Resisting the Patriarchal ‘Lines of Control’

Kavita Krishnan

(A version of this article appeared in the February issue of Hard News.) 

Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it.” – V I Lenin
‘Middle class selective outrage’; ‘lynch mob mentality’; ‘macho protectiveness’; ‘coexistence of placards demanding women’s autonomy with those demanding castration for rapists’ – these are the ways in which some sceptics have described the ongoing movement against sexual violence. Activists of women’s movements and students’ movement who have chosen to identify with this movement have been accused of romanticising what is actually a dangerous mob phenomenon.   

Struggle Against Sexual Harassment in BHU

Ironically, at a time when there is a nationwide movement against sexual violence and gender bias, the Administration remains a mute spectator to sexual crimes against women students within the campus of BHU, a reputed Central University.
The latest case in point is the incident of molestation on January 24 when some women students passing near the Birla Hostel were subjected to molestation and abuse by a group of boys belonging to that hostel. The girls complained to the Proctorial Board but shockingly the culprits abused and threatened the girls in the very presence of the Chief Proctor. The authorities cross-questioned the girls as if they were the culprits and not the victims. Even after the intervention of some teachers the culprits, said to be close to a Minister in the State government, went scot-free although the victim women have lodged a complaint naming the culprits. Incensed by this injustice, around 100-125 students gherao-ed the Vice-Chancellor and after about 4 hours of protest the VC assured the students that a Women’s Cell would be constituted and the guilty would be punished.
The question is, when will these promises be fulfilled? It is shocking that in spite of Supreme Court’s Visakha directives, a premier institute like BHU does not have a Women’s Cell till now. In spite of the assurances, no action has been taken against the culprits till date. The women students of BHU face many obstacles in their struggle for the right to study in an atmosphere of freedom without fear. In the name of security, what they get is instructions to be back in their hostels by 7 PM! BHU is not only a reputed national institution, it is also a Central University. Therefore, if the University does not act to punish the culprits due to local pressures, it is the duty of the Central government and the HRD ministry to intervene and ensure proper action against the culprits.
On 29 January, the women students met the SSP of Varanasi to demand action against the culprits, but he responded by asking, “Why did the women students have to walk on that particular road? Why are women becoming political leaders? No sexual harassment has occurred.” He also threatened action against a Hindi daily that has been reporting on the incident and its aftermath.
On February 1st, AISA held a protest meeting at Lanka (the gate of BHU), which was addressed by JNUSU VP Meenakshi Gohain, AISA National President Sandeep Singh, AISA’s UP Secretary Ramayan Ram, and AISA leader Sarita Patel, as well as women students of BHU.
On 9th February, the ‘Bekhauf Azadi Aur Adhikar Manch’ (Platform for Fearless Freedom and Rights) held a public meeting against gender violence, the Delhi gang-rape, and the Justice Verma recommendations. Addressing the meeting, Dr. Madhu Kushwaha of the Education Faculty, BHU, challenged the notion that ‘provocation’ by women led men to rape. Kumud Ranjan, of the Sociology Department of BHU talked about the revolutionary spirit of the movement sparked off in Delhi. Shahina Rizvi, former head of the Urdu department, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth University scoffed at the idea of clothes being liked to rape, pointing that when she was young and went to university in a burqa, she and her friends still faced harassment and violence. Prashant Shukla, of the Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT, BHU, explained the path-breaking features of the Justice Verma report. The meeting was also addressed by research scholars Mitali and Pragya, post graduates Soni, Ali Ayaz, and Vibha who recited a poem on rape culture, Law student Nitesh, and Hindi department students Astha and Shweta who recounted their recent experiences of facing sexual harassment and intimidation. The meeting was conducted by Kusum Verma of AIPWA. 

In Lucknow University, AISA conducted a poetry reading session with the theme ofBekhauf Azadi’ (Fearless Freedom).

Why should the prospect of contradictory consciousness in a mass movement worry us so much? Thinking about this question brought me, inevitably, to the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci who wrote of this inevitable contradictory consciousness: “The active man-in-the-mass has a practical activity, but has no clear theoretical consciousness of his practical activity, which nonetheless involves understanding the world in so far as it transforms it. His theoretical consciousness can indeed be historically in opposition to his activity. One might almost say that he has two theoretical consciousnesses (or one contradictory consciousness): one which is implicit in his activity and which in reality unites him with all his fellow workers in the practical transformation of the real world; and one, superficially explicit or verbal, which he has inherited from the past and uncritically absorbed.”

