Editorial – Award or Penalty

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Jailed Chinese dissident and campaigner for democratisation of China, Liu Xiaobo, has finally been officially handed over the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize at Oslo, despite vehement protests by the Chinese government. Its call for boycott of the award function was also not heeded by too many countries which matter, including India. Quite significantly the award function was also held on December 10, the day observed all over the world as International Human Rights Day. There can be no doubt that Xiaobo deserves the prize on the merit of his courage, integrity and commitment to usher in a more democratic and liberal China, and indeed opinions are undivided on the good the award would do to China in the long run. China experts all over the world are of the opinion that China would now have to give more concession to civil society voices after this major embarrassment. Despite the diplomatic new hiccups India would have in its long-strained relations with China, we join to applaud the recognition of Xiaobo’s untiring and undaunted commitment to human rights.

There is however a huge rider. Even as Xiaobo was being thus honoured for his criticism of the Chinese establishment for its lack of transparency and its serious implications on Human Rights in his country, another high profile fighter for transparency in governance, Julian Assange, the founder of the now famous, Wikileaks, is in jail and is being hounded. Complicating the matter is that the immediate charges against him for his arrest are two rapes he supposedly committed Sweden. Swedish rape law it seems are much more elaborate and protective of the victim than anywhere else in the world. According to reports, even in the case of sex which began consensually, if the woman withdraws consent midway, it still amounts to rape. According the statement of one of his alleged victims, this actually was the case. It began consensually, but midway she withdrew consent apparently for the lack of condom. Indeed one of the vital evidences for rape against him is that he did not wear condoms in these incidents, and irreverently the cases are also being referred in some circles as the “broken condom cases”. Experts have pointed out that his acts in most other countries, including the US, would not have amounted to rape. Kudos to Sweden nonetheless for a law that defends the woman to such an extent. We would have had nothing to say against the arrest if not for the timing.

While the rape case continues to take its own course, and perhaps it would have been a low key affair had it not been for the website earning the enmity and wrath of the US after it got hold of and publicised classified diplomatic notes of the US, exposing the country’s intents and policies towards other countries. According to news reports, the US even wants Assange extradited to the US to be tried for treason, and there are even extreme demands for him to be treated as enemy combatant and executed.

Assange was arrested in London, and this extradition to the US is unlikely to happen according to international legal experts, although he may be sent to Sweden. It is unfortunate that the two cases, that of the rape allegations and the Wikileaks expose, are somewhat being allowed to be confused thus causing a subterfuge. For a more just arbitration, the two needs to be separated and dealt with separately. We for one in defending Wikileaks expose do not want to end up speaking on behalf of its founder in the rape cases. But the logic can work the other way as well. In wishing him to be deservedly tried for the alleged rapes and punished if found guilty, we can also end up dismissing the Wikileaks expose case in the same breath.

Having made this position clear, we want to point out the irony of situation in the Nobel Prize case. A Chinese dissident bravely stands up against his government and seeks to expose its ugly underbelly and he gets the Nobel Prize. He deserves it richly too. But somebody else dissents against the manner in which a powerful Western country conducts its political business and exposes documents proving this, and his act is called treachery. Perhaps it is too early for condemnations, for who knows next year just to balance out the act, the Nobel committee could think of Assange as a Nobel Peace candidate. This will be interesting to watch though for earning the displeasure of China and earning the displeasure of the US are two different things altogether.

1 COMMENT

  1. Fusion of horizons is difficult. You are not going to understand European culture no matter how many books you read. The woman appears to object to STIs not sex. In what you consider a more elaborate case if a Swedish woman leads a Swedish man on gets him all hot and bothered and then says no and sulks. He is meant to get up return to the social gathering and bemoan his fate, whereupon a bevvy of swedish beauties will comfort him. He is not supposed to rape her.

    You are not going to fully understand the culture. If he pleads guilty he will get a reduced sentence because of an early plea but he will be given a custodial sentence, that’s why ordinarily the defence put in a plea of not-guilty and statistically it’s very difficult for the prosecution to make the case in a jury trial. If if he is found guilty the courts cannot allow men to think that this is not a serious real case of rape and to pay a fine because otherwise rich men would pay the fines in advance and then never take no as a answer.

