#India – Crucial lessons from decades of campaigns by women’s groups on Rape Law #Vaw #Sexualharassment


From Mathura to Bhanwari

RAPE

EPW- Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013 | Laxmi Murthy

The recent law on sexual harassment at the workplace rides on the back of decades of campaigns by women’s groups, starting with the rape law in the famous “Mathura case” to the guidelines on sexual harassment arising from the fight by Bhanwari Devi to punish the men who gangraped her for opposing child marriage. Unfortunately, lawmakers have failed to heed some of the crucial lessons that can be drawn from these struggles.

Laxmi Murthy (laxmim@himalmag.com) is consulting editor, Himal Southasian, Kathmandu, and director, Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange.

Mathura, the 16-year-old adivasi girl whose gang-rape in police custody in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, triggered a nation-wide campaign against rape and demands for reform in criminal law, would be 56 years old this year. Bhanwari Devi, whose gang-rape by upper-caste men in Bhateri village of Rajasthan caused immense outrage and provided the impetus for a significant ruling against sexual harassment at the workplace, is also 56 years old.

Both these icons of the women’s movement might not have benefited directly from the campaigns to reform the law dealing with rape. Mathura had faded into obscurity, having got married and was getting on with her life, completely unaware that one of the pillars of Indian democracy – the Supreme Court of India – was being challenged on her behalf. In 1980, she was in her 20s when journalists from the national media descended on her village to interview the young woman whose case had been the driving force behind changes in the rape law. Not much was heard about her after that.

Yet, the “Mathura case”1 has gone down in the annals of feminist history as a watershed in challenging patriarchal notions of the judiciary. Though she had been raped in 1972, the case came into the public domain in 1979 when, for the first time ever, there was a questioning of the judgment of the apex court which overturned the Bombay High Court conviction of the policemen, on grounds that the complainant was “habituated to sex”. Moreover, the acquittal took into consideration the fact that Mathura had not “raised any alarm for help” and the “absence of any injuries or signs of struggle” on her body. Thus began a significant debate about “consent” and “submission”, and the notion that while consent involves submission, the converse is not necessarily true.

Pointing out inadequacies not only in the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, but in the judicial proceedings, four professors of law condemned the attitude of the judges in the Mathura case and questioned the “extraordinary decision sacrificing human rights in the Indian law and the Constitution”. The letter emphasised the social context, “the young victim’s low socio-economic status, lack of knowledge of legal rights and lack of access to legal services, and the fear complex which haunts the poor and the exploited in Indian police stations”. The letter raised fundamental questions: “Must illiterate, labouring, politically mute Mathuras of India be condemned to their pre-constitutional Indian fate?…Nothing short of protection of human rights and constitutionalism is at stake”.2

Placing the crime of rape firmly in the context of power relationships and gender inequality led to major reform in the law relating to rape in 1983, when the concept of “custodial” rape was introduced and the “burden of proof” in these cases was shifted on to the accused, provision for in camera trials was introduced and the law prohibited the disclosure of the identity of the victim, and punishments were made more stringent.

No Real Change

Yet, about 10 years after these amendments, the situation had not changed significantly. In 1992, Bhanwari Devi, asathin (village level worker) in the Women’s Development Programme in Rajasthan, was gang-raped by five upper-caste men for having the temerity to stop them from conducting child marriages. As a women’s rights activist, Bhanwari was aware of the procedural requirements to report a rape, and battled indifferent medical personnel in Jaipur, 55 km away, and biased policemen at every step. It was only 52 hours after the rape that the mandatory medical examination was conducted. The law took its own sluggish course. A charge sheet was filed a year later, and in 1995, a sessions court acquitted the men on the ground that “upper-caste men could not have raped a dalit woman”. The judiciary also could not believe that an uncle and nephew could rape the same woman. The impunity of the family and caste system remained intact.

By 2007, two of the accused had died while the appeal languished in the high court. Like Mathura, Bhanwari’s life goes on. However, she has been transformed into an icon for struggling women all over the country, receiving accolades and recognition as a symbol of resistance. While the rape case has not been won, Bhanwari’s spirit of resistance is a winner through all the tribulations of dealing with the gargantuan legal machinery that has come to represent that elusive concept called “justice”. At public meetings earlier this year in Mangalore and Bangalore to mark International Women’s Day, Bhanwari’s dynamism mesmerised the audience, igniting hope that women need not be victims alone. “Only justice can fill my belly, not awards,” she declared, forefronting what for the women’s movement has been one of the most difficult struggles – to reconcile societal notions of justice and reparation with individual trauma.

While the rape case drags on, Bhanwari’s experience provided the impetus for a radical change in jurisprudence in the law on sexual harassment. This new approach which firmly embedded the concept of sexual harassment in the framework of constitutional guarantees of rights rather than notions of propriety, modesty or honour, emerged from the judicial recognition of the precarious position of women workers, especially those in rural settings. In response to a writ petition filed by women’s groups, the highest court in the land issued the Vishaka Guidelines on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in 1997. The Supreme Court held,

sexual harassment at the workplace is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the Right to Equality as well as Article 19 which guarantees the Right to Practise any Profession, trade or business. Since the right to work depends on the availability of a safe working environment, and the Right to Life (Article 21) means a life with dignity, the hazards posed by sexual harassment need to be removed for these rights to have any meaning.

