They don’t make them like her anymore: A tribute to Vina Mazumdar #poem


June 12, 2013 Obituary
vina mazumdar vina mazumdarPoem recited at the memorial meeting for Vina Mazumdar, on 11th June, 2013 in New Delhi, organised by Centre for Women’s Development Studies

By Urvashi Butalia

They don’t make them like her any more
It’s a very particular kind of recipe
You’d need an enlightened father
You’d need a visionary mother
It would help if you had an educated book loving driver
You’d need friends scattered all over the world
They’d have to be doctors and feminists and academics and activists
You’d need a good dose of children
You’d have to have politics in the blood
A firm belief in democracy
You’d need universities that believe in teachers and teaching
A rare thing these days
You’d need international recognition
That women deserve to be counted
You’d need mentors at home
And well wishers abroad
You’d need a spirit of questioning
A liberal dose of rebellion
A belief in support
A commitment to institutions
You’d need to be curious and interested
Awesome and inspiring
You’d have to help new groups
Give support to new enterprises
You’d need to support the feminist endeavour
To provide space and step in to sort out their battles
You’d need friends who connived
And plotted and succeeded
You’d need to march in demonstrations
Learn you lessons from the poor
Focus on the town and the city
You’d need liberal doses of Old Monk
A loud voice to shout for Nandan
An ability to give dictation till 4 in the morning
Spiced by Old Monk and hot tea
To your poor long suffering fifth child (aka Nandan)
You’d need to fight for women’s studies
Begin the battle long before other had even begun to think of it
You’d need to produce a report that was just more than a report
You’d need to find a good name for it
Perhaps call it Towards Equality
And then work hard to do what most reports don’t do
Turn it into action, use it to further research
You’d need to keep the focus on the activist
And equally on the researcher
You’d need to extend your attention to the village
To learn from your sisters out there
You’d need grit, determination, braggadaccio, a loud voice
You’d need a friend called lotika di
Another called Neeraben
You’d need a clutch of feminists of all ages
your biological and political jamaat
Who were willing to be your students
Even though you’d never been their teacher
An endless supply of cigarettes
A battle with your publisher for delaying your memoirs
You’d need liberal doses of argument
A vast collection of saris
Some kaftans to be in with your grandchildren
Comrades in the movement
Whom you could rap on the knuckles from time to time
You’d need the honesty to say
Arre, you must stop me, I tend to meander
I’m getting old you know
Put all of this together
And you’d have a very potent brew
By another name it would be called Vinadi
Glasses on nose, cigarette in hand, tea on table, dictation at the ready
Come on, Vinadi, own up, we know you’re up there watching us
And we’ll raise a glass of Old Monk to you tonight
For we know
They don’t make them like you anymore.

With inputs from many feminists across India

 

Equality fight in an unequal world #Feminisn #bookreview #SundayReading


By Deepti Menon, New Indian Express

12th May 2013 12:00 AM

  • Protests by women fighting for their rights have been part of a long history of feminist struggle.
    Protests by women fighting for their rights have been part of a long history of feminist struggle.

Feminism is not being part of an organisation; rather it takes inspiration from past heroines, aiding women to feel a continued responsibility, explains Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like a Feminist. The title is inspired by James Scott’s Seeing Like a State, where the state “seeing” is all powerful, compared to the marginal position of the feminist.

This is a book about women and patriarchy, and about how the feminist views the operation of gendered modes of power. It is divided into six chapters, which deal with vital, interrelated themes.

Efforts have always been made to shield the institution of the patriarchal heterosexual family. Couples who choose inappropriate marriage partners come under the scanner. Women have been relegated to domestic work, which is less valued and unpaid, despite the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976. Domestic work is more demeaning and exhausting than that of a sex worker, probably why 71% of ‘servants’ have moved voluntarily to sex work.

In North India, a woman has no rights in her natal home after she moves to her husband’s home. In Kerala, only vestiges of the matrilineal system are seen. The Hindu Code Bills empowered Hindu women to choose their partners, and marry outside their caste. The Hindu Women’s Right to Property gave widows rights to their husband’s property, but the Hindu Succession Act nullified the position of daughters under matrilineal laws, by granting equal inheritance rights to sons. The three interlinked features of the Indian family are patriarchy, patriliny and vivilocality.

Dowry has spread its tentacles almost everywhere, as women go to their husband’s homes to survive with limited rights, despite the Dowry Prohibition Act which deems both giver and taker guilty. Women, right from childhood, prepare for marriage, which sometimes leads to the ‘implosion of marriage’, when young girls refuse to conform to docile roles of wife and daughter-in-law. The author avers that feminists need to build up the strength to live in ways in which marriage is voluntary, and create alternate non-marriage communities.

In ancient times, the universality of gender as a social category was challenged in African and the North American countries, and even in the lives of the Bhakti saints. But the creation of a distinction between sex and gender is intrinsic to feminism, as from childhood onwards, girls and boys pick up gender-specific forms of behaviour, training to conform to set roles.

In the 1990s, the media began airing sexually explicit images, through cable and television channels. Questions on homosexuality and issues revolving around the civil liberties of eunuchs, bisexual and transgendered people have all been viewed through the lens of the feminist here.

Patriarchal forces call rape a blot against family honour, while feminists denounce it as a crime against a woman’s bodily integrity. The Pink Chaddi protest was a non-violent gesture of ridicule against intolerance. The modern slut walks are the latest chapter in a long, powerful history of inspirational feminist struggle.

Caste politics and patriarchy have stalled the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill to reserve 33% of seats in Parliament for women.

There is mention of the commoditisation of the female body, through advertisements showing scantily clad bodies and pornography. Feminists expose how this outlook can be transformed by thinking of women as consumers instead of victims.

Pregnancy and child bearing are the sole responsibility of the woman. The ideal feminist world is one in which women can control when and under what circumstances they deliver their children. Sexual harassment charges against celebrities, the ban of the veil in France, forcing women badminton players to wear skirts and queer politics have all been touched upon in this revealing book.

Thus, for Nivedita Menon, feminism is not about one triumphant moment against patriarchy, but about the ongoing shift that enables young women to say, “I believe in equal rights for women, but I’m not a feminist.” Many new positions, energies and challenges have transformed the feminist field over the years, and this book takes a bold look at these.

“It comes slowly, slowly, feminism does. But it just keeps on coming!”

