyers, professors, women’s advocates and even some judges say the views of some of India’s judiciary can be an obstacle to justice. The Indian legal system is built on British common law, and cases are decided by a sitting judge, not by a jury.

There is “a bias that begins in the society and spills over to the courtroom,” in certain sex-assault and domestic-violence cases, said Indira Jaising, an Indian additional solicitor general, a top federal legal-advisory position. She has called for a “gender audit,” an examination of rulings for bias, to be added to the process of elevating judges to higher courts.

“Courts repeatedly talk about getting married as the most important thing for a woman,” said Mrinal Satish, a National Law University professor whose research shows that courts have given shorter sentences to rapists of women judged not to be virgins, compared with rapists of virgins.

The rape of an unmarried virgin was viewed by the courts as “a loss of value because of which she’s not being able to get married,” Mr. Satish said. “It’s not legal reasoning.” He examined some 800 High Court and Supreme Court rape-case appeals decided between 1984 and 2009.

Since the December gang-rape and death of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi, there have been widespread calls for better protection for women. The government has toughened rape penalties and vowed to put more female police officers on the beat. In recent weeks, new attacks—including the alleged rape of a five-year-old in Delhi—have sparked fresh protests.

Even though it is unusual for judges to criticize their peers, some are speaking out. A Supreme Court ruling in January expressed “anguish” over remarks by a lower-court judge suggesting that “wife-beating is a normal facet of married life.”

In the Journal interview, Mr. Mathur, the former Supreme Court justice, explained his view on marriage “compromise”—where a woman weds her alleged attacker—saying it can be an acceptable outcome if both people believe they can live happily together. He said victims’ families are often motivated to pursue such arrangements because the stigma of rape might otherwise make it difficult for the woman to marry. He reiterated that “it should be voluntary, a free consent.”

As an example, Mr. Mathur cited a case he adjudicated in 2007 that ended in marriage. In it, a man was convicted of forcing a woman to have a miscarriage, by use of a drug, without her consent, and was sentenced to seven years’ jail time.

[image]Getty Images‘There is a prejudice that plays itself out in judgments,’ says lawyer Vrinda Grover.

During appeal, the woman told the court she had since agreed to what Mr. Mathur called a compromise marriage. As a result, a Supreme Court bench of Mr. Mathur and Altamas Kabir (currently the court’s chief justice) reduced the man’s sentence to time served, about 10 months. Mr. Kabir declined to be interviewed through his secretary. The husband and wife couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mr. Mathur, in the Journal interview, also questioned the extent to which judges should rely on an alleged victim’s testimony. “A grown-up girl who is married or used to sexual intercourse, she can accuse anybody,” he said. “It is very easy for her to say, ‘Yes, this person raped me.’”

The question of a woman’s believability is at the heart of one appeal currently pending in Delhi’s High Court. In the case, a woman alleges she was raped by a friend when she visited his house for lunch.

A lower court ruled that she was lying, citing among other things the fact that she could have scratched the man’s genitals, but didn’t. “Ordinarily, where forcibly sexual intercourse is committed upon a grown up girl there would be…some injuries on the person of accused particularly, if she has long nails,” the 2011 judgment said. The lack of such injuries “indicates that the alleged intercourse was a peaceful affair.”

The trial judge didn’t respond to requests for comment delivered through his clerk. The defense lawyer said his client maintains his innocence.

Indian society can be conservative in its views of male-female relationships. These views found expression in the weeks after December’s gang-rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus after a night at the movies—an attack that horrified India and the world.

In one instance, a prominent spiritual figure, Asaram Bapu, told his disciples that the victim could have avoided trouble if she had “chanted a prayer, taken one of her attackers by the hand, and called him ‘brother,’” according to a recording of the lecture. He also said, “If stronger laws are made, women will ensnare men with false cases.”

A spokeswoman for the guru confirmed the remarks were Mr. Bapu’s.

Separately, a local lawmaker in Rajasthan state, Banwari Lal Singhal, wrote to a government official saying that one solution to sexual violence is to not wear skirts at schools. Boys use cellphones to “click photos of girls while they wait for the school bus,” he said to the Journal at the time. “This increases social crime.”

In a recent interview, Mr. Singhal said his proposal was intended only for his district. He said another reason for girls to wear trousers or Indian garb, besides preventing sex crimes, is to protect against the desert climate.

In March, in Parliamentary debate over a bill strengthening sexual-violence laws, several legislators suggested that the government was going too far. The law, which ultimately passed, creates new crime categories including stalking.

“You’re saying girls shouldn’t be followed,” said Sharad Yadav, a legislator from Bihar state, according to a Parliament transcript. “Who among us has not followed girls? When you want to talk to a woman she won’t at first, you have to put in a lot of effort.”

Mr. Yadav didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Associated PressThe Indian Supreme Court’s chief justice, Altamas Kabir, has hailed some protesters.

Other lawmakers, however, took an opposing view. “What has happened to us?” said Pinaki Misra of Orissa state, the transcript shows. “There has to be a collective introspection that this country has to undertake.”

Indians pondering the roots of sexism debate many possible influences, from the machismo of swaths of northern India, to mythology, to caste. Caste-rights groups, in fact, say that some violence against women is a backlash against a modern blurring of caste lines. In particular they cite “honor killings,” in which young women and men are killed for forming relationships across caste lines. Mr. Yadav, in the March debate in Parliament, called for shelters for such couples, noting the immense harassment they face.

In a court of law, it can sometimes count against a woman if she has male friends. “There is a prejudice that plays itself out in judgments—if you are friendly with somebody, you are agreeing to making yourself available,” said lawyer Vrinda Grover.

Problems can also arise if a woman is perceived as disobedient to her family. In January the Supreme Court overturned a state-court acquittal of more than 30 men accused of raping a teenager and holding her as a sex slave. The lower court had acquitted based partly on testimony that the girl had once lied to her parents about having given money to a friend that was meant for her school expenses.

The lie suggested she was a “deviant,” the court ruled. The judge also wrote that the young woman appeared to be planning a trip with a male friend, “without any specific plan for marriage and family life with him.”

In an interview broadcast on Indian television earlier this year, one of the justices on the two-person bench, R. Basant, said he stood by the court’s assessment of deviance and its judgment. “She was used for child prostitution,” he said in that interview. “Child prostitution is not rape. It’s immoral.”

Mr. Basant, who now practices as a lawyer, declined to comment. The other judge is deceased.

Some judges are calling for greater awareness about crimes against women. In January, Mr. Kabir, the Supreme Court chief justice, hailed the protesters who took to the streets after December’s bus rape.

Bhagwati Prasad, the chief justice of Jharkhand state until retiring from the bench in 2011, said that judges, like anyone, are influenced by their social conditioning. “You have to forget everything” that happens outside the courtroom, Mr. Prasad said.

He said a court would likely consider it relevant in a sexual-assault case if the woman had prior sexual experience. Still, even in these cases, if the woman doesn’t alter her account under questioning, the court will believe her, he said. “Conviction is only secured when the girl sticks to her statement that, ‘Yes, I have been forced,’” he said.

Mr. Prasad also said that he was aware of cases in which he believed women were the aggressors against men. “I would not say that rape is only committed by boys,” he said. Asked for an example of such a case, Mr. Prasad offered a tale from Hindu mythology of a woman who tries to seduce her stepson.

Some textbooks until recently fostered the idea that it isn’t physically possible for some women to be raped. A 2005 edition of “Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology,” used in court for guidance on evaluating medical evidence, stated: “In normal circumstances, it is not possible for a single man to hold sexual intercourse with a healthy adult female in full possession of her senses against her will.”

It also stated that women of different social strata should be expected to offer different degrees of resistance to rape. “It is obvious that a woman belonging to a labouring class, who is accustomed to hard and rough work,” would be able to fight off an assailant, it said. But a middle-class woman “might soon faint or be rendered powerless from fright or exhaustion.”

This edition was used until 2011, when these passages were revised. The book now says it is “wrong to stereotype” in instances of rape. It also specifies that “rape is a crime and not a medical diagnosis.”

The 2011 edition, however, still refers to young women as “nubile virgins.” And in cases where assault victims are believed to be virgins, the book recommends a controversial vaginal exam, known as the “two-finger test,” that purports to show whether intercourse was physically possible.

LexisNexis India, which acquired the book’s Indian publisher in 2008, said it will completely overhaul the 2014 edition. “We realize how important this book is for the trial process,” said Abha Thapalyal Gandhi of LexisNexis India. The next edition will have “comprehensive changes” to reflect “gender justice approaches and new medical research.”

The book’s author died in 1954. K. Kannan, a retired justice and one of two editors for the 2011 edition, said, “I should have gone even more aggressively” in reworking the text. “We need to be sensitive,” he said.

Mr. Kannan said he is completely against the two-finger test. “Rape is not a medical thing,” he said. “It is not for doctors to be saying.”