    In Assange’s case there are fewer consequences. It won’t effect his career upon release sexually or politically. I won’t got into the reasoning but he will find many young women queueing up to show him exotic uses for condoms in foreplay upon his release from prison.

    Politically if the Americans try to imprison him for the wikileaks then the Nobel Prize can be used as a political weapon in securing his release, it already has a prophylactic effect of keeping him out of prison for those offences.

    But this is my point. Women don’t exist in India. The last time I brought up the use of rape as military tactic I was told that I was lowering the tone of your more intellectual debate. That indeed you wanted to discuss rape against innocent women as apposed to women which you imply above who deserve rape or are asking for it. In this context people often quote Aundhati Roy as the great novelist who turned bad. Her novel hinges upon a sexual affair between a fair brahmin divorcee and a dark skinned dalit labourer. It’s not Lady Chaterly and her gardner. The police reaction when they are informed of a dalit raping a decent brahmin woman is to beat him to death in a fake encounter. Indians originally complained about Roy giving the wrong impression to foreigners about India. And they never stopped making that complaint. It’s not about the truth for Indians it’s about giving the right impression of an Indian that wants to be modern.

    In the history of war rape and sexual humiliation have been part of a conquering army’s tactics That is why it is now considered prima facie a war crime not because we do not understand the culture of barbarians who routinely use this tactic but because we do. And we in the West are trying to move forward to a more decent world and until India remembers its traditions given to it by the old gods yes I do rely upon the West to remind India of decency and human rights.

    Of the many stories of rape in Manipur, whether it be the young village girl taken out and raped in front of her parents and village elders by Indian paramilitaries, or of the schoolteacher who was gang raped and murdered while the murderers not only go free but enjoy promotion and all the honours due to heroes of the most disciplined army in the world are there differences between Indian paramilitary thugs and Assange. IIn trial they may distinguish between a cruel savage rape and his insistence on pressing ahead without a condom. In prison he will have to be housed separately from other criminals because they will regard themselves as decent men with families whereas rapists are all evil and deserve to die. Within the special ward he will be distinguished among the sex offenders between paedophiles who prey upon children and those who rape adults. And among paedophiles they distinguish between those who groom children with skill and the brutes who merely terrorize them.
    Repeal AF(SP)A so that those soldiers accused of rape can be investigated for it. Free Irom Sharmila, and if it turn out that Irom Sharmila is less than perfect, or that I let her down because I am not perfect. What the fuck has anyone of that to do with AF(SP)A. Give Assange the Nobel for his work for freedom of information and imprison him for rape if found guilty. But until you repeal AF(SP)A as long as you claim the right of Indian Paramilitaries to rape and sexually humiliate Manipuris to maintain the integrity of India. Though I understand the history of the use of rape, though I know the tactic is effective. It is not that I believe that I am different or better than you Indians. It is not that the West believes it is superior to Indian barbarity. It is that we know of what we are capable and we have made the rational choice knowing how easy it is for us to sink lowe than the animals to say that we choose not to do this, we choose to make it illegal and we urge humanity to follow our lead.

    One final petty niggle, when you start a sentence like kudos to, it makes you sound like a bratty american at a small mid west college specializing in the liberal arts. When you have removed AF(SP)A and it is a criminal offence for soldiers and paramilitaries to gang rape and sexually humiliate citizens living in disturbed areas, when your supreme court withdraws the opinion that they can understand the outrage to a man’s honour when a dalit tries to marry one of their family, then join us in the West criticizing America and Western abuses of power.

    Americans are far more articulate in condemning the abuses of their government. They know the rights given to them by their constitution. These rights were hard won. Indians are incapable of self-criticism.

    Until you are able to speak out in defence of your own women who are raped tortured. And yes until you are able to criticize your own government for imprisoning Irom Sharmila without trial for over ten years releasing her for one day before re-arresting her so that in the opinion of the Indian Judicial system her imprisonment without trial remains legal. Please stop using phrases like kudos to the Swedes for their enlightened anti-rape policy.

    It makes you sound inane when you consider what you will do to preserve the integrity of India. Maybe that phrase means something in Hindi. But by all means criticize America that is the only way our disappointment with it can be improved. You don’t appear to be at the level where you can criticize your own regime. Let’s not run before we can walk then.

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