#India-The Official Emergency Continues – The Ordinance on Sexual Assault #Vaw


FEBRUARY 3, 2013

Guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI,

The reform of rape law, which was not a priority for more than two decades, seems more like a 20-20 match now. The spectacle of judicial reform has all the elements of cinematic imagination built into it—violence, voyeurism, repression, tears, scandal, redemption and betrayal. We are all consumers and participants of this judicial spectacle. We veer between manic hope and dark despair as we are left conjecturing how this theatre of judicial reform will enact equality and dignity for survivors of sexual assault. The latest twist in the tale is the introduction of an ordinance, following the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report.

We are told that the government decided to formulate an ordinance to address sexual violence as an emergency. Strangely enough the text of the ordinance has been kept a secret, other than the press release ostensibly released by the government, hence we can only comment on the series of statements made to the media. It is claimed that the JVC report informed this ordinance, which collates the “uncontroversial” elements in the JVC and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill2012. The ordinance will become the law perhaps on Monday if the President signs it. Until the parliament meets, the ordinance will define sexual assault.

The government accepted the JVC’s demand that their recommendations should be incorporated immediately as an ordinance. In fact Justice Verma on Times Now said that the non-controversial aspects of their recommendations should be immediately passed as an ordinance. To quote Justice Verma, “but there are many things which we have said which have been talked of for sometime and there are no two opinions. Now where is the difficulty in promulgating an ordinance to implement them straight away because that is not something which need to await a debate in the Parliament”.

The self-construction of the JVC as a manifesto of the peoples’ movements against sexual violence, including the women’s movement and the positioning of the members of the JVC as “heroic” for having finished the report in 29 days should have signalled to us that an ordinance would be scripted as the outcome of this committee. So why are we surprised that there is an ordinance? And why critique the ordinance? Is it not reasonable that some of the elements of a progressive legislation should be enacted now such as the provisions on acid attack, stalking, voyeurism, and trafficking until a more comprehensive law can be crafted in the parliament? Why should an acid survivor not benefit from this new law—presuming that the state will spend enough money publicising the ordinance to every thana and hospital for three weeks? 

One could argue that the opposition is not to recognising that sexual violence is an emergency that women experience everyday rather the important question is what is recognised as an emergency, and when.

  1. In the ordinance, the retention of the marital rape exemption is not seen as an official declaration of permanent sexual emergency for married women.
  2. The rape of women by security agencies, a state of permanent sexual emergency, continues to need sanction for prosecution from the government.
  3. Those politicians charged with rape will continue to wield power to uphold states of sexual emergency for women.
  4. Those who are in positions of power and authority to stop mass sexual violence suspend law to allow unimaginable and targetted sexual and reproductive violence are not seen as criminally authoring and authorising states of sexual emergencies.
  5. The ordinance does not recognise the states of emergencies declared against young people who choose to marry against social norms of caste, community and religion.
  6. The ordinance does not recognise that each medical examination of a rape survivor is experienced as a re-rape; and that this is an emergency.
  7. The routinized violence on dalit women, such as stripping and parading especially of those who are punished for transgressing caste hierarchies is not seen as a state of emergency.

The ordinance ascribes blame to women for creating states of sexual emergencies when it proposes a gender-neutral sexual assault law implying that women, like men, sexually assault adult persons, including men in everyday contexts! It appears that the ordinance does not create an exception to make manifest that women do not rape men. Rather dishonestly the ordinance blames women for the sins of men—by positioning them as perpetrators of sexual assault of men in everyday contexts. This creates the possibility of further criminalising women’s lives. There is proof of such criminalisation under existing laws, which are gender specific viz, perpetrators.

According to the Delhi government statistics on the profile of female prisoners in the Tihar Jailthere is increase … in rape cases by 2.47%

During 2011, as per NCRB statistics 766 women were arrested under s. 376 (rape) IPC, 1698 women arrested on the grounds of molestation (s. 354 IPC) and 193 women on grounds of sexual harassment (under s. 509 IPC). In 2011, 43 women inmates died, amongst whom eight women committed suicide in jail. Does the government have any explanation for why the police arrested more than 700 women under s. 376 IPC?

When women’s groups oppose gender neutrality viz., including women as perpetrators, one predominant concern has been the manner in which the police misuse the law to criminalise women who transgress patriarchal norms. The JVC recognised this concern in amending theCriminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012.

However, the cabinet seems to have refused to take into account the growing statistics of arrests of women under s. 376 IPC. Nor do they seem to think that men will misuse this provision against women: because in legal discourse only women seem to misuse patriarchal laws against men!

It is evident that ordinance does not revise male laws from the point of view of survivors of sexual assault. Take the example of marital rape. For whom is marital rape controversial? Surely it is not controversial for women who experience sexual violence in marriage. But the men who draft laws smell the fear of those men who cannot be bothered whether their wives want to have sex with them. Surely husbands must be given legal impunity if they sexually assault their wives, argues Abhishek Manu Singhvi, since wives will levy false cases against their husbands, and courts will be flooded with wives accusing husbands of rape. In other words, women who are married are treated as if they are pathological liars, and by implication are positioned as a “criminal type” intent on breaking up marriages on false accusations ranging from rape, domestic violence and dowry related harassment.

This argument is obviously ideological rather than sociological. It cannot be argued by anyone that women are less invested in marriage than men, given that patriarchy ensures that status and respectability of a woman in society derives from the fact of marriage. Women nurture their families, far more than men, be it their affinal or natal families. They look after the young and the old. They are dependent on their families economically, socially and politically. Women are told constantly to “adjust” to violent husbands perhaps since such men cannot be courageous to risk true love by surrendering their violent power.

Women have too much to lose if they levy false accusations of sexual assault against their husbands. Even mothers who file charges against husbands who rape their daughter are hounded in our courts, police stations and families for being bad wives, breaking up the family and threatening social order.

Further, there is no social or governmental support for women who would like to reject marriage. Single women, who are divorced, never married, or do not want to be married to men, are targeted by everyone in manifold ways. The mildest form of discrimination single women face is pity, or derision at not having their own family. The assumption that single women are “available” for male sexual experimentation, the lack of safety and the heightened vulnerability without the “protection” of a man, are all elements of enforced heterosexuality.

The government is petrified that the very suggestion that wives are autonomous will unravel the phallocentric foundations of marriage—based as it is on violence or its threat. Wanting to cling on to the monopoly to rape their wives, these men who make our laws betray a strong attachment to colonial law. This is not surprising since women’s bodies in enforced heterosexuality are colonised by the desires of husbands who enjoy rape. If those who script laws had been accepting of different models of masculinities, and understanding of pluralities of sexual experiences crafted by the experience of the joy of autonomy, they would not have expressed such panicked fear. They would have also deleted s. 377 IPC by way of an ordinance but then heterosexist men despise queer sexuality the most.

The cabinet does not need to conduct a national survey to realise that rape is a preferred mode of violence in marriage. They know that most often heterosexist men do not bother to be solicitous of the desires of their wives or pleasure them. Such heterosexist men do not wish to acknowledge that there are alternate ways of scripting sexual relationships, which are alive with autonomy, laughter and sexual creativity—precisely because of mutual respect and admiration. If the men in positions of power had experienced such relationships, they would not feel threatened by legislating against the sexual colonisation of women’s bodies by their husbands. The law distorts what marriage should mean for both men and women–freedom from violence, expression of love, sexual companionship, and a journey in profound friendship. Love obviously threatens social, legal and political orders far more radically than violent ways of extinguishing a woman’s life.

