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HC verdict on Mahmood Farooqui rape sets a dangerous precedent, feminists

Mahmood Farooqui rape

Following the Delhi HC over-turning the trial court conviction of Mahmood Farooqui for rape by stating that a feeble `NO´ can be interpreted as `YES`, several feminist organisations and activist have issued statement severely criticising the judgment. According to the activists, the verdict takes the legal and social understanding of consent back to several decades. Mohamood Farooqui was sentenced last year by the trial court to seven years in prison for raping an American research scholar who was visiting India.

Here is the full text of the statement;
In the wake of the protests following the 2012 Delhi gangrape, India had witnessed a welcome sharpening of understanding around sexual violence and consent. Legal reform recognized the principle of affirmative consent – i.e the principle that consent must be nothing short of an unequivocal positive ‘Yes’ (whether through words or gestures) to engage in a sexual act. In public discourse and popular understanding too, the understanding that ‘No means No’ had been strengthened. Recent Court verdicts and orders have however dealt a deep blow to this hard-won progressive advance.

As women and women’s groups with a long history of working on issues of gender justice and with survivors of sexual violence, we are deeply disturbed by the 13th September 2017 bail order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) which cited the victim’s “experimentation in sexual encounters”, “promiscuous attitude and voyeuristic mind” as part of its legal reasoning for granting bail to three men convicted in the Jindal Law School gangrape case. In so doing, the Punjab and Haryana HC has strengthened the dangerously patriarchal notion that rape is not rape when the woman is “promiscuous”, and that “promiscuous” women invite rape since their “promiscuity” can be read as consent. It also stands in clear violation of the Indian Evidence Act that specifically prohibits referencing the victim’s sexual history or character in adjudication of cases of sexual assault.

Another equally disturbing instance is the 25th September 2017 verdict of the Delhi HC over-turning the Trial Court conviction of Mahmood Farooqui for rape. This verdict takes the legal and social understanding of consent back several decades by claiming that “instances of a woman’s behaviour are not unknown that a feeble ‘No’ may mean ‘Yes’.” This verdict also formulates different legal standards required for deciphering consent in cases involving “conservative” women and those involving “intellectually/academically proficient” women for whom “equality is a buzzword.” It seems that for the Delhi HC, it is the woman’s character (her being conservative or modern, educated or illiterate), not the man’s failure to respect a NO, which carries weight in deciding an appeal against a rape conviction.

The verdict concludes that the victim is not deserving of justice because the accused failed to accept her ‘No’ (despite clear evidence of her repeatedly communicating the same to him). The Delhi HC judgment, while acknowledging that the law defines consent as “affirmative consent”, sets aside this understanding and coins a new principle of “affirmative denial” for “intellectually/academically proficient” and non-conservative women. While the law clearly states that absence of physical resistance will not imply consent, the verdict suggests that non-conservative and intellectual women must not only communicate their lack of consent but also bear the burden of making sure the man understands that when she says no she really means no. When a categorical no is not considered sufficient to communicate lack of consent, is it only signs of brutality and physical injury which must be accepted as “proof” that the woman did not consent? This effectively opens the door for acquittal in all rape cases where the victim has not also been severely physically injured.

It must be underlined that throughout the trial, the defence had maintained and led evidence to show that no sexual act at all took place on that day and that the complainant was not truthful. The High Court confirmed the trial court’s finding that the complainant’s testimony was honest and credible and found her to be a ‘sterling witness’. However the HC acquitted the Accused, arguing for him that he probably did not understood the ‘No’ because sometimes, due to the “gender binary”, women’s “No’s” may be “feeble”. Such reasoning also disregards the fact that the Complainant in this case was never cross-examined on her description of rape, or whether her ‘No’ was misunderstood as a ‘Yes’, and neither did the Accused ever state that he mistakenly assumed consent.

Similarly, the Delhi HC judgment gives considerable importance to whether a person with a bi-polar condition can comprehend lack of consent, despite the fact that the defence produced no medical evidence to show that the Accused was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, nor argued that this medical condition can impair comprehension.

