Call for End to Violence Against Women in Conflict Areas of India: Urges Government to Implement Justice Verma Recommendation on AFSPA

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Press Release/Brief Report 

Call for End to Violence Against Women in Conflict Areas of India: Urges Government to Implement Justice Verma Recommendation on AFSPA

2 Feb 2013,New Delhi: A round table discussion on the topic “Women, Peace and Security: Strategizing to End Violence Against Women in India” was held on 1 Feb at Control Arms Foundation of India in New Delhi.Meeting was held to discuss issue of women in conflict areas of India following Justice Verma recommendation on Armed Forces Special Powers Act as well as in solidarity with the One Billion Rising Global Campaign to stop all forms of violence against women.  The event was organized by Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network,Control Arms Foundation of India and Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace.

 

Esteemed panelists included Mr Arvinn Gadgil, State Secretary/Deputy Minister of International Development of Norway; Mr Eivind S Homme,Ambassador, Royal Norwegian Embassy, New Delhi; Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network; Ms Reecha Upadhyay an Independent Gender Consultant; Ms Lianboi Vaiphei, Lecturer, Indraprastha College for Women, Department of Political Science;Ms Chhaya Pravin, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Ms Divya Vinod, National  Secretary- Youth and Advocacy  YMCA  and  Ms Rosalynn Lalawmpuii, Associate Programme Secretary, Community Development and Advocacy, YMCA and many others.

 

Ms Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network & Secretary General, Control Arms Foundation of India welcomed the guests and she threw light on five weeks of protests that rocked India following the Delhi gang rape of 16 December 2012. She talked about the role of civil society in engaging the conscience of the government, to use research and activism to negotiate within it to end violence against women and claiming democratic rights. She stated it was for the first time in India movement for women’s rights had caught the lime light. She added that despite activities of women’s group the previous 5 governments in 20 years responded little in strengthening position of women.  However in the light of the historic Justive Verma Report, Nepram feels that the women’s movement is in a transformative moment adding that the next few days were going to shape the contours of the movement in claiming rights and space for women. She added in a place like Delhi where hardly any girl can risk venturing out after 8 o clock, the attempt to claim space for selves was to enable a future where women could move freely outside even 2 o clock at night.

 

She added, “What is new about the Report by Justice Verma is that for the first time the impact of AFSPA in North East and Kashmir has been mentioned. It’s quite revolutionary that national security is being equated with women’s security. The report also has discussed the scope for electoral reforms. It has enlisted state names of legislators charged with rape and possibility of asking political parties not to include them within the party.” Binalakshmi Nepram also added an example which reflects patriarchal mindsets, she described how the idea of a Lakshman Rekha taken from the epic of Ramayana is employed as an excuse to confine women and limit their mobility even 65 years after India’s independence

 

Mr Arvinn Gadgil described how he followed the change in mood of the country in his home country Norway regarding the protest of the recent gang rape of a young girl in Delhi citing that in the first 2-3 days most people didn’t take that seriously. He added that it was more of a relief than anger when it became clear that lot of people got up and took steps to bring about change in a manner quite unprecedented regarding the brutal incident later. He said that although the Lokpal agitation also united people that inspired specific political groups but tended to be divisive. The 16th December 2012 gang rape incident in Delhi inspired action and was reported all over the world. He also made the point that feminist movement need to be given specific law making recommendations. He added, “It is important for activist groups to have deep legal knowledge to be effective. The different groups also need to keep engaging with politicians to bring about effective policy changes.”He also feels that one reason why Verma report has included voices of so many people and groups was because of the power behind those voices.  He also talked of his own experiences and how his parents taught him to be a feminist himself.

 

Commenting on the recent upsurge of women’s movement in India involving large numbers of people, he cautions groups involved to be aware of the inevitability of having to go through subsequent low phases. “Given how the feminist movement is so political it is bound to be wound up with conflicts and fractures”, he added. He hopes that groups working would have the humility to accept that and not let those divisions threaten the survival of the movement or cause itself.

 

Ambassador Eivind S Homme mentioned how the Norwegian Government had been following the events and movement following the Delhi gang rape case closely. “It is trying to see if it can contribute in any way or partner anyone’s efforts,” he added. He also remarked how women’s group should try and work with young upcoming politicians to create a dynamic synergy for the change to combat violence against women.