 

#Mumbai -Memorial meeting for Professor Lotika Sarkar (1927- 2013) @Mar 13


lot
                                                                                                 Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder Chairperson,

The Spastics Society of India

Invites you to a commemorative event

In fond memory of her Late Aunt

 

To celebrate her glorious life and to salute her efforts in making the country’s laws sensitive  and to uphold gender-justice, social justice and women’s rights

On Wednesday March 13, 2013 from  6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

  

 Professor Lotika Sarkar (1923- 2013)

 Eminent Scholar and Feminist

Renowned feminist scholars, activists of the women’s movement, legal luminaries, media personalities, and activists linked with NGOs and friends will express their tributes

 

At the Auditorium

National Resource Centre for Inclusion, ADAPT

K.C. Marg, Bandra Reclamation, Bandra (W),

Mumbai – 400050

 

The programme will be followed by Tea and snacks

R.S.V.P. Ms. Theresa D’Costa- 9820017792

 

The feminist and the sex worker: Lessons from the Indian experience


Himal Mag
Despite decades of tension between feminists and sex workers, it is finally becoming clear that the former has much to learn from the latter.
alt
Photo: Alessandro Vincenzi

From the earliest days of ‘second wave’ feminism, the issues of choice and consent have been central to feminist thought throughout the world. Much of early feminist analysis focused on how patriarchies manifested themselves in terms of male control over women’s lives: their sexuality and reproduction, their mobility, their work, employment and assets, and their access to and participation in the public realm. This control not only constricted the range of women’s choices, but often denied their right to make choices at all. The issue of consent was fraught with far greater political complexity, and viewed by many feminists with some suspicion, since it was widely used by anti-feminist and religious ideologues to justify gender discrimination. Feminist thinking on consent – connoting acquiescence, willing acceptance or even active support – therefore appeared more often in the context of women’s ‘false consciousness’, as a manifestation of women’s co-option into maintaining patriarchal rule. In terms of both choice and consent, few issues have been more rigorously debated in recent decades than that of sex work; but today, it seems that feminism itself has quite a bit to learn from sex workers.

In the Indian context – on which this article focuses – analysis by both scholars and activists has addressed the question of feminism’s ambivalent approach to sex work and sex workers, and the implicit lack of understanding of how choice and consent operate in this realm. There are several possible roots to the feminist dilemma: unconscious internalisation, for example, of Brahminical patriarchy and Hindu nationalist reconstructions of the home and family as a sanctified site of ‘pure Indian-ness’, and the role of women’s chastity and sexual exclusivity in maintaining this purity. Similar constructions of women as guardians of communal identity, purity and the highest moral values were visible among Muslim and Christian communities as well.

These historical and social processes basically constructed women’s bodies, particularly their sexuality and ability to reproduce, as capable of maintaining or polluting caste and communal purity. Combining with tenets of Brahminical Hinduism – which permeated not only other castes through what sociologist M N Srinivas termed the ‘Sanskritisation’ process, but non-Hindu communities as well – a sliding scale of chastity was prescribed. Oppressed-caste women had to be sexually monogamous within marriage, but simultaneously available to upper-caste men, while upper-caste women’s chastity was non-negotiable and strictly imposed through the additional measures of restricted mobility and seclusion. Some parts of women’s bodies naturally became more sacrosanct than others – the vagina, for instance. As such, a woman who sold the labour of her hands and feet was still considered a good woman, no matter how filthy or arduous the work, or even if she belonged to an untouchable caste; but one who sold sexual labour was beyond the pale. So, while sex workers were part of the social landscape in every part of the country, they were symbols of the fall from grace that kept ‘good women’ under chaste control.

In this writer’s opinion, this is the hidden heart of the matter. Emerging from societies that held women’s sexual organs as a vehicle both to purity and pollution, Southasian feminists were, until recently, unable to critically examine the patriarchal underpinnings of this paradigm. The first sign of this internalisation was in the tacit hierarchy that emerged in forms of violence against women, where rape became implicitly categorised as the most heinous crime a woman could suffer. It could be argued that this was mainly due to the stigma attached to the rape victim, where the social consequences that ensued were far heavier than, for instance, a victim of domestic violence, who would at least be pitied or receive some grudging acknowledgement, if not justice. In a sense, rape was like leprosy – leading to social ostracism – while domestic violence was like tuberculosis, which, though far more contagious, elicits sympathy and support. But this difference in feminist reaction could also have been due to feminism’s deeply embedded but unquestioned sense that violation of the most sacrosanct part of a woman’s body was the ultimate, and therefore most unforgivable, expression of male dominance and control.

Therefore, sex work and sex workers presented a unique challenge to the feminist discourse, and resulted in several positions (or divides) in feminist approaches to sex work. But at the root has always been the fundamental dilemma: How could feminists accept prostitution – the sale of sexual services by women to men – as a legitimate form of employment, when it represented the grossest expression of women’s commodification? For many feminists, only two options seemed acceptable: to treat the individual prostitute as a victim lacking in agency, one who symbolises the ultimate oppressiveness of the patriarchal regime, and who is in need of rescue and rehabilitation; or as women of false consciousness, morally decrepit agents of the patriarchal system, whose work results in the oppression of other women. However, given that a large number of India’s feminist founding mothers came out of left political parties, a third strand also emerged. This line of thought did not engage in moral judgment, but instead argued that because sex work is a form of work, all labour rights and protections must be extended to sex workers.

Meanwhile, underlying all these feminist positions was the basic assumption that a world without sex work would be a better place – therefore making them political bedfellows of religious and political conservatives engaged in campaigns against sex trafficking.

Not hapless victims
In India, encounters between organised sex workers and feminist groups have been infrequent and strained. Sex-worker organisations have never been invited to participate in national conferences of women’s groups; in fact, in the early 1990s, a tentative attempt by a local sex-workers group to attend such a national conference created acute discomfort among the organisers, who rejected the request on grounds that the group did not constitute a ‘feminist’ organisation. Sex workers are puzzled by why the dialogue with feminists is predicated upon an assumption that they must renounce – or, at least, express an intention to renounce – their occupation, or reiterate the ‘hapless victim’ mythology. For their part, feminists wonder why sex workers expect their support on issues such as violence, police harassment or legal reform, while making their occupation itself a non-negotiable.

Another curious element in feminist approaches to sex work has been the tendency to isolate analysis of sex work from other forms of work performed by women, including those from similar classes, skill levels and mobility. Studies of women workers in the unorganised sector, both in India and elsewhere, have repeatedly underlined high levels of exploitation, sexual harassment, poor working conditions, violence at the hands of employers or agents, wide range of health hazards, and lack of social security and legal protection. Almost all of these studies, as well as the experiences of activist and women’s organisations across India, testify that poor women in a range of informal-sector occupations routinely face sexual exploitation and violence – the supposed hallmarks of sex work – as well as a form of trafficking, when they migrate in search of livelihoods. Consequently, feminist organising within the informal sector has been imbued with the assumption that women have the agency and capacity to challenge their exploitation and mobilise for their rights within these occupations. For some reason, however, the nature of their victimhood has been viewed differently from that of women in sex work, an equally informal occupation.