Indeed, it is ironic that one of the most radical conceptions of ensuring the right of women workers to a safe working environment emerged out of the experience of a worker in the insecure work arrangement within the Women’s Development Programme of Rajasthan – one that the government has categorically denied is employment at all. This is particularly paradoxical, given that this programme was an outcome of the mobilisation of the late 1970s following the publication in 1975 of “Towards Equality, Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI)”3authored by stalwarts in women’s studies like Phulrenu Guha, Lotika Sarkar and Vina Majumdar. Following on from this realisation, the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85),4 which for the first time included a chapter on Women and Development stated,

A low rate of literacy and low economic status stress the need for greater attention to the economic advancement of women. Improvement in the socio-economic status of women would depend on a large extent on the social change in the value system, attitudes and social structure prevailing in the country.

It was to redress the situation that benefits of development in post-Independence India had not reached the vast majority of women in rural areas that the Mahila Vikas Abhikaran, or the Women’s Development Project (WDP) of Rajasthan was set up in 1984. According to the Policy Document of the Project,5

Most government schemes in which the involvement of the family in the process of development is essential, have grievously suffered due to women’s isolation. This is true not only of programmes of child welfare – in which women’s involvement is well-accepted – but also those of dairy development, social forestry, IRDP, agricultural production, etc. Indeed women’s development is one of the most critical challenges for Rajasthan.

Catalyst for Change

The WDP undoubtedly acted as a catalyst for change in rural Rajasthan, and its close association with the women’s movement in the early days contributed to a radical understanding of women’s empowerment, an understanding that began to have a life of its own. The village women’s meetings (jajams) evolved as unique forums to raise women’s issues, and women began breaking out of the shackles of traditional bondage and raised hitherto taboo subjects. They began to take part in the jati (caste) panchayat, protested against domestic and other forms of violence, demanded property and other rights, etc. The information that was shared about government schemes related to health, education, public distribution, wages and measurements in famine works, minimum wages, land records, property and other legal rights became a tool to challenge social and gender inequities. Women began to be aware of their rights and soon began to spot prevalent corrupt practices and together with the Sathins raised their voices against exploitation.

Initially they had the support of WDP, but with time, women’s power that had been unleashed at the grass roots began to upset prevailing hierarchies. This then led the state to start exercising its authority and control women’s assertions. There was growing discontent and the contradictions that were built into the programme from the very beginning began to effect cleavages that had no internal remedy. As the sathin became increasingly aware of the exploitative nature of her employment and the blatant inequalities in the salary structure within the hierarchy of WDP, the ironies of the situation surfaced.6

With the stated aim of empowering rural women through “communication of information, education and training and to enable them to recognise and improve their social and economic status”, the sathins’ job was to act as a bridge between the government and the masses, essentially, implementing and making any number of government schemes palatable. They worked, and continue to work, in precarious conditions, for a monthly pittance of Rs 1,600, which was raised from Rs 200 in the 1990s, after dogged campaigning by the Mahila Vikas Abhikaran Sathin Karamchari Sangh (the WDP Sathin Union). The poor wages and job insecurity were compounded by the challenges of the work itself.

The task of “consciousness raising” or preventing “social evils” like dowry, sex selection and child marriage can be extremely hazardous, especially at the village level with deeply entrenched feudal, caste and patriarchal structures. Bhanwari was raped while attempting to overturn exactly these sorts of practices, in her own community. It takes immense courage to enter the homes of neighbours, relatives and friends, and demand that they go against prevailing customs and stop child marriage or refuse to take dowry. Needless to say, there is no job security, no benefits, no welfare measures or even basic infrastructure like transport, and no support at all from their employers – the government – while doing this risky work. The unsafe working conditions of the majority of women workers in the unorganised sector is a larger and more complex question, but the legislation that emerged from Bhanwari Devi’s struggle for a safe working environment is one step towards ensuring the rights of women workers.

Sexual Harassment Law

The Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which was signed into law on 22 April, is a significant civil remedy that recognises women’s right to a safe work environment free of sexual harassment. The onus is on the employer, who is responsible for ensuring such an environment and is to be held liable in case of any violations. While the public sector and private sector are covered, the law also includes other work places, including the sphere of paid domestic work. Additionally, the broad definition of “employee” encompasses a range of work situations including the informal/unorganised sector:

employee means a person employed at a workplace for any work on regular, temporary, ad hoc or daily wage basis either directly or through an agent, including a contractor, with, or without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, or working on a voluntary basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied and includes a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, apprentice or called by any other such name.

The challenge, of course, is in the implementation. Quite apart from the debatable legality of conferring powers of a civil court on “Internal Complaints Committees”, the proper functioning of these bodies in the organised sector and “Local Complaints Committees” depends largely on their composition. The requirement of women members as well as members “familiar with issues related to sexual harassment” is crucial for a sensitive handling of cases, since sexual harassment at the workplace must be viewed within the framework of unequal power relations within the workplace, where women at lower rungs are more vulnerable.

Indeed, the major flaw of the new law is the provision to penalise women for making “false and malicious complaints”. It is this provision, Section 14, which succeeds in pulling the rug from under the feet of any woman who plucks up the courage to complain about sexual harassment. The Indian Penal Code (Section 211) already contains a provision to protect citizens from false complaints. Therefore, the inclusion of a specific clause such as this in a law primarily meant to ensure women’s rights must be viewed with disquiet. Despite years of complaints and submissions by women’s groups demanding that this provision be dropped, the new law includes it and thereby undercuts itself.

