When AISA-RYA-AIPWA Protested At Sheila Dixit House!!

Kavita Krishnan’s short speech outside CM’s residence.

Today we protested outside Sheila Dixit’s house… and demanded that she should resign [over the inability of the govt to provide safety for women in Delhi streets]. It is important to understand why we are asking for this in more depth, and also to explain to them [the administration]. Sheila Dixit has said that since the rape happened in a private bus, not on a DTC [public service/Delhi Transport Corporation] bus, how is she responsible? So we have come to educate her, that if there are buses in which iron rods just lie about, where monsters travel around the city in these buses, where there are no rules or regulations for the operation of these buses, where they can do anything, for this you alone are responsible, no one else. Today, if that girl is fighting for her life, you are responsible. Why was that iron rod lying in that bus, this answer only you can give us, no one else. You cannot blame anyone else for this.

But there is a further, more important issue here, that we came here to protest today but have also been doing [for the past few days]. When journalist Soumya [Viswanathan] was killed, Sheila Dixit had said that she was out and about at 3 in the morning, she was too ‘adventurous’. So we have come here to say that women have every right to be adventurous. We will be adventurous. We will be reckless. We will be rash. We will not do anything to secure our ‘safety.’ Don’t tell us what to wear. What time at night we should be out, how we should be out during the day, how many people we should have with us – don’t tell us any of that. When Neeraj Kumar had just become Police Commissioner, he held a press conference in which he said, what can the police do in cases of rape? First he said that most often it is people who are well known to the woman who rape her. He is right, this is a fact.

But then, shouldn’t this make it easier for them to be caught? After all, if she knows who has raped her, then it should make it all the easier to catch him. We are not asking the police, why didn’t you stop it. But we are asking them this: the conviction rate, which has gone from 46% in 1971 to 26% now, who is responsible for that? This tells us that there is a frightening gap, a lack in the police’s investigations…there is no procedure on how you must proceed in cases of rape. There is only one procedure that I think all women and girls standing here are familiar with. If you go to a police station and say that you have been the target of sexual violence, the first thing they will tell you is not to file an FIR [First Information Report]. People will come from all over, even from outside the police station to explain to you, “don’t file a complaint.” Until you go up the chain of command and say that you are from a students’ group, or a women’s group, nothing happens. This is so ordinary, there can hardly be a woman in all of Delhi who doesn’t know that this is the normal procedure that the police follow, not written in any rule book, it’s regular practice.There is yet another thing that Neeraj Kumar had said in that press conference – that women shouldn’t travel alone at night, they should have someone with them. If you are out at 2 in the morning, how can you expect that we [the police] will come to save you? Now in this rape that has occurred, it is clear – it was neither 2 at night, and there was someone with her. Now if a woman wants to be out and about at night, there should not be the need to justify that she has to be out because she is working, she is returning from work. If she wants to be out, if she wants to go get a cigarette, if she wants to take a stroll, this desire should not be made into her crime. We don’t want to hear this defensive argument – that women only leave their houses for jobs, poor things, what can they do, they are compelled to leave their homes. We believe that women’s freedom – whether it is within the home or outside it, at night or in the daytime, whatever she is wearing – is an important matter and this freedom to be, a freedom from fear, must be protected.

That is what we are asking for. I am saying this also because I feel that the word(s) security and protection in relation to women are thrown about a lot – because this word security, and all of us women have heard it from our families, our communities, from the principal, the warden, we all know what it means. Security means – you behave yourself. You get back into the house. You don’t dress in a particular way. Don’t live on your terms of independence, that is what they mean by being safe. All the patriarchal norms and rules of society are gathered up and given to women as ‘protection’ and we reject this entirely, we are saying this is not what we want.The Delhi Police has been running a campaign against violence against women. You might have seen the hoardings up near ITO…in an ad campaign regarding violence against women, there is not a single woman! There is a male film actor, Farhaan Akhtar, who is saying, Be a Man, join me in protecting women. So I want to ask, the brother who cuts his sister’s head off because she marries into another community, is he not fulfilling his duty of being a man, of being a brother? Is evoking masculinity part of the solution of violence against women, or is it the very root of it? It is very important to think about this. In the entire country, this is what we see outside the women’s movement, whether it is in government, police organisations, political parties, the judiciary…whenever they talk about the protection of women, they are talking specifically of a patriarchal protection of women. They are not talking about a freedom without fear, an unqualified freedom for women.

Our work is this – the work of these agitations on the street which have been going on and I hope they continue – that the answer to such events does not lie in CCTV cameras, in the death penalty, in chemical castration. Our anger is legitimate, but I am fearful of “solutions” like this. If the problem is the conviction rate, how will the death penalty help? The conviction rate is low because in your entire procedure relating to rape, you don’t take the complainant seriously. It is another matter that the rape legislation is bad, it’s weak – rape by objects used to penetrate the woman’s body does not even feature in the definition of rape. A significant part of what happened on that bus in Munirka, which was so deadly, so dangerous for the girl, does not even qualify as rape under the law.

Here there is one more thing I would like to stress – Sushma Swaraj gave a speech in parliament in which she said something that I found utterly disgusting. Highly condemnable. She said, even if this girl lives, she will be a living corpse. Why? If this girl lives, I believe she will live with her head held high. She has fought. She fought, and that’s why, to teach her a lesson, the rapists beat and raped her. There can hardly be a woman here who hasn’t fought in Delhi’s buses, who hasn’t stood alone in her fight against this violence. Who hasn’t felt utterly alone in these situations. I read in the papers, I don’t know if it’s true, but I read that when she gained consciousness, she asked whether the rapists had been caught. Her desire to fight is still strong, it is not over. We salute that desire to fight, those who survive rape are not living corpses. They are fully alive, fighting, striving women and we salute all such women.The last thing I would like to say is this: There are plenty of people who say in times like this – let’s not politicise the matter.

But there is a need to talk about it, and politics is not cheapened by it. The culture of rape, the justification by people from up high – like KPS Gill who said that rape occurs because women wear tight clothes – the vast number of people who say these kinds of things…if we want to change this then we must make rape a political issue. We have to talk more about what women are saying about the violence that is done to them. And the government will have to listen. Shedding some crocodile tears in parliament isn’t going to be enough. By shouting about the death penalty you won’t be able to solve this problem.

I find it ironic that the BJP is the loudest when it comes to asking for the death penalty, but states where they are in power, their own goons run about harassing girls wearing jeans, girls who have Muslim or Christian boyfriends, and warn them that girls have to be the carriers of Hindu culture and values, or else. We have to respond to these thugs with a counter-culture, a counter-politics of our own. One that demands women’s rights to full freedom, fearless living. We have been attacked by water cannons here by the police, and I have to say I have been really surprised by that. There are demonstrations all over the city, and surely the government should have some sense that this anger that people have is not going to be beaten back by water cannons and lathis. It is shameful that the government and police are ever-ready to attack those who fight for women’s rights, while presenting arguments oh behalf of the rapists.

To watch video of the same speech in Hindi, go for the below link-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbOhDJFc0Dc

March On For Aadhi Aabaadi!!

Delhi’s young men and women, students and youth, have been out on the streets for the past 10 days, demanding justice for their sister, who was gangraped and brutally assaulted in a moving bus in Delhi, and strong action against violence on women. Our peaceful movement has been met with lathis, water cannons and tear gas.

Our struggle is for justice against all violence against women, for ensuring urgent changes in the system that ensure strict and swift punishment of the culprits. Our struggle is for the freedom of women to live as they wish – without fear.

Women are saying today – Don’t tell us how to dress and how to behave! Don’t tell us at what time of night to return home! Don’t tell us not to be bold and brave! Don’t tell us not to have male friends or marry whom we like! Sexual violence cannot be used as a threat to punish us if we disobey the laws of male supremacy. There is a long series of statements by police heads, ministers and other people in positions of power which hold women themselves responsible for provoking and inviting sexual assault. Even now, the Congress’ Andhra Pradesh chief and transport minister of the state made the shocking statement about the Delhi gangrape case, that “We got freedom at midnight – does that mean women are free to roam at night? The girl should not have boarded a bus that had few passengers.” We demand that such people in public positions who make such statements must QUIT their posts!

