Voices Against arrest of a Rape Survivor and Two Activists supporting her in Araria district, Bihar

16 July 2020

We, the undersigned members of the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) India; a national level network of over 60 organizations and over 1,50,000 members from eight states call your attention to a matter of great injustice.

Recently a judge ordered the arrest of a 22-year old survivor of a gangrape along with the two activists who were accompanying her in Araria district on July 10, 2020, right in the midst of recording her statement U/s 164(1) of CrPC. Two activists — Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita were her support providers. The three have been sent off to judicial custody in Dalsinghsarai Jail in Samastipur district, on 11th July 2020.

The rape survivor is seeking justice for the heinous gangrape by five men that she has undergone four days prior to this incident. During the proceedings, after writing down her statement, she was asked to affix her signature.

The rape survivor wanted the activists supporting her to be present during the proceedings. The Court termed this request as an attack on the dignity of the court. When the activists intervened on her behalf, to explain her state of shock and trauma, both at the incident itself and the procedures followed prior to the statement being recorded, they were also implicated as being in ‘contempt of court’.

The Constitution of India and provisions of the criminal Justice system in India, give every rape survivor the right to seek medical, legal, counselling, trauma assistance as and when it is so desired by her. That is the basis on
which she is able to stand and seek justice from the courts without fear or stigma. This helps rape survivors stand before alleged perpetrators and speak freely without fear of coercion, reprisal and often helps them negotiate the trauma they experience from sexual assault.

This act of the court of terming such a request as “contempt of court” needs to be expunged from court records, the interim order must be withdrawn and the horrific injustice done to a rape survivor and her support team must
be reversed. It sets a negative precedent and reduces our faith as women in the justice system and prevents us from approaching courts of law.
We strongly condemn the gross violations of the rights of the rape survivor and activists during the course of seeking justice. We call on the Chief Justice to retain our faith in the justice system. The criminalisation and
victimisation of a rape survivors and her support, is a body blow to our efforts to fight against the reprehensible crime of rape and sexual assault.

We request you as the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court to take cognisance of the matter and ensure:
1) The immediate release of the survivor and activists, as well as quashing of all charges against them.
2) A smooth and quick trial of the incident of gangrape so that the assailants are brought to book
3) Issuing of state-specific guidelines to ensure that there is a friendly and non-hostile environment in respect of rape/sexual assault cases in adherence with the recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission.

Thanking You

Signed by 3708 sex workers and sex worker-led organizations

We’re a national network of sex worker-led organisations and allies committed to promoting the rights of sex workers in India.