The ordinance declares the continuance of those sexual emergencies in everyday and extraordinary context, which are central to patriarchal power. The spectacle of judicial reform is enacted to detract attention from such permanent states of emergency. Perhaps the Cabinet should clarify what it means by emergency in the first place, since it seems the ordinance, in its current form, embraces the idea of domesticating and even celebrating some forms of permanent sexual emergencies, over others. Nor does it take legislative labour to do away with the medicalization of consent via the two-finger test or insist on registration of FIRs irrespective of jurisdiction. This could have been done by executive or judicial decree. Unfortunately, the JVC is also complicit in the making of this spectacle of judicial reform by insisting on the model of 20/20 law reform, and demanding governmental recognition of its heroic labours, without truly understanding the deep structure of sovereign power, which has a necrophilic need for permanent states of sexual emergencies. No wonder the JVC is upset and we can only hope that their suffering makes a radical difference.

Pratiksha Baxi teaches at the Centre for the study of law and governance at JNU and can be contacted at Pratiksha Baxi pratiksha.baxi@gmail.com

 

Sharmila Tagore opposes capital punishment for rape #deathpenalty #Vaw


IANS | Feb 3, 2013, 10.46 AM IST

Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore opposed capital punishment for rape saying death is neither the ultimate punishment nor a deterrent.“I don’t think death the ultimate punishment. It is not a deterrent because when the person is committing the crime, he thinks that he is not going to be caught.”

“In southern states of America where death penalty exists there is the highest crime rate there, so it is not really a deterrent. Rigorous imprisonment for entire life is a better way of punishing somebody,” said the actress at a literary meet.

Speaking at the discussion on ‘Will Capital Punishment for Rape Help or Hinder Justice?‘, Sharmila felt that the report by the Justice J.S. Verma committee which was constituted following the Delhi gang-rapeincident Dec 16 to look into rape laws was “wonderful” and had tried “to engage with the problem”.

“At least Justice Verma has touched and tried to engage with the problem, and has heard the hurt, sentiment and the rage with the youth.”

“But of course they have stepped back from passion and have covered this in this wonderful report desisting from the death penalty which is taking somebody’s life which is coming from the point of thinking that the state must establish an ethical standard of public morality because state cannot take somebody’s life,” she said.

However, Sharmila also felt the report was silent on issues like the three-month trial period demanded by women rights groups.

Praising the amendments that have been brought about in laws pertaining to women, she said: “They have taken away this cuddly, protectionist language and they are no longer calling it eve teasing or outrage to modesty or any of those awfully inadequate words. So the language is changing and they are calling rape as a rape.”

But the real focus, according to her, should be on changing the mindset of people that sees women as “repositories of honour”.

Touching on the social aspect, she said that there is a “business of shame and honour” which people associate with it.

“Rape happens within the family-it is your father, it is your brother, your uncle, neighbours and relatives. So how many people are you going to kill so it is just not practical.

“And then this shame and honour business which we all have got into and yes we are part of that patriarchy. Police is also part of that patriarchy,” said Tagore.

 

No noble family will allow girls to become dancers: Hurriyat #Vaw #WTFnews


PTI | Feb 3, 2013, 08.13 PM IST

No noble family will allow girls to become dancers: Hurriyat
Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said in a statement that Kashmir is a place of sufis and saints and there is no room to nourish western type of culture and immoral values.
SRINAGAR: Hardline faction of HurriyatConference today expressed surprise overJammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah‘s support for the valley’s only all-girls rock band, saying there is no room to nourish western culture and immoral values in the state.”Kashmir is a place of sufis and saints and there is no room to nourish western type of culture and immoral values,” Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said in a statement.

“Though in a civilised society there is no place for coercion and force, there are some values a citizen has to adopt to safeguard the ethical and religious traditions,” he said.

“Hurriyat Conference expresses regret and surprise over the support of Omar Abdullah,” Akbar said.

“As a matter of fact no noble family will allow their girls to choose their profession as a dancer so as to be a mere thing of pleasure for strangers,” he said.

Akbar said Omar should have gone through the history of Kashmir to find out the high regard and esteem bestowed upon women in order to save them from being sold as commodity.

“It is a matter of concern for us the way Omar Abdullah backed the rock band because the dynasty he belongs to has since long disassociated itself from Islamic and ethical values,” he said.

Referring to the reported threats being given to the rock band, the spokesman termed it “not good”.

“Instead, parents should have rectified the things and provided advice to their daughters that their activities were not as per ethics of Islam, culture and our unique identity,” he said.

Omar had come out in support of the girls yesterday saying police will probe the threats.

“I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them,” he said.

The all-girls band, which came to limelight in late December last year after their performance at the annual ‘Battle of the Bands‘ competition here, had defied the convention by stepping into the male-dominated field of music.

The girls’ band has received abusive and hate messages on their Facebook page for defying convention by choosing the field of music.

 

PRESS RELEASE–When criminal negligence passes for ‘Industrial Accident’


3 February 2013

 

PRESS STATEMENT

 

When criminal negligence passes for ‘Industrial Accident

PUDR expresses grave shock and demands action against those responsible for the industrial accident at the Ambuja-Holcim cement plant near Raipur, Chhattisgarh, on 31 January 2013, in which 5 workers have been killed. The names of the workers who died are Roshan Verma and Poshan Verma, apprentice (both apprentices from village Arjuni), Suresh Shukla and Kamleshwar Singh (both permanent workers, from Ambuja Colony and village Bhadrapaali respectively), and Durgesh (a contract worker from village Saiha). The accident which occurred between 10.30 a.m. and11a.m., took place when the fly-ash hopper situated on the fifth floor collapsed, and crashed through four floors below. Eyewitnesses report that the air was thick with dust for hours. According to reports the cause of the accident was that the hopper was overloaded beyond capacity – while the capacity of the hopper was 170 tonnes it had been loaded with a weight of 300 tonnes. Moreover, the hopper was in a rundown condition and known to be unsafe. Despite this it appears that the management not only continued to operate the hopper, but overloaded it, and did not have any safety measures to deal with fire or officials equipped or trained to carry out rescue after the accident. Trained personnel had to be called from the nearby cement plant of Ultratech to carry out rescue operations.  The Ambuja-Holcim company officials had in fact compounded the problem by pouring water on the fly ash making it set and making it difficult to remove the dead and injured from under the debris. The workers who had rushed to help were all ordered to go away. Moreover the family members of those killed were not permitted to go to the spot, nor were they shown the bodies of the deceased. Journalists were also not permitted inside the plant after the accident. The Collector and the Superintendent of Police who had reached the plant after the accident, also refused to answer calls or throw light on the matter. Agitated villagers of Arjuni and Bhadrapaali who had gathered at the gates were lathi-charged and dispersed. It is a matter of concern that the entire effort of the management and local civil and police administration appears to be to hush up the incident and not affix responsibility for it. As even the broad details of this case and PUDR’s recent investigation and report on the conditions of cement workers in Chattisgarh (Working Against Odds: Conditions of Workers in the Cement Industry in Chattisgarh, 2012) shows this accident was a direct consequence of the complete absence of safety measures in the plant, the lack of maintenance and the common practice of exposing workers to extremely hazardous work without any protection, preparation or rescue plan amounts to criminal neglect. This ‘accident’ was thus waiting to happen, and the culpability of the company Ambuja-Holcim, which has a 9.44% of the market share in the industry and ranks third amongst the top 10 cement manufacturers in India, is clearly indicated.