As the Report of the Justice Verma Committee7 observes,

We think that such a provision is a completely abusive provision and is intended to nullify the objective of the law. We think that these ‘red-rag’ provisions ought not to be permitted to be introduced and they show very little thought.

Despite such a strong recommendation, the Act contains this misogynist provision which can only serve to further victimise women. Over-compensating for “misuse”, even before the law can be used, is merely writing the script for its own nemesis.

Notes

Tuka Ram and Anr vs State of Maharashtra on 15 September 1978: 1979 AIR 185, 1979 SCR (1) 810.

2 Baxi U, Lotika Sarkar, Raghunath Kelkar and Vasudha Dhagamwar, “An Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India”, SCC Journal, Vol 4, p 17, 1979.

3 Ministry of Education and Social Welfare, 1975.

4 Planning Commission, Government of India 1981.

5 Policy Document, Women’s Development Project, Rajasthan, Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of Rajasthan, May 1984.

6 A Sawhny and Kiran Dubey, “Justice, the State and Sathins’ Struggle”, EPW, 36(16), 21 April 2001.

7 Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law, chaired by Justice J S Verma, with Justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramaniam as members. The report was submitted on 23 January 2013.

 

 

INDIA: A Republic of the rapists, by the rapists, for the rapists? #Vaw


rapepublic1

Avinash Pandey

The news had sprung up from nowhere. All that I had picked up the newspaper for, was to kill some time on that long flight and here it was, tucked away in a small box, staring at me. Reading it had sent a shiver down my spine. No, it was not about some unseen horrors. It was not about gruesome murders, kidnappings or even collapse of yet another state exposing its citizenry, or at least minority section of that, to grave human rights violations.

The news was just about another advisory issued by United Kingdom for a section of its citizens travelling in India. But it was not the advisory that has made me this uneasy.  As it is, western countries are quite used to issuing advisories to their citizenry travelling in the underdeveloped countries warning them about everything from food to fanaticism. Many of us, in fact, have often scoffed at these advisories located in the racist past of these countries that treated the natives as nothing more than barbarians unable to govern themselves.

Not this one, though. It was an advisory that the government of United Kingdom had issued for its women, yeah, not all UK citizens but just its women travelling in India. It has advised them to remain alert even when travelling in groups for saving themselves from getting violated, sexually and otherwise. I tried stealing a glance at my co- passenger , stuck in the economy class seat as cramped as mine and wished that she had not read this piece while aboard a flight to Delhi, the capital of the country at the receiving end of this advisory.  To the very same Delhi which has earned the dubious distinction of being the rape capital of the country as well.

The news had opened floodgates of unsavory memories of similar horror stories told to me by my female, non-Indian colleagues, strangers and acquaintances alike. I remembered the very friendly owner of the wine shop I frequent on Fridays almost without fail. He had had heard about the Delhi Gang rape and was shocked. Knowing people like me, he had added, did not make him think that my country is home to such sexual predators. No, he was not being sarcastic; he was very genuinely sad and angry. There I was, thinking of all those ‘proud to be an Indian’ campaigns I had grown up on.

The advisory reminded me of a beautiful evening of partying around in Hong Kong with colleagues, a rarity in our line of work that begins with extrajudicial killings and ends with starvation deaths, with all other horrors stuck in between. It was after ages that we had let ourselves loose on that non-touristy beach we had discovered on one of our regular hikes. It was an evening of getting nostalgia fits and missing our countries, our homelands, with all the pains and agonies that the expats stuck up in foreign cultures live with.

I missed mine and recounted all that was great about it. India is not merely about Maharajas, magicians, snake charmers and Sadhus, I had told my friends. Of course, it is not, quipped Sofie, a Danish friend, cutting me short. It is also about sexually frustrated men thinking all white women are always available and can be taken against their will, she added. We were stunned, all of us, more on the matter of fact way she had said that than the comment itself. She, like the wine shop owner, was not angry. She could not be as she had lived in India for long stretches and had many good friends here, including me. She loved India and still does. Yet, her idea of Indian males was definitive and her friends, like me, came as aberrations and not rule.

Available! The word was haunting me on my way back to home that night. It reminded me of all those questions whispered into ears of any ‘foreign-returned’ Indian.  Have we not been used to questions like ‘wahan to free sex hai na’? Did you do it? How many times?  There were other words ringing in my ears too. They were the hymns celebrating goddess, or the feminine, as source of all power that had been drilled into our psyche since childhood.

One would try to wish away this sexual frustration, our national sickness, as something reserved for the ‘other’, white women. Can one? Not really, for even a cursory glance at public spaces would bring the truth that this national sickness is all pervasive. If white women are ‘available’ for Indian males, okay, most of them, then Indian women are either achievable or violable. This is the continuum they locate all women into, from being available to violable.

The violability, in turn, is reserved for the women from weaker sections of the society despite them having to bear the brunt of most brutal forms of violability. But then, it does not save the rest of them, Indian women, from getting violated. The thing is that the Indian male psyche fed on axioms like ‘ladki hansi to fansi’ (if a girl smiles, she is all yours) and ‘na bole to haan hai’ (rejection is in fact acceptance) does not differentiate much between achievability and violability. Any retaliation to their sexual advances, thus, makes them tread the thin line between the two.