Ved Kumari, a professor in Delhi University’s law school, suggested that adding more female judges, as some have advocated, won’t on its own address the bias issue. She described one female judge confiding in her that she had been “harsher to women litigants because I expected a higher level of adjustment from them compared with the men.” The judge comes from a traditional family, Ms. Kumari said, whereas a woman she has been required to make “a lot of sacrifices” herself.

Ms. Kumari, who also has served as chairwoman of the Delhi Judicial Academy, which provides training to serving judges, blames part of the problem on Indian legal education. Rape laws weren’t taught at Delhi University’s law school when she became a professor more than 25 years ago, she said. She and other colleagues pushed for their inclusion in the mid-1990s, she said. She recalled one male professor who declined to teach that portion of the class, so she did it herself.

The law school’s dean, Ashwani Kumar Bansal, who was a law professor at that time, called the episode a minor one. “Indian morés, ethos, were different” then, he said.

Things started changing in the late 1990s, when a small survey of Indian judges found that 48% of respondents said it was justifiable for a husband to occasionally slap his wife. After that, a group of nonprofit groups launched gender-sensitivity training for judges. The judges would meet with abuse victims and role-play the part of a victim’s parent.

It is difficult for judges to acknowledge that they carry “social baggage” and prejudices, said Samaresh Banerjea, a retired judge from Kolkata High Court. He went through the gender-sensitivity program a few years ago and said it altered his outlook.

Something “clicked in my mind,” he said. “To learn many things, you have to unlearn many things.”

Write to Tripti Lahiri at tripti.lahiri@wsj.com and Amol Sharma atamol.sharma@wsj.com

 

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences finalises country mission to India


 

 

Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences finalises country mission to India

NEW DELHI (1 May 2013) – At the end of her official country mission to India, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, delivered the following statement:

“I have been mandated by the Human Rights Council to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to recommend measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the Government of India for having invited me to visit the country from 22 April to 1 May. The invitation, which was in response to a request from my mandate, was received prior to the events that led to the death of a young woman in Delhi on 16 December 2012. The protest actions and outpouring of sadness and anger; and the extensive coverage by the media, both local and global; has generated a huge focus on the issue of violence against women and girls in India.  This mission has generated country-wide interest, and also, demands for the addressing of this systemic problem as an urgent imperative, at both the State and the non-state levels.

During my visit, I held meetings in New Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Manipur, and gathered information from other states, including Tamil Nadu. I am grateful to all my interlocutors, including Union and State authorities, National Human Rights Institutions, representatives of civil society organisations, and United Nations agencies. Most importantly, I want to thank the individual women who shared their personal experiences of violence and survival with me. The pain and anguish in the testimonies of loss, dispossession, and various human rights violations, was visceral and often difficult to deal with.

The Government of India has signed and ratified numerous international human rights instruments and has also adopted numerous progressive laws and policies at the Union and State levels. Numerous laws, including amendments to existing laws, have been enacted to address various manifestations of violence against women. Among others, these include: the Indian Penal Code which broadly includes crimes against women. This law includes the crimes of rape, kidnapping and abduction for specified purposes, homicide for dowry, torture, molestation, eve teasing, and the importation of girls, among others. More specific laws on crimes against women include: the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act 2013, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, the Commission of Sati Prevention Act 1961, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 among others.

Furthermore, the following Bills are currently under discussion: the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill 2012, the Readjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Bill 2013, the Removal of Homelessness Bill 2013, the Prevention of Female Infanticide Bill 2013, the Abolition of Child Labour Bill 2013, the Child Welfare Bill 2013, the Indecent or Surrogate Advertisements and Remix Songs (Prohibition) Bill 2013 and among others.

At the institutional level, the realisation of the promotion and protection of human rights broadly, and women’s rights and children’s rights specifically, are vested in numerous Union and state level Ministries, Departments, Commissions, Committees and Missions for the empowerment of women. Furthermore, I was informed about numerous programs and policies that have been put in place in recent years to address the issue of violence against women within a human rights and development framework. These include schemes addressing the needs of victims of rape, trafficking, domestic violence, and so on. Some of these schemes address counselling, support, skills development, access to benefits and also to shelters. Public/private partnerships have been forged within different spheres including the police sector. The laws and schemes highlighted above will be analysed and discussed fully in my mission report.

I welcome the Government of India’s speedy response after the rape incident of 16 December. A judicial committee headed by the late Justice Verma was established, and new legislative measures were adopted earlier this year. While this legislative reform is to be commended, it is regrettable that the amendments do not fully reflect the Verma Committee’s recommendations.

It is unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive and specific equality and non-discrimination rights legislative framework for women, to address de facto inequality and discrimination, and to protect and prevent against all forms of violence against women, was lost. The speedy developments and also the adoption of a law and order approach to sexual wrongs, now includes the death penalty for certain crimes against women. This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework which is underpinned by transformative norms and standards, including those relating to sexual and bodily integrity rights. Furthermore, the approach adopted fails to address the structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is a positive development in the aspirational goal of protection for victims of family violence. The discrepancy between the provisions of the laws and the effective implementation thereof, whether through the use of the police generally or the Protection Officers in particular, was a recurrent complaint which I heard. Despite provisions intended to offer legal, social and financial assistance to victims, many women are unable to register their complaints. As a result, the vulnerability of women increases, and further, they are also deprived of the benefits prescribed in the law – as proof of registration of cases is required for access to many benefits. Furthermore, prevention of violence, as a core due diligence obligation of the State, does not feature in the implementation of this law.

Despite numerous positive developments, the unfortunate reality is that the rights of many women in India continue to be violated, with impunity as the norm, according to many submissions received. Mediation and compensation measures are often used as redress mechanisms to address cases of violence against women, thus eroding accountability imperatives, and further fostering norms of impunity.

Manifestations of violence against women

Numerous experiences of violence, whether direct or indirect, in different spheres including the home, the community, and in institutions, whether perpetrated by state actors or condoned by the State, was shared with me during the mission. Violence is being experienced in situations of peace, conflict, post-conflict, and displacement among others. The denial of constitutional  rights in general, and the violation of the rights of equality, dignity, bodily integrity, life and access to justice in particular, was a theme that was common in many testimonies. Violence against women as a cause and consequence of de factoinequality and discrimination was also a common theme in numerous submissions received.

Violence against women and girls in India manifests in numerous ways and varies in prevalence and forms based on numerous factors including geographic location. Some manifestations include: sexual violence, domestic violence, caste-based discrimination and violence, dowry related deaths, crimes in the name of honour, witch-hunting, sati, sexual harassment, violence against lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, forced and/or early marriages, deprivation of access to water and basic sanitation, violence against women with disabilities, sexual and reproductive rights violations, sex selection practices, violence in custodial settings and violence in conflict situations, among others. These manifestations of violence are rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities faced by women, and are strongly linked to their social and economic situation. One interlocutor described violence against women and girls as functioning on a continuum that spans the life-cycle from the womb to the tomb.

During my visit, I heard numerous testimonies of many women who are survivors of domestic violence, whether at the hands of their husbands or other family members. Many of these women live in family settings with deeply entrenched norms of patriarchy and cultural practices linked to notions of male superiority and female inferiority. The lack of effective remedies, the failure of the State to protect and prevent violence against women, the economic dependence of many women on the men in their lives, and the social realities of exclusion and marginalization when speaking out, often results in women accepting violence as part of their reality. The current focus by state actors on preserving the unity of the family is manifested in the welfare/social approach and not in the human rights based approach. It does not take into consideration the nature of relationships based on power and powerlessness; of economic and emotional dependency; and also the use of culture, tradition and religion as a defence for abusive behaviour.

Sexual violence and harassment in India is widespread, and is perpetuated in public spaces, in the family or in the workplace. There is a generalized sense of insecurity in public spaces/amenities/transport facilities in particular, and women are often victims of different forms of sexual harassment and assault.

On the issue of conflict-related sexual violence, it is crucial to acknowledge that these violations are occurring at the hands of both state and non-state actors. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has mostly resulted in impunity for human rights violations broadly, according to information received. The law protects the armed forces from effective prosecution in non-military courts for human rights violations committed against civilian women among others, and it allows for the overriding of due process rights. Furthermore, in testimonies received, it was clear that the interpretation and implementation of this act, is eroding fundamental rights and freedoms – including freedom of movement, association and peaceful assembly, safety and security, dignity and bodily integrity rights, for women, in Jammu & Kashmir and in the North-Eastern States. Unfortunately in the interests of State security, peaceful and legitimate protests often elicit a military response, which is resulting in both a culture of fear and of resistance within these societies.

In India, women from the Dalit, Adivasi, other Scheduled castes, tribal and indigenous minorities, are often victims of a multiplicity of forms of discrimination and violence. Despite protective legislative and affirmative action laws and policies, their reality is one where they exist at the bottom of the political, economic and social systems, and they experience some of the worst forms of discrimination and oppression – thereby perpetuating their socio-economic vulnerability across generations. They are often forced to live in displacement settings, experience forced labour practices, prostitution and trafficking, and also experience intra-community violations of rights.