PUDR demands immediate independent investigation into this industrial accident at the Ambuja Holcim plant, indictment and criminal prosecution of the guilty including the company for its criminal neglect of safety measures. PUDR also demands that adequate and appropriate compensation be paid to the family members of all the workers killed in the accident or adversely affected by it in any manner.

Asish Gupta,D Manjit

SecretariesPUDR

 

#India -Sexual Violence, Consumer Culture and Feminist Politics #Vaw # Sexuality


 – Rethinking the Critique of Commodification : Sreenanti Banerjee

FEBRUARY 3, 2013
by , Kafila.org

Guest Post by SREENANTI BANERJEE

I will begin with the by now well-known interview of author and social activist Arundhati Roy, conducted by Channel 4 (a British Media House), about the widespread protests after the horrific December 16th incident of the brutal gangrape of the 23 year old medical student in Delhi. Permit me to quote Roy at length as I do not wish to take bits and pieces from her talk, and pluck them out of their context.

We are having an unexceptional reaction to an event which isn’t exceptional […] But the problem is that why is this crime creating such a lot of outrage is because it plays into the idea of the criminal poor, the vegetable vendor, the gym instructor, the bus driver actually assaulting a middle-class girl. But when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, by the army or the police it’s not even punished.

Question: Is there any chance that this protest is going to lead to genuine change, that the political class will accept that this is not what modern India is all about?

Answer: I think it will lead to some laws perhaps, and increased surveillance. But, all of that, I repeat, all of that will protect middle class women.

Question: This is such a contrast from the image of modern India that is being potrayed by the film-making industry in Mumbai, by the whole sort of new tech India. I mean as if there are many worlds competing here [……] So you are suggesting that this new India is fuelling disrespect for women?

Answer: The feudal India has a huge history and legacy of disrespect and violence against women, I mean, any accounts of partition or what is done to dalit women contains that. But, now there is a sort of psychosis. First of all the army and the police are using rape as a weapon against people in places like Chattisgarh, Kashmir and Manipur and so on [……]

But, the other thing is that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor.Earlier atleast the rich did what they did with a fair amount of discretion. Now it’s all out there, on television, all the sort of conspicuous consumption, and there is ananger and a psychosis building up. Women at the top, at the middle and the bottom are going to pay the price for it, not so much at the top but certainly the dalit women are continuously going to be subjected to violence, and young urban women like the one to whom this happened are very very vulnerable to this kind ofpsychotic rage.” (emphasis added).

Now, although the interview appears to state the ‘real’ conditions of Indian democracy and how the state always permits only a particular class to vent its grievance against violence, here I would urge you to read with me in this interview something that appears to be a central conundrum of cultural politics in what we come to know as the “Global South” today.

The anchor of the programme here speaks in his generic Orientalist “civilizing” tone of a “new and a modern India”, accompanied by a commonplace bewilderment about a supposed “clash of civilization” (in the Hutingtonian sense), about how a “modern” country can exhibit such entrenched misogyny (as if women’s emancipation is always and already another synonym for ‘modernity’) – a country which in fact was supposed to have ‘transcended’ its erstwhile ‘uncivilized’ past and by now gotten rid of its taint of being a “fallen civilization”. And this amazement on the part of the anchor is nothing unusual since this was typical of the whole of Western media after the ghastly event of December 16th when it was always poor “Indian men” raping its modern civilized ‘other’ (in the form of urban women), not being able to cope with rapid processes westernization and globalization.

However, it is interesting to note Arundhati Roy’s response to these questions, especially her notion of “conspicuous consumption” leading to anger and psychosis amongst the urban youth, and women “paying the price” for capitalism’s “pornographic” seductions with its obnoxiously rising concomitant gap between the rich and the poor.  Now, for quite some time, we have seen a continuum in terms of taking positions on westernization and its supposed effects on women and their ‘safety’. From Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief to the Supreme Court Judgement criticized by the Justice Verma Committee Report pp. 80 – 83 (which claimed that in India women would seldom falsely “cry rape”, as sex here is generally not for sale and hence women are more protectionist about their sexuality compared to the West where sex is used for pleasure and economic purposes), to Kakoli Ghosh Dastidaar of Trinamool Congress asserting that the “context” of the Park Street rape incident of the “pub-going woman” was qualitatively different from that of the bus gangrape as in the former (“false”) case it was a mere squabble between a prostitute and her client (as opposed to the more ‘authentic’ gangrape in the bus), to Abhijeet Mukherjee’s lament about painted and dented, non-intellectual, consumerist women’s frivolous protests – all of them (although from different standpoints) seem to be commenting on the ghastly effect that capitalism and its twin associate commodification has on the urban Indian woman. While the article published in The Hindu (quoted in the Verma Committee Report) as well as Arundhati Roy seem to be engaging in a much more nuanced analysis of how women venturing in the public sphere for work, education or leisure ‘unfortunately’ become the targets of the wrath of men who are “victims” of an ever-growing individualist consumption-oriented culture, as opposed to Kakoli Ghosh Dastidaars or Mohan Bhagwats who engage in a much more blatant eulogy of the woman who maintains all the ‘lakshman rekhas’ and is not ‘utstrinkhal’ (a term recently used by the Hindi columnist Raj Kishor in an article to describe the ‘licentious urban women’); the underlying assumption is the same. And, that is, the striking opulence of consumer capital leads to sexual violence of urban women.

Fear of the ‘Inauthentic’ Female that predates Capitalism

Although I do understand where Roy is coming from and her concerns about the injustice that global capital has been giving rise to in recent times in terms of erasing any public discourse on state-sponsored sexual violence against women and sexual violence perpetrated by the upper class and upper castes on Dalit and tribal women, the assertion of women (of all classes) “paying the price” for the pornographic exhibitionism of wealth of a particular class, I believe, is certainly problematic.

Here, I do not wish to give the elaborate and rather painstaking (although much needed) inventory of misogyny predating capitalism. However, I do wish to give one particular instance which perhaps would take us to the heart of the matter, and somewhat help me to articulate my theoretical disagreement with Roy and certain other significant social commentators who consider “mindless flaunting and display of wealth” as the “root cause” of sexual violence against middle class women, and a “paying  of price” in terms of them being brutally violated and their intestines being pulled out as a direct and inevitable outcome of the hubris of global capital. This I believe, is a classic case of the much talked about notion of “justifying” sexual violence, something that directly informs what we conceive as “rape culture”.

Here, the notion of male ‘anxiety’ demands further exploration. One of the significant instances of this vulnerability gets demonstrated in the Laws of Manu, which is commonsensically renowned for its misogynist claims. But since commonsense by definition impedes criticality, it is significant to say that it is quite possible to refrain from any crass reductionism of Manu as far as his interpretation of women is concerned. In Laws of Manu, chapter 9, Manu says,

“[14] Good looks do not matter to them (women), nor do they care about youth; ‘A man!’ they say, and enjoy sex with him, whether he is good-looking or ugly. [15] By running after men like ‘whores’, by their ‘fickle minds’, and by their natural lack of affection these women are unfaithful to their husbands even when they are zealously guarded here. [16]. [……] women, who have no virile strength and no Vedic verses, are ‘falsehood’ […]”  [i]

What we need to do here is to read Manu against Manu himself. What is interesting is that the notion of control of women’s sexuality does not stem in Manu from the assumption that women are ‘naturally’ passive and weaker. Neither, does the desire to control emerge from an understanding that women are ‘essentially’ treacherous, unaffectionate and malicious. Rather, a different reading would help us realize that one of the primary sources of men’s anxiety and vulnerability about women’s sexual excess is the notion of the ‘masquerade’, the capacity to feign ‘originality’ and ‘authenticity’ on the part of women, only to prove the fictive nature of that very notion of an ‘authentic’ uncorroded pure womanhood’; in other words, the capacity to ‘mask’ or ‘mime’ oneself, only to show that there is no ‘referent’ of a ‘real self’ behind the mask. Thus, patriarchal disgust emanates from an inherent fear.

