Human rights? All left out

August 8, 2013

If safeguarding the rights of people, especially minorities and women, makes for good governance, then the plight of state’s watchdogs paints a sorry picture.

The government bodies set up to look after human rights, and rights of women and minorities are lying headless, and therefore toothless and defanged, for quite some time.

Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC), Karnataka State Commission for Women (KSCW) and Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation (KMDC) do not have anybody at the helm. It means these bodies cannot either look into the complaints of rights violation or make recommendations to the government to punish the culprit.

Sorry state of KSHRC

The KSHRC comprises a chairperson and two members.

The body cannot investigate complaints of human rights violation or take any action without the nod of its chairperson. Its previous chairperson, Justice (Retd) SR Nayak, retired on July 25 past year.

One of the two members, RH Raddi, retired two days after Justice Nayak and the other, B Parthasarathy, retired on March 2 past year. The government replaced the two members (appointing Justice Hunagunda and Meera Saxena) only on November 21. The post of the chairperson is still vacant. It has reduced the KSHRC to just a complaint-receiving body.

In 2012, the KSHRC referred 67 cases of human rights violation to the state government. The government, however, decided to act only in 20 cases. As on June 30 this year, the human rights body had a backlog of 14,410 complaints.

Reportedly, one of the two new members of the commission, Saxena, is not well versed in Kannada. R Manohar, director (project), South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (Sichrem), said people have intimated him about Saxena’s language issue. He said the government should appoint only those people to the KSHRC who have thorough knowledge about human rights.

He rued that the commission does not have a chairperson for a year now. He said many cases of human rights violation have taken place in the state in this period. He gave the example of Lakshmi Devi, a housemaid who died recently after setting herself afire, blaming the city police for torturing her to confess to stealing from her employer’s house.

Women’s woes

While the human rights commission is lying headless for a year, the women’s commission is without someone at the helm for six months now. Previous chairperson of the KSWC, C Manjula, quit on February 1 this year. The post is lying vacant since then. In this situation, the body can only counsel the victims who approach them.

The secretary of the KSWC, Kavitha S Mannikeri, said she is with the women’s commission on deputation for the past three months. She said that they are referring complaints to the department concerned for action as, without a chairperson, they do not have the mandate to take a decision.

She said that she herself has been juggling the two official roles she has—one at the KSWC and one as the joint director of child welfare department—on an everyday basis.

Minority report

The KMDC too has gone quiet ever since its previous chairman, Anwar Manippady, stepped down owing to political compulsions. During his tenure, he had exposed people who had encroached wakf properties worth crores of rupees.

Shaik Latheef, KMDC secretary, said that as the organisation is without a chairperson, it cannot take up any survey to tell if the government’s schemes for minorities’ welfare are being implemented. Also, the body cannot make recommendations to the government if it notices some anomaly.

Manippady told dna that the government should appoint a chairperson to the corporation at the earliest. He alleged that some people were working against the KMDC. He said many politicians had encroached wakf properties worth crores of rupees.

 

Source : DNA, Bangalore – 8th August 2013.

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1 BILLION RISING!

February 28, 2013

This year’s Valentine’s Day on 14 February was not very romantic, but instead very powerful and above all very important. It was the day when hundreds of women and men in Bangalore were standing up and dancing together for Women’s and Girl’s Rights within the worldwide campaign “1 BILLION RISING”.

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY.

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION!

After the Delhi rape case on 16 December 2012, there was a notable increase in attention paid to cases of violence against women, and rising anger at the ignorance of national Governments,not only in India. The refusal to accept this status quo got stronger and it was time to finally stand up and demand gender equality, and an end to violence against women and girls. So, on the 15th V-Day, in many places all over the world, women and men gathered together to celebrate women’s power to stand up and claim their Human Rights.

In India, protests were held across states, in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and also BANGALORE. From 2:30 pm on, people gathered in Cubbon Park and one could hear speeches, watch many performances of music, tribal dances, singings, street theater and live painting, and join when women from all parts of society rose to a huge and excessive dance.  All this ended in many candle lights in the dark, poetry and story-telling by women who had survived a violation of their rights, or knew somebody else that hadn’t  or just wanted to share their thoughts on the situation of women.

1 BILLION RISING Bangalore was organized by more than 20 Bangalore-based Human Rights and Women’s Empowerment groups. SICHREM was one among them, including the Women’s Rights Forum Vimochana, Visthar, Sangama and many more.

Having fought for (Women’s) Human Rights for 18 years, SICHREM staffs were also present at this event, and in preparation had mobilized students from across Bangalore attending SICHREM’s diploma course on Human Rights. A group of SICHREM’s students performed a flash mob in demand for Women’s Rights.

Unfortunately, the Bangalore Administration did not allow the event to take place at Mahatma Gandhi Road, which would have drawn even greater attention. Even so, the big dancing and celebrating crowd got a lot of media attention and also interrupted many workers’ and car drivers’ daily routine, to stop and think about the difficulties that women face.

Ms. Madhu and Ms. Shakun from Vimochana

Ms. Madhu and Ms. Shakun from Vimochana

Women from an association in Kolar District claiming the End of Violence Against Women

Women from an association in Kolar District claiming the End of Violence Against Women

The banner was carried around in a silent protest

The banner was carried around in a silent protest

The dancing crowd

The dancing crowd

SICHREM's volunteer Abigail Rowlands was one of the artists paiting in public

SICHREM’s volunteer Abigail Rowlands was one of the artists paiting in public


Daksh: (KSHRC) lacks the power to provide a concrete solution and has inadequate powers to ensure compliance with its recommendations.

