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Four Men Convicted of Fatal Gang Rape in India

See these related stories


NEW DELHI — An Indian court convicted four men Tuesday in the deadly gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus, a brutal crime that galvanized public anger over the widespread – yet widely tolerated – sexual violence faced by Indian women.

As word of the verdict filtered out, protesters outside the courthouse chanted “Hang them! Hang them!”

The men were convicted on all 11 counts against them, including rape and murder, and now face the possibility of hanging. The sentences are expected to be handed down Wednesday.

Judge Yogesh Khanna said in his verdict that the men, who tricked the 23-year-old rape victim and a male friend of hers into boarding the bus they were driving, had committed “murder of a helpless person.”

The parents of the woman, who cannot be identified under Indian law, had tears in their eyes as the verdicts were read. The mother, wearing a pink sari, sat just a few feet from the convicted men in a tiny courtroom jammed with lawyers, police and reporters. The hearing lasted only a few minutes, and the four men were quickly led from the courtroom by policemen after the verdicts were read.

Speaking before the convictions, the father of the victim called for the four to be executed.

“For what happened with her, these brutes must be hanged,” he told reporters as he left home for the courthouse. “Nothing but the death penalty is acceptable to us.”

Protesters called the Dec. 16 attack a wake-up call for India, where women have long talked quietly of enduring everything from sexual comments to public groping to rape, but where they would often face blame themselves if they complained publicly.

“Every girl at any age experiences this – harassment or rape. We don’t feel safe,” said law school graduate Rabia Pathania. “That’s why we’re here. We want this case to be an example for every other case that has been filed and will be filed.”

Lawyers for the men have insisted they were tortured – a common occurrence in India’s chaotic criminal justice system – and that confessions, which were later retracted, were coerced.

A.P. Singh, who at times has worked as a lawyer for all the men, said they were innocent.

“These accused have been framed simply to please the public,” he told reporters. “This is not a fair trial.”

The men were identified by the young woman’s friend, and police say they could be seen on security cameras near the bus.

The men, most of them from a crowded New Delhi neighborhood of hand-made brick shanties filled by migrants from poor rural villages, were joy-riding around the city in an off-duty bus when police say they came across the woman and her friend waiting at a bus top. The pair – by most accounts they were not romantically involved – were heading home after an evening showing of “Life of Pi” at a high-end mall just a short walk from the courthouse where Tuesday’s verdict was read.

It wasn’t late. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood. The bus, by all appearances, was just a way for the two to get home.

Instead, the attackers beat the friend into submission, held down the woman and repeatedly raped her. They penetrated her with a metal rod, causing severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later.

The woman, who was from another poor migrant family, had recently finished her exams for a physiotherapy degree. Her father earned a little over $200 a month as an airport baggage handler. She was, the family hoped, their path to the bottom rungs of India’s growing middle class.

The defendants also came from poor and ill-educated families. One, Mukesh Singh, occasionally drove the bus and cleaned it. Another, Vinay Sharma, was a 20-year-old assistant at a gym and the only one to graduate from high school. Akshay Thakur, 28, occasionally worked as a driver’s helper on the bus. Pawan Gupta, 19, was a fruit seller.

With them were two other men. Police say Ram Singh, 33, hanged himself in prison, though his family insists he was murdered. He was the brother of Mukesh Singh, who was convicted Tuesday. Another man – an 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the attack and cannot be identified under Indian law – was convicted in August and will serve the maximum sentence, three years in a reform home.

Facing public protests and political pressure after the attack, the government reformed some of its antiquated laws on sexual violence, creating fast-track courts to avoid the painfully long rape trials that can easily last over a decade. The trial of the four men, which took about seven months, was astonishingly fast by Indian standards. The men can appeal their convictions.

While many activists heralded the changes that came with the case – more media reporting on sexual violence, education for police in how to treat rape victims – they note that women remain widely seen as second-class citizens in India. Girls get less medical care and less education than boys, studies show. Millions of female fetuses are statistically “missing” because of illegal sex-selective abortions.

Victims of sexual assault, meanwhile, often find themselves blamed by their families and police, who deride them for inviting attacks. Activists say most rapes are simply kept secret, even from authorities, so that the woman and her family are not seen as tainted.

“We can celebrate this particular case. But total change is a much larger issue,” said Rebecca John, a supreme court lawyer and prominent advocate for women in India.

