Tag Archive for Violence against women

Three years after Nirbhaya, fight continues for justice

nirbhaya-rape-delhi

It has been three years to the brutal gang rape that killed a courageous young Nirbhaya but women continue to fight for justice and freedom from fear, says statement released by women activists, students and progressive groups

As 2015 comes to a close, we remember the tumultuous times in December 2012 when thousands of people – young and old – poured into the streets of Delhi in pain, rage and outrage. This was, of course, in the aftermath of the brutal gang rape and assault on a young woman that eventually led to her tragic death. That it occurred in the heart of Delhi, the capital of the country, was a shocking truth that people demanded and the government pledged to change.

Yet, in the three years since December 2012, women continue to face violence in every space they occupy, including their own homes, in public places, on public transport and at workplaces. There have been many attacks on women and girls, some accompanied by huge media coverage, but most taking place away from the public glare. Violence is the weapon used to keep them “in their place” on the basis of their identities, including caste, class race, religion and disability.

These range from sexual assaults and rapes and even murder of adivasi women and girls in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, by CRPF men; on Muslim women in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh; on Dalit women in Haryana, on women from Northeast India, either in their own states or in the places they move to in search of brighter opportunities.

Women occupying workplaces in the informal and formal sectors are facing increasing levels of backlash. From women working in fields, mines or inside homes, on construction sites or tending roadside stalls, to women working in corporate offices, non-governmental organisations, educational institutions, law offices or in the media, countless cases bear testament to the systematic sexual harassment they face at workplaces. While some have taken courage to file cases against their perpetrators, the severe consequences that have had to face from the media and the courts for speaking out are a matter of deep concern.

Take for instance some of the most high profile cases of sexual assault by senior male colleagues at workplaces as varied as the courts, media houses and NGOS. In case after case, the women have faced hostile work environments, been named and outed, harassed and finally hounded out of their jobs. While the men are out on bail (if arrested in the first place), reinstated in their jobs with full public sympathy and credibility, the women complainants are out in the cold, their stories trashed and disbelieved, their workplace harassment continuing as ‘punishment’ for having spoken out, their economic status severely compromised. Yet, the rhetoric of ‘misuse’ of the law by women is growing every day; with little regard for the facts on the ground.

If we turn to cases filed under the new amendments to the law against sexual assault that were passed in the wake of the movement in December 2012, the scene is dismal. Be it the women in Muzaffarnagar, Bhagana or Bastar, or the women employees of Tehelka or TERI, they all await justice.

The police and the judicial system, not to mention society, the media and political powers that rule at States or the Centre, have mostly worked to subvert the law

Worryingly, even as women who file cases under the laws enacted to protect women are feeling betrayed and vulnerable, a growing clamour brands the laws against gender-based violence as “draconian,” “biased against men”. Another disturbing fact is that 40% of rape cases filed in Delhi is by parents branding elopements as ‘rape.’ These cases hide a tale of familial violence against women who choose their own partners. In addition, is the intensified political offensive on inter-caste and inter-faith love. A recent sting operation by Cobrapost exposed how outfits close to the Sangh Parivar run an organized racket to brand inter-faith love as ‘love jehad’ and beat and coerce women to give up such relationships.

Unfortunately, the Governments allow these outfits to attack the rights and freedom of women with impunity. At the same time, central and state governments are increasingly seeking to use the issue of violence against women to push through regressive policies like death penalty, or lowering the age of juvenility – even though the Justice Verma Committee carefully considered and rejected these measures as counter-productive and against the interests of victims of gender violence. Measures that we as women’s, students’ and progressive groups and movements have steadfastly resisted.

The movement of December 2012 had raised the slogan of Bekhauf Azaadi, or Fearless Freedom for women and for all, and had specifically challenged moves to control women in the name of their own safety, and to use the fear of rape to justify patriarchal restrictions and surveillance on women’s freedom.
We share the grief and have full empathy with parents and families of victims of violence. It is however important that we continue to place the issue of violence against women and children at the centre of discussions and not “victimhood”. We understand that one instance of sexual violence in a family sometimes takes a toll on the family as a whole and it is years before they can recover. In our struggle against violence we must be aware and ensure that we do not reinforce victimhood and prolong this suffering. They, victims and families need to heal, and their loss and grief must not be publicly paraded.

We stand in solidarity to commemorate the victim of the December 2012 gang rape, as well as all the other known and unknown women and girls who face sexual and other forms of abuse. For us, this is a day that calls upon us to renew our vision of substantive, reformative and reparative justice for victims and survivors of sexual violence, as opposed to retribution against perpetrators. Such justice can only truly be achieved in a society that is both ethical and humane, and in which the survivor and her health and freedom are the focus of the procedures of the criminal justice, medical, and social welfare systems. We condemn the impunity that most often accompanies acts of gender-based violence against women, girls, boys and trans people. We assert their right to equality in the eyes of the law.

• We stand today in hope with millions across the country – and indeed, the world – that justice will prevail in all cases, including the December 2012 case, according to the prevailing laws of the land.

• We state unequivocally that we are against draconian punishments like death penalty or chemical castration.

• We believe in reformative and reparative rather than retributive justice, which gives a chance for people – including juveniles – to change and turn their lives around.

• We reiterate our demand for certainty of justice and not severity of punishment.

• We reject the logic of ‘instant’ vigilante justice and instead seek to strengthen the systems and due processes of justice, to ensure that these work for and not against victims.

• We demand that the Governments at the State and Centre uphold their obligations under the Constitution of India and under international human rights Covenants to guarantee women and girls the right to equality, freedom and justice.

It’s risky simply to be a woman at all!

Uber-Taxi-rape

Kavita Krishnan argues that in the wake of the recent Uber taxi rape in the capital, blaming the survivor of an act of violence has become another brick in the wall of ‘protective’ boundaries that imprison women rather than open up safe spaces

As it usually happens after a much-publicized rape case, there is a flood of attempts to rationalize ‘victim blaming’ i.e. suggesting that the victim also bears some responsibility for the assault since she took unnecessary risks. I am seeing a lot of this commonsensical rationalization of victim blaming as ‘precautions’ on my twitter timeline.

A Congress leader on TV the other day baldly said that the woman herself should not have been drunk and sleepy in the cab. And this self same logic – garden-variety victim blaming – has been repeated in more sophisticated ways by many, including by some who call themselves feminists.

The list of precautions that can, supposedly, keep us safe from rape, are pretty long, endlessly long, in fact.

We should not be drunk in cabs, or fall asleep in cabs. (This implies, of course, that we women should not party at all, or should not drink at parties – since driving while drunk is a risk we all know can kill us and others).

Feminists are being accused of preaching recklessness to women, thereby rendering them vulnerable in a world which is deeply violent and unsafe. The NCW Chairperson, in a similar vein, said recently, that autonomy or ‘aggression’ on part of women in India could render them unsafe and at risk. Sheila Dixit had called the journalist Soumya Vishwanathan (who was murdered) ‘adventurous’ for being out late at night.

Well, what else? It’s risky to go to school, of course, since teachers might molest you there. It’s risky to enter a lift with your boss, since he might molest you. It’s risky to meet an ex-Supreme Court judge in his hotel room for work, since he might molest you. It’s risky to be drunk at a party at a friend’s or colleague’s place and spend the night there instead of taking a cab home, since one might get raped by the friend or colleague.

It’s risky to be a bar dancer or a sex worker – since your work is inherently ‘risky’ and so you can’t expect or demand safety.

It’s risky simply to be a woman at all, anywhere at all, be it at home or at work or on the streets….

The tragic thing is, ALL women, barring none, take precautions, weigh risks, are ‘careful’. Most rape survivors agonise over what they could have done differently to avoid that horror. What is disturbing, though, is the smug way in which rape victims are being lectured about ‘precautions’. Precautions, no matter how many we take, can never keep us entirely safe. And no matter how many precautions you took, if you’re raped, there will always be people to tell you a long list of things YOU could have done differently so as NOT to have been raped.

Remember, this common-sensical concern for safety is what is voiced when women are told by their parents not to choose who they befriend, sleep with, love and marry. “We’ll make the decision for you since you might make a mistake” is what is said. If one’s ‘love’ marriage breaks down, parents sometimes say, “This would not have happened if you had listened to us and not married this guy in the first place.”

