Suryanelli gangrape case: Kurien not to be made an accused, rules court #Vaw


Thiruvananthapuram: In a major relief to PJ Kurien and a setback for the Suryanelli gangrape survivor, a Session Court ruled on Saturday that the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman will not be made an accused in the nearly two decade-old case. The court rejected the survivor’s plea based on prime accused Dharmarajan’s affidavit stating he never took Kurien to the guest house, where the girl was lodged.

Dharmarajan, in the affidavit, had also said that an old TV interview, in which he claimed Kurien’s involvement in the crime, was given under the influence of alcohol. A few days after his interview to a channel, Dharmarajan was arrested from Karnataka after absconding for several years by jumping bail.

Sessions Judge Abraham Mathew in his Saturday’s order held that the survivor’s plea for inclusion of Kurien in the sex scandal case was not maintainable. The girl, hailing from Suryanelli in Idukki district of Kerala, was abducted in January 1996 and was transported to various places in the state and sexually exploited by different persons.

Kurien not an accused in Suryanelli gangrape case: CourtThe Sessions Court in its order held that the survivor’s plea for inclusion of Kurien in the case was not maintainable.

The survivor had moved the court against Kurien based on the ‘revelation’ of the sole convict in the case Dharmarajan, who had claimed in an interview a few months back that he had taken Kurien in a car to a guest house at Kumily where the girl was lodged.

Dharmarajan had later retracted the claim in the court through an affidavit stating he had never met Kurien and he was in an inebriated state when he made the charge. The 1996 case came into focus recently after the Supreme Court invalidated the Kerala High Court‘s verdict acquitting 35 accused in the case.

(With Additional Inputs From agencies )

 

#India – Suryanelli Gang Rape survivor moves HC- against parliamentarian P J Kurien #Vaw #goodnews


She seeks to implead herself in a petition to conduct further investigation against parliamentarian P J Kurien.

 June 12, 2013, 

Kochi:The victim in the Suryanelli gang rape case has approached the High Court, seeking to implead herself in a petition to conduct further investigation against parliamentarian P J Kurien in the case.

In the petition, she submitted that there exist enough reasons to allow the petition for further investigation against Kurien.

“If I am not heard in this case, the cause of justice will be sabotaged. Hence, it is very essential to implead me as an additional respondent in the petition by the Kerala Mahila Sangham. If the impleading petition is not allowed, I will be put to irreparable hardships,” she submitted.

A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice K Vinod Chandran, is considering the petition filed by Kerala Mahila Sangham state committee secretary Kamala Sadanandan.

The petitioner also sought a directive to produce the records of the investigation conducted by Siby Mathews, former investigating officer, on Kurien’s role in the case.

“Inquiry report in favor of Kurien should not be taken into consideration as it was not based on an FIR, nor was it according to the terms of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” it said.

“Kurien is using his political clout to sabotage the possibility of any further investigation against him,” the Sangham alleged.

Meanwhile, a Division Bench, comprising Justice K T Shankaran and Justice M L Joseph Francis, allowed a petition filed by Jacob Stephen, an accused in the Suryanelli case, seeking permission to attend the 16th Co-Operative Congress in New Delhi from June 21 to 29. The Bench allowed the accused to attend the congress.

The case relates to the rape of a 16-year-old girl of Suryanelli in Idukki District in 1996.

The victim was allegedly abducted and taken to various places and sexually exploited by over 40 different persons.

Source: New Indian Express

 

Sole convict in Suryanelli rape case retracts charge against PJ Kurien #WTFnews Timing ?


PTI  THODUPUZHA, KERALA, MAY 29, 2013 | UPDATED 18:18 IST
TAGS: Suryanelli sex scandal |Suryanelli rape case | Sole convict Dharmarajan | P J Kurien | Congress leader |Suryanelli rape victim | KurienKerala court | Kerala | Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman
PJ Kurien
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien
In yet another twist to the nearly two-decade-oldSuryanelli sex scandal, the lone convict in the case, Dharmarajan on Wednesday retracted his allegation that Congress leader and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien was involved in the case.In an affidavit filed through his lawyer in the Sessions Court at Thodupuzha in Idukki district, Dharmarajan said he made the allegation as the reporter of a Malayalam TV channel barraged him with questions while he was hiding in a place near Mysore after jumping bail.

Dharmarajan, who surrendered in February last after absconding for several years, said he was not familiar with Kurien and he had seen his pictures only in media.

Withdrawing his claim that he had taken Kurien in his car to a guest house in Kumali where the victim was lodged, Dharmarajan said in fact he did not even have a car of his own.

