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Friday, November 8, 2013

Rape patriarchy-ingrained undeterred by death penalty: Krishnan

India’s women, progressives condemn sexual violence, oppose death penalty
Excerpt, minor edit by Carolyn Bennett

Today's news: Rape-tolerant USA: 
There were 3,553 sexual assault complaints from October 2012 to June 2013, compared to 2,434 during the same period last year, according to statistics released on [yesterday] at the start of a two-day congressional panel looking into the problem [of sexual assault perpetrated in military of the United States].
The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutral makes the identity of the perpetrator/accused also gender neutral, observes women progressives of India. So we demand that the definition of perpetrator be gender-specific and limited to men. Sexual violence also targets transgender people and legal reform must address this. 

Rape, physical and sexual assault Condemned

As our protests spill over to the streets all across the country, our demands for justice are strengthened in knowing that countless others share our anger.

We assert that rape and other forms of sexual violence are not just a women’s issue but a political one that should concern every citizen.  

 In the United States
U.S. (New York) Senator Kirsten Gillibrand 
pushes for support of legislation to help 
victims of sexual assault in U.S. military 
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
We urge that the wheels of justice turn not only to incidents such as the Delhi bus case but to the epidemic of sexual violence that threatens all of us. [On December 16, 2012, a young woman was brutally gang raped, the man accompanying her beaten severely, then both of them were stripped and dumped on a road.]

e need to evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large number of men who commit these crimes. Our stance is not anti-punishment but against the State’s executing the death penalty reads a 2012 statement by women’s and progressive groups and individuals in India.

The fact that cases of rape have a conviction rate as low as 26 percent shows that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of charges.

Silent witnesses to everyday forms of sexual assault such as leering, groping, passing comments, stalking and whistling are equally responsible for rape being embedded in our culture and hence being so prevalent today.

We therefore condemn the culture of silence and tolerance for sexual assault and the culture of valorizing this kind of violence.

We reject voices that are ready to imprison and control women and girls under the garb of ‘safety’, instead of ensuring their freedom as equal participants in society and their right to a life free of perpetual threats of sexual assault, both inside and outside their homes.

Death Opposed

ur vision of this justice does not include death penalty, which is neither a deterrent nor an effective or ethical response to these acts of sexual violence. We are opposed to it for the following reasons:

“Punishment” as calculated distraction

1. We recognize that every human being has a right to life.

Our rage cannot give way to what are, in no uncertain terms, new cycles of violence. We refuse to deem ‘legitimate’ any act of violence that would give the State the right to take life in our names. Justice meted by the State cannot bypass complex socio-political questions of violence against women by punishing rapists by death.

Death penalty is often used to distract attention away from the real issue – it changes nothing but becomes a tool in the hands of the State to further exert its power over its citizens.

A huge set of changes are required in the system to end the widespread and daily culture of rape.

“Punishment” as brutal non-deterrence

2. There is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to rape.

Available data shows that there is a low rate of conviction in rape cases and a strong possibility that the death penalty would lower this conviction rate even further as it is awarded only under the ‘rarest of rare’ circumstances.

The most important factor that can act as a deterrent is the certainty of punishment, rather than the severity of its form.

“Punishment” as bigoted ‘Justice’
Sexual Assault in
U.S. military

3. As seen in countries like the United States, men from minority communities make up a disproportionate number of death row inmates.

In the context of India, a review of crimes that warrant capital punishment reveals the discriminatory way in which such laws are selectively and arbitrarily applied to disadvantaged communities, religious and ethnic minorities.

This is a real and major concern, as the possibility of differential consequences for the same crime is injustice in itself.

Rape: Shoring up Patriarchy

4. The logic of awarding death penalty to rapists is based on the belief that rape is a fate worse than death.

Patriarchal notions of ‘honor’ lead us to believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman.

There is a need to strongly challenge this stereotype of the ‘destroyed’ woman who loses her honor and who has no place in society after she’s been sexually assaulted.

We believe that rape is tool of patriarchy, an act of violence, and has nothing to do with morality, character or behavior.

Rape: Rising in home, society

5. An overwhelming number of women are sexually assaulted by people known to them, and often include near or distant family, friends and partners.

Who will be able to face the psychological and social trauma of having reported against their … relatives?

Would marital rape (currently not recognized by law), even conceptually, ever be looked at through the same retributive prism?

… [7] In cases of sexual assault where the perpetrator is in a position of power (such as in cases of custodial rape or caste and communal violence), conviction is notoriously difficult.

The death penalty, for reasons that have already been mentioned, would make conviction next to impossible.

Rape: Reinforced by the State

6. The State often reserves for itself the ‘right to kill’ — through the armed forces, the paramilitary and the police.

Giving more powers to the State ─ whether arming the police and giving them the right to shoot at sight or awarding capital punishment ─ is not a viable solution to lessen the incidence of crime.

Furthermore, with death penalty at stake, the ‘guardians of the law’ will make sure that no complaints against them get registered and they will go to any length to make sure that justice does not see the light of day.  

Change demanded

Greater dignity, equality, autonomy and rights for women and girls from a society that should stop questioning and policing their actions at every step

Immediate relief: legal, medical, financial and psychological assistance and long-term rehabilitation measures provided to survivors of sexual assault.