What I say is, you can either live your parents’ mistakes, or your own. And surely, one’s own mistakes are infinitely more productive, teaching us, if nothing else, to take responsibility.

Many of the rationalisers of good old-fashioned victim blaming are saying ‘men take precautions too, we teach our boys safety norms too’ and so on.

However, ‘adventurous’ when used for men, is a positive word, has always been. A man I know is very protective of his wife and won’t let her travel anywhere, even in their own city, without a rigorous set of precautions and limits set by him. The same man takes a yearly holiday, all alone, wandering in wild mountainous terrain. Lone travel is a badge of honour for a man.

Drunken men are objects of affectionate celebration in movies. People I love very much have always been concerned about my safety when I travel, which is a lot. Loved ones often tell me, with fear in their heart, not to take an auto from a railway station at 4 am, not to take a walk up a mountainside in Dharmashala, not to travel in an unreserved compartment, not to react or argue if ogled at or molested, not to rush to the rescue if I see someone being beaten up by a mob on the street. I understand, even sympathise with their fears. I feel such fears myself for those I love. But I cannot – cannot – afford to be ruled by those fears. If I did, mine would be a life devoid of the experiences that make me, me.

A life stripped of risk, rigorously regimented by fear, is hardly a ‘life’ in any sense of the term… Not to mention that much of that fear is not just a fear of physical violence, but a fear of loss of respectability, a loss of ‘character’. The latter is a fear men seldom have to feel – it is women’s preserve, and lurks unsaid behind the ‘safety’ regimentation imposed on us by parents, spouses, boyfriends, aunts…

Think about it. Had my parents done what ‘sensible people’ advised them to, I would not have been sent far from home to college. While at college in Mumbai, I would never have taken the risk of walking on curfew restricted, deserted streets with a woman friend, watching the effects of communal violence first hand. I would never have traveled in unreserved compartments – where I have, on occasion, been pawed by army men and felt great fear, but on countless other occasions, experienced the generosity and humanity of random strangers. I would never have attended political meetings during Lok Sabha elections in the city of Banaras, where ‘sensible’ friends had advised me not to go for fear of violence breaking out. I would never have participated in political protests which resulted in me being arrested and jailed.

So, now, when loved ones advise precautions, I listen, lovingly. But I refuse to be ruled by THEIR perception of risk and their fears and curfews set by them. I gauge risk myself, weigh them, and take calculated risks while taking responsibility for MY OWN actions.

Taking responsibility for the risks we take, does not mean that then the State, the police and so on are let off the hook. It does NOT mean accepting responsibility for being raped. (I say this because there are many who will say that though they’re not justifying the rapist’s actions, the woman, rather than the State, bears a share of responsibility.)

The State has a responsibility to imagining and putting in place infrastructure and systems that minimize risks and expand women’s freedoms. Safe, accountable public transport systems are crucial among these. And in case an assault does happen, prompt and accountable police response is as crucial. The State cannot hold women – or in fact any citizens – responsible for ‘their own safety’. It’s simple – it’s the Government’s job to ensure that women should have access to roads, metros, buses, taxis, rickshaws, and toilets – all services that should be safe and accountable.

Of course women could be raped at home too. But that does not mean that we fail to hold a taxi company or a school responsible for ignoring prior complaints against someone and failing to vet their drivers or teachers! And above all, we cannot fail to hold the Govt responsible for failing to regulate taxi services and schools to ensure basic safety norms!

The question we have to be asking Governments is: “What are your plans to ensure that every woman has access to safe, affordable transport with last mile connectivity, 24/7?” Asking women ‘Why were you drunk/asleep/out late at night/dressed skimpily etc etc” is simply a very effective way to avoid making the State accountable.

I am uneasy with women-driven taxis or karate classes and so on being propagated as a solution. Sure, we need women, lots of women, to invade every masculine fortress, and this includes transport of all kinds. I rejoice in women driving cabs’ and buses and tractors. But I do not want the State and various smug busybodies telling women who are raped in a cab, “Why didn’t you take a woman-driven cab? You were careless and so you got raped.”

I know from personal experience that learning martial arts well enough to use it the way you see in films, is not possible for most people! I don’t want women who get molested being told, ‘”It’s your fault, why were you so wimpy that you didn’t learn martial arts?”

I’ll end with a long quote from Why Loiter that puts it all better than I ever could:
“We would like the right to choose to be able to go out at anytime of the day or night or to choose to stay in. In some ways benevolent paternal protection is simple—it lays down the boundaries and all one has to do is skilfully negotiate them. Losing this protection, however conditional, will mean that one is compelled to take decisions and make choices whose outcomes we might have little control over. However, freedom from protection will also mean freedom, not from the male gaze or the threat of physical assault, but from having to consistently manufacture respectability in order to be worthy of protection. The right to risk is unconditional. The right to risk knows no temporality, no codes of conduct and needs no symbolic markers to define ones worthiness. The right to risk chooses freedom over restrictions and seeks freedom from restrictions.

We acknowledge explicitly that with freedom comes responsibility. The demand for the unconditional right to take risks in lieu of protection places the responsibility squarely on women. Our desire then is to replace the un-chosen risk to reputation and the unwanted risk of loss of respectability with a chosen risk of engaging city spaces on our own terms. Yes, there is street harassment, and yes, there is violence against both women and men. The fear of violence in public space is legitimate and cannot be merely wished away. At no point are we ignoring or even minimizing the violence, both sexual and non-sexual, that might potentially take place in the public and lead to physical as well as psychological trauma. Even as we ask for women’s right to engage risk in public space, we do not disregard the responsibility of the state and its mechanisms of law and order in dealing with public violence. Instead, we suggest that they deal very firmly with the aggressors of that violence and not tie up the victims of violence in endless blame games, inane dress codes, and relentless moral policing. The woman who seeks the simple pleasure of a walk by the seaside at night is in no way responsible for an attack against her.

In another world, this would not be a risk, but given that it is a risk in Mumbai, and in several other Indian cities, the least one can expect is unequivocal justice if one is assaulted. The least one can expect is that the assailant be punished without collateral emotional damage to the victim. The least one can expect is to not be held responsible for that violence. The least one can expect is an acknowledgement of one’s right to walk on the beach, stroll on the waterfront, laze in the park without question.

At the same time, however, we also need to recognize another kind of risk: that of loss of opportunity to engage city spaces and the loss of the experience of public spaces should women choose not to access public space more than minimally. By choosing not to access public space without purpose, women not only accept the gendered boundaries of public space, but actually reinforce them. This renders women forever outsiders to public space; always commuters, never possessors of public space.

The right to risk is not merely abstract. From the perspective of the city, it must be mirrored in the provision of infrastructure. While the decision to take certain risks must be chosen, risks must not be thrust upon women by inadequate or miserly planning.

Infrastructure is central to access. The state and the city’s role in the provision of infrastructure like public transport, public toilets and good lighting are integral to the success of the larger claim to public space. Public space, then, does not mean empty space devoid of infrastructure and facilities, but a space that is thoughtfully designed with the intention of maximizing access. Not just functional spaces like train compartments, bus stops and toilets, but also spaces of pleasure like parks and seaside promenades are significant to creating accessible cities. For it is in these spaces that the joy of being in and belonging to the city is shared and communicated.

While we must lobby for an infrastructure that will make it possible for us take risks as citizens, at the same time, the demand for infrastructure that reduces risks should not provide the grounds to indict those who choose to take other kinds of risks not dependent on infrastructure. The presence of well-lit streets in the city should not mean that women found in dark corners should be deemed unrespectable or blamed if they are attacked.

Choosing to take risks in public space undermines a sexist structure where women’s virtue is prized over their desires or agency. Choosing risks foregrounds pleasure, making what is clearly a feminist claim to the city.”

Extract from Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade, New Delhi: Penguin, 2011

Kavita Krishnan is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)

Excuse me, where are your daughters, Gentlemen? – Kamla Bhasin

Kamla- Bhasin-Indian-Feminist

By Team FI

India’s veteran feminist activist Kamla Bhasin delivered the keynote speech at a conference organised by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Berlin on May 22. The conference was part of BMZ’s initiative to launch a new gender equality policy

Excerpts from the keynote address;
Dear Friends,

In the name of Justice, Equality, Human Rights and Peace!

