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India: NTUI Statement on Sexual Crimes against Women

2 January 2013

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New Delhi, 31 December 2012: NTUI mourns the death of the 23 year old girl who was brutally raped in a Delhi bus on 16 December 2012. The complete disconnect and apathy of the political class, and the visibly crude efforts to prevent democratic protest in the very centre of New Delhi, led to spontaneous and widespread protests in New Delhi and elsewhere bringing to the forefront concerns of violence against women. This incident of brutal bestiality is neither isolated nor is the revulsion to it is restricted to a certain class or a city. This could happen to any woman any day anywhere in the country. The NTUI condemns all acts of sexual violence and crimes against women in the public spaces, at the workplace and in homes.

The visible rise in sexual crimes across the subcontinent could be correlated with on one hand, the increasing participation of women in social life and the workforce as also to the increase in the reporting of such crimes. Both of these appear to have provided the license to all sections of the political class to issue restrictive diktats on women’s movement outside their homes as ways to prevent such crimes.

On the other hand, a large section of the protestors across the country have been demanding an equally brutal punishment including the death penalty and castration for rapists. At the same time, there is also a demand for an increased surveillance and security through close circuit TVs and greater police protection. Both these demands are misplaced. It has been proven across the world that death penalty is not a preventive punishment. All of this completely negates the fact that the largest number of sexual crimes committed against women are those committed in familiar spaces by known individuals, and that the largest number of sexual crimes committed by strangers are by the armed forces and police. The reality is that the majority of these crimes are not even recognised.

The reality is that violence against women is not just an act of an individual or a group of individuals, it is a product of a patriarchal society that deifies hegemonic masculinity. This is sustained by a culture of silence and a lack of recognition of the enormity of the problem. Failure of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary to recognise serious acts of violence against women, create laws and ensure that victims get justice within a fixed time period, has meant that the promise of equality, between men and women in our Constitution, is yet to be realised. This brings to the fore the urgent need for the criminal investigative and justice system to vigorously bring to book all perpetrators of crimes against women.

The Leader of the Opposition said in the Lok Sabha that a victim of rape is “zinda laash” (living dead) implying a lifelong stigma to a victim of rape. Sexual crime is the other side of the coin that depicts women as symbols of ‘purity’. Neither in areas of conflict nor in public spaces or the workplace and not even within the four walls of one’s own home are rape and other forms of violence against women about sex. Rape is sexualised violence that is manifestation of a societal culture defined by power and masculinity. Men have historically been taught to use violence to settle differences with societal sanction. It is this that needs to change. The NTUI acknowledges the spirit of the protests and notes the role played by progressive women’s and student organisations and by young citizens in raising the fight against sexual crimes. While we do indeed need a stringent implementation of law that protects women against sexual crime we need to remind ourselves that this will happen only through a sustained movement of both men and women that challenges patriarchy in all its manifestations in every sphere of life – in the public and the political space, in society, in our workplaces and our very own organisations and in our homes. The NTUI commits itself to this challenge.

Gautam Mody

New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)