This is why, for every Khairlanji that fails to stir the society, urban feminists and media included, one can easily find a Hotel Taj in Bombay seeing two of its women patrons sexually assaulted by a mob on the New Year eve. For every Bhanwari Devi in the feudal fiefdoms of Rajasthan there would be a Naina Sahni being burnt in a Tandoor, or a Jessica Lal getting killed in a posh South Delhi private party. And if the horror is not enough for you, for every woman being paraded naked in Uttar Pradesh, there would be one molested by a mob on national television in Guwahati.

Talk of these cases as a comment on our ‘national character’, and self appointed moral brigades would pounce on you while blaming the victims. They have, in fact, quite an expertise on pouncing on the victims, literally, as well. These self-designated ‘keepers of the sacred feminine’ (a friend coined this term though she uses a much more hard-hitting and little unprintable word for the feminine) would sexually assault women in Bangalore for the crime of going to a pub and the police would arrest and imprison the journalist recording the attack instead of the perpetrators. They, in the form of a senior Congress leader, sermonize the women not to wear indecent clothes and venture out at night instead of ensuring their safety and security.  They, in the form of a senior BJP leader, would rubbish the outrage such attacks cause as a drama of lipstick wearing women. Quite understandable, as they would be watching porn clips on their mobile phones amidst an ongoing assembly session as well.

This is why the advisory should not have shocked me.  I know, and have known, my country way too well to get shocked. It was not for nothing that the advisory had come before the gruesome gang rape of a foreign national in front of her husband in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh. It was not for nothing that the advisory had come before another foreign national was forced to jump out of her hotel room to thwart a rape attempt by none other than the hotel owner.

And it was not for nothing that the advisory had come after Delhi Gangrape but before Bhandara killings and suspected gang rape of three minor sisters which did not find even as much as a mention in national outraged-at-everything media. The girls, hailing from dispossessed background, did not mean much to it. The girls, hailing from the hinterlands, did not mean much to the urbane and suave feminists as well. But then, there rests the root cause of the problem.

If Bhandara girls are violable, no women of the country, or outside, can be safe.  If the men out on prowl do not find such ‘easily violable’ preys, they are going to pounce at any other woman in sight irrespective of her status of being available, achievable or violable in their eyes.  Yes, I know how painful it is to refer to a section of our own women as ‘easily violable preys’ but then wishing the reality away does not help much, does it? The reality is that we are ‘proud’ citizens of a country that lets deeply entrenched casteist and communal forces commit gory crimes against the marginalized sections of its population with impunity. We can either stand up and fight or hide in our cocoons tucked inside the gated communities, looking away is not an option available to us.

It is also high time for rewriting the grammar of shame and social stigma attached to such crimes against women. The perpetrators do it with impunity for they know that the shame of getting violated would be written on the bodies of these women and not over their own persons. Till then, we can hang our heads in shame and hide after every such advisory issued by any country.

I am afraid, in fact, of the day they would issue an advisory telling women to get alert as soon as they see an Indian man anywhere in the world. And if you find this fear unfounded, or farfetched, remember the acts of the Indian youth leaders’ delegation that visited China earlier this year. If you don’t, know that many of them sexually harassed every women in sight, Chinese as well as female members of their own delegation. The only way authorities could devise for stopping them for bringing more shame to the country was restraining a large section of them from going out and forcing them to remain in their hotel rooms for the rest of the visit.

The youth leaders are back with their honours intact. They would grow into the future leaders of the country. Need one say more about the exigency of an advisory warning against the presence of any Indian male anywhere in the world?

About the Author: Mr. Pandey, alias Samar is Programme Coordinator, Right to Food Programme, He can be contacted atsamar@ahrc.asia

PRESS RELEASE-International Anti Big Dam day- People oppose Vishnugad-Peepalkoti HEP in Ganga valley


A pic of the Tehri dam taken from a moving bus...

 

  • Today on 14th march in Alaknandaganga valley, on the occasion of international Anti Big Dam day demonstration held .on one hand , across the country, there has been no rehabilitation of the people displaced by big dams ,the environmental norms have been grossly violated ,on the other side the proposed power generation has not happened .In Uttrakhand itself the situation of the Dams constructed so far , is very dismal .the dams pose a danger not only for the river but also spell doom for the state. For seeking their rights , Tehri Dam displaced people had to go up to the supreme court only then some semblance of rehabilitation has happened. For the last 21 years litigation has been going on in the case between N.D. Juyal and shekhar singh V/s GoI. The struggle for rehabilitation has been spearheaded by the anti dam campaigners .

    In uttrakhand on Alaknandaganga under construction Vishnugad–Peepalkoti HEP area ,under the banner of Matu Jansangthan, men and women of the affected villages of kaudiya ,Durgapur ,Harsari ,Naurakh ,Tagari etc. protested .In Harsari village people gathered at the Dam site where the construction of tunnel is under way ,the work was stalled and THDC officials were gheroed .After this the procession proceeded to the THDC office at Siyasedh ,shouting slogans like Ganga ko aviral Bahene do ,Badhe bandh Dhoka hai ,and vowed to continued their struggle .

    In the meeting Naurakha Vansarpanch Brihashraj Tadial said that destruction of our future would not be tolerated, we do not want Dams .We have fought till today and the struggle would continue.
    Narinder Pokhariyal said that for the last 9 years our village peopel are facing the consequences of this proposed Dam but the company has not shown any concern . Even Hatt village people are hanging on to mere assurances only.