I wish to begin by remembering millions, NO, billions of women and girls who have been discriminated, insulted and violated by Patriarchy over the years, all over the world.

I also wish to remember and salute all our feminist foremothers and forefathers who fought for women’s rights all over the world and on whose shoulders we stand tall today.

It is an honour for me to be standing here and sharing my thoughts and experiences with you. Thank you Dr Mueller and Team, for this honour.

As a feminist activist I agree with everything Dr Mueller, you have just said. Thanks for sharing the highlights of the new Gender Policy of BMZ. I congratulate you and your team for adopting this progressive Policy and for showing your commitment to Justice, Women’s Rights and Sustainable Development by organizing this Conference. I totally agree with you Dr Mueller that without gender equality and women’s rights, no country, no community can progress.

I come from South Asia, which is one of the most patriarchal regions in the world. The women to men ratio has been going down, women’s employment rate in the formal sector has gone down; privatization of essential services has increased the burden of women; there are only 11% women in the new Parliament just elected. I can go on in this vain.

However, unfortunately patriarchy, violence against women and gender discrimination do not exist only in the poor countries. I wish progress and education automatically made us gender equal, but they do not.

There is NO country in the world where patriarchy does not exist. Patriarchy is a global system. It exists everywhere, although in different forms and degrees.

I came to Germany as a 21 year old in 1967 ,that means 47 years ago. I did not expect to see patriarchy in a developed country but I saw it all around. For example I came from Mutterland India but found Vaterland Deutchland here. I came from the land of Mutter Ganga and found Vater Rheine here. I came from the land of many Goddesses but found mainly Der Herr Gott here.

I was quite shocked to see naked women as objects of sex on so many Magazines in every kiosk. Women’s bodies were on sale all around, in a democratic country where on paper men and women were equal.

I found the German language also to be quite patriarchal. An unmarried woman was a Fraulein, or a small woman, even if she was 80 years old. A man was a Herr, married, widower, and unmarried or divorced!!

Women Professors were a rare site at the University. Die Herren haben ueberall geherrscht.

Even after over 200 years of democracy the US has not yet had a woman President. The family lineage continues to go from father to son – Bush senior, Bush Junior. Kennedy Senior Kennedy junior. Excuse me, where are your daughters, Gentlemen?

Look at the family names in Scandinavia. So many of them end with Son. Ericson, Johanson. Noch mal- Wo sind die toechtern, bitte schoen?

The Women’s Movement everywhere has been challenging all this and many things have improved. We had to fight for every little improvement and we had to pay a price for every change.

Friends, the biggest and most brutal war ever is Patriarchy’s violence against women and girls.

According to the UN, one in every three women experiences violence in her life time. This means one billion women are being violated. What is worse is that this war takes place within the home and at the hands of people closest to us. This is domestic terrorism which is global.

The two great Civilizations India and China have killed close to 100 million women and girls because of patriarchal reasons

This has been done using the latest technology and done mainly by educated and well off people!! Millions of women were killed in Europe as witches between the 16th and 18th centuries. The story goes on- millions trafficked, millions forced to undergo genital mutilation, millions sick with anorexia in order to look like Barbie doll, millions raped. As a result of all this, for the first time in human history there are less women than men on this Planet.

A new EU study of March 2014 conducted by Joanna Goodey of the European Fundamental Rights Agency states that one third of the women in the EU i.e. 62 million women, have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Germany is even above average, with 35%. 55% women have experienced sexual harassment, among them 75% women in leadership positions. This clearly reveals that sexualised violence is not a result of economic ‘backwardness”.

I have just been informed that in highly developed Germany women get 22% less wages than men and there are only 3% women in top positions. According to several German feminists, the German rape law needs to be revised urgently and made more effective an in line with the European law.

A German feminist scholar has correctly said that women are the last colony. Their bodies, sexuality, reproductive capacity, labour capacity are still colonised. UNDP Human Development report of 1995 reported that the unpaid household work done by women all over the world is worth 11 Trillion Dollars annually.

The 20 year old ILO statistics have been reconfirmed in 2012 by the World Development Report, which states that women do 66% of all the work done in the world, produce 50% of the food, but receive 10% of the income distributed and own 1% property.

One of the questions raised for this Conference by BMZ team is what the challenges we face for achieving gender equality are. In response I mention three challenges. These challenges can also be called root causes. Friends we cannot correct consequences. We have to remove the causes.

Gender discrimination and violence against women and girls is a consequence of various systems and structures, Patriarchy, Class, Race, and Caste. We need to challenge all of them.

All our present day religions are patriarchal. All of them are started, defined, interpreted and controlled by men. They create, justify and promote patriarchy

If I start chronologically, then I would say Religion is the first challenge. By definition none of them accepts a woman to be a Pope, a Shankracharya, a Dalai Lama etc. In their practice and I think also in their theory they create a hierarchy between men and women. If God is man, then man is God. Because they create this unholy hierarchy between men and women, these religions violate our national Constitutions; they violate UN Human Rights declaration. Yet, many of our political parties, even in Europe, are connected to these religions. Many European governments support Religions directly or indirectly.
The US and the Vatican is amongst the few countries that have NOT ratified CEDAW.

Friends, many of us feminists believe that without challenging patriarchal religions, we cannot achieve our dream of gender equality. So, our left hand has to know what the right hand is doing.

I am encouraged to know that organizations like the World Council of Churches and Bread for the World are challenging these patriarchal biases in the Church.

The second challenge according to me is Capitalist Patriarchy. Today pornography and child pornography are a billion dollar industry. Trafficking of girls and women is a billion dollar industry. Cosmetics are a billion dollar industry. Barbie dolls and guns and supermen and violent computer games are a huge industry. Hollywood, Indian Bollywood and Corporate media are all huge industries. All of them objectify women, make them sexual objects, subservient, and turn men in to macho, aggressive, dominating beings. Therefore, in my opinion, all of them violate our Constitutions and Human Rights Declarations.

The third big challenge is the present economic paradigm being practiced and pushed by the developed world. This paradigm is masculinist and violent in nature. It is based on PURE GREED. It is based on and promotes cut throat competition, dog eat dog attitude. Therefore, It has spread inequalities, destroyed the environment and ecology, marginalized women, indigenous people and economically poor people; it has created large scale unemployment. All this has been said by the UNDP and every other responsible body.

This paradigm cannot, will not allow us to achieve gender equality, women’s rights, justice and sustainable development, about which we are talking this evening. A recent study of the Paritaetischer Wohlfahrtsverband in Germany concludes that despite economic growth and increasing private wealth in Germany the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing and the poverty rate has reached a peak with 15.2%. The Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US said similar things.

If this paradigm and economic system cannot provide jobs and dignity, gender equality, in your countries, how can it do so in our countries?

We have to look in to other issues also like wars and fundamentalism in all religions, not just in Islam, which lead to violence against women and restricted spaces and participation for them despite SC Resolution 1325 etc. The US and EU continue to be actively involved with wars. The main members of the UN Security Council are the biggest producers and sellers of weapons.

Friends, many of us, and also the BMZ, are proposing Mainstreaming Gender. But, as I have shown, there are problems with the Mainstream. This mainstream is MANstream. The mainstream itself is at the root of many problems the BMZ wishes and claims to fight. So, instead of getting absorbed in the mainstream, becoming part of it, we have to challenge many, many parts of it. Are we ready for this?

Mahatma Gandhi knew the problems with the present economic mainstream 80-90 years ago. Once a journalist asked him, Mr. Gandhi, would you like India to have the same standard of living as that of Great Britain? Gandhiji replied, “That tiny country Great Britain had to exploit half the globe to have its standard of living. How many globes will India have to exploit?”

The poor of the world and the progressive Civil Society Organisations also know this. This is why in response to the World Economic Forum; we started the World Social Forum, to demand a pro people, pro women, pro Mother Nature economic and political paradigm. The main slogan of the World Social forum is, Other Worlds are Possible.

This, friends, was the analysis. Now I come to the Solutions and the work we have been doing in India and in South Asia. In ten minutes I will tell you about my 44 years work.

