Look Back In Anger – But Also in Hope

Written by Kavita Krishnan | Published on: December 17, 2015
hostel timings on women students in the name of ‘safety.’ We’ve also started talking about the ways in which similar pretexts and tools of moral policing are used by global chains and MNC factories in India to discipline women workers.[5]

These have been movements against moral policing[6], and in at least one instance, the police, unable to defend moral policing in the face of assertive feminist protests on social media, have had to backtrack and been rapped on the knuckles by the court. [7]There have also been several movements determinedly challenging menstrual taboos, and massive protests against the Supreme Court verdict re-criminalising homosexuality.       
   
A System That Lets Victims and Survivors Down       
 
Movements assure that the demands for justice and freedom thrive, and women have come forward to file complaints and seek justice under the new laws against sexual violence. Has a conducive climate where the sapling of justice can grow, been provided? Or else is justice finding it difficult to breathe in a toxic air of victim-blaming and impunity? Has ‘the system’ (the police, the judiciary, politicians and governments) stood by complainants – or has it worked to protect perpetrators?
 
Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act (2013), the amended Section 309 of the CRPC had stipulated that in rape trials “the proceedings shall be continued day-to-day” and “as far as possible be completed within a period of two months from the date of filing of the charge-sheet.”[8]

The movement also sought to question the single-minded dominant media treatment of rape as an ‘exceptional’ occurrence, and the virtually exclusive focus on rapes by strangers in the capital or in big cities.
 
The communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 (that played a key role in the outcome of the Parliamentary Elections of 2014) involved many instances of gang rape.[9] Only a handful of the rape victims – rendered homeless and incredibly vulnerable in hostile circumstances – could come forward to file complaints. Two and a half years later, the lives of these women and their families are a “living hell.” [10]The accused delay court proceedings and use the delay to threaten and intimidate the complainants. And this month, just a week before December 16, 2015, a Central Minister in the Modi Government Sanjeev Balyan, himself one of the accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots, visited the rape-accused inside prison.[11] Meanwhile a BJP MLA Sangeet Som threatens the police and warns against any punishment for those accused of rioting and raping. [12]
 
The system, it appears, is seeking to wear down the women who risked so much to complain. And it may be succeeding – at least two of the complainants have reportedly withdrawn their complaints, afraid of the relentless intimidation. Today, as news channels focus on the December 16th 2012 Delhi gang rape, how many of them will ask why safety and justice has eluded the rape complainants of Muzaffarnagar?  
 
In March 2014, four Dalit teenagers were abducted and gang-raped in Bhagana, Haryana. When they filed complaints, they and their families were evicted from their village for having dared to seek justice. Since then, they have remained at Jantar Mantar, demanding justice in vain. [13]But a year later, all the accused in the case were acquitted. The acquittal is being challenged in the High Court, but the system – and successive Haryana Governments – are silent on the fact that entre families were evicted for demanding justice in rape cases. This is just one among the epidemic of rapes of Dalit girls and women in the country. In a rare instance, feudal criminals accused of gang-raping Dalit girls in Kurmuri (Bihar) were convicted[14] following a sustained agitation led by the CPIML in the area. But in Bihar itself, an entire village of Dalit women who were subjected to sexual violence after a Dalit boy eloped with a girl from the dominant caste, still await justice. [15]
 
In August 2013, a teenage girl filed a complaint of sexual assault by