“As we celebrate this case, let us mourn for the other cases that are not highlighted.”

The victim’s family was, in many ways, far different from most in India. Her parents had pushed her to go as far as possible in school, and even encouraged her to leave home for a better education, both seen as highly suspect in the conservative village culture that her parents were born into. They had saved for years to help pay her school fees, and made clear that her brother would not be favored.

And when she was raped, the only people they blamed were her rapists.

Their pain has been staggering.

“I always told my children: `If you study hard you can escape this poverty.’ All my life I believed this,” the mother told the AP in an interview earlier this year. “Now that dream has ended.”

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Indian Gang Rape Case Goes to Trial

From today’s Huffpost


India Gang Rape Trial Begins In New Delhi

NEW DELHI — The trial of five men charged with the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus began in a closed courtroom Thursday with opening arguments by the prosecution lawyers in a special fast-track court set up just weeks ago to handle sexual assault cases.

The brutal attack last month set off protests across India and opened a national debate about the epidemic of violence against women. A government committee established in the wake of the attack has called for a complete overhaul of the way the criminal justice system deals with rape, sexual assaults and crimes against women in general.

The five men on trial – who face a maximum sentence of death by hanging if convicted – covered their faces with woolen caps as they walked into the courtroom Thursday surrounded by a phalanx of armed police. Two hours later, after proceedings were over, they were whisked away by the police.

Details of the day’s proceedings were not available. The courtroom was closed to the public and the media – a routine move in Indian rape cases – even though defense lawyers had argued that since the victim is dead, the proceedings should be opened. There was also a gag order on the lawyers to not reveal what happened inside the court.

Judge Yogesh Khanna turned down requests by journalists Thursday that they be briefed on the day’s proceedings and said the gag order would remain.

Since Friday is a public holiday in India, the next hearing in the case was set for Monday, when the defense will present its opening arguments.

A sixth suspect in the case has claimed he is a juvenile and is expected to be tried in a juvenile court.

On Thursday, a magistrate separately rejected a petition by Subramanian Swamy, a prominent politician, that no leniency be shown toward the accused who claims to be a juvenile because of the brutal nature of the crime, said Jagdish Shetty, an aide to Swamy.

Documents presented by prosecution last week to the Juvenile Justice Board indicated that the defendant was a juvenile at the time of the attack, which would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

Magistrate Geetanjali Goel is expected to rule on the suspect’s age on Jan.28.

The suspect, who is not being identified by The Associated Press because he says he is 17, would face three years in a reform facility if convicted as a juvenile.

After the fast-track court hearing, M.L. Sharma, a defense lawyer for Mukesh Singh, one of the accused, said he had withdrawn from the case. V.K. Anand, who represents Mukesh’s brother Ram Singh, will now defend both brothers. The two lawyers had been arguing over who was Mukesh Singh’s real lawyer.

Sharma said he left the case to save his client from being tortured to fire him. He has long maintained that the other defense lawyers were planted by the police to ensure guilty verdicts.

Dozens of police were outside the sprawling court complex in south New Delhi where the trial is taking place. Inside the court, about 30 policemen blocked access to the room where Khanna heard the prosecution’s case.

Outside the courtroom scores of journalists and curious onlookers crowded the hallway.

Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan warned defense lawyers that if they spoke to journalists he would slap contempt of court notices on them, said V.K. Anand, a defense lawyer.

Police say the victim and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus Dec. 16 as they tried to return home after an evening showing of the movie “Life of Pi.” The six men, the only occupants of the private bus, allegedly beat the man with a metal bar and raped the woman with it, inflicting massive internal injuries to her, police said. The victims were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

Abhilasha Kumari, a New Delhi-based sociologist, said the attack could end up having a large impact on the country.

`’This case has brought the violence against women center stage and it has, out of sheer public pressure, forced the government to sensitize itself to crimes against women,” she said.

The trial began a day after a government panel recommended India strictly enforce sexual assault laws, commit to holding speedy rape trials and change the antiquated penal code to protect women.

The panel appointed to examine the criminal justice system’s handling of violence against women, received a staggering 80,000 suggestions from women’s groups and thousands of ordinary citizens.

Among the panel’s suggestions were a ban on a traumatic vaginal exam of rape victims and an end to political interference in sex crime cases. It has also suggested the appointment of more judges to help speed up India’s sluggish judicial process and clear millions of pending cases.

