International Women's Day, March 8, 2012:
Uphold The Rights Of Women In Struggle
By Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression
06 March, 2012
Let us on this historic day reaffirm our commitment to:
Resist the increasing assault on people's land and other resources, livelihoods and lives.
Fight the increasing sexual assault in society at large, especially on women in mass struggles.
Rescue March 8 from the cacophony created by media, corporates and government to fearlessly forge ahead in the struggle for the liberation of all women.
On this day, in 1857 , women workers in the textile and garment industries in New York went on strike to protest against unfair wages, 12 hr working days, sexual harassment in the workplace and other inhuman working conditions. One of the first recorded strikes by women workers, they were fired upon by police and brutally repressed. Women's participation in struggles only increased more across the world. So has the repression of the Indian state, especially in the era of neo-liberal reforms, as is happening in other countries too.
The crushing of dissent is making more women step forward in India . Whether to protect forests or rivers, a dwelling place or land, the future of children or safety of the elderly, source of livelihood or the right to dignity, women across the country are in the forefront of these struggles in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and other states. While the relentless assault by national and international capital forcefully dispossesses, displaces, starves and kills many, sexual violence is being used systematically as a repressive measure by the armed forces, paramilitary and police. Women and girls are increasingly subjected to sexual violence, whether it is in a police station or on the way to one, and especially when they attempt to place their demands before authorities.
A growing number of incidents reveal that the state is actively abetting the violence against women and facilitating the plunder of resources. Law makers are manipulating existing laws and enacting new ones that favor the corporations, big banks and other elite. New draconian laws and archaic ones like the Sedition Act are being used to silence dissent. N egotiation with elected representatives has become a farce as the forces of capital have taken control of the state, judiciary and the media. Police are often perpetrators of violence or abet as mute spectators or fail to file FIRs . Instead of protecting people's rights, with few exceptions, the judiciary like other custodians of law is crushing the hopes of the ordinary people.
Let us look at two incidents in the recent past. On January 25, 2012 when the entire nation was gearing up for the Republic day celebrations, 4000 women and men were peacefully marching to the Jindal Steel Plant in Angul to demand a more just compensation for the land forcibly grabbed from them and also the jobs promised to them by the company and Odisha Government. Security guards and hired goons brutally attacked them with iron rods; many were left profusely bleeding. Women's clothes were torn; there were reports of iron rods inserted into the private parts of some. When an FIR was lodged at the local police station, except for a token arrest of the security officer, none of the senior executives of the company culpable for the violence were arrested. This reveals the type of state support corporate forces have for their land grab. It also highlights the type of violence women at the forefront of these struggles are subjected to.
On January 31, 2012 two representatives of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy accompanied by fifteen women, who have been peacefully opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant (KNPP) since the late 1980s, were attacked by Hindu Munnani and Congress thugs in the presence of local Congress leaders and police in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. Four of the women who were badly injured were from the fishing community, which has been at the forefront of the non-violent campaign to stop the KNPP along with Dalit workers, farmers, shopkeepers and women engaged in beedi rolling. During this attack, these four women formed a human shield around the two male representatives of PMANE. All four were kicked on the stomach and hit with helmets. Their hair was pulled and blouses torn. One woman had a fracture while another had her neck disc dislocated. This incident occurred within the premises of the Tirunelveli Collectorate, while the Collector remained in his office and the police merely watched. Violent attacks on those involved in democratic and peaceful mass movements by state and corporate sponsored goons, state and private security forces, in collusion with other political parties and police as well as Hindutva extremists, are on the rise in this country.
Custodial torture has reached unprecedented heights as in the case of Soni Sori, an Adivasi school teacher from Dantewada, Chhattisgarh who was arrested on October 3, 2011 after the police registered a false case. Medical evidence submitted at the request of the Supreme Court shows that she was subjected to electric shocksand had stones pushed into her vagina and rectum while in custody . This was under the supervision of the SP who was soon awarded the President's Gallantry award on Republic day for leading an encounter attack on Maoists. By conferring this award, the state not only ignored the concerns of the families of the innocent villagers killed in that encounter, it also endorsed the custodial torture and sexual assault on an adivasi woman. Denied bail, Soni Sori remains in pain in the custody of her torturers, without access to a doctor. Womens groups's demands to meet her were denied citing prison security reasons. Her poignant letters from jail reveal the injustice and violence faced by women prisoners in this country.
Our hopes lie in this refusal to be silenced against injustice as well as in exposing other incidences , while building our strength and unity through active solidarity. Although the path for women's liberation has become more uphill, WSS will pursue its struggle against casteist patriarchy, state repression and capitalism.
Let us reaffirm our determination to:
RESIST STATE REPRESSION ON DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENTS!
SPEAK UP AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE OF WOMEN PRISONERS!
FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO DISSENT IN CORPORATE INDIA !
VANQUISH CASTEIST PATRIARCHY, COMMUNALISM AND CAPITALISM!
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a nonfunded effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women's organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on women by any perpetrator (s).
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