“I Fought For My Life…And Won” – Sohaila Abdulali #mustread #Vaw #Rape


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I was gang raped three years ago, when I was 17 years old.  My name and my photograph appear with this article.  in  1983, in Manushi.

I grew up in Bombay, and am at present studying in the USA. I am writing a thesis on rape and came home to do research a couple of weeks ago. Ever since that day three years ago, I have been intensely aware of the misconceptions people have about rape, about those who rape and those who survive rape. I have also been aware of the stigma that attaches to survivors. Time and again, people have hinted that perhaps death would have been better than the loss of that precious“virginity.” I refuse to accept this. My lifeis worth too much to me.

I feel that many women keep silent to avoid this stigma, but suffer tremendous agony because of their silence. Men blame the victim for many reasons, and,shockingly, women too blame the victim, perhaps because of internalized patriarchal values, perhaps as a way of making themselves invulnerable to a horrifying possibility.

It happened on a warm July evening.That was the year women’s groups were beginning to demand improved legislation on rape. I was with my friend Rashid. We had gone for a walk and were sitting on a mountainside about a mile and a half from my home in Chembur which is a suburb of Bombay. We were attacked by four men,who were armed with a sickle. They beat us, forced us to go up the mountain, and kept us there for two hours. We were physically and psychologically abused, and, as darkness fell, we were separated, screaming, and they raped me, keeping Rashid hostage. If either of us resisted, the other would get hurt. This was an effective tactic.

They could not decide whether or not to kill us. We did everything in our power to stay alive. My goal was to live and that was more important than anything else. I fought the attackers physically at first, and with words after I was pinned down. Anger and shouting had no effect, so I began to babble rather crazily about love and compassion,I spoke of humanity and the fact that I was a human being, and so were they, deep inside. They were gentler after this, at least those who were not raping me at the moment. I told one of them that if he ensured neither Rashid nor I was killed, I would come back to meet him, the rapist, the next day. Those words cost me more than Ican say, but two lives were in the balance. The only way I would ever have gone back there was with a very, very sharp instrument that would ensure that he never rapedagain.

After what seemed like years of torture (I think I was raped 10 times but I was in so much pain that I lost track of what was going on after a while), we were let go,with a final long lecture on what an immoral whore I was to be alone with a boy. That infuriated them more than anything. They acted the whole time as if they were doing me a favour, teaching me a lesson. Theirs was the most fanatical kind of self righteousness.

They took us down the mountain and we stumbled on to the dark road, clinging to each other and walking unsteadily. They followed us for a while, brandishing the sickle, and that was perhaps the worst part of all—escape was so near yet death hung over us. Finally we got home, broken, bruised, shattered. It was such an incredible feeling to let go, to stop bargaining for our lives and weighing every word because we knew the price of angering them was a sickle in the stomach. Relief flooded into our bones and out ofour eyes and we literally collapsed into hysterical howling.

I had earnestly promised the rapists that I would never tell any one but the minute I got home, told my father to call the police He was as anxious as I was to get them apprehended. I was willing to do anything to prevent someone else having to go through what I had been through. The police were insensitive, contemptuous, and somehow managed to make me the guilty party. When they asked me what had happened,I told them quite directly, and they were scandalized that I was not a shy, blushing victim. When they said there would be publicity, I said that was all right. It had honestly never occurred to me that Rashid or I could be blamed. When they said Iwould have to go into a home for juvenile delinquents for my “protection.” I was willing to live with pimps and rapists, in order to be able to bring my attackers to justice.

Soon I realized that justice for women simply does not exist in the legal system. When they asked us what we had been doing on the mountain, I began to get indignant. When they asked Rashid why he had been “passive”, I screamed. Didn’t they understand that his resistance meant further torture for me? When they asked questions about what kind of clothes I had been wearing, and why there were no visible marks on Rashid’s body (he had internal bleeding from being repeatedly hit in the stomach with the handle of the sickle), I broke down in complete misery and terror, and my father threw them out of the house after telling them exactly what he thought of them. That was the extent of the support the police gave me. No charges were brought. The police recorded a statement that we had gone for a walk and had been “delayed” on our return.

