Indian Americans welcome letter from ten US Senators to PM Modi on violence against women in India
The Milli Gazette Online
Published Online: Jun 18, 2014
Maryland (USA) June 16, 2014: Coalition Against Genocide (CAG - coalitionagainstgenocide.org) , a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and to defending India's secular tradition, has welcomed the principled letter sent by ten US Senators to Mr. Narendra Modi, calling on the Prime Minister to "take immediate action to combat gender-based violence and improve the safety of women and girls in India."
Led by Senator Barbara Boxer, the group of Senators expressed their "shock and horror," over the outrage in Badaun in the state of U.P where two young girls were found hanging from a tree, raped and strangled. "More needs to be done to prevent violence against women, improve victim support services, bring perpetrators to justice, and address other forms of gender-based violence including child marriage," the Senators wrote.
According to the Asian Human Rights Commission Report for India , 2013, "for every woman who obtains a job, two women are killed at birth, abused in childhood, burnt over dowry, or sexually harassed at work. India's development is greatly impaired by violent crimes perpetrated against women." This terrible reality is made worse by the fact that convictions for these crimes is abysmally low. "Despite an increase in the number of reported rapes, convictions have dropped by a third, indicating failure on the part of the police to conduct investigations and prosecutions," AHCR's report notes.
While the coalition recognizes that violence against women and patriarchal oppression spans across the entire spectrum of Indian society affecting all women, we wish to draw attention to the fact that women of marginalized communities face the worst of such violence and oppression. It is no mere coincidence that women from the Dalit, Adivasi, urban and rural poor communities throughout India bear the brunt of not only brutal misogyny as women, but also of caste, sectarian or class violence as members of oppressed social groups or religious minorities.
CAG has commended the efforts of many Congresspersons and Senators to legislate the "International Violence against Women Act" (HR 3571 in the House and S 2307 in the Senate). The Act calls for the U.S., in countries where it is engaged in foreign assistance, to address the issue of violence against women and girls by helping to create programs to educate local populations about recognizing and preventing such violence.
CAG would like to remind the Senators that Mr. Modi's own record as Chief Minister of Gujarat is deeply tainted by the mass sexual violence inflicted on Muslim women in 2002. Indian as well as international human rights organizations have long maintained that the pogroms were committed with the willful complicity of the police and the state administration under Mr. Modi. Several hundred women were raped and then burnt alive. Among those that led pillaging mobs was Ms. Maya Kodnani who was elevated to a state cabinet rank position after the pogroms, only to be later convicted and sentenced to 28 years in prison by the Supreme Court of India. Several officers who shielded the perpetrators of violence in 2002 are now being promoted under Prime Minister Modi to top positions in national government. Mukul Rohatgi who defended those accused in the 2002 pogroms, and openly lied in the Supreme Court about the brutality inflicted on a pregnant woman Ms. Kausar Bano, has been made the Attorney General of India.
CAG also urges the Senators to take into consideration the fact that Dalit women as well as women in areas of conflict or insurgency are subject to systematic brutalities including sexual violence. The atrocities committed against women in Kashmir, in the North Eastern states and during the recent sectarian violence in Muzaffarnagar points to a culture of impunity for crimes against women. The glaring lack of legal protection to such women is buttressed by the endemic complicity of legal institutions in ignoring or subverting laws. This is evidenced by the frequency with which perpetrators are acquitted and cases dismissed. In several major cases, courts reduced sentences and let perpetrators off, refusing to apply available legal provisions such as the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989. This has been the case for instance, in Khairlanji (Maharashtra), Tsundur (Andhra Pradesh), Laxmanpur Bathe (Bihar) and Keelvenmani (Tamil Nadu) and many more sites where Dalit women and men have been brutally attacked and murdered by upper caste mobs.
We urge the Senators to redouble efforts to engage and work with the Indian government in protecting the life and dignity of all women. The pursuit of a better future for India's women cannot be achieved when the guardians of the law continue to reward the perpetrators of violence targeting women from specific communities with impunity. We further urge the Senators to extend their support to the efforts by various civil society organizations that are defending the rights of marginalized women, and pursuing justice against the perpetrators of violence against them.
1. Press Release and Text of the Senators' letter to PM Modi
2. Asian Human Rights Commission Report - 2013
3. LA Times Editorial on International Violence Against Women Act
4. Op-Ed by Congressman Mike Honda on Violence against Women around the World