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Who is India's Defence Minister really defending?

As citizens of India and especially women citizens of India, the Defense Minister George Fernandesís shocking statement in parliament has outraged and agonized us. His statement (Hindustan Times, May 5th 2002.):

Television cameras captured the moment when the Defence Minister of India spoke as the Defence Minister of criminals who had perpetrated grotesque acts of violence against women and children in Gujarat. He said in his speech in Parliament during the debate on Gujarat under Rule 184, "A woman with her womb cut open and her foetus torn out, women raped, we have heard these stories for 50 years"

We as Indian women and citizens are amazed at this callous denial of humanity and life to hundreds of women victims of brutal sexual and physical violence. In a situation where hundreds of women victims are not even able to file FIRs and bring perpetrators to justice, the Defense Ministerís statement comes as a body blow to the dignity and hope for justice for Indian women. His dismissive and contemptuous attitude and utterances directed at the victims and activists seeking justice exemplifies the non-condemnation of the brutalities committed upon the women, which characterizes the insensitivity that prevails in the hallways of national and state power. These actions and utterances becomes an endorsement of these crimes against humanity and should be treated as his accepting these horrendous assaults as non-criminal. It violates every tenet in the UN declaration of Human rights and the National Policy on Women.

We the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain and all other women of all the faiths that call India home demand an immediate apology from the Defense Minister. Failing which we demand his ouster from the government. We cannot trust such a regressive and insensitive individual with our personal and national security.

And as part of a wider struggle for the restoration of the rule of law and Constitution in Gujarat we stand in camaraderie with womenís organisations throughout India, who will be observing May 13 as a day of solidarity with the women victims of Gujarat. We support their three demands which are:

  • Immediate filing of FIRs in cases of sexual assault and violence against women and arrest of all those named;
  • The institution of special courts with a time-bound mandate in all such cases;
  • Rehabilitation measures specifically designed for families rendered female headed because male members were killed.

We urge all citizens and especially our women citizens to join in raising this voice for those weeping women of Gujarat who lost so much more than words can ever convey. Let rhetoric give way to humanity.

I hearby offer solidarity and support to this endeavor for national unity and harmony.
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