The verdict sets a dangerous precedent both legally, and socially. In law, it opens the door for every rape accused to claim that he had mistakenly read the woman’s “No” as a “Yes”. It weakens the principle upheld by the 2013 amendment in the rape law that consent for sexual activity is not a woman’s default setting; that nothing less than clear “Yes” on part of the woman can count as consent; and that the mere absence of a “No” does not mean “Yes”.

It sets an unfair and impossible burden on the victim-complainant – whereby she must not only prove she did not consent, but also that her lack of consent was not misunderstood as consent by the accused!

Moreover, the verdict reaffirms the entrenched cultural practice of ignoring a woman’s “No” and deliberately assuming that it actually means “Yes”. It sends out a message that the responsibility for understanding and respecting a “No” does not lie with men; rather that the onus is on women to make sure their “No” is understood! It sends out a message that even if a woman fears for her life, she must ensure she sustains obvious physical injuries so that her violation is recognised as rape.

It sends out a message that even when a woman has categorically communicated lack of consent, the Judiciary is free to displace this with its own assumptions of how women actually behave. It sends out a message that a woman who asserts her sexual autonomy will either be told that when she said ‘No’ she actually meant ‘Yes’ and that if she ever says ‘Yes’ to sex she should be prepared for her future “No’s” to be disregarded, both by the perpetrator as well as the legal system.

Both the Punjab and Haryana HC bail order and Delhi High Court acquittal verdict protect men who “assume consent” of women who are educated or not “conservative”, and enable men to read deliberately misread consent when none exists.

These verdicts come at a time when there is an escalation of the backlash against any effort to displace the entrenched prejudice and bias which regulates women’s access to justice. They must also be understood in the context of the overt and covert social backlash against women laying claim to their citizenship, whether in terms of access to public spaces, education, the right to redressal for violence, equal opportunities at the workplace, or to exercise their choice in intimate relationships, marriage and religious practise.

We, the undersigned individuals and representatives of women’s movement organisations, condemn the ongoing politics of backlash against women in law, society and polity today and call for introspection from all concerned on how to make gender equality a reality for all survivors of rape.

ORGANISATIONAL ENDORSEMENTS
1. Annie D Raja, National Federation of Indian Women
2. Anuradha and Vani, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
3. Anuradha Kapoor,Swayam, Kolkata
4. Amita De, Shramjivi Mahila Samity
5. Arundathi Vishwanath, Sambhavnaa Institute, Palampur
6. Arundhati Dhuru and Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
7. All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with National and State Human Rights Institutions
8. Bebaak Collective
9. Bittu Karthik, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
10. Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai
11. Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch
12. Human Rights Defenders’ Alert – India
13. Jasmeen Patheja, Blank Noise
14. Joyanti Sen, Sachetana
15. Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)
16. Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
17. LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective
18. Maimoona Mollah and Asha Sharma, Janwadi Mahila Samiti (JMS), Delhi
19. Malini Bhattacharya, Mariam Dhawale and Kirti Singh, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
20. Manshi Asher, Himdhara Collective
21. Maya Gaurav and Aarthi Pai, SANGRAM
22. Maya John, Convener, Centre for Struggling Women (CSW)
23. Meena Seshu, Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP)
24. Nandita Shah, Co-Director, Akshara
25. Ovais Sultan Khan, Act Now for Harmony & Democracy (ANHAD)
26. Poonam Kaushik, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, Delhi
27. Rajesh Srinivas, Sangama
28. Rajni Tilak, Rashtriya Dalit Mahila Andolan
29. Sappho for Equality
30. Volga, Kalpana Kannabiran, Vasant Kannabiran, Stanley Thangaraj for Asmita, Hyderabad
31. Yasmeen, Awaaz e Niswan
32. Zakia Soman, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA)

….