The affidavit was submitted in a private petition filed by the victim seeking legal action against Kurien in the light of Dharmarajan’s “revelation.”

Dharmarajan dropped a bombshell in February claiming in a television interview that Kurien was present at the guest house where the victim was exploited and that he (Dharmarajan) was under pressure from the investigators to refrain from mentioning the Congress leader’s name.

A lawyer by profession, Dharmarajan was the only accused convicted by the Kerala High Court in 2005 while it cleared 34 others earlier held guilty by a special court that conducted trial in the case in the late 1990s.

After serving a brief jail term, Dharmarajan was freed on bail but never returned to prison and his whereabouts were unknown till he resurfaced in February, after the case took a new turn with the Supreme Court asking the Kerala High Court to conduct a re-trial.

The sex scandal took place at Suryanelli in Idukki district January 1996. A 16-year-old was threatened, abducted and abused by a bus conductor and was later confined and sexually assaulted for 45 days by 42

Read more at:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/suryanelli-sex-scandal-sole-convict-dharmarajan-p-j-kurien-congress-leader/1/273700.html

 

Women Deliver unaware of charges against Kurien, is that Enough ? #Vaw #Rape


AARTI DHAR, The Hindu

P J Kurien. File photo
The HinduP J Kurien. File photo

“Had we known of the controversy, we would not have permitted PJ Kurien to speak at the side event,” say the organisers of Women Deliver conference

With twitterati in India launching a tirade against Rajya Sabha P.J.Kurien’s presence at an international conference on women underway here, the organisers of Women Deliver on Wednesday said they were unaware of charges against him.

In a statement issued here, Women Deliver said it took the issues of violence against women and rape very seriously.

We were unaware that Indian Parliamentarian PJ Kurien is facing allegations of rape. While we cannot comment on the specific allegations, had we known of the controversy, we would not have permitted PJ Kurian to speak at the side event. Addressing violence against women is central to our mission as an organization and one of the focus areas of this global conference,” the statement said.

Mr Kurien, who is facing serious charges of rape, is also chairperson of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, that had invited him to speak at the Global MPs Conference, held as a side event at Women Deliver conference.

As the word on Mr Kurien’s participation spread, social media overflowed with condemnations. Tweeted Vidyut: massive anger over women’s rights situation, sweet promises by Sonia/sarkar, half hearted committee/law passed, then Kurien at Women Deliver”

Women’s activists lost no time in writing to UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister demanding Mr Kurien’s removal as chairperson of Rajya sabha.

Mr Kurien’s case involves gang rape of a minor girl in Suryanelli in Kerala. While the victim has alleged that she was raped by 42 men over 40 days and one of them was Mr Kurien. In 2005, the Kerala High Court tried 35 men but Mr Kurien was not among them- and acquitted 34. This order was recently set aside by the Supreme Court following which there have been demands of Mr Kurien’s removal as chairperson of Rajya Sabha.

 

#India- When rape ‘survivor’ becomes ‘victim’ #Vaw #Gender #Justice #mustread


 By-  Sherin B.S. at kafila.org

MARCH 16, 2013

SHERIN B.S. writes from Hyderabad: There is a constant demand for a change in the terminology from ‘rape victim’ to ‘rape survivor’ in the agenda of feminist concerns in discourses related to rape. But beyond the feminist investment on surviving rape, a systematic reading of public discourses presents the traumatic sustenance of layers of violence that follows rape. TheSuryanelli girl has survived rape, but the violent experience of life after rape perpetrated by systemic structures of patriarchy places her at the receiving end of a system that consciously alienates, humiliates and hunts her down.

While referring to the Suryanelli rape case there are two kinds of discourses circulated widely. One is the question of legality of the crime involved, with a heavily prejudiced and unsympathetic legal frame work attempting to frame the girl as an eternal victim subject for whom justice is almost impossible, mediated through parallel machinery of the state, including law enforcement. The impossibility of justice is not the intention of the legal machinery but it comes through the operating forces of judgments, prosecution stands, law enforcing offices like police stations and officers, and questions of evidence, alibis and so on.

The second discourse is the moral discourse heavily prejudiced and antagonistic to the survivor that happily relates the story of the fallen girl, punished for her deviance thus providing a lesson to all women in the society. This discourse is circulated through the specificities of the rape case but intentionally expecting to form a larger field of reprimands, guidelines, moral lessons for any woman who violates the unwritten codes of conduct. In both the discourses the survivor and the harrowing experiences that she went through lie somewhere far off from the domain of address, which rises from definitive intention to control and exploit female sexuality. Alternatively this moral realm affects and manipulates the operations of the legal discourse as clearly evident from the high court judgment releasing all the accused from the Suryanelli case.

