Bonjour, Mr Hollande! Welcome to Delhi!
Will you take time to meet the mother of a four-year-old French citizen who was raped in Bangalore? Her mother has sought an audience with you during your visit to India
Harsh Kapoor and Marieme Helie Lucas Delhi
Editor's Note: In a press conference in Delhi after this article was published, the French President said that he is willing to meet a representative of the mother of the girl child who was allegedly raped. "My office would meet representatives of the mother of the alleged rape victim if asked. I trust Indian justice system," he said.
Your visit to India was recently preceded by a tour to Algeria. If you recall in 1962 Simone de Beauvoir coauthored with Gisele Halimi a very powerful book Djamila Boupacha: The Story of the Torture of a Young Algerian Girl. This had shocked and shaken liberal opinion in France of the early sixties. Her very fine intervention for citizen's internationalism and for women's rights everywhere came to symbolise a progressive image of France.
Delhi recently witnessed a huge outpouring of citizens protest against the rape of a 23 year old and against violence against women and girls. It was wonderful to see during these protests some posters carried quotations from the great Simone de Beauvoir on patriarchy and sexualised violence.
Some of us had been heartened when we heard that Malala Yousufzai the young champion for girl's education in Pakistan had been honored with the Simone de Beauvoir Award by feminists in France and that the French Foreign Minister Fabius had found the time for a formal meeting with the girl's father.
In keeping with this fine tradition, will you take time to meet the mother of a four year old French citizen who was raped in Bangalore? Her mother has sought an audience with you during your visit in India.
One of your 'conseillers' did spend time with the father's lawyers at the Elysee Palace last week - a father who is accused of rape of his daughter and awaits trial: you may want to redress this terrible imbalance in the handling of this human rights case . . .
Not so long ago, you campaigned for President as a 'president normal', i.e. somebody who feels and behaves like any other citizen. Let us tell you, we ordinary citizens from France and India don't feel it is 'normal' to give less importance to the victim than to the person accused of the crime. Even in view of the fact that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In fact we even find it shockingly outrageous.
The girl child is definitely a victim. Could France, via its President, show some concern about her and her rights?
The French Consulate in Bangalore, where the accused was employed, displayed over the past seven months such massive concern for the accused father and provided him extensive support in so many ways - and none to the child and her aggrieved mother and siblings - that some concerned citizens of both India and France have come together to raise issues. Among other things, they question the following facts, we quote :
'The consul and the deputy consul both initially hinted at the fact that Mr Mazurier enjoyed diplomatic status (and immunity) while they knew he did not - thus impeding the arrest of a man who was legally charged with the rape of his daughter. The Delhi Embassy also took several days (June 14, 2012 to June 18, 2012) to confirm that he did not have diplomatic immunity. At the request of the vice consul in Bangalore, the police accepted to give the vice-consul 'custody' of the accused for 5 days, thus delaying the arrest from the 14th till the 19th of June. Two days after Mr Mazurier's arrest, a cheque written by him to the benefit of the vice consul almost emptied the couple's joint account in Bangalore.', leaving Ms Mazurier and the three children of the couple with practically nothing.
And did you know that 'the French passports of the children were,'upon the request of' the accused father, and despite promises to return them, taken away from their legal guardian - their mother - on the occasion of the renewal of their Indian visas?
We trust, Mr Hollande, that you were not aware of all this. But will the 'normal' President of France promptly redress this unbearable situation?
We also trust that you are not aware of the various forms of pressure exerted on witnesses, medical experts and journalists to take back their statements and reports. These may be puzzling coincidences but certainly suggest restraint in the unilateral support so far enjoyed by the accused.
But you must be aware, Mr Hollande, that the French Minister of Foreign Affairs has not responded to a letter sent to him by Ms Mazurier's lawyers in France, nor has the French Minister of Women's Rights responded to a letter from women's rights organisations. Both letters only drew attention of concerned Ministers to the need to protect the rights of the little victim, and pointed at the discrepancy in the treatment shown towards the child and the father respectively by the representatives of France in Bangalore.
We now trust that these letters will receive an adequate response as soon as possible.
And you must also be aware, Mr Hollande, of the overwhelming slander campaign against the child's mother in French media - and about India.
Of course we do understand that there is freedom of the press in France ; and that you cannot be held responsible for what the media prints ; however we are shocked that the French media uses such a derogatory and, to tell you the truth, a paternalist and quasi-colonial language about India, in reference to this rape case : the 'diplomat' is 'in the trap' of Indian justice, India does not have proper Protection of the Child services, nor proper Psychiatric Services for taking care of the traumatized children, nor a reliable Justice system, nor. . .etc . . .
Isn't it slightly embarrassing ?
No doubt that all those could and should be further improved in India, but so do many of the public services and institutions in France. And that's not the point. One fears that these articles are only geared towards manufacturing a slanted public opinion in France.
We are happy to learn that during the upcoming Commission On the Status of Women at the UN in New York on March 4-15, 2013, France is organizing one of the events: 'Violence Against Women - Our Concern, Our Response.'
We do hope that 'France's response' to the case of child Mazurier will match 'our' concern. Indian, French and International women's rights groups will be closely watching the case.
Monsieur Hollande, if you were to set the bar high and officially promote collaboration between France, India (and South Asia) against patriarchy and violence against women, there will be much goodwill for your initiative, and high esteem to be gained in taking up the cases of the ordinary victims of sexual violence, rather than do what your predecessor excelled in i.e. playing salesman for nuclear reactors and fighter war planes. Please note, India spends more on a totally uneconomical nuclear energy program and on war planes than on promoting education, women's rights or programs to end violence against children. You should consider putting a voluntary moratorium on sales of military machines to India and Pakistan. The region of South Asia seems pathologically geared towards violent nationalism and dangerously explosive identity politics. Your mentor President Mitterrand did well to firmly promote Franco German amity to put behind memories of war and hostility. You yourself recently took the first step for such a process between France and Algeria. That's just what is required between India and Pakistan. Don't hesitate to push and prod India's Prime Minister about this. Wouldn't it be great if we had French style cross border TGV trains plying between Lahore and Delhi. So, go for trains not fighter planes!
Wishing you a happy Valentine's Day and hoping you can join us today on the streets of Delhi, together with the One Billion Rising campaign, to dance and resist violence against women and girls, including child Mazurier!