It has been almost three years now, but there has not been even one day, when I have not been haunted by what happened. Insecurity, vulnerability, fear, anger, helplessness—I fight these constantly. Sometimes when I am walking on the road and hear footsteps behind I start to sweat and have to bite my lip to keep from screaming. I flinch at friendly touches, I can’t bear tight scarves that feel like hands round my throat, I flinch at a certain look that comes into men’s eyes—that look is there so often.

Yet in many ways I feel that I am a stronger person now. I appreciate my life more than ever. Every day is a gift. I fought for my life, and won. No negative reaction can make me stop feeling that this is positive.

I do not hate men. It is too easy a thing to do, and many men are victims of different kinds of oppression. It is patriarchy I hate, and that incredible tissue of lies that say men are superior to women, men have rights which women should not have, men are our rightful conquerors.

My feminist friends all assume that I am concerned about women’s issues because I was raped. This is not so. The rape was one expression of all the reasons why Iam a feminist. Why compartmentalize rape ? Why assume rape is only an unwanted act of intercourse ? Are we not raped every day when we walk down the street and are leered at ? Are we not raped when we are treated as sex objects, denied our rights, oppressed in so many ways ? The oppression of women cannot be analysed unidimensionally. For example, a class analysis is very important, but it does not explain why most rapes occur within one’s own class.

As long as women are oppressed in various ways, all women will continue to be vulnerable to rape. We must stop mystifying rape. We must acknowledge its existence all round us, and the various forms it takes. We must stop shrouding it in secrecy, and must see it for what it is — a crime of violence in which the rapist is the criminal.

I am exultant at being alive. Being raped was terrible beyond words, but I think being alive is more important. When a woman is denied the right to feel this, there is something very wrong in our value system. When someone is mugged and allows herself to be beaten in order to survive, no one thinks she is guilty of willing consent to be beaten. In the case of rape, a woman is asked why she let them do it, why she did not resist, whether she enjoyed it.

Rape is not specific to any group of women, nor are rapists a particular group of men. A rapist could be a brutal madman or the boy next door or the too friendly uncle. Let us stop treating rape as the problem of other women. Let us acknowledge its universality and come to a better understanding of it.

Until the basis of power relationships in this world changes, until women cease to be regarded as the property of men, we will have to live in constant fear of being violated with impunity.

I am a survivor. I did not ask to be raped and I did not enjoy it. It was the worst torture I have ever known. Rape is not the woman’s fault, ever. This article is one contribution towards exploding the silence and the comfortable myths which we build up to convince ourselves we are not potential victims, thus consigning actual victims to the most agonizing isolation a human being can know.

 ( This article has been reproduced from archives of Manushi, and was written in 1983)

Today, Sohaila writes, reads and walks. She has published two novels, The Madwoman of Jogare and Year of the Tiger; three children’s books; and numerous short stories, essays, news reports, blogs, columns, manuals, and just about every form of written material, which is in direct contradiction to her devotion to trees. www.sohailaink.com

 

#India- Outrage against #Rape- to curb any expression of sexual freedom among girls? #Vaw


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Flavia Agnes, Asian Age, Dec 22. 2012

Many of us from the women’s movement, who have been struggling to address the issue of rape, both through public campaigns and by providing support to individual survivors, over the last 30 years, are equally dismayed at the responses to the gruesome incident of gangrape of the 23 year old in Delhi, who is battling for her life in a hospital, as the incident itself. We are wondering where we have gone wrong all these years as rape continues to be described as a “state worse than death” by our women parliamentarians while they express their anger in an emotionally charged voice. “Agar bach jayegi toh zinda laash ho ke jiyegi (If she survives, she will be a living corpse),” said a parliamentarian, eloquently expressing her anger. What is the message being sent out to thousands of rape survivors and their families and friends who have stood by them in their quest for justice, who would be watching the news channels when our women leaders, film personalities and the general public proclaim this? Does such a statement induce future victims to come forward and seek justice or will it drive them further into the shell so that they are not branded as “zinda laash” and cope with their post-rape trauma on their own terms, in private?

