UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women meets woman victims

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IMPHAL, April 28: A press conference of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights (CSCHR) in Manipur and the UN held at Hotel Classic briefed media persons on the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (UNSRVAW) to Imphal and the subsequent consultative meeting with representatives of civil society organizations, women human rights, victims and other advocates working on violence against women.

Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, the convenor of the Coalition said that the meeting was attended by over 200 delegates and family members of victims of violence from all over the North East region and West Bengal. “International organizations and national NGOs such as the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC) and Child Rights and You (CRY) also attended the meeting,” he said.

Rashida Manjoo, the UNSRVAW had earlier accepted an invitation sent on March 13 from the coalition to visit Manipur and the North East region during her mission to the country.

“40 separate depositions were made in the meeting including testimonies from women who have faced forced evictions, sustained community and domestic violence and also sharing from the families of victims of state abetted violence,” Debabrata Roy said, adding that the consultation today was the largest such consultation convened by the UNSRVAW during her current mission to India.

The meeting was moderated by Jarjum Ete, Secretary of the National Alliance of Women (NAWO) and former Chairperson of the Arunachal Pradesh State Women’s Commission he said.

Briefing the media on her reactions and statements, Debabrata Roy said that Rashida Manjoo had said, “The death of a woman is not a new act, but the ultimate act in the continuum of violence in the life of the woman.”

The mother of late Thangjam Manorama while appealing for justice for her daughter who was brutally tortured and raped by personnel of the Indian paramilitary force, Assam Rifles before she was killed and her dead body abandoned in a field wept during the course of the deposition and the Special Rapporteur wept with Thangjam Manorama’s mother, he added.

The CSCHR submitted a comprehensive memorandum to the UNSRVAW titled “Manipur: Perils of War and Womanhood” giving a detailed information on various forms of violence against women in Manipur, including the genesis of its swift escalation since the 50s and included several recommendations, added Debabrata Roy.

During the consultation Babloo Loitongbam reiterated the lonely 13 years fast of Irom Chanu Sharmila for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and raised the point that many UN treaty body mechanisms and other Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns have called for its repeal.

Additionally, Irom Chanu Sharmila also submitted a hand-written letter to the UNSRVAW through her elder brother said Babloo Loitongbam, Director of Human Rights Alert and a constituent member of the coalition. He added that the UN Security Officer accompanying the UNSRAW had made   attempts to meet Irom Sharmila during her visit to Imphal, but the permission to meet her did not materialize. Copies of the hand written note given by Irom Sharmila to the UNSRVAW which were circulated to the media pointed out that the people of Manipur had been impacted by the draconian AFSPA. She noted that her forced nasal feeding was being done at the expense of huge public funds and that the forced feeding was a measure to suppress her voice and the truth.

Rashida Manjoo, in her closing remarks said that it was not her mandate to comment on the depositions made before her, and that her report will be based on facts. She also said that her opinions and conclusions as an independent expert were hers alone, that these would not be changed or shaped by any influence, whether from government or any others.

Adding that the UNSRVAW will be holding a national press conference on Wednesday, 1st May 2013 in New Delhi, Babloo also appealed to the All Manipur Working Journalists` Union to facilitate media attendance of the said conference. Mention may be made that two earlier UN Special Rapporteurs had not been allowed to visit Manipur.

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