Is Commodification and Objectification Bad for Feminism?

From the above analysis, we realize that a culture of misogyny which certainly predated the advent of capitalism, already had a deep-seated fear of the ‘inauthentic fake open feelinglesss promiscuous whore’, whose sexuality in effect had to be controlled. With the advent of capitalism, new patriarchies got introduced which denied women’s household labour, gave rise to unequal wages so on and so forth. But, along with that, the already existing culture of misogyny became all the more ingrained as the apprehension and fear about the ‘inauthenticity’ of the ‘exchangeable’ woman became all pervading now. This is because like everything else, the woman also got translated into an ‘unnatural’ fetishized commodity, got ‘reduced’ to an ‘object’ of exchange under the capitalist order.

However, it should be noted that here the words objectification and commodification are necessary phenomena (as Thomas Keenan points out in his Reading ‘Capital’ Rhetorically), used strictly in the (non-orthodox) Marxist sense of being rendered ‘abstract’ for the purpose of exchange, so that everything is made ‘equal’ (alike) in the eyes of the bourgeouis law (or in other words, rendered ‘human’). Objectification here is a necessary and determining trait of social constitution of individuals as proprietors where the notion of the ‘object’ presupposes a consciousness of ‘difference’. Thus, here the agent is constituted as a discrete ‘self’ (individual), posessing ‘natural rights’, different from ‘others’, and yet ‘equal’ to ‘others’ (since as proprietors the agents should be able to see the others as “subject to the same laws, rights, calculations”). Thus, the ‘equality’ which objectification gives rise to is certainly not false consciousness in this context (as orthodox readings of Marxism would read it), since such a misplaced Marxist reading of objectification as false and hence bad reduces the meaning of the word to a banal Rightwing moralistic cry over a sovereign ‘wholeness’ getting ‘reduced’ to a mere ‘part’.

It is significant to note the pejorative connotations that words like objectification, commodification, consumerism and alienation have assumed in Indian feminist circles, where feminism has almost come to imply a kind of politics of asceticism, bereft of an ambiguous engagement with notions like that of desire and consumption practices. Here, desire of non-westernized women is assumed to be always and already more real, ethical and hence democratic than that of their westernized counterparts. And, I believe that it is precisely under such a climate of an uncritical collapse of rightwing and leftist critique of commodification, that the dissemination is possible of the opinions  that conspicuous consumption is the reason for sexual violence against women.

It is interesting to observe here that the Justice Verma report, along with all its commendable suggestions, makes one similar observation. It endorses the view that, “[…] the large-scale disempowerment of urban men is lending intensity to a pre-existing culture of sexual violence.” [ii] What is significant here is that, a mere stating of the ‘fact’ (as if it is self-evident) certainly does not explain the fact. It rather reifies the ‘fact’ as inevitable or ‘natural’. Hence, in my mind, in order to engage in a full-blown analysis of the ‘causes’ of sexual violence, this observation needs a qualification. And, that qualification is that neo-liberalism along with all its dissemination of social inequity across classes, in the process of commodifying people, alsomakes them ‘inauthentic’, that same inauthenticity which was much feared by Manu and his other patriarchal cohorts of those times.

And discourses on ‘teaching the promiscuous woman a lesson’ originate from an inherent fear of this very ‘inauthentic artificial’ woman, who chooses to objectify and commodify herself (although certainly “not under circumstances of her own making”). This choice, in my mind, needs to be respected, rather than dubbing it as mere false consciousness (just like we have learnt to respect the ‘choice’ of non-secular women adopting the headscarf, the hijab or the veil, by now a well-recognized aspect of postcolonial interrogation of Western Feminists’ ethnocentric spree to “Save the Other”). Hence, we need to ask the all important question that under what circumstances women’s commodification (starting from sex work to Bollywood item numbers) becomes the worst kind of objectification?[iii]

Thus, what we should keep in mind is that a real ‘critique’ of political economy should never get reduced to a mere ‘criticism’, since then our interrogation of capitalism becomes a banal moralistic one, bereft of the mentioning of the possibilities that processes of commodification give rise to, something that certainly impacts our subjectivity as well. In other words, a critique of global capital should not get reduced to a mere rightist and in turn a protectionist sob story ofcultural degeneration in terms of what capitalism does to the ‘unharmed’ body of the nation (the idea of the ‘nation’ already being a gendered concept, marked as feminine), a ‘sovereign’ body which is in need of ‘protection’ and ‘recuperation’ from the onslaughts (read harm, corrosion and injury) caused by globalization.

Now, although the larger point that the Justice Verma Report was trying to make here was that rape is not a ‘crime of passion’ but rather an “expression of power” and also how different subcultures use rape as a weapon against women to assert their collective identity, and all this can easily pass off as a mere ‘depiction’ and a resultant ‘analyses’ of ‘reality’,[ivi] it is significant to point out that this underlying assumption of the article in The Hindu about consumerist abundance and “showing off” as the root cause of sexual violence was indeed troubling. This especially becomes problematic in a climate where precisely the same words (although devoid of any sociological nunace) are used to “teach them” that this is the “price that they pay” for being brazenly commodified.

Now, the point is where do we draw the demarcating line if we are to build this continuum between sexual violence and pompous modernity? How do we intellectually separate the claims on capitalism made by thinkers like Roy with respect to sexual violence against urban women and that made by Mohan Bhagwat of RSS for instance, for whom, westernization is to be ‘blamed’ for the increase in crime against women in cities, or in other words ‘Indian’ women are more ‘rapeable’ than the auspicious ‘Bharatiya Nari’ (And Bhagwat, let me remind you, before hurling such lunacy, infact had already demanded severe punishment for the rapists and even called for their death penalty, something that can easily be used in his favour as a disclaimer to this terrible claim). Furthermore, this argument was later backed up by none other than Ashis Nandy, the eminent sociologist, for whom urban anomie and severe individualization is yet again the cause behind the increasing amount of sexual violence against women. Push the logic, and we shall easily be reminded of the words of the Toronto police officer for instance who remarked that, “woman are extremely fashionable these days and are constantly “showing off”, they should stop dressing like sluts to avoid rape”, something that triggered off the Slutwalk movement in Toronto, or for that matter someone like Abhijit Mukherjee’s contempt towards “painted and dented women”, intellectuals and protestors by morning and disco-goers by night!