The only right that sex workers have been able to mobilise for has been to be ‘rescued’ from sex work itself. Indeed, the only time a link is made between women workers in general and sex work in particular is to argue that one of the negative impacts of economic reforms is the migration and entry into sex work of women from impoverished families. Thus, analysts like Manjima Bhattacharya argue that sex workers are marginalised from three directions: ‘the criminality associated with their work, the morality that keeps them ostracised, and the informality of their labour which deprives them of bank accounts, insurance, or employment security.’ She concludes: ‘Recognition of their labour and economic contribution is one of the first steps in mainstreaming sex workers and according them dignity and rights.’

Ironically, religious and political conservatives have usurped some feminist discourse on sex work in their anti-sex trafficking crusades. Outlining a series of assumptions and positions on prostitution adopted by some feminists and anti-trafficking groups, researchers Sandhya Rao and Cath Sluggett have written:

Traditionalist and conservative groups use the feminist construct that prostitution violates women per se, but their argument has very little to do with women’s equality. Rather they feel that prostitution threatens traditional sexual arrangements … The anti-trafficking movement has drawn upon radical feminism, evaluating prostitution as that which degrades all women. This is connected to a wider analysis of power and male domination. Radical feminists would [deny] that their arguments are based in morality; yet the moral message is evident in their claims … an idea of female sexuality that is contaminated by sex and all the more so when sex is separated from love and exchanged for money. None of these understandings leave room for the female sex worker to speak of her own subjective experience. In this way, the depiction of the sex worker as a subjugated, helpless victim, living a life of misery, needing rescue and rehabilitation, becomes essential to justify the anti-trafficking movement. In fact, this has little to do with the reality or self-image of sex workers themselves. Seizing upon stories of atrocities of rescued sex workers, while ignoring the empowered narratives and analysis of sex-worker organisations and movements, is a studied and conscious process.

The rapid pace of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Subcontinent, and the demonisation and targeting of female sex workers in prevention rhetoric and programmes, finally brought some feminist activists – especially from the health sector – into a closer alliance with sex-workers organisations. The injustice of focusing on sex workers as significant carriers of the disease, rather than their male clients, brought at least some feminist groups to support sex-worker organisations in pushing for condom use and the right to reject a client believed to be infected. These organisations were also able to demonstrate that, when organised, the capacity of sex workers to choose safe sex, or even to refuse to service non-compliant clients, was far superior to that of the majority of Indian women.

Over the course of this long and rather torturous historical relationship, many feminists – including this writer – have slowly come to re-examine the approach to sex work. This reappraisal has been largely due to the growing visibility, views and compelling analysis of sex-worker movements in India and beyond, and the open challenges that these have thrown to feminist organisations and the national women’s movement as a whole. The turning point occurred at the National Autonomous Women’s Conference, held in Kolkata in 2006 after a gap of nearly a decade, where women of all backgrounds from across the country came together to share their experiences. Unlike previous such gatherings, however, this one included women with disabilities, hijras and, most conspicuously, sex workers – and the latter strongly voiced their views. Thus, over the past few years a new dialogue has begun, and many feminist scholars, researchers and activists are beginning to listen and learn, rather than lecture or prescribe.

The citizenship approach

alt
Art: Venantius J Pinto

Organised, politically aware sex workers are making their claims within a new framework. A composite of their arguments for visibility, voice and rights would read something like this: We may not have had a choice about whether or not to do sex work, or the other choices available to us for livelihood and survival were worse. When and if we find better alternatives, we ourselves will change occupations. But for now, we consent to be in this occupation, or we choose to remain in it as the most economically advantageous option at this time. We are neither victims nor harlots, but citizens. We demand recognition as workers and all our rights as citizens.

What can feminists learn from this? First, the views of organised sex workers and their movements are framed within the discourse of citizenship rights, an approach that feminist analyses of sex work have never used. At its most basic, citizenship is defined as the relationship between an individual and a particular state, and defines citizens as having both rights and responsibilities within those settings. However, feminist critiques of this theory have addressed the ways that this kind of definition fails to address unequal power dynamics, such as based on gender, race, class, etc. Organised sex workers, among other politically marginalised groups, have been able to push for the recognition of this discrimination and hold the state and its machinery accountable to them.

This claiming of citizenship rights places sex workers in the same space as other marginalised and ‘illegalised’ constituencies; the claims made by, for instance, slum- and pavement dwellers are very similar. What is striking is that in embracing the citizenship approach, both sex workers and other groups facing exclusion and stigma are shifting the debate to new ground, away from the arenas of moral probity and social sanction and towards citizen rights. Certain organised sex workers’ groups have negotiated such rights with town municipalities, the police and even politicians – the successes of the VAMP collective in negotiating basic services with the municipality and improved protection against violence from the police in Sangli town, and of the IFPEC network’s electoral poll boycott to gain political support for their demands in Chennai, are excellent examples. The state and local authorities have been forced to deal with these women as citizens, not as sex workers; in so doing, they have demonstrated their choice of equality and refusal to consent to discrimination.

Another lesson comes from the possibilities that open up because of the way sex work breaks down otherwise rigid moral and social boundaries. While in no way seeking to minimise the enormous range of problems that sex work entails, we must also recognise that for women, sex work can paradoxically be liberating: they no longer have to behave within the parameters of the ‘good’ woman, or observe the cultural norms, taboos or submissiveness typically expected of other women. In such a situation, women sex workers are free to make choices that are not available to their ‘good’ sisters. They can speak openly, for instance, about the violence, humiliation and duplicity of clients, police, pimps, lovers and the larger community in a way that poor women in the mainstream of society often need years of consciousness-raising to emulate.

Of course, this kind of voice and power requires organisation. The evidence is quite clear, for instance, that ‘upmarket’ individual sex workers actually have less power to set the terms of their work than poorer but organised women working in brothels or red-light districts. And like unorganised-sector workers everywhere, unorganised sex workers are exploited by the structures of the sex industry itself – by brothel owners, pimps, police and others. On the other hand, even unorganised sex workers are no worse off than other unorganised workers, whose hours, low wages, health hazards and lack of social security receive scant attention from state machinery.