In consultations in Manipur, I heard anguished stories from relatives of young women who have disappeared without trace or who were found dead shortly after going missing. The lack of response from the police is the norm in such cases, with the attitude being that these are mostly elopement cases. I am deeply concerned about other consequences of such disappearances of young women, including exposure to sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking. More generally, many tribal and indigenous women in the region are subjected to continued abuse, ill-treatment and acts of physical and sexual violence. They are denied access to healthcare and other necessary resources, due to the frequency of curfews and blockades imposed on citizens. Moreover, the chronic underdevelopment prevalent in the region, coupled with frequent economic blockades, is having an impact on the overall cost of essential items, and is exacerbating the already vulnerable situation of women and children living in the region.

Customary and religious practices such as child marriages and dowry-related practices, sorcery, honour killings, witch-hunting of women, and communal violence perpetrated against cultural and religious minorities, were highlighted in numerous testimonies. Communal violence, inspired by religious intolerance, does manifest in some parts of India. Indiscriminate attacks by religious majorities on religious minorities, including Christian and Muslim minorities, is frequently explained away by implying that equal aggression was noted on both sides. Also, such violence is sometimes labelled as ‘riots’, thereby denying the lack of security for religious and other minorities, and disregarding their right to equal citizenship. This issue is of particular concern to many, as the wounds of the past are still fresh for women who were beaten, stripped naked, burnt, raped and killed because of their religious identity, in the Gujarat massacre of 2002.

I am also concerned about the declining female sex ratio in India. The deeply entrenched patriarchal social norms, prevailing views of daughter-aversion and son-preference, the dowry-related link, and, the general sense of insecurity in light of high prevalence rates of gender-based violence, is fuelling a significant drop in female births throughout the country. The Indian Government’s concern about this issue has resulted in the adoption of policies and schemes. The implementation of such interventions is resulting in the policing of pregnancies through tracking/surveillance systems and is resulting in some cases in the denial of legal abortion rights, thereby violating the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

With regard to domestic workers, I am dismayed by the prevalence of numerous violations faced by these women and girls. Many of them, often migrant and unregistered women, work in servitude and even bondage, in frequently hostile environments; performing work that is undervalued, poorly regulated and low-paid. According to testimonies, they are also denied access to essential services and resources provided by the State, as they lack proper identification, and view this as a barrier to access. They are often the victims of various acts of violence, including sexual harassment and victimization by their employers and others.

I have also been informed that women with disabilities experience numerous forms of violence, including sexual violence, forced sterilization and/or abortions and forced medication without their consent. In addition, their experience of discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation reinforces the need for greater attention and specificity.

India has embarked on a journey of aggressive economic growth and this path is viewed as the route to simultaneously addressing its human development challenges. Despite the inclusion of beneficial provisions for women and children in the Five Year Plan, the impact of economic development policies on women is resulting in forced evictions, landlessness, threats to livelihoods, environmental degradation, and the violation of bodily integrity rights, among other violations. The adverse consequence of resulting migration to urban areas is reflected in the living and work conditions of many of these women and children, for example living in slums or on the streets, engaging in scavenging activities and in sex work etc. Some women have committed suicide; others are frequently exposed to acts of harassment and violence, including sexual assault. It was strongly argued by many interlocutors that India’s pursuit of neo-liberal economic growth must not be pursued at the expense of vulnerable women and children, and their right to a healthy and secure environment.

Conclusion

Numerous human rights mechanisms have addressed the violation of women’s human rights in India. The substance of some relevant recommendations addresses the following issues:

1)    There is  a need for urgent measures to end the alarming decline in sex ratios (CEDAW, CRC)

2)    The negative effect of personal status laws on the achievement of overall gender equality (CRC, CCPR, and CEDAW). Such laws need to be reformed to ensure equality in law (CEDAW).

3)    The social and cultural patterns of discrimination against women require urgent action by the State (CEDAW).

4)    Ensure that all victims of domestic violence are able to benefit from the legislation on domestic violence. Develop a comprehensive plan to combat all forms of violence against women (CEDAW). Domestic violence is endemic. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code must be enforced effectively (CESCR).

5)    The implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Public Safety Act and the National Security Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act should be repealed (HRC, SR Summary Executions), as it perpetuates impunity (HRC), and is widely used against Human Rights Defenders (SR HRD).

6)    Grave concerns are noted as regards the continuing atrocities perpetrated against Dalit women. There is a culture of impunity for violations of the rights of Dalit women (CEDAW). Concerns are further expressed for the failure to properly register and investigate complaints of violations against scheduled castes and tribes, the high rate of acquittals, the low conviction rates, and the alarming backlog of cases related to such atrocities (CRC, CEDAW and CERD).

7)    The practice of devadasi is of concern (HRC). The effective enforcement of relevant legislation and the Indian Constitution is required to end this practice (CERD).

8)    To expeditiously enact the proposed Communal Violence (Prevention, Control andRehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 with the incorporation of: sexual and gender-based crimes, including mass crimes against women perpetrated during communal violence; a comprehensive system of reparations for victims of such crimes; and gender-sensitive victim-centred procedural and evidentiary rules, and to ensure that inaction or complicity of State officials in communal violence be urgently addressed under this legislation.

9)    Grave concern is expressed about the continued existence of women and girls employed as domestic workers and their experiences of sexual abuse (CEDAW).

10) Harmful practices on women and girls, including forced marriage, dowry and dowry-related violence are of great concern (CEDAW, CRC, CERD, and HRC). Violence and social sanctions due to inter-caste relationships are also of concern (CERD).

11) The impact of mega-projects on the rights of women should be thoroughly studied, including their impact on tribal and rural communities, and safeguards should be instituted (CEDAW).

12) Continuing disparities in literacy levels are of concern, in particular the educational status of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Muslim women (CEDAW). Effective measures must be adopted to reduce the drop-out rates among Dalit girls (CERD).

13) More effort is needed to end customary practices which deprive women fromunderprivileged classes, castes and religious minorities of their rights to human dignity and to non-discrimination (HRC).

I would like to encourage the government of India to ensure specificity in addressing the multiple and intersecting inequalities and discrimination that women face. My mandate has consistently voiced the view that the failure in response and prevention measures stems from Government’s inability and/or unwillingness to acknowledge and address the core structural causes of violence against women. Linkages should be made between violence against women and other systems of oppression and discrimination prevalent within societies. A legislative and policy approach will not bring about substantive change if it is not implemented within a holistic approach that simultaneously targets the empowerment of women, social transformation, and the provision of remedies that ultimately address the continuum of discrimination and violence, and also the pervasive culture of impunity.

My comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report that I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014.”

ENDS

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm

After Delhi gang-rape, India struggles to put words into action #Vaw


 

DELHI: A hundred days after India mourned the death of a gang-rape victim and vowed to fight sex crimes, the torn clothes and tears of Bharti Kagra bear testimony to a tide of violence that refuses to ebb.

 


AFP 

Tuesday 23 April 2013, 09:20AM


An Indian woman files a complaint in New Delhi. Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyanyana

An Indian woman files a complaint in New Delhi. Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyanyana

Kagra is one of the 812 women whom police say have been molested in New Delhi since the death of the medical student, who was brutally assaulted by six attackers in a moving bus on December 16 last year.

The student died in a Singapore hospital on December 29. The savagery of the attack triggered nationwide protests, prompting lawmakers to toughen punishments for sexual offences and pledge to make India safer for women.

Optimists called it a “turning point”, while Delhi’s under-fire top police officer said his force had been “jolted” and would institute “major changes in the way offences against women are dealt with”.

Kagra’s experiences give reason to doubt whether the outpouring of anger from women across the country, many of whom took to the streets in some cities, will result in better protection.

Carrying the clothes she says were ripped by her husband and brother-in-law during an assault on her, she struggles to register a case at a south Delhi police station where no female officers are present – even though they are mandatory under the new anti-rape law.

“First, the men humiliated me and now when I come out to seek justice the cops insult me… some even suggested that I should make peace with my husband,” she told AFP inside the police station in the Moti Bagh district of the capital.

In response to her shouts and cries, two policemen reluctantly register her complaint. Kagra allowed AFP to use her name, to publicise the problems women still face in registering such complaints.

Women currently make up only 6.5 per cent of India’s police force and major recruitment changes will be needed to enforce the new sex crime law, which requires a female officer to record molestation and rape complaints.

This ruling risks going the way of so much legislation in India – well-meaning but mostly ignored in practice. Rights groups say real change will only come when widely held patriarchal and sexist attitudes change.

“I don’t see enough initiative to change the mindset of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police,” said Ranjana Kumari, director at the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi.

However, one consequence of the Delhi gang-rape is that women are more confident in reporting sex crimes, she says.