This contradiction, this conflict, is the stuff out of which political transformation and radicalization is made. On the streets, I saw it in action many a time. Let me recount one occasion. On 29 December, the day the young fighter finally succumbed to her injuries, we gathered at Jantar Mantar in condolence. To begin with, our appeals to desist from shrill sloganeering were snubbed rudely by a small group that was seeking to control the Jantar Mantar space. We moved away a small distance, and joined some young women sitting quietly on the ground with tears in their eyes. Gradually, the circle of people sitting in silence and grief swelled, as people spontaneously gravitated to that space of gravity and reflection. And gradually, from among them, rose the songs and slogans of freedom, and towards afternoon, the voices of young women speaking their minds. A young man at that gathering came up to me, wanting to talk. “I have been at the protest every day,” he said, “and I fully support the struggle for women to be safe from violence. But I’m disturbed by the slogans of ‘freedom’ being raised. If my sister is free to dress or go out with anyone, won’t it put her at risk? I just can’t help feeling disturbed by the idea of her freedom.” His admission of his discomfort was disarming in its honesty, and we talked for a time about why this idea of women’s freedom was disconcerting. On my asking, he admitted that before his participation in the movement, he could not recall having felt similarly disturbed before: the different rules for women and men in our society had seemed quite natural and right. “Embrace that feeling of disturbance,” I urged, “and see where it takes you.” After all, that disturbance was a crack in the edifice of patriarchal commonsense: a moment when patriarchal certainties turned shaky and doubts were born.           
There were many other occasions, of course. My favourite is the one documented by Shuddhabrata Sengupta of Kafila, where a man with a Yamraj mask listened to speeches disagreeing with the death penalty demand, took off his mask, tore up his own placard, and took up a placard saying ‘Death penalty is not the solution.’      



How UPA Govt Ordinance Undermines the Very Spirit of Justice Verma Committee Recommendations : A Comparative Analysis


The JVC Report

The Govt’s Ordinance


For the first time in India, spelt out a constitutional Bill of Rights for women, and the means to ensure those fundamental rights to equality, freedom, and autonomy

Ignores the Bill of Rights


Recognised that sexual violence is not an act of sex or lust: it is an act of patriarchal power. Therefore, to reduce sexual violence, we must safeguard women’s freedom and rights; and to ensure that perpetrators are punished, we must undo the impunity and protection for such offences that is built into the laws and into our system  

Maintains the inbuilt ways in which laws protect powerful perpetrators


Recognised women’s rights to autonomy: including her sexual autonomy and her right to choose her partners, friends, and spouses. Recommended changing the archaic and anti-women vocabulary of laws. Understood sexual violence as a violation of a woman’s bodily integrity and her dignity, rather than as ‘outraging modesty’, ‘robbing honour’ or bringing ‘shame’.

Has many clauses that go AGAINST women’s autonomy and freedom, and retains the anti-women wording of ‘outraging modesty’ instead of molestation or sexual violence


Redefined the meaning of ‘consent’: stating that unless a woman indicates ‘Yes’ to sex, either by word or by gesture, no one can ‘assume’ that she consented. In the present system, many rape cases go unpunished because a woman is ‘presumed’ to have consented unless she has marks of injury on her body or on the body of the accused. She is ‘presumed’ to have consented if she is married to the accused. A girl is ‘presumed’ to be incapable of consent to sexual contact if she is 16-18 years old, even if her partner is of a similar young age, unless she is married to him. Moreover, she is ‘presumed’ to be lying if the man she accuses is a public servant; a judge; a magistrate; or an army officer; that is why, in such cases, prior permission from the Govt is needed in order to prosecute the accused. Justice Verma sought to challenge and change these in-built, wrong assumptions that go against justice for women.

Accepted the changed definition of ‘consent’ as recommended by JVC, BUT retained many of the substantial provisions that fail to recognise and respect women’s ‘consent’ – in case of married women, 16-18 year-old girls, and women who complain against the powerful people such as judges, magistrates, police officers, bureaucrats, and army officers.


Expanded the meaning of sexual assault to cover a range of forms of sexual violence: from sexual harassment to stalking to voyeurism (making MMS etc) to acid-throwing to rape by insertion of an object or a male body part. Recommended higher and more severe punishment for various forms of sexual violence.

Accepted expanded definition and scope of sexual assault, and more severe punishment


Recognised that the victim of sexual violence could be ‘gender-neutral’ (i.e could be female/male/transgender/hijra etc), but that the perpetrator is male.