    Ramlal said that the company has not been able to compensate for the damages done during the survey so the people can well gauge the future .Geeta devi said that due to site blasting at night while the people have lost their sleep the government is sound asleep . Women at various villages Masuri Devi ,Nandi Devi ,Bhadi Devi all protested daming of the river.

    Impact of even samll Hydro Electric Project are in bad in Uttrakhand. For example on July 24 and 3rd aug 2012 ,in Assi ganga river valley due to cloud burst under construction Kaldigahat and Assi ganga Phase-I and II Hydro electric project caused disaster and Bhagirathi ganaga in Maneri Chal phase II caused lots of destruction. There is no account or record of the deaths of the workers . The villages along Assiganga have been badly affected. The pathways have been eroded . But no action, no enquary has been setup on the dam builder.

    Under this situation our struggle is on against dams to save our rivers and our rights over on natural resouces.

    Narendra Pokhriyal, Bindadevi, Ramlal, Keshridevi, Vimalbhai

 

 

 

 

Remembering Lakshmi, ‘Devi’ #Obituary #Vaw #Womenrights


Lakshmi, 'Devi' ( Mathamma)

S Anandhi, EPW march 16, 2013 vol xlviiI 32 no 11

As a dedicated Mathamma, Devi’s world consisted of the violent

realities of caste oppression and sexual exploitation. Struggling

to negotiate her convictions to abolish the practice of dedicating

women to the goddess, she wanted to show her fellow

Mathammas how it is still possible to struggle for one’s own

autonomy. Like her life, her death too was a centre of controversy.

Just as her life, Lakshmi’s death too is dogged by controversy. The news

of her suicide was almost unbelievable,indeed shocking, since she was a

fi ghter despite having had to struggle against poverty and sexual violence all

her life. At the age of seven, Lakshmi,also known as Devi, an Arunthathiyar

woman, was dedicated to her caste goddess,Mathamma, and performed as a

dancer during the Mathamma festival in10 villages of Thiruthani taluka in Tiruvallur

district of Tamil Nadu. No one remembers her original name – she was

known only as Mathamma like the other dedicated women in her village.

I met Devi in 2009 as part of my research project on dalit women activists

in the offi ce of the Rural Women’s Liberation Movement in Arakkonam. Looking

famished, a bright-eyed woman with attractive features was introduced to me

as the president of the recently formed Mathamma Relief and Rehabilitation

Association and as one of the activists of the Rural Women’s Liberation Movement.

As part of her campaign against the practice of dedicating women to the goddess,

she rechristened herself Devi and refused to being called Mathamma. Devi was clear

she wanted an identity for herself and not to be lost in the generality of being

the “goddess”. However, she feared that removing her mangalsutra or thali, the

symbol of her dedication to Mathamma might invite the wrath of the goddess

leading to her death or some serious illness. Not surprisingly, many criticised

her for not being courageous enough to remove the thali.

The Rebel

As I understood from my conversations with Devi, she was struggling to negotiate

her convictions to abolish the practice of dedicating women to the goddess both

in her struggle for survival as an impoverished, outcaste, landless labourer, and

as a Mathamma controlled by both the upper caste and her own caste men

It was important for Devi not to give up her identity as a Mathamma since

she was bargaining with the state for the betterment of all the women who

had been dedicated to the goddess. It was equally important for her to be a

Mathamma in order to challenge the men of her community from within and

to show fellow Mathammas how it was possible to struggle for one’s own

autonomy even within the limits imposed by the system.

Devi’s world was not just of “radical political activism” demanded of her by

her organisation; it also consisted of violent realities of caste oppression and

sexual exploitation specifi c to her life as              a “Devadasi”.

As a dedicated Mathamma from the age of 16, Devi resisted her

caste panchayat regulating her sexual life. She refused to pay the fi ne imposed

on her for living with a Paraiyar man without the approval of the panchayat.

After living with her for 18 years, he left her with three children. By then Devi

had given up dancing, which had at least sustained her and her family. Nonetheless,

she resisted dominant caste men,Naidus in this case, taking advantage of

her situation and refused offers of monetary favours in exchange for sex. It is the

assertion of her sexual rights and her awareness of what she was entitled to

that invited the wrath of her natal family and her caste community refused to

help in her struggle to survive. Narrating these bitter experiences she once

remarked that she is “an outcaste among the outcastes”.

Persistent poverty and the refusal of the dominant castes to employ her as an

agricultural labourer (since she rejected their advances) pushed her back into

dancing during the Mathamma festival and, occasionally, into sexual labour for

a pittance. This enabled her to survivebut did not provide enough to send her

son to school. Devi was conscious and aware that many women in her organisation

did not share the same moral and ethical world that she lived in but that

did not deter her from talking about it and the pain and pleasure it entailed.

Indeed, regular consumption of alcohol and her sexual choices were at the

centre of the criticism she faced within her village and organisation, though

the latter was concerned about her health. Devi often dismissed these

remarks as talk of “privileged people” (vasadi ullavanga pesuvanga) but did

not get discouraged.