Delhi police reported a 148-per cent leap in rape cases lodged between January 1 and March 24 compared with the same period in 2012, and a 600-per cent rise in molestation cases reported up until April 3.

It’s not just Indian women who have been targeted. A Swiss tourist was gang-raped last month while camping in central India, an offence that led to another flurry of negative headlines.

Many Western countries have warned female tourists to exercise caution in India, a move that has hit the tourism industry which earned over US$16 billion from foreign travellers in 2011.

 

The Phuket News

- See more at: http://www.thephuketnews.com/after-gang-rape-india-struggles-to-put-words-into-action-38863.php#sthash.owwNW7rw.dpuf

 

INDIA: A Republic of the rapists, by the rapists, for the rapists? #Vaw


rapepublic1

Avinash Pandey

The news had sprung up from nowhere. All that I had picked up the newspaper for, was to kill some time on that long flight and here it was, tucked away in a small box, staring at me. Reading it had sent a shiver down my spine. No, it was not about some unseen horrors. It was not about gruesome murders, kidnappings or even collapse of yet another state exposing its citizenry, or at least minority section of that, to grave human rights violations.

The news was just about another advisory issued by United Kingdom for a section of its citizens travelling in India. But it was not the advisory that has made me this uneasy.  As it is, western countries are quite used to issuing advisories to their citizenry travelling in the underdeveloped countries warning them about everything from food to fanaticism. Many of us, in fact, have often scoffed at these advisories located in the racist past of these countries that treated the natives as nothing more than barbarians unable to govern themselves.

Not this one, though. It was an advisory that the government of United Kingdom had issued for its women, yeah, not all UK citizens but just its women travelling in India. It has advised them to remain alert even when travelling in groups for saving themselves from getting violated, sexually and otherwise. I tried stealing a glance at my co- passenger , stuck in the economy class seat as cramped as mine and wished that she had not read this piece while aboard a flight to Delhi, the capital of the country at the receiving end of this advisory.  To the very same Delhi which has earned the dubious distinction of being the rape capital of the country as well.

The news had opened floodgates of unsavory memories of similar horror stories told to me by my female, non-Indian colleagues, strangers and acquaintances alike. I remembered the very friendly owner of the wine shop I frequent on Fridays almost without fail. He had had heard about the Delhi Gang rape and was shocked. Knowing people like me, he had added, did not make him think that my country is home to such sexual predators. No, he was not being sarcastic; he was very genuinely sad and angry. There I was, thinking of all those ‘proud to be an Indian’ campaigns I had grown up on.

The advisory reminded me of a beautiful evening of partying around in Hong Kong with colleagues, a rarity in our line of work that begins with extrajudicial killings and ends with starvation deaths, with all other horrors stuck in between. It was after ages that we had let ourselves loose on that non-touristy beach we had discovered on one of our regular hikes. It was an evening of getting nostalgia fits and missing our countries, our homelands, with all the pains and agonies that the expats stuck up in foreign cultures live with.

I missed mine and recounted all that was great about it. India is not merely about Maharajas, magicians, snake charmers and Sadhus, I had told my friends. Of course, it is not, quipped Sofie, a Danish friend, cutting me short. It is also about sexually frustrated men thinking all white women are always available and can be taken against their will, she added. We were stunned, all of us, more on the matter of fact way she had said that than the comment itself. She, like the wine shop owner, was not angry. She could not be as she had lived in India for long stretches and had many good friends here, including me. She loved India and still does. Yet, her idea of Indian males was definitive and her friends, like me, came as aberrations and not rule.

Available! The word was haunting me on my way back to home that night. It reminded me of all those questions whispered into ears of any ‘foreign-returned’ Indian.  Have we not been used to questions like ‘wahan to free sex hai na’? Did you do it? How many times?  There were other words ringing in my ears too. They were the hymns celebrating goddess, or the feminine, as source of all power that had been drilled into our psyche since childhood.

One would try to wish away this sexual frustration, our national sickness, as something reserved for the ‘other’, white women. Can one? Not really, for even a cursory glance at public spaces would bring the truth that this national sickness is all pervasive. If white women are ‘available’ for Indian males, okay, most of them, then Indian women are either achievable or violable. This is the continuum they locate all women into, from being available to violable.

The violability, in turn, is reserved for the women from weaker sections of the society despite them having to bear the brunt of most brutal forms of violability. But then, it does not save the rest of them, Indian women, from getting violated. The thing is that the Indian male psyche fed on axioms like ‘ladki hansi to fansi’ (if a girl smiles, she is all yours) and ‘na bole to haan hai’ (rejection is in fact acceptance) does not differentiate much between achievability and violability. Any retaliation to their sexual advances, thus, makes them tread the thin line between the two.

This is why, for every Khairlanji that fails to stir the society, urban feminists and media included, one can easily find a Hotel Taj in Bombay seeing two of its women patrons sexually assaulted by a mob on the New Year eve. For every Bhanwari Devi in the feudal fiefdoms of Rajasthan there would be a Naina Sahni being burnt in a Tandoor, or a Jessica Lal getting killed in a posh South Delhi private party. And if the horror is not enough for you, for every woman being paraded naked in Uttar Pradesh, there would be one molested by a mob on national television in Guwahati.

Talk of these cases as a comment on our ‘national character’, and self appointed moral brigades would pounce on you while blaming the victims. They have, in fact, quite an expertise on pouncing on the victims, literally, as well. These self-designated ‘keepers of the sacred feminine’ (a friend coined this term though she uses a much more hard-hitting and little unprintable word for the feminine) would sexually assault women in Bangalore for the crime of going to a pub and the police would arrest and imprison the journalist recording the attack instead of the perpetrators. They, in the form of a senior Congress leader, sermonize the women not to wear indecent clothes and venture out at night instead of ensuring their safety and security.  They, in the form of a senior BJP leader, would rubbish the outrage such attacks cause as a drama of lipstick wearing women. Quite understandable, as they would be watching porn clips on their mobile phones amidst an ongoing assembly session as well.

This is why the advisory should not have shocked me.  I know, and have known, my country way too well to get shocked. It was not for nothing that the advisory had come before the gruesome gang rape of a foreign national in front of her husband in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh. It was not for nothing that the advisory had come before another foreign national was forced to jump out of her hotel room to thwart a rape attempt by none other than the hotel owner.

And it was not for nothing that the advisory had come after Delhi Gangrape but before Bhandara killings and suspected gang rape of three minor sisters which did not find even as much as a mention in national outraged-at-everything media. The girls, hailing from dispossessed background, did not mean much to it. The girls, hailing from the hinterlands, did not mean much to the urbane and suave feminists as well. But then, there rests the root cause of the problem.

If Bhandara girls are violable, no women of the country, or outside, can be safe.  If the men out on prowl do not find such ‘easily violable’ preys, they are going to pounce at any other woman in sight irrespective of her status of being available, achievable or violable in their eyes.  Yes, I know how painful it is to refer to a section of our own women as ‘easily violable preys’ but then wishing the reality away does not help much, does it? The reality is that we are ‘proud’ citizens of a country that lets deeply entrenched casteist and communal forces commit gory crimes against the marginalized sections of its population with impunity. We can either stand up and fight or hide in our cocoons tucked inside the gated communities, looking away is not an option available to us.

It is also high time for rewriting the grammar of shame and social stigma attached to such crimes against women. The perpetrators do it with impunity for they know that the shame of getting violated would be written on the bodies of these women and not over their own persons. Till then, we can hang our heads in shame and hide after every such advisory issued by any country.

I am afraid, in fact, of the day they would issue an advisory telling women to get alert as soon as they see an Indian man anywhere in the world. And if you find this fear unfounded, or farfetched, remember the acts of the Indian youth leaders’ delegation that visited China earlier this year. If you don’t, know that many of them sexually harassed every women in sight, Chinese as well as female members of their own delegation. The only way authorities could devise for stopping them for bringing more shame to the country was restraining a large section of them from going out and forcing them to remain in their hotel rooms for the rest of the visit.

The youth leaders are back with their honours intact. They would grow into the future leaders of the country. Need one say more about the exigency of an advisory warning against the presence of any Indian male anywhere in the world?

About the Author: Mr. Pandey, alias Samar is Programme Coordinator, Right to Food Programme, He can be contacted atsamar@ahrc.asia

#India – Womb and Wolves #Vaw #Womenrights #medicalethics


By Swagata Yadavar, THE WEEK
Story Dated: Monday, April 15, 2013 15:8 hrs IST
Guddi devi, 27: She had sought treatment for a simple stomach ache. The doctor prescribed hysterectomy. Today, with all her vitality sapped, she feels it was the biggest. Photo by Amey Mansabdar

“I feel sick.”
“I feel sick.”
“I feel sick.”
These words still echo in my ears. They did not come from a dying man or a depressed woman. They were whimpered by scores of ‘normal’ women in India‘s rural hinterlands.
The cause lay in two words uttered by their unscrupulous doctors: bacchedani kharaab. These gullible women were told their uteri were faulty, and that they had to be removed.
THE WEEK’s journey through some villages in Bihar and Rajasthan revealed the plight of women—many of them allegedly unmarried—whose wombs were removed as “treatment” for everything, from a simple stomach ache to menstrual issues.
Why? The reason, again, lay in two words: filthy lucre.


