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Open Letter ti The Prime Minister of India on Violence Against Women in India

We – members of the undersigned women's organizations in Hong Kong – wish to bring to your attention, our deep concern for the endemic violence that underlies the treatment of women in India.

 

The recent incident of the violent physical and sexual assault on the student couple who inadvertently stepped into a wrong bus in Delhi unleashed a storm of protest, and urgent calls for justice to be meted out to the perpetrators.  The young women and her male companion were beaten with a metal bar and she was then gang-raped by six men, including the driver, for more than an hour and then thrown out of the moving bus.

 

The young woman died from her wounds on Saturday 29th December.

 

We join all the voices in India and around the world which are raised in anger and disgust at such blatant and life-endangering aggression, especially the many forms of sexual assaults – including such gang rapes – perpetrated daily against women in Indian society. 

 

According to the National Crime Records Bureau in India, there was a 7.1 % hike in recorded crimes against women between 2010 and 2011. The Hindustan Times, a Indian local newspaper reported on 5th Dec, 2012 that 580 cases of rape had been reported as of Oct. 24 this year, up from 482 in the same time period in 2011. 

 

In New Delhi, local police have been quoted in the media saying that a woman is raped every 18 hours and molested every 14 hours in the capital city. Hundreds of other attacks are never reported.

 

While public opinion polls say that India is the worst place to be a woman among the G20 countries a Reuters survey says India is the fourth most dangerous country in the entire world for women, behind Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan—and ahead of Somalia.

 

These same voices, and many others around the world also denounce the impunity that perpetrators of violence against women seem to enjoy.

 

This impunity is fed by a profound disrespect, even on the part of law enforcers, for women's rights: a Delhi magazine – Tehelka - reported that more than half of police officials  they interviewed blame rape victims, and quoted a senior police official in Delhi-NCR as saying:  "Unless a woman is fully covered from head to toe at all times, she wants men to rape her".

With such attitudes, it is not surprising that victims are reluctant to enter police stations and that most attacks go unreported.

 

There are more statistics revealing the situation of violence against women in India.

  • More than 12 million girls have been aborted in India in the past three decades because parents prefer sons and do not want to pay a dowry, according to a study by medical journal the Lancet.
  • 47 per cent of India's women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the legal age of 18, according to UNICEF’s 2009 State of the World's Children report.
  • As many as 57 per cent of male adolescents and 53 per cent of female adolescents believe a husband is justified in beating up his wife under certain circumstances, according to a UNICEF 2012 report.

 

Your Excellency, we presume that you are aware of these facts, and that you are also concerned for the wellbeing and human rights of women of India. We are also aware that deeply entrenched undemocratic and discriminating attitudes and social structures underlie the endemic nature of violence against women in Indian Society. 

 

United Nation Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women has issued a statement on the crime saying, "This attack is an attack against all women in India…We call on the government of India to do everything in (its) power to take up radical reforms…to make women's lives more safe and secure."

 

Therefore we urge you to waste no time in taking the necessary steps diligently and conscientiously, according to your obligations to the international community, as stated in the following convention and declarations:  

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." (Article 2)
  • The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), defines discrimination against women as any "distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality between men and women, of human rights or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field." (Article 1)
  • The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states that "violence against women means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." (Article 1)
  • It further asserts that states have an obligation to "exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons." (Article 4-c)

 

 

Co-signing organizations

  1. The Institute for Women's Empowerment (IWE)
  2. The Association for the Advancement of Feminism
  3. Hong Kong Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities
  4. Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women
  5. Women's Committee of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
  6. Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Union
  7. Hong Kong Women Workers' Association
  8. New Women Arrivals League
  9. Action for REACH OUT
  10. Hong Kong Association of Women Social Worker
  11. The Bethune House
  12. Association of Women with Disabilities Hong Kong
  13. Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union
  14. Pacific Century CyberWorks Staff Association
  15. Communication Workers General Union
  16. Concrete Industry Workers Union
  17. Federation Of Hong Kong Transport Worker Organizations
  18. Hong Kong Nestle Workers Union
  19. Hong Kong A. S. Watson & Company Limited Employees Union
  20. Vitasoy Employees Union
  21. Catering And Hotels Industries Employees General Union
  22. Construction Site Workers General Union
  23. Labour Party
  24. Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres
  25. Hong Kong Association for the Survivors of Women Abuse (Kwan Fook)
  26. Hong Kong Women Christian Council
  27. HKYWCA Hong Kong Women's Voice Alumni Association
  28. Amnesty International Hong Kong

Media Enquiry

Ms Si-si Liu

Director

sisi.liu@womencentre.org.hk
(852) 2748 8101