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Archives for : Stop Violence Against Women

#Sundayreading – ‘In Joy Or In Pain, Women Must Talk’- Maria Da Penha #Vaw

‘In Joy Or In Pain, Women Must Talk’


Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

FORTALEZA( BRAZIL)- Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes was fast asleep when her husband, Antonio Heredia Vivero, a teacher, shot at her. Though she was rushed to the hospital, the attack left her paraplegic. Four months later, when she came back home, Vivero made another attempt on her life – he tried to electrocute her. But Maria survived yet again. …

In thousands of homes across Brazil, women like Maria are subjected to extreme abuse by their husbands on an everyday basis. Recent statistics reveal a rather alarming picture. Every 15 seconds a woman is assaulted; every two hours a woman is murdered; 65 per cent of attacks on women happen behind closed doors. Whereas Brazil has the seventh highest rate of violence against women in the world, within the past three decades at least 92,000 women have succumbed to domestic violence.

Special law

Maria, however, has beaten these dismal odds. Instead of taking things lying down, she decided to fight a pitched battle against domestic violence to the extent that her efforts have resulted in a special law being named after her. The Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence is one of the most comprehensive legislations in the world that gives the tate the powers to arrest, prosecute and punish perpetrators of violence against women.

Recalling her early days, Maria says, “I met my aggressor when I was doing my master’s at the University of São Paulo. He was a student from Colombia and was popular with my friends. When I went back to my hometown, Fortaleza, after completing my degree, he accompanied me. We got close and I married him. That was when he applied for Brazilian citizenship, and as soon as he got it, he started showing his true colours.”

It was in May 1983 that Vivero decided to do away with her altogether. “I was sleeping when I heard a shot, a very loud noise, in my bedroom. I tried to move but couldn’t. Thankfully, our neighbours came to my rescue and rushed me to a hospital. When the police questioned my husband he told them that four thieves had broken into our home and that he had fought them off. The attack had left me paraplegic, and I was under intensive treatment for nearly four months.

“I came back home at the time because I had no inkling that he was the shooter. But when he kept me in forced confinement at home for more than 15 days and tried to electrocute me, I knew I could not continue with that relationship. However, I still needed a legal separation from him so that I could take my three daughters with me when I left. I couldn’t risk losing their custody. As soon as I got the papers I returned to my parents,” she narrates.

In January 1984, she filed a case of attempted murder against her former husband. That was when her battle for justice began. It took seven years before he was sentenced by jury to 15 years in prison. The defence appealed the sentence and the conviction was overturned. A new trial was held in 1996 and a sentence of 10 years was applied. However, Vivero remained at large.

“I decided to write a book, ‘Sobrevivi… posso contra [‘I Survived… I Can Tell My Story’], on my experiences and the contradictions in the legal proceedings. This work was noticed by two non-government organisations, CLADEM (The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights) and CEJIL (Centre for Justice and International Law) that invited me to submit a case against Brazil to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States (OAS),” she says.

Brazil, however, did not answer the petition and remained silent throughout the procedure. Later, in a landmark ruling, the Commission criticised the Brazilian government for not taking effective measures to prosecute and convict perpetrators of domestic violence. In March 2002, the penal process in Brazil was terminated, and in October, Vivero was arrested. He received a sentence of just over six years for two counts of attempted murder, but he has served only two by making use of judicial remedies.

Meanwhile, between 2002 and 2004, several NGOs, including CLADEM, created a consortium to draft an improved domestic violence law. On August 7, 2006, following several discussions and consultations between the civil society and the state of Brazil, the Maria da Penha Law was approved.

Working as a coordinator Of Studies for the Association of Relatives and Friends of Victims of Violence in Ceara, Maria, who is wheelchair bound, is glad that the new law upholds the interests of women.

“This law is here to not just protect women from domestic violence but also to prevent it and also punish the aggressors. We need more number of women’s police stations, centres where survivors can seek preventive help and shelters for those who have walked out of their homes. In addition, we have to make sure that speedy trials happen in these cases so that justice is not delayed. It took 19 years and six months for my case to finally wrap up,” she says.

The advent of the Maria da Penha Law has given a new lease of life to the women’s movement. The central thought behind the enactment of this law, that every woman has the right to live her life free from domestic violence, has been widely publicised throughout the country through lectures, courses and trainings conducted within communities, schools, universities, businesses and institutions.

Nonetheless, Maria is convinced that a lot more needs to be done to secure women. “Women are still being murdered within their own homes by those who should be protecting and loving them. Before the law, although domestic violence was a crime it was considered a low potential offence. That reality has changed now and, indeed, wherever I go women acknowledge how much things have changed for them ever since 2006. But I do feel we need more financial resources to enforce all the measures the law promises,” she asserts.

The determined rights-activist is particularly referring to women living in the smaller towns where patriarchy still has a stronghold and there are not enough women’s police stations or shelters to safeguard them from harm.