Because patriarchy, neo liberal economic paradigm, conflicts and wars are all global, our struggles for justice, human rights and sustainable development also have to be global

We need global solidarity and partnerships. I am in Berlin with all of you in search of this global solidarity. I am the global co chair of Peace Women across the Globe, an organization which came out of our global campaign called 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize, 2005. I am the South Asian Coordinator of the global campaign called One Billion Rising. We give a lot of importance to global work and solidarity. Next month I will be with Terre des Femmes Switzerland for a five day lecture tour.

We want to link with the Women’s Movement in Germany, but it seems the Movement is not so strong and vibrant anymore. Many women today feel that Feminism is no more needed. I think they are wrong. Patriarchy is still all around us and we have to keep hammering at it.

Today men and boys have to join the movement for gender equality and justice. Men have to understand all the ways in which patriarchy harms them also. Patriarchy does give men privileges and power but it also dehumanizes them, it brutalizes them, it robs them of their gentleness, of their humanity. 40% Indian husbands beat their wives. This means 40% men in India are criminals in the eyes of the law. All men are not rapists, but all rapists are men. About 99% terrorists are men. It is boys and young men in the US, never a young woman, who pick up a gun every few months and go around shooting and killing in schools.

Friends, these boys and men are not born violent. They are born innocent. The society or all of us, give them a gun to play with when they are 2-3. We tell them because they are boys they can do what they like. We tell them boys do not cry, men do not have emotions. We make little boys sit in front of the TV and watch violence for 5-8 hours a day. Systematically we make them aggressive, violent, and dominating. No wonder they find it difficult to have equal relationships with women, to look after children and sick people, to manage their emotions.

In order to do well in the present mainstream, many strong and powerful women are also becoming masculine. This is a dangerous trend. We need to help men become gentle and caring rather than we women becoming power hungry and dominating.

For the last over 15 years I have been doing gender sensitization workshops with men in positions of power and policy making, in NGOs, international NGOs. UN, governments, even Members of Parliament. I have written a book on men and masculinity which has been translated by women’s organizations in 10-12 countries.

A global research also found out that the single most important factor which makes organizations gender sensitive and effective, is the presence of strong and committed feminists.

My main work for the last 44 years has therefore been to develop the capacities of people, to sharpen their analytical skills, to enhance their social skills and emotional intelligence. I have been a trainer/ facilitator all my life.

Friends, my first formal job was with the Deutsche Stiftung fuer Entwicklungszusammanarbeit, in Uhlhof, Bad Honnef, as a Dozent. This was in 1970. DSE is today part of GIZ. I lectured there for 11 months, then resigned and went back to India to work with an NGO in Rajasthan. I worked there for four years with the marginalized people. That is where my real education took place. In 1975 I was invited by FAO of the UN to coordinate a training program for people working for development, justice and rights with NGOS in Asia. Through this work I got to know innovative NGOs all over Asia. Through the trainings I organized we created a network of these NGOs. We documented the work of these NGOs, they learnt from each other; we did advocacy work; we influenced the policies of our governments, UN etc. I worked with the UN for 27 years. In 2002, I resigned from the UN because of differences. Since then I do the same work through an NGO network called Sangat- A South Asian Feminist Network.

Friends, from personal experience I can tell you that it is people’s movements and NGOs who push for changes in official policies. It takes about 20-25 years for us to convince the people in power. Concepts like gender equality, justice and human rights, participatory development, transparency, good governance, all that what is today part of the BMZ policy, are the creations of people’s movements.

I have been organizing one month long feminist capacity building courses for women activists from South Asia for the last 30 years. These courses are for women from the 8 countries of South Asia but now women also come from Iran, Turkey, Sudan, Myanmar, Vietnam etc. This is South- South cooperation. We are dreaming of creating a People’s Union of South Asia.

These courses are in English and we can take no more than 40 women in a course. NGOs demanded that we also do courses in local languages. For the last 7-8 years we organize two week long courses in Hindi for people from India, Nepal and Pakistan; in Bangla for people from Bangladesh and West Bengal in India and in Tamil for people from Tamil Nadu in India and Tamils from Sri Lanka.

These courses provide the basis for networking and cooperation across borders for building solidarity.
Production and distribution of educational materials for NGOs is another important part of our work. I have written many books in question and answer form and in a simple language for activists on issues like patriarchy, gender, men and masculinity, human rights, peace etc. These books have been now translated by NGOS in over 25 languages.

I have also written detailed reports on our innovative training programs so that others can learn from our strengths and mistakes.

For our campaigns and public education we have created audio visual materials. A large number of the economically marginalized people of South Asia are not able to read and write. For them we have been making posters and banners to give the messages visually.

I have been writing songs for the women’s movements and also for other people’s movements. We have made ten music cassettes which have now been turned in to CDs. These songs are sung all over the Hindi /Urdu speaking South Asia. Nothing works like songs. In addition to giving messages they energize and empower, they build bonds of solidarity, they unite us.

Humour has also been very important for me in my work. Because our struggles are going to be very long, we need humour. I have made feminist humour books in Hindi and English. Ohne spass und lachen geht es garnicht.

In addition to doing this South Asian work I am a founder of two national organizations in India and I work quite closely with them. These organizations are Jagori Resource and Training Centre in Delhi and Jagori Rural in Himachal, North India. These organizations work with local communities and also do capacity building and networking within India and produce educational materials in Hindi and English.

Jagori Delhi has pioneered a safe City Campaign in Delhi and we are now taking it to other cities of South Asia. Jagori Delhi was given a prestigious award last year by Roland Berger Foundation, Berlin. My two colleagues were here to receive the award.

Through these organizations we have built the capacities of hundreds of organizations in South Asia.
Friends, because patriarchy is in every institution and it is at every level, we have to work everywhere, work through networking and cooperation. We need feminist writers, poets, film makers; feminist theologians, historians; feminist politicians and bureaucrats. And both women and men can be feminist.

Friends, my work are based on LOVE and FRIENDSHIP. Professionalism should not mean being without emotions and love. To have passion for and in our work we need emotions and we need love. This world needs more love to heal. My main slogan in the One Billion Rising campaign is -Not love of power but Power of Love.

In conclusion, I wish to say that the present wounded world needs a new global ethic. We need to work with both our mind and heart. More than the World economic Forum we need a world ETHIC Forum

In addition to social and ecological reforms humankind urgently needs SPRITUAL RENEWAL.

We need a commitment to a culture of inter-dependence, non violence and respect for life, dignity, freedom and justice for each and every individual and for Mother Nature.

More than dollar and Euro Values we need Human Values.

UN asks India to protect sex workers rights, repeal 377, curb growing violence against women

UN- 2014- India-women- report

UN Special Rapporteur highlights pervasive gender stereotyping in media and community and entrenched patriarchal attitudes in public officials, judicial officers and the police force, as an impediment to curbing violence against women

By Team FI

In an important step towards recognizing sex worker rights in India, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women called on the Indian Government to review the trafficking legislation which criminalizes women in sex work.

The Special Rapporteur, Rashida Manjoo, also urged the government to repeal section 377 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex and amend the new rape law of 2013 – in particular to review the provisions that provide for the death penalty and to include the definition of marital rape as a criminal offence.

The Report on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, Mission to India was submitted to the UN General Assembly in April 2014 and was based on the India mission undertaken by the Special Rapporteur in April 2013. The Special Rapporteur received written submissions and listened to depositions from women’s organizations, networks, affected individuals, and government officials across the length and breadth of India during her visit.

According to the report, the overall conviction rate in India for crimes listed in the Penal Code was 38.5 per cent in 2012, the lowest in 10 years, which was largely due to delays in the finalization of cases. Quoting the National Crimes Records Bureau, the Rapporteur expressed concern over the fact that while conviction rate for crimes against women (21.3%) remained low while a 24.7 % increase was recorded in the reports of crimes against women after 2008. The proportion of registered cases of crimes committed against women vis-à-vis crimes in total increased from 8.9 per cent in 2008 to 10.2 per cent in 2012. As per the report, “the low conviction rate and the higher number of cases registered will not act as a deterrent for future crimes against women, nor will it engender trust in the judicial system.”