Makes the perpetrator/accused in the rape law gender-neutral – i.e both men and women can be accused of rape. This will mean that if a woman files a rape complaint against a man, he can file a counter-complaint of rape against her!


Recognised that young people between the age of 16-18 do, naturally, indulge in sexual experimentation, and that such sexual contact between young people by mutual consent cannot automatically be termed ‘rape’.

All mutual sexual contact between young girls and boys of the age group 16-18 is automatically termed as ‘rape’. This means that innocent young boys will face rape charges, for no crime except that they befriended young girls of their own age. And a generation of young boys who grow up without learning to see girls as equals and as friends, will be more likely to be violent towards women as adults.


Recognises that rape happens even within marriage. Asserted that sexual contact, even within a marriage, must be with a woman’s consent; a wife is not her husband’s property, and cannot be ‘expected’ to have sex with her husband, against her will. Therefore, recommended removal of the existing exemption of ‘marital rape’ from the rape law. Upheld the principle that in the case of rape and sexual assault, the relationship of the accused with the complainant will not be the basis for denying her claim of rape; neither can it be the basis for a more lenient sentence. Therefore recommended deletion of the provision of lenient sentence in case of rape of a legally separated wife by a husband.

Legitimises marital rape – i.e forced sexual contact by husband against wife’s consent. Therefore strengthens the idea of the wife as the ‘sexual property’ of the husband. Retains the provision of lesser sentence (minimum sentence of 2 years) for a husband who rapes a legally separated wife! Therefore, even if a wife has taken the pains to separate herself from an abusive husband, the law will make excuses for him if he rapes her, on the grounds that she was once his wife, and so he can be excused for thinking of her as his property! Not only that, according to the ordinance, wives cannot accuse husbands of sexual assault – but because of the ‘gender-neutral’ provision, husbands can accuse wives of sexual assault! Not only that, husbands cannot get life sentence or death sentence for sexual assault even of a separated wife, but a wife accused by a husband of sexual assault, can under the ordinance get life sentence and even death sentence!


Sought to get rid of protections for powerful offenders. Recommended that politicians against whom a charge sheet has been filed for sexual violence, be prevented from contesting elections. Recommended that no sanction/prior permission be required to prosecute judges/magistrates/public servants who are accused of sexual violence; and similarly that the AFSPA be amended to do away with the requirement for sanction/prior permission to prosecute an army officer accused of sexual violence. Justice Verma’s argument is clear: no army officer nor any judge or public servant can claim to have raped in the course of his duty. As in any case, the Court can be the best judge, based on available evidence, of whether a complaint is false or true. 

Continues to protect the powerful. No provisions against candidates charged with sexual violence. Retains the requirement of ‘prior permission’ for prosecution of public servants/judges/magistrates/army officers. So, no Ruchika Girotra (molested by a police officer), Geetika Sharma or Rupam Pathak (raped by MLAs), Thangjam Manorama (raped by army personnel) can expect justice!


Recommended changes in the law based on the principle of ‘command responsibility’ in case of custodial rape by police or army: i.e the principle that a superior officer will be held responsible if he orders or knowingly allows a junior officer to commit rape or sexual assault against a woman who is in custody, or is in a conflict area. This principle is very important if one looks at the rape of Soni Sori (Chhattisgarh SP Ankit Garg ordered his men to sexually torture her) or the rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama in Manipur in the custody of personnel of the Assam Rifles. Such rapes could not have occurred without the knowledge and explicit orders/tacit consent of senior officers. Given the widespread prevalence of sexual violence in conflict areas, the JVC also recommended a review of the AFSPA, which is encouraging such violence. That AFSPA in any case has a provision for periodic review, which has however not been done.   

Senior police/army officers will not be investigated or punished for custodial rapes that are committed at their orders or with their knowledge in custody by their junior officers.


Recommended changes in the existing medical investigation protocol for rape survivor. Recommended prohibition of the demeaning two-finger test and other forms of medical examination that investigate women’s past sexual history. Also recommended a protocol to ensure sensitive medical care of a rape survivor.

Does not prohibit ‘two-finger test,’ whereby a doctor puts two fingers into a rape survivor’s body to check if she is ‘habituated to sex.’ In fact, the ordinance’s definition of ‘rape’ (Section 375) legitimises this test, by stating that penetration or touching of private parts ‘for medical purposes’ (without specifying the need to obtain prior consent of the patient) will not be considered rape. The rape definition in the ordinance also, strangely, justifies penetration of the body for ‘hygienic’ purposes – so now, many rapists can try and explain away rape as a lesson in hygiene!         