INDIVIDUALS
1. Abhisikta Dasgupta
2. Aditi Joshi
3. Anuradha Banerji and Vani Subramanian, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
4. Archana Dwivedi
5. Ayesha Kidwai
6. Debalina
7. Dr Chayanika Shah
8. Dr Mary John
9. Dr Mohan Rao
10. Dr Nivedita Menon
11. Dr Uma Chakravarti
12. Dr. Ajita Rao, Dalit Activist/Feminist
13. Dyuti
14. Enakshi Ganguly Thakral
15. Gauri Shringarpure
16. Geetha Nambisan
17. Hasina Khan
18. Kalyani Menon-Sen
19. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist, Mumbai
20. Karuna D. W.
21. Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA
22. Ketki Ranade
23. Laxmi Murthy
24. Malini Subramaniam, Independent Journalist
25. Mansi Asher
26. Minakshi Sanyal
27. Nandita Gandhi, activist and researcher, Mumbai
28. Nandini Rao
29. Nikita Sonavane
30. Nisha Biswas
31. Nivedita Menon
32. Nowruz, Delhi
33. Pamela Philipose
34. Poushali Basak, Mumbai
35. Purnima
36. Pushpa Achanta
37. Raj Merchant
38. Rakhi Sehgal
39. Ranjita Biswas
40. Rinchin
41. Sandhya Gokhale, Mumbai
42. Shabnam Hashmi
43. Shalini Gera
44. Shals Mahajan
45. Shoma Sen
46. Shruti Chakravarty
47. Smriti Nevatia
48. Soma Marik
49. Subhagata Ghosh
50. Suneeta Dhar
51. Vasantha Kumari
52. Zulekha Jabin

Sex workers’ network on Gauri Lankesh´s brutal murder

gauri-lankesh-murder

The National Network of Sex Workers, India joins the voices that are committed to freedom and democratic values in fighting to preserve the values and principles Gauri Lankesh stood for

The National Network of Sex Workers, India, strongly condemns the killing of journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, Karnataka, on September 5, 2017. Gauri Lankesh was a supporter of the rights of the underprivileged, worked tirelessly for the protection of minorities and dalits and fought against communal and casteist forces.

For several years now, Gauri Lankesh, editor of ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’, has been speaking out against the increasing fragmentation of society on grounds of caste, gender, sexuality, religion and communal forces.

Through her work with the Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike (Communal Amity Forum, Karnataka), she and other like-minded people have struggled against forces that were trying to destroy the secular and democratic fabric of society.

NNSW members are female, male and transgender workers, committed to secular and democratic values enshrined in the Constitution of India.

NNSW demands a speedy investigation into her death and the arrest of the culprits.In addition NNSW, joins all the voices that are committed to freedom and democratic values in fighting to preserve the values and principles Gauri Lankesh stood for.

Gauri Lankesh murder: An attack on democracy, feminism and freedom of expression

Gauri Lankesh murder

Veteran journalist Gauri Lankesh´s murder is an assault on democratic space, dissenting voices and human rights defenders

More than 300 feminists have gathered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for the third Asia Pacific Feminist Forum (APFF). On the opening morning the participants shared their anger over the growing patriarchal authoritarian rule in the region and globally that has grown out of three decades of neo-liberal globalisation enabled through militarism, fundamentalisms and patriarchy.

In this context, the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh was highlighted as an emblematic example of the attacks our governments have enabled through their support to right wing vigilante groups and their own attacks on civil society, feminism and human rights. Her murder is an assault on democratic space, dissenting voices and human rights defenders.

A fearless journalist, Lankesh wrote about and ridiculed the rise of authoritarian, patriarchal nationalism and human rights violations committed against religious minorities, different genders, persecuted people like the Rohingya refugees, sexual minorities; as well as oppressive traditions, caste politics, and the nexus between environmental destruction and corruption

Hers was one of the strongest voices against the polarising Hindutva forces in India in recent times, both in Kannada and English languages. Her fearless journalism had drawn multiple threats and verbal attacks from groups like the RSS and she faced legal charges of defamation for her work.