The Special Rapporteur also raised concern about the deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes of police officers, prosecutors, judicial officers and other relevant civil servants, with regard to the handling of cases of violence against women noted that the “persistence of harmful practices, pervasive gender stereotypes and deeply entrenched patriarchal social and cultural norms is of serious concern.”

The Special Rapporteur stated that it also received reports indicating that the legal basis of the National Commission for Women is not in accordance with international standards; that the institution lacks foundational, functional, operational, political and financial independence. The report also stated that there a “number of allegations highlighted the Commission’s inability to deal with complaints effectively and undertake independent investigations into violations of women’s rights.”

The report is also deeply concerned about the prevalence of dowry-related practices throughout the country and the increasing number violence and deaths related to dowry payment.

Violence against Sex workers
For perhaps the first time, the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, underscored the need to address the violence faced within sex work from state and non – state actors and the lack of avenues for legal redress. It notes that sex workers in India are “exposed to a range of abuse including physical attacks, and harassment by clients, family members, the community and State authorities”.

It further states that “sex workers are forcibly detained and rehabilitated and consistently lack legal protection”; and that they “face challenges in gaining access to essential health services, including for treatment for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases”.

Violence against minority women
Commenting on violence faced by women belong to minority communities, the report stated that impunity for crimes relating to communal violence is “the norm”. The recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women relating to the Gujarat massacre have not been fully addressed as yet. Moreover, the draft Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill has been pending in Parliament for over eight years; despite the necessity for such a law.

The report has also urged the government to Repeal, as a matter of urgency, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and ensure that criminal prosecution of members of the Armed Forces is free from legal barriers.

Main observations made by the Special Rapporteur
Violence against women in India is systematic and occurs in the public and private spheres. Women are discriminated against and subordinated not only on the basis of sex, but on other grounds, such as caste, class, ability, sexual orientation, tradition and other realities. The manifestations of violence against women are a reflection of the structural and institutional inequality that is a reality for most women in India.

Sexual violence

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2012, 2.84 cases of rape were reported every hour. Many interlocutors stated that there was a general sense of insecurity for women in public spaces, especially in urban settings. Women are easy targets of attacks, including sexual violence, whether while using public transportation or sanitation facilities or on the way to collect wood and water.

Civil and political rights
In terms of women’s participation in parliaments, India stands at 111 out of 188 States as per the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The proportion of female judges is very low. At the local level, there have been numerous allegations of abuse of authority by and patriarchal attitudes of women elected to Gram Panchayats (whether by choice or through coercive influences) and of abuse by community leaders, including members of the illegal informal courts of the Khap Panchayats.

The Special Rapporteur stated that she could not engage directly with Gram Panchayats despite her requests.

Violence against women in the family

The physical, sexual and psychological abuse of women in the private sphere is widely tolerated by the State and the community. The perpetrators include husbands, in-laws and other family members. The widespread socioeconomic dependency of women subordinates them to their husbands and other family members. The fear of social exclusion and marginalization, and the lack of effective responses to violence, keeps them in a context of continuous violence and intimidation. The report also noted the prevalence of honour crimes in the country.

As per National Crime Records Bureau there is also an alarming increase in violence and killings linked to dowry payments – as reported under the Dowry Prohibition Act since 2008 and a significant increase in such crimes since 2010. Concerns about the lack of effective implementation of the law were noted.

Sex ratio
Research has documented a trend of declining girl-child sex ratio from 962 per 1,000 males in 1981, to 945 in 1991, to 927 in 2001, to 914 in 2011. Patriarchal norms and socioeconomic factors have reportedly fuelled the decline. The desire for sons has led to a “policing” of pregnancies by spouses and families through prenatal monitoring systems. The results can lead to sex-selective abortions, which are often forced on women in violation of their sexual and reproductive rights. Despite specific legislation to address this problem, including stringent measures in case of contravention, there is a continuing prevalence of sex-selection practices in some states.


Early marriage and forced marriage

With regard to early and/or forced marriages, the implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 has resulted in some reduction in the overall percentage of early marriages. However, there are significant gaps in the legislation, particularly in the Penal Code, whereby child marriages are allowed through the practice of declaring them voidable, not void.

Caste-based violence
Dalit and Adivasi women and women from other scheduled castes and tribes and other “backward classes” are frequent victims of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as violence. The intergenerational nature of caste-based discrimination condemns women to a life of exclusion, marginalization and disadvantage in every sphere of life. Many of those women are denied an education and economic opportunities, and perform dangerous and unprotected work, including bonded labour (debt bondage) and manual scavenging, which are both widely regarded as forms of forced labour and modern forms of slavery.

Communal violence
Numerous testimonies shared on recurrent episodes of communal violence against religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians; reflect a deep sense of insecurity and trauma of women living in those communities. Experiences included women being stripped, burned, attacked with objects inserted into their vaginas and sexually assaulted in myriad ways because of their religious identity.

It was reported that perpetrators of those crimes usually held positions of authority and often went unpunished. Further, those minorities are allegedly excluded from access to education, employment and adequate housing on equal terms with other citizens, despite the existence of affirmative action schemes and measures by the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the National Commission for Minorities.

Women with disabilities
Women with disabilities face multiple challenges, including, for example, the lack of adequate access to public spaces, utilities and buildings, and often experience harassment in public. The Special Rapporteur was informed of violence perpetrated against women with disabilities in State-sponsored shelters.

Lesbian and Transgender women
Section 377 of the Penal Code criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature”. This particularly affects the protection rights of lesbian and transgender women and has been used by parents as an excuse to prevent homosexuality in their families. The mere perception of different sexual orientation is sufficient to put people at risk of violence and is a contributory factor to the inability of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community to report cases of violence.

Sex workers
Sex workers are exposed to a range of abuse, including physical attacks and harassment by clients, family members, the community and State authorities. Many sex workers are forcibly detained and rehabilitated, and they also face a consistent lack of legal protection. Many face challenges in gaining access to essential health services, including for treatment for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. A recent order of the Supreme Court of India took the position that a sex worker engaged in such work to survive and was “not leading a life of dignity”. The Special Rapporteur noted a tendency to conflate sex work with trafficking in persons, and when sex workers are identified as victims of trafficking, the assistance that is provided to them is not targeted to their specific needs.

Trafficking of women and girls
The trafficking of women and girls from, and to, India was reported as widespread. Disadvantaged women from minority groups, scheduled castes and tribes and the “backward castes” are usually the main victims. Women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution are left unable to defend their rights, and lack access to rehabilitation and compensation for such crimes. This lack of protection and prioritization of the problem by the State has intensified the violence perpetrated against them by criminals or those involved in trafficking practices.

The complicity of State officials in human trafficking was also reported as a concern. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and its amendments are reportedly more directed at safeguarding public moral than combating trafficking in line with the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Widows
Widows also face particular vulnerabilities, as they are often denied and dispossessed of property by their in-laws following the death of a spouse. In addition, social exclusion and poverty lead some widows to engage in sex work and prostitution, and their children to perform hazardous labour or beg on the streets.

Forced evictions
The State’s efforts to foster economic growth and implement development projects are allegedly often conducted without adequate consultations with affected communities, with the sole objective being one of economic growth at any cost.

The consequences for women include being forced to live in insecure environments, displacement; the degradation of their environment, the loss of land and livelihoods and forcible evictions. Many victims are left without adequate relocation alternatives, forcing them to live in slums or on the streets.

Witch-hunting

The Special Rapporteur was informed of brutal acts of violence against women, including executions, commonly referred to as “witch-hunting”. The stigma that is attached to women, who are labeled a “witch”, and the rejection they experience within their communities, leads to various violations and is an obstacle to gaining access to justice. Such labeling affects family members across generations. There is reportedly little or no official investigation into such violations.

Violence condoned or perpetrated by the State
Women living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public.

Information received through both written and oral testimonies highlighted the use of mass rape, allegedly by members of the State security forces, as well as acts of enforced disappearance, killings and acts of torture and ill-treatment, which were used to intimidate and to counteract political opposition and insurgency. Testimonies also highlight the impact of that situation on women’s health, including psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, fear psychosis and severe anxiety, with such conditions having a negative impact on women’s physical well-being.