Recommended more judges, more courts to ensure speedier trials and timely justice; also changes in judicial procedures to make rape trials gender-just.  

Accepts changes in judicial procedure, but does nothing in the direction of speedier justice


Did not recommend death sentence.

Includes death sentence for rapes that result in death or permanent vegetative state of the victim. In the case of death of the victim, the provision of death sentence already exists and is nothing new. Death sentence for causing permanent vegetative state is dangerous for women: since the risk of hanging for murder and rape are the same, it is likely to become an incentive for the rapist to make sure to kill the victim so that she cannot testify against him.


Clearly made the Govt responsible for the failure to protect women from violence
a)                    recommended 5 years imprisonment for police personnel who fail to do their duty (i.e filing FIRs, pursuing a fair investigation), recommended comprehensive police reforms 
b)                   recommended setting up of well-equipped Rape Crisis Centres; safe houses for women facing violence; forensic investigation; and juvenile justice homes
c)                    Spelt out the Govt’s duty to ensure safe and adequate public transport, and safety at bus stops and on streets, and a range of other governance measures.    


No efforts to ensure police accountability or governance;
a)                    Punishment for failure to register FIR or biased investigation is just a token 1 year; no police reforms
b)                   No provisions for rape crisis centres, forensic facilities, safe houses, juvenile homes etc
c)                    No governance measures such as public transport etc to ensure safer public spaces for women


When Slogans of ‘Freedom’ Annotated the Slogans for ‘Justice’

The slogan of ‘We Want Justice,’ initially, was taken to mean only punishment – even hanging – for rapists. At that point, it seemed that the rulers and MPs – from Congress, BJP, and other parties too - were quite happy to be seen endorsing it. As long as ‘justice’ meant

‘death penalty,’ as long as women wanted ‘safety’ and ‘protection,’ few in Government or Parliament seemed to have any problems with it.

But then, almost immediately, the slogans of ‘We Want Freedom’ began to expand the boundaries of ‘justice’, with women raising placards saying ‘Woh kare to stud, main karun to slut? (If he does it he’s a stud, if I do it I’m a slut?)’ and ‘Don’t teach me how to dress, teach men not to rape.’ And the men responded too. We saw one young man carrying a placard saying, ‘When we men wear muscle shirts, women do not rape us.’ And we watched as the slogan of ‘freedom’ was taken up with enthusiastic variations, demanding the freedom to be born, to be fed, to study, to work, to have control over property and money, to dress according to one’s choice, to love, to choose a partner irrespective of caste or gender, to give birth to a girl-child, to control one’s own reproduction and sexuality, to free oneself from abusive or unsatisfactory marriages, to be free of the fear of violence at home and in public spaces, to protest without the fear of state repression and custodial violence.             
And as soon as the slogans of ‘freedom’ began to make themselves heard, the polite pretence of the rulers and reactionaries came apart at the seams, giving way to sheer raw

