UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women wept with Thangjam Manorama’s mother
Imphal April 28: Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (UNSRVAW), held a consultative meeting with civil society organizations, women human rights defenders, victims and other advocates working on violence against women today, at the Classic Hotel in Imphal, Manipur. The meeting was attended by over 200 delegates and family members of women victims of violence from all over the North East region and West Bengal. International organisations, national NGOs, such as International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC) and Child Rights and You (CRY) also attended the meeting.
Ms Rashida Manjoo accepted an invitation sent on 13th March from the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN (CSCHR) to visit Manipur and the North East region during her mission. 40 (forty) separate depositions were made in the meeting, the largest one convened by the UNSRVAW during her current mission to India. The meeting was moderated by Ms Jarjum Ete, Secretary of the National Alliance of Women (NAWO) and former Chairperson of the Arunachal Pradesh State Women’s Commission.
The first ever formal visit of a distinguished official of the UN with a human rights mandate to Manipur is an historic occasion. The UNSRVAW was formally welcomed by the Convenor of CSCHR, Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy. In his welcome address, Dr Laifungbam said, “We place our highest confidence and trust in you today, Madame, as you convene this historic meeting in Imphal. Yesterday, our people remembered the day, 123 years ago, when the independent state of Manipur lost her sovereignty and the Union Jack was unfurled in the holy citadel and fortress of Kangla Pungmayol in Imphal on 27 April 1891. This sovereignty has never been regained till today. In this context, your historic visit is most significant for us in Manipur.” Introducing her mandate and purpose of her visit to India, Ms Rashida Manjoo said, “The death of a woman is not a new act, but the ultimate act in the continuum of violence in the life of the woman.”
Among the deponents was the mother of the late Miss Thangjam Manorama. Breaking into tears during her testimony, she appealed for justice for her daughter who was brutally tortured and raped by personnel of the Indian paramilitary force, Assam Rifles before she was killed and her dead body abandoned in a field. The Special Rapporteur openly wept with Thangjam Manorama’s mother.
Miss Irom Chanu Sharmila also submitted a hand-written letter to the UNSRVAW. According to reliable sources, the UNSRVAW made continuous attempts to meet Irom Sharmila during her visit to Imphal, but the permission to meet her did not materialise.
CSCHR submitted a comprehensive memorandum to the UNSRVAW. The memorandum, “Manipur: Perils of War and Womanhood” gives detailed information on various forms of violence against women in Manipur, the genesis of its swift escalation since the 50s and included several recommendations.
Giving the Vote of Thanks, Mr Babloo Loitongbam, Executive Director of Human Rights Alert emphasised the significance of her visit, and reiterated the lonely 13 years fast of Irom Chanu Sharmila for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). The draconian law which confers wide impunity has no place in a democracy, and it has been widely condemned. Many UN treaty body mechanisms and other Special Rapporteurs (on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns) have called for its repeal. He also mentioned that the Justice JS Verma Commission had also recently called for its repeal and accountability of Indian armed forces personnel involved in rape and other forms of sexual assault, but these recommendations were ignored by the government of India when it introduced the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012 in parliament.
Ms Rashida Manjoo, in her closing remarks said that it was not her mandate to comment on the depositions made before her, and that her report will be based on facts. She also said that her opinions and conclusions as an independent expert were hers alone, that these would not be changed or shaped by any influence, whether from government or any others. The UNSRVAW will be holding a national press conference on Wednesday, 1st May 2013 in New Delhi before she concludes her mission.