Additionally, the freedoms of movement, association and peaceful assembly are frequently restricted. The specific legal framework that governs those areas, namely, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and its variations, allows for the overriding of due process rights and nurtures a climate of impunity and a culture of both fear and resistance by citizens.

Custodial violence
In 2012 there were 20 women’s prisons and 21 centres for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Furthermore there are rehabilitation centres for sex workers. Women account for 4.4 per cent of all inmates in the country. Women prisoners are scattered across the country, often in violation of international standards aimed at ensuring that those wishing to maintain family relationships during custody can do so. Concerns were raised about a lack of adequate protective measures to ensure the safety of inmates, including from gender-related killings. In 2012, 55 deaths of female inmates were registered, of which eight were suicides.

Fair trial rights

Fair trial rights, equality before the law and equal protection of the law were affected by numerous challenges, beginning with the reporting of cases of violence against women to the police. Many interlocutors said that victims were often discouraged from reporting to the police and that many women did not file a complaint owing to fear of reprisals or lack of guarantees of adequate shelter and access to livelihoods. Informal dispute settlement alternatives are often sought, allegedly by police, family members or community leaders. Many interlocutors described the complete or partial absence of legal, housing, security and financial assistance measures for victims. To be able to officially report complaints and continue throughout the often lengthy judicial process in safety and with an adequate standard of living is not an option for many women.

The Special Rapporteur received information indicating that human rights defenders, including women’s organizations, face numerous challenges, including harassment, intimidation and reprisals. Those concerns echo the findings contained in the 2011 report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Profit-oriented microfinance institutions
The Special Rapporteur noted concerns with regard to profit-oriented microfinance institutions involving microfinance products for women, and the failure of the State to protect and prevent abuses. Vulnerable women reportedly receive multiple loans and are sold financial products with little or no information, and the unequal bargaining power between such institutions and clients is not addressed by regulation.

Such practices result in over-indebtedness and the inability to pay back, which leads to harassment and threats and women being excluded from their families and communities. Some have reportedly committed suicide as a result of such abuse. It is unclear if the larger problem is a lack of, or inadequate, regulation of microfinance institutions.

Domestic workers
Women employed as domestic workers are often irregular migrants and unregistered women who operate in a poorly regulated labour market and who are usually considered as belonging to the bottom of a social class. They become easy targets for abusive employers, who force them to work long hours in return for low salaries and often deduct amounts for leave days taken. Many are prevented from using the employer’s sanitary facilities and are forced to defecate and bathe in public, and are subjected to various forms of harassment and violence.

Violence against women in the transnational sphere
Many women refugees and asylum seekers are unskilled workers who often perform hazardous labour in urban and informal settings. While access to education and health care is provided for free by the Government, access to livelihoods is still a challenge, particularly in urban or semi-urban areas. Many of those women earn low wages and are forced to live in small and overcrowded apartments, with a lack of access to basic sanitation in less developed urban settings. Such factors contribute to poor health conditions and other vulnerabilities.

Language barriers often impede their ability to gain access to health care, education and the justice system. Despite improvements in criminal law and police procedures, women refugees and asylum seekers continue to voice safety concerns, as they are frequent targets of attacks and harassment by employers, landlords and community members in public and private spheres.

Economic rights and the right to development

Economic development focus for women remains one of subsistence and does not necessarily take into account, or address sufficiently, the gendered and class nature of systemic and structural inequality and discrimination.

Whereas the participation of all citizens in the economy is considerable, women’s labour force participation is significantly lower, at 25.7 per cent, as compared to men at 77.4 per cent. An International Labour Organization source indicates that the participation of women in the workforce fell from 37.3 per cent in 2004/05 to 29.0 per cent in 2009/10.

While job opportunities for women are in decline, women were found to be in precarious jobs requiring low skills and offering low and unequal wages. Daily earnings for women in recent decades has been comparatively lower than those of men in virtually all sectors

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
Legal measures have been instituted to address sexual harassment in the workplace. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 defines sexual harassment comprehensively and is largely in line with the 1997 Vishaka judgment. It provides for complaints committees in all workplaces employing at least 10 persons. Moreover, while penalties are prescribed in the event of a false or malicious complaint, the Act seeks to prevent the revictimization of victims who are unable to provide adequate proof or substantiate a complaint.

Social and cultural rights
Pervasive gender stereotyping, whether in the media, in the community or in discourses by public officials, was highlighted as an impediment to women’s development. The pervasive culture of denigrating and marginalizing women’s perspectives, concerns and also their identity was an issue that was raised by several interlocutors. Concerns were also raised about the resulting impact on the social standing of women. According to official data, between 2011 and 2012 the number of cases involving insult to the modesty of women increased by 7 per cent.

In 1986, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act was enacted to prohibit indecent representation in advertisements, publications, writings and paintings or in any other manner. New amendments have been proposed to include new forms of communication, to strengthen penalties and to provide for preventive measures. No official information was shared as to accountability measures to address the continuing occurrence of such stereotyping by either State or non-State actors.

State’s obligation to eliminate violence against women
States are required to exercise due diligence to prevent and respond to all acts of violence against women. A comprehensive system of prevention and protection, with real prospects of mitigating harm, altering outcomes and ensuring accountability, must be the norm.

National Commission for Women
The legal basis of the National Commission for Women is not in accordance with international standards; that the institution lacks foundational, functional, operational, political and financial independence; and that the Commission is generally unable to adapt to the evolving and transformative demands of the human rights of women.

According to section 3 of the National Commission for Women Act, 1990, the Commission’s composition is determined by the central Government. A number of allegations highlighted the Commission’s inability to deal with complaints effectively and undertake independent investigations into violations of women’s rights. Reports also reflect the Commission’s failure to address the causes and consequences of violence against women, including, for example, by finding that no particular religious group was targeted during the 2002 Gujarat massacre; by consistently justifying sexual assault on women as a result of “provocative dressing”; by its inability, over many years, to promote much needed law reform; and by denying reports of sexual violence by security forces, including in regions governed by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts.

Domestic Violence

The lack of implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was a concern often raised. Under the Act, women victims require the assistance of a protection officer to lodge a complaint and to file a domestic incident report. The recruitment and deployment of protection officers in the country is limited; they often work part-time and lack the resources to assist victims to file complaints. For instance, in the State of Rajasthan, with a population including approximately 27 million women, there are only 607 designated protection officers and 118 organizations registered as service providers.

A year after Delhi gang rape

Anti-rape-protest-India

By Team FI

As as per figures by the Delhi Government, 1,330 cases of rape were recorded in the capital city until October this year compared to 706 in 2012 while molestation cases have gone up from 727 to 2844. Only one case that of the Delhi gang rape, has resulted in conviction

On December 16, 2012, six men brutally assaulted and raped a young woman in the capital of India, Delhi. Her story invoked national shame and evoked outrage across the country. Protests broke out and the streets of Delhi were shut down as students, men, and women took to the streets.

Fifteen days later, six fast-track courts were set up to deal with cases of sexual assault.

On January 23, 2013, exactly a month after it was constituted the Justice Verma Commission (headed by the late Justice J S Verma, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with the other two members being Justice Leila Seth, former judge of the High Court and Gopal Subramanium, former Solicitor General of India) submitted its recommendations regarding amendments to the Criminal Law. The recommendations were drafted after extensive consultations with women and human rights groups in the country and suggestions from the public.

Among others, the recommendations stated rape and sexual assault were an expression of power and rape should include any non-consensual penetration of a sexual nature. The exception to marital rape in the IPC (the IPC considered intercourse without consent as rape except within a marriage) should be removed. While the former recommendations were present in the Criminal Law Amendments Bill, 2013, passed in April 2013, which amended the Indian Penal Code (IPC) the latter of marital rape was not.

It recommended that non-penetrative sexual contact be considered as sexual assault and that sexual gratification as a motive need not be prerequisite as proof of offence and the act be punishable with 5 years of imprisonment. Rejecting the death penalty as not good enough a deterrent to serious crimes, it recommended life imprisonment for rape. The Criminal Law Amendments however provides for death penalty in the “rarest of rare” cases. The Bill also criminalised offences like causing grievous hurt through acid attack, sexual harassment, use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism and stalking.