Devi carried on her struggle to get patta lands for Mathammas and eventually

got three cents of land with a housing patta and managed to build a small

hut to live in. Devi was emerging as a formidable leader of the oppressed

Mathammas much to the dislike of her community men and dominant castes

in her village. She contested the local panchayat election for the post of ward

member but was defeated due to a malicious campaign that presented her as a

prostitute and an alcoholic.

Diffi cult Death

Unfortunately, these were the same moral values with which her death was

questioned and judged. On 16 January 2013, Devi’s son informed her organisation

that she had died in a nearby village where she had gone to work and live

with her new male partner against his wishes. The organisation and her partner

arranged to bring her body back to her village for the last rites. Her partner

claimed Devi had committed suicide by consuming fertiliser. Not believing the

claim, activists of the Rural Women’s Movement demanded a post-mortem.

This was stoutly refused by her caste community as many did not want a

p olice probe into the case of a Mathamma who had been at the centre of controversies

in the village and Devi’s body was quickly cremated.

It was three months before her death that Devi met her new partner, a coolie

worker from Andhra Pradesh, who lived with his wife and daughter. However, the

Arunthathiyar caste panchayat in Devi’s village refused to accept her new partner

and imposed a heavy fi ne on her. They also threatened her partner, telling him

to leave the village. In protest, an enraged Devi removed her thali, something she

had refused to do on several previous occasions, and left the village. Her son had

already occupied her small hut and she was left with nothing in the village. At

the behest of her new partner, Devi worked as a construction labourer in another

village and supported his e ntire family. However, she was subjected to severe

forms of domestic violence.

Just fi ve days before her death, Devivisited her village and told members of

her organisation that she was being tortured by her partner and that he did not

allow her to leave him as she had been providing for his family. According to

the activists of her organisation, though Devi had marks of physical injuries and

complained of severe trouble in breathing, she remained spirited and full of life

as ever. Her caste men and others were quick to conclude that her death was due

to alcoholism, some even attributed it to her so-called sexual excesses. Devi, in

their view, was an “immoral” woman who had insulted goddess Mathamma

and therefore incurred her wrath.In several of her interviews with me,

Devi spoke of the brutality of the systemand the violence of caste in which women

like her were treated as less than human.She also spoke of the Mathammas’

illusionary search for “permanent love”.

Devi’s struggle against poverty and sexual exploitation and her search for freedom

might have ended but her insights on the lives of the most oppressed and

her courage to stand up against exploitation must stay with us. They speak to us

of complex histories of power, subjectivity and identity.

Notes

1 Though her movement was equating the custom of Mathammas with the devadasi custom,Devi, in her interviews, denied such equations on the grounds that the erstwhile devadasiswere respected and revered and were granted properties, while the Mathammas were left to starve with no one to care for them.

2 As per the ritual practice of Arunthathiyars, dedicated Mathamma women are not permitted to marry. It is generally perceived by othersthat Mathammas lead an “immoral” sexual life as they are not constrained by familial responsibilities.On the contrary, the sexual choices of Mathammas are not actually choices of their own. It is well known that they are sexually exploited by the dominant castes as well as by those men who choose to be their sexual partners.

On several occasions, Devi has shared her personal experiences of being deserted by men

fter she gave birth to their children, leaving  the burden of providing and parenting entirely

on her. The close surveillance of Mathammas by her caste elders ensured that the “choice” of

sexual partners is made only with the consent of the caste members.

I thank Fatima Burnad and friends at the
Society for Rural Education and Development, Arakkonam and M S S Pandian for their comments.

S Anandhi (anandhister@gmail.com) is Associate Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai.

 

On a car ride with Mother Courage- Bhanwari Devi #Vaw #Sexualharassment


Independent journalist & radio anchor Vasanthi Hariprakash tells about her date with Rajastan’s firebrand Bhanwari Devi
bangalore Mirror

bhanwari devi

Posted On Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 09:19:45 PM

It is one thing to read about Bhanvari Devi in the papers; totally another to see her, and then realise she is smiling at you with every bit of her warmth even when you are just introduced to her. A woman about whose courage reams have been written, whose grit in the face of gang rape 21 years back by upper caste men in her village had eventually led to the landmark Visakha judgment on sexual harassment of women at the workplace, Bhanwari does justice to that line I had heard sometime, recited on stage as part of a poem: “Rajasthan ki naari hai, phool nahi, chingaari hai” (The English translation of that line would do no justice to the spirit in which it was written: The woman of Rajasthan; she is no flower, she is the spark of a fire.)

Firebrand Bhanwari certainly is, or why would the unlettered woman from the oppressed Kumhar caste have ventured about 30 years back to be a saathin (woman community worker) in her village in Rajasthan? Why would she agree to be a volunteer whose job, as part of the Women’s Development Programme (WDP), was to intervene in child marriages that would mean taking on unrelenting powerful patriarchs?

It was a job that was to cost her very dearly. The year was 1992, village Bhateri, about 60 km from the capital city of Jaipur. And in that part of the country where child marriages are rampant, an uppercaste Gujar household had been getting ready for a wedding. Or more aptly, getting ready for cradle-snatching. The bride was a nine-month-old baby girl; the ‘groom’ all of 1 year!

Bhanwari, who knew what it meant to be a child bride having been one herself, landed up at the house. She tried telling them gently, explaining to them why it was so wrong, “Mat karo chhoti bacchii ki shaadi, bhavishya kharab ho jaati hai ladki ki. (Do not get the child married now, her future will be ruined),” she pleaded.