The further lesson for feminists here is that despite decades of organising among diverse classes of women, feminist movements have not been as successful in catalysing this sense of liberation in the most intimate sphere of women’s lives – their relationships with their own bodies, or in their sexual lives. As a consequence, feminists have collectively been far less effective in enabling women to negotiate sexual interaction with their partners –ensuring condom use, or not consenting to sex when they are ill, in advanced pregnancy, or simply too tired, for instance – that organised sex workers consider a right. Furthermore, even the limited choice that organised sex workers have in setting the terms of their trade appears more advanced than what has been accomplished through organising among other unorganised women workers, with a few notable exceptions. Indeed, it is hard to find examples of movements of unorganised women workers that are as vibrant, visible and vocal, or have made as many significant gains, as sex-worker movements have accomplished for their members in some parts of India.

Lessons from sex workers
Even within the domain of sexuality, sex-worker movements are pushing feminist theory by re-positioning sexual services – and, hence, the entire morass of choice and consent – in a fundamental way. They have taken sex out of the domain not only of morality but of the relationship paradigm entirely. The members of these movements are saying that providing sex can be a relatively uncomplicated physical service similar to nursing or cleaning. Therefore, it can also be a livelihood choice: one can freely consent to be in sex work, especially for those whose skill set and socio-economic location restricts access to ‘better’ work.

Organised sex workers also seem to suggest that when they mobilise politically conscious movements, they can assert equal or greater power and control than women in equally un-regulated sectors of the market. For instance, they can negotiate condom use, working hours, time off, housing and habitat, and health care; they can also choose clients, choose the kinds of services they will provide, and resist and penalise violence of various kinds. And they seem to be telling feminists that condemnation of sex work is evidence of their own co-option into the patriarchal belief system, an unquestioned acceptance of the mythology of the sanctity of sexual interactions.

Finally, sex-worker movements are breaking through the rhetoric of the ‘poor, hapless victim’, and of the stranglehold of external actors in setting the terms of the discussion. Sex workers are becoming the subjects of their own analysis, breaking free of this ideological and conceptual stranglehold. They are asserting their consent to be involved in sex work – whether they entered it by choice or not – and consequently challenging the victim imagery. But more importantly, they are making shocking and uncomfortable arguments about their choice in remaining within the line of work: that it gives them a higher income, more purchasing power, better long-term economic security and independence, and far less drudgery than the other options available to them. How can members of such a dubious, stigmatised profession make such seemingly audacious, non-victimised claims? Further, how many feminist movements can claim to have parleyed their organising into the sort of political power that many sex-worker movements have demonstrated?

If feminists such as myself re-examine our views in light of the radically different perspectives offered by sex-worker movements, we would almost certainly arrive at a different definition of notions of choice and consent. We would recast choice not as just ‘real’ or ‘false’, but as occurring within a spectrum that is defined by context. Consent would be looked at as not only a manifestation of ‘agency’ within socially recognised institutions (marriage, family, state, market) or for socially acceptable alternatives, but as the right to choose a social situation outside of these structures. A long-term partnership for the production of new paradigms and strategies is the need of the day, and I believe that sex workers are a key source of learning for the future of the feminist project. The question is whether we have the humility and courage to ask for a seat at their table, rather than invite them to ours.

~ Srilatha Batliwala is a scholar associated with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, based in Bengaluru.

The Mind And Heart Of Lotika Sarkar, Legal Radical, Friend, Feminist


March 8, 2013, Usha Ramanathan

LOTIKA-SARKARUSHA RAMANATHAN via Women’s Feature Service

We have to marvel at how the world has changed since r*** was a four letter word, and young Lotika Sarkar (1923-2013), the first woman lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, shocked the department by teaching rape to her students.

This is what happens when you let women into hallowed institutions of learning:  They don’t understand that, even when they are allowed to be seen, they may not be heard about the obscene. This was our LS-given, early version of the Vagina Monologues, without the theatre. Shift to the present: I suspect some will tell us that the battle to take rape to the classroom is far from over; except, thanks to LS, it is prudery that is on the back foot now.

When the letter protesting the ‘Mathura’ judgment was written, it constituted many firsts. It was the first time that an ‘open letter’ was written to the Chief Justice of India – braving its contempt powers. A first for law teachers – Upendra Baxi, Vasudha Dhagamwar,  Raghunath Kelkar and LS – questioning the legitimacy of the court’s decisions. The first time the cover of silence shrouding custodial rape was torn asunder by the written word. It is one of the contradictions of those times that, in the wake of the ‘Mathura’ letter, the law was changed to make it a crime to reveal the identity of a victim of rape. Yet, ‘Mathura’ remains ‘Mathura’, while Tukaram and Ganpat haunt the peripheries of feminist consciousness. Such is the stuff of which iconisation is made.

A while later, LS was to advocate caution in shifting the burden of proof: A matter that continues to need explaining, and demands debate – especially with the state having used terrorism as a causative agent for extraordinary laws!

In a haze of cigarette smoke, in a room in Delhi’s Centre for Women’s Development Studies, dwarfed by the personalities of the two women in it, sits a third listening to a narrative unfold. “When they set up the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI), no one in government expected the report that we produced,” chuckles Vina Mazumdar. LS smiles wryly. No one in the committee had anticipated the work, travel and discovery either. Soon, though, they had formed teams, and were coursing in all directions, meeting women of all ilk and hues, life experiences and dispositions all over the country.

Before they knew it, the women they met unalterably radicalised them. The Status of Women in India Report is testimony to what they learnt from the women who spoke to them.

It was on reservation in legislative bodies that LS and Vinadi dissented. You see, we had not gone looking for how the political system should be changed for women. But wherever we went, women would raise the problem of political participation. The report had to reflect what they were saying. The Note of Dissent was to resurface years later with the Women’s Reservation Bill.

Thinking back, this was a casual conversation while taking time off for a smoke. If this is the stuff of which feminist gossip is made, it is no wonder that the women’s movement is now so articulate about how the law needs to change, and where it needs more thought; a far cry from a government that seems clueless that neither patriarchy nor paternalism can provide answers to the women’s question.

Feminism, as feminists know, has its share of mirth, even when it is serious business. The serious business of feminism was on display when LS was co-petitioner in the public interest petition on the Agra Protective Home. ‘Protective home’. We know what that means. The conditions were abominable, the rules were like those of a punitive institution, and codes of civilised conduct seemed to stop at the doorstep.