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said the government would take the recommendations to the Cabinet and Parliament.

“Procedural inadequacies that lead to inordinate delays need to be addressed,” he told reporters.

Although I have marked this with “Women’s Issues,” it is only a women’s issue when violence is directed against women and women have a limited access to justice in the system. Rape is a crime of power, inflicting unwanted and uninvited invasion of the very most personal nature. It happens to men, too. Men are far less likely to come forward. They live with the shame; many commit suicide or turn to drugs and alcohol to escape the pain. One day, with women leading the way, men, too, will be able to come forward and claim justice against those who violate them.

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Community, Crime, Family Issues, Health Issues, India, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Six Arrested in Second Indian Gang Rape Case

This was on AOL News / Huffpost this morning. The author makes an interesting point, not only are societal mores at fault, blaming the victim and implying the rape was her fault, but also the problem is exacerbated by the growing imbalance between males and females in the population. Where are potential mates for the excess of men?

Indian police present six arrested men, accused of a gang rape in Punjab state.

India Gang Rape: Woman Assaulted By Bus Driver, Conducter
By ASHOK SHARMA 01/13/13 07:49 AM ET EST

NEW DELHI — Police said Sunday they have arrested six suspects in another gang rape of a bus passenger in India, four weeks after a brutal attack on a student on a moving bus in the capital outraged Indians and led to calls for tougher rape laws.

Police officer Raj Jeet Singh said a 29-year-old woman was the only passenger on a bus as she was traveling to her village in northern Punjab state on Friday night. The driver refused to stop at her village despite her repeated pleas and drove her to a desolate location, he said.

There, the driver and the conductor took her to a building where they were joined by five friends and took turns raping her throughout the night, Singh said.

The driver dropped the woman off at her village early Saturday, he said.

Singh said police arrested six suspects on Saturday and were searching for another.

Gurmej Singh, deputy superintendent of police, said all six admitted involvement in the rape. He said the victim was recovering at home.

Also on Saturday, police arrested a 32-year-old man for allegedly raping and killing a 9-year-old girl two weeks ago in Ahmednagar district in western India, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. Her decomposed body was found Friday.

Police officer Sunita Thakare said the suspect committed the crime seven months after his release from prison after serving nine years for raping and murdering a girl in 2003, PTI reported Sunday.

The deadly rape of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus in December led to the woman’s death and set off an impassioned debate about what India needs to do to prevent such tragedies. Protesters and politicians have called for tougher rape laws, police reforms and a transformation in the way the country treats women.

“It’s a very deep malaise. This aspect of gender justice hasn’t been dealt with in our nation-building task,” Seema Mustafa, a writer on social issues who heads the Center for Policy Analysis think tank, said Sunday.

“Police haven’t dealt with the issue severely in the past. The message that goes out is that the punishment doesn’t match the crime. Criminals think they can get away it,” she said.

In her first published comments, the mother of the deceased student in the New Delhi attack said Sunday that all six suspects in that case, including one believed to be a juvenile, deserve to die.

She was quoted by The Times of India newspaper as saying that her daughter, who died from massive internal injuries two weeks after the attack, told her that the youngest suspect had participated in the most brutal aspects of the rape.

Five men have been charged with the physiotherapy student’s rape and murder and face a possible death penalty if convicted. The sixth suspect, who says he is 17 years old, is likely to be tried in a juvenile court if medical tests confirm he is a minor. His maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.

“Now the only thing that will satisfy us is to see them punished. For what they did to her, they deserve to die,” the newspaper quoted the mother as saying.

Some activists have demanded a change in Indian laws so that juveniles committing heinous crimes can face the death penalty.

The names of the victim of the Dec. 16 attack and her family have not been released.

What is also troubling in these two cases is that the women were on public transportation, and the rapes were arranged and carried out by the bus drivers and bus personnel, people who should have been there to keep her safe. They treated the victims like pieces of meat; it seems excessively hostile and brutal – you have to wonder what is driving them.

You can read more on this in an article from The Guardian, from where I found the photo above of the perpetrators.

January 13, 2013 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, India, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

“if You Can’t Prevent Rape, You Enjoy It”: Ranjit Sinha

The Chief of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said this! Was he snorting cocaine in a drunken stupor? Of course he is apologizing, but his careless remark demonstrates the sentiments buried deep in his culture’s heart – it’s only women. Not worth much, not like us men.  Outrageous.