“The law talks of setting up special courts and stricter sentences for offenders, besides other prevention and relief measures, in cities that have more than 60,000 inhabitants. But what about those living in small cities?” she says. In a sense, Maria feels that it’s not a law but a change in the attitude of the people that can bring about lasting change. “Till date, it’s the macho culture that has interfered with the creation of more gender friendly public policies. That has to change,” she adds.

Of course, the beginnings of a transformation are visible. On the fifth anniversary of the law in August 2011, the National Council of Justice of Brazil collected data showing positive results: more than 331,000 prosecutions and 110,000 final judgments, and nearly two million calls to the Service Centre for Women.

On its part the government has launched the Women, Living Without Violence programme, under which $265 million have been pledged to integrate public services and create women-friendly policies.

No more silent

With hope in her voice and a sparkle in her eyes Maria concludes, “In a society fuelled by machismo, there is bound to be a lot of resistance to change. But I believe that through our work we can motivate fellow citizens to fight for women’s rights. We are not silent anymore. Today, women’s voices cross borders and oceans. Together we are stronger and we hope that one day we will only be telling stories of our pain and struggle in the past.”


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Gujarat- Open letter to all political parties 38 demands to end #VAW

Open letter to  BJP, Congress, GPP, CPI, CPI (M), SUCI (C), SP, BSP, Janta Dal (United), Sadbhavana Manch, etc. re:  38 demands to end ‘Violence Against Women’ by Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)
·      Looking for serious debate not the rhetoric. – Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)
Date: 28 November 2012

The President, Working Committee Members and Office bearers

Sub: With reference to 2012 State Assembly Election in Gujarat, declare/announce clarification and organise public discussion about the programme of your party on the Women’s Rights to live in a society free from violence


This letter comes to you, all the candidates and other political parties who are in fray for the 2012 Gujarat State Assembly Election.

The fortnight starting from November 25 to December 10 is International Fortnight observance on ‘Violence Against Women’.

In a women’s meeting held as part of campaign against violence at Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) on the issue of Gujarat State 2012 election, a detailed discussion followed on issues of public accountability required in the present political discourse as Gujarat goes to polls shortly which we will take it up with all the political parties and candidates as well.

Right now, we are sending you the charter of our demands to stop violence against women in Gujarat. We seek a public debate as well as public disclosure about all the measures taken by your party and affiliated organisations to ensure that the violence on women that manifests in various ways is curbed.

The last decade has witnessed increasing violence against women in Gujarat in various forms – sex selection, rape incidents especially of minor girls, domestic violence, harassment at work place, sexual discrimination and harassment. Lack of adequate political discourse and government’s inaction on these incidents only points to the apathy by political organisations which otherwise make tall claims of development in ‘Swarnim Gujarat’.

The statistics below raises questions on the issues of status of women:

1.      According to 2011 Census, there are 4,54,396 girls fewer as compared to boys in the population age group of 0 to 6 years.

2.      According to the Gujarat State Police department figures from 2001 to 2008, 1,05,166 cases were registered for violence against women.

3.      In 2008, a total of 359 rape cases, i.e. a rape case every day was registered in Gujarat according to police records.

4.      Cases of mental and physical harassment doubled, from 3191 to 6093, from 2001 to 2008, indicating that on an average 17 women each day had to go to police with this complaint.

5.      If the numbers of women who do not officially record their complaint is to be accounted, it paints a very grim situation. Various studies and surveys point out that 40-60% of women suffer domestic violence in their own homes.

Under these circumstances, women in Gujarat demand to know what concrete steps are being taken by your party to address this situation.
We are tired of the rhetoric of promises and assurances. We demand details of what concrete steps will be initiated in matters of policy, amending existing laws, new regulations as well as requisite budget allocations to address the low status of women in Gujarat.

We demand that all parties make public the provisions in the constitution of your party and allied organisations to initiate disciplinary action against your party members/office bearers if they were to found practising violence against women in any form. In case no such provision exists, provide clarification for their absence, and if the provisions exist, make public the actions taken in past or details of violations within your rank and file.

Following is the list of our demands to check violence against women in the state:

(1) A toll free, 24-hour help-line (like 108) with a common number should be set up in the State so that any woman facing violence or fearing the incidence of violence could call this help-line to gain necessary and immediate support.

Demands for preventing sex selection and declining sex ratio in Gujarat

(2) The government should focus on effective implementation of the PCPNDT Act and not just rhetoric of ‘save the girl child’.

(3)  In order to book the offenders and collect adequate evidence against them special teams trained should be developed under the Crime Branch.

(4)  Create a system for the district level committee to make them accountable to people’s groups.

(5)  Specific targets of action taken should be set for the District and State committees.

(6)  Functioning of the District and State committees should be reviewed every six months.

For Prevention of Sexual Harassment at work place and Educational Institution, we demand

In order that women and girls avail their right to work and education freely without fear and threat, implement the Supreme Court Guide lines in the WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NOS. 666-70 OF 1992, VISHAKHA & ORS. Vs. STATE OF RAJASTHAN & ORS.