“We believe her murder in a large city, right outside her home, was possible because of the climate of impunity created to support violent, right wing groups and because religious and cultural extremism has been normalised in an attempt to enrich a few at the expense of the many. Murders of Women Human Rights Defenders like Lankesh make the rapid erosion of rights in India possible,” says Albertina Almeida, human rights lawyer from India.

While the government puts enormous effort into charging and harassing journalists and women human rights defenders , they fail to prosecute those responsible for murder, for hate speech and criminal intimidation. “It is imperative that India’s democratically elected government perform its obligation to maintain an atmosphere of free speech, as deemed a fundamental right by the Indian Constitution; and protect those who are threatened for doing so, ” says Kate Lappin, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD).

Cristina Palabay, woman human rights defender from Philippines adds, “Failure by the Government to conclusively investigate the murders of people in recent times, amounts to affording a de facto impunity to the Hindutva forces and defaulting on its obligation as a signatory to various international human rights treaties”.

We condemn the killing, and the rise of unchecked right wing Hindu nationalism. We demand that a judicial inquiry be initiated by the Government of Karnataka, to inquire into the killing of Gauri Lankesh.

About APWLD
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific. Our over 200 members represent groups of diverse women from 26 countries in Asia Pacific. Over the past 30 years, APWLD has actively worked towards advancing women’s human rights and development justice. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation and hold consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council

BUJ statement on killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh

gauri-lankesh-murder

The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists expresses shock and anger at the dastardly killing of Gauri Lankesh, editor of Lankesh Patrika, in Bengaluru this evening.

Gauri Lankesh has been a trenchant and courageous critic of hindutva and casteist politics. Since last November, she has been fighting her conviction in a criminal defamation case against BJP MP in Dharwad Prahallad Joshi and was out on bail.

Journalists will not be cowed down by such cowardly acts. The BUJ demands that the Karnataka government move with speed to investigate the killing and book the assailants. As it is, there has been no progress in the investigation into the death of the renowned writer Kalburgi. The failure to book the culprits will further embolden obscurantist forces in their nefarious attempts to intimidate and silence independent voices of dissent and reason.

Justice for Hadiya, Pinjra Tod writes to Chief Justice

Hadiya Kerala

Pinjra Tod, a collective of women students, writes to Chief Justice of India requesting to free Hadiya, a young woman in Kerala who has been confined to her parents´ home against her will

Your Lordship,

We write to you, to bring to your notice a recent judgement of the Kerala High Court which has annulled a consensual marriage of an adult Muslim woman.

The judgement also makes many other remarks which can completely undermine any claim for equal citizenship for women and are violative of their fundamental and constitutional rights. Hadiya is a young woman, 24 years of age who has went on record to say that she willingly converted to Islam. Her parents have since approached the court twice asserting that she has converted to Islam under external force, demanding that she return to living with them. In their second petition to the Kerala High Court they also raised the allegation that she would be transported outside the country and demanded the court’s intervention.

During the proceedings of the second petition, Hadiya contracted a marriage with a Muslim man according to Islamic rites and rituals and stated her full consent in the marriage. The Kerala High Court has finally annulled the marriage and forced Hadiya into the custody of her father. She has not even been allowed a phone and has been denied any contact with the rest of the world beside her parents, in effect putting her under house arrest for no proven crime committed by her. Policemen guard her every day and just beyond stand RSS cadre further ensuring that their prize catch finds no exit from the situation. On the judgement being challenged in the Honourable Supreme Court, the apex court ordered an NIA (National Investigative Agency) enquiry into the marriage, framing the whole case in terms of counter terrorism proceedings and completely bypassing concerns around the judicial recognition of women’s agency and the violation of women’s constitutional rights.