April 18, 2011

A report by Daksh, a voluntary research group suggested that KSHRC needs to be given adequate powers to make its functioning more efficient. It also applauded the KSHRC saying, “The chairperson and members of the KSHRC have not shied away from confronting the Government, and their conduct has inspired reasonable confidence in the efficacy and independence of the commission.”

Mr Mathews Philip, Director of SICHREM was also asked to give his opinion on the same. Here is the report carried out by ‘The Hindu’.

You can also visit the news section in our website to read related stories.


Feminist Horizons on Questions of Sexual Violence and Impunity in India

July 17, 2010

The ALF held a thorough discussion on the issue of sexual violence in the context of mass violence. Professor Uma Chakravaty introduced the discussion with an exploration of the situation of sexual violence in India between 1947-2002.

It was argued that during the partition upheavals of 1947 and 1971 the issue of sexual violence was not recognised as being part of the mass violence, which occurred during those struggles. In fact feminist jurisprudence has been very slow in India in recognising rape and sexual violence within the context of mass violence. The communal violence in Gujarat in 2002 was cited as being the dawn of a new epoch in thinking, and sexual violence became recognised as a tool used in violence.

 The Professor, sought to redefine and broaden the concept of sexual violence, with the atrocities committed in incidents such as Gujarat in mind. She also argued that there has been effective impunity for many of the perpetrators of sexual violence and saw command responsibility as one way of rectifying this. Command responsibility ensures that officials are held to be responsible if they neglect to intervene in incidents of sexual violence that they know are occurring. Moreover, she argued that crimes of sexual violence should be monitored separately in the PMO’s office.

The Professor’s talk was followed by a discussion. Here, the need for gender neutrality in the law was spoken about at great length. It was argued that if sexual violence is to be adjudged in the wider context of violence then it should affect men and women equally. This view was based on the concept of sexual violence that developed from the Rwandan genocide in which it was argued that rape was used not just to degrade the individual woman, but was aimed to strip the humanity from a community as a whole.

Women’s groups generally resist gender neutrality in the law, as they fear it will reduce protection for women. As it stands in the Sexual Assaults Bill only a man can be a perpetrator of the crime, but women and transgender people can be victims. Many other issues were discussed at length and the minutiae of the laws were assiduously scrutinised. Sichrem volunteers Swaroop and Theodore attended the programme. We look forward to attending the next ALF discussion.


Establishment of UN women

July 6, 2010

The UN has decided to establish a separate UN body to promote women’s rights which will be called the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

This new body will help the UN focus specifically on issues pertaining to women. SICHREM welcomes this development and hope the new body can make a significant impact in ensuring gender equality.

To read the story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/us_and_canada/10496864.stm


Employer exploitation and insufficent government support: the plight of domestic workers

May 24, 2010

For years domestic workers have been subject to exploitation and systematic abuse, with their employers seemingly emboldened by the fact these transgressions are occurring behind closed doors. There have been many instances of child labour, sexual harassment,  and emotional and physical abuse committed by employers.

Furthermore, Government assistance for these workers has proved to be insufficient. The minimum wage is a pitiful Rs 150 per hour, there is no social security provision, maternity leave or educational opportunities provided for the workers’ children.

Therefore, SICHREM along with other civil society groups are campaigning for an end to violations perpetrated by the employers. We also seek greater government involvement in helping the advancement of these workers.

The Social Security Bill is in the process of being passed, but in the long run we need to be able to foster better relations between employer and employee. For example, employers should allow leave on public and religious holidays. The employer should also initiate better communication and try and engender a strong personal and professional relationship with the worker.

Moreover, the government should help the situation with much more comprehensive social security provisions for these workers. At present the domestic workers have no significant safety net and are therefore vulnerable to illness, unemployment and other unpredictable events.

Much needs to be done to improve the situation and cooperation between employer, employee and government is essential if we are to succeed.

These issues have been discussed in the press. See below for a couple of examples of the discussions.


The Sexual Assaults Bill: A rethinking sexual offences in India?

May 12, 2010

 

The Sexual Assaults Bill, which is currently passing through the legislative process, has been subject to much febrile discussion. Yesterday many women’s groups, lawyers and other interested parties from across Bangalore gathered to suggest additions to the Bill and discuss why current laws are insufficient in their protection of women.

Amongst the issues discussed was the introduction of a gradation in the law, based on the seriousness of the sexual offence. This gradation would reconfigure the current legal position, which is to group together acts as serious as rape with offences such as sexual harassment into one offence. It should add clarity and thus assist prosecutors in their attempt to make a viable case.

Moreover, the suggestion that there should be special provisos relating to public servants and police officers that commit sexual offences, while acting in their capacity as public officials was roundly welcomed. It is thought that this should address the serious issue of abuse of power, which occurs in many institutions.

Many other issues ranging from gender neutrality in the law to offences against minors were discussed.

While the suggested amendments to the law would certainly further the position of victims, the law cannot act in a vacuum. The police’s role is essential as it is their evidence gathering and investigation, which will provide the spine of any prosecution case. Therefore, it is vital that an historic mistrust of the police based on their past failings must be overcome. It was refreshing to see a police presence at the meeting and hopefully greater dialogue between such actions groups and the police should yield a better result for victims of sexual assaults.