The Suryanelli Rape Case

The Suryanelli rape, occurred in 1996 in Kerala, involves the abduction, severe exploitation and rape of a sixteen year old school girl, abducted and taken to different places in Kerala, by 42 men from all walks of life.  Between January 16 and February 26 she was submitted to extreme and horrible forms of sexual violence. The survivor named many high profiled politicians and professionals including Congress leader and the present Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien as part of her assaulters, but they did not figure in the charge sheet given the consideration of lack of evidence. Nair Service Society office bearer Sukumaran Nair came up with a statement to support P J Kurien to say that Kurien had met him at the office during the particular time of the day mentioned by the girl. In 2000 September the special court for sexual assault convicted 35 of the accused for rigorous imprisonment and punishment. But in 2005, on the basis of the appeal filed against this judgment the High Court of Kerala acquitted all the convicted and punished just one, the third accused, that too reducing his sentence to five years. The public which had already ostracized her got the right weapon then to high light its moral judgment on the girl. The innuendos promoted by many mainstream Malayalam dailies got affirmation through the verdict.

In 2012 the girl was arrested for an alleged financial irregularity case in the office where she was working. The lawyers of the girl say that vested interest had set her up as her case was coming up in the Supreme Court. The recent development in the issue is the Supreme Court’s directions to the High court to re- examine the case, finding the High court judgment legally flawed. It should be noted that this is based on an appeal filed by the Kerala Government against the High court judgment, which remained pending for about seven years. Another development in the case is the capture of the only convicted accused of Suryanelli Case who had jumped bail earlier, making a statement that the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha , P.J Kurien was involved in the case and he personally had taken Kurien to the Guest house referred to by the girl. In the light of this statement there has been wide spread demands to re-open the case to include Kurien in the list of the accused.

Justice delayed:

Now the delay in the legal proceedings that adds to the intense suffering and communal ostracising of the girl for 17 years has never been addressed. The way, the case has been handled/mis handled by the law enforcing officers,  the survivor was taken from place to place as part of the enquiry and medical examination and some of the Malayalam dailies made titillating stories out of a sixteen year old who was brutally raped by 42 men, all add to the legal injustice done to her. Being a constant spectacle for the demands of a sex-starved society, the print media that covered her case through convoluted stories celebrated her as a piece of spicy ingredient.

That seventeen years have passed and still the crime committed to a sixteen year old has been denied justice shows the inadequacy of the legal mechanism in the country. It is to be noted that the rampant criticism extended by the feminist organizations regarding the delay in sexual assault cases in the light of the Delhi rape has resulted a speedy dealing of the Suryanelli appeal. Now the delay in justice has resulted in many things: the sixteen year old girl has lived seventeen years through the humiliation of a rigid moral society, the girl has been constantly chased and hunted down by a group of accused in a defensive mode, the entire family goes through the social stigma towards the rape survivor…the story goes on. While considering the case will all these be concerns for law?

Double standards of print journalism:

Malayala Manorama, the leading Malayalam daily started the stories in a melodramatic vein like a soap serial initially and portrayed her in the typical victim’s cloth. Initially she was referred to as the Munnar girl and the daily came out with front page reports on the issue. (Malayala Manorama, 19th March). Titles like “forty days, forty monsters” added to the melodramatic effect. But from 1996 April 2nd onwards the news paper changed its stand. Interestingly, it was around this period  the investigation turned to political leaders and professionals. Though never included in the list of accused, college professors like Jacob Mathew and Congress leader P.J Kurien were implicated during this phase of the investigation. Malayala Manorama reported discrepancy in the girl’s statement at this point. April 3, 1996 issue of the daily carried a front page cartoon, titled Agniputri representing a girl with the list of UDF candidates and someone from the background addressing her as comrade, prompting her to pause and wail after reading out each name from the list. This was the most naturalized form of misogyny that Kerala society received without any protest. While attempting to protect P.J Kurien and those close to the Catholic Church, Manorama violated all decencies of journalist etiquette and human concerns.