“IN HER BEST INTEREST” – A JUDICIAL PRECEDENT OF INFANTILIZATION OF WOMEN

The absolute denial of a voice to Hadiya by the Kerala High Court is a matter of grave concern, beginning from the court forcing her to live in a women’s hostel under surveillance to the annulment of a consensual marriage on grounds of coercion, despite an adult woman making a clear statement of her consent

The judgement states that ‘as per Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with the parents, until she is properly married’, and that Hadiya, being ‘a female in her twenties is at a vulnerable age’ and cannot understand what is good for her. The judgement expresses unabashed incredulity towards the statements made by Hadiya about her choice to convert to Islam, her interest in the study of religion and her choice to practice a religion different from her parents. The court continues to address Hadiya as Akhila, a name she has surrendered, and refuses to acknowledge her decision to practice Islam. Most dangerously, the judgement throughout assumes that a father can judge the best interest of an adult daughter. The court only sees her as “indoctrinated and influenced” Akhila who is not to be left “free to decide what she wants in life”, who is not “capable of taking a firm and independent decision on her own” – who hence needed to be “rescued and handed over” to the “safe hands” of “parental authority”, to ensure that she is “protected” from “going astray”. The Kerala HC goes on to assume a ‘parens patriae’ jurisdiction over Hadiya, i.e. the position of guardianship over her, which is available only in the case of minors or those considered of ‘unsound mind’ or who are ‘incompetent to understand their own interest’ and is completely unjustified and demeaning when applied to an adult woman.

All its utterances put together the HC judgement in this case exemplifies the submission of women’s agency and interest before ‘other’ ‘larger’ concerns. Women’s bodies have across history been made into battle fields for such ‘other’ ‘larger’ battles, those of cultural hegemony, religious and political domination, the formation and dissolution of nations and not least the establishment and demolition of (a country/ community/ family/ lover’s) honour. The present judgement of the Kerala HC takes us back to the point where a woman was at best the property of her male kin and her body the repository of the ‘honour/interest’ of the country/community. It is indeed incredible how a court which everyday hears hundreds of cases of domestic violence and abuse, of ‘honour killings’ and dowry deaths could repose such blind faith in the institution of the ‘family’, to consider “the welfare and well-being” of their daughter “to be of paramount importance”. ‘Females in their twenties’ are full citizens of this country, who work, vote, study, own property and like all other citizens have a fundamental right to be treated as equals before the law. They must be recognized to be capable of discerning between the good and bad, must be allowed to exercise their discretion in matters concerning themselves and presumed to be capable of bearing the implications of those decisions. The denial of any independent decision-making capacity to such a huge section of the population as implied by the Kerala HC is unacceptable. It runs counter to the entire history of women’s struggle to gain social-political-economic independence and shall only exacerbate the vulnerabilities that we face as women in a patriarchal society.

PATRIARCHY RIDING ON THE BACK OF ISLAMOPHOBIA?

Clearly, the issue in the present case is not the well-being of Hadiya but what the HC records as “the widespread allegations of forcible conversion that were coming up and the national interest that is at stake”. The HC has so undermined Hadiya’s agency, only to address its anxiety around “conversion by radical groups… working in various parts of Kerala influencing young girls from other communities and forcibly converting them to the Islamic faith’. Is it that the choices Hadiya has made – of converting out of her parent’s religion as a young woman, and of converting from Hinduism into Islam – are so unacceptable to the court, so disturbing for the dominant patriarchal Hindu order that they must be overturned, even at the cost of going against the constitution’s mandate and compromising the rights and autonomy of all young women?

The present political situation is marked by increasing polarization on communal lines, a rapid escalation in the viciousness, impunity and public assertion of violence against the Muslim community and the permeation of Hindu fundamentalism into state structure and society. In such a circumstance, the invocation of the framework of terror by the courts in this case must be judged in the backdrop of Muslim youth accused in terror charges being acquitted after spending years in jail due to inadequate evidence. The HC has justified all instances of overreach in Hadiya’s case citing concern over “forced conversion” to Islam, even as the state has remained silent on campaigns such as “Bahu Lao Beti Bachao” and “Ghar Wapasi”, very much campaigns of forced conversions into Hinduism. Such selective concern suggests that a prejudice is at work against Hadiya due to her being a Muslim woman. The judgement therefore seems to be inflicted by patriarchal presumptions riding on the back of Islamophobia.