But when all the Gujar men present there yelled at and taunted her, she revoked the power of being a saathin. “Collector saab has asked women like me to stop the marriage if the bride is a child,” she said. The party was over, even if only for that time — the child’s marriage is said to have taken place a few months down the line.

The male ego and the caste pride were hurt; the price extracted soon enough. One evening, when Bhanwari and her husband were working in their sparse little field, five Gujar men showed up. After picking a fight with him, they took turns to rape Bhanwari.

“Itne chhote chhote thhe yeh sab,” she tells me putting out her hand to describe how small her kids back at home were. The mother of two sons and two daughters decided it was no time to cry. How she then told her husband that she would not listen to him and would go ahead to file a police complaint, how the local primary health centre refused to examine her, how women cops at the local police station took away her ghaghra as evidence leaving her to travel to Jaipur by bus wrapped only in a thin bed sheet, how her first medical examination happened only 48 hours after her rape, and how it was the pressure of women’s organisations that brought the horrific crime to light – these are part of the Bhanwari story now well known, and well documented in newspapers, books as well as online articles.

Bhanwari’s incredible courage pushed her to be an unlikely hero. It won her awards, most famously the Neerja Bhanot award — named after the brave airhostess who died trying to resist a hijack attempt on a Pan Am flight in 1986. It took Bhanwari to international fora and women’s conferences in foreign lands. It also made her the mascot of victory over traumatic circumstances, but back in her own village, little or nothing changed for her, especially socially. Today, while she is the toast of woman power all over the country, to her own fellow villagers in Bhateri, Bhanwari with her family continues to be an ‘outcaste’.

The crippling social boycott that bans any link with her is a hurt she doesn’t express openly, but is evident when she says, “Aas paas ke gaon ki auratein salaah lene aatin hai, mere gaon se ek bhi nahi. (Women from all the nearby villages come to me asking for guidance, not one from my village.)”

Her rapists, meanwhile, were freed long back, after serving barely a year in jail.

Even the government has done little for the welfare of saathins like her, who travel village to village, carrying the word of government schemes for the poor, and risk their life and limbs while trying to intervene in cases of dowry demands, female foeticide and child marriage. “Women workers of Anganwadi, which came in much later after the WDP did, earn much more than we do. From Rs 300 decades back, today it’s barely 1,600.”

And since they are cleverly termed ‘volunteers’, these women retire with no pension, despite having been government servants all their lives. But that lament is only temporary. The positive power of Bhanwari’s persona kicks in, embracing every person she comes in touch with.

At a felicitation function organised on Saturday in her honour by the Kannada Lekhakiyara Sangha (Women writers’ association) in Bangalore’s Chamrajpet, the reed-thin Bhanwari deeply hugs a young girl whose own story of courage had earlier moved the audience to a thunderous applause. That long, deep hug is freely dispensed to every woman, every girl who wants Bhanwari to pose for a picture with her, mostly clicked on mobile phones. Even this writer, meeting her for the first time, is a beneficiary of that embrace.

From Chamrajpet, a couple of women are set to take Bhanwari to an activist’s home in Srirampura near Malleswaram for a simple lunch. Seeing that they are trying to hail an autorickshaw, I ask them if they want to come along in my car. They agree, and soon the middle aged woman in a bright Rajasthani saree, its ghunghat covering her head, is seated in the middle of the backseat next to me. On the other side is her daughter Rameshwari, who has accompanied her on this trip to Bangalore, and earlier Mangalore, where she addressed — and “energised” — a rally of around 4,000 people to mark International Women’s Day, to specially speak out against increasing moral policing in the coastal city.

Rameshwari, who translates Bhanwari’s Rajasthani dialect into Hindi for us, says her mother was thrilled to see so many women come together in the rally. She saw on TV all the “maar-peet” how they dragged girls out of a party, tore their clothes, pulled their hair…

Bhanwari speaks before her daughter can finish that line. “Kisi bhi aurat ke saath aisa hota hai, toh lagta hai mere shareer par atyachar ho raha ho. Bahut zyada dukhi hoti hoon. (Whenever a woman goes through that kind of ordeal, I feel I am violated. It makes me very sad.)”

That sadness, though, is not of the helpless kind. “Suryanelli ki ladki ko itni badi sazaa kyon?” she suddenly breathes fire. Referring to the church’s ban on the Kerala rape survivor, she says, “Why is she being punished? What is her crime? Why can’t all of us behenen (sisters) go there to show our support for her?”

Looking out of the car, Bhanwari lapses into memories of her own struggle, first to get even the complaint against her rapists registered, and then the battle in the courts. “Court mein koi bhi nahi hai garib ki sunne ke liye. Beizzati hoti hai, khilvaad karte hain mahilaaon ke saathh. (There is none in the courts to listen to the poor. There is only indignity and insult for women.)”

Talk then veers to the Delhi girl whose gang rape and death caused such national outrage. I mention the recent American award given in her honour, and Bhanwari retorts, “Puraskaar se pet kaun bhare? Hume puraskaar nahi, nyaay dijiye. (Can an award feed the stomach? Give us justice, not awards.)