Violence of public discourses:

Recourse to family and sentiments of compassion are often revoked while dealing with the rape accused. P.J Kurien’s wife’s statement gets wide public circulation where she laments her plight and that of two daughters who are severely affected by the image tarnishing that takes place. Presenting her husband as a victim of vested interests she urges the feminists to consider her family too in this game of political lobbying. Along the same lines, moral statements regarding the character of the girl come out. Congress leader from Kerala, Sudhakaran says there should be a border line between prostitution and rape cases and that the victim of the Suryanelli case had a questionable character. He also adds that those who support the girl should think that Kurien has a family. Now this support to Kurien’s family evolves from a biased view about family and sexuality. It becomes problematic because this discourse exposes the moral grounds with which rapes have always been discussed in India. More than Rape, the violation of family values becomes a concern. The same concern also is denied to the survivor by branding her as morally deviant.

Thus the Suryanelli girl’s family should suffer because she is deviant, capable of lying and possesses an objectionable character. The binary logic of sexual promiscuity and sexual chastity helps in trivializing the rape, making the survivor the deserving body upon which the crime can be acted. The binaries of vicious mind reflecting the vicious body helps in justifying the alienation of the victim and evoking sympathies for the accused. When a normative family bonding and honor become a necessity to deserve justice, why is it that the same concern and justice is denied to the victim? The double standards of this discourse well justify Arundhati Roy’s response to Delhi rape that this exceptional reaction derives from the fact that it plays into our idea of the criminal poor: the rickshawallah and the vegetable vendor… The initial days of Suryanelli investigation drew sympathetic support for the victim, as the investigation proceeded through the involvement of  the bus cleaner, the fruit vendor, the police constable and similar images that cater to our idea of the perfect criminal. These sympathies were turned around, as and when the upper middle class, aristocratic Syrian Christians and political leaders appeared in the frame. The empathisers leave her, she becomes the prostitute and references shift to her non reliability as a person of character.

The legal discourse:

The Suryanelli case is also a typical example of a rape case fought for many years (about seventeen years) and still reached nowhere. As in the case of Mathura and other infamous judgments from apex courts, the Suryanelli judgment also evokes questions on the irresponsible and insensitive functioning of the criminal judicial system. The judgment that strives hard to prove that the girl’s statements are false, relating to a previous experience of her lying about the hostel fee of four hundred and fifty rupees and misusing it and also an attempt on her part to pawn her ornament. These are the basic premise on which the girl’s statements have been verified. The judgment reads while debating the difference between rape and consensual sex:

“When we read the evidence of PW3, we have to be cognizant of her psyche- her mental makeup. Her past conduct and behavior have to be borne in mind. She was only a student of 9th standard. She had squandered Rs. 450/- entrusted to her by her father for remitting hostel fees……That piece of conduct is admitted by her… a school girl will always be obliged to account when hostel fee is not remitted. She was prepared to take that risk. Added to this is, as suggested by the counsel for the appellants that she was even courageous enough to approach a jeweler for pledging an ornament of hers which her parents had given her to wear, meaning thereby that she had much capability of courage of even withstanding a question by her parents as to the loss of such ornament. She admitted during the evidence that she had done so. So this gives indications about the conduct and mental makeup of PW3. … She was not a normal innocent girl of that age. She was a different person. The peculiarity in her personality must realistically be borne in mind. The evidence of a person of her age with such a conduct certainly has to be viewed seriously and with caution. A court cannot meekly swallow her version. It requires serious critical assessment.” (pp. 42-43)

The very idea that the crucial question of whether the sexual acts of violence on a ninth standard student by 42 men in a period of 40 days have been consensual or not is arrived at on the basis of these two past instances shows the non-empathetic and inhuman impulses behind the judgment leading to the contention that the prosecution failed in proving the absence of consent. Rather the judgment further claims that the unwillingness spoken by the girl now before the court is an excuse found by her to save her face in the family and among the relatives for her long absence of forty days from her house. During the 40 days of sexual assault the Bench finds several instances for the girl to escape her assaulters, in the bus stand, at the doctor’s place, lodges etc. The consideration extended to the accused related to corroborative evidences or circumstances are denied to the girl, where her age, intimidated psyche, physical and mental agony of violence she was undergoing were not enough reasons for the Bench to decide that the ninth standard girl could not plan an escape. With a clean conscience the judgment rules out possibilities of adopting the normal approach for appreciating the evidence of a rape victim.