Ranjit Sinha


NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s top police official apologized Wednesday for saying, “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it,” a remark that has outraged women across the country.

Central Bureau of Investigation chief Ranjit Sinha made the remark Tuesday during a conference about illegal sports betting and the need to legalize gambling. The CBI, the country’s premier investigative agency, is India’s equivalent of the FBI.

Sinha said at the conference that if the state could not stop gambling, it could at least make some revenue by legalizing it.

“If you cannot enforce the ban on betting, it is like saying, ‘If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it,'” he said.

The remarks have caused outrage across India, which in the past year has been roiled by widespread protests following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi.

On Wednesday, Sinha said that his comments had been taken out of context and misinterpreted, and that he was sorry if he had caused hurt.

Angry activists, however, called for his resignation.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat said Sinha’s comments were offensive to women everywhere.

“It is sickening that a man who is in charge of several rape investigations should use such an analogy,” Karat told reporters. “He should be prosecuted for degrading and insulting women.”

The New Delhi attack on the young woman last December caused nationwide outrage and forced the government to change rape laws and create fast-track courts for rape cases. New laws introduced after the attack make stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime. They also provide for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim’s death.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, India, Interconnected, Language, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | 3 Comments

Reports of Sexual Assault Increasing in India: Warning Issued

Another Woman Who Should Have Known She Was in the Wrong Place? She’s in her hotel room – near the Taj Mahal . . . is this another case of being in the wrong place in India? You’re not safe in your own hotel room? The manager of the hotel comes to your room to wake you for a wake-up call???

20 March 2013

Tourist balcony jump: Hotel manager and guard in court

A hotel manager and guard accused of sexually harassing a British tourist who jumped from a hotel balcony to escape have appeared in court in Agra.

A lawyer acting for hotel manager Sachin Chauhan said his client denied the charge and he had been trying to wake the woman up because she had asked for an early morning call.

The 31-year-old British woman was injured after jumping on Tuesday.

The Briton has been giving her statement at the court.

Initial reports suggested the woman told police she asked for a wake-up call at 04:00 local time and was offered a massage by the hotel owner when he knocked on her door.

She said the man would not leave so she locked the door and jumped from her balcony to the level below, injuring her leg, before fleeing the hotel.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the British High Commission in India said UK consular officials in Delhi had spoken to the woman and local police.

The Foreign Office recently updated its advice for women visiting India, saying they should use caution and avoid travelling alone on public transport, or in taxis or auto-rickshaws, especially at night.

It added that reported cases of sexual assault against women and young girls were increasing and recent sexual attacks against female visitors in tourist areas and cities showed that foreign women were also at risk.

Police arrested six people following an alleged gang rape of a Swiss tourist in Madhya Pradesh state last week.

The woman was attacked with her husband as they camped in woodland near a village in Datia district.

The arrests came as India’s politicians prepared to debate a new law against rape, following the outcry over the fatal assault on a female Delhi student last year.

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, India, Living Conditions, Travel | Leave a comment

It’s Your Fault if You Assume You Are Safe: Indian Officials

Horrifying. Disgusting. At the very least, if you are an official and tourists are gang raped in your area, keep your mouth shut. If you must say something, tell the visitors how sorry you are this happened to them. Never, never, never suggest that they should have ASKED if they were safe, NEVER blame the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You just look really, really ignorant.

These crimes will keep happening as long as there is such a preference for male children that there are not enough mates for the males once they mature. They will keep happening as long as men are not taught, as children, that women are to be equally respected.

Swiss Gang Rape Victim, Husband Partially To Blame For Attack, Indian Officials Suggest
The Huffington Post | By Cavan Sieczkowski

Posted: 03/18/2013 12:13 pm EDT

Officials in India suggested that a Swiss tourist and her husband are partially to blame for an alleged attack and gang rape in a remote wooded area in Madhya Pradesh last week. They said the couple did not inquire about the safety of the region.

On Friday, a Swiss woman and her husband pitched a tent in a forest in Madhya Pradesh while on a three-month cycling excursion, according to the Associated Press. Around 9:30 p.m. a group of men attacked the couple, beat up the husband, tied him to a tree, gang raped the wife and robbed the pair, police said.

During a press conference on Sunday, police spokesperson Avnesh Kumar Budholiya suggested the tourists are partially to blame for the assault because they chose to travel that area without speaking to local police, the Independent reports.

“No one stops there,” Budholiya said. “Why did they choose that place? They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They would have passed a police station on the way to the area they camped. They should have stopped and asked about places to sleep.”

Another official also appeared to place blame on the victim and her husband.

“The rape of the Swiss national is unfortunate but foreign travelers should inform the police about their movement so they can be provided with adequate protection,” said Umashankar Gupta, the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, according to The Times. “They often don’t follow the state’s rules.”

Madhya Pradesh reportedly has one of the highest rates of crimes against women in the country, a fact the Swiss tourists were unaware of, according to the Times of India.

“They apparently lost track and took a wrong turn and decided to halt for the night by the side of a village brook little realizing that the district with 85:100 men to women ratio is not the safest place for women,” a senior official from the region told the newspaper.

Six men have been arrested in connection with the most recent reported gang rape, CNN reports. The victim, who was hospitalized after the attack, claims four of the men raped her. The other two reportedly robbed her and her husband. All six appeared in court Monday.

The most recent attack comes just three months after a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and beaten on a public bus by five men in New Delhi. The defense lawyer for three of the accused placed some of the blame on the now-deceased victim, saying a “respected lady” does not get raped.

Blaming a female victim of a sex crime is common in India because of a woman’s role in society, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“This is the mentality which most Indian men are suffering from unfortunately,” Ranjana Kumari, director for the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, told the newspaper. “That is the mindset that has been perpetrating this crime because they justify it indirectly, you asked for it so it is your responsibility.”

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, India, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Women's Issues | 1 Comment

Manohar Lal Sharma: “Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady”

If you are a follower of my blog, you know I am not a person of violent tendencies. This morning, however, I am so thankful to be half a world away from the scum lawyer who would make these statements about a woman so brutally raped by six men that she died of horrendous internal injuries.

I am fighting instincts which would wish him ill. When he accuses rape victims of being responsible for their attacks, it pushes me over the line.

A person should be free to take a bus without fear of assault. And I suspect that there are also male victims, too ashamed to come forward.

Manohar Lal Sharma
Manohar Lal Sharma, lawyer for one of the accused, speaks to journalists outside the Saket district court complex in New Delhi, India, on Jan. 10. Police badly beat the five suspects arrested in the brutal gang rape and killing of a young woman on a New Delhi bus, Sharma said Thursday, accusing authorities of tampering with evidence in the case that has transfixed India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

As the trial of the men charged with the brutal gang rape and murder of a woman in New Delhi last month gets under way this week, a lawyer for some of the accused suggests the victim was partly to blame for the attack.

Lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma said his clients were innocent and implied that the 23-year-old student must have been in some way responsible for the horrific crime, Bloomberg reports.

“Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady,” Sharma said. “Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect.”

The lawyer’s controversial comments are sure to anger victim’s advocates, especially in light of somewhat similar sentiments proclaimed by Indian guru Asaram Bapu.

Last week Bapu said the victim should have “taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said I consider you as my brother and should have said to the other two ‘Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother,'” according to the Hindustan Times.

It is worth noting, however, that a representative for Bapu later said the media distorted the guru’s remarks.

“[He] never made such statements. He just asked his women followers to avoid such situation anyhow,” the rep told Asian News International. “He was only suggesting that women should try their level-best to come out from such situation by using diplomatic ways.”

News outlet The Week compiled a list of several other statements that seem to place blame on the rape victim. The compilation includes a comment from Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president Botsa Satyanarayana, who suggested the victim stayed out too late.

“Do we roam in streets at midnight as we got Independence at midnight?” Satyanarayana said. “She should have assessed the situation before getting into the bus.”

The attack, which occurred on the evening of Dec. 16, has shocked Indian residents and prompted violent protests in cities across the country, CNN notes.

Sharma, who stepped in to help defend the suspects when many other lawyers refused to represent them, also claimed his clients had been tortured by police while in jail, Time reports.

The main suspect in the trial, the bus driver, will plead not guilty according to Reuters, as will the driver and a third suspect he represents.

“We will plead not guilty. We want this to go to trial,” Sharma said. “We are only hearing what the police are saying. This is manipulated evidence. It’s all on the basis of hearsay and presumption.

January 13, 2013 Posted by | Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, India, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Safety, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | 13 Comments

Rape in Kuwait (2)

There seem to be some misconceptions running around about rape in Kuwait. One misconception is that Kuwaitis commit a lot of rape. If you read the newspapers, however, you will discover that a lot of the rapes committed are nationality on nationality, for example, one senior Phillipina lady will befriend an unhappy domestic worker, will “help” her get away, and the domestic finds herself abducted, gang raped and in sexual slavery. That’s one common story.

Domestics of all nationalities are abducted off the streets, taken to apartments or villas, raped repeatedly by two or more men, and then dropped off on the street (or dropped off a balcony). People don’t seem to be very concerned about domestic servants being people here, having the right NOT to be raped, it sort of seems like business as usual, no matter who is raped or doing the raping. I have yet to read of one single case being prosecuted or sentenced in the Kuwait newspapers, but maybe I missed a day or two.

Another common story is Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani on Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani, and that can be men abducting/raping men, or men abducting/raping women. Some of these women are also recruited into prostitution, and are found when the police raid the dens of iniquity, catching the men and men or men and women in “uncompromising” positions, or, even better – RED HANDED!

There is a whole catagory of abductions – Kuwaiti, Bedoun or other Gulf or Arab nationality where a man or woman, or men or women, is/are abducted and taken to camps in the desert and raped multiple times. Sometimes they are left naked by the side of the road. Sometimes their dead bodies are found, and occasionally enough clues to guess at the identity of the abductors/rapists.

Then there are the men that rape children. It can be within a family. It can be within a building. It can be within a neighborhood. Many times the child knows the rapist, and is told that if they say anything, the rapist will kill or harm the child’s parents. There was an epidemic of child rape in Hawali, and although the man arrested cries “I didn’t do it!” the fact is that the epidemic of rape in Hawali has stopped. That doesn’t mean that children aren’t being raped, it just means that the Hawali Monster seems to be off the streets of Hawali.

Objectively, if there can be said to be a “good” thing about rape in Kuwait, it is that so few of them are fatal.

What can, accurately, be said about Kuwait is that there seems to be a lot of rape. If you think I exaggerate, I challenge you to read the Kuwait papers every day for a month.

When there is a lot of rape, it means there is a social, legal and political climate that tolerates rape. It means that rape cases are not handled with a lot of attention to gathering evidence. It means that men and women are not encouraged to persue rape charges. It means that the police are not very interested in investigating accusations of rape. It means that the legal system is not very interested in prosecuting rape. It means that the rape victims are not valued highly enough to deserve not to be raped.

Rape happens everywhere. Rape happens in wars, rape happens on the streets. In most places, we are taught, rape isn’t about sex as much as it is about power. Here, in Kuwait, I am inclined to think it may be a little bit of both.

I’ve worked with rape victims in several different locations. Working with the victims gives you so much admiration for women, what they endure, what they survive, and their deeply ingrained sense of priorities and self. You’d think the experience would be devastating, but the women who have experienced rape and overcome it have been anything but devastated – many of them become truly awesome individuals, literally, awe-inspiring. They refuse to be victims. They carry on with their lives. They accomplish. They let their anger fuel and energize them to become incredibly accomplished individuals. It isn’t surprising – wealth and accomplishment also give you additional protection against it ever happening again.

There is another tragedy in Kuwait – male rapes. When men rape another men, like in prison, it is very much a power thing. Me big – you little. Me do what I want with you. Most of the victims I have met, or heard about are young teens. Being raped by a bigger, older male really skews their lives. They begin to question what it was about themself that got them raped, they question whether maybe they are gay and don’t know it, they ask, over and over – Why ME? Young men who were good at school start getting bad grades, they can’t concentrate, they often turn to drugs.

Being forced to have sex, whether you are man, woman, or child, is wrong. And doing nothing to stop this epidemic is also wrong. To look the other way is wrong. To say it isn’t happening is wrong. To become so used to it that your heart becomes calloused is just plain wrong.

I know most of the time my blog is a nice place to visit, and these entries make you uncomfortable. I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. I myself am so uncomfortable that, as Martin Luther said (only he said it in German) “I cannot other. God help me.”

September 6, 2007 Posted by | Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Social Issues, Uncategorized, Women's Issues | 44 Comments

Somali Pirate Code of Conduct

Ever since I was a kid, I found pirates interesting and exotic and adventurous. The truth is probably that those olden day pirates had bad teeth, scurvey – they had lived hard and fast and they probably aged quickly.

