Maitree is a non funded, autonomous women’s network of more than 40 organisations and individuals working for and with women’s rights; it has a diverse combination of autonomous groups, NGOS and individual activists. Apart from violence against women including women with disabilities, it has intervened in a range of major movements such as the campaigns against Narmada dam, nuclear weapons and power, Armed Forces Special Powers Act etc;
We are outraged by the shameful comments made by the Trinamul Congress MP, Tapas Pal in Nadia, West Bengal on June 14, 2014 as he addressed party supporters. Electronic media reports shows Tapas Pal gesturing obscenely and using abusive language as he threatened to send TMC ‘boys’ to murder and rape supporters of the CPM party and destroy entire families. The TMC has subsequently tried to cover up the incident by arguing Tapas Paul had said ‘raid’ and not ‘rape’; while Tapas Paul himself casually squeaked that these “comments should not be taken literally”! We are shocked that an MP can threaten at a public meeting to shoot from his revolver and use violence against members of the Opposition – be it rape or murder. MPs are entrusted with upholding the Constitution of India and the rule of law; Tapas Paul’s comments completely disregard the laws of the country, and are an insult to the principles of the Constitution.
What confidence can the people of Bengal in particular and the country in general have from representatives of Parliament who fuel and instigate such criminal acts of violence. It’s an irony that Tapas Pal has been elected as a lawmaker, his misogynist world view on women and desire for violence threatens to turn back the progress women have achieved through years of struggle. In view of the facts outlined below, it is important for MPs from West Bengal to begin addressing rape with the seriousness it deserves. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, West Bengal had the third highest number of rape cases in India in 2012 and a conviction rate of only 10.9% which is less than half the national average of 24.2%. According to a random sample of 239 reported cases of rape from January 2012 to January 2014, we find that:
i. more than 70% of the victims were minors, below the age of 18, and girls between the ages of 4-10 were particularly vulnerable
ii. a large number of the victims were young girls who were assaulted on their way to or from school or college
iii. 29% of women were gang raped
iv. 14% of the women were murdered after the rape and many more were critically wounded and hospitalised. One girl committed suicide.
v. 11% of the women were physically disabled or mentally challenged.
vi. a majority of rapists were known to the women
1. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha initiates appropriate action against Tapas Pal.
2. Tapas Pal should resign from the Parliament.
3. The Government of West Bengal should take immediate legal action.
4. The Government should not take this simply as a law and order issue but as an issue that violates the rights of women to unrestricted mobility and safety and see women as genitals and not as human beings.
5. There should be an end to a political culture that continuously generates sexism, violence and criminalization
Ms. K Das
On behalf of MAITREE
A Network of Women Activists & Organisations, West Bengal