Sunday, May 07, 2006

Quick justice only for raped foreigners?

The Article published in the Newspaper "Times Of India" today is worth reading .....

A rape conviction in 22 days is not the norm in India but a rare exception. Until now, this exception has only been made in Rajasthan for foreigners who come from countries that are important for the Indian tourism sector.

These convictions show the potential capacity of the police and judiciary for dispensation of quick justice but they also point to the fact that many Indian rape victims are discriminated against and ignored by the same system.

A victim has only a small chance of getting (quick) justice if there are no financial interests at stake, if she is not in an influential position and if there is not much media attention.

The fact that in many cases victims have to wait for a trial for several years and that the majority of rape accused are acquitted demonstrates that state governments and judiciaries fail to handle cases of violence against women with due diligence.

Amnesty International has elaborated in several reports that governments, under these conditions, are responsible for human rights violations against women even if the acts are committed by private individuals.

If a state fails to ensure law enforcement, if the behaviour of police and judiciary officials leads to a widespread impunity in cases of sexual violence, this has to be judged as the tolerance and acceptance of violence against women by the state.

This state failure is not only a human rights violation against women who already have become victims of sexual violence, it concerns all women in India.

The prevalent impunity in rape cases creates an atmosphere within society which encourages men to use violence against women. The danger comes not only and not mainly from perpetrators who are unknown to the victims but often from colleagues, friends, husbands and other relatives.

It makes things even worse that crimes committed by persons who are well-known to the victim are mostly not taken seriously. A widespread prejudice about so called date rapes is that it was a consensual act.

But can anyone really imagine that a woman would choose to go through many humiliating judicial procedures, especially in a society where rape victims are strongly stigmatised and where it is highly probable that the offender will be acquitted, if her claims were not true?

In fact, most women who experience sexual violence don't report it because they are afraid of the police, afraid of the stigma and afraid of the offender and his family.

It is a shame if people allege in so-called date rape cases that the victim agreed or that she is somehow responsible or guilty for what has happened.

Is a victim guilty only for trusting a friend or colleague and being friendly to him or, in other words, for having a drink and dinner with him? Is it asking too much if a woman expects respectful behaviour from a friend?

Fair, fast rape trial a must

It seems to be a widespread misconception among men that they can do anything with a woman if she is friendly and shows a bit of trust. If a woman says no they don't care, maybe some don't realise that a 'no' expressed by a woman really means NO, regardless of the relationship or situation.

This mindset of men who rape their friends, colleagues, neighbours or relatives is not an individual problem, it is a reflection of a society in which women are still discriminated against and disrespected.

The state has responsibilities to prevent violence against women. It has to make more effort to build a society in which women get equal rights and where they can live a more independent life.

Most important, it has to ensure that every rape victim gets a fair and quick trial, regardless of her nationality or position in society and regardless of the circumstances of the offence—be it a date rape, marital rape or rape by an unknown offender. Convictions should become the norm.

(The writer's initials appear with her consent.)

No comments: