Sexual violence, AFSPA and Army court martial procedures

We invite you to a meeting in Delhi to be hosted jointly by Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, its constituent members and WinG on

State, Sexual Violence and Impunity: Facts from the Field

We will be releasing a report on the incident of attempted rape by a soldier of the Indian Army in Dolopa, Assam, that adds yet another page to the shameful chronicle of sexual violence being perpetrated by the armed forces in the North East, Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and other supposedly “disturbed areas” of the country. Our reports have consistently highlighted the impunity provided by the existing provisions such as the Army Act, that place criminal acts perpetrated by army men, such as rape and sexual violence, outside the purview of the normal criminal procedures. We will place our demand that sexual violence and rape cannot, under any circumstances, be tried under army laws. As the victims of such violence are largely civilians, these criminal acts should be brought under the normal criminal procedure code and not be tried by the army, using court martial procedures.

 Date: Sunday December 9, 2012

Time: 11.00 AM to 3.00 PM

Venue: Indian Women’s Press Corps, 5 Windsor Place, New Delhi

Programme

  1. Release of the Dolopa (Assam) report on attempted rape by soldier of the Indian Army.
  2. Research study on sexual violence in Assam.
  3. Presentation of WSS publication on specific cases of sexual violence and its aftermath.
  4. Discussion, campaign issues and strategy

The press meet will follow. Organisers: AIPWA, Saheli, WinG and WSS

CONCEPT NOTE

Sexual violence, AFSPA and Army court martial procedures

Women’s groups have shown themselves to be against draconian laws in general and against AFSPA in particular. What has become increasingly evident is that while the AFSPA does not grant immunity to the security forces for acts of sexual violence, nevertheless the security forces have never been brought to trial under the criminal justice system in India. Occasionally, especially when public outrage is visible, the security forces conduct a court martial where they are the accused, the judge and the jury, with no evidence of transparency in proceedings or in the outcomes of the court martial.

A recent investigation by a women’s fact-finding team that included activists, a media person and a lawyer, of a case of sexual molestation in Assam by a jawan, has revealed that the civil administration does on occasion seek to follow procedures available under the criminal justice system, as well as under the Army Act. However, in this case, the civil administration was not allowed to proceed with the case by the Army. Further, recent pronouncements by the Supreme Court as well as a judgment in the Manorama case show that the security forces cannot claim immunity under the AFSPA in cases of sexual violence against women. Yet, the Army insists on having the supreme command and has even challenged the High Court decision in Manorama case. This technicality is being used as a shield even though the facts have proven guilt.

We believe that it is time to understand and confront the actions of the state in cases of sexual violence against women citizens and to build up a movement to end the jurisdiction given to the security forces to conduct a court martial in cases of sexual violence, as well as to put an end to sexual violence itself.

We propose to hold a meeting on the issue of sexual violence and the clouding of the issue by the culture of impunity that prevails under the AFSPA. We are clear that there is need to amend the Army Act, and that the army cannot be allowed to run a parallel government by using its outdated method of court martial when the crime has affected civilians. We expect our meeting to culminate in the launch of a sustained campaign by women’s groups against ambivalent and contradictory clauses in the Army act that, at the moment, give jurisdiction both to the civil administration and to the Army to proceed against the accused, but which in practice almost always results in the Army taking over jurisdiction, thereby protecting its offenders from criminal prosecution.

It is necessary to move with some urgency on this issue because states, with extraordinary laws, deploying security forces like the CRPF have begun to build up a campaign to seek AFSPA like immunity, even as the Army generals are vociferously demanding the continuation of the AFSPA without which they claim they must not be deployed. Thus, the powers of the Army/security forces are being consolidated despite massive evidence of custodial torture, killings, enforced disappearances and sexual violence in areas where the AFSPA is in force. Opposition of women’s groups to these processes, which allow the security forces to get away with impunity in cases of sexual violence, must be made loudly and clearly with immediate effect.

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