Rape, Shame and Consumption

While the Justice Verma Report tries to undertake the mammoth task of addressing sexual violence as a structural problem rather than an aberrant individual act (and thus engages in a resultant critique of inequitable economic policies for giving rise to urban violence and quite rightly so), and quite commendably recommends a separation of notions of ‘honor’ and ‘shame’ from the act of rape, the language of the continuing emphasis on capitalism curbing options of recreation for migrant men and hence such “prospectless” men taking recourse to sexual violence as an articulation of their pent up frustration on urban women frequenting pubs, lounges or discotheques is certainly problematic. It creates an aura of scholarly empathy (for the lack of a better word) for the ‘deprived’ victimized men who are thought to become “psychotic” for the surrounding bourgeouis profligacy and hence engage in ghastly gangrapes as their last resort to gain some identity. Thus, it becomes a viscious argument which creates a moral, linguistic as well as an intellectual atmosphere where if the rape happens in and around what gets connoted as ‘hubs of consumerism’, since conspicuous consumption of the rich by now is already located as the indirect ‘cause’ of rape, the raped woman is judged as guilty for her ‘offence’ and hence is supposed to be ashamed for her habits of consumption, feel apologetic for a structure which “creates rapists” by ripping lower class men off their fundamental rights. This logic also at times gives rise to the age-old public spectacle of the vamp of Bollywood pleading for mercy, saying she is no more “like that” (consumerist, open and unrestricted).

Thus, conceiving capitalist exclusion as a cause of rapes in the cities creates an ambience of shaming the “slut” by claiming that such pomp-exuding ‘looseness’ furthers capitalism’s brutality of alienating the urban youth (which also strenghtens the implied logic that ‘she deserved it’). Thus, unless we put a vehement period to this perceived cause and effect chain of consumption habits of the rich and its resultant repercussion of poor optionless anxious migrants raping, we shall never be able to remove ‘shame’ out of rape, especially when the rape is that of an upper-middle class woman. It would perpetuate an atmosphere of the much talked about slut-shaming and “victim” blaming (as a ‘predictable’ outcome of ‘ugly modernity’) if not in the langauge of provocation, but certainly in the language of apparently sanitized social science ‘analyses’ of cities and urbanity leading to a culture of anonymity (devoid of community and kinship ties) which is then perceived to strengthen a culture of sexual violence against upper-class women (something that Nandy diagnoses as “anomic rape”). Here, a politically motivated continnum is established between modernization, urbanization and rape.

The point which I am trying to bring home here is that shame (for being loose, available, commodified, consumerist, accessible, frivolous and all other such cuss words) would continue to get associated with rape if we emphasize consumption practices of either the rich (as the Leftist position seems to be doing) or the woman herself (as the Rightwing generally does) as the cause of rape, and not a general culture of hatred towards the non-normative woman (consumerist or non-consumerist), who in turn needs to be “kept in place”. We cannot under any circumstances say that neo-liberalist exclusionary mechanism is one of the causes which manufacture rapists, since that would politically be as fatal as saying dress is “one of the causes” that lead to rape. We cannot and should not under any condition “justify” in the name of “analyzing” the root cause of rape, since otherwise just like demonizing the “criminal poor” or the “vegetable vendor”, the “pub-going loose and inebriated woman” would continue to be easy targets of Rightwing vengeance and Leftwing scorn. It will reinforce the view that “some women” ignite if not provokethe pent up anxiety caused by the lack of recreational options under the capitalist order, and give rise to a kind of ‘violent working class jealousy’, which when pushed to its logical and inevitableextreme causes a psychic collapse and hence ends up in rape. That would be suicidal for Feminist politics, especially at a time when detractors and digressors are all around, looking for an opportunity to hijack Feminist issues to further their own political agenda. The six rapists also perhaps thought that the woman in the bus was a non-abiding, permissive and consumeristwoman and hence needs to be punished and put to shame. Thus, let us not embellish the self-worth of rape culture and not justify sexual violence with the garb of finding ‘root causes’ of such heinous acts (in our misplaced spree to curb the self-worth of global capital).

Does the Hindu Right and the ‘Critical’ Left merge on notions of Women’s Sexuality?

Here, it is important to mention that the larger political impulse of this article is to point out that the intellectual Left should certainly be more critical and tentative about its critique of conspicuous consumption and the homogenization of its effects, to keep its theoretical distance from an atavistic nativist criticism of consumer culture of the Hindu Right or even the nationalist political project for that matter. Ruth Vanita, in her insightful article published in Seminar 2002 hinted at a similar problem where she pointed out how there is a strange congruence of the secular left and the Hindu Right (what she calls the “Hindu Left”), no matter how theoretically distant they are, as far as taking ‘positions’ on cultural debates concerning depiction of sexually explicit materials in postcolonial India was concerned. (She here cites the controversy around the Miss World contest and around such songs as “Choli ke peeche kya hai” as instances to illustrate how both rightwing as well as leftwing women’s organizations condemned such ‘degeneration’, although in different parlances, by demanding a state censorship to ban such phenomena).[v]

Towards a Defense of Painting and Denting: Can Commodities seek Citizenship Rights?

At this juncture, it is significant to point out that women in recent times have assumed this very political identity of a conspicuous consumer to get human rights against sexual violence, be it in the form of the Slutwalks, the Consortium of Loose and Forward Going Women (in the case of the Pink Chaddi Campaign) or the more recent broaching of the Society of Painted Dented Ladies of India (as a result of Mukherjee’s comment about the perceived ‘frivolity’ of the protestors in Delhi). Tired of listening to cynical leftists about capitalist inequity being the foundation of gender violence, as it is thought to put sex out there in the open, make it marketable and devoid of restraint (along with the perennial infliction of rightwing violence), these women seek human rights and seek to defend the notion of ‘bodily integrity’ against sexual assaults ‘as’ sluts, ‘as’chaddis (the pink branded female underwear in this case i.e. ‘objects’ or vendible commodities), ‘as’ painted and dented women (or in other words, ‘impure’ and ‘contaminated’ beings), only to show the performative and fluid nature of this much abused notion of ‘integrity’ and how the oft-cited idea of “non-commodifiable purity” informs rape culture (Remember the essentalist assumption based on which women are given loans under the system of Microfinance, the assumption that women are ‘essentially’ good, not money-mongerers, and hence more reliable in terms of paying back loans on time, unlike the greedy ‘materialist’ men? Doesn’t it sound strangely similar to the Supreme Court verdict derided by the Verma Committee Report which said Western woman are economically motivated and hence more likely to falsely “cry rape” for material reasons as opposed to Indian women who are ‘good’, less materialist and hence more reliable?)  [vi]

Does the ‘Postcolonial’ Collapse with the ‘National’ when it comes to Women?

Now, even for an eminent Subaltern Studies Scholar like Dipesh Chakrabarty, the Indian Feminists of today (and he actually gives the instance of the Pink Chaddi campaign)[vii], critique the hypermasculinity of the Ram Sena by a kind of ‘uncivilized’, neoliberal class-war (which, in his mind, excludes the poor), precluding any dialogue between the supposed sacred and the secular,  which, as he tries to show, erases and symbolically “gags” the ‘other’ in the name of female empowerment (what he calls a kind of “in your face Feminism”, punctuated by an undertone of superfluousness and intolerant individualism, which for him is ‘uncivilized’ in the sense that it does not offer room for self-reflexivity and self-criticism). In other words, the protestors against sexual violence (the Pink Chaddi campaigners) and the ones who perpetuate sexual violence (the Ram Sena), for Chakrabarty, occupy the same moral space, where political claims like that of ‘looseness’ and ‘forwardness’, for him, deserves vehement criticism for being significant cohorts of what he calls “economic globalization”, devoid of a kind of self-criticality that the legacy of ‘civility’ (something that he found in the nationalist political project) taught us. Now, the moot point is, does perpetration of sexual violence by the under-class or the non-secularists (a category that at times gets denoted by the postcolonial scholar as an idealizedhaven of ‘faceless crowd politics’ exhibited by global modernity’s ultimate ‘other’, a section of the society who are not only citizens and voters but also perceived as significant subversive players of Indian democracy and cultural politics), here get patronized as a mode of enraged ‘resistance’ (no matter how psychotic) against globalization’s hegemony?

