India & UK: grassroots women demand justice

The mass protests taking place all over India, and the international support for them, show how determined women are to end rape, and how we face similar violence and similar sexism by the authorities, wherever we are. For years our Indian sisters in Chhattisgarh have been organizing against rape and murder in the family but also by landlords, police and the military. But Dalit and Tribal women’s struggles have not been given prominence and support by the media or by most middle and upper class women in India or in the UK.

In our experience of dealing with rape and domestic violence here in the UK, the police are also the main obstacle to rape survivors getting justice. Only 6.5% of rapes in the UK end in conviction. We see daily cases dropped, as police have not gathered the evidence properly or the Crown Prosecution Service has decided it is not good enough to take to court. This is especially true for children, women of colour, women with disabilities and working class women generally. That's why abusers and rapists like Savile and those in Rochdale and North Wales children homes and elsewhere were allowed to go for so long without being prosecuted, despite having been reported to the police and social services a number of times – vulnerable women and girls were treated as ‘plebs’ who exist to be available to sexual predators. We are even having to campaign with rape survivors imprisoned for reporting rape. Many cases of police rape have also come to light in the UK. We know these are only the tip of the iceberg.

Below are statements from a sister organisation based in 400 villages in Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh state; and comments from Arundhati Roy focusing on rape committed by police, army and others in authority, against women who have least. That these rapes are not prosecuted gives all violent men the go ahead – they know the authorities are on the side of the rapist and women are undefended.

We who are demanding justice today in India are demanding justice for all beginning with grassroots women everywhere including in the UK.

Statement from Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Samiti (Chhattisgarh Women’s Organisation), Chhattisgarh State, India - 6 January 2013

We condemn the gang rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi, and we demand the rapists get life imprisonment so other rapists are afraid and do not rape. In Chhattisgarh, Dalit and Tribal women and girls are being raped like the young woman in Delhi. Sometimes the media covers it but many times they don’t.

High level people who rape women, girls and boys should also be punished as many times they are not. This is happening in many countries. Our law is made by the government and it should be used against the high level people including if they are in government.

For many years in India there has been a grassroots movement of Dalit and Tribal women against rape. Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Samiti (NCMS) is part of this movement and has been working against rape since 1987 -- in our area, 3,000 Dalit and Tribal women in NCMS have been fighting it. Women and girls are raped by high caste men, landlords and policemen. We help Dalit and Tribal women report rape and demand the police take statements, gather evidence and bring a prosecution of the rapist. Sometimes in the village area, up to 500 women go together to protest against a rapist at his house and shout against rape. Then the women go to the police station and demand the police file a report and punish the rapist. Last year government soldiers were raping women in the Tribal area, Bastar (Chhattisgarh) and in Kashmir but were not punished. We have campaigned to get bicycles for Tribal girls to go to school as school is far from their homes and this has also helped them not get harassed on the way.

In 2003 a police constable raped a 5 year old girl in Raipur. NCMS supported the girl and her family and helped the family get compensation from the government for the hospital costs for the young girl who had been severely injured. The policeman was prosecuted and imprisoned. This is one case of many where we help women and girls get justice against rape.

Naya Zamaana Aayega! A New Age is Coming!

* NCMS is an anti-racist organisation of Adivasi (Tribal) and Dalit women campaigning against bonded labour; rape, low and unequal pay and other discrimination. It brings together people from these two communities who are divided by landowners and other employers, police and government. NCMS is part of the Global Women’s Strike network.

Police, army rampantly use rape as weapon: Arundhati Roy

Published: Monday, Dec 31, 2012, 11:58 IST
Place: London | Agency: DNA

Reacting to the terrible news of the 23-year-old girl succumbing to injuries sustained while fighting off her rapists in a moving bus in the capital, Arundhati Roy warns that it is a sign of forebodings for women of all classes. About the massive outpouring of protests across the country, Roy said, "While we are seeing some very unexceptional reaction to an event which is hardly exceptional, though it's a terrible thing to call a tragic event 'exceptional'.

"However, the real problem is why is this crime creating such a lot of outrage is because it plays into the idea of the criminal poor, like the vegetable vendor, gym instructor or bus driver actually assaulting a middle class girl. Whereas when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, the army or the police it is not even punished," said the feted author.

When asked if there was any chance that these huge protests are going to ring in some genuine change, Roy said, "I think it will lead to some new laws perhaps, an increased surveillance, but all of that will protect middle class women. But in cases of the army and the police as perpetrators, we are not looking for laws. What do you do when the police themselves burn down villages, gang-rape women. I have personally listened to so many testimonies of women to whom this has been done."

Pointing to the contrast between the actual truth about women across the country and the image of modern India being portrayed by Bollywood and the hi-tech India, the author agreed that there are quite many a world competing here. "Feudal India has a huge history and legacy of disrespect and violence against women. Any accounts of Partition or what is done to Dalit women contains that but now there is sort of psychosis," she said. See the YouTube video
While stating that the army and the police routinely use rape as a weapon against people in places like Chhattisgarh, Kashmir and Manipur after gaining impunity behind laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Roy said, "More dangerous is the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Earlier, at least the rich did what they with a fair amount of discretion, but now it's all out there on television for conspicuous consumption and there is an anger and psychosis building up and women at the top, middle and the bottom are going to pay the price for it."