Of course, today we have Johnie Depp and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, which makes pirating look mostly like a lot of fun.

So a year or so ago, I wrote a post on the Somali pirates, and got an interesting response. It got me started looking more deeply into what is going on with the pirates there.


Yesterday, in the paper was an article about the Somali pirate code of conduct – with fines and punishments for infractions. I found a complete article in Newsweek, April 27.

What is bothering me now is that the one pirate captured by the US when it retook the captured US freighter (in the report filed by one BBC reporter) said he was just a frail teenager, a kid, and that the pirates had already agreed to surrender when they were blown out of the water. You could hear her attempting to control her rage.

I know it is a thorn in the side for all shippers and freighters and passenger ships who travel through waters anywhere near to Somalia. And yet . . . I kind of ask myself what the options are? Somalia is a for sure failed-nation. They haven’t been able to cobble together a government for over twenty years. Deadly, long lasting poisons have been dumped along their shoreline – and major industrial nations paid Somalis a pittance to dump their wastes there. Their coastline has been overfished. Families are starving, live is – or was – dismal.

I think it is pretty cool that they developed an enforceable – and enforced – code of conduct.

Here is the article from Newsweek:

It was a hit with the U.S. public, but president Obama’s decision to authorize the Pentagon to kill three Somali pirates who took an American sea captain hostage sent shudders through the world’s shipping and insurance industries. Because the pirates are motivated chiefly by money, maritime experts say, they have—at least until now—taken good care of the crews they hold captive. A document retrieved from a ship hijacked last year contained a “list of written rules” of conduct pirates had to follow, according to a maritime security expert who requested anonymity when discussing sensitive material. The document included a series of “punishments” to be imposed on any hijacker who struck a hostage.

Shipping companies and insurers are far more likely to fork over large ransoms if they have confidence that their personnel and cargo will be released unharmed, and while the scourge of piracy has been disruptive, so far there have been virtually no casualties among innocent people. According to estimates, there were 111 pirate attacks off the Somali coast in 2008; 42 were successful, resulting in the capture of 815 seamen. As of last week, according to one estimate, all but 37 had been released, and two had died—one reportedly of illness. Experts say the rate of attacks has increased sharply this year, and “the more [authorities] shoot, the more the pirates will shoot back,” says Tom Wilson, a Somalia analyst for the British consulting firm Control Risks.

Protecting the 23,000 merchant vessels sailing annually near the Horn of Africa would require a naval fleet of at least 60 ships, according to U.S. government and private experts; the existing international antipiracy task force has about 20. And attacking the Somali coastal villages where the pirates are based could potentially radicalize generations of Somalis. “That would be a 19th-century solution,” says Neil Roberts, a marine insurance expert with Lloyd’s Market Association in London. Industry experts say the only solution to piracy is the creation of a viable Somali government back on dry land.

According to industry officials, ransom demands have ranged as high as $25 million—but in most cases they are negotiated down to about $2 million to $3 million, and insurers then pay out claims to the shipping companies. As hijackings have increased in frequency, pirates have become fussier about how their money gets delivered. Initially, said a shipping-industry source who also asked for anonymity, ransoms were often handed off to shady Somali expats in places like Kenya. After Kenyan authorities cracked down, the pirates began insisting on airdrops via parachute into the ocean near Somali coastal villages, where they have cash-counting machines ready. Until the U.S. opened fire, one of the pirates’ biggest headaches had been dealing with the sheer volume of money they’ve collected. Last year, according to an insurance-industry official, one pirate’s boat capsized because he had overloaded it with cash.

I found this on National Post dated April 30, 2009; it is a copy of what I had read in the newspaper:

MOGADISHU — A mobile tribunal, a system of fines and a code of conduct: the success of Somali pirates’ seajacking business relies on a structure that makes them one of the country’s best-organised armed forces.

A far cry from the image conveyed in films and novels of pirates as unruly swashbucklers, Somalia’s modern-day buccaneers form a paramilitary brotherhood in which a strict and complex system of rules and punishments is enforced.

They are organized in a multitude of small cells dotting the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden coastline. The two main land bases are the towns of Eyl, in the breakaway state of Puntland, and Harardhere, further south in Somalia.

“There are hundreds of small cells, linked to each other,” Hasan Shukri, a pirate based in Haradhere, told AFP in a phone interview.