We also condemn the BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’ statement that a rape survivor is a ‘zinda laash’! A rape survivor is a brave fighter – and it is the society that tolerates and makes excuses for rape that should be ashamed! The BJP and Sangh Parivar’s goons assault women who wear jeans and celebrate Valentine’s Day. Such patriarchal goons have no right to talk about the rights of women.

Only 26 in Every 100 Rapists Are Punished – Why?

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that incidents of rape in the country have increased by 791% since 1971 (murder increased by just 240%, and robbery by 178%, kidnapping increased by 630%). And conviction rates for rape dipped from 41% in 1971 to 26% in 2011. Conviction rates for other crimes against women – dowry death, cruelty by husband and relatives, trafficking, molestation, sexual harassment, kidnapping – are similarly very low. Needless to mention the huge number of cases that go unreported due to the fear of social stigma and hostile justice system.

The reasons for such low conviction rate are embedded at every layer of our investigative and justice system: a weak law against rape and sexual violence, a gender-insensitive and ill-trained police force with no laid down procedure of accountability, ill-equipped hospitals and courts that are unfriendly to women and gender-biased. As a result, perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a sense of impunity, a sense that they will go unpunished. It is high time that we demand immediate changes at every level of the system to remove this sense of impunity and ensure the certainty of conviction and justice.  

Stricter Gender-Sensitive Laws for Swift and Sure Punishment: Hold a Special Session of Parliament without delay to enact comprehensive laws against Rape and Sexual Violence (including provisions for marital rape and rape by security forces), Sexual Harassment, and ‘Honour’ Crimes in consultation with the women’s movement.

The Judiciary: Fast track courts for all cases of sexual violence (not only rape but sexual harassment too) must be set up, with verdicts to be delivered within 3 months. An end to horrific gender insensitive verdicts (for instance sermonising the rape victim to marry her rapist). Judiciary needs an overhaul in its approach. Any judge who has made remarks or passed judgements which justify any violence on women and go against gender equality, must be made to quit.

Police: Gender sensitization training modules including procedural instruction and training as well as well publicised protocol in all police stations for dealing with rape complaints. Proper infrastructure and rape investigation kits to be made available in all police stations. Punitive measures including dismissal in case of failure to register cases of rape, sexual violence and sexual harassment.

Hospitals: A separate ward for medical and psychological care of rape victims and proper infrastructure for handling pathological-forensic investigations in hospitals which is crucial for conviction.

Ending the Culture of Justifying Gender Violence: An end to ANY justification of sexual violence, ‘honour’ crimes or domestic violence. Those public servants including elected representatives or police officers or judges who indulge in victim-blaming must be made to quit.

Restorative Support: Social, medical, legal, psychological, and economic support – at Government’s cost – for rape survivors.

Prevention and Education: Gender Equality be made an essential part of the school curriculum, to be drawn up in national consultation with women’s movement activists in the field. The aim should be to challenge misogyny, patriarchal attitudes, and hostility to women’s freedom and rights, head-on, on a war-footing.

 We join the ‘Justice For Women Now!’ campaign in demanding:

  1. Sack the Delhi Police Commissioner!
  2. Ensure Justice in 1 Lakh Pending Rape Cases Across the Country in 100 Days! Swift and Sure Punishment in Every Crime Against Women!
  3. Announce and publicise gender-just protocols for FIRs and police investigation of crimes against women! Punish police who violate the protocols and display gender bias or victim blaming
  4. Announce a process of consultation with women’s organisations and students for a Special Session of Parliament in order to review and enact robust, democratic, gender-sensitive laws on crimes against women, including ‘honour’ crimes.
  5. Ensure Massive Expansion of Safe Public Transport for Women

We are saying the UPA Government must either COMMIT OR QUIT!

Friends, while we agitate in Delhi, let us also not forget that our sisters in far flung parts are even more vulnerable to sexual violence, especially if they are from oppressed sections of the society. Let us demand justice for adivasi Soni Sori (raped by Chhattisgarh police and whose rapist got a gallantry award!); for Manorama Devi of Manipur, raped and killed by Army men in 2004; for Neelofer and Aasiya of Kashmir, raped by Army men; for Priyanka Bhotmange – gangraped and killed because she was Dalit; for Bilkis Bano, who was raped by communal mobs in Gujarat in 2002. In all these cases, the Governments have protected the rapists and killers shamelessly.