There are so many aspects of this unprecedented public fury that need to be examined from a cool and analytical perspective. The girl is struggling for her life because of the injuries caused by the use of weapons, not just the incident of rape. The brutes who attacked her attempted to murder her and her friend. But in the wake of the premium attached to rape in public discourse, the rest fades into oblivion. The girl lost her intestines due to the gruesome attack on her with iron rods. Even if they had not raped her, these would be equally serious. Would that have induced less public fury because she would not have to survive as a “zinda laash”. Is it the titillating aspect of the crime of rape that induces this public outrage? Do we react to all types of attacks upon women in public — the acid attacks, the slashing of the face with knife, the kicking and beating, the lewd and obscene comments and humiliation of their male companions? Do these warrant similar indignity and invoke the wrath of the public to demand death penalty for all of them?

There is another question which is worrisome. Is it possible to examine this issue only within the framework of men versus women or, more particularly, middle-class women versus lower-class men? The girl was not alone, she was travelling with a male companion. He, too, was beaten and thrown out. If he had lost his intestines in the scuffle that followed, what would the public response be? What about the death of a young 19-year-old boy who lost his life while protesting against lewd comments being passed against a girl from his housing society? Ought not that too warrant death penalty? If not, why not?

Another question. In some recent gruesome cases of gangrape, the girl was out with a male companion. Is the outrage against her an indication of the societal desire to curb any expression of sexual freedom among young, unmarried girls? Recently, in Bengaluru, a law student of the prestigious National Law University was gangraped when she was in a lonely spot with a male companion. The doctors who examined her were more concerned about the elasticity of her vagina than finding forensic evidence of the gruesome crime. In 2010, a young 16-year-old Hindu girl travelling in a bus with her Muslim friend in the outskirts of Mangalore was dragged out of the bus and taken to a police station and a case of rape foisted against her friend. That night the girl committed suicide.

In one of the earliest narratives by rape survivors in Mumbai during the anti-rape movement in the Eighties, Sohaila Abdulali, who later became a renowned author, has talked about her gangrape on a lonely hill in Chembur where she was out with her boyfriend during her vacation from the US. The friend was held at a knife-point while she was being raped. She narrates how her only concern during the rape was that she and her friend should survive the ordeal. So she kept talking to the boys even while they raped her, requesting them to be gentle and asking them to think about their own mothers and sisters. As she had to get back to college in the US, the police advised her not to initiate proceedings. To get over her guilt of not pressing charges, much later, she wrote about her experience.

It is these incidents that make us wonder whether the gangrape in Delhi is meant to be a message to all youngsters not just to not venture out in the dark but to not venture out with male companions. It is the same message that the parents and the community give to their daughters. It is the same message that the moral brigade has been communicating through the raids on young couples in Mumbai under the direction of Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil, who has now recommended death penalty in rape cases. Perhaps he and most protesters out on the street in India today are unaware that around one-third of all rape cases are filed by parents against boys when their daughter exercises her sexual choice and elopes. Such cases will only increase in years to come as the recent enactment of the Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse Act has raised the statutory age for consent to sexual intercourse from 16 to 18 years and all youngsters who indulge in any sexual activity are prone to harassment from their families and the police. These types of cases have led to the use of phrases like “genuine cases” and “false cases” among the police, prosecutors and judges. With the clamour for death penalty, how will we deal with such cases?

Death penalty will not act as a deterrent. In the case of the Delhi gangrape, the accused are “young offenders” and the court is not likely to give them death penalty. What will act as an effective deterrent is proper procedure and access to justice.

In India, rape does not attract capital punishment and even if the law is changed, it cannot be applied retroactively to this case. Further, if punishment for rape and murder is the same, many rapists may kill the victim to destroy evidence. Thus we need more soul-searching answers from our parliamentarians and experts about how we can make our public places safe for women.

The writer is a women’s rights lawyer

 

Celebrating 100 years of Faiz and Manto- at TISS, Mumbai


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Dear  Friends,

It is a nice co-incidence that this year (2012) is the birth centenary of two of the greatest creative writers that twentieth century has produced  - Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Saadat Hasan Manto. It is worth remembering that these writers lived and worked through turbulent and difficult times personally as well as socially, politically. Although the times have changed and the challenges have taken a new form, the relevance of the ideas and values that these people worked and stood for are worth revisiting. Hence we thought it would be a good idea if we could organize something to not only remember and underscore the relevance of those dreams and ideas shared by these people but also to expose and acquaint ourselves with the several such thinkers and romantics who dreamt of a better world.