Sunita Devi, a 35-year-old labourer of Latbasepur village in Bihar’s Samastipur district, would tell us more. It all started with a debilitating stomach pain, which she had ignored for long. Thanks to the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, she hoped to finally get proper treatment at a private hospital.
At Krishna Hospital, one of the hospitals empanelled in the rural health scheme, Sunita was told she needed an appendicitis surgery. And a hysterectomy, too.
She underwent both eight months ago. Today, she is feeble. “I often get palpitations,” she said. “I get frequent headaches and gas trouble.”
The mother of five can no longer work in the fields. She now assists at a small shop in the village. The plight of her two sisters-in-law who also underwent hysterectomies is no different.
Three years ago, the RSBY, which entitles families below poverty line to free treatment up to Rs.30,000 a year, was implemented in Samastipur district of Bihar. It was a godsend for the rural masses. But, in the hands of greedy doctors, it became a cruel instrument to siphon off public money.
The Samastipur scam came to fore when District Magistrate Kundan Kumar found an alarming number of hysterectomies conducted by private nursing homes during an RSBY meeting. Of 14,851 procedures conducted under RSBY between 2010 and 2012 in 16 empanelled hospitals in Samastipur, 5,503 were hysterectomies. That is about 37 per cent of all procedures. In some hospitals, more than 50 per cent were hysterectomies, which costs the highest of all procedures under the RSBY scheme.
Kundan Kumar organised a five-day medical camp to ascertain if the procedures conducted were needed. About 2,600 women who had undergone hysterectomy attended the camp. The expert team found 717 cases of unwanted surgery, 124 cases of underage surgery, 320 cases of fleecing and 23 cases of non-surgery.
The magistrate’s report clearly pointed to gross unethical practices. For instance, Anita Devi, 23, who complained of abdominal pain and white discharge, had been operated upon. The expert team commented: “Conservative treatment should have done, hysterectomy not justified.” Similar was the case of Ratna Devi, 40, who underwent hysterectomy for appendicitis.
The report noted that many beneficiaries mentioned by the private hospitals could not be traced. In many cases, the hospitals simply swiped their RSBY cards but never conducted the procedures. There were also instances of procedures being marked against the name of dead people. Worse, some hysterectomy ‘cases’ reportedly turned out to be men!
It was found that many of the private hospitals and nursing homes did not have the requisite infrastructure for the procedures. Only some of them had well-trained surgeons, and in a few cases, operations were conducted by non-medical practitioners.
Subsequently, 12 of 16 nursing homes in Samastipur were de-panelled from the list. FIRs, too, were lodged against five of these guilty hospitals under various sections.

Sangita devi, 26: She underwent hysterectomy two years ago. Her husband says the doctor who operated upon her often hassles her for signatures on “some paper”. Photo by Amey Mansabdar

The involved doctors, meanwhile, were doing their best to cover their tracks. “Dr Thakur from Krishna Hospital often comes to our house asking for our signature on some paper,” said the family of Sangita Devi, 26. Sangita underwent hysterectomy two years ago. Since then, she has been battling frequent spells of weakness, dizziness and  headaches. She now weighs just 30kg and can hardly manage any work. She has already spent Rs.5,000 on medicine and the frequent trips to the doctors are eating away most of what her husband earns. When THE WEEK contacted, Dr Thakur refused to meet us.

Next, THE WEEK travelled to Rajasthan’s Dausa district, where a high number of hysterectomies was reported recently. Guddi Devi, 27, felt sick, though she technically was not. Her bones and joints ached all day. Fatigue bound her to bed. Food did not interest her. And her eyesight was fading. It was nothing but a clear case of premature menopause, courtesy the hysterectomy and oophorectomy she underwent three years ago.
“I had gone to the doctor, complaining of stomach ache. He told me that my uterus should be removed or I would get cancer,” she said. Her family, which owns just a small piece of land, was convinced to go for the “life-saving” surgery costing Rs.16,000.
“I feel weak all the time. I constantly fall ill, and the stomach pain for which I sought treatment initially persists,” said the mother of three. She has already paid another 110,000 on treatment of these symptoms, often travelling two and a half hours by tractors and buses to the nearest hospital. Now, her 12-year-old daughter, Rinki, takes care of all the household responsibilities. “I am upset about spoiling her education,” added a sullen Guddi.

Angoori devi, 34: She underwent hysterectomy as treatment for excessive menstrual bleeding. She recalls that about 40 women were admitted along with her in the same hospital for hysterectomy. Photo by Amey Mansabda

Every village THE WEEK visited had similar stories to tell. “I went to the doctor for excessive menstrual bleeding and he advised hysterectomy,” said Angoori Devi, 34, of Sikandara. “She cannot do anything now; she gets easily tired,” complained her daughter, Guddi. The family had to sell their buffalo to pay for the surgery, which gave her joint aches, indigestion, dizziness and fatigue as companions.
“When I was admitted in the hospital, there were about 40 women who were undergoing the same operation,” Angoori recalled about her stay at Madaan Hospital. Activists in the area said as many as 2,300 women in the region have undergone unwanted hysterectomies at private hospitals in the past two years.
An RTI application filed by advocate Durga Prasad Saini of Dausa revealed that of 385 procedures conducted over six months in three private hospitals of Bandikui town in 2010, at least 226 were hysterectomies. And of them, 185 were below the age of 30.
“Is there an epidemic in Dausa that forces women to undergo hysterectomy?” asked Saini, who is also National General Secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat (ABGP). “If there was a suspicion of cancer, why was not a single biopsy done?”
What compounds the issue in such villages is the people have no one else to go to. For instance, the post of a gynaecologist had been lying vacant for many years in the community centre in Bandikui despite repeated requests.
Though the centre got a gynaecologist, it wore a dark and deserted look when we visited. “Tell us how we will manage when such a big centre only has five doctors,” said an employee. On the other hand, there are five big private hospitals in the town, doing well.
“The doctors have an understanding with the rural practitioners, who are promised a commission on referrals,” alleged Dr O.P. Bansal, who runs a hospital in Dausa. Even employees at government hospitals act as agents who take patients to private clinics.
Hysterectomy was so ubiquitous in the town that some households had three generations of women who had gone under the knife. Take the case of Sushila Devi of Maanpur village who had gone to Katta Hospital to meet a relative, Guddi Devi, admitted for hysterectomy. Sushila, too, got caught in the trap and was operated upon three days later.
Guddi Devi, a mother of four, was advised hysterectomy to cure body ache. Now, she can no longer work as a labourer. “I feel dizzy when I am in the sun, I cannot lift heavy loads and get frequent palpitations,” she said.
Surprisingly, despite protests and frequent media reports, no action was taken against erring private hospitals. “They have consent papers from the women, so we cannot do anything unless the Clinical Establishment Act is passed,” said O.P. Baherwa, chief medical and health officer, Dausa.

Vimla Devi, 20: Her caesarian section that went wrong was followed by a hysterectomy. The childless couple has filed a police case. But her husband, Mahendra Kumar, says the cops have been threatening him to not pursue the case. Photo by Amey Mansabdar

Many FIRs, too, were lodged in the local police stations against the doctors. Mahendra Kumar filed a case against Madhur Hospital and its owner Dr Rajesh Dhakar, after his 20-year-old wife, Vimla Devi, was subjected to hysterectomy following a failed caesarian section.
The crestfallen childless couple alleged that the police did not investigate the matter properly and threatened ‘action’ if Kumar pursued the case.
The attitude of officials at Dausa was, indeed, sympathetic towards the doctors. “People here attack the doctors and threaten to destroy the hospital, hoping to get compensation,” said District Collector Pramila Surana. Police Inspector Rohitash Devanda said he had not come across any cases against doctors since he took charge 10 months ago. “These people blackmail doctors to gain money. If some patients die during treatment, it does not mean the doctors are at fault,” he said. A clock bearing Madhur Hospital’s name hung on his office wall.
The RSBY triggered a uterus loot in Chhattisgarh, too. Health Minister Amar Agrawal stated that 1,800 hysterectomies were done in just eight months last year. It was estimated that at least 7,000 hysterectomies were conducted in the state over the past three years under the RSBY scheme. The issue, which was noted by the National Human Rights Commission, led to a furore and licences of 22 private hospitals were cancelled.
Down south in Andhra Pradesh, it was the state government’s insurance scheme, Arogyashri, that led to rampant exploitation. Ever since the scheme was implemented in 2007, there was an exponential rise in hysterectomy cases.
Hyderabad-based NGO Centre for Action, Research and People’s Development found that 171 women under age 40 in just one administrative block of Medak district had undergone hysterectomy. About 95 per cent of them had gone to private clinics for treatment and 33 per cent had their ovaries also removed.
A survey by the Andhra Pradesh Mahila Samatha Society found that as much as 32 per cent of about 1,000 women who underwent hysterectomy were below age 30.