misogynistic reaction. Also, these statements had a calculated political intent: to reach out to and organize the constituency of patriarchal backlash to the movement for women’s equality and freedom. The slogan of women’s freedom touches a raw nerve precisely because there is an intimate relationship between power and patriarchy. Patriarchy and women’s unfreedom makes it possible to exploit women’s unpaid labour in the household and even in jobs like the National Rural Health Mission; and to pay women less for the same work. In India, neoliberal policies have made life worse for women, not because they have imposed too much modernity on women – but rather, because they have failed to usher in a healthy and thoroughgoing modernity, choosing instead to strengthen, exploit, and profit from existing structures of gender oppression. 
There is a very deliberate effort now to contain the impulse for freedom; to re-impose patriarchal strictures on women in the name of ‘safety.’ From all over the country, there is disturbing news of bans on mobiles, dress codes, bans on schoolgirls speaking to schoolboys; women’s hostel curfews being tightened; and so on. But this is not happening uncontested. This time, thanks to the movement, these things are being debated spiritedly and resisted. At a meeting in a prominent Delhi University women’s college recently, women residents of the hostel spiritedly and openly rebelled against the move to advance their hostel curfew timings by an hour. ‘Men rape; why, then, are women locked up?’ was the outcry.
And this impulse for freedom is by no means an exclusively urban phenomenon. In rural Haryana and Bihar, after dalit schoolgirls were gang-raped by dominant castes some months ago, our activists found that schoolgirls had participated in protests in huge numbers. And one anxiety foremost among these young girls was that the threat of sexual violence would result in curbs on their right to attend school and coaching classes. 
The ideological assault on women’s freedom is also deliberate. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s ‘Bharat/India’ remarks were defended by BJP leaders who said he only wanted to say that Indian culture respected women, and it was Western culture that led to rape. But the double standards are rather glaring: Bhagwat and his brigade, wearing khaki shorts (very much ‘Western’ in origin), while telling women not to embrace modernity, which they brand as ‘Western’. We may recall the RSS founder Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts; in the chapter ‘Call to the Motherhood’, Golwalkar deplores ‘modernity’ in Indian women. According to Golwalkar, women who enjoy the freedom and equality of modernity, lack in virtue and think that ‘modernism lies in exposing their body more and more to the public gaze’!
Bhagwat also held forth about women being contractually bound to do housework for their husbands. Later, he clarified that he meant this as a criticism of ‘Western’ marriages, not as a prescription for all marriages. Well, what is the RSS model for an ideal Indian marriage? Krishna Sharma, leader of the VHP Women’s Wing, elaborated in an interview, “It is the man who must earn and support his family (while the women manages the household), his education is more important. This division of labour is natural.” (Quoted in Women and the Hindu Right: a collection of essays, Ed. Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia. New Delhi, Kali for Women, 1995, pp: 331-335) In the same interview, Sharma had defended wife-beating, saying, “Don’t parents admonish their children for misbehaviour? Just as a child must adjust to his/her parents, so must a wife act keeping in mind her husband’s moods and must avoid irritating him.” And Sharma’s words have been echoed verbatim by Sharda, a Rashtriya Sevika Sangh activist when a reporter of Outlook recently asked her about wife beating (‘Holier Than Cow,’ Outlook, January 28, 2013).    
The ongoing movement began, for many, with a moment of empathy: with the thought, “It could have been me on that bus.” Day by day, that embrace of empathy grew wider. On the streets, among scores of protesters we were meeting for the first time, we spoke of Soni Sori, of Surekha and Priyanka Bhotmange, of Kunan Poshpora, of Neelofer and Aasiya, of Thangjam Manorama, of the Muslim women raped in Gujarat 2002; of the rapes of dalit women in Haryana; of the rapes of LGBTI people in police custody. We spoke of the many contexts of power in which rape occurs. Rape happens to remind you that you’re a woman; sometimes it happens to remind you you’re a dalit woman; a Muslim woman; a ‘deviant’ person; a woman from the ‘enemy’ community while the rapist in uniform represents the Indian state. 

What this movement has done is to make visible the many ‘Laxman rekhas’ (or ‘Lines of Control’) in our country. The Laxman rekha (LOC) for women; but also the Laxman rekha (LOC) for protest and dissent, which, if you cross, you’re met with tear gas, batons – and, anywhere outside the national capital, bullets and outright bloodshed. What’s happened is that these ‘Laxman rekhas’ and LOCs can no longer appear ‘natural’ – each of them is being met with defiance and resistance.   

An Ordinance That Dilutes and Subverts Justice Verma Recommendations
Kavita Krishnan

(A version of this article appeared in Tehelka Issue 07 Volume 10).

Any ordinance is promulgated as an emergency measure. Women live in a daily state of ‘emergency’, their freedom curbed by the fear of sexual violence. But it is not that emergency which has prompted the Government’s ordinance. Rather, for the Government, the ‘emergency’ was the desperate need to somehow dilute and divert the Justice Verma recommendations, which reflected the aims and demands of the ongoing countrywide movement.
The Justice Verma Report was a breath of fresh air, letting in the flowing wind of democracy and freedom into all the prisons of patriarchy. For the first time, here was a set of reasoned recommendations, backed by painstaking homework that recognised that sexual violence was about power, not sex; that removed sexual violence from the frame of ‘shame-honour’ and understood it in terms of women’s bodily integrity and dignity; and which sought to undo the many kinds of unbridled power and impunity that breed violence against women. The ordinance, instead, shores up the walls of patriarchal privilege and impunity.      
It is true that the ordinance expands the definition of sexual violence, recognises stalking, acid-throwing, and voyeurism, and introduces more severe punishments. But on a range of key questions, the ordinance actively militates against women’s autonomy and rights, and protects the impunity of powerful rapists, and the lack of accountability of police and other institutions.
Justice Verma’s Report had redefined the meaning of ‘consent’: stating that unless a woman indicates ‘Yes’ to sex, either by word or by gesture, no one can ‘assume’ that she consented. In the present system, many rape cases go unpunished because a woman is ‘presumed’ to have consented unless she has marks of injury on her body or on the body of the accused. She is ‘presumed’ to have consented if she is married to the accused. A girl is ‘presumed’ to be incapable of consent to sexual contact if she is 16-18 years old, even if her partner is of a similar young age, unless she is married to him. Moreover, she is ‘presumed’ to be lying if the man she accuses is a public servant; a judge; a magistrate; or an army officer; that is why, in such cases, prior permission from the Govt is needed in order to prosecute the accused. Justice Verma sought to challenge and change these in-built patriarchal assumptions, and protective shields for the powerful, that go against justice for women. The ordinance’s purpose seems to have been to prevent these patriarchal assumptions and protective shields from being swept away.
And further, the ordinance adds provisions that make women even more vulnerable than they are under the existing laws. For instance, the ordinance makes the perpetrator of rape ‘gender-neutral’: i.e both men and women can be accused of rape. This will mean that if a woman files a rape complaint against a man, he will be able to file a counter-complaint of rape against her!
The ordinance does not respect the right of young girls between the age of 16-18 to have sexual contact by their consent with male friends of a similar age. Instead, by automatically branding all such sexual contact as ‘sexual violence’, the ordinance will strengthen the khap panchayats and moral policing brigades who seek to curb the freedom of young people of that age.
The ordinance legitimises marital rape and strengthens the idea of the wife as the ‘sexual property’ of the husband. It also retains the provision of lesser sentence (minimum sentence of 2 years) for a husband who rapes a legally separated wife! Therefore, even if a wife has taken the pains to separate herself from an abusive husband, the law will make excuses for him if he rapes her. The exclusion of marital rape and the lesser sentence for rape of a separated wife are shocking violations of the principle – upheld by Verma - that the relationship or prior relationship of the accused with the victim will not be grounds to undermine the rape complaint or show leniency.
There is a deliberate attempt now, on part of the Government, as well as a variety of patriarchal voices that have become active, to suggest that ‘marital rape’ is a ‘controversial’ issue. This is strange, to say the least. What is controversial about saying that a woman, by marrying, does not sign away her sexual autonomy for life? We should ask those who are painting apocalyptic visions of disintegrating families as a result of recognising marital rape: do you mean that marriage and the family institutions rest on the pillar of the sexual power a husband enjoys over his wife? By recognising marital rape, will we not, in fact, democratise the marriage relationship to a greater extent?       
One absurdity in the ordinance is that while wives are specifically prevented from being able to accuse husbands of sexual assault – because of the ‘gender-neutral’ provision, husbands can now accuse wives of sexual assault! 
The ordinance continues to provide a shield of impunity to the powerful. There are no provisions against candidates charge sheeted for sexual violence. The ordinance retains the requirement of ‘prior permission’ for prosecution of public servants/judges/magistrates/army officers. So, no Ruchika Girotra or Soni Sori (molested by a police officer), Geetika Sharma or Rupam Pathak (raped by MLAs), or Thangjam Manorama (raped by army personnel) can expect justice under this ordinance! Senior police/army officers will not be investigated or punished for custodial rapes that are committed at their orders or with their knowledge in custody by their junior officers.
The Government argues that the prior sanction clause is needed to protect public servants and army officers from ‘false complaints.’ Why should the Government be allowed to decide if a woman’s complaint of sexual violence is false or true? Why can’t the Courts be left to decide this, especially in cases where the accused is powerful?   
To ensure accountability of the police, Justice Verma has stipulated a punishment of 5 years imprisonment for failure to register an FIR or biased investigation, in order to instil fear of consequence in police personnel who fail to abide by the law. But the ordinance dilutes this to a mere 1 year, and so clearly sends a message of leniency out to the police.
The ordinance retains patriarchal language, continuing to call molestation as ‘outraging modesty.’ Not only does the ordinance fail to ban the demeaning and sexist two-finger test, and its definition of rape actually legitimises the two-finger test, in the name of ‘penetration for medical purposes.’ 
The shoddily-drafted and anti-women ordinance, promulgated by stealth before any citizen of the country had even seen it, is a disservice to the painstakingly prepared Justice Verma Report that adopted a thoroughly democratic and rigorous process, and came up with a report showed the way to promoting women’s freedom, rights, and safety. This is why there is a public outcry against this ordinance.
The Government’s position is that they have not ‘rejected’ any of the Verma Committee’s recommendations, but have simply left out ‘controversial’ provisions. Women’s autonomy and rights, and the question of ending impunity and ensuring accountability are the backbone of the Verma Report: by terming these controversial, the Government has revealed its own ideological bias.
The ordinance continues to make excuses for rape in a variety of contexts – and that is why people will protest during the Budget Session of Parliament, demanding that it must, at the earliest, be replaced by a thoroughgoing Criminal Amendment Act that is based on the Justice Verma recommendations. The protests will also demand that the Government must also back the Verma recommendations with budgetary allocations in the forthcoming Budget: spending enough on rape crisis centres, more judges and courts to ensure speedier trials, safe houses for women facing violence in their homes, and forensic facilities, rather than on lakhs of crores of tax giveaways to huge corporations.  

