India Insight

Anti-rape bill goes easy on first-time stalkers, but only if innocent

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Women have become increasingly worried about their safety in New Delhi after the gang rape and torture of a young woman aboard a moving bus last December. Not for nothing do people call the city India’s rape capital. Beyond the leers and the crass words that men often direct at women walking on the street, fresh fears have arisen over stalkers.

The Lok Sabha passed a bill to toughen penalties on rape and sexual assault on Tuesday, and among its penalties, it would make stalking punishable by jail time. But first-time offenders will be able to avoid being detained till investigation is complete, as the offence is bailable.

That, of course, disappointed many people. “1st time stalkers get bail, so they get out and harass, and maybe attack the woman they were stalking?,” journalist Padmaja Joshi wrote on Twitter. ‏@Neilima wrote, “1st time stalker getting bail will probably lead on a second attack. Only, it’ll be a lot worse than just stalking her.”

But what happens if someone falsely accuses someone of stalking? If the offence is non-bailable, police have the right to arrest or detain the accused stalker before they begin investigating the case, said Vijay Kumar, a lawyer who argues cases before the Supreme Court.

Making a case for tougher anti-stalking laws

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Should any well meaning law proposed in a democratic parliament be shelved because it risks being misused in some form?

Unless we go into specifics, it is hard to generalize the question, but the eighteenth-century English scholar William Blackstone made a strong argument: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

‘Nobody can stop you if you engage in art with dignity’: Zila Khan on singing and Islam

The members of Praagaash, an all-girl band in Kashmir, split up this week after an influential cleric deemed their music un-Islamic. Zila Khan, one of India’s most popular sufi singers and daughter of sitar maestro Vilayat Khan, spoke to Reuters about how singing is closest to worship and meditation and how children should be allowed to sing.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Questions about Grand Mufti of Kashmir and Islam are best answered by experts in the field of religion. I am an expert in music, it will be no use pondering on subjects that I am not an authority on. There will be more experts to say better things on this issue. I can, however, talk about music, on my journey as a singer and the issue of women’s rights.

Obviously, I feel children should sing.

I feel the art of music and especially singing is the highest form of art in the world and in the cosmic cycle. To have the ilm (idea) and knowledge of this art is itself a blessing because it is much higher than any other form of art or work as such.

Military personnel who rape in India’s conflict zones should be prosecuted: committee

The Justice Verma Committee, set up to review India’s legislation following the brutal gang rape of a student in Delhi last month, released its recommendations on how to make the country safer for women last week.

Among the issues which the panel addressed was a “neglected area” concerning sexual violence against women in areas of conflict.

The committee recommends stripping security forces of special immunity that they enjoy in conflict areas in cases of sexual assault on women, and bringing them under the purview of ordinary criminal law.

Delhi rape case: Verma committee report dredges up old stereotypes

Like many journalists who follow Indian affairs, I have been digging through the 657 pages of the Verma committee report on rape in India and attitudes toward women in that country. You can read about its main conclusion in our wire story, namely:

India needs to implement existing laws, not introduce tougher punishment such as the death penalty, to prevent rape, a government panel set up to review legislation said on Wednesday, following a brutal gang rape that shook the nation. Panel head, justice J.S. Verma, rejected outright the idea of the death penalty for rape cases, a demand from some protesters and politicians in the days after the 23-year-old physiotherapy student was attacked on a moving bus.

There’s lots more to examine in the report, which was commissioned after the gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi aboard a moving bus. I’ll try to highlight on this blog in coming days. The committee cited plenty of case law in its report, and it came across one opinion that it said “seems to have stereotyped Indian and Western women in a somewhat unorthodox way.” That’s putting it kindly. Here is an excerpt that highlights a decidedly retrograde view toward women — particularly in the West. It’s from a 1983 Supreme Court case,  Bharvada Gohinbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat, in which a civil servant appealed his conviction of the rape of a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl.

Photo gallery: vigils after Delhi rape victim dies

Here are some photographs from our India Insight contributors that show vigils following the death on Saturday of a 23-year-old woman after six men raped her aboard a bus in Delhi on Dec. 16. We will update this post as more photos arrive. Thanks to Soumya Bandyopadhyay in Kolkata, Anoo  Bhuyan and Anuja Jaiman in Delhi and Vidya L. Nathan in Bangalore. Apologies for any inconsistent sizing or lack of uniformity. Note for non-Hindi readers or speakers: the sign in the first photograph says: “My voice is higher than my skirt.”

Delhi (Anoo Bhuyan):

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kolkata:

 

 

 

 

Delhi (Anuja Jaiman):

 

 

Bangalore:

 

 

 

 

 

You can see many more images related to this story from our Reuters photographers as well.

Abhijit Mukherjee’s foot-in-mukh moment steals spotlight from rape cases

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

India is angry. India is protesting. Rallies continue in New Delhi after the gang rape of a 23-year-old girl on Dec. 16. The rapes continue too. On Wednesday night, three men reportedly raped a 42-year-old woman and dumped her in South Delhi. There are more cases being reported every day.

The biggest story in India, however, is Abhijit Mukherjee’s comment about the Delhi protests — “These pretty women, dented and painted, who come for protests are not students. I have seen them speak on television, usually women of this age are not students”. He added that students, who go to discotheques, think it is a fashion statement to hold candles and protest.

Delhi rape: what it says about us Indians

 Demonstrators run and throw stones towards the police during a protest in front of India Gate in New Delhi December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

We Indians are an angry people now. Thousands of people have poured into the streets, indignant and outraged over the savage case of rape and assault on a young woman in New Delhi.

That anger degenerated this week into hysteria and bloodlust, with calls for capital punishment and castration of the rapists. The Internet was flooded with comments urging public hanging and beatings. One response on an Internet forum suggested that Delhi men be raped so that “the problem can be solved”; another advocated the rapists be urinated upon.

Delhi gang rape: protests for women’s rights attract politicking instead

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The perfect recipe of a bad curry is to do everything right, then add one wrong ingredient, or add the right ingredient in the wrong amount. In this case, the ingredient is the mango, or as they call it in Hindi, “aam.”

I attended a candlelight vigil on Sunday night in Bangalore to stand up for women’s rights in India. The vigil was a peaceful version of the protests that have swept the nation after six men were accused of gang-raping and battering a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi last Sunday.

Delhi gang rape case: ‘she deserved it’ is not a good argument

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The gang rape of a 23-year-old woman and the beating of her male friend on a moving bus in New Delhi Sunday night has produced debates about women’s rights in India and about whether the death penalty — or castration — are suitable remedies for the situation. It has not prompted, from what I can see, any speculation that the woman got what she deserved because she was dressed like a slut… until today.

For anyone who has missed the story, here’s what has happened so far, according to multiple media reports: the woman and her friend boarded the bus. They thought it was operating on a public route, but the driver and the men on board apparently were out for a joyride instead. They raped the woman, beat the pair with an iron rod, and threw them out of the bus and left them to die on the street. Police have arrested some of the men, politicians are in high dudgeon, and the woman is in the hospital. She suffered damage not only to her reproductive system, but to her intestines.

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