The concurring observations by Justice Basant lamenting the failure of making the consenting age for sexual intercourse to 18, is a pathetic justification for such an unsympathetic judgment. Not only that this observation brings down the entire question of sexual violence on the survivor to the concurrence of sexual consent between that period of two years, it brings in binaries of experience of sexual assault before 18 after 18, before sixteen after 16, and so on. The result of such an in-capacious and tapered thinking would be to divert the focus from the intensity of the violence and the damage done on the victim to the mental state of the victim while producing or not producing the consent. The double standards and heavy moral weightage of this observation get exposed in the further paragraphs where he talks about the young girl who succumbed to temptations of a consumerist society and also implications of not being groomed in the proper atmosphere with a proper value system. The observation goes to the extent of saying that such children can be termed as deviants but cannot be merely condemned and left to their fate. Now the implications would be, the Suryanelli rape survivor is deviant, her parents could not bring her up in a healthy atmosphere, and that was the reason why she gave consent to the sexual atrocities on her body to forty two men for forty days. And the recommendation ends with a need for a change in law.

This is an easy washing off and shrugging away one’s responsibilities. The constant urge to prove her evidences false overthrows and challenges this claim to neutral justice.  The non accountability of law to the female citizens and the misogynist sentiments of arbitrators reflect in Suryanelli case as well. The recent remarks of Justice Basant on the girl’s character reveal the prejudices underlying the judgment.

Paradoxes in Kerala’s modernity:

The ways in which Suryanelli case recurs in Kerala’s public sphere reveals the aberrations in Kerala’s notion of modernity. While making a ponderous claim to cultural elitism and modern consciousness related to its literacy rates, living standards, health care and above all the pervasiveness of electoral politics and thinking in the public sphere, the misogyny witnessed in this state is quite ironical. Permeating all walks of life there lie misogyny and moral policing that more or less affects all forms of political thinking in the state. No other Indian state can parallel Kerala in misogyny regarding the way feminists and women’s movements have been referred to in Kerala, female political party leaders have been tarnished, and work places and other public places have alienated women.

The recent remark of a college teacher in a public function sponsored by the government of Kerala aiming at women’s empowerment that it needs only ten minutes for a man including him to insert sperm in a woman’s uterus, and then it is for the woman to carry the child for the next ten months, shows the underlying layers of prejudices, violence and misogyny in Kerala. In such a public sphere innumerable stories flourish on the Suryanelli survivor, making her a titillating piece for the consumption of the sex-starved male psyche of Kerala.

The largest political party in the country did not have any qualms in letting a person implicated in a rape case to chair the Rajya Sabha proceedings during discussions on gender justice and prevention of sexual violence against women. The urge was rather to support him than the survivor. The heavy political bias taken by the leading political parties have done enough damage to the survivor and her family, as in many earlier cases.  When the case is re-examined will there be a provision to address the irreparable damage in terms of mental, physical and emotional harassment that has been done to a rape survivor and her family for the past seventeen years?  Who would choose this plight if this is what it means to survive rape?

(Sherin B.S. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.)

 

#India- Kerala church bans Suryanelli rape victim #Vaw #Censorship #WTFnews


By, TNN | Mar 7, 2013,

Kerala church bans Suryanelli rape victim
Women’s rights groups staging protests against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien, a fortnight ago, outside Parliament demanding his resignation over the Suryanelli gangrape case.
 KOCHI: A Catholic church in central Kerala has banned the Suryanelli gang-rape victim and her relatives from entering the church.

St Francis Xavier Church at Sachivothamapuram near Kurichy in Kottayam district is said to have issued the directive two weeks ago. The church falls under Vijayapuram diocese and was established in 1906.

As the residents in the area have come to know the identity of the victim and her family, it is better that they should stay away from the church until all the problems related to the case are resolved, the church is said to have ordered.

The victim had recently lodged a police complaint and a petition before a local magistrate court for probe against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien alleging that he had raped her. However, the court had last week dismissed the girl’s plea for investigation against Kurien.

The victim’s plea was based on revelation by lone rape convict, advocate Dharamarajan of Idukki.

Catholic church’s own news service, Union of Catholic Asian News, had recently described the victim as a “16-year-old Catholic schoolgirl” and Kurien as “a Kerala Christian and Congress party leader”.

In an interview to a news channel, Dharmarajan had stated that Kurien went to a guest house at Kumily in his car and that the girl was raped there.

The case relates to a 16-year-old schoolgirl being sexually abused by around 42 men over 40 days after abducting her and transporting her across Kerala.

On January 31 this year, the Supreme Court had quashed the Kerala high court‘s mass acquittal in the sex racket case granting benefit of doubt in January 2005. The high court had let go of all the accused except Dharmarajan, who was found guilty of sex trafficking.

 

#India- And Justice for the ‘Suryanelli Girl’ #Rape #Vaw


Sexually assaulted for 40 days continuously, by 42 men: After 17 long years, will this epic tale of injustice ever end?

Arathi PM Delhi/Kasaragod (Kerala), Hardnews

 

The national capital witnessed unparalleled protests for gender justice and sexual violence against women. The December 16 gangrape in Delhi generated public attention across the national spectrum. However, public memory in Kerala hardly recollected the injustice inflicted on a girl (now grown-up woman) from a small village in Idukki district called Suryanelli for 17 long years by the criminal justice system of this country.

The patriarchal public sphere of Kerala and the ruling Congress government in Kerala treated the ‘Suryanelli girl’ with complete insensitivity. She was mentally tortured. The government tried to ‘teach her a lesson’ on what happens if you fight against big shots like PJ Kurian (Congress leader and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha) by constituting a false money misappropriation case against her. Through stares, sexist, derogatory statements, the male gaze and social exclusion, the public sphere made social life impossible for her.

On January 31, 2013, the Supreme Court expressed its shock at the Kerala High Court verdict in the
Suryanelli case and ordered a retrial within six months; hence, media attention has refocused on the case.

The Suryanelli case involved the rape of a 16-year-old girl. In 1996, she was sexually assaulted for 40 days continuously — by 42 men. Due to the unique character of this case, it was discussed in diverse spheres. Among the accused were high-profile individuals. These included Kurian, then cabinet minister in Delhi. The case led to a huge political debate in Kerala and was used as a campaign point in the parliamentary and assembly elections. The issue was taken up by feminist groups seeking justice for the victim/survivor (I am not calling her only ‘survivor’, as she has been ‘victimised’ by the entire social system).

The then CP(M)-led Left Front government in Kerala constituted the first-ever special court in 1999 for the trial. This took into consideration the large number of the accused and witnesses and the involvement of different jurisdictions. This special court convicted 36 of the 42 accused in 2002 on charges of abduction, conspiracy, illegal detention, rape and gangrape. This verdict was overturned by a division bench of the Kerala High Court that acquitted all but one among the convicted 36.

Indeed, the verdict of the Kerala High Court by Justice KA Abdul Gafoor and Justice R Basanth (dated 20.1.2005) is primarily based on male fantasies about the female body and sexuality. The institutional inter-play of law and medicine, based on their inherent anti-women perception, is reflected here since the
medical/forensic evidence played a crucial role in the judicial decision-making process.

The special prosecutor had contended that, in spite of the severe infection in her vagina, the main accused and many others had raped the girl. Some of them raped her more than twice a day. According to her deposition in the court, during those horrible days, her condition was precarious and she had acute pain at the back of the hip. In spite of this, the division bench observed that “to rape a girl with such ailments, pain and infected vagina may be humanly impossible, as contended by the appellants, except with roaring cry from the victim (the girl)… has no case that she had even wept during the alleged rapes… no resistance mark was found on her body”.

According to the doctor, there were no signs or evidence of ‘resistance’. The bench observed that the girl had many opportunities to run away but she did not do so. The Kerala High Court did not even take into account previous judicial observations in the Mathura case that absence of resistance does not amount to willingness to have sex. When the girl was terrorised and forced to undergo sex, the court considered it consent.

The judgment held that the medical opinion was of no help to the prosecution to prove that there was intercourse using force. The doctor who examined the girl after she came back home, had given crucial evidence for the prosecution. The doctor reported that “vaginal examination was painful, vulva was oedematous. There was infection. There was purulent foul smelling discharge. She would have suffered severe pain during the sexual act if it had continued as stated by her during the period of infection.” (High Court of Kerala, 2005, pp 481.)

But the judges pointed out that at the time of cross-examination the doctor said that infection could also be caused by uterine contraceptive devices. The doctor told the court that he examined the vaginal wall and did not find it lacerated. The court observed, that, according to the doctor, during violent intercourse also, “laceration in the vaginal wall occurs posteriorly.” (High Court of Kerala, 2005, pp 482-483).

Thus, overturning the verdict by the trial court, the division bench completely glossed over the evidence given by the victim and medical evidence. Legal precedence in the case of medical and corroboratory evidence was conveniently ignored by the judges.

Ironically, the court observed the past history of the girl and found she had misappropriated the money given by her parents to pay hostel fees and had sold her ornaments to pay the fees. That, for the court, meant her ‘character’ was not good, and thus it was not ready to accept the allegation of rape from such a girl. The court said that her father used to be suspicious about her character and gave directions to hostel authorities that permission for her to go out should be granted only with his prior consent. If a girl of this ‘character’ spent 40 days away from the parents, it was implied that she had consented to have sex. To prove otherwise, corroborative evidence was needed.