In 1994, when she was over 70, it fell to LS to pursue the case in the Supreme Court. She was daunted, but determined. What was at stake? An illustration: Now that the ‘Home’ was under the court’s scrutiny, it had directed the District Judge to file a monthly report on the ‘Home’. In this document that was accessible to anyone who cared to look at court papers was the record for every woman in the ‘Home’, tying up her identity with her HIV status. On August 30, 1994, the court directed that all persons testing positive be segregated! On October 10, 1994, armed with a doctor’s opinion, LS stood her ground with a reluctant court to change its earlier order. Fighting prejudice is an everyday task for the feminist, right? It tired her out, and she did the rest of the case with Muralidhar – Murali to LS – by her side, but she stayed the course.

There was no fuss about LS. Just meticulous preparation and grounded work. Ask Gobind, Khem Singh, Dayalji in the Indian Law Institute library, and they would tell you that “Madam worked very hard.” And, they would say, in voices tinged with affection and respect that they were happy to take the books to her, but, no, she will go to the racks and get the books down herself. Mutual respect, no hierarchy, unacceptance of nonsense, and a deep sense of fairness. No
pre-judgment, no prejudice; but excellent judgment.

Students who are now teachers speak of being ticked off by her, and then treated to a cup of coffee in her room. There was never any malice, jealous self-interest or meanness about her. Sure, there were those she did not like or trust – but isn’t that what judgment is about? There is just one person about whom I have heard her say ‘he should be punished’, and that after extraordinary provocation. Need I say more? With her friends, it was affection, jollity, respect and a free exchange of thought, opinion and … well, lunch.

Have you had payesh with mini-oranges? What about lauki in milk with ginger and an indefinable something? Or palak in a million combinations? Ah, that tomato chutney – we have to find another name for it that will do it justice. The three-tiered dabba was not hers once she reached ILI, CWDS, perhaps the Law Faculty too? Her most delectable concoctions were made from – guess what? – leftovers. The thing is, it was true. A visiting friend may leave some mushrooms in a form that does little to add pleasure to the palate; overnight, it
would become a creation whose recipe must be written; except, it had just one ingredient – leftovers!

Politics and pleasure were on the same canvas. Who among us remembers LS, laid up after a hip surgery, spending the evening before 2006 was to arrive, with friends, wine and chocolate cake, discussing a freshly minted Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act which, she angsted, she needed to understand.

When Anthony Lester writes, about LS, that “she changed my life ……. But for Monu, I would not be a human rights lawyer”, he is expressing a sentiment oft-voiced. At the release of LS’s Festchrift (1999), I am told, the hall was full to overflowing. As the proceedings drew to a close, as indeed they must, there was a spontaneous standing ovation. I didn’t hear it then, because I wasn’t
there. But, after four years of sharing a home and being witness to her inexhaustible charm, cheer, comradeliness, compassion, concern, quiet – very quiet – dignity, trust and fairness, we know why the applause will never stop.

 

Women Bill to curb sexual harassment in workplaces passed in Rajya Sabha #Vaw #Womenrights


 #India - Lets  ALL Resolve for  FREEDOM  from VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN this New Year #mustshare

 

PTI

Cases of sexual harassment of women at workplace, including against domestic help, will have to be disposed of by inhouse committees within a period of 90 days failing which penalty of Rs 50,000 would be imposed.

Repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, can even lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.

The Bill, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha, was unanimously passed by Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath promising to follow up the legislation with strict rules for its implementation.

The legislation brings in its ambit even domestic workers and agriculture labourers, both organised and unorganised sectors.

As per the Act, sexual harassment includes any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography.

The acts or behaviour whether directly, or by implication, include any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs. 50,000.

It has also provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges.

The Bill makes it mandatory that all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces should have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment.

The Act defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on temporary, permanent, part time or full time basis, but does not include any member of the family of the employer.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which had examined the Bill, had held the firm view that preventive aspects reflected in it has to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the 1997 Vishaka case.

The apex court’s judgement in the case not only defines sexual harassment at workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action.

 

#India- Sexual Harassment case- Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGIHU) #Vaw


 Adrienne Rich`s #Rape- but the hysteria in your voice pleases him best #poem #Vaw
हमेशा विवादों में रहनेवाले महात्मा गांधी अंतरराष्ट्रीय हिंदी विश्वविद्यालयवर्धा में आजकल एक अध्यापक द्वारा एक छात्रा के यौन-उत्पीड़न का मामला दबे मुंह चर्चा में है। साहित्य विभाग के एक युवा असिस्टेंट प्रोफेसर ने स्त्री अध्ययन विभाग की एक छात्रा को पढ़ाने के बहाने अपने घर बुलाकर उसके साथ कई बार शारीरिक छेड़छाड़ की और चुप रहने की धमकी भी दी। यहीं नहीं इस अध्यापक ने अपने प्रभावों का इस्तेमाल करके उस लड़की को एम.ए. कोर्स में फेल भी करा दिया।

यह अध्यापक इसी विश्वविद्यालय में साहित्य विभाग का पूर्व छात्र रहा है और छात्र जीवन से ही अपनी लंपटई  और कुकर्मों के लिए बदनाम है। सूत्रों की मानें तो इसके पहले भी यह कई लड़कियों के साथ ऐसे कुकृत्य कर चुका है। यह अध्यापक आए दिन लड़कों के हॉस्टल जाकर उनके साथ शराब-सिगरेट पीता हुआ पाया जाता है। सबसे मज़ेदार बात यह है कि यह आदमी अपने विभाग में स्त्री-विमर्श का टॉपिक पढ़ाता है। भुक्तभोगी लड़की द्वारा शिकायत करने के बाद महिला सेल में अभी इसकी जांच चल रही है। लेकिन पूरे कैंपस को पता है कि विश्वविद्यालय के कुलपतिजो अपने स्त्री-विरोधी और दलित-विरोधी रुख के लिए जाने जाते हैंउन्होंने लगातार पड़ते बाहरी दबाव के बाद महिला सेल को यह निर्देश दिया है कि इस मामले को रफा-दफा कर दिया जाए। महिला सेल की चल रही ढुलमुल जांच-प्रकिया को देखते हुए यह बात सच लग रही है

 कैंपस में सबको यह पता है आरोपी अध्यापक कुलपति के सामने जाकर अपनी गलती स्वीकार कर चुका है और पैर पकड़कर माफी भी मांग ली है। लड़की अल्पसंख्यक समुदाय की है और गरीब परिवार से है जबकि आरोपी ब्राह्मण वर्ग से है और इसका श्वसुर इस यूनिवर्सिटी में कर्मचारी रह चुका है। वह भी इस केस को खत्म करवाने के काम में जुटा हुआ है। कुछ लोग पैसे के लेन-देन की बात भी कह रहे हैं। बाकी इस वक्त विश्वविद्यालय के अधिकांश ब्राह्मण प्राध्यापक,कर्मचारी और छात्र आरोपी अध्यापक के समर्थन में खड़े हैं। कुछ प्रगतिशील छात्र-छात्राओं ने लड़की के पक्ष में हस्ताक्षर अभियान भी चलाया है। लेकिन कुलपति या महिला सेल पर उसका कोई असर नहीं है।

