Thank you for giving us the opportunity to voice our concerns, demands and offer possible solutions. At the outset, we would like to make it clear that we write to you as ordinary, concerned individual citizens of this country, not as representatives of any organisation.
OUR DEMANDS AND SUGGESTIONS:
We demand a multi-pronged approach which deals with increased security, institutionalised sensitisation and attitudinal change through education, media campaigns, government programs, social education packages etc as well as judicial and police reform. These include short-term as well as long-term steps.
A. SECURITY FOR WOMEN
1. Increased frequency of public transportation, with it being functional during the day and night.
2. Better surveillance systems which can record happenings in the city (more functional CCTV cameras), with enough skilled manpower to monitor and analyse such surveillance
3. More police vans (both patrolling areas as well as stationary) with policemen on the lookout (rather than sitting idle inside the van).
4. Better street lighting
5. More security outside malls, bars, restaurants and marketplaces.
6. Police vans should patrol poorer residential areas a few time a day and at night
7. Make it easier for women to report harassment and crimes against women. Make all relevant contact numbers PUBLIC and VISIBLE at public-places like malls and marketplaces, colleges and schools, and on hoardings at important road-sides etc.
8. All police stations should have a sexual harassment/rape centre with up to 70% female police who are also sensitised. Apparently there is a cell for atrocities/crimes against women which exists only on paper because no funds are allocated to it. Funds should be allocated to such cells and these cells should be made functional; such cells and allied steps should NOT remain only on paper.
9. Local verified NGOs to be present at all police stations, so that if denied by the police vitcims have somewhere to go. Adopt zero-tolerance policy for non-registration of crime.
10. More policewomen in PCR vans. Make female police more visible and accessible.
11. Police personnel in buses and metros who have direct access to PCR vans in order to register and act on any the complaint raised immediately
12. We demand a fitter police force. There must be regular physical training and regular re-evaluation of their fitness level. Pot-bellied or emaciated policemen and women do not inspire confidence.
13. Urgent audit of personnel to weed out delinquents and non-performers
14. Scrap outdated hiring and training methods. Adopt modern methods of training police including learning from their foreign peers through joint exercises and training. Allocate substantial funds to upgrade technology for the police.
15. Better working conditions for the police so that they find their job and duty fulfillng and remain motivated.
16. We demand a serious consideration of suggestions put forward by Kiran Bedi.
WE WANT TO STRESS THAT:
A) WE FEAR AND ARE STRONGLY AGAINST ANY CLAMPDOWN OF LIBERTIES IN THE NAME OF SECURITY (For example, we are against discotheques being closed down at 1am, or the general norm/rule of girl hostel gates closing at 10pm. Make our streets safer for women, do not curb their liberties)
B) THE POLICE FORCE NEEDS TO BE SENSITISED BEFORE PUTTING THEM OUT ON THE STREETS. THERE IS AN IMMENSE TRUST DEFICIT WITH RESPECT TO THE CURRENT POLICE FORCE.
Ø We condemn the detainment of peaceful protesters such as Shambhavi and 15 others on the Dec 25, 2012 (http://kafila.org/2012/12/26/how-delhi-police-assaulted-my-daughter-on-25-december-usha-saxena/). Such arbitrary, illegal detention and beating-up of citizens only reinforces the lack of faith ordinary citizens have in the police force (and the state as a whole).
Ø The recent case of suicide by a rape victim from Patiala because of humiliation by police officers as well as the case of the UP rape victim being raped by the policemen investigating the case indicate the brazen nature of the police force and do not inspire any confidence in the organ whose duty it is to protect citizens. Citizens feel that this misogynistic attitude among the police is not the exception, but the rule. (http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/suicide-by-gang-raped-teen-highlights-how-police-added-to-trauma-310707?pfrom=home-otherstories and http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/UP-rape-victim-raped-by-cops-probing-case/articleshow/17748777.cms ). The Tehelka expose of hoe "Rapes will go on" is another insightful piece of journalism which shows the pervasiveness of mysogyny and apathy in the police force. (See: http://tehelka.com/video/tehelka-sting-expose-the-rapes-will-go-on/)
B. LEGAL/ JUDICIAL DEMANDS
1. We are not in favour of castration (chemical or otherwise) or the death penalty. We demand CERTAINTY of punishment, i.e. the perpetrator must think that if he commits a crime, he will be caught and there is absolutely no way out. We believe this is a bigger deterrent than more brutal/harsher punishment. Certainty of punishment can be achieved through better investigation by the police, determined prosecution by the state and speedier justice delivery mechanism (where a case does not drag on for multiple years with the accused out on bail).