These sexist remarks are reproduced through judicial decisions time and again. In the Suryanelli case, the High Court of Kerala verdict explicitly does character assassination of the victim/survivor.

‘She was a child prostitute. It was not rape… She was a child with a bad track record’ — Justice R Basanth

The other contention is that there is no reliable evidence. The only vital evidence is that of ‘PW3’, who cannot be reckoned as a ‘trustworthy’ witness. Her evidence deserves careful scrutiny because of her past conduct of squandering the hostel fees and daring to pledge her ornaments (on 1.11.1996). (High Court of Kerala, 2005, Para 10.)

It is contended that even if PW3 is found to be believable, a conjoint reading of her evidence will show that she was not an unwilling partner. So far as the accused are concerned, there was no resistance from her part, so that those who approached her could discern that she was unwilling for intercourse or there was absence of consent. Absence of consent on the part of PW3 has not been satisfactorily proved in this case to bring home the  guilt of the accused under Section 376(1) or 376(2)(g), (Para 11).

The court was concerned that in these 40 days the girl did not make a single attempt to escape. She stayed in a number of hotels and travelled in public conveyance. She could have tried to escape but she did not do so. The allegation that she was raped while she had severe vaginal infection was false, it said. Astonishingly, the court opined that it was not humanly possible to rape in such condition unless and until she screams. Since the court did not have evidence that she cried out loudly, it reasoned that most of the accused approached her misunderstanding her, to be a prostitute.

If the girl had shown resistance, then only could it be called rape. Considering the ‘character’ of the girl, it was difficult to believe that she had shown resistance. The court concluded that the family wanted a justification for their daughter absconding. So the family portrayed her as a victim of rape to save their face in public.

On February 9, 2013, in a sting operation by a Malayalam TV channel, Justice R Basanth was seen to make this observation: “She was a child prostitute. It was not rape. She used to misuse the money given by her father to remit the school fees. She was a child with a bad track record.” There was huge outrage against him in Kerala, demanding punishment under the provision related to character assassination in the upcoming central ordinance.

The central contestation in the Suryanelli trial revolves around the expression of ‘consent’ or on the determination of whether a coercive act of sex is rape or not. The judiciary interprets ‘consent’ on the basis of marks of ‘resistance’ on the female. This has always been ratified by medical opinion by using the demeaning ‘two finger test’.

Patriarchal values influence the judicial understanding of what, in a woman’s actions or words, imply consent to sex. There are major criticisms raised by women’s movements against taking bodily resistance of the female as a vantage point in judicial decision-making in cases of rape. The demand to abolish the ‘two finger test’ should be viewed in this context; this is another recommendation by the Verma Committee.

The demand for amending criminal codes in cases of sexual assault comes from around the globe. Joan McGregor (Why When She Says No She Doesn’t Mean Yes: A Critical Reconstruction of Consent, Sex and the Law), argues that “criminal sex codes are infected with the history of patriarchy, which protects the interests of the men and fails to protect the interests of women” (1996, p. 176).

The central contestation in the Suryanelli trial revolves around ‘consent’ or on the determination of whether coercive act of sex is rape or not

Feminist legal theorists critique the understanding of physical resistance as a corroborative requirement and discussion of past sexual histories in rape cases. They point out that these assumptions are not objective and rational under criminal law and are thus unfair. The same argument is reflected in the Verma Committee’s recommendations.

When the judiciary categorises women as ‘good’ or ‘bad’  by looking at them through a judicial lens of past sexual experiences and affirms the findings by corroborating them with forensic examination results, it tries to reinforce morality. Until recently, before the enactment of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2010, rape within heterosexual marital relationships was not accepted by the judiciary. Within the family and within marital relationship, violence is taken for granted.

Some court directives to the accused in rape cases to marry the victim/survivor comes from the patriarchal idea that female bodies can be ‘legitimately violated’ by the male within the institution of marriage. In the Suryanelli case, the verdict of the lower court to punish all the accused also comes from sympathy for the plight of the victim/survivor for not being able to have a ‘normal marital life’ after this bad experience; it even directed to award compensation under the Code of Criminal ProcedureThe ‘protective’ character assumed by the Indian judiciary, based on notions of chastity and virginity, challenges the feminist notions of female sexuality and women’s rights of control over their bodies.

Therefore, while awarding the sentence, the court cannot ignore the tragic plight of PW3. It has a duty to wipe out her tears to the extent possible. It is not possible to erase the traumatic experience; the inhuman treatment would be alive in her memory forever. Her professional career is forever lost. She cannot aspire for employment or a serene married life, considering the social surroundings of our society. Virtually, she has lost her life itself.