At this juncture, it is important to recollect that the two categories of women that Shilpa Phadke, Shilpa Ranade and Sameera Khan pointed out in their thought-provoking article on Loitering, Gender and Public Spaces (the ones who appear in urban public spaces without an “apparent purpose”, as they call it), are the window shopper and the street walker (or the sex worker). Now, while the window-shopper is idealized as shopping is considered as a respectable act in the global city (as the authors minutely illustrate), the streetwalker is conceived as “undesirable and illegitimate.”[viii]

However, for the purpose of my argument, I would like to introduce a third category of women (although all the three are certainly overlapping each other and I draw the demarcating line solely for analytical purposes), where the buyer or the consumer woman also ‘behaves’ like a street-walker. Now, what happens when this ‘particular’ category (women in the cusp zone of window shoping and sex working), the primary one which pink-chaddi campaings, slutwalks or the feminist assertion of being painted and dented end up representing, seek ‘universal’ entitlements for protection against sexual violence? A category of women who do not feign the empty rhetoric of ‘universal sisterhood’, who are respectable on the grounds of class and their ability to get access to spaces of consumption, yet they thwart the liberal discourse and hence become ‘unrespectable’ as they, precisely in and through the tools of consumerism, violate the normative bourgeouis markers of femininity as well? Do we read the gestures of these women as mere ‘assimilation’ to the discourses of global capital, or do we read them as further ‘democratization’ precisely with the aid of the ‘tactics’ of assimilation? Moreover, are all class-marked assertions necessarily classist? What is interesting to note here is that the notion of subversive unrespectability and logic of impropriety gets instituted precisely through the discourse of consumer-driven respectability and propriety. And, we can never engage in any serious analysis of such instances of resistance by a blanket en masse debunking of phenomena like that of conspicuous consumption and an unanimous lament for its aftermaths.

To me, such women act as a ‘spectre’ which ‘haunts’ and breaks open the very limit of the normative subject ‘woman’ of human rights, i.e. the image of the ‘bhadramahila’ (a mixture of the Victorian bourgeouis emancipated mother and the Brahminic image of the ‘pure’ nationalist woman, as Chatterjee put it), a spectre that needs to be recuperated and not dismissed as ‘middle class’ and hence ‘exclusionary’. And, most significantly, they denounce a “politics of assimilation or inclusion” where the spectre is merely “integrated” into the whole (the image of the chaddi or the slut does not say that I represent a non-commodified ‘real’ woman and hence give me human rights. Remember the Park Street rape survivor asserting repeatedly that she might be an escort but that certainly does not give anyone the right to violate her? Remember her statement when she said that just because she did not choose to be a ‘victim’, and in fact carried on with her dailyconsumerist chores from the next day even after the ghastly attack, did not mean that the state could deny her justice?).

Thus, a serious critique of the eulogy of consumer imperialism getting packaged as Feminism (something that the new Feminist assertions are accused of) can never be plotted in the language of commodification as a ‘curse’, something which “alienates” women from their “authentic”native selves. This is because, adherence to such notions of reactionary nostalgia of non-consumerist lifestyles and uncritical assumption of ‘good’ and ethical national/local or working class culture (garland bedecked “innocence” of tribal women so on and so forth) leads to the dangerous assumption that westernized woman are less “authentic” and hence more condemnable (and even rapeable in certain arguments).

Welcoming the Spectre

Hence, the larger question is, can we recuperate this ‘hollowness’ and inauthenticity that capitalism gives rise to for Feminist ends? A commodified woman is an inauthentic “monster” (a term that Marx himself infact used to describe commodities in Capital), a monster who is feared across all political positions. Thus, we need to defend this present moment in Feminist politics where such abstracted spectral artificiality and monstrous frivolity are used as political ‘standpoints’ which certainly help us in our struggle against patriarchy. Although these ghosted creatures scare and haunt us, and we can never know with adequate certitude what kind of violence and exclusion embracing them would entail, nonetheless such spectres should be welcomed for Feminist politics to survive. To believe in them is a practical necessity. Commodification here is pushed to its logical limit. Thought, after all, as Althusser once put it,must be pushed to its extreme.

Thus, to me, this moment of women claiming to seek rights as ‘impure materialist reduced commodified alienated objects’ should be respected, rather than dismissing it as middle class, elite or exclusionary. This is because it is just not an emotional response to the kind of brutal violence against women that we are experiencing in urban areas in recent times, a mere unreflective ‘enough is enough’ kind of deliberation. Rather this has an intellectual underpinning. And that unsaid subtext is that, let the spectral inauthenticity caused by consumer capital be pushed to its limit, or be celebrated in order to break open that same consumer capital’s logic of manufacturing feminine respectability. It strives to create a transformation of the very meaning of personhood, of humanness, or in other words changes the very meaning of what kind of a woman ‘deserves’ human rights and state protection against sexual violence.

Sreenanti Banerjee is an M.Phil student of Social Sciences and a Junior Research Fellow at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC).

References:

[i] Manu, The Laws of Manu, ‘Chapters 3 and 9’, trans. Wendy Doniger and Brian K. Smith, (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1991), pp. 43-73, pp. 197-233

[ii] Praveen Swami, “Rapist in the Mirror”, The Hindu, Jan 11, 2013

[iii] This is a point which Shohini Ghosh raises in “The Troubled Existence of Sex and Sexuality: Feminists Engage with Censorship” in Women’s Studies in India: A Reader (ed. by Mary. E. John), Penguin Books, 2008.

 [iv]Justice Verma Report, Pp. 220.

[v] “Whatever happened to the Hindu Left” by Ruth Vanita, Published in  Seminar, 2002.

[vi] Shilpa Phadke had raised some key questions around these issues in in her nuanced 2005 article on Middle-Class Sexuality, “Is there a Feminist way of being a consumer?”

[vii] Shilpa Phadke, “Some Notes on Middle Class Sexuality” in Geeta Misra and Radhika Chandiramani (eds.) Gender, Sexuality and Rights: Exploring Theory and Practice, New Delhi: Sage, 2005.

[viii] Dipesh Chakrabarty. From civilization to globalization: the `West’ as a shifting signifier in Indian modernity.  Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Volume 13, Number 1, 1 March 2012, pp. 138-152(15).

[ix] Shilpa Phadke, Shilpa Ranade and Sameera Khan, “Why Loiter? Radical Possibilities for Gendered Dissent” in Melissa Butcher and Selvaraj Velayutham (eds), Dissent and Cultural Resistance in Asia’s Cities, London: Routledge, 2009.

 

Press Release-Footsteps of Fascism: Hindutva Goons attack Dalit College Teacher in Dhule


Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association

 

 

Following swiftly on the heels of communal violence in Dhule in which six members of the minority community were killed, comes the news of physical assault on Prof. Pramod Bhumbe, a Dalit teacher at the BR Ambedkar Samaj Karya Mahavidyalay. Friends in Dhule and Jalgaon inform us that Prof. Bhumbe while teaching his students about Indian social reforms movement, discussed certain episodes from the Hindu epic Ramayana. This was videographed by a student on his cell phone and the video clip later circulated and handed over to VHP and Bajrang Dal goons.  The clip was quickly construed as proof of Prof. Bhumbe’s insult to Hinduism.

