31/03/08

Saheli organises protest againt Judicial and Govermental Apathy to Rape Survivors

from Saheli Women: saheliwomen@gmail.com
Dear friends,
Please see the statement below that we have issued to the press.We are also planning to do a protest in Central Park (Connaught Place, NewDelhi) on Wednesday 2nd April, 6 pm onwards. Do join us so we can raise our voices together against these incidents of violence and moralistic reactions of the society, the media and the state. The statement below will be distributed in the form of a leaflet. If you would like to endorse it, please let us know latest by 1st April.

Women's group condemns moralism by the Judiciary, State and Media in cases of rape. In case after case of sexual violence against women we are witnessing troubling trends within the judiciary, state machinery and the media which raise serious concerns for women's safety and hope for justice. In a Sessions Court in Delhi, Additional Sessions Judge, A.K Mendiratta passed a judgment on 18 February 2008, regarding the rape and subsequent forced marriage of a young girl. A student of Class 9, the victim was lured by her friend's brother to his house and raped. When she threatened to file a case, he confined her until his parents returned, whereupon shewas forcibly married to her rapist. Then the judgment states, "under pressure, her father left her at the house of the accused wherein she was subsequently sexually assaulted by the accused Vikas". Finally, the victim was abandoned while she was pregnant. It was only then that criminal proceedings began. 2 years later, the victim took back her testimony and the accused was acquitted.Despite being aware of the horrific facts of the case, in his judgment ASJ Mendiratta fails to recognise what the victim must have suffered, choosinginstead to describe her now as, "married… and blessed with a child". Healso fails to deal with the crimes by accused or his parents, and instead shockingly issues a "warning" to parents, advising they "monitor" theirdaughters to avoid such a "slip in teenage" in our "opening society".We strongly object to the language and tenor of this judgement that seeks to police women instead of prevent or punish crimes against them. This is particularly ironic, given that the Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil told the Lok Sabha last week that about 75% of rapes happen within the family.Such moralism has been equally evident in the case of the rape and murderof British tourist, 15 year old Scarlette Eden Keeling, in Goa. Stateofficials and the police have victimised the family with constantspeculations on the 'character' of Scarlette and her mother, FionaMackeown. On one hand, have been threats to never allow the family to re-enter India, and on the other hand, bland reassurances regarding the 'safety of all tourists' in Goa. Clearly, the real concern is to protect the tourism industry at the cost of justice. It is only after immense pressure that the Chief Minister, Digamber Kamat has finally agreed toallow a CBI enquiry into the matter. Also of great concern has been some of the regressive media coverage around the incident (especially on TV), marked by voyeuristic speculationsabout the mental state, habits, sexual life, etc. of the victim...building up towards a moral response that the victim 'deserved it'. Media reports and state officials have also systematically targeted Fiona as anirresponsible mother and hence tried to shift the onus off the perpetrators of the crime. Under such circumstances, the possibility of justice gets severely compromised. It is essential that the Government of Goa ensure a fair trial and punishment for those responsible for the rapeand murder of Scarlette.Both these cases are an urgent reminder that we need to examine the waycrimes against women are dealt with by the state, judiciary, media andsociety as a whole. We stand in solidarity with the struggles of victims,as well as those like Fiona Mackeown, fighting for justice under suchhostile circumstances.

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