2. Revision of rape laws:
a. We appreciate the Criminal Law (Amendment ) Bill, 2012 which has been given the go-ahead by the cabinet to be tabled before the Parliament. While we recognize the fact that the Bill makes certain advances such as taking away the power of the court to lower punishment of rape to below the prescribed 7 years as well as making rape a gender neutral offence (by terming it "sexual assault"), we believe some gaps do exist with the current law as well as with the bill tabled before Parliament. The most gaping one is the MARITAL RAPE isn't covered within the meaning of rape or sexual assault (as the Bill calls it). The concept of marital rape covered under Section 376A of the IPC as it currently stands (which discusses rape while the couple is judicially separated) covers only a fraction of this pervasive offence and this is a loophole which must be filled given that marital rape is possibly the most widespread form of rape in this country. While we agree that there are arguments against making marital rape an offence, such as it being abused to get divorce/ separation, the problem is too widespread to ignore. There could be a way to ensure that such a crime is adequately covered in legislation while mitigating any attempt at abuse of such provisions, such as by prescribing a higher standard of proof in such cases. The Bill also retains the archaic and patently paternalistic concept of "modesty of women". We condemn the use of such patriarchal language in the framing of our laws as this perpetuates biases against women.
b. Providing proper, coherent sentencing guidelines which lay down (broadly) the factors judges should take into account while imposing a sentence on the convicted rapists. Sentencing guidelines are required for all crimes in general, but given considerations such as whether the rape victim is married or not have in the past been taken into account, it is imperative that such guidelines be present for rape and secual assault. (For further details on some of the factors taken into account by the Supreme Court and the High Courts, please see: http://lawandotherthings.blogspot.in/2013/01/chastity-virginity-marriageability-and.html)
c. Please take advice from eminent lawyers such as Vrinda Grover, Indira Jaisingh, Geeta Luthra regarding this. As ordinary citizens, are expertise is limited.
3. Time-bound justice: Fast-track courts for all rape cases. Fast-track the 100,000 or so pending rape cases (all-India figure). In addition, we want speedy trials in ALL cases of sexual violence and harassment.
4. SC Norms on Rape trials: Although the SC in a 1996 judgment laid down certain broad guidelines on the manner in which rape cases should be tried, such as having in camera proceedings, these norms aren't adhered to strictly. It is imperative to have trial courts adhere to such norms strictly and not deviate from them based on convenience or any other reason. (see: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/supreme-court-norms-on-rape-trial-not-being-followed-strictly-experts/articleshow/17816606.cms)
5. Better, Reliable Investigation: Before any law can be implemented, there is need of diligent investigation. We need proper investigating agencies which are 1) sensitised and motivated 2) efficient 3) competent and well-trained 4) well-equipped. Without this, any reform of law would be useless because the case would have been compromised on account of improper investigation from the beginning itself.
6. Publicising a list of sex offenders via police website (or on local hoardings)
C. TACKLING THE MYSOGINISTIC ATTITUDE
We are appalled by the number of high level politicians, police officials and “leaders” who are making flippant remarks underlying their deep-seated misogynistic attitudes.This change needs to be at an INSTITUTIONAL level – through regular police training, educational institutions, media and social education packages for families. We acknowledge that this is a long-term process, but one which requires ACTIVE, persistent perseverance.
1. Sensitisation for current police/aspiring police cadets: Gender sensitisation course for aspiring police cadets (male and female) followed by regular training and workshops in the same. The state should collaborate with civil society and NGOs that are apt in giving such training.
a. Regular evaluation: Should be evaluations of gender-related attitudes of officers in the police force.
b. Reinforce positive behaviour: Reward officers that exemplify model behaviour as far as gender sensitivity and equality is concerned.