OUR ‘BEST INTERESTS’ LIE IN THE RECOGNITION OF OUR AUTONOMY AND A VIOLENCE FREE AND EQUITABLE SOCIETY

As a collective of women students, what is happening to Hadiya is not new to us, many of us have experienced such violence and caging very closely, by this society, by our families, by the state, by universities, by partners and lovers we had ourselves chosen – the list is endless. Many of us stay in private and university hostel accommodations. A diverse set of discriminatory rules and regulations, beginning with the ‘curfew’ are imposed by such institutions on women students to control and regulate our lives and decisions in the most intrusive and arbitrary ways, to ensure that we have no opportunity to go “astray”. Educational institutions across the country see themselves as accountable only to the parents of adult women and not to the adult women themselves. The fact that the Kerala HC decided to put Hadiya in a women’s hostel to make sure that she was under strict surveillance only further illustrates how these hostels often play the role of being the transit house for young women from the homes of their fathers to their husband’s. However, over the past few years, young women across the country have taken to streets in hundreds and thousands to fight against such surveillance. The Kerala HC judgement is a huge blow to our confidence in the judicial process and its safe guarding of our constitutional rights, even as we are now finally beginning to gain victories in changing the perception of women and even these institutions on the question of autonomy and surveillance of women.

The HC has expressed concern over Hadiya not impressing them “as a person who is capable of taking a firm and independent decision on her own” alleging that the marriage they annulled was contrived to tie the hands of the court. However, the present judgement itself offers a ‘proper marriage’ as the only means through which a woman can leave the custody of her parents. Such an approach only further undermines women’s capacity for taking ‘independent decisions’, forces us into relations of dependence and makes us ever more vulnerable. We request you to hear Hadiya, to hear the thousands of young women who have struggled so hard to challenge such silencing of our voices. Our best interests lie not in such infantilization, such surveillance, such caging and silencing. Instead, it lies in a full recognition of our rights and autonomy and the creation of a violence free and equitable society for all. We may have never met Hadiya, but her struggle is intimate to us! If the women of this country are to have any ounce of faith restored in the judiciary, Hadiya’s illegal house arrest and denial of agency must be immediately revoked.

Yours Sincerely,

Pinjra Tod

Ram Rahim rape conviction: AIDWA congratulates brave women who took spiritual guru to court

Ram Rahim Rape case

CPM´s women´s wing, All India Democratic Women´s Association writes a congratulatory note to two women survivors who have withstood all pressures, threats and intimidation from Dera Sacha Sauda chief and his gang and fought for justice

The special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana, has convicted the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in the charge of rape of two sadhvis, in a case that was registered in 2002. This verdict has sparked off widespread violence and rioting in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh, leading to the unfortunate death of over 30 people and injuries to hundreds. Both the Centre and the Haryana government have failed miserably in anticipating the violence and in maintaining law and order. The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) appeals to all for the immediate restoration of peace.

AIDWA congratulates the two women who have bravely withstood all pressures, threats and intimidation to dissuade them from continuing with their struggle for justice in their charge of rape against the Dera Sacha Sauda chief. AIDWA has been consistently supporting the victims in their 15-year long harrowing ordeal. AIDWA demands that the government must give full protection to the victims.

It is condemnable that various political parties for electoral gains have protected the Dera chief and have deliberately delayed the women’s quest for justice

It is a matter of record that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had showered praise on the Dera chief to get the votes of his supporters. It is precisely this type of political patronage that has encouraged various so-called godmen to brazenly violate the law of the land with impunity.