 

Teaching social reform movements without reference to the stinging critique of caste oppression and its implication in religious sanction is difficult anywhere. In Maharashtra, however, it is impossible. The legacy of Jyotiba and Savitri Phule, and Ambedkar is a living, thriving one. It survives in the fiery songs of Sambhaji Bhagat; in the hundreds of book festivals and cultural groups that can be found in the smallest towns and hamlets of the state. It is this culture of resistance, which often takes the form of sarcasm, and even ridicule of the superstitions of caste religion and its assorted institutions that Hindutva resents so much.

 

While Muslims are always cast as the other, radical Dalit critique cannot be domesticated and absorbed into the Hindutva identity.  The two incidents—of communal violence and the attack on Prof. Bhumbe – are not unrelated. They reflect the growing confidence of the Hindutva forces and the state support they enjoy, even under the rule of their political opponents. Neither the SP not the DM of Dhule have been suspended by the state government despite the clear indictment of the administration in the January anti-minority violence by civil society investigations. Can an administration, which was hand in glove with the storm troopers of VHP and Bajrang Dal in January, be expected to seriously pursue the case against Prof. Bhumbe’s attackers?  We appeal to all progressive and democratic groups in Maharashtra to ensure the security and safety of Prof Bhumbe, as the police which led the mobs against a vulnerable minority can hardly be entrusted to do so.

 

Moreover, as fellow teachers, we expect the classroom to be a space of developing and nurturing social critique—precisely what Prof. Bhumbe was doing. We stand in solidarity with him and condemn the right wing vigilantism.

 

Sd/-

Manisha Sethi, Adil Mehdi, Ahmed Sohaib, Tanweer Fazal, Arshad Alam, Farah Farooqi, Azra Razack, Anwar Alam, Ghazi Shahnawaz, Ambarien al Qadar, Adnan Farooqi, Sucharita Sengupta, Manoj Jena, MS Bhatt and Nabanipa Bhattacharya.

 

 

 

Police action against anti-Posco villagers leaves scores injured


By Newzfirst Correspondent2/3/13
 

Bhubaneswar – Scores of women and children of Govindpur village were injured in a lathi-charge resorted by the Odisha Police during the early morning of Sunday. After arresting several villagers, the authorities are now carrying out the land acquisition to facilitate much controversial POSCO project, by destroying betel plantations.

According to the sources, 12 platoons of the Police force entered the village at  4 o’clock in the morning, and resorted to lathi-charge when villagers started protesting.

“Scores of people including women and children have been injured in the Police action and many of the villagers have been taken into custody by the Police. The numbers of injured and arrested is yet to be confirmed.” Spokesperson of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti ,Prashant Paikray told Newzfirst.

Villagers including women and children have been sitting on dharna since 14 January not to allow the Police force deployed by the Government to forcefully acquire the land, into the village.

 

The persistent resistance of the villagers against the forcible land acquisition has caused Odisha Government setback in executing Rs. 52000 crore POSCO steel project in Jagatsinghpur district.

 

Diamonds are Not Forever, But the Land Is


By Tommy TrenchardReprint |       , IPS
Mabinti displays a papaya in the village of Makonkonde. Like many farmers in rural Sierra Leone, she struggles to get her fruit to the market. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/IPSMabinti displays a papaya in the village of Makonkonde. Like many farmers in rural Sierra Leone, she struggles to get her fruit to the market. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/IPS

FREETOWN , Jan 31 2013 (IPS) – In the village of Makonkonde in western Sierra Leone, Mabinti, who no longer knows her age, sits on a low wooden stool in the dappled shade of several palm trees. She clutches a solitary papaya fruit in hands toughened by a lifetime of hard manual work.

Small-scale farming is not an easy way to make a living in rural Sierra Leone. Mabinti’s only real chance of selling her papaya is by waiting for customers travelling along the sandy track running through town, which sees just one or two motorbikes per hour.

The alternative – transporting the fruit by bike to the nearby town of Waterloo – would cost more than Mabinti would receive from the sale.

Like many others in this West African nation’s underdeveloped fruit industry, she has suffered from the lack of an accessible and profitable market for her papayas. The domestic market for Sierra Leone’s fruits has its limits. It offers very low prices for some products, such as mangoes, and can be effectively inaccessible to growers based far from the larger urban centres.

 

In these conditions, much of the country’s fruit harvest has traditionally gone to waste, particularly in rural areas, and the sector continues to bear the hallmarks of subsistence, rather than commercial production, with most fruit consumed locally.

“Over the past years a lot of our fruits have perished,” Samuel Serry, a spokesman at the Ministry of Agriculture, tells IPS. “Most of them have just got rotten in the rainy season.”

The ministry, in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has been undertaking efforts to commercialise farming in Sierra Leone by improving access to markets, promoting the addition of value to the country’s raw products and providing support to socially responsible investors.

The FAO is also encouraging the formation of farming collectives, each consisting of around 35 farmers, and is establishing a series of Agri-Business Centres (ABCs) across the country, each of which will be used by three or four collectives.

This system, according to the organisation’s representative of programmes Joseph Brima, is hoped to improve output, provide access to processing equipment and storage facilities, and facilitate the passage of goods to market.

But the FAO, like its partners at the ministry, is also trying to attract investors capable of processing and adding value to Sierra Leone’s crops, and in doing so providing a lucrative new market for local farmers.

One such company is Africa Felix Juice, a manufacturer of Fairtrade tropical fruit juice and concentrate for export to Europe. Africa Felix Juice represents a new business model that offers Sierra Leonean farmers a guaranteed market and a fair price for their fruit.

What makes Africa Felix Juice unique, says its Italian founder and CEO Claudio Scotto, is that it is the first company in Sierra Leone exporting a manufactured product to Europe since the country’s 10-year civil war ended in 2002.

Like many African nations, Sierra Leone has traditionally exported raw materials including rutile, iron ore, and most famously, rough diamonds.

By turning fruit into concentrate at a small factory in the village of Newton, near the capital Freetown, Africa Felix Juice adds value to its product, employs 45 permanent staff and can afford to offer higher prices to the 2,000 mango farmers whose fruit they buy.

“It was very easy to persuade the farmers to sell me mangoes, as they were going rotten all the time,” says Scotto, who traces the origin of the business to meeting his Sierra Leonean wife.

Even in places where a market already existed, because Africa Felix Juice is Fairtrade certified they pay well over the normal price for produce – up to three times as much in the case of rural mango producers. In turn they encourage increased production.

In the village of Garahun, local chief Momodou Kamara is thinking of planting more mango trees after the village started selling the fruit to Africa Felix Juice. He explains that the villagers used to have to transport their mangoes to Waterloo, where they would sell them for 500 Leones (10 cents) per dozen. Now they receive more than three times that. “There is profit in it now,” he says.

Scotto blames the legacy of the civil war for the slow growth of agribusiness in the last decade. “The absence of peace can just destroy the whole platform for business,” he says, citing a lingering lack of trust as an obstacle to successful business enterprise.

But Sierra Leone has come a long way since 2002. After a peaceful presidential election last November in which the incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma won a second term in office, there is a powerful sense that the country is now fully open for business.