There are several levels of bias, insensitivity and trauma in medico-legal procedures. In the Suryanelli case, she was the object of publicity, she had to undergo exhausting trips from one hospital to another, and multiple examinations. For sections of the media, every hospital visit was a voyeuristic spectacle, causing her immense trauma.

There were huge protests by women’s groups against the construction of rape as a scandal-spectacle. The Kerala High Court then took suo moto cognizance of a pamphlet by an NGO as application against producing the victim/survivor for evidence/ forensic examinations along with the accused in the same vehicle. The court issued an order against such police action.

It is difficult for a girl of 16, from a lower middle class rural background, to approach the court without additional/external support. The judicial trend created by the Kerala High Court verdict is dangerous. The decision violates female bodies and sabotages the spirit of law to protect the rights of women from sexual exploitation. It is hoped that the direction of the Supreme Court to conduct a retrial will act as a corrective. One cannot, however, say if this will bring any qualitative change in the life of the ‘Suryanelli girl’..

 

Open letter to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi #Rape #Vaw


English: Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, United Pro...

Dear Mrs. Gandhi,

On behalf of more than 9,000 people that have called for Mr. P J Kurien, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to lose his prestigious post, we urge you to act for the rights of women and force him to step down until a full and fair inquiry has been conducted into the gang rape charges against him.

The text of the petition addressed to Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, now signed by over 9,048 people from across India reads:

“Right now, political leaders have a vital task to end India’s rape epidemic. But too many politicians are compromised because they themselves face ongoing rape and sexual assault investigations. We demand you act on the Verma Committee’s recommendations and remove your party support from all politicians and candidates who face rape or sexual assault charges. As an immediate first step, please remove P J Kurien, suspect in the Suryanelli gang rape, from the Deputy Chairmanship of the Rajya Sabha before the start of the coming session of Parliament.”

You can see our campaign here: http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_chairs_for_rape_suspect_kurien_/

This petition demonstrates that a mass of ordinary citizens, with no political vested interests, are very concerned that Parliamentarians who face outstanding rape and sexual assault allegations are the wrong people to lead on crafting anti-rape laws. At the heart of lawmaking on rape should be a burning commitment to ending the rape epidemic, not the same sort of anti-women, anti-victim thinking that results in a woman being raped every 22 minutes in India. If Mr. Kurien is truly innocent, instead of allowing his allies to blame the rape survivor, he should welcome a full investigation.

True justice is yet to be done. The survivor of the Suryanelli gang rape case has said repeatedly that the police were under pressure during this investigation to suppress evidence against Mr. Kurien because of his political power. The same Supreme Court that Mr. Kurien uses in his defence as having cleared him has now quashed the lower court order in this case.

The Congress Party cannot really claim to stand for the rights of women when their own partymen are accused of such serious crimes against women. This is the moment to stand with rape survivors across the country and show that the Congress Party is serious about protecting all women.That’s why we urge you to do the right thing and use all your leadership of the Congress Party to take the Deputy Chairmanship away from accused rapist Mr. P J Kurien.

With hope and determination,

 

Avaaz members in India

 

 

 

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Protest Minister Vayalar Ravi ‘s sexist remarks to a woman journalist #Matrubhumi #Vaw


Kochi: The Union Cabinet Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Mr. Vayalar Ravi’s deplorable behavior
and reaction to a young woman journalist of Mathrubhumi TV Chanel is condoned by Network of Women
in Media, India (NWMI) Kerala Chapter members who met at Press Club in Kochi on Tuesday

The Minister’s insinuations and words show that he thinks the whole incident is a joke. When asked his
reactions of the developments in the Suryanelli rape case in which P J Kurien’s name has resurfaced, the
minister questions her intention and also makes a remark on her morals and integrity.

It was not an expected conduct of a senior Minister and shows the lack of sensitivity that is needed in a
leader of his stature. The posture, body language and his statements were unbecoming of a man of his
experience in public life as people’s representative.

We believe that if journalists who have to ask questions and get reactions to happenings 24*7 in current
affairs are treated thus, then the common woman has no chance at all.

About 25 women media members were present and the meeting planned to mail a petition to President
of India, Prime minister, Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Kerala Chief Minister.

Thanks and regards


For NWMKERALAM

Sandhya Bala Suma                                          Rekha Bitta
State Co ordinator                                                Mail & Web Co ordinator
+91 9895711680                                                  +91 9895132640

 

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