Malini Bhattacharya, President
Mariam Dhawale, General Secretary

Women´s groups welcome Triple Talaq judgment

Triple Talaq judgment

The Supreme Court´s judgment declaring Triple Talaq unconstitutional has been welcomed by several women´s groups and Muslim women´s rights activists across the country and call it a it an important departure from earlier judgments on all women’s rights

Here is the full statement issued by women´s groups and activists;

We wholeheartedly welcome the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Triple Talaq brought before it by a number of Muslim women and Muslim women’s rights groups. In arguing that the practice of Triple Talaq is both, un-Quranic and Un-Constitutional, it is an important departure from earlier judgments on all women’s rights, because it is based on the tenets of equality, dignity and secularism as enshrined in the Constitution.

As women’s groups and individuals we recognise that the current political climate of communalisation and violence, when the entire Muslim community is under attack in India and much of the Islamophobic world today, makes the fight for minority and gender rights an even more uphill task. Hence we extend our solidarity and salute the courage of the Muslim women who have fought everyday patriarchy within, religious institutions and the family, as well as communal forces to seek justice and equality from the courts.

Even as we celebrate this victory as one that strengthens the fight for secular rights, we are aware that this is but one step in our continued battle against all kinds of patriarchal power and the prevailing political order that seeks to convert this into a majority-minority issue.

In our joint struggles for gender justice in all laws relating to marriage and family, beyond the religious framework, we believe that the Supreme Court judgment on Triple Talaq is an important affirmation of Constitutional values of equality, secularism, pluralism and dignity for all citizens. We hope that this will be the framework in all matters of justice for gender and minority rights.

Chhattisgarh sterilization deaths: Surgeon goes scot- free, activists write to CM

sterilization deaths

13 women lost their lives in November 2014 after undergoing sterilization surgery performed in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh. A criminal case was lodged against the surgeon Dr. R.K. Gupta and the government set up a one-person judicial enquiry commission headed by Js Anita Jha. The Enquiry report is out and has indicted the surgeon as well as those responsible for organizing the camp.
However, the High Court in Chhattisgarh has disposed of the case – on the procedural grounds that Dr. Gupta was acting as part of his official duty and no previous sanction was obtained from the state government while initiating prosecution against him.

Women´s groups have drafted an open letter to the chief minister of Chhattisgarh to re-instate the case against Dr. Gupta.

Here is the full text of the letter.

Open Letter to CG Chief Minister
​We the undersigned organizations working across the country on health and women’s rights are shocked and dismayed that the case against surgeon Dr. RK Gupta has been dismissed by the Hon’ble High Court on the grounds that “the alleged act committed by the petitioner was while acting in discharge of his official duty and admittedly no previous sanction was obtained before initiating prosecution case against him”.

As the Anita Jha Judicial Enquiry Commission report has clearly pointed out that “It is evident from the facts that in the camps organized on 8.11.2014 and 10.11.2014 there was a breach in the important necessities hence the standard operating procedure were not followed. As a result of which the symptoms of infections were found in post operative female beneficiaries”. It further states that “On the background of deliberation of investigation point number 1 to 3, investigation committee has found following persons Guilty/responsible, functionary, during 08 and 10 November, 2014:- 4.1 For not following standard procedures and for medical negligence by immediate functionary Block Medical Officer, Takhatpur…………….and surgeon who conducted surgery in tubectomy camp at Sakri and Gaurella.( Surgeries were completed by the same surgeon in the both camps)”.

It is a pity that the Hon. High Court has dismissed the case purely on technical grounds, thereby denying justice to the bereaved families of those 13 young women who died in Bilaspur district, the many more women who suffered serious illness in hospitals and the many small children deprived of their mothers’ care. However, the Hon’ble Court in its judgement has stated that “the respondents State shall be free to take previous sanction of the State Govt. in this regard if it still desires to prosecute the petitioner and in the event of obtaining sanction, they would be at liberty to further prosecute the petitioner. It is made clear that this Court has not given any opinion on the merits of the case as the prosecution case was not sustainable on the preliminary objection itself and the merits of the case is still left open to be considered and adjudicated upon at a subsequent appropriate stage if the situation so arises”….