महिला सेल की अध्यक्षा साहित्य विभाग की हैं और गर्ल्सहॉस्टल की वार्डेन भी हैं। वार्डेन साहिबा केवल लड़कियों को परेशान करने और उनको सताने के लिए जानी जाती हैं। इस कैंपस में लड़कियां पहले से ही सुरक्षित नहीं हैं और इस घटना के बाद उनमें और डर व्याप्त है । आरोपी अध्यापक के खिलाफ जांच जारी है लेकिन वह अभी भी कक्षाएँ ले रहा हैजो कि गैर-कानूनी है।इस बीच वह जांच कमेटी के कुछ सदस्यों के घर जाकर चाय-नाश्ता भी कर चुका है।
इस घटना से आम छात्र-छात्राओं में काफी आक्रोश है। कैम्पस के बाहर भी माहौल गरम है। लेकिन इस विश्वविद्या

लय में केवल एक ही कानून चलता है और वह है कुलपति विभूति नारायण राय का और उनकी कृपा आरोपी अध्यापक पर है। सो मामला अब तक ठंडे बस्ते में है।

email from wardha university <save.mgahv@gmail.com

 

Why socialists need feminism #womenrights #sundayreading


Published on Friday, 22 February 2013 15:21

By David Camfield

The relationship between socialism and feminism has been getting more attention in online discussions recently. This is both for good reasons — such as the article by Sharon Smith of the International Socialist Organization in the US that looks critically at how the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, which greatly influenced the ISO’s politics, has dealt with feminism — and bad, above all the current crisis in the SWP set off by the disgraceful waythat allegations of rape by a leading member were handled.

The idea that socialists should be feminists too is uncontroversial to many revolutionary socialists. But why socialism needs feminism is still worth spelling out.

Every society in the world today is shaped by the oppression of women on the basis of their gender (patriarchy/sexism). There are, of course, importance differences in what form this oppression takes because gender relations are always interwoven with class, race, sexuality and other social relations, which vary (for example, patriarchy in Canada isn’t identical to patriarchy in Cuba).

Around the world, women taking action to challenge sexism commonly (thought not always) identify themselves as feminists. If we define feminism in its widest sense as opposition to sexism — which is what it means in everyday speech today — it should be obvious why socialists should be feminists.

However, some socialists who are dedicated supporters of women’s liberation don’t consider themselves feminists. As Smith notes, some Marxists including some in her own political current haven’t “understood the need to defend feminism, and to appreciate the enormous accomplishments of the women’s movement, even after the 1960s era gave way to the backlash” against feminism and other movements of oppressed people.

But some socialists who have defended and appreciated feminism and been active in struggles against gender oppression have still insisted that socialism doesn’t need feminism and so they’re not feminists (this is what I was taught in my early years as a socialist, in the late 1980s as a member of the International Socialists — some of whose members had the kind of really sectarian anti-feminist stance that Smith criticizes). Why?

The best case for this position is that revolutionary socialist politics are deeply committed to liberation from all forms of oppression, including gender oppression, and therefore don’t need feminism. This often goes along with the belief that socialist-feminism is flawed because it advocates both united working-class struggle against exploitation and all forms of oppression (seen as the correct orientation) and autonomous (women-only) organizing against patriarchy. Women-only organizing is seen as undermining working-class politics because it allegedly means cross-class politics that don’t recognize that the interests of working-class women aren’t the same as those of middle-class or ruling-class women.

But even at its best this “socialist, not feminist” approach won’t do. Its claim that because socialism is about universal human emancipation it doesn’t need feminism evades a real problem: actually-existing socialist organizing and politics aren’t the ideal that these socialists talk about. They exist within patriarchal societies. As a result, the actions and thinking of socialists will inevitably be limited and deformed by the patriarchal gender relations that we’re committed to uprooting. So socialists need to develop our politics by learning from the actually-existing struggle against patriarchy (as well as learning from history). To do this we need feminism.

It’s feminists who are shedding light on how women are oppressed and grappling with how to challenge various manifestations of oppression, from violence against women including sexual assault to eating disorders to how families, workplaces, schools and other institutions pressure women to conduct themselves in particular ways to sexism in contemporary science and many more. Not all feminists equally, of course. Feminist politics range from revolutionary socialist-feminism all the way to pro-imperialist liberalism, and there are lively debates within feminism.

But it’s feminists who are on the cutting edge of whatever progress is being made in understanding and fighting patriarchy. Socialists should be part of that action. Socialists need to learn from the best feminisms (both socialist-feminism and others) to deepen our understanding of oppression and how to fight for liberation. The “socialist, not feminist” approach is a barrier to doing this.

“Socialist, not feminist” politics downplay the reality that patriarchy has its own dynamics. These aren’t separate from capitalism and class, but they can’t be reduced to them either. Marx’s theory of capitalism has been developed by Marxist-feminism to explain why specific features of the system perpetuate gender oppression.This is extremely important. However, it doesn’t fully explain patriarchy. To do that we also need to draw on — and develop — feminist theory in a historical and materialist way.

Socialist opposition to combining mixed-gender and autonomous women’s organizing is a mistake. Far from detracting from united working-class struggles, women-only organizing can be an effective tactic for making them possible. In patriarchal societies, mixed-gender organizing is never a level playing field for women. Organizing independently can help women to identify and tackle sexism in mixed-gender activism and make mixed-gender organizing more anti-sexist. It can be a way for women to take initiatives without having to wait for men to catch up with them. And there’s no reason that it inevitably sacrifices the interests of working-class women to those of middle-class or ruling-class women.

Another problem with the “socialist, not feminist” approach is that it tends to promote a culture among socialists in which sexism isn’t challenged as vigorously as it needs to be. To the extent that it insulates socialists from feminism, it makes it easier for socialist men to avoid dealing with tough questions about our own behaviour. Insulation from feminism can also make it harder for socialist women to challenge sexism among socialists.

Socialists worthy of the name are committed to universal human emancipation. But there’s a big difference between proclaiming a commitment and making it real. To make our politics more truly what we say we want them to be, socialists need feminism. We should be feminist socialists, and proud of it.

David Camfield is one of the editors of New Socialist Webzine.

