Gujarat: action urged in crimes against women

Zoya Hasan of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and 52 other scholars and prominent personalities have written to Poornima Advani, Chairperson, National Commission for Women (NCW), urging steps to ensure conviction of those who had perpetrated crimes against women in the recent Gujarat incidents. They said:

"Besides the mass killings by communal forces, Gujarat has witnessed the most gruesome sexual crimes against women in recent history. There are media reports of a pregnant woman knifed to death, of gang-rape of girls and women in the presence of their families, followed by their brutal murder, by burning them alive, or by battering them with a hammer. The sexual subjugation of women as an instrument of ethnic cleansing in Gujarat represents unparalleled barbarism and violence against women. While the National Human Rights Commission has visited Gujarat to investigate the killings, arson and looting and has drawn attention to the atrocities suffered by women, there are no reports that the National Commission for Women has considered it necessary to do so. The NCW is a statutory body with a mandate "to investigate and examine all matters relating to safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws''. (Section 10 (1) (a) National Commission for Women Act, 1990).

"Flowing from this mandate is a legal, ethical and moral responsibility, not just to express disapproval of such incidents, but to play an active and constructive role in protecting women's rights. We strongly urge the NCW to take appropriate steps in the matter to ensure the conviction of the guilty, set the legal process in motion, help the victims to access the legal process and to provide and monitor relief and rehabilitation for those women who have been assaulted, injured, widowed, lost their livelihood, their homes and otherwise rendered destitute by the carnage.

We await an immediate and public declaration of your plan of action."

The signatories include: Radhika Alkazi, theatreperson; Anuradha Mitra Chenoy and Jayati Ghosh of the JNU, Maya Daruwala, human rights activist and lawyer; Ashwini Deshpande, University of Delhi; Syeda Saiyadain Hameed, former member, National Commission for Women; Sakina Hasan, member, Committee on the Status of Women in India, 1976; Gita Hariharan, writer; Shabnam Hashmi, political activist; Brinda Karat, general secretary, AIDWA; Malvika Karlekar, CWDS; Meena Kazi, Jamia Millia Islamia; Farida Khan, University of Delhi; Vina Mazumdar, CWDS; Shail Mayaram, senior fellow, CSDS and Tanika Sarkar, JNU.

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