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Lawmakers seeking death penalty for rapists is mere tokenism: Activists
Several civil society activists from Gujarat have sought the establishment of fast track courts for trial of all rape cases, including the recent Delhi gang-rape case. They also demanded that trial should be conducted against all concerned government officials and politicians found negligent in their duty.

CIVIL SOCIETY activists Rita Chokshi,  Sunanda Tayda and Rashma Vohra from Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan); Deepika Rajput, Reena Jagtap and Jignesh Rajput from Manthan -Yuva Sangathan; Rohit Prajapati, Swati Desai and Amrish Brahm Bhatt from  Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti; Kantibhai Mistry and Sudhir Biniwale Jyoti  from Karmachari Mandal and Trupti Shah and Ayesha Khan from Documentation and Study Centre For Action, stressed the need for a change in attitude towards rape victims. According to them, what is needed now is the belief that “It is not the rape victim who is dishonoured, but the one who commits rape.”

According to them, while women seeking death sentence for a rapist is understandable, such a demand by lawmakers on the floor of Parliament is mere tokenism. The crime cannot be stemmed by death sentence but with speedy and gender sensitive criminal justice system.

They said that the crime of rape can be stemmed only through change in the present capitalistic, patriarchal social system which influences, language, ideology, and all aspects of legal system and governance.

Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan), Manthan - Yuva Sangathan, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Jyoti Karmachari Mandal and Documentation and Study Centre for Action stood in solidarity with the survivor of rape and the people of Delhi, who are seeking justice for the gang-rape victim and harshest possible sentence for the rapists.

They pointed out that the people of Gujarat were also similarly enraged during the Surat and Patan gang-rape incidents in the recent past. But only widespread condemnation and anger does not solve the crime against women. We need to discuss seriously at every level, in our homes, public forums the incidence of increasing violence against women, for it requires a complete change in the entire system of governance and lawmaking.

They appealed to boycott all those who treat women with disrespect, as well as indulge in any form of discrimination and violence against women in our immediate environs, and if required make the boycott public as well as a social weapon.

Stating that it is common for the society and even government to restrict women's presence in public places on the pretext of safeguarding them, they said we tend to forget that sexual harassment is done just not by strangers but also by from amongst friends, family and neighbourhood.

It is also common to seek severest of sentence for the rapist, especially death sentence. But this is mere sloganeering. We all know how difficult it is to prove such crimes as our legal system functions in a way that no innocent is punished even if a hundred criminals go unpunished, the activists said.

It is therefore necessary to sensitise as well as streamline the police, the investigating agencies as well as the legal system so that they function effectively. While discussing rape, it is necessary to base the law on the woman's right over her body and not on the ideas of honour and chastity of women, they added.

While rape incidents from various parts of the country made headlines in recent times, they felt such incidents from villages or tribal areas do not get as much attention as those committed in urban spaces. We also need to look into these disparities.

The activists felt that we need to change the language, the attitudes and the legal system to deal with violence against women. They demanded concrete steps to ensure speedy and effective justice for all the rape victims.

The steps suggested by them are that an officer of the rank DySP should investigate all cases of rape. The victim should be allowed to have a woman or an activist from a women's organisation of her choice during the entire investigating as well as judicial process of the case.

Every district hospital should have a separate room to deal with cases of sexual violence and only those trained to deal with such cases should be appointed. Also, the medical facilities should be provided free of cost to the victim.

Living arrangements for the victim should be provided according to her choice and if required police security should also be given. Facilities of empanelled counsellors should be arranged to provide the victim psychological and emotional support.

The Victim Compensation Board should be made active and also necessary financial support should be arranged to help her become self independent. The legal trial should be expedited and completed in a year's time as well as no anticipatory bail should be granted to the accused. Atrocity Act should be invoked in all cases of rape in case of Dalits and tribal women, the activists added in the press release.

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