It is not just an exercise in celebration of their uniqueness but also committing ourselves to the struggle for a more equal world, to rework the world in favor of the ‘wretched of the earth’.

We are well aware that this exercise maybe found lacking in its direct relationship with the core business of education, but as Anthony O’Hear says, engaging with the sphere of literature and art is integral to the idea of ‘education for goodness in a changing world’.


Please join us for the following
सबसे खतरनाक होता हैं, मुर्दा शांति से भर जाना
ना होना तड़प का, सब कुछ सहन कर जाना
घर से निकलना काम पर, काम से घर आ जाना
सबसे खतरनाक होता हैं हमारे सपनो का मर जाना

- अवतार सिंह पाश 

…eager to hear many more such great pieces tomorrow.
The process of unearthing such writers and reliving their thoughts will begin with sharing what each one of us know and hold dear.
Please bring in pieces that inspire you (any language) and share them.
Poetry Reading Session
Date: 22 May (Tuesday) 2012
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Venue: Quadrangle, TISS Campus, Deonar
ALL ARE INVITED
1. Poetry Reading - 22 May, 6.30-8.00 PM, Quadrangle, TISS Campus (Opposite Deonar bus depot, Chembur)
Poems with social or political relevance in any language would be welcome.
2. A Talk on Faiz Ahmed Faiz  – 26 May, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, Common Room, TISS Campus (Opposite Deonar bus depot, Chembur)
SpeakerProf. Zaheer Ali


3. Screening of Kali Shalwar, the film based on Manto’s story by the same title followed by a discussion.
30 May, 6 PM, Common room, TISS Campus 
(Opposite Deonar bus depot, Chembur)

Please call – 08237680474 or             09911118081       for further details.
in solidarity
Manish Jain, Nandini Manjrekar, Saqib Khan, Yogender Dutt and Vivek Vellanki

Blind girl drags dad to court for harassment


20-year-old collegian’s mother says her father is impeding her education as he has thrown mother-daughter duo out of their Chembur home

Sunil Baghel, March 22, Mumbai Mirror

At an academic level, collegian Neha Agarwal has chosen ‘gender’ as her thesis subject. In real life, the 20-year-old visually challenged woman is getting a taste of male high-handedness.

Neha’s mother, Pooja, has filed a petition in Bombay High Court alleging that Neha’s father, Uday, has thrown the mother-daughter duo out of their Chembur house in December 2011 and that Uday poses a hurdle to Neha’s education.

The petition states that Neha lost an academic year because of this since a major chunk of her study material has been lying in the house to which the two women have no access.

The petition seeks urgent relief from the court by providing police protection to Pooja so that she can enter the house and collect Neha’s study material and their other belongings from the house.

Neha, a third-year bachelor of arts (TYBA) student of St Xavier’s college in Dhobitalao, has to submit at least one project by March 31, failing which she will not even be allowed for the October exam.

Neha told Mumbai Mirror that she was required to submit two projects, one of which had to be turned in by March 31. “My subject for this project is ‘Gender’. The project is almost ready, but it is lying at our Chembur home,” she said.

Despite her physical challenge, Neha has always been keen to pursue education. “It’s very important to me. I want soar as high as I can. I want to be independent,” Neha said, adding that her father had been constantly warning her and her mother not to approach the police.

The petition also lists other allegations against Uday. It accuses Uday of ill-treating the two women for years and alleges that Uday has links to “criminal elements”.

It also accuses Uday of usurping Pooja’s property. The petition also states that officials of Chembur and Govandi police stations registered their complainant only a month ago after they filed a petition in court a month ago.

The petition also alleges that Uday wields influence on the police, and seeks that the case be transferred to the Crime Branch of the police.

On Tuesday, the court agreed to hear the case on an urgent basis at a request made by Pooja’s advocate Dinesh Tiwari. The petition will be heard today.

Read Mumbai Mirror story here