Punish Rapists without Consideration of Identity. No Double standards. No Communalisation. No death Penalty. Make Homes, Public Places and Work Places Free from Sexual Harassments
Radical Socialist Statement on Recent Rapes
Despite the tall claims of the politicians, two rape cases have in the past few days highlighted the stark reality that even after six months of the notorious Delhi bus rape case, nothing has changed for women. In Delhi, the Godman, Asaram Bapu, was accused by parents of a 16 year old girl that she had been raped by him in his Jodhpur Ashram, in Rajasthan. Given his high profile identity, Rajasthan police first stepped very gingerly, while the BJP immediately went on the offensive, claiming that he was a “saint”, and the charge was motivated by the UPA because he has attacked Sonia Gandhi. Thus, in typical display of power, a rape charge became a matter of power politics. According to the latest news, Jodhpur police have decided to drop the charges of rape while keeping the charges of sexual assault, against him, while Bapu compared himself to the Buddha.
In sharp contrast, the gang rape in Mumbai of a photojournalist has been followed by prompt police action. Yet, what was so terrible was that this 22 year old young woman, on an assignment from a magazine, had gone to take pictures in the abandoned Shakti Mills compound on 22 August, accompanied by a male colleague, and was accosted by a group of men, who passed obscene remarks, and on that being protested, attacked them, tied up her male friend, and gang raped and beat her with beer bottles till she fell unconscious. When she regained consciousness, she untied her friend, and they went to Jaslok Hospital, where doctors called on the police. An FIR was registered, and the next morning sketches of the accused were issued. All the five persons have been arrested.
The alacrity with which the Mumbai police have moved in this case, due to public pressure and wide scale protests, is commendable. However, the fact that such incidents are occurring everywhere in India and even though on paper the government is committed to take actions against rapes, the state machinery does not move swiftly, indicating the complete disregard for the fundamental rights of women. In this particular case, the woman was trying to pursue a professional assignment. Such violence is both a torture and trauma inflicted on her, and a blow against all women and their equal right to mobility at any time and any place, to work.
The harassment of women professionals in the media among other professions is rising rapidly along with work-place related sexual harassment, most women have had to work in sexist atmosphere and are exposed to biased reactions from employers and colleagues and contractors. This was clearly observed by the Supreme Court of India in the Vishakha Judgement [writ petition criminal Nos. 666 – 70 of 1992, Vishakha & Ors. Vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors.]. However ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“Sexual Harassment Act“), passed by the Indian Parliament due to consistent pressure by the women’s group, is yet to be implemented.
We demand that government, police and employers everywhere take the responsibility of ensuring that everyone has the right to pursue work of her/his choice, and that attacks on such rights are under all circumstances opposed and where such attacks involve in any form a breach of law, duly punished.
At the same time, the fact that Raj Thackeray has come out with a statement that the rapists were Bangladeshis is a deeply disturbing development. We reject class, caste, or ethnic profiling, and condemn the selective action against rapes and sexual violence, depending on whether the accused belongs to the “right” category.
The selective anger of the Shiv Sena is contemptible. A Shiv Sena MLA, Anil Kadam, recently threatened to strip women toll plaza workers and was forced to resign only because his utterances were caught on camera.
Rapes are occurring in an alarming way all over India. In same month, 23 August a young adivasi policewoman in Jharkhand was gang-raped on a National Highway while accompanying her family members for the burial of her sister. An eleven year old girl with some neurological disorder was raped in the North Delhi on 14 August, when she had gone out play. The Park Street rape case in Kolkata started a wave in West Bengal where the ruling party and its Chief Minister would deny rape, accuse the victims of lying, of being politically motivated, accuse all protests of being CPI(M) or Maoist inspired.
And every time there are rapes and protests, there is the demand, patronised by those very politicians who in reality have no serious attitude to sensitising police and judiciary, ensuring speedy trial in cases of sexual violence, that rapists should be hanged to death.
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that incidents of reported rape in the country have increased by 791% since 1971 (murder increased by just 240%, and robbery by 178%, kidnapping increased by 630%). And at the same time, conviction rates for rapes dropped from 41% in 1971 to 26% in 2010. Further, this 26% is a percentage only of those cases that actually do go all the way to courts. One estimate suggests that not more than one out of ten rapes goes to the court. Just as, unless there is a massive protest, there will be no trial for Asaram Bapu, and the young girl will be branded a liar and a tool of the UPA. Under such circumstances, the call for death penalty will simply mean the selective hanging of a few people, usually of the “correct’ class/caste/community (lower class, low caste, minority) while others will get off.
According to the NCRB, offenders were known to the survivors on over 94% of rape cases. Rapists are not mostly the unknown like assailants of the Mumbai Rape Case. So death penalty will mean not only judicial and police reluctance, but even greater social pressure on the victims not to bring in charges in the first place.
In the Radical Socialist statement on the Delhi Rape Case in December 2012, we had commented that “We oppose the demand for death penalty on both principled and practical grounds. We are opposed to death penalty per se and therefore to its extension. But we also assert that in reality, the enactment of a law making death penalty possible for rape will have the opposite effect. That is when class as a factor will seriously come into play. It is the elite who will get away with lesser penalties, or will not even be convicted as police play an even worse role than now, while one or two lower class rapists will be hanged as so-called exemplars”. The fact that Sushma Swaraj has demanded the death penalty for the rapists in the Mumbai case while the BJP staunchly stood by Asaram Bapu shows how correct the foregoing assessment was.
Ø Gang rapes and all other forms of sexual violence either as blunt assertion of male power or in the name punishing the enemy party, community, caste, ethnic groups and class.
Ø Politicization and communalization of sexual violence.
Ø The demand for death penalty instead of addressing the issues of controlling women’s sexuality, and socially endorsed norms of masculinity
Ø Speedy and impartial investigation, trial and punishment of the guilty in the Mumbai and all other rape cases.
Ø Immediate arrest of Asaram and action against officials who delayed the necessary procedures demanded by the law of the land.
Ø Exemplary action against officials at all levels who do not follow the legal procedure under undue pressure.
Ø States take the responsibilities of gender sensitization training of the officers at all levels in all seriousness in dealing with cases of sexual assaults.
Ø Adequate training of the administrative personnel on the laws and procedures for handling the cases of sexual violence of persons with disability.
Ø Ensure safety everywhere whether at home or public spaces or work places
28 August, 2013
28 August, 2013
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