 

#MUMBAI- One billion Rising for freedom from fear #1billionrising #reasontorise #vaw #menrise


meeta

By Kamayani Bali Mahabal, 13TH fEB 2013

tOMMORROW is   Februray  14  what does it stand stand for? Valentine day, right ?, no there is  another connotation attached to it, this year globallY it will be the  Violence free- day. The movement is aptly named ‘One Billion  Rising’, and it has been started by feminist writer, Eve Ensler, who
wrote and performed ‘The Vagina Monologues‘, 15 years ago.
The figure of one billion has been worked out on the basis of  available statistics that one out of three women on this earth will
experience violence in her lifetime, which means a staggering one  billion women on this planet would be impacted by violence. “Rise and  dance” is the vociferous message of One Billion Rising – a global campaign demanding the end of violence against women.On February 14, there will be 13, 000 organizations in  192 countries around the world  holding noisy, energetic events encouraging “activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities, women and men” to “strike, dance and rise”. In > India many cities and  groups are part of OBR both from urban and  rural areas

Women are not a homogenous group, The majority of the world’s poorest > people are women, who are further affected by discrimination if they  belong to minority groups. Women suffer disproportionately from  discriminatory labour practices and are frequently forced into  underground or informal sectors. Women who are discriminated against  on the basis of both gender and caste  are frequently subject to  violence. In armed conflicts, women are sometimes explicitly targeted  because of their ethnic background. Rape and other forms of violence  against women have been used as weapons of war in conflicts throughout history. Violence against women has been a major trope of the women’s > movement in India, right from the incidents of rape against women like  Mathura and Rameeza Bee in the 1970s. Over the last few months, especially after the Delhi Gang Rape , One Billion Rising campaign, we  have  revisited this theme , coming together to recommend to Justice  verma committee,. In  Mumbai  what t is unique about this is event  is  being ‘ most diverse and inclusive”, we have women representing variosy  marginalized sections of our society- the disabled, dalit, sexual > minorities, muslims ,participating to say  no to violence, and to also give a message that women with different needs have different rights

In  Mumbai , several woman organizations, youth groups and Bollywood  celebrities have come together to show  Mumbai’s ‘ solidarity towards  a violence-free city. The campaign one billion rising- Freedom from  fear, on 14th February will be the beginning of
These one billion rising- Freedom from fear is calling  all Mumbaikars  to join the mass event, which has rainbow hues of music, dance, poetry, and Rap.  Farhan Akhtar will be singing  and  reciting his  poem penned after the Delhi Gang Rape incident. Meeta
Vashisht will do an excerpt from the renowned performance of ‘ lal  dedh,   Young rappers including women rapper will showcase their talent on the  issue. and Swanmg group will perfomr. Maa ni main nahi darna .  Rahul Bose  would recite Man prayer.

Swaang cultural group will for the first time perform live tehir protest song maa ni meri which they wrote after delhi Gang Rape

The program  will end with the  flash dance Indian National anthem of ‘ break the  chains” adapted in Hindi. and we will dance on it

NOT TO MISS COME JOIN US ENTRY FREE

Youc an find video here

and the mP3 youc an find here

https://soundcloud.com/kractivist/one-billion-rising-indian

 In a patriarchal society like ours, the demands for a  non-discriminatory mindset and a gender sensitive society are not  going to be achieved in day or a month or even a year. It needs  consistent and self-directed actions by all of us without delaying or deferring the responsibility on each other, and one billion rising Freedom from fear is one such attempt towards a continuous process of changing mind sets . Let us make it a great event highlighting women’s rights and equality in the city, all are invited and entry is free

CALLING MUMBAI JOIN US

BANDRA AMPHITHEATRE, BANDSTAND, NEAR TAJ LANDSEND  5.30PM ONWARDS

for mroe information contact kamayani 9820749204

PL JOIN US ON FACEBOOK- https://www.facebook.com/OneBillionRisingMumbai

PL RSVP EVENT-https://www.facebook.com/events/158240337660310/

 

#India- The Criminal Law Ordinance on Sexual Assault – Cut, Paste and Shock #Vaw #womenrights


 #India- Chastity, Virginity, Marriageability, and Rape Sentencing #Vaw  #Justice #mustread

FEBRUARY 5, 2013

Guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI 

Once the Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 was uploaded, circulated and read many times, an overwhelming desire to mark the ordinance to all one’s students as an example on how not to frame laws has grown. Yet, explain one must, why the current law on sexual assault is so bizarre, even if we do not bring in the so-called controversial elements and keep to the text of the ordinance.

The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 begins with the definition of sexual assault as a gender-neutral offence. It does not make an exception to state that women do not rape men in everyday contexts under s. 375. Since such an exception is not added, and the ordinance specifies that ‘sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under sixteen years of age, is not sexual assault’, we are faced with a confounding and deeply misogynist legal consequence. Wives, we are told cannot prosecute husbands for sexually assaulting them. But since sexual assault is gender neutral without any exceptions and the marital rape exemption is not extended to husbands, now husbands can accuse wives of sexual assault but wives can never prosecute husbands for sexual assault!

To retain the marital rape exemption strikes at the heart of women’s bodily autonomy and integrity. However, to limit the exemption to wives, and allow husbands the legal remedy to file criminal complaints against their wives on the ground of sexual assault is absolutely absurd, if not totally misogynist.

The Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report had come up with a clear formulation of rape and sexual assault. Rape in everyday contexts was not gender-neutral viz., perpetrators. It specified perpetrators of rape as men, and identified victims as gender plural (any person irrespective of gender or sexual orientation). In the instance of sexual assault, gangrape and aggravated rape [under s. 376 (1) & (2)], were constructed as gender-neutral offencesviz, perpetrators and victims. Furthermore, the marital rape exemption was deleted and it was recommended that marriage should neither be the basis for presuming consent nor should any third person than wife be allowed to lodge such a complaint (to address the misuse issue). In everyday contexts, especially in intimate relationships and marriages, this definition is sensitive to the power dynamics between men and women; while recognising that in prisons, police stations, custodial homes, hospitals, in fiduciary relationships and gang rape women may be perpetrators. It is critical to understand why this definition is important breakthrough in the debates on gender neutrality so far. This definition not only recognises the bodily autonomy of women but also recognises the bodily integrity of men (irrespective of sexual orientation or gendered identity) and transgendered persons. It does not split the victims into distinct categories based on identity and therefore avoids the medicalization of sexual identity. Given the heated debates on gender neutrality, the JVC managed to define rape as a crime of patriarchy, which is not limited to women as victims, although women have predominantly the target of sexual violence.

