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Tuesday Aug 20 2019

Stop the rape of Indian occupied Kashmir

Security personnel stand guard near a closed school in Srinagar on August 19, 2019. Photo: AFP 

“All bachelor BJP members who are eager to get married can go to Kashmir, and we have no problem with it. In fact, BJP’s Muslim activists should be happy as they can now get married to ‘gori’ (fair) Kashmiri girls.” - Bharatiya Janata Party’s MLA Vikram Saina

Following BJP MLA Vikram Saina’s statement, it has been reported in the media that many Indian nationalists have posted videos on social media platform TikTok in which they are announcing that they are going to marry Kashmiri girls.

Considering the vulnerable status of the people of Induan occupied Kashmir, especially women, these ‘marriages’ are not going to be consensual and they are not going to be legal marriages – and could be a cause in the increase of rape cases in the region.

There is absolutely no justification for MLA Vikram Saina’s remark but it became worse when BJP’s women wing leader Sunita Singh Gaud posted a very disturbing post on Facebook (now deleted) encouraging rape and murder of Kashmiri women in Indian occupied Kashmir.

She wrote: "There is only one solution for them [Muslims] Hindu brothers should make a group of 10 and gang rape their [Muslim] mothers and sisters openly on the streets and then hang them in the middle of the bazaar for others to see."

These remarks are reinforcing that women are objects and that it is alright to use force on them without regard to them as a person or any consideration of their integrity. Instead of raising a voice followed by action to try to stop rape in the conflict area – which should be the first thing for any civilized democratic society to do – supporting and encourage the crime is tantamount to committing it.

The Ruling Party of the largest democracy in the world needs to take notice of such statements from its members and take severe action against them. As it is India has had some serious issues because of the rapes being highlighted in the media over the years, especially the unfortunate case of gang rape and torture in 2012 of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh in a moving bus in Delhi. This case caused a nationwide protest in India, and Delhi was dubbed as the rape capital of India.

Rape is an extremely powerful weapon that not only hurts the victim and the family but a community as a whole. The psychological impact is greater and deeper than any other method used to subdue a large population by a smaller but usually armed force.

This is an extremely serious crime –equivalent if not more than murder – in which the victim suffers for a longer period as the wounds are more than just physical ones. It is not a problem of any one country or society, it is an epidemic which cannot be controlled unless there is a concerted effort by all across the world in the form of social reforms, empowering women by giving them more legal rights and strengthening the law that deals which such crimes and enhancing the punishments that are given for them.

Although, the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Geneva Conventions (Article 3) state that torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treat is prohibited and many countries like India have ratified the ICCPR and is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, it is obvious that more needs to be done to protect women from being treated as objects.

International laws, the Geneva Conventions and national laws need to be revisited and revised to ensure that signatories understand the importance of the concept of dignity of a person and also that people, especially women, are not ‘spoils of war’.

Legislation is needed at the national level in many countries to protect the victim rather than the offender, and the law should not allow settlement to be made between the victim and the criminal like marriage. The integrity of the victim needs to be the most important factor and no loopholes allowed to let the criminals get out.

Similarly, international laws need to be made which ensure that rape, torture and murder of civilians in conflict areas and war are minimized and those found guilty of these crimes face severe consequences.

A global campaign needs to be organized against the objectification of women and crimes against women and children are discouraged by playing on the morals and integrity of the person. Anyone using social media to encourage and support such heinous crimes – like BJP leaders - should be heavily fined and imprisoned, removed from positions of power, stripped of all their powers and socially shamed as an example to others that endorsement of crimes like rape by anyone and at any level will not be tolerated.

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