Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bhanwari devi

Bhanwari devi was a saathin* worker who was living in a remote village in rajasthan.This is a village which is in a completely different world.A world where child marriage still happens, where the age old code of caste system is followed, where a man can have his way, where questioning and reasoning are a SIN.

Bhanwari was a lower caste kunwaran(potter women) who was educating the women folks and was fighting against child marriages. She earned the ire of the upper caste gujjars, who were not able to digest the protests of a lower caste women. They wanted to teach her a lesson, result she was brutally raped by them in front of her husband in 1992.Her rapists where Ram Sukh Gujjar, Ram Karan Gujjar, Gyarsa Gujjar, Badri Gujjar, and Shravan Sharma.This gang included a priest,a village head and a uncle ,nephew pair.

After the rape bhanwari didn't do the romanticized filmy style suicide or she didn't move out of her village , neither did she bow down and withdraw from fighting against injustice. Her resolve became stronger and she took the matter to the court.

The fight of bhanwari was not an easy one.She had to go through million's of procedures and hurdles even to file a case.First she had to do a medical examination, given the remoteness of a village, you have to travel a bit to the nearest hospital to get a medical examination. Once she went there she found that there is no female staff there and she didn't wanted to be examined by a male staff. For that she had to go to the capital jaipur. she does.That takes a couple of days and because of that it leads to a week medical examination results.

She had to fight wealthy and powerful people who had strong political conneciton.As expected the judgment went against her. All the accused were let Free. It didn't end there. The judge pronounced some of the most shocking remarks ever heard in a judicial statement.

Bhanwari Devi was a Dalit and so, her rapists — upper caste men — could not have possibly raped her.
Talking on the fact that she was raped before her husband the judge said
It isn’t possible in Indian culture that a man who has taken a vow to protect his wife, in front of the holy fire, just stands and watches his wife being raped, when only two men almost twice his age are holding him.’ The judgment also states that it is highly improbable that an uncle and his nephews would commit rape together. The presence of one Brahmin amongst those accused leads the judge to observe that gangs in rural areas are not usually multi-caste and so the accused could not have acted together.
The judgment came as a shocker to many peoples and It united all the women's organization to fight for her case. The case was taken up by many women's organization ,concerned feminist lawyers and the National Commission for Women.

But Bhanwari was determined to fight further and get justice. She said that she had nothing to be ashamed of and that the men should be ashamed due to what they had done. Her fighting spirit inspired fellow saathins and women's groups countrywide. In the months that followed they launched a concerted campaign for justice for Bhanwari. On December 1993, the High Court said, "it is a case of gang-rape which was committed out of vengeance". As part of this campaign, the groups had filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India, under the name 'Vishaka', asking the court to give certain directions regarding the sexual harassment that women face at the workplace. The result is the Supreme Court judgement, which came on 13th August 1997, and gave the Vishaka guidelines.more

This case has far reaching implications because it has also given birth to a writ in the supreme Court seeking to enforce women's right to an environment free from sexual violence in the workplace, and which emphasizes women workers' vulnerability as agents of change. In particular, where the government employs women in hostile and traditional communities, the absence of a safety net leads to greater risks of sexual violence as was Bhanwari's experience when her work against child marriage resulted in her gang rape. Rather than acknowledge the occupational hazard and assume responsibility, the state left Bhanwari alone to battle out her case in a trial court, against the upper caste offenders whose clout and power was unequivocal in her community.more

Her rapists offered her compensation to withdraw the case. Her reply to them: "Tell our village elders you raped me, restore my dignity." Her entire family withdrew support because they felt she should have compromised and withdrawn the case. Her constant refrain has been "mujhe nyay chahiye"(I want justice).

Bhanwari was not able to get her rapist punished. But her fight has resulted in a law for sexual harassment against women all over india and she has become a source of inspiration for lot of rape victims. And she fought against her rapist all along, living in the same village with her head held high.

I think her husband has to be appreciate immensely for standing besides her all through out the issue. Given the indian social setup, he must have gone through a lot of hardship. Change comes with lot of hardship and pain. And mostly it is people who walk in the front who have to bear the pain, so that those who follow them can lead a painless life.BHanwari deci is one such women who symbolizes the change. A front runner, she might have lost her case but her efforts bore fruit in another way as the Work place harassment law.


Blogger annie meets bhanwari devi

govt help to bhanwari

amnesty mention's devi

mail support

Neerja Bhanot memorial Award

It is still happening


*Saathin(friend) is a women’s development programme run by the govt of Rajasthan.

The last couple of your posts have been very affecting. The lady's courage is unbelievable. There was a similar incident(Mukhtar Mai) in Pakistan recently too, isn't it?

I am sure vast majority of man-kind is good natured. Feels odd that the majority has been unable to control the evil-minded minority.

Illiteracy is mostly blamed for the crimes. But people who commit crime are well aware of their actions and in this case, educated too.

BTW, I have seen a tamil movie starring Suhasini similar to Giddh involving tribal people. Was it a remake or did it highlight the same problem in the South?
i know what movie you are talking about.It is "Oru indhiya kanavu" it is a komal swaminadhan movie.Isaw it long time agi in the good old doordarsan days.probably some 18,20 yrs ago.But istill remember the movie.And i also think that it is not a original think it was inspired from govid nihlani's aakrosh whichi mentioned in the bawandar post.
Your blog is very touching... We must all join together and go in the way of the Brave Bhanwari Devi and fight towards the injustice done by elders in marrying off Tiny tots and spoiling their bright future and spelling doom on their fate
Yes very courageous woman we all must all unite to fight aganist this crime ......
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i think the judge of that court should be held by two strong men and his wife should be gang-raped in front of him...
then lets see how does he fulfills his marital vows..

if he is able to save his wife then we should accept his verdict and praise his ability as a judge..
if he is not able to save her, then he should re-think upon his verdict..
Shame on such judicial system denying justice and moreover passing shamefull comments in judgement
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