 

Ms Reecha Upadhyay noted how the tremendous sentiment invoked by the recent Delhi Gang rape adding that it had been difficult to account for people working within the women’s movement since gang rapes have frequently occurred without ever invoking such an outburst of outrage in the civil society or by the media. The swift functioning and incorporation of diverse voices in Justice Verma Report shows how a response can be can be elicited if civil society comes together strongly.”She said, “The One Billion Rising movement similarly attempts to give a voice to people seeking positive change to empower women. Its theme of strike, dance and rise has a resonating sentiment that seeks to seize the moment to bring change. Admittedly it may be an urban movement but there is still a need for voices to come out even in urban areas.  There is a lot to be done; the need is to change people’s mind sets. After all the effectiveness of policy change is limited by social attitudes and tendencies. Ultimately the family is where attitudes are shaped. By focusing on using communication tools like social media, we are attempting to get people to think and change the language of gender inequality.”Her final point was that the movement against violence on women also needs to expand into issues relating to North east and Kashmir and be made part of larger movement

 

Ms Rosalynn Lalawmpuii mentioned the 85 local stations that YWCA group has been carrying on all over the country through for community peace building and safety. While emphasizing the 3 P’s – prevention, Protection and Provision? Rosylyn tells us that personally she thinks it is most important to focus on prevention to ensure that the next generation can live in an environment free of violence. “It is important to realize that violence on women also effect children equally. Home is a space where children male and female watch, emulate and adopt biases of their own parents. Therefore there is a need to raise awareness of the parents to make them sensitive to gender issues. They are working out pilot projects that seek to strategize ways to have impact on the 3 P’s especially prevention”, she added.

 

Ms Divya Vinod addressed that they works with churches and discusses issues relating to violence against women through this institution. She also added that they focus on rights of vulnerable groups like Dalits and Tribal women and their well being.

 

Ms Lianboi Vaiphei felt that this incident underscores the need for the government to revamp the system through which it is supposed to protect its citizens. For example Delhi despite being the national capital lacks a forensic lab which means that cases of rape or murder have to be examined in labs either in Chandigarh or Hyderabad. This adds to the further bureaucratization of this mechanism. Another issue that she highlighted was that of the recruitment policy of Delhi police in the context of the relationship of Delhi police and its inhabitants especially women who suffer from violence. In contrast to the highly cosmopolitan nature of the city which includes people from all parts of the country it is rather problematic that the recruitment process is limited to people from nearby regions which are arguably representative of the most patriarchal sets ups in India. She argues that their socialization within these patriarchal set up results in them not comprehending the restrictions imposed on women and lack much sympathy towards victims of violence. To instantiate the some Delhi police officer’s in response to women being harassed in  public tend to lay blame on the women themselves often retorting by asking questions like why these women were out so late at night.  She feels that by recruiting people from all parts of the country to serve Delhi police we will have a force more reflective of the cosmopolitan nature of the city itself and that this maybe a good way to change mindsets.

 

Ms Chhaya Pravin narrated a painful incident of how a girl was gang raped in Okhla adding that due to lack of clean accessible toilet facility she had gone out in the open space, being raped in the process. She added that even in New Delhi the Government did not provide adequate basic amenities facilities like washrooms and toilet for women. She also strongly objected to the violence perpetrated on women in Northeast and Kashmir, being all the while shielded by acts like AFSPA. Adding that government deliberately did not talk about those issues. MS Chayya also argues that given the current state of affairs India requires simultaneous change in every sphere, adding hopefully that they were in the threshold of change and role of people and youth especially in coming out to protest was symptomatic of it. She added that women and civil society needed to work together identify collective strength and formulate strategies to end violence against women.

 

A short three minute, powerful film was screened at the event as a support in solidarity the One Billion Rising Global Campaign to stop all forms of violence agaists women.The event was participated by young students and scholars from Delhi Univerity, Jamia, IGNOU and women activists representing SANGAT, friends and well wishers. Royal Norwegian Embassy Second Secretary Ms Kristin Brodtkorb Traavik, Mr Petter W Tollefsen and Senior Advisor, Ms Renu Wadehra also participated the event.

 

For more information, please contact

 

Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and Control Arms Foundation of India

Email: [email protected]/cafi.[email protected]

Address for correspondence: B 5/146, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi-110029, India. Phone: +9-11-46018541 Fax: +91-11-26166234. Website:www.cafi-online.org www.womensurvivorsnetwork.org & http://neiwip.blogspot.com/

 Photos of the event:

 

 

* The press release is sent by Majaiangom, Contact Info <majaicafi{at}gmail.com>

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