Moral Policing in the Guise of ‘Safety’ for Women

Recently, there have been many instances of attacks on women’s freedom by the police and other public authorities in the name of keeping women ‘safe.’
In Siwan, Bihar, a panchayat reportedly imposed a ban on girls wearing jeans and having mobiles, claiming that these things encouraged women to elope with boys. AIPWA protested this kind of moral policing in Bihar, asserting the freedom and rights of young girls and women, and demanding that the Government deal sternly with such patriarchal forces rather than letting them become virtual ‘khap panchayats’.
In Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, a newspaper reported that the Durg police are conducting a special drive “to curb crime against women” and in this connection they caught couples who were sitting together in public places, and later released them after strictly “warning them not to repeat this thing”.  On January 29, 12 boys and 7 girls were nabbed under this special drive and later handed over to their parents with a warning that this act should not be repeated. This drive was known as “Operation Majnu.”
Commenting on this report, Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan of AIPWA wrote in the Hitavada, “What right has the police to question where a girl is sitting and with whom she is sitting provided she is not breaking the law and not harming others? Rather, it is the police who are breaking the law and violating the constitutional rights of the young people by interfering in their personal lives and by indulging in moral policing.  This is not a new offence on the part of the police but unfortunately it has always gone unchecked and unpunished.  This can have dangerous consequences.  Only last year there was the case of  the Durg police nabbing some boys and girls who were returning from Raipur to Bhilai late at night and one of the girls collapsed and died during the police questioning…. There must be no confusion between sexual harassment and self choice friendships.  There is nothing immoral or vulgar in friendship between boys and girls. In fact, interaction and friendship with girls actually sensitizes boys and makes them respect the autonomy and freedom of women.”  
The AIPWA submitted letters of protest to the SP and the Collector of Durg district in this matter, demanding that the police “go about their business of making public spaces safe for women instead of driving women away from such spaces.” Representatives of AIPWA also had a discussion with the police officials of Durg district and put forward their objection to such moral policing.     
Demonstration against rape in Tiruvallore District
In Tiruvallore district a 15-year old dalit girl was raped and sexually abused repeatedly for the past six months by a local businessman, 53, with the help of another woman in the area. Her mother’s complaints to the police were not taken seriously as the culprit has influence in the local police station. When the mother approached our Party, CPIML and AIPWA made a complaint in the same police station. The police then filed the FIR and the culprit and the woman who helped him are now in prison.
On February 2, Party and AIPWA organized a demonstration in the area in which over 300 participated. Local people also joined the demonstration. Leaders of local women self-help groups attended the demonstrations. The demonstration demanded: the culprit must be booked under Goondas Act; compensation for the victim; implementation of Verma Committee recommendations.
Tiruvallore District Party Secretary Com. S. Janakiraman, RYA State Convenor Com. Bharathi, AISA State President Com. Malarvizhi, AIPWA State Vice-presidents Com. Kuppabai and Com. Devaki spoke in the demonstration.