Improved infrastructure provided to make cities safer for women, including well-lit pavements and bus stops, help lines and emergency services.

Effective registration, monitoring and regulation of transport services (whether public, private or contractual) to make them safe, accessible and available to all

Compulsory courses within the training curriculum on gender sensitization for all personnel employed and engaged by the State in its various institutions, including the police.

Mandate that police do [their] duty to ensure that public spaces are free from harassment, molestation and assault. This means that they themselves have to stop sexually assaulting women who come to make complaints. They have to register all FIRs [First Information Report or FIR is a written document prepared by police organizations in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offense: generally a complaint lodged with the police by the victim of a cognizable offense or by someone on his or her behalf, but anyone can make such a report either orally or in writing to the police.] and attend to complaints. CCTV cameras should be set up in all police stations and swift action must be taken against errant police personnel.

Immediate establishment of fast track courts for rape and other forms of sexual violence all across the country; State governments ensure priority of operation of these courts; Sentencing carried out within a six-month period.

Sources and notes

Text of statement condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty: women’s and progressive groups and individuals in India, Monday, December 24, 2012, South Asia Citizens Web, http://www.sacw.net/article3458.html

Endorsed by Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA (All India Progressive Women’s Association), New Delhi and many other women and organizations

On December 16, 2012, a 23-year old woman and her friend hailed a bus at a crossing in South Delhi. In the bus, they were both brutally attacked by a group of men who claimed to be out on a ‘joy-ride’. The woman was gang raped and the man beaten up; after several hours, they were both stripped and dumped on the road. While the young woman is still in hospital, bravely battling for her life, her friend has been discharged and is helping identify the men responsible for the heinous crime.


A speech by Kavita Krishnan was also aired on KPFA Women’s Magazine November 4, 2013, http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/96812

Indian feminist activist Kavita Krishnan is secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, a group that organizes poor women workers against feudal violence and state repression of women. The recorded speech “Women Want Freedom: Shifting the Terms of the Debate” addressing the uprising that followed the brutal rape and murder last December in India of a 23-year-old woman and led to a new type of movement against rape with broad support,  raising never before raised questions of male entitlement was given at UC Berkeley in September 2013. Her talk sponsored by the Center for South Asia Studies, Kavita Krishnan also raised questions about rape culture in India, the United States, and internationally; and the influence of capitalism and neo-liberalism in structurally supporting all rape cultures by continuing to exploit women’s labor in the home and the work place.

All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)
Kavita Krishnan, Secretary

AIPWA Struggles FOR

Changes in sexual violence laws, to recognize and punish rape within marriage, rape using objects, gang-rape, sexual violence directed against women from dalit and backward communities, religious minorities, and on the basis of race and ethnicity; rape by police forces and Army

Women’s equal right to property, wages, and freedoms

Women’s rights to education, health, nutrition – against the Government’s withdrawal of subsidies to these areas and against privatization

33 percent reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies

To resist patriarchal political culture in all its manifestations: including low representation of women in elections and elected bodies; the ‘panchayat pati’ syndrome; and sexist abuse of women in politics; and against patriarchal pronouncements by political leaders

Democratization of the women’s commissions in States and the Centre, to ensure that they are functional, and headed and constituted by women's movement activists rather than political appointees

Rights and dignity of physically and mentally challenged women

In support of women’s struggles against corporate land grab, nuclear power projects, against slum eviction, for civic amenities, and other people's movements

…For an end to trafficking; for protection of sex workers from exploitation and violence; social services for sex workers and their dependants; as well as provision of secure, dignified and remunerative employment for women, so that women are not forced to opt for sex work due to poverty and unemployment

…For rights, dignity, and protection for homosexuals, Hijras [In South Asia a group comprising a third gender, neither female nor male], transsexuals and sexual minorities


All kinds of violence on women

Sex-selective abortions

‘Honor’ crimes and killings, against diktats by khap panchayats and moral policing in the name of religion or culture, to uphold women's unqualified right to take independent decisions about their own lives, including relationships, marriage, education, work, clothes or lifestyle

Sexual harassment at the workplace, demanding committees to enquire into complaints against sexual harassment at all workplaces – be they government or private sector, unorganised sector or universities

Patriarchal habit of blaming women's clothes or behavior for sexual violence

Gender discrimination and gendered social roles both at home and in the workplace

Neoliberal policies that have resulted in greater exploitation and insecurity of women workers

Patriarchal and sexist culture that demeans women – including both orthodox and oppressive traditions as well as commercialization and commoditization of women’s bodies and sexuality

Fights recent rape and murder events in India

Against the social stigma and violence faced by sex workers;

Against Criminalization of homosexuality under Section 377

Source: http://www.andmagazine.com/content/phoenix/12726.ht

“Reports of military sexual assault rise sharply, Pentagon figures show: Pentagon reports 3,553 assault complaints between October and June as Congress considers range of measures to help victims” (Karen McVeigh in New York, theguardian.com), Thursday November 7, 2013 17.13 EST, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/07/military-sexual-assaults-rise-reports-pentagon

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