Sections inserted after section 166 of the Penal Code, stated that (166A). if a public servant “knowingly disobeys” the law and fails to record FIR under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, they shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.

In September 2013, four of the rapists Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta were found guilty and sentenced to death. Earlier in March, one of the accused Ram Singh was found dead in his cell in prison. In August, another of the accused was given the maximum sentence according to his minor status which was three years in a reform facility.

The year 2013 ends with two high profile cases, a case of rape registered against Tarun Tejpal, of Tehelka magazine based on the complaint of a junior employee and of sexual harassment against former justice A K Ganguly based on the complaint of an intern. As of date women groups are demanding that the Prime Minister that Ganguly be removed from the position of themselves Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. Tejpal is in police custody.

The fact remains however that as per figures submitted to the Supreme Court by the Delhi Government in October this year 1,330 cases of rape were recorded in the capital city until October 15, 2013 as compared to 706 in 2012 while molestation cases have gone up from 727 to 2844. Only one case that of the Delhi gang rape (Nirbhaya), has resulted in conviction.

Four inquiries were conducted by Delhi police of the recorded 501 allegations of harassment and 64 of rape between 16 December 2012 and 4 January 2013. As of September 2013, 1,090 sexual offence cases are still pending in various courts here as the fast track courts are reeling with the number of registered cases.

Last year 24,923 cases of rape were registered in the country, and as per media reports quoting sources within the National Crime Record Bureau, the figures are going to rise further this year.

Even as the nation was protesting the Delhi gang rape, a young woman was gang raped in Haryana, and her case was not registered for nearly fifteen days. Six months later, submitted to harassment by the police and authorities, she committed suicide. Her’s is not a lone case, police indifference and apathy are common especially in rural areas and cases of offence against women from the marginalised sections of the society.

In Kerala, over 482 rape cases were recorded just in the first three months of the year. A young adivasi policewoman in Jharkhand was gang-raped while accompanying her family members carrying the dead body of her sister. According to the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2012, Assam tops the rate of cognizable crimes against women in India in 2012 at 89.54%. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and the North Eastern Network recently issue a press release expressing concern regarding the severity of violence against women in the state.

West Bengal, according to data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau, has continuously recorded the 2nd highest incidents of rape in India, for the last seven years (2004-2010). Between, 2006-2010, the incidents of rape across the country increased by 15 per cent but increased by 34 per cent, in West Bengal. A victim of rape in Baranagar, WB, died of internal bleeding because of the callousness of the police and the administration. In another case, in Falta, the police initially refused to record the victim’s complaint but the Calcutta High Court Orders forced the Falta police to investigate the allegation. A 37-year-old woman was raped at gunpoint in a moving car in Kolkata on the night of 5th February in 2012 after accepting a lift from the accused. The chief minister had dismissed the victim stating the complaint was “cooked up”.

Earlier this month women groups in Delhi submitted their six-point ‘womanifesto’ – 1. Educate everyone, 2. Make laws count 3. Make police more responsive 4. Set up faster, competent courts, 5. Create support to survivors 6. Safe streets, safe city. This manifesto was submitted to the candidates in the recently held Delhi elections with the demand that they commit to it enforcing it with one year.

One could hope that such a manifesto be adopted on the national level which would be the first step towards dismantling the misogynistic, patriarchal societal norms that is prevalent in society, and its judicial, legislative and executive branches of government.

Violence against women: Need for reforms in Assam police machinery

Assam-violence-against-women

The stark rise in cases of sexual violence and harassment in Assam have placed women in vulnerable positions within public spaces

By North East Network

Violence against women in the north eastern state of Assam has become a cause for severe concern. A stark rise in cases of sexual violence and harassment, even in the form of leering and taunting, leave women in vulnerable positions within public spaces.

The G. S. Road incident where a young woman was molested on a busy road by a large number of men a year and half ago, the Azara case in which two young women were found dead after being dumped from a Taxi, or the recent case of assault and murder of the woman in Lakhimpur, and many other such incidents reflect on severity of violence against women in the state.

What surprises us is the absolute lack of state response to the above. We are aware that the enforcement authorities have their hands full, though, the initiative to act promptly is wanting. North East Network (NEN) would like to share the statement below, which has been issued by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). NEN has worked with CHRI for many years to raise civil society consciousness and increase police accountability and reforms. In this brief statement they have very lucidly stated some of the major issues of violence and the functioning of police machineries in Assam.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative is disturbed at the alleged gang-rape and murder of a woman in Lakhimpur district of Assam. The woman died due to her severe injuries. This incident, coming close on the heels of the anniversary of the Nirbhaya gang-rape of 2012, has created an outcry amongst the people who are calling for strict punishment for the perpetrators.

Maja Daruwala, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative says, “The police are required to prevent and detect crime and ensure a safe environment in which everyone can go about their everyday business. The facts below on policing highlight that there is a shortfall in numbers and capabilities and detection facilities in Assam. It is difficult to expect the police to prevent and detect crime in these circumstances. If this state of affairs continues, no amount of task forces and action plans for women’s safety will be able to ensure the safety of women”.

Facts on Assam
• According to the NCRB report of 2012, Assam tops the rate of cognizable crimes against women in India in 2012 at 89.54%.

• A 2012-2013 Survey of 1000 women by the North East Network shows 70 percent of women in Guwahati feel unsafe. This is primarily due to the lack of an effective/visible police force in the city.

• Number of all-women police stations in Assam – 1

• The proportion to police to population in Assam is 188:100,000 that is 188 policemen per lakh population. The UN standard for police to population ratio is 222:100,000)

• The sanctioned strength and actual strength in Assam Civil Police and women in Civil Police provided in the table below show vacancies that need to be filled.

Vacancies in Assam Police

Civil Police (including District armed police) as on 31.12.2012; Sanctioned:32188 – Actual:22292 – Vacancy:9896

Women in Civil Police (including District Armed Police) as on 31.12.2012; Sanctioned:587 - Actual:353 – Vacancy:234

Assam has only 1 forensics laboratory for the whole state

Actions promised by the Assam government on Women’s safety
1. Directions by the Government of Assam, September 2013:
- Home department directed to prepare an Action Plan on how to prevent and control crimes against women
- State police asked to identify areas prone to violence against women and take necessary steps

2. Task Force on Women’s Safety
The Assam government set up a Task Force headed by Additional Director General of Police (CID), Mukesh Sahay to look into patterns of crimes against women. It came out with several recommendations in its report submitted to the government on 20 September 2013. These include:
- Women’s cell to be set up in every police station
- Establishment of fast-track court to try women-related crimes in each district
- Establishment of a crisis intervention center in every district
- Establishment of an anti-human trafficking unit for every district

Women journalists’ body condemns Mumbai gangrape

Mumbai gangrape suspects

The Network of Women in Media, India, condemning the gangrape of a photo-journalist in Mumbai, has demanded safety for women media professionals

By Team FI

The Network of Women in Media, India, (NWMI) has strongly condemned the gangrape of a woman journalist on August 22, when she was on assignment for a print magazine. The press release, issued by the organisation has called for a speedy police investigation and demanded that justice is delivered without delay.

The women journalist and her male colleague were at the Shakti Mill Compound in the Lower Parel area in Mumbai when they were accosted by a group of men. The journalists were asked to show their authorisation for their presence in the compound. Using this pretext, the woman journalist was taken aside, her colleague was tied up and five persons committed the assault. The NWM credits the presence of mind of the woman journalist who not only freed herself but also managed to free her colleague. The two then filed a complaint with the Mumbai NM Joshi Marg Police Station. The journalist is in a city hospital and is reported to be stable.

The NWMI press release exhorted media employers to “desist from introducing restrictions on work assignments for women journalists and instead ensure the safety and security of their staff.” It also cautioned its colleagues to report on the matter with sensitivity and responsibly.

Pointing out that the incident is a grim reminder of the deteriorating state of safety for women across the country, NWM called attention to the increasing harassment of women professionals in the media, “Along with work-place related harassment, journalists also have had to contend with anti-women prejudices and biased reactions from employers as well as law enforcement officers,” stated the press release.