“We talk every morning, exchange information on what is happening at sea and if there has been a hijacking, we make onshore preparations to send out reinforcement and escort the captured ship closer to the coast,” he explained.

Somali piracy started off two decades ago with a more noble goal of deterring illegal fishing, protecting the people’s resources and the nation’s sovereignty at a time when the state was collapsing.

While today’s pirates have morphed into a sophisticated criminal ring with international ramifications, they have been careful to retain as much popular prestige as possible and refrain from the violent methods of the warlords who made Somalia a by-word for lawlessness in the 1990s.

“I have never seen gangs that have rules like these. They avoid many of the things that are all too common with other militias,” said Mohamed Sheikh Issa, an elder in the Eyl region.

“They don’t rape, and they don’t rob the hostages and they don’t kill them. They just wait for the ransom and always try to do it peacefully,” he said.

Somalia’s complex system of clan justice is often rendered obsolete by the armed chaos that has prevailed in the country for two decades, but the pirates have adapted it effectively.

Abdi Garad, an Eyl-based commander who was involved in recent attacks on U.S. ships, explained that the pirates have a mountain hide-out where leaders can confer and where internal differences can be solved.

“We have an impregnable stronghold and when there is a disagreement among us, all the pirate bosses gather there,” he told AFP.

The secretive pirate retreat is a place called Bedey, a few miles from Eyl.

“We have a kind of mobile court that is based in Bedey. Any pirate who commits a crime is charged and punished quickly because we have no jails to detain them,” Mr. Garad said.

Some groups representing different clans farther south in the villages of Hobyo and Haradhere would disagree with Mr. Garad’s claim that Somalia’s pirates all answer to a single authority.

But while differences remain among various groups, the pirates’ first set of rules is precisely aimed at neutralizing rivalries, Mohamed Hidig Dhegey, a pirate from Puntland, explained.

“If any one of us shoots and kills another, he will automatically be executed and his body thrown to the sharks,” he said from the town of Garowe.

“If a pirate injures another, he is immediately discharged and the network is instructed to isolate him. If one aims a gun at another, he loses 5% of his share of the ransom,” Mr. Dhegey said.

Perhaps the most striking disciplinary feature of Somali “piratehood” is the alleged code of conduct pertaining to the treatment of captured crews.

“Anybody who is caught engaging in robbery on the ship will be punished and banished for weeks. Anyone shooting a hostage will immediately be shot,” said Ahmed Ilkacase.

“I was once caught taking a wallet from a hostage. I had to give it back and then 25,000 dollars were removed from my share of the ransom,” he said.

Following the release of the French yacht Le Ponant in April 2008, investigators found a copy of a “good conduct guide” on the deck which forbade sexual assault on women hostages.

As Ilkacase found out for himself, pirates breaking internal rules are punished. Conversely, those displaying the most bravery are rewarded with a bigger share of the ransom, called “saami sare” in Somali.

“The first pirate to board a hijacked ship is entitled to a luxurious car, or a house or a wife. He can also decide to take his bonus share in cash,” he explained.

Foreign military commanders leading the growing fleet of anti-piracy naval missions plying the region in a bid to protect one of the world’s busiest trade routes acknowledge that pirates are very organised.

“They are very well organized, have good communication systems and rules of engagement,” said Vice Admiral Gerard Valin, commander of the French joint forces in the Indian Ocean.

So far, nothing suggests that pirates are motivated by anything other than money and it is unclear whether the only hostage to have died during a hijacking was killed by pirates or the French commandos who freed his ship.

Some acts of mistreatment have been reported during the more than 60 hijackings recorded since the start of 2008, but pirates have generally spared their hostages to focus on speedy ransom negotiations.

With the Robin Hood element of piracy already largely obsolete, observers say the “gentleman kidnapper” spirit could also fast taper off as pirates start to prioritize riskier, high-value targets and face increasingly robust action from navies with enhanced legal elbow room.

They have warned that the much-bandied heroics of a U.S. crew who wrested back control of their ship and had their captain rescued by navy snipers who picked off three pirates could go down as the day pirates decided to leave their manners at home.

I used to read science fiction novels about a diplomat named Retief, I think they were by Keith Laumer. He would find himself in an alien environment with a horrible unsolvable problem and he would find a great solution, where everyone walked away OK. I wish there were a Retief who could negotiate a win/win out of this situation.

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, Cultural, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel | , | 11 Comments