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“She Wanted The SIX To Be Burnt Alive”: But Are We Capable Of Fulfilling Her Last Wish?

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By Shruti Kesavan:

The Nirbhaya case has brought into light issues and loopholes in our laws, the clear apathy of politicians towards the issue, insensitivity of the police, juvenile laws and how they have been misused in more ways than possible. As one slowly comes to terms with her death, there is a dire need to reconsider the laws pertaining to punishment of the perpetrators of rape in particular and laws with respect to juvenile crimes.

delhirape

One of the accused in the case happens to be a minor because of which the maximum punishment he may be slapped with would be three years in reform facility. The other factor which favours him would be that he is also entitled to get bail the minute the chargesheet is filed. The current situation breathes into being a very important question of whether the juvenile laws are being misused and if it is time to bring about reforms in the law rather than send the minor to a reform facility.

The six accused were Ram Singh (driver), Mukesh (brother of Ram Singh), Vinay Sharma (gym instructor) Pawan Gupta (fruit seller), Akshay Thakur (cleaner) and Muhammad Afroz (Raju) who was the minor. Even as the five accused are charged for murder and abduction, Raju’s name seems to be missing from the chargesheet simply because he is a minor. According to the police, he was the most brutal and afflicted the most amount of harm to the girl. He not only raped her twice which includes once when she was unconscious but also brutally pulled out her intestines. He further suggested she be thrown out of the moving bus naked and be run over by the same bus in which she was abducted and raped.

The age of the minor is unclear as his matriculate certificate suggests that he was born on July 20th 1996 (Government High School, Naushehra Cheema, Taran), but during the interrogation he said he was born in 1991 and his village certificate says he was born on July 5th 1993. Since there is a huge controversy about his age he will now be subjected to ossification which is a ‘bone test‘ which has been conducted to ascertain his age. If he is proved to be a minor in this test he will not even spend a night at Tihar Jail even though he rightly deserves to be there or even worse.

To add to the shame is his mother who is neither willing to tell the police his age nor the number of years of her marriage after which he was conceived. Not only is she saving a criminal but also saving someone who could become a major threat with his psychopathic tendencies.

This brings to us to an important question: what is the definition of juvenile and can there be amendments made with respect to the rules and laws regarding it? A boy who has not yet attained the age of 16 or a girl who is not yet 18 come under the juvenile law. This was then amended in 2000, by the United Nations Rules and then changed to 18 for both boys and girls.

Vikas Pahua who is an advocate states that “the objective of the Juvenile Justice Act is to reform the child because it is possible that he may have committed the act under influence”. The one thing he fails to understand is there is a huge difference between being a child and being a pre-mature perverted adult. According to the doctors, only five percent of Nirbhaya’s intestines were inside her body, clearly not something a child would do. Vikas then continues to say, “A juvenile has got some constitutional protections and therefore he has to be treated separately”. Why is it that a juvenile criminal is subjected to protection and not an innocent woman? This is a question which resonates in the back of my head.

The 1850 Apprentice Act which is provided for children states that children between the ages of 10-18 years, when convicted in courts will be provided by vocational training which is intended for their future rehabilitation. Isn’t it high time that a crime be punished on the basis of severity and brutality than the age of the accused? This was not the first time Raju was arrested, as he was also arrested previous to this in Amritsar while allegedly waiting for someone to hand him two kilograms of heroin. Would he still be considered innocent and would justice be served by just sending him to a reform facility?

Taking advantage of this loophole in the laws was also Ajmal Kasab (the first foreigner to be hung on Indian soil) who said he was a minor too, but was then subjected to the bone test and the result proved he was 21 years of age and hence not considered under the Juvenile Justice Board.

In 2009, 346 cases were reported under the Juvenile Justice Board in Lucknow, which has jurisdiction in Rae Bareli and Barabanki besides the state capital. Out of the cases reported, 35 were for rape and 20 for murder. Juvenile crimes initially consisted only of minor crimes like chain snatching and theft but now they have escalated to murder and rape, only pointing out to the need for an amendment of laws apt for the crimes performed irrespective of the age of the accused.

64% of juvenile crimes are committed in the age bracket of 16-18 years which also includes the minor accused in the brutal Delhi Rape Case. According to a statistic provided, there has been a 34% rise in rape by juveniles between 2010 and 2011. According to statistics provided by The Times of India, only 5.7% of the juvenile are homeless, stating that the absence of family or moral guidance provided by parents is not a factor. To add to it, 57% of the juvenile criminals belong to poor families indicating poverty may play an important role. There has also been a 188% rise in rape cases by juveniles since 2001 followed by abduction of women and robbery.

Some of the other recent cases are, Zeeshan, a minor, who belongs to a business family, who under the influence of drinks and along with five friends abducted a 13-year-old house maid, raped her in the car and then threw her in the outskirts. Shashi, a 17-year-old son of a service man was convicted of raping a 10-year-old in Rae Bareli. The police also confiscated porn videos and obscene magazines from his hostel room, thus pointing out to the fact of how pornography not only kills the innocence of a child but can also instigate them to commit such heinous crimes. (Names of accused and victims have been subjected to change.)

As Raju may breathe a sigh of relief with his brief encounter with death, the victim’s friend has finally gathered some courage to talk to a news channel in which he revealed that “when he met his friend in the hospital, she said she didn’t want the six accused to hang, but be burnt alive.” This not only can be considered her last wish but also points to the fact she wanted all six to face the same punishment. It is high time we change laws which have loopholes and in which criminals find a safe hiding place and grant them their well deserved place and send them to the guillotine. Ironically the only one who can be ‘nirbhaya’ without the amendment of laws would be these people who not only commit crimes but also get away with the consent of the government.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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