We would thus request that your government put the wheels of justice back on track, and immediately give permission for prosecution of surgeon Dr. RK Gupta, to ensure that this case becomes a deterrent example for anyone who tries to subvert the Sterilization Guidelines.

We are also very disappointed to note that the Chhattisgarh government has greatly reduced provision of sterilization services as a public health service in government facilities, forcing poor women to take recourse to the private sector at extremely high cost and inconvenience.

We would urge you to please reconsider this decision and make these services available in the public hospitals both for men and women, while ensuring high quality and informed choice for those who opt for this contraceptive method.
We look forward to your active cooperation and support on these two issues,.

Dalit women´s body slams retired judge´s sexist comment against Rohith Vemula’s mother

rohith-vemula-death

Ambedkarite Women Against Atrocities, India (AWAA) issues statement condemning the report released by retired judge K Roopanwal whose mandate was to inquire into the facts and circumstances leading to research scholar Rohith Vemula’s death

Here is the full text of the statement;

Dear Friends,

We the members of  Ambedkarite Women Against Atrocities’, India (AWAA)  condemned here the wording of the report by retired judge K. Roopanwal, which indicates an attempt of defamation and character assassination of Radhika Vemulla. Under the garb of fact finding  the committee has done all efforts to find out the cast of Radhika and Rohit as the remarks were made by Mr. Roopanwal directly  was an attack  on Radhika’s  character.

The comments were not only just gender biased  but insulting womanhood and her human rights to live with human dignity.

We protest against this discriminatory , biased report, we  demand to file a case against  Mr. Roopanwal to damage  the dignity of Radhika Vemula by doing character assassinations and passed scurrilous remarks.  We , Ambedkarite women from all over India demand a public apology from Mr. Roopanwal and a compensation following such a deplorable statement.

This is in the context of the news was published on  6th October 2016, in the Indian Express,  was titled “ The whitewash: Probe alleges Rohith Vemula’s mother faked Dalit status, blames him for his suicide”.

We find that the special efforts were made to  disclose Mr. Roopnwal’s committee’s report  through specific media because they wanted to shift entire matter to target Radhika Vemula and proving her caste as OBC would be an advantage for them to escape from the punishment under atrocity act. 

In this news, according to the reporter, the one man commission was appointed whose mandate was to inquire into the facts and circumstances leading to Vemula’s death, review existing grievance mechanism for students at HCU and suggest improvements. But she did not take any cognizance  of the fact that in the same month on 25th  August 2016, another tribunal report was also published. The tribunal was organized by the concerned teachers, writers, and lawyers of Hyderabad.  It was chaired by Justice  K. Chandru,  Retired judge High Court Madras. Prof Govardhan Wankhede, TISS, Bombay and Prof Ghanshyamdas Shah were the members.

The brief to the tribunal was to examine the circumstances leading to leading to the suicide committed by Rohit Vemula Chakravarthy, a Research Scholar as well as the police action subsequent to his death and the existing caste discrimination practiced by the University. And, to recommend among other things, besides protocols to enable marginalized students to fully participate and enjoy the academic, political and social space of the university more productively and effectively; and to examine the existing grievance redressal systems to prevent caste discrimination in the University of Hyderabad and evaluate their effectiveness.

We member of AWAA demand to disclose both the reports publicly through media and Government.

We express our solidarity with Radhika Vemula and her kids as well as  congratulate Ambedkar Student’s Association for it’s success in student’s elections. There are several efforts made by Government, University and narrow minded casteist people to suppress women’s voice especially women from Dalit-Adivasi-OBC and minorities. Here we also demand to sustain and strengthen an act against Atrocities (SC/ST)

AWAA is an all India level network of prominent individuals and organizations of women who beleive in Phule-Ambedkarite ideology. This was founded by social activists, writers and researchers like Lata Pratibha Madhukar, Abhinaya Ramesh in Maharashtra. It was very much supported by  prominent socio-political activists, theoreticians, professors, artists, engineers, environmentalists, and writers from other parts of India