A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality
In Delhi, a rape accused has 83% chance of acquittal
An exclusive Hindustan Times investigation has found that people who are accused of rape in Delhi have an 83% chance of acquittal. The conviction rate is 17%, which is 11% lower than the national average. The report says that shoddy investigation, bad handling of forensic evidence, and the absence of a proper witness protection programme is causing the low rates of conviction.
Hindustan Times analysed 663 judgements by special courts which were posted on official websites between January 2014 and March 2015, and found that only 114 out of the 665 accused were found guilty. Eighty-seven were acquitted because complainants testified that they had eloped with the accused.
The report says, “In 75% of the cases, the lack of corroborative evidence proved fatal. In other cases — reflective of the immense pressure brought upon complainants — rape victims retracted from earlier testimonies. (…) Fewer rape victims were put through a medical examination after the 16/12 gang rape.”
The report reveals that prosecution rarely seeks more material from the police, even though they can do so.
Hostel rules: NCW issues notice to Hindu College
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken suo-moto cognisance of media reports on the hostel rules in Hindu College, which student collective Pinjra Tod has campaigned against. A report in The Hindu says the hostel requires women students to, among other things, “dress as per normal norms of the society.” It also requires prior permission for any visitors, says that students cannot use the common room after 10.30 pm, and allows only one night out per month.
In a letter to Hindu College, the commission has written: “The commission is seriously concerned about the issue and you are hereby directed to send a detailed explanation regarding the basis on which the hostel rules have been framed.”
Burial protest over gender equality at Kumbh Mela festival
Trikal Bhawanta, the founder of the Pari Akhara, has staged a ‘burial’ protest after the women’s akhara was barred from bathing in the holy waters at the Simhastha Kumbh Mela. Bhawanta sat in a deep grave while her followers threw flowers and dirt on her. Police and local officials ended the demonstration.
The Pari Akhara is the first all-woman akhara in the country, registered in 2014. Many of the 13 all-male akharas contest the Pari Akhara’s validity, as they do with the newly formed Kinnar Akhara, formed by transgender Indians this year.
Why do healthy girl children grow into undernourished women in India?
An opinion piece by Roshan Kishore on LiveMint talks about a new study that sheds light on why healthy girl children in India become malnourished later in life.
The study titled Do Boys Eat Better than Girls in India: Longitudinal Evidence from Young Lives, reveals that there exists a gender gap in dietary diversity for all age-groups, except 12-year-olds. Dietary diversity is the measure of the number of different food groups consumed by a child in the last 24 hours. As Kishore points out, “It is a well-accepted proxy for nutritional status of children and adolescents in low and middle income countries.”
The report also reveals that the gender gap is greatest among 15 year olds. The study, which runs counter to similar research done in the past, reveals, says Kishore, that “gender discrimination in nutrition might be starting not in childhood but in adolescence.”
How Indian law fails LGBT people
Danish Sheikh and Sanhita Ambast, both with the International Commission of Jurists, have written a piece on Policy Forum about how the state’s refusal to repeal the colonial-era law Section 377 leaves LGBT Indians vulnerable to violence.
Sheikh and Ambast write about Kokila, a member of the hijra community, who was at first raped by a group of men and then raped in police custody by police officers. “Kokila’s case is evidence of how Section 377 has perpetuated homophobic and trans-phobic attitudes in India, leading to discrimination and violence against LGBT individuals, and furthermore, has created an environment in which state authorities like the police not only fail to protect LGBT individuals, but further violate their rights,” write Sheikh and Ambast.
They also argue that “acts of violence by state and non-state actors against persons who transgress sexual and gender norms” qualify as torture, as confirmed by the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture. They say that Section 377 may not directly be used against LGBT people, but that it and others laws like it “foster a climate in which, for example, the police do not protect the victims of homophobic and trans-phobic violence, and even engage in torture of LGBT individuals themselves with impunity.”
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