Abdullah F. Koroma, who stopped growing pineapples after rebels vandalised his irrigation system during the war, this year restarted production on his farm in the village of Mobangba. “The country has not been stable (until now),” he tells IPS.

The story of Sierra Leone’s fruit industry is one of vast – but still largely unrealised – potential. Back at the ministry, Serry sees the agricultural sector as a key component of Sierra Leone’s future economic development.

While much attention is paid to recent large-scale mining operations in the country, agriculture, says Serry, contributes 45 percent of the country’s GDP and employs over 3.5 million people, out of a total population of less than six million.

“There is a very great potential in the agricultural sector. Because diamonds are not forever, but the land will always stay.”

 

 

#India- Police enters our village, beat women and children, arrested villagers and cut trees #mustshare


Dear Friends,

In the wee hours today (at around 4 am) the police has entered into our villages and beaten up women and children, arrested some of our villagers (number is yet to be known).

As we have intimated you earlier that the police force has been gradually swelling in our area amidst our continuing human chain and Dharana in the Balitikira-the boarder of Govindpur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsingpur district, the police has deceptively entered to the villages with full force at 4 a.m. today. Our people sensed their possible move at around 2 o clock night and alerted the villagers by ringing bells. Gradually women, children, male members started getting accumulated at the Dharana place. At 4 a.m. the police entered and attacked the women and children first. The male police have ruthlessly beaten our women who were lying on a human chain. Some women have been severely inured. The Police have thrown our children like flowers, some of whom are injured. Some villagers have been arrested by the police and been taken to custody. At the moment we do not have exact numbers as the situation is too tensed on the spot. The police have started breaking our betel vines and cutting the trees forcefully. More and more numbers of our villagers have come to the spot and a war like situation has arisen. Our committed villagers are facing a mighty 12 platoons of police force.

We fail to understand the decision of the state to acquire land when the National Green Tribunal has already suspended the environment clearance to the proposed POSCO project in our area. Naveen Patnaik is behaving like an agent of the POSCO company.

As the situation is too alarming, we appeal all our friends to protest against the barbarism and call/write/fax to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Odisha and Chief Secretary of Odisha, Home Minsitry, Odisha appealing to immediately stop the police brutality and withdrawal of the force from our area. Please call to your respective MPs and MLAs and raise your protest against them urging them to oppose the illegal move. Write to NHRC also.

We request our media friends to rush to our villages and see the situation in their own eyes and report.

We will intimate further developments soon.

Please widely circulate this mail.

In Solidarity,
Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Mobile no-09437571547
E-Mail – prashantpaikary@gmail.com

The contact address of the authorities

 

#India-Stop moves to bypass Forest Rights Act when taking forest land for large projects #tribalrights


 

To:

Dr. Manmohan Singh 

Prime Minister of India 

New Delhi 110001

011-23019545 / 011-23016857

Sub: Stop moves to bypass Forest Rights Act when taking forest land for large projects

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh-ji,

For the last five years, ignoring protests from both people’s organisations and political parties, and despite the Forest Rights Act 2006, the practice of illegally grabbing forest land has remained dominantly in vogue in most of the country.  This happened because the Government of India could not make up its mind about what it intends to do with the Forest Rights Act, which recognises people’s rights over forest resources and their legal power to protect and manage them. The land-grab continued despite adverse comments by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, protests and mobilisations from across the country, and rhetoric from your government about its commitment to adivasi rights. Even the Minister of Tribal Affairs in your/ government, Shri Kishore Chandra Deo, has to write twice to highlight this illegality. Apparently, this has not stopped the Environment Ministry from indulging in grossly illegal practices of considering and clearing projects with definite environmental impacts.

The law requires that no forest land can be taken for a project without a certificate from the affected gram sabhas that their rights under the Forest Rights Act have been recognised, and that they( gram sabhas) agree to the diversion. As the Minister of Tribal Affairs himself put it, this is being “honoured in the breach” and the concerned statutory bodies are “misleading project proponents and the public”, thereby “produc[ing] conflict, harassment, injustice, delays and litigation.”

The question one likes to be answered is how a government that has recently seen one after another eruption of public anger against its callous and corrupt favouring of private interests, affords to favour the same interests at the cost of millions of forest dwelling citizens of this country, and compromising their legal and constitutional rights?

We now learn from media reports that your office, and in particular a committee headed by your  Principal Secretary, PMO, Pulok Chatterjee, has come out with a perfectly shocking state of ‘recommendations’ which aim to legalize the illegal practices the MoEF has been indulging in granting forest clearances for most projects. Citing a dubious reason of ‘delays in project clearances’ –something which none other than your Environment Minister has shown to be resulting from faulty documentation, fraudulent proposals and attempts at engaging in speculation—the rights of the some of the most marginalized and oppressed citizens of the country are to be sacrificed, by stipulating a series of unacceptable changes in the forest clearance process which in recent years has been to a great extent influenced by the order issued by the MoEF on August 2009.  The order which provided for a much needed regulatory framework to ensure compliance with both Forest Rights Act and PESA in the forest clearance process stands to be nullified if the PMO Committee’s recommendations are acted upon: the recommendations directly violate the FRA and, in Scheduled Areas, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (as well as by implication the Fifth Schedule itself). Procedural delay cannot be an excuse for bypassing laws. The alacrity, with which your government seeks to serve the interests of large corporations and resource grabbers, while paying a lip service to protecting tribal rights, exposes the real character of the UPA government’s administration.

We condemn this transparently corrupt, illegal and repressive move and demand. We therefore call upon you to:

  • Uphold and strictly enforce the Forest Rights Act and the 2009 order of the Ministry of Environment and Forests for FRA compliance, ensuring that no forest land is taken without gram sabha consent and without certificates from gram sabhas that rights recognition is complete;
  • Start criminal prosecution against officials who have diverted or tried to divert forest land without respecting people’s rights;
  • Withhold existing clearances for diversion of forest land. They should be cancelled if found to violate the provisions of the Act or the 2009 order. Where projects have already come up, those affected should be rehabilitated as well as granted additional compensation for the criminal violation of their rights (along with prosecution of those responsible).

Thanking You

 

Mahasweta Devi, Writer, Winner of Gyanpith and Magsaysay Award Winner

 

Dr. Ajit Banerjee, Ex- Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal

 

Samar Bagchi, Ex-Director, Birla Industrial & Technological Museum, Kolkata

 

Dr. Kalyan Rudra, River Expert, Columnist

 

Biswajit Mukherjee, Ex-Chief Law Officer, Dept. of Environment, Govt. of West Bengal

 

Prof. Sujay Basu, Scientist

 

Prof. Suvendu Dasgupta, Economist, Columnist

 

Jaya Mitra, Writer, Columnist

 

Dr. Meher Engineer, Ex-Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata

 

Naba Dutta, Columnist and Secretary, Nagarik Mancha

 

Jayanto Basu, Environmentalist

 

Balai Soren, Secretary, Adibasi Banabasi Adhikar Mancho

 

Soumitra Ghosh, Secretary, Nespon, Siligui, West Bengal

 

Sasanka Dev, Secretary, DISHA, Kolkata

 

Pradip Chatterjee, Secretary, National Fishworkers’ Forum

 

Gobinda Das, Secretary, Sundarban Matsyajibi Joutha Sangram Committee

 

Tejendralal Das, President, Dakshin Banga Matsyajibi Forum

 

Previous Older Entries

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,234 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,760,144 hits

Archives

February 2013
M T W T F S S
« Jan   Mar »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728  
%d bloggers like this: