A Women’s Charter for Delhi Elections: Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression

Guest Post by Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression

The elections in Delhi are approaching.

Violence, as well as discrimination against women, and sheer denial of women’s dignity and rights, has been a huge concern for Delhi’s citizens.

This is the time when women are looking towards the political parties, to see what place women’s rights and freedoms have on their agenda.

We are disturbed to see that while most parties pay lip service to the cause of women’s rights, they blithely field candidates accused of violence against women, and they play to the patriarchal gallery on a range of issues, ignoring the voices of the women’s movement.

We, the undersigned would like to put the following concerns on the agenda of the Delhi elections, and we ask the political parties contesting Delhi elections to respond to them with urgency and seriousness. We appeal to all women voters to place this charter before every candidate and every party campaigner, and ask them for a clear position on each of its points.

1. We are alarmed at the spiralling of communal violence towards the Delhi elections. We are shocked that, instead of nabbing those who are fuelling the violence in a planned way, the Delhi Police has instead beaten up and brutalised innocent women in Trilokpuri. Above all, we are appalled at the attempts to justify communal, caste, racial or homophobic/transphobic violence in the name of ‘protecting women’. We assert that women are invariably rendered most unsafe by such violence. We seek a commitment that no party will promote leaders – either as candidates or as campaigners – who are accused of stoking violence against women, as well as communal, caste, racial or homophobic/transphobic violence. Specifically, we do not want the notorious 1984 duo Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, we do not want to see Gugan Singh (who made communal speeches in Bawana) or Sunil Vaidya (who incited riots at Trilokpuri), or Somnath Bharti (charge-sheeted for racist and anti-women violence at Khirki) to be candidates or campaigners.

2. Women continue to be deeply unsafe in Delhi. We seek a commitment that parties and elected representatives will ensure accountability on part of the police in cases of violence against women. In this regard we seek that the Delhi Police set up a website where complaints can be made reporting inaction/lapses by police in cases of crimes against women, and we seek that personnel accused of such lapses be promptly booked. We also seek a commitment to set up sufficient one-stop crisis centres, shelters for battered women and night shelters, crèches, as well as counselling centres for survivors of gender violence. We also seek faster courts with an increased number of judges to ensure speedier and sure justice.

3. We are especially concerned for the fact that little children in Delhi’s slums are among the most vulnerable to sexual violence. In the poor areas of the city, we seek functional childcare centres where children of working parents can be safe. Homeless children and children within institutionalised homes are also extremely vulnerable, and measures for their protection need to be undertaken. We also seek urgent and specific measures to safeguard the needs and rights to safety and dignity of women and girls with disabilities.

4. To make our streets safer, we seek that city planning take into account women’s own experiences and needs. We especially need more toilets, a major surge in the fleet of DTC buses, and street lighting.

5. Discrimination and violence against working class women, as well as women from religious minorities and oppressed castes, women from the North Eastern states, as well as women foreign nationals who are guests in Delhi, is rampant and unconscionable. We need urgent corrective measures to be drawn up in consultation with these groups, and implemented. We call upon political parties and the new Government to ensure recognition and rights to transgenders, in view of the recent Supreme Court verdict. Community volunteers can be involved in gender-sensitisation campaigns and campaigns against gender discrimination, as well as communal, casteist, racial and other prejudices. Vigilantism and mob-justice must however be discouraged and sternly dealt with, rather than legitimised in the guise of “women’s security forces”.

5. We need the elected representatives and parties as well as the Government to promote a culture of gender equality, through sustained public education campaigns on women’s rights and freedom, as well as on respect for diversity and rights of vulnerable sections of people. School textbooks also need to incorporate material on sensitisation towards the rights of women, oppressed castes, as well as religious, racial and ethnic minorities.

6. We seek affordable, good quality education and healthcare for every person in Delhi, with special attention to removing the hurdles to girls’ education and ensuring the healthcare needs of women. We seek strict implementation of PCPNDT Act, to check the spate of sex-selective abortions.

7. We seek a commitment that within a month of assuming office, the new Government will ensure the constitution of Local Complaints Committees and District level Committees against sexual harassment are set up in accordance with law, guaranteeing that women in all workplaces, and unorganised and organised sectors of work have access to protection against sexual harassment.

8. We seek that activists from the women’s movement, rather than political nominees, be chosen to serve on the Delhi Commission for Women, which must be accountable and accessible to all.

9. We seek a commitment that every elected representative and every party will take measures to ensure equal pay for equal work, as well as safe and dignified work conditions for women in all sectors. Delhi has the lowest proportion of women workers among all Indian cities (a mere 10.6% female workforce participation rate as against a male participation rate of 53.1%). We want the new Government to create conditions that can draw more women into employment. We seek a commitment that within six months of assuming office the following laws will become a reality: recognition of a) home-based workers and b) domestic workers as ‘workers’, ensuring their registration as workers, minimum wages, dignified working conditions and social security such as provident fund, ESI, and pension.

10. We seek urgent measures to support couples who live together or marry in defiance of caste and community norms or prejudices against same-sex relationships. We would like to hear political parties in India’s capital city speak up and stand up against Section 377, against moral-policing of any kind, and uphold the fundamental right of women and all people to love and live in a manner of their choice.

Signed and endorsed:

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

Prof. Uma Chakravarti, Academic, author of “Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens”

Mary E. John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS)

Vrinda Grover, Advocate, Supreme Court

Sehba Taban, Janwadi Mahila Samiti, (JMS) Delhi

Deepti Sharma, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre

Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)

Suneeta Dhar, activist

Madhu Bala, activist

Kalyani Menon-Sen, feminist activist, WSS

Madhu Bhaduri, former diplomat

Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, JNU

Binalakshmi Nepram, Northeast India Women Initiative For Peace(NEIWIP)

Nandini Rao, feminist activist, WSS

Ranjana Padhi, feminist activist, WSS

Vani Subramanian, Saheli

Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD

Kiran Shaheen, activist and journalist

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Advocate

Lesley Esteves

Juhi Jain

Urvashi Butalia, Zubaan

3 thoughts on “A Women’s Charter for Delhi Elections: Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression”

  1. Reblogged this on crossingfrontieres and commented:
    Great charter and great blog! My hope is for all of India to follow. All of humanity suffers when women suffer and are denied voice, rights, respect, freedom to dress without being accused of being ‘western’. Because when a little girl is raped, who was completely covered [in shalwar kameez etc] it is not a question of what she was wearing, it’s simply abuse and sexual violence for any age female. If respect is summoned, the other things like rights,equality in and out of job place will begin to fall in place.

    Like

  2. Very pertinent and sensible charter.May we add a couple of demands that we published in a 3 point charter on our website: walk the talk by fielding more women candidates and stop reinforcing patriarchal mindsets by addressing us as your Maa/Behen/Beti – we are much more than that!

    Like

  3. Im deeply stressed out on the consistent attacks and murders on women and girls.

    Judging by the comments made by the politicians like….boys will be boys…..and what was she doing at that hour…..

    My fav comments on indias daughter……if my daughter is dating another guy…..u will burn her in front of my home.

    We had one guy who murdered an indian grandmother and her grandaughter when he was holding their family hostage. They didnt pay him. He had gaming debts. He is the first INDIAN in Pennsylvania and the first in the US to be on death row.

    The bottom line is that in india……rape and murder of women and girls are openly accepted and tolerated india by the politicians and men in general in india.

    INDIAS DAUGHTER is being shown in the US.

    BY banning indias daughter it shows the lies and hipocracy of the so called democracy in india.

    People in the US…..are calling india the land of beasts and barbarians.

    I grew up in the US and was blind to this fact. I was thinking if going back to india……

    Doing bussiness and so forth.

    That u can forget about it.

    Hiding and lying of these atrocious and horrific attacks can no longer be tolerated or accepted.

    Here in the US…..CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN and children are never tolerated.

    If u commit any crime especially sex crimes….u will not find a place to live or get any job.

    Finally i feel sorry for the gangrape nun vuctom and now 3 girls found murdered.

    The corrupt and fraudulent police and politicians are responsible for these constant acts. They are complicit. They openly smile and tolerate these beastly behavior.

    Like

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