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


A Rape  Story

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

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

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

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

In caste terms, Kiran is a Dhanuk.

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

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

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

+++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

Some other names have also been changed to protect their identities

Kurukshetra- Missing Prachi Kumari since 16days Kidnapped and Killed ? #Vaw


prachi
: manavatavadi@lycos.com

The Station House Officer

Ideal Police Station

Kurukshetra University

Geeta Kendra
KURUKSHETRA
 

Subject: OUR SUSPICIONS ABOUT MISSING Prachi Kumari SINCE April 1, 2013

 

Sir,

 

Today is the 16th day of Prachi’s Missing from the University College of Kurukshetra University. With Constant and deep Agony we endorse our suspicions about Prachi Kumari’s missing as under:

 

1.    It is the 13th day of our intimating of the name, address and telephone numbers of the kidnappers but we don’t know what the police has done except dragging us to Delhi for an expensive exercise even after knowing that we maintain our works by collecting Alms (BHIKSHA) from the village peasants.

 

2.    We suspect that either the kidnappers are torturing the girl by keeping her away from the communication system for any of their nefarious intentions or have already killed her. Because our only request to the police, just to let us meet her to see her live also in good physical and mental health was not cared yet. Instead we are being mocked at that she has already married so no need of any inquiry about her.

 

3.    As we are a Secular Education Centre so we have all respect for freedom of thinking and freedom of choice, so if she has married to any one of any caste, color, denomination, socio-economic status, ethnic, race or even any gender we would have no problem in accepting her position or also we have no hesitation in giving her moral and any other support we are capable of. Then we don’t understand why the police are standing reluctant in making our meeting possible, if at all she is not captivated, sold for any nefarious cause or not killed?

 

Would the police prove fair to produce Prachi Kumari for our meeting and satisfaction of her safety and physical and mental health? The kind Principal of the University College and her class mates and the Teachers of the UC Department of Bio-Tech are also worried for she couldn’t appear in her final Practical Examination.

 

Kindly help us to meet her if she is married or chosen a partner to live with and if she is kept captive then kindly rescue her so that she can go back to her school and if she is at all killed by the kidnappers then kindly discover and take the action whatever is appropriate for the police and oblige.

 

In Constant and Deep Agony,

 

Swami Manavatavadi                                                               (April 16, 2013)

Manavatavadi Vishwa Sansthan
Rajghat, Kurukshetra-136118, Haryana
Tel: 01744-291278, FAX: 01744-291378 (ask for line)

 

Press release of protest by families and relatives of Maruti Suzuki workers


Press Release 

On 2nd September 2012, over 400 relatives and families of workers of Maruti Suzuki protested against the arrests, torture and termination of workers, and demanded immediate release and work for all workers. The families and relatives who came from all across Harayana– Hisar, Rohtak, Jind, Kaithal, Narwana, Gurgaon, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, as well as from U.P., Punjab, Himachal, Rajasthan wanted to meet Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, but were dissapointed when the Police Commissioner and a huge contingent of Haryana Police blocked and disallowed us our right to do so. It became clear to all that the government and police is continuing to act against the interests of common people and workers and their families, and acting in complete favour of the Suzuki management. The families gave a memorandum to the Chief Minister through the D.C. Rohtak after demonstrating in front of his office.

In the meeting, workers relatives put across their view. Suresh’s brother said that police torture was meted out to the workers on direction of the management, and asked why the government is acting in the management’s favour. Ramvilas’s uncle Ramesh said even the family members were not spared. Sushma said proper investigation should be done about the management’s role in the incident. Jagbir said how his son was awarded ‘best worker’ twice by the company itself, and now has put him in jail and all workers are being called criminals even when investigation has not taken place. That the government is not giving any respect to workers or their families came out of all the protestors.