Justice in the Suryanelli Rape Case

Anti-rape protesters have been outraged by the fact that the new rape law will be discussed in Parliament, with a rape-accused presiding over the discussions! The Deputy Speaker of the Rajya Sabha, PJ Kurien, is accused in the Suryanelli rape case: a case of gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Kerala, 17 years ago.
The 16-year-old girl in Kerala’s remote Idukki district, was defrauded by a man whom she had befriended, was drugged, beaten and taken to places across the Tamil Nadu and Kerala countryside, where she was raped by around 40 men. Eventually she was put on a bus back home, after which she filed a complaint of rape. 40 persons were named as accused in the main petition, by the State Government. The rape survivor later saw Kurien’s photograph in a newspaper and recognized him to be one of the rapists, and filed a private petition against him to the court, when the police refused to register her complaint against him.
Kurien had tried to appeal against his being named as an accused, but his appeal was rejected thrice: by the lower court, by the High Court and by an Additional Sessions Court. A Special Court had convicted 35 of the 40 accused in the original case. A division bench of the Kerala High Court, in 2005, however, overturned the convictions, in a shockingly misogynist verdict. Only one man was found guilty of sex trade (procuring and selling a minor for purposes of prostitution). Only after that, based on the acquittal of the other accused in the main petition, was the case against Kurien rejected by the Kerala HC and later the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile the rape survivor also faced political victimisation, being falsely accused of financial irregularities and losing her job. 
However, the Supreme Court recently responded to the appeal against the 2005 verdict, expressing dismay at the verdict and setting aside the Kerala HC’s acquittal of 2005.  The case has been sent back to the HC for a fresh look.
Several crucial witnesses, including the man convicted in the case, have now stated that Kurien was in fact guilty and that the prosecution had made them suppress facts.
The Kerala HC verdict of 2005, shockingly, seems based more on the judges’ view of the girl’s morals rather than on the facts of the case. Based on its moralizing, it concludes that the girl was a prostitute who agreed to sex with 40 men by consent. For instance, the verdict comments that the girl’s “inclination to have such friendly relationship with a stranger like Kochumon must also be taken note of while appreciating her evidence.” It notes that “She is thus shown to be a girl of deviant character. She was not a normal innocent girl of that age.” One of the judges notes that “It is easy to assume that no minor if prudent and intelligent, and if her faculties of reasoning and sense of righteous behaviour are properly developed and intact, would choose in the Indian context to consent to extra marital and pre marital sexual intercourse…. In the fiercely consumerist society that we live in, a young girl child is also exposed to so many temptations that it is difficult for the child which has not been groomed in proper atmosphere with a proper value system inculcated in it, to resist such temptations. Such children can be termed deviants but cannot be merely condemned and left to their fate.” And therefore the judge advices raising of the age of consent to 18 years rather than 16! The verdict shares all sorts of patriarchal ideas about how a ‘righteous’ and ‘good’ girl would behave, and with all the patriarchal moral outrage and disgust, brands as ‘deviant’ a young girl who chooses to fall in love with a man. Once assumed to be a ‘deviant’, her own testimony about being raped by other men is viewed by the judges with suspicion, based on their assessment about her character and morals. And at the end, while doing a grievous injustice to the complaint of rape and branding her a liar, they ask that the freedom of all young girls of 16-18 years, to have friendships of their own choice, be restricted by raising the age of consent! One of the Judges who delivered that verdict has recently said on TV that the girl was a ‘deviant’ and a ‘child prostitute.’
The Congress party has shamefully yet to remove Kurien from his post as Deputy Speaker of the RS. Moreover, asked by a woman journalist about the Kurien case, UPA Overseas Minister Vayalar Ravi made a sexist remark, asking her whether she too had had a past relationship with Kurien! The Congress is yet to act against either Kurien or Ravi.
Speaking to a national daily, the rape survivor who is fighting for justice said, “I am no longer the 16-year-old school girl who fell for her first love, and lost her life. Yet, at 33, I am battling the same nightmares; my world is a grey longwinding road that stretches from my house to church and office.
People have a tendency to smirk when I recount the 40 days when I was turned into a female body that could be used anyway they liked — sold like caged cattle, pushed into dark rooms across the state, raped day and night, kicked and punched. ...I can remember all those faces clearly. Raju comes first. The man I loved, and trusted. That he would turn me into the victim of Kerala’s first sex racket was the twist in my love story. The man whose face I searched for during my every day trip to school was one among the many I had to point to in an identification parade, and come face-to-face in the court corridors. In those days, I really wanted to kill him, my first love.
I feel relieved that the Delhi girl died, or she would have faced the same pointed, porn-tinted questions from everywhere, forced to explain countless whys, and would have had to live a life fearing her own shadow and without a friend.
I belong to the Latin Church which is the largest individual church in the Catholic Church, but in all these 17 years, not even a single prayer was said for me in any church anywhere. No rosaries marked the Hail Marys, and no angels came to my doorstep to offer kind words.

But my belief has not wavered. It gives me the strength to watch 24/7 news channels where the protectors of law call me a child prostitute, and eminent personalities discuss why my case won’t stand. Even when I am framed in a financial fraud case in my office, and when my parents go down with major health problems, I convince myself that this too would pass. One day.”