These case studies and statistics point to deep rot in the health care system. In fact, it is disheartening to see a project like the RSBY—termed by the World Bank as “path-breaking”—being exploited. The RSBY was seen as a prelude to the Centre’s ambitious Universal Health Coverage, which is expected to be implemented under the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
While private health providers bring better infrastructure and quality, they also bring in the risk of greed and exploitation. Without proper monitoring, this kind of public-private partnership is a cause for concern, said Padma Deosthali, coordinator of Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, Mumbai. “For instance, there is no mention of quality of care in the empanelment under the RSBY scheme. Not even basic standards like presence of a qualified medical practitioner and nurse,” she pointed out.
“More than treating health problems, the focus is on procedures and surgeries, which was exploited by private nursing homes,” said Dr A.V. Sahay, medical officer and district head of Bihar Swasthya Seva Sangh. He also stressed on the need for enhancing the public health care system and improving the “reproductive hygiene” of women in rural regions.
Dr Yogesh Jain of Jan Swasthya Sahyog said a major flaw in the scheme was that it did not cover out-patient treatment and, hence, encouraged unwanted hospitalisation. Without strict guidelines, doctors cannot be expected to regulate themselves, he added.
Currently, however, the Central government has directed all state nodal agencies of RSBY that approval from the insurance company concerned is mandatory for hysterectomies performed on women under age 40.
But does the issue end there? The brouhaha shall pass. The scam will turn stale. But what about the innocent women who went under the knives for no reason? Sadly, no one, except a few NGOs, has reached out to them.
“The cost of maintaining the health of a woman who had undergone hysterectomy with medicines and supplements is Rs.18,250 a year,” said Dr Prakash Vinjamuri of Hyderabad-based Life HRG, which studied the surgery’s impact on women in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh in 2011.
The toll is not just monetary. Loss of vitality and libido affects the psychological and social health of the woman. The study in Medak, for instance, found women whose uteri were removed faced domestic violence over sexual issues, and many husbands had extra-marital affairs. The worst part was the impact on the next generation, as children of these women are forced to quit school to handle household chores.
When and who will compensate for all these losses?

Vital loss

Hysterectomy  is the surgical removal of the uterus but may also involve removal of the cervix. A patient may require 3-12 months for full recovery.

TYPES
Radical hysterectomy
Removal of cervix, upper vagina, lymph nodes, ovaries and fallopian tube. Recommended in case of cancer.

Total hysterectomy
Removal of uterus and cervix.

Subtotal hysterectomy
Removal of the uterus.

RISKS
* Excessive blood loss, injury to ureter and bladder
* Cardiovascular disease
* Osteoporosis
* Decline in psychological well-being
* Decline in libido
* Premature death
* Affects the functioning of ovaries in 40 per cent of women

Early menopause
The average age of menopause in India is 51 years, and removal of ovaries advances it by 3.7 years. Menopause leads to a drop in oestrogen (female hormone) level, causing calcium loss and bone breakdown.

When is hysterectomy needed?

Hysterectomy should be a last resort in conditions such as cancers of the reproductive system, severe infections, persistent vaginal bleeding, uterine prolapse, endometriosis and to prevent further conception.

Before undergoing hysterectomy, one should undergo either a hormone test, sonography or a pap smear to test for cancer.

 

#India – The Gender Terrorists #Vaw


Vol – XLVIII No. 13, March 30, 2013 | Vasundhara Sirnate

  • “Just being a woman is an act of courage”, said the tagline to the 1979 film adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. One can modify that somewhat to suit the Indian situation – just being born a woman in India is an act of courage.

Vasundhara Sirnate (vsirnate@berkeley.edu) is a doctoral candidate at the Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

In 2010 a fellow researcher from Stanford University and I compiled a dataset from the Asian Recorder on insurgent attacks in India which occurred between the years 1955 and 2008. The Reed-Sirnate dataset recorded a total of 10,013 people killed over this period in insurgent attacks1. We also recognised that this was not the complete picture and that we could, with ease, probably double this statistic. This number included security forces, civilians (men, women and children) and insurgents killed in terror attacks across the country where the aggressors were insurgent groups.

Academics from across the world have spent much time compiling statistics recording the number of people killed in caste and communal violence in India. For instance, the Varshney-Wilkinson dataset on post-Partition communal violence reports 7,173 deaths in all riots that took place between 1950 and 1995 (Varshney 2001). Similarly, the number of people killed in caste violence in 2011 was 673 and the number of dalit women raped was 1,557. Since 2006, 3,840 scheduled caste people have been killed in caste violence2.

Now let us look at another set of figures. In 2011 alone, the number of women and girls killed in dowry related cases was 8,618. This number almost rivals the number we got from our insurgency dataset spanning 53 years and beats the number presented in the dataset on communal violence. Further, the number of dowry deaths in 2011 were far more than the total number of people killed in caste violence since 2006. Finally, the number of women (47,022) who died in 2011alone outstripped the combined statistics of all kinds of violent deaths occurring in that year due to insurgency, caste and religious violence.

We are then left with a shocking finding: routine Indian male violence against women resulting in female deaths exceeds those that are caused by other kinds of community-based violence, including caste, communal and insurgent violence.

Now these female deaths in 2011 were not accidental ones. The accidental deaths are recorded in a completely separate section in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) publications. Combining the figures for dowry deaths in 2010 (8,391) and 2011 (8,618) reveals that crimes reported under this section of the Indian Penal Code alone far exceeds the the number of other violent crimes in society. We are looking at 17,009 women killed in two years for not providing a sufficient dowry in spite of several laws that legislate precisely against this practice.

According to the NCRB, a total of 24,596 housewives committed suicide by various means in 2011. This partial figure (some data is missing from the NCRB) shows that the majority of female suicide cases were women/housewives aged 15 to 29 years. The fact that younger housewives are more likely to kill themselves makes perfect sense given the harassment and bullying they face in their marital homes.

Table 1: How women and girls died in India in 2011

Dowry Deaths 8618
Murder/homicide : Ages 0-10 362
Murder/homicide: Ages 10-15 128
Murder/homicide : Ages 15-18 228
Suicide: Ages 0-14 1461
Suicide: Ages 15-29 21410
Suicide: Ages 30-44 14815
Suicide: Ages 44- and above 0 data missing
All India Total 47022

Source: Crime in India, 2011, National Crime Records Bureau.

Table 2: How Indian women were routinely terrorised in 2011

Rape 24206
Kidnapping and abduction 35565
Molestation 42968
Sexual Harassment 8570
Cruelty by husbands and relatives 99135
Importation of girls 80
All India Total 210524

Source: Crime in India, 2011, National Crime Records Bureau.

Random homicidal killing of women is not that common. What we see is the targeted killing of women and abetment to suicide through harassment within the confines of the family structure. Again, this is only a fraction of the actual number of crimes against women since most cases of sexual violence, partner violence, domestic abuse and harassment go largely unreported because women are scared or ashamed, or both, to report them. Indian women know that they are fighting a losing battle since going to the state for redressal of grievances seldom results in actual justice for them.

A few years ago the NCRB reported that there had been a 700 per cent increase in cases of everyday rape since 1971. In the NCRB’s 2011 report 24,206 cases of rape in India were reported. Out of these 93.8 per cent resulted in a chargesheet with a pathetic conviction rate of 26.4 per cent. There were 42,968 cases of reported molestation (27 per cent conviction rate), 99,136 cases of cruelty by husbands and relatives (20.2 per cent conviction rate) and 35,565 cases of kidnapping and abduction of women and girls.

Our child sex-ratio stands at 914 girls per 1000 men, with the ratio in the states of Punjab and Haryana being the worst. An estimated 20 million females are missing in India since 1950 because of practices that include abortion, or killing a girl at birth.

What is Gender Terrorism?

The largest chunk of people in India permanently living in a ‘state of exception’ are not always persecuted minority groups living in communally tense areas or people in insurgency affected areas. The people living under a constant regime of terror are the 58,64,69,174 Indian women (more than the total population of the United States). And there is a clear group of aggressors in this equation – Indian males and the women who aid and abet them. I call these individuals gender terrorists. By using the vocabulary of terrorism, I hope to draw attention to these patterns of violence against women as an internal security problem.

Indian women live in a continuous, terrorised ‘state of exception’ each and every day, where their legal rights, equality and human rights are suspended as a matter of course. Laws, codes and norms that are imposed on women by long-standing traditions have no relevance to life in the contemporary world, yet they endure because they are designed to keep them in check. Judgments on rape have used the problematic phrase of a victim being “habituated to sex”3, which means that women who have had sexual intercourse before cannot be raped. The perverted morality of our sociological conditioning preaches that ‘good’ girls do not get attacked, raped or harassed. And if our religious leaders are to be believed, some ethereal deity if prayed to can stop a woman from being gang-raped. All violence happens to ‘loose girls’ and many, including some women, believe that they either put themselves at risk knowingly, or they ‘had it coming’.