Some may argue that this definition still leaves out certain forms of violence, which find place in intimacy of a same sex relationship, or essentializes women. But remember, the JVC does not recommend the deletion of s. 377 IPC, nor do other forms of criminalisation of same sex relationships find redress. For instance, Modi (2011) describes lesbianism as tribadism and says “lesbian women can be so morbidly jealous of such woman with who they are inverted in love, that they are sometimes incited to commit even murder” (Modi 2011:684). These are statements of prejudice, which construct lesbians as a “criminal type”. And these find no redress.

The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013also juxtaposes gender neutrality with the retention of s. 377 IPC. To retain unnatural sexual offences in the IPC means to blur the distinction between consent and lack of consent, to validate the damning judicial discourse on sodomy and validate heterosexist bias against sexual minorities. Not to include the repeal of s. 377 in the ordinance, just because the JVC does not do so, and even though the 172nd Law Commission recommended such a deletion in 2000 is a scandal. It is unintelligible since s. 377 IPC characterises sexual assault as unnatural sex and does not allow any person to consent to “unnatural” sex. If the prime concern is with expanding the definition of consent; and ensuring bodily autonomy or providing protection from sexual assault to all persons, naming the experience of sexual violence as unnatural sex, or calling consensual sex, unnatural is illogical, if not ideologically violent.

Further, sexual assault is defined without any gradation of different offences, in terms of severity of violence or the nature of violence. Section 375 (a-c) defines as sexual assault as the penetration of bodily parts or other objects into bodily orifices without consent. Section 375 (d) holds that a person commits sexual assault if s/he ‘applies his mouth to the penis, vagina, anus, urethra of another person or makes such person to do so with him or any other person’ without consent. Section 375 (e) holds that when any person ‘touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the person or makes the person touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of that person or any other person’ without consent, it amounts to sexual assault[note that the cut and paste job, evident from the word “he” to designate the perpetrator]. These are all forms of sexual assault “except where such penetration or touching is carried out for proper hygienic or medical purposes”.

The use of the word hygienic is totally mysterious, and dangerous—since it allows a crafty defence lawyer to convert the experience of sexual assault into a sanitized lesson in hygiene. Further, to allow penetration for medical purposes and not even minimally mention that a doctor must take the informed consent of the person prior to penetrating or touching is violative of elementary medical ethics. Nor does the ordinance delete the two-finger test. Therefore what it does is, it permits the insertion of two fingers in the survivor’s anus or vagina for medical purposes without seeking the consent of the survivor, which even Modi’s first volume on medical jurisprudence and toxicology would not advocate. The JVC recommends the prohibition on the two-finger test and introduces a whole new chapter on what kind of medical protocol should be introduced to deal with rape survivors sensitively. Rather than moving towards a therapeutic jurisprudence, the ordinance re-inscribes the two-finger as a medical procedure, disregarding what Modi says in the early days of colonial medicine, that a doctor should never insert two fingers in the vagina without consent lest he be accused of sexual assault!

To unravel the costs of cut and paste jurisprudence, we must note that the consequences of clubbing together different forms of sexual assault in the same sentencing structure. Hypothetically speaking, if a person is convicted of an offence under section 375 (e) which holds that when any person ‘touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the person or makes the person touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of that person or any other person’ without consent twice, then such a person could be sentenced to life (natural life) or even death. Assuming such an accused is tried by a “hanging” judge, you have a situation where there is no gradation made between different kinds of sexual assault in relation to severity and nature, viz., sentencing. What is to prevent more severe punishment to a hijra, found to be a repeat offender, given the colonial legacy of charactering certain kinds of bodies as “criminal types”? There are no provisions to provide fair treatment to, and prevent stereotyping of sexual minorities or women in the sentencing structure.

The only instance where such gradation viz., sentencing is maintained is in relation to marital rape. Hence, section 376B IPC holds that ‘whoever commits sexual assault on his own wife, … shall be punished with imprisonment of either description, for a term which shall not be less than two years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine’. The ordinance is clearly protection of husbands, even those husbands who rape their ex-wives. This is also evident in the section,describing repeat offenders, which clearly excludes husbands.

Section 376E holds ‘whoever has been previously convicted of an offence punishable under section 376 or section 376 A or section 376 C or section 376 D and is subsequently convicted of an offence punishable under any of the said sections shall be punished with imprisonment for life, which shall mean the remainder of that person’s natural life or with death’. So the ordinance is clear that whoever else may get life imprisonment till s/he dies in prison or is hanged by the state, a husband should never be jailed for life or hanged. But the irony is, if a man accuses his wife of sexual assault, and if she is found to be a repeat offender by a court, she is liable to life or death penalty. One may argue that this is far fetched for why would a woman live with a man who has accused her of sexual assault but technically what this ordinance does, it makes wives vulnerable to sexual assault charges by their husbands and exposes them to prison sentences, if not death.

The cut and paste job gets even more bizarre for the JVC recommendations are added to s. 354 IPC rather than displacing the colonial law on outraging modesty. Section 354 (a) describes sexual harassment (gender neutral offence), section 354 (b) describes any person forcibly disrobing a woman, section 354 (c) describes voyeurism (victim is woman here) and section 354 (d) describes stalking (gender neutral). And section 509 IPC, which should be made redundant is retained.

It does not make sense to retain the idea that something amounts to violence only when the modesty of women is outraged, and not the bodily integrity of all women, irrespective of modesty. This is the point behind deleting the past sexual history clause and fighting against the characterisation of survivors as habitués: please do not judge women by whether or not they are modest. What we wear, who we sleep with, where we go, what work we do—is not relevant to proving sexual assault.

And then mistakes of an exhausted and overwrought JVC find their way into the ordinance, yet another cut and paste jurisprudential disaster. In s. 370, which describes trafficking, we are told that:

“The expression “exploitation” shall include, prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.”

The JVC possibly forgot to add the words “exploitation of” prostitution, while mistakenly dictating the UN protocol 2000, going against the UN Protocol signed in 2011. The trafficking clause, due to exhausted dictating, criminalises all forms of sex work, including in trafficking voluntary and consenting sex workers who are now unionised and been fighting for right to live with dignity. This provision has been enacted in the name of fighting sexual assault—and is totally unacceptable. Perhaps the JVC should issue an erratum—and re-publish its 650 pages after careful proof reading!

What may one say about the absences—those are too many to list! We wanted radical jurisprudence, to emerge from our protests and unending hard work (and unlike others, we don’t need anyone to applaud us). Instead, what we got is amortifying cut and paste jurisprudential disaster. We cannot sleep tonight, wonder how the Ministry of Law finds sleep tonight!

Pratiksha Baxi is Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University