Soni Sori campaign gathers strength on International Women’s Day

On March 8th, 2012, as Soni Sori spent another day in Raipur jail, several human rights and women’s rights organizations from around the world paid tribute to her courage and resolve to fight for justice.

Human Rights Watch, a well-known organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights worldwide, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, urging his government “to establish an independent and impartial investigation into Soni Sori’s torture allegations, and ensure her immediate access to health care without police interference. Because we are concerned that her treatment reflects broader problems facing incarcerated women in India, we also ask that you initiate a review of conditions for women detainees and prisoners generally, including torture allegations and access to health care.”   In this letter, Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director, Women’s Rights Division, writes that the group remains “deeply concerned that the criminal justice system failed at various levels to prevent custodial torture and to respond swiftly to ensure prompt access to health care without police interference.”  The full letter of HRW can be accessed here.

Amnesty International,the international human rights watchdog, also released an International Women’s Day statement demanding the release of Soni Sori and have also launched a video campaign for her release.  Soni Sori,  who has been declared a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty, was “was arrested after she criticised Maoists as well as state forces for human rights violations in the armed insurgency in central India,” according to the statement.  Indian activists in collaboration with Amnesty International, have launched a video campaign featuring activists holding up symbolic garlands with the words “shame” on them. “Activists in India are sending the government a clear message: Soni Sori’s treatment is shameful – hence the garlands of shame,” said Amnesty International’s India researcher, Ramesh Gopalakrishnan.

Here is the full statement of Amnesty International on this issue.

Meanwhile, in a global show of solidarity marking the International Women’s Day, concerned citizens from around the world released a video documentary based on letters written by imprisoned adivasi school teacher Soni Sori, currently held in the Central Jail in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.  “On Sunday October the 9th 2011, I bore the pain quietly, all by myself. Whom could I tell? There was no one on my side out there,” she wrote in her letter which was read in the video. A subsequent independent medical examination found two sizable stones lodged in her vagina and another in her rectum. The video documentary also highlights the need to hold the responsible police officials accountable. Instead of investigating the police officials involved in Sori’s torture, Ankit Garg, the Superintendent of Police who ordered and oversaw the torture according to Sori, was given a national award for gallantry last January 26, the Indian Republic Day.

The entire press release accompanying the video can be read here.

Feminists India, an online platform for all those who are committed to gender equality and justice, also featured a story on Soni Sori in its Women’s Day edition.  The Soni Sori case: A Travesty of Justice underscores that this case is “an unconscionable example of how India, the largest democracy in the world has often failed to check its growing human rights violations record.” The article can be read in its entirety here.

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