There is a tendency to treat gender violence as a law and order problem, and as incidents that occur at random. In fact, statistics clearly point to patterns of violence, and clearly identify the likelihood of who can be a perpetrator. Treating incidents of gender terrorism as random acts of crazy or disturbed individuals is misguided because it misses the crucial point that gender terrorism is organised, structured and systematic. That it is backed by the state when it chooses not to act on behalf of women, by extra-legal organisations like the khap panchayats, by patriarchal families, by school systems and by individual men and sadly, also many women.

That Indian women are the terrorised gender is well known. However, if there is a terrorised group, it stands to reason that someone must be terrorising them. We can clearly say that many Indian men terrorise Indian women in some form or the other.

Terrorism in the security studies literature refers specifically to some kind of violent action taken by an armed group that has a perceived grievance against the structures of power that exist. It deals with ideologically motivated killing of innocent people. Terrorism implies organised, or even a collection of individual acts directed against one community, territory or a group of people. It implies an ideology and a manifesto, and justifies why violence should be used.

Traditional definitions of terrorism cannot be fully applied to the concept of gender terrorism. Hence, I make a distinction between a political terrorist and a social terrorist. Political terrorism incorporates and encourages gender terrorism. A political terrorist typically attacks institutions of power as he has a bone to pick with those power structures. However, part of being a terrorist is to gain legitimacy through forced compliance. This a terrorist does bybeing a social terrorist as well. Think about the Taliban imposing moral and dress codes on society, and Punjabi and Kashmiri extremists imposing dress codes on women. Interestingly, political terrorists often start their local campaigns by policing what women can and cannot do and how they can and cannot dress. The reason why Taliban style political terrorism works is because the followed ideology is not just political, it also encourages a private individual’s capacity to use violence against a woman he knows or sees.

The manner in which gender terrorism as social terrorism routinely operates is not very different from political terrorism. The only thing absent is grievance against a power structure. If anything, gender terrorism is more like terrorism by the mighty and their handmaidens.

Gender terrorists are men (and women) who routinely enforce norms of behavior for women and girls that are meant to curtail their freedom, choice, rights, and impede the exercise of their capabilities. These social terrorists also work to restrict women’s access to political and legal institutions, nutrition, education, property, and economic opportunities. They use violence as a matter of course to enforce their agenda. In keeping with the accepted characteristics of terrorism, gender terrorists also create widespread psychological trauma for the targeted group (women), which endures over time and is handed down from one generation to the other.

In Haryana, eleven cases of rape, reported over 30 days, were followed with some of the most idiotic rationalisations by the illegal, unconstitutional, informal and self-styled law-making tribunals called khap panchayats. Several explanations were offered by men in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for beating up their wives, or raping women. They said, men get jealous if their wives talk on the phone. The phones were blamed for women eloping with other men. Therefore, a khap decreed that women should not use cell phones. Men cannot help being lascivious and violent if women wear tight ‘western’ clothing. So, women should be fully covered in clothes that do not reveal their form or body type. Since men do not have access to sex in their youth they find themselves raping women. Therefore, the marriageable age of women should be reduced to sixteen so that more girls can be sexually available to men legally, and this can- according to khaps- reduce rape. Marrying outside the gotra and/or caste, and marrying by choice is an assault on the dignity and honor of the family, the head of which is a man. Consequently, to restore and reconstitute this honour a woman must be brutally murdered, or in some cases publically punished and humiliated along with her chosen partner.

These pronouncements are classic acts of gender terrorism. This is not law-making; this is rule by diktat. Organisations like khaps enable and actively encourage acts of terrorism against women and the men who support these women. The judgments of these extra-legal bodies are not unlike the pronouncements of insurgent groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan.

In political terrorism there is a deep-seated ideology (religious or political) that provides motivation for acts of terror. Call it patriarchy or misogyny, gender terrorists are bound by a code, and a majority of men agree on the rules of that code. This code shapes the gender terrorist to see women in a particular way- as a body to be possessed on the slightest of pretexts, which could be a short dress or a revealing blouse. There is no respect for a woman. She is treated like an animal, and is sometimes less beloved than a cow. She can be bought, sold, traded, collectively used for sex, pinched, prodded, branded, defiled, mutilated, experimented with, burnt, bullied, financially coerced, insulted, verbally abused, underfed, economically exploited and emotionally abused.

Gender terrorism can be found in legislations like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which allows for armed state actors to get away without any public accountability and scrutiny for their policing actions in conflict zones. These actions have often included rape of women in northeast India and Kashmir. These offences have remained largely uninvestigated because of the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the actions of state actors.

Gender terrorism relies on the willingness of the terrorised to view abuse as normal, to be shamed by it and not report it. It uses an increased threat of terror in case a victim reports initial acts of terrorism. There are consequences to being a tattletale, and she is made well aware of what will happen to her or her family if she resists. It is also unpredictable. Any woman, at any time of day, wearing any kind of clothing, in any public or private space, is likely to be a victim of gender terrorism. In this manner, the gender terrorists are able to coerce a woman or a girl into complying with their agenda.

Ripples of Vengeance

On the heels of the Delhi gang-rape incident, a 19 year old dancer was gang-raped in Orissa, a three year old was raped at a day care center and an actress in Manipur (who bravely refused to hide her identity) was dragged off the stage to be raped by a militant. All these incidents happened within 72 hours of the Delhi incident. Many other incidents also happened in 2012. A minor girl was publicly lynched while coming out of a club in Guwahati and this was filmed and broadcast across the nation in absolute violation of media ethics. A girl in south India was molested and thrown off a moving train for refusing the advances of a group of men, and a 16 year old was raped in Silchar by her local guardian.

The anti-rape protests in New Delhi in December 2012 called for revenge in the form of castration and the death penalty for rapists in the glaring absence of justice for crimes against women. Now judicial inquiry commissions are advocating that women be allowed to kill rapists in self-defense, and right-wing organisations like the Shiv Sena are distributing knives to women for self-defense. In 2004, fourteen women in Nagpur stabbed a known rapist, Appu Yadav, to death in a courtroom. In the last decade in at least two instances, women in Bihar and UP have beheaded their rapists. When the 2012 anti-rape protests occurred in New Delhi, the Indian government instead of backing the supporters on an issue where there cannot, ethically speaking, be two sides, famously fumbled as it water cannoned and tear-gassed thousands of well-heeled protestors and tried to stop them from reaching protest points by shutting down key subway stations.

In the absence of justice, Indian women are indicating that they will settle for revenge. These women who are ‘recovering subversion’, as Nivedita Menon once articulated, often take the law into their own hands. The Gulabi Gang bullies its way into police thanas and offices of bureaucrats for better treatment of women, and bashes up husbands known to be wife-beaters. And let us not forget the increasing number of tribal women that join the Maoists every year to flee persecution and abuse by the state and its commercial handmaidens.

This is not an endorsement of the vengeance harboured by women. This is instead a recognition of a systemic problem in the capacity and willingness of the state to react and respond to gender terrorism. It indicates the failure of the political process to secure rights for half the citizens of the country. Women are forced into being radicals to secure their personal safety because they are painfully aware that no one else will secure it for them.

Bharat Versus India – A False Dichotomy

In India, state actors mirror the anti-woman ideas that govern social behavior. Our police and paramilitary personnel are drawn from households that have seen violence within the family. Our constabulary comes from semi-urban and/or rural areas where their mothers waited on them hand and foot, and now their wives and daughters wait on them. For our police, who are supposed to be the first responders in a case of gender terrorism, a beaten up housewife is something familiar. They have seen their mothers get beaten up at home. A girl with her boyfriend who got raped is also familiar. They probably agree that women with boyfriends are “habituated to sex” and so their rape is not a big deal.

This sounds very much like an argument that pitches rural India (Bharat) versus cosmopolitan India where women are supposedly treated better. But this is not the case. If anything, Bharat and India agree on how women are perceived and how they should behave. Bharat and India agree on dowry practices. Bharat and India agree on the impossible attractions of short skirts that ‘allow’ men to rape women. Bharat and India both believe rape can be conducted with impunity. Bharat and India both have women that are victims of domestic violence and spousal abuse.

The arguments that construe metropolitan India as a socially evolved space are quite misleading and dangerous because they lull us into thinking that rape culture and gender terrorism are products of economic and societal backwardness. If this were the case we would not see gender terrorism in countries like the USA or a host of European nations. That we still see incidents of rape in developed countries, is an indicator of the global scale of gender terrorism.

The Bromance of the State

The people who staff the state shape state apathy towards gender terrorism. We have elected representatives who openly dislike women, openly buy women for sex and make them disappear when things get uncomfortable. Our representatives have repeatedly scuttled the tabling of the Women’s Reservation Bill since the late 1990’s. Many representatives have chargesheets pending against them on various counts of sexual violence, including rape. These charges have not impeded their rise in politics and have not stopped them from representing us.

Our military and paramilitary personnel have been accused of rape in conflict zones. A few years ago an army soldier was filmed sexually harassing a young girl in Assam in full view of other soldiers. No one stopped the soldier, and no one helped the girl. She retaliated by pelting him with stones. The rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by soldiers of the Assam Rifles in Manipur gave rise to forms of protest that included a mob of naked Manipuri women marching to the Assam Rifles headquarters demanding justice with signs that said “Indian Army Rape Us”.

During my fieldwork on counter-insurgency in India, I was told a story about a counterinsurgency operation in a northeastern state. In this operation army men- recruited from central India- who were part of a regiment stationed in Assam and the state police of an adjoining state conducted a combined operation against a newly discovered camp of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). The raid was successful. However, they found three female ULFA members in the camp. Tense bargaining took place that night between the northeastern cops, who were operating out of their jurisdiction in an adjoining state, and the Indian army soldiers who wanted the women released to them. The northeastern cops resisted releasing the women to the army. They saw the women as fellow northeasterners.

The cop I interviewed said, “you can guess what would have happened to them”. After half an hour or so of bargaining, one of the cops from the northeast picked up his rifle and shot the three women dead. It was to send a signal to the army men. The cops and soldiers went their separate ways, and no one was ever the wiser publically about what had transpired that night, how many rules of engagement had been broken, and how many men got away with multiple murders.

Such incidents are clear violations of all laws that globally govern our existence. However, these are men and state actors drawn from a society where women are ‘taught lessons’ through sexual assault and are beaten up and insulted for the slightest of transgressions. The standards of male behavior and the attitude towards women that exist in Indian society find their way into the actions of our military, paramilitary and police personnel. The institutions of the state don’t break down gender terrorism; they reinforce it.

It is hard to spell out the consequences for perpetrators of gender terrorism when state actors themselves are deeply misogynistic. The laws protecting women in the Indian legal system are far ahead of their times in many cases. However, they are sporadically and clumsily implemented. We as a polity need to define consequences for gender terrorists. Impunity exists in the absence of consequences.

“Just being a woman is an act of courage”, said the tagline to the 1979 film adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I modify that somewhat to suit the Indian situation – just being born a woman in India is an act of courage.

References

Varshney, A (2001), Ethnic conflict and civil society. World Politics, 53, 362-398.

1 Source: Reed-Sirnate dataset

2 Source :Crime in India’ National Crime Records Bureau publication, under Chapter 7, “Crime Against Persons Belonging to SCs/STs, 2010

3 The term ‘habituated to sex’ became controversial when it was used in 1974 in the judgment of the Mathura Rape Case. In this case a sixteen year old tribal girl was raped in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district inside a police thana. The judgment ruled that rape could not be proved; only intercourse could be proved because the victim was determined to have been ‘habituated to sex’.

 

The Mind And Heart Of Lotika Sarkar, Legal Radical, Friend, Feminist


March 8, 2013, Usha Ramanathan

LOTIKA-SARKARUSHA RAMANATHAN via Women’s Feature Service

We have to marvel at how the world has changed since r*** was a four letter word, and young Lotika Sarkar (1923-2013), the first woman lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, shocked the department by teaching rape to her students.

This is what happens when you let women into hallowed institutions of learning:  They don’t understand that, even when they are allowed to be seen, they may not be heard about the obscene. This was our LS-given, early version of the Vagina Monologues, without the theatre. Shift to the present: I suspect some will tell us that the battle to take rape to the classroom is far from over; except, thanks to LS, it is prudery that is on the back foot now.

When the letter protesting the ‘Mathura’ judgment was written, it constituted many firsts. It was the first time that an ‘open letter’ was written to the Chief Justice of India – braving its contempt powers. A first for law teachers – Upendra Baxi, Vasudha Dhagamwar,  Raghunath Kelkar and LS – questioning the legitimacy of the court’s decisions. The first time the cover of silence shrouding custodial rape was torn asunder by the written word. It is one of the contradictions of those times that, in the wake of the ‘Mathura’ letter, the law was changed to make it a crime to reveal the identity of a victim of rape. Yet, ‘Mathura’ remains ‘Mathura’, while Tukaram and Ganpat haunt the peripheries of feminist consciousness. Such is the stuff of which iconisation is made.

A while later, LS was to advocate caution in shifting the burden of proof: A matter that continues to need explaining, and demands debate – especially with the state having used terrorism as a causative agent for extraordinary laws!

In a haze of cigarette smoke, in a room in Delhi’s Centre for Women’s Development Studies, dwarfed by the personalities of the two women in it, sits a third listening to a narrative unfold. “When they set up the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI), no one in government expected the report that we produced,” chuckles Vina Mazumdar. LS smiles wryly. No one in the committee had anticipated the work, travel and discovery either. Soon, though, they had formed teams, and were coursing in all directions, meeting women of all ilk and hues, life experiences and dispositions all over the country.

Before they knew it, the women they met unalterably radicalised them. The Status of Women in India Report is testimony to what they learnt from the women who spoke to them.

It was on reservation in legislative bodies that LS and Vinadi dissented. You see, we had not gone looking for how the political system should be changed for women. But wherever we went, women would raise the problem of political participation. The report had to reflect what they were saying. The Note of Dissent was to resurface years later with the Women’s Reservation Bill.

Thinking back, this was a casual conversation while taking time off for a smoke. If this is the stuff of which feminist gossip is made, it is no wonder that the women’s movement is now so articulate about how the law needs to change, and where it needs more thought; a far cry from a government that seems clueless that neither patriarchy nor paternalism can provide answers to the women’s question.

Feminism, as feminists know, has its share of mirth, even when it is serious business. The serious business of feminism was on display when LS was co-petitioner in the public interest petition on the Agra Protective Home. ‘Protective home’. We know what that means. The conditions were abominable, the rules were like those of a punitive institution, and codes of civilised conduct seemed to stop at the doorstep.

In 1994, when she was over 70, it fell to LS to pursue the case in the Supreme Court. She was daunted, but determined. What was at stake? An illustration: Now that the ‘Home’ was under the court’s scrutiny, it had directed the District Judge to file a monthly report on the ‘Home’. In this document that was accessible to anyone who cared to look at court papers was the record for every woman in the ‘Home’, tying up her identity with her HIV status. On August 30, 1994, the court directed that all persons testing positive be segregated! On October 10, 1994, armed with a doctor’s opinion, LS stood her ground with a reluctant court to change its earlier order. Fighting prejudice is an everyday task for the feminist, right? It tired her out, and she did the rest of the case with Muralidhar – Murali to LS – by her side, but she stayed the course.

There was no fuss about LS. Just meticulous preparation and grounded work. Ask Gobind, Khem Singh, Dayalji in the Indian Law Institute library, and they would tell you that “Madam worked very hard.” And, they would say, in voices tinged with affection and respect that they were happy to take the books to her, but, no, she will go to the racks and get the books down herself. Mutual respect, no hierarchy, unacceptance of nonsense, and a deep sense of fairness. No
pre-judgment, no prejudice; but excellent judgment.

Students who are now teachers speak of being ticked off by her, and then treated to a cup of coffee in her room. There was never any malice, jealous self-interest or meanness about her. Sure, there were those she did not like or trust – but isn’t that what judgment is about? There is just one person about whom I have heard her say ‘he should be punished’, and that after extraordinary provocation. Need I say more? With her friends, it was affection, jollity, respect and a free exchange of thought, opinion and … well, lunch.

Have you had payesh with mini-oranges? What about lauki in milk with ginger and an indefinable something? Or palak in a million combinations? Ah, that tomato chutney – we have to find another name for it that will do it justice. The three-tiered dabba was not hers once she reached ILI, CWDS, perhaps the Law Faculty too? Her most delectable concoctions were made from – guess what? – leftovers. The thing is, it was true. A visiting friend may leave some mushrooms in a form that does little to add pleasure to the palate; overnight, it
would become a creation whose recipe must be written; except, it had just one ingredient – leftovers!

Politics and pleasure were on the same canvas. Who among us remembers LS, laid up after a hip surgery, spending the evening before 2006 was to arrive, with friends, wine and chocolate cake, discussing a freshly minted Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act which, she angsted, she needed to understand.

When Anthony Lester writes, about LS, that “she changed my life ……. But for Monu, I would not be a human rights lawyer”, he is expressing a sentiment oft-voiced. At the release of LS’s Festchrift (1999), I am told, the hall was full to overflowing. As the proceedings drew to a close, as indeed they must, there was a spontaneous standing ovation. I didn’t hear it then, because I wasn’t
there. But, after four years of sharing a home and being witness to her inexhaustible charm, cheer, comradeliness, compassion, concern, quiet – very quiet – dignity, trust and fairness, we know why the applause will never stop.