2. Role of education and schools: Gender sensitisation and sex education workshops and programs (maybe taught under ‘Health Education’ to avoid parental anxiety) to be a vital, permanent part of the curriculum. Government bodies such as NCERT/CBSE/ICSE should make it part of the mandatory syllabus. This is important to shape minds before it is too late.
a. Education/schooling as a medium to inculcate gender equality and sensitisation to tackle deep-seated ideas of women as property/chattel, bereft of any agency of their own
b. Check against political manipulation: Must have in-built mechanism to check against this gender sensitisation curriculum being manipulated by conservative political parties when they come into power.
c. Collaboration: Regular workshops undertaken through collaboration between state and“civil society” NGOs.
d. Workshops which educate children on what constitutes sexual harassment and violence, on how to disclose and to whom if one has been a victim of this.
e. Self-defence classes for girls and boys (as we have seen instances of boys standing up to protect their female friends being assaulted and murdered) in school and college.
f. State can recruit keen students from schools and universities for its awareness drives.
g. Teacher sensitisation: We feel it is absolutely IMPERATIVE for teachers to attend these sensitisation workshops and programs.
3. College-level gender sensitisation:
i. Currently colleges have ineffective gender sensitisation committees. Make sure these are effective and hold regular, mandatory, inventive workshops. Make weekly/monthly vibrant discussions on gender issues mandatory. Involve womens'-rights NGOs if possible.
ii. Sensitisation of faculty and wardens is ESSENTIAL as well as of college/campus bodies that are supposed to support and file complaints immediately or take prompt action to reprimand such behaviour against female students/teachers/administration.
iii. Publicise addresses and contact numbers of local verified NGOs where one can go if their gender-sensitisation committee/representative is unresponsive
iv. We repeat: we are strongly against clampdown on liberties of young women who live in hostels.
4. Sensitisation at work places (public and private sector): provisions to ensure the safety of women through regulatory bodies that address any problems that women may be facing in the office (sexual harassment, abuse etc). Ensure that guidelines laid down in Vishaka vs Rajasthan are adhered to.
5. Government programs to educate society on the injustice of rape, sexual violence and harassment. Effrots must be made to ensure that the association of the word ‘shame’ shifts from the victim to the perpetrator. Make people aware of their rights.
The following are some suggestions on how society in general can be sensitised:
1. USE THE MEDIA:
a) TV Advertisements: Work with good advertisement agencies, invest in good adverts which are relatable to ground realities and spread awareness about:
(i) What constitutes ‘crimes against women’? Not just rape, but also domestic violence, molestation, sexual abuse, harassment, "eve-teasing" and dowry.
(ii) What are our legal and constitutional rights? and (iii) Whom can we contact? For instance, in Delhi, contact numbers of Delhi Commission for Women and other national commissions etc should be publicised. How can our grievance be addressed?
b) Approach and encourage news channels to start campaigns (like NDTV’s ‘Marks for Sports’ and ‘Save the Tiger’ – women’s safety is surely as important an issue).
c) Invest in half/full-page newspaper ads – in Hindi, English and vernaculars.
d) Radio adverts and jingles
e) Use the ‘Social media’ – facebook pages, twitter accounts, websites. Invest money and PUBLICISE them.
2. Posters, hoardings @ bus-stops, metro-stations, roadsides, school bulletin boards, workplaces, malls etc. Involve designers to make them effective, and women’s organisation to make them sensitive. Make important contact numbers KNOWN through these. These must be in Hindi, English and vernaculars.
3. State collaboration with local community leaders: Workshops and awareness campaigns in collaboration with local community leaders. Raise awareness through local workshops, street plays. Involve NGOs as well.
4. Promote mandatory discussion of gender issues at every level starting with Resident Welfare Associations.
5. Social education packages for families: provision of social education packages for families in a way similar to population control and family planning programs of the past. These packages must include gender sensitization as a vital component, making clear that the harassment of women or violence against them is severely punishable by law and amounts to a serious offence.
NOTE ABOUT AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS:
Awareness campaigns should:
- Emphasise that rape is not about sexual/physical pleasure- it is a violation of consent, about asserting power over a human being.
- Highlight that the victim/survivor need not be felt ‘sorry’ for, that it is NOT the case that now that the victim has been ‘dishonoured’ she has nothing to live for. Highlight that she can still lead a life of honour and dignity and make a significant contribution in society, in the lives of people she loves and indeed in her OWN life. Special emphasis should be given to eliminating the concept of being 'dishonoured' if one has been raped.
- Be strictly against the culture of putting blame on the victim of sexual violence or harassment: ideas or thinking that perpetuate the notion that “she asked for it – by wearing a short dress, by drinking, by being on the streets at night or by being with a male friend.
- Be strictly against the idea that women can only be protected if they are at home, or dress in a particular manner or if in the company of male relatives or if they are segregated (it must be clear that ladies compartments/buses are only a temporary measure). Long-term goal must be highlighted: sexes cohabiting and sharing the same space and respecting each other’s dignity.
- Counter deep-seated ideas of women as property, without any self-ownership and agency of their own.
- Spread awareness of women’s rights and of gender equality (stress fact that women are EQUAL to men).
- Highlight crimes which violate the principle of gender equality – these included female foeticide, female infanticide, inheritance inequality, dowry, wife-beating, widowhood. [Perhaps Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate Team can be involved in this campaign. Along with ordinary women who have fought gender injustice]
- Highlight WHAT/HOW/WHOM - ‘what’ constitutes sexual harassment and violence, on ‘how’ to disclose and to ‘whom’ if one has been a victim of abuse or harassment.
- Be against the idea that somehow a man who rapes a woman is “mental” or belongs to “lower” class and somehow men with money or who are rich do not rape.
- Target men AND women.
- WE STRONGLY THINK that collaboration between the state and “civil society” is essential for an effective campaign. Rope in keen students at the level of school and college, movie stars, advertising and marketing gurus, designers, and victims and survivors of sexual violence and harassment. This will make the campaign creative, inventive and effective.
D. MEDICAL DEMAND:
1. All hospitals – government and private – to have comprehensive 'Rape Kits' i.e. sexual assault evidence collection equipment. Training should be provided to medical officials on how to use them. Archaic and invasive procedures such as the “two finger test”, which do not have a proven basis in science, should be stopped.
2. Free treatment for sexual assault victims
3. Contact numbers of womens'-rights NGOs should be publicised in all hospitals so that victims of sexual assault can contact them in case they are being denied treatment or help.
4. Seek opinions of those who have worked with survivors of rape/sexual assault for more on what is needed.
A) WE FEAR the treatment of this gang-rape case as an isolated case:
- We fear that in trying to deliver justice to THIS particular victim, and in trying to bring THESE particular perpetrators to justice, the Government will IGNORE justice for other rape victims.
- We fear that the Government will make this only about rape and IGNORE the larger issue of safety and security for women in general.
- We fear tokenism, and a one-time token bow to populism in this sensational case. We demand a rational, sustained commitment from the government regarding the safety of women.
B) WE STRONGLY ADVISE that the Government should make itself more accessible, keeping the public informed regarding the actions it is taking regarding these issues on a routine basis (for instance, through regular press conferences even after the media hype has died down).
We feel this is ESSENTIAL for the following reasons:
- To overcome the trust deficit and restore faith of the citizenry
- To make sure that there is no scope left for the opposition to politicise the issue/appropriate the agenda/claim credit for campaign outcomes (hopefully there will be some”) started by the present government if it comes into power at a later date.
- This can be done through buying time on TV, press conferences, longer, reassuring Obama-like speeches by government representatives with oratory skills, through radio, websites, Facebook, twitter, YouTube. We must feel that the government is engaging with us DIRECTLY and REGULARLY.
• We do not demand resignations; but we DO demand action to ensure the safety and security of women NOW as well as REGULAR engagement and communication with the citizenry regarding this.
- VANYA VAIDEHI BHARGAV
- BIKRAMADITYA BOSE
- ILA BOSE
- ISHITA KAUL
- BARKHA TANVIR