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Women’s Freedom Under Attack

Posted On 8 Jan, 2017 में

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Indian National crime Records Bureau data show that among all major crime including murder, robbery or kidnapping, instances of rape have rise n at the steepest rate in the past 40 years. Incidents of rape in the country have increased by 791% since 1971, whereas murder increased by just 240% and robbery by 178%. Kidnapping increased by 630%- but even this in less then the rate of rise in rape cases.
Why has sexual violence on women increased in such an alarming manner? The NCRB data itself provides one of the an answers: conviction rates for rate dipped from 41% in 1971 to 27% in 2010. Conviction rates for other crimes against women- dowry death., cruelty by husband and relatives, trafficking , molestation, sexual harassment, kidnapping are similarly very low. Bad and biased, and the resulting low conviction give rapists a sense of impunity , Given that so many police officers believed that women ‘invite’ or ‘provoke’ rape, it is hardly surprising that they are unable to ensure the punishment of the rapists for whom they have so much sympathy!
Most rape are not committed by strangers and villains: re cords show that 97% of rapists are known to their victims ( family members, neighbors, friends, acquaintances etc). Rape, in other words, is very much part and parcel of the entire web of subjugation and inequality of women in society.
Are the existing laws enough to deal with the reality of violence on women? After sustained campaign by women’s groups, the Government has drafted the Criminal procedure (Amendment) Bill 2011 to expand the scope of sexual assault laws. This Bill widens the definition of rape beyond penis-vagina penetration, covering atrocities like penetration by objects and other forms of sexual violence on women as well as on children of both sexes. However the Bill excludes marital rape from the category of sexual offences, thereby condoning rape within marriage. The Bill also fails to recognize and provide more stringent punishment for organized sexual violence on women, as in communal or caste violence.
In spite o0f a landmark verdict by the Delhi High Court in 2009 decriminalizing homosexuality, the Government has yet to take any steps to do away with Section 377 the discriminates against same-sex relationships.
There is also a proposed and long –pending Bill against Sexual Harassment at the workplace, which covers women in organized as well as unorganized sector. But this Bill provides for punishment against the complainant in case the complaint is found to be false or malicious in intent-a clause that can only deter and intimidate women, who are in any case reluctant complaints thanks to social pressures.
Law against acid attacks and stalking are also urgently needed, given the huge rise in such crimes.
Dowry deaths and dowry –related harassment continue unabated. Yet, it is shocking that the Rajya Ssbha Petitions Committee is considering a petition demanding that offence under Section498-A (severe,domestic violence and dowry-related torture) be made non-cognizable, boilable and compoundable. The law commission has just recently recommended that Section 498A be made compoundable. If the law is amended in keeping with these demands, henceforth police will not have to accept any case under this section, and all women will have to file all such complaints before magistrates; police cannot arrest anyone under this section without an order from a magistrate; and there will be greater pressure on women to compromise.
Section 498A is the only legal avenue for justice open to women suffering severe domestic violence and dowry-harassment. If it is weakened, it can only further increase the violence and dowry torture faced by women. The claim that section 498A is being rampantly ‘misused’ is a myth. In fact, it is being underused: convictions under this section have usually taken place only in cases where dowry deaths have occurred, and in cases where dowry deaths have not occurred, very few convictions have taken place.
With every law of land, there are some cases of misuse, but on one calls to weaken those laws as a result! Any cases of misuse should be dealt with on a case-to-case basis, but in fact, there is a need to strengthen and expand, not weaken, law against domestic violence and dowry.
To crush people’s movements against corporate land grab, against eviction, for self-determination – the state unleashes a virtual war on people. Women are at the forefront of the movements – and also bear the worst brunt of the repression. This has been seen in Kashmir and the North East, as well as in struggles against corporate land grab, and in the anti-nuclear struggles at jaitpur and koodankulam. Women have also, as a result, been at the forefront of the struggles challenging state repression.
Women from oppressed castes and minorities are especially vulnerable to targeted casteist and communal violence.
Women are finding their daily freedoms and rights under the worst kind of assault. Young girls and even adult women face violence when they exercise their freedom to choose their friends, wear clothes of their choice or marry a partner of their choice.
outfits like Sri Ram Sene and Bajrang Dal have systematically attacked women ofr wearing jeans, visiting pubs, and even for having Christian or Muslim male friends at school or college. Such attacks are especially rampant in Karnataka, where BJP is in Government and the Sangh outfits backed by the Government, police and educational institutions, have created an atmosphere of terror against women. In Gujarat, Sangh leaders like Babu Bajrangi boast of having kidnapped and separated thousands of women from partners and husbands of other religions and castes.
The Sangh parivar, in Karnataka and other states, has raised the bogey of so-called ‘love je had’, accusing every Muslim man who marries a non-Muslim women of being a ‘jehadi’ (terrorist). Dangerously, even some courts in kerala and Karnataka and the some governments like the Maharashtra Government have given credence to this communal and anti-women myth.
In Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan, there is a rising trend of community leaders or’ khap panchayats’ passing’ death sentences’ against couples who marry in defiance of caste norms. Couples in inter-caste marriages, as well as same-gotra marriages and in fact, all self-choice marriages, have faced threats and violence at the hands of these community leaders and khaps. In cases where a woman of a so-called ‘higher’ caste marries a dalit man, the dalit family and community are also attacked. The khaps justify such threats and even murder in the name of community and caste ’honor’.

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