The AIPWA held a Women’s Tribunal in Lucknow, attended by around 700 women from various districts across the state. The tribunal put the State and Central Governments in the dock over the unabated violence against women in the State.
Survivors of violence, and relatives of victims testified at the Tribunal. One woman from Lakhimpur Kheri spoke of the sexual harassment she faced at the hands of cops, followed by cops jailing her husband on false pretexts.
Another woman spoke of how her 11 year old daughter was raped and hung from a tree in 2011, a case in which the perpetrators are yet to be punished.
A woman from Pilibhit spoke of her daughter being killed for dowry, and the accused openly sharing sweets with cops, ensuring that no FIR was even registered in the case.
Several women from Pilibhit spoke of the harassment of peasant women in the name of the Tiger Reserve. “When we collect firewood and other small forest produce,” said Halka Devi, “the forest officers and cops sexually molest us and beat us up. If we complain they say, don’t come into the forest if you don’t like it. How can we survive without firewood?”
AIPWA activist Saroj from Ghazipur spoke of a series of attacks on women that showed the deep nexus of cops with criminal elements. Jeera Devi was beaten by criminal Sanjay Singh, who was not arrested. Kamrunnissa and her son were beaten up by cops and warned not to complain against criminal elements.
AIPWA activist Anita from Mirzapur and Sarojini from Sitapur testified to more incidents, speaking of the experience of supporting survivors of violence. One woman from Sitapur spoke of how her 14 year old daughter was raped. She identified the rapists but the cops delayed filing a case for 2 days. On the third day they demanded Rs 8000 as a bribe. Rs 4000 was paid, and the FIR lodged, but the family was coerced into saying that no rape had occurred, and the FIR did not mention rape! AIPWA activists and CPI(ML) took up this case and are in the process of fighting for justice, with the 14 year old survivor very bravely standing firm.
Arti Rai, AIPWA VP, also spoke of the situation in the state, where both SP and BJP, State and Central Governments seem more interested in moral policing than in defending women’s rights.
Speakers discussed the experiences of the Badayun and Mohanlalganj rape and murder cases, pointing out that neither UP cops nor CBI seemed interested in justice for the victims. Instead these cases were being sensationalized and distorted. And in Meerut and Muzaffarnagar, rape complaints were being communalized by the RSS and BJP to serve the BJP’s political agenda.
The main speaker was Kavita Krishnan, secretary AIPWA, who pointed out that neither state nor central governments were spending on more shelters for women and more courts to ensure speedy trials. Neither was taking action against errant cops or ensuring accountable policing. Rather, the UP Government was busy making atrocious sexist comments to make rapes appear ‘normal’. While the Modi Government, to cover up its lack of action on urgent measures, was instead amending the dowry and domestic violence Acts to make it more difficult for women to get justice and protection under these Acts. She slammed the Government’s move to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, saying that sending juvenile offenders to jail would only turn them into hardened criminals, and would make women no safer. Further, she pointed out that a large number of ‘rape’ cases involving juveniles are actually elopement cases, which have been criminalized by the raising of age of consent. Now, if the JJ Act is amended, such innocent young boys who have been affectionate with a girl of same age, might not only be booked for rape but even jailed! Kavita warned of the attempts by RSS and other groups to take away women’s freedom to marry by choice, by raising the bogey of love jehad. Such a charged communal atmosphere, she said, will make it difficult for women to choose their own partners from another religion; but also make it difficult for them to complain against rape for fear of communalization.
AIPWA State President Tahira Hasan and Secretary Geeta Pande as well as AIPWA National Executive member Vidya Rajwar, and CPI(ML) CC Member Krishna Adhikari addressed the gathering.
The event was also addressed by distinguished women’s rights activists Prof Rooprekha varma, Nivedita from NFIW, Sudha from Humsafar, Anupama from Save Womnen, Naz from Bahin and Gita Singh from Domestic Workers’ organization.