In the demonstration, banners of ‘Maruti Suzuki workers Union’’s families and solidarity committee were there. Posters and slogans like ‘All workers are innocent, immediately release all workers’, ‘Company-Government-police stop harassment of workers’, ‘Hooda government answer us, respect workers families’, ‘punish the guilty managament of maruti suzuki’ were made.

The demands put forward are-
1. Immediately release all workers arrested from the night of 18th July on.
2. Register cases of conspiracy and death on the management of Maruti Suzuki.
3. Take back to work all 546 terminated workers.
4. Punish the police officials who are harassing and torturing workers and their families.
5. Take action against factory management who are fluting labour laws.

Signed/- Avtar Singh, Kurukshetra and Pramod kr, Sonepat, Haryana

1. Press Release from relatives of Maruti workers (in Hindi)
2. Memorandum submitted by relatives of workers (in Hindi)

2012-09-02-131247.jpg2012-09-02-131307.jpg2012-09-02-122632.jpg2012-09-02-122955.jpg2012-09-02-123046.jpg

Dil Se Nahin Dimaag Se Dekho – Thoughts on Satyamev Jayate


 ,  

Guest post by SHOHINI GHOSH

 

The first episode of Aamir Khan’s much publicized TV show Satyamev Jayate telecast on May 6, 2012 dealt with “Female Foeticide”. The following is a reflection of the show’s line of reasoning. Since only one out of 13 episodes has been telecast, what follows should not be taken as a judgement on the series but a response to the first episode. For reasons that I will explain later, I will use the term Sex-Selective Abortions (hereafter SSA) instead of `Female Foeticide’.

 

Satyamev Jayate (hereafter, SJ) takes inspiration from the format of the Oprah Winfrey show. In this format the celebrity host is as important as the issues being discussed and the issues of “human interest” are narrated through a number of `affective’ tropes that include cathartic revelations, shocking testimonies, interviews with experts, cutaways of shocked or tearful studio audiences and a host who is both emotive and inspirational. The show’s attempt to mobilize affect is reflected in its many promos and tag-line that reads:  “Dil Peh Lagegi, Tabhi Baat Banegi.”  Shows with such formats usually end on a feel-good note where a “solution” to the problem is proffered.

In SJ, the “solution” is the “jaadu ki chhadi” (magic wand) which the host explains is the collective strength of “me” and “you”. The episode ends with Aamir Khan (hereafter, AK) promising to write a letter to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan on behalf of all of us demanding strict action against doctors who practice sex-selective tests and procedures.

Unlike most talk shows on TV, SJ has high production values. Despite a certain preachy sanctimoniousness reminiscent of his role in Taare Zameen par, AK is a respectful and competent host who helps to keep the conversations on track without being rude or abrupt. On the first episode, he speaks to three women who provide moving testimonies of how they were forced to undertake sex-determination tests and sex-selective abortions against their will. The testimonies show how sex-selection and son-preference is not a problem that plagues the rural backwaters as is commonly assumed but prevails within the educated middle class. AK punctuates the conversation with `useful’ information. For example, he rightly points out that the sex of the child is determined by the sperm of the father and not the egg of the mother. There was an important intervention made by a lawyer representing one of the three women who describes how the judge declared that there was nothing wrong in desiring a “kuldeepak” (the son who will carry forward the lineage) and upbraided the policeman who had dared to arrest the in-laws who had forced the woman to undergo forced SSA. The show included interviews with a reputed gynecologist as well as two journalists who had carried out a sting operation on doctors in Rajasthan who were carrying out SSA’s.

On the surface, the show is “pro-women” but as the arguments unravel, it becomes increasingly evident that “all is not well’. Let me explain. In describing the “consequences” of a skewed, women-unfriendly sex-ratio, AK takes us (through Airtel “3G link”) to Kurukshetra, Haryana where in one village women have practically disappeared. AK speaks to a group of men who claim that they are unmarried because SSA’s using “ultrasound” had ensured that there were no women in the village. Earlier in the show AK had linked the declining sex-ratio to SSA and the Kurukshetra example was being produced as a perfect example. Even if we were to set aside our skepticism about this easy explanation, what follows’ is worse. Back in the studio, AK extrapolates from this example to expound on a simplistic and dangerously flawed prognosis according to which the shortage of women will result in “two crore men” remaining “unmarried” thereby creating a “shaadi ka bazaar” (marriage market) with buyers, sellers and “dalaals” where women will be bought and sold like commodities only to have unbelievable atrocities visited upon them.

This idea is seconded by a member of the studio audience who says that the marriage market had already begun and that women in the all-men village had to face harassment from the “kunwara fauj” (army of singletons). (Of course, by now you are wondering who these women are since we were just told that there were none!) The other suggestion being made seemed to be that if (heterosexual) men were not provided partners in heterosexual matrimony, they would explode in a libidinous frenzy and commit atrocities on women! (Thanks to SJ, on those rare occasions that they are brought to the courtroom, sex-offenders could now take refuge in the “singlehood-made-me-do-it’ argument and ask for their sentences to be mitigated.) Another question is to ask is whether equal numbers create gender equality and prevent violence against women.  If yes, then how do we explain atrocities against women when the sex-ratio was better as recorded by say the 1961 census?

What falls by the wayside in the paradigm that AK proposes is a central tenet of women’s equality: her right to choose. If we believe in equality then the women born in Kurukshetra should have the right to decide when, who and where they want to marry. They cannot be burdened with the task of having to marry men in their village in order to maintain the sex-ratio and thereby prevent violence against women even if this thesis were true. At the risk of detonating the libidinous ire of the `kunwara’ fauj, it may be said that the women in Kurukshetra – like women everywhere – should have the right to decide what they want to do with their life and body and this includes their right to reject both heterosexuality and matrimony if they so desire.

By locating the declining sex ratio within a paradigm of `female foeticide’ and `violence against women’, SJ replays a problematic logic; one that links declining sex ratio to violence against women and the elimination of women through `female foeticide’ using the key act of abortion.

In India, the women’s right to abortion emerged not from feminist struggles but as a by-product of family planning policies. Abortion has been legal in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act since 1971.  Despite its default origins, it is an important right for women and all campaigns against SSA must ensure that a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy is never threatened. The Right to Abortion is vital for gender equality and there can be no doubt that women are safer when abortions are legal and their mental and physical well-being is not threatened by having to obtain unsafe and illegal abortions.  While SSA gets a high degree of publicity what is less publicized is how difficult safe abortion still is for large numbers of women.

The makers of SJ might argue that women’s right to abortion and forced SSA are not the same thing. Certainly they are not and the three cases presented in Episode 1 of SJ demonstrate that. But unfortunately, not all cases of SSA fall into this category. There are innumerable instances where, for a number of complicated reasons, women are complicit in choosing SSA which then muddies the demarcation between oppressive villains (husband/in-laws) and oppressed victims (wives). The reasons why a woman will opt for SSA can range from her own son-preference to a desire to survive safely in a hostile household. How women should be discouraged from sex-selective practices without jeopardizing her right to take decisions about her life and body, have long agonized Feminists. An important lesson that Feminist Activism has taught us is that the inevitable fallout of empowering women to take their own decisions may well result in her choosing a path that many of us would regard as anti-feminist or regressive.

“Pro-choice” Feminists (as Abortion Rights Activists call themselves) have always privileged the personhood of the mother over that of the foetus which they argue is a `potential person’ and not an “actual person”. The “Pro-life” Lobby (as right-wing, anti-abortionists call themselves) does just the reverse. By using terms like the “unborn child” and the “death of the girl child”, they privilege the personhood of the child over that of the mother. Similarly, the term “female foeticide” carries connotations of both personhood and murder through its association with words like homicide, matricide and regicide.

Read more at Kaafila

 

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