(7)   The State Government should set up Committees for dealing with sexual harassment of women at all work places and educational institutions as per the Supreme Court guidelines provided in the Vishakha Judgment.

(8)   Do you have a committee against sexual harassment in your party and the allied organisations to stop the sexual harassment of the women activist of your party? If ‘no’, explain why and if ‘yes’, declare their names and addresses.

(9)   Declare name and addresses of all the members of the committees.

(10)     The Committee should be formed in all institutions of local government including the Gram Panchayats and publicised widely. The phone numbers and addresses of the committee members should be publicly available.

(11)     Protocols for the functioning of prevention of sexual harassment committee should be formed, including a stipulated time period for completing the inquiry and resources allocated for their effective implementation.

(12)     In all Government offices and grant in-aid institutions, a minimum of Rs. 5,000 per year be allocated to each Committee to enable awareness, education and investigation in to complaints and for holding regular meetings of the committee members.

(13)     Organise training for the members of the committee and administrators of the educational institutions.

For Effective Enquiry in Cases of Rape for the safety and justice for the victim, we demand

(14) Inquiry into cases of rape be carried out by an Officer at the level of a Deputy Superintendent of Police. A district level monitoring mechanism to review cases of violence against women should be established.

(15) The victim should have the right to have a female companion or representative of women’s organisation of her choice to accompany her right from the time of recording of the initial statements to the Court proceedings.

(16) In each District government hospital, a separate room be allocated for medical check ups of victims of sexual violence. Female staff trained in such cases should carry out the medical check-ups.

(17) The victim should be allowed to stay in a place of her choice and necessary police protection be provided to the victim.

(18) The victim should be provided trauma counselling and healing support by trained counsellors. A panel of such experts should be created and names be circulated to all police stations.

(19) To enable the victims to continue her fight for justice and be able to leave a life of dignity, rehabilitation packages including monetary compensation should be declared. Victim compensation boards should be activated.

(20)  Ensure that cases of rape are settled as quickly as possible, at the most within one year.

(21) In cases of rape of tribal and Dalit women and girls, Clause (1) (12) of the Prevention of Atrocities on SC & ST Act – 1989 be applied compulsorily as well.

(22) Cases of rape and sexual violence which are recorded by the Nationally and Internationally known Human Rights organisations but are not registered in the Police station. In all such cases, complaint must be registered and judicial procedure must begin even the case of death of the victim.

 For Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Non-allocation of adequate resources for implementation of the Act and lack of the infrastructure required to be put in place under PWDVA-2005 are the most critical issues coming in the way of its effective implementation.

We demand

(23)   A minimum of Rs. 5 crore be allocated on an annual basis for effective and efficient implementation of the PWDVA.

(24)   Appointment of a full time Protection Officer (PO) at the level of each judicial Magistrate First Class or Metropolitan Court.

(25)   Infrastructure support and assistance to the PO for performing her / his duties. Also linking all Multi purpose Women’s Centers with Protection Officers.

(26)   Provision for a minimum of two shelter homes in each district.

(27)   Capacity building of key stakeholders at all levels, specially the Judiciary and the police.

(28)   Appointment of Service provider organisations and counsellors.

(29)   Take policy measures to create awareness about the law to enable its utilization.

(30)   A special Cell to oversee the entire implementation machinery and mechanisms of the PWDVA and to facilitate inter departmental and inter ministerial coordination should be set up under the Chairpersonship of Secretary, DWCD at the State and the Collector at the district level.

For Prevent all forms of Violence against Women, we demand

(31)   A toll free, 24-hour help-line (Like 108) with a common number should be set up in the State so that any woman facing violence or fearing the incidence of violence could call this help-line to gain necessary and immediate support.

(32)   A Committee should be set up to review the incidence of violence against women and victim servicing by the State. The Committee should conduct a review every three months and make its findings and recommendations public.

(33)   Institute Special, Fast Track Courts to deal with the cases of Violence against women.

(34)   Women victims should be able to nominate lawyers of their choice under Free Legal Aid.

(35)   Police, Medical staff, shelter homes should be sensitised on the issue of VAW and their behaviour with women.

(36)   In case of negligence of duty or destruction of evidence by Police and other Government officials’, judicial action should be initiated against them along with Departmental action.

(37)   50% of the officials and employees in the department to look after law and order should be women.

(38)   Improve the quality of Free Legal Aid services and allocate adequate resources for effective availability of these to victims.

We expect your immediate response for the above-mentioned demands. We will send further important demands on other issues in future.

Trupti Shah
Rita Choksi
Deepali Ghelani
Sunanda Tayde
Reshma Vohra
Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)

         Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)
         (O) G-3 , Shivanjali Flats, Near Navjeevan, Ajawa Road, Vadodara – 390 019.
        (R) 37, Patrakar Colony, Tandalja Road, Post-Akota, Vadodara – 390 020.
        Phone NoSahiyar (Stree Sangathan) (O) + 91-265-2513482 / (R) 2320399
        Email No:

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