Mumbai Press Club issues statement
According to a press release issued by a delegation of organisations including the Press Club and Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh the Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh had stated that one person had been arrested and the rest identified and expected to be apprehended soon. The said organisations had also held a protest rally yesterday condemning the incident. The Bombay News Photographers Association and the Working News Cameramen’s Association have also condemned the incident.

Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau show an 11 percent rise in sexual assault cases in Mumbai, from 553 in 2011 to 614 in 2012. The city also showed a 45 percent rise in sexual harassment cases in 2012 with 235 cases of sexual harassment in 2012 as compared to 162 in 2011. Cases of rape in Mumbai rose at a rate of 5 percent in 2012. The 232 cases put the city second in terms of reported rapes, behind Delhi, which saw 585 cases in 2012.

Featured Photo: Composite sketches of the accused released by Mumbai police on Friday

Loving “her” to death

violence against indian women


Patriarchy is responding to the increasing individuation of women with newer forms of misogyny, even as it continues its age old practice of socially sanctioning violent male sexuality

By Janaki Nair

A grisly attack on a young woman student and the violent suicide of a “spurned” boyfriend has shocked and alarmed the campus community at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Long believed to be a small “republic” where few of the violent hierarchies that are the staple of Indian life prevail, and where the everyday brutalities of the national capital region have largely been kept at bay, the shattered peace calls for confronting some painful truths, of which such grotesque violence is only a symptom.

What does such acts of senseless violence reveal about the speed and direction of the bewildering changes in our social life, for which even higher education in one of India’s most prestigious universities does not prepare us, and to which it is not immune? And how do we prepare realistically for an increase in the rise of such violence, where aspirations are not matched by opportunities?

There are at least three levels on which such changes are occurring. For at least two decades, we have witnessed newer forms of misogyny that keep pace with the increasing individuation of Indian women. This has been difficult for not only men but for some women to accept.

There is the violence with which women are reinserted into official kinship relations of which the khap panchayat is the most visible reminder: men continue to be well served by this “symbolics of blood” much more than women. As student bodies are changing, with higher and higher proportions of hitherto underprivileged castes and groups, including women, seeking higher education, the hypervisibility of women from all backgrounds who control their destiny – intellectual, financial, political, sexual — is too much for some sections to bear. Class differences combine in important ways with differences based on region, language and caste, and have already been the cause of much tension in campuses such as JNU.

More important are the ways in which young men feel entitled to “love” women to death: our contemporary visual culture is saturated with messages that teach us, over and over again, that sexualized violence and violent male sexuality is normal. Love is unidirectional, declared by men, and succumbed to or accepted by women. Pre-marital love between Indians can blossom, but only on the distant shores of Australia, as in Salaam Namaste, which was set in worlds beyond the reach of parents and neighbours, litigants and agitators on behalf of female chastity and “honour”. The stain on national honour by the arrival of a love-child in Salaam Namaste was prevented by the timely production of a ring by the hero, and birthing squalls came safely after the legal bond, and conjugality was saved among Antipodean Indians.

No such luck, it appears, attends the lives of real life heroines. They are often loved to death by men who, once spurned, wield the axe, knife or acid bottle with great skill on their “loves”. Indian cinema has carefully nurtured this version of loving, a unidirectional flow of feeling from man to woman, whose outcomes are always predictable. In one Malayalam film, a police officer (Mohanlal) shackled the woman he “loved” to a tree and compelled her to say the three little words. Vishnuvardhan, the Kannada actor, playfully whipped his heroines into submission, and on the rare occasion when the filmic narrative called for Rajnikanth to be slapped by a woman (Chandramukhi), the hero’s honour was recouped on the streets by his angry fans.

Real women are a different matter. Many new entrants to the university system who come from a very wide variety of socio economic backgrounds, envy and fear the economic and social independence of women, themselves often from Dalit and OBC communities. They are a major threat to social life and civility as it has long been defined by men. Ironically, there are women fellowship holders on our campus who have become the new victims of the preying male, when the latter depend on them financially for years, but eventually leave them in the lurch (and several lakhs poorer). In addition to these new forms that a renewed patriarchy is taking are many features of the old ones: the entitlement that upper castes feel they have to lower caste female bodies, of dominant communities to minority women, of men who throng the repressive state apparatuses of army and police to those who they purportedly protect, and last but not least, of male faculty to their female students.

To make sense of the near pornographic performance of violence by the male student, we must ask, from what has this self destruction emerged? Even as our youngsters are adept consumers of goods of every shape and description, and there is relentless pressure to acquire as much and as quickly as possible, they have become most vulnerable at an emotional level.

An unprecedented brittleness is everywhere evident – in the excessive (and new) dependence on faculty; in the inability to face and accept the hard knocks that life sometimes deals us, whether in the form of low grades or unrequited love; in the loneliness to which the new consumerism condemns us — for which there appears to be no immediate succor. This is in inverse proportion to the precocious and promiscuous handling of objects from a young age – mobile phones and computers at the age of 12. Our young are increasingly unable to deal with the heaves and shoves of our monstrous society.

Leaning too heavily on securitization or the law alone is dangerously inadequate. What is needed most urgently is the building of a new civility by men and women, of lower and upper castes and classes, of urban and rural areas. The new civility must reveal that the social and economic independence of women is not always at the expense of lower class male prospects, that women are no longer the playthings that invite possession rather than respect. This new civility will be seriously challenged in the one sphere where the individualities of women have been celebrated, namely the market, turning women’s, or anyone’s, independence into a freedom to consume, and to be consumed.

To overturn such newly entrenched and older ideologies is no easy task, and calls for nothing short of a revolution. We may take heart in what caste movements in India have achieved over the past three decades, making discriminatory speech, actions or beliefs in the public sphere more difficult (though not yet impossible). At the same time, women are made the ground for new forms of assertion. A completely new gender and caste just civility must be the goal, which will make our campuses, and indeed the country, safer and less threatening for women.

Janaki Nair teaches History at Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, New Delhi

Woman journalist harassed online, TN Police apathetic

online abuse

Upset women journalists ask Chief Minister Jayalalitha to intervene in the case

By Team FI

An association of women journalists in India has written a letter to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J. Jayalalitha, calling her attention to the online harassment of a Chennai based woman journalist, Kavin Malar.

According to the letter issued by Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), Kavin Malar, a journalist with India Today, has been subjected to character assassination and abusive messages on Facebook for over a month by one Mr Kishore K Swamy. The letter states that Swamy, a self-proclaimed AIADMK supporter, is “repeatedly posting abusive messages on Facebook targeting Kavin Malar’s professional work, her personal character and wilfully attempting to malign her reputation in society as well as in the media.”

The letter alleges that the Chennai police has not taken any action on the complaint filed on May 13, 2013, beyond calling Kavin for an enquiry.

Kishore K Swamy, a self-proclaimed AIADMK supporter is said be a habitual online harasser who particularly targets women journalists- Photo courtesy: Facebook

Kishore K Swamy, a self-proclaimed AIADMK supporter is said be a habitual online harasser who particularly targets women journalists- Photo courtesy: Facebook

Kavin told FeminsitsIndia that she suspects Swamy has chosen to target her primarily because she is a woman and also because she has written often on Dalit issues. According to Kavin, the abuse began soon after her visit to Marakkanam, a small town near Chennai to report on an incident of caste violence that took place in April this year. Soon after, Swamy began posting abusive comments against her on his Facebook wall. Swamy alleged that Kavin used a criminal’s vehicle to travel to Marakkanam and then went to a nearby luxurious bungalow to have sex and smoke cannabis.

“This man writes that I have connection with a criminal, whose name I have not even heard before. He accuses me of traveling to Marakkanam in this criminal’s car. Is India Today not capable of arranging a cab to its employee? He is writing almost daily about me in obscene language. These abuses are too personal and he is intruding into my personal life,” says Kavin.

Online harassment against women is on the rise in India. Earlier this year, in April, activist Kavita Krishnan was threatened with rape during a discussion on the anti-rape movement in India on an online chat forum organised by Rediff.com, a leading Indian news portal. In 2012, Meena Kandasamy, a young poet, was subjected to a violent hate campaign on Twitter which also called for her gang rape. This was in reaction to her supporting Dalit students at a beef eating festival in Hyderabad last year.