Sunny, spirited, sharp and ready with repartees — just what’s the secret source of her mum’s spunk, I ask Rameshwari as the women get out of the car. “Bas, Maa aisi hi hain. Suru se hi. (Mother is always like this. Right from the start). A proud smile later, “Strong. Ekdumm majboot

 

The Irony of Iconhood: The life and times of Bhanwari Devi #Vaw #Sexualharassment #Justice


https://i1.wp.com/www.lawisgreek.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/bhanwari-devi.jpg

by- Laxmi Murthy
“Only justice can fill my belly, not awards,” says Bhanwari Devi in response to a question from the audience about whether or not she had been recognised by international awards. She was speaking at a meeting organised by the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore. The previous day, along with other leaders, Bhanwari had roused a massive rally in Mangalore with her fiery calls for solidarity and action against violence against women. The Mangalore March 8th program itself was phenomenal, from all accounts (I couldn’t go), and I hope Madhu, Shakun or others will share some of the spirit and verve of the rally, Women in Black event and the seminar. The unprecedented coalition of women’s and progressive groups (almost a hundred) to raise a voice against the saffronization of Karnataka’s coastal belt and increasing attacks on women, has been the outcome of dedicated work by the Forum Against Atrocities on Women (the Mahila Dourjnya Virodi Vedike, Karnataka). That none of the events, which saw the mobilization of more than 5000 women, made it to even the Bangalore editions of the dailies (can’t even dream of the national media bothering!) is a matter of dismay, but won’t go into that right now.

Here I just wanted to share what some of us were talking about soon after Bhanwari’s talk. Many of the questions, particularly from the press (and apparently this happened even in the meeting earlier in the day), kept pushing Bhanwari back into the victim mode and somehow managed to zero in on her vulnerabilities. It is no surprise then, that she broke down on stage even 20 years after she was gang raped.
Some of us tried to steer the discussion to the context in which she worked – the context in which women’s safety as workers led to the Vishaka Guidelines. Again, no surprise, that nothing much has changed for Sathins on the ground. They continue to work in precarious conditions, for a monthly pittance of Rs 1600 (raised from Rs 200 in 1the 1990s, after determined work by the Sathin Karamchari Sangh, many of us in women’s groups in Delhi at the time were part of the support group, so are aware of just what an uphill battle that was). The task of “consciousness raising” or stopping “social evils” like dowry, sex selection, child marriage etc can be extremely precarious, especially at the village level. How many of us, asked  Shyama Narang in the audience, would enter people’s houses and demand that they stop child marriage or refuse to take dowry? Bhanwari was raped while attempting to overturn exactly these sorts of practices. Needless to say, there is no job security, no transport, and no support at all from the government for doing this risky work.
Throughout, her focus was on individual effort, collective action and non-government efforts if any change was to come about. She spoke of her efforts to educate her daughter Raneswhari (a bright and confident young woman who accompanied her to Mangalore-Bangalore) – she is now an MA B.ed and teaches in a school. Bhanwari spoke of the support she had received from her husband, activists in Jaipur and women’s solidarity in general. As for the rape case, Bhanwari does not talk much about, frustrated by the legal process and the appeal by her rapists pending in the High Court.
It is deeply ironical that the icon of the Vishakha Guidelines to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace finds the whole effort of law reform utterly futile and of no real help to women. Her response to deal with perpetrators of violence against women is to round them up and beat them. She was also in favour of death penalty for rapists, while responding to a question from a journalist in the audience: what should be done about the juvenile perpetrator of the ‘Delhi gang rape”? Predictably, today’s item in the Times of India (why are we not surprised?) says, “Fearless fighter wants all Nirbhaya rapists to be hanged”.
Bhanwari’s anguished response underlines once more why the best opportunity to undertake law reform might not be during times of trauma, emotional distress or mass mobilization, despite popular notions or even a progressive groups’ understanding of “striking while the iron is hot”. The job of reviewing or making laws is better done when one is somewhat removed from the situation. It is in the nature of Commissions and government response to agitations that they pick and choose what suits the status quo, but to appear to be responding to popular sentiment and “public mood” (however that is defined) gives the regime brownie points that the feminists are loathe to give.
As for Bhanwari, her life goes on, and that’s the wonderful part. True grit, impassioned activist, flame of hope – all the clichés in our lexicon can’t even begin to describe her.

 

Attn Bangalore- Public Talk by Bhanwari Devi #Gangrape #Vaw #sexualharassment


Dear All,

The Alternative Law Forum invites you to a talk by Bhanwari Devi.The talk
will focus specifically on her battle for justice in the courts after she
was gang-raped in 1992. The attack on her and her husband was the result of
a backlash against her campaign against child marriage in Rajasthan from the
Gujjar community. At the time, Bhanwari Devi was employed as a saathin by
the Rajasthan government as part of the Women’s Development Project. Her
protracted legal battle attracted national and international attention and
resulted in the historic Vishakha judgment, in which the Supreme Court used
international principles to formulate guidelines to address sexual
harassment at the workplace. In 1994, Bhanwari Devi was awarded the Neerja
Bhanot Memorial Award for “her extraordinary courage, conviction and
commitment”.

When: Saturday, 9th March

Where: Alternative Law Forum, 122/4 Infantry Road (opposite Infantry Wedding
Hall), Bangalore 560001

All are welcome.

 

Radical Socialist Statement on the #Delhigangrape and Popular Protests


gangrape
 
Solidarity with the protesters in Delhi! Down with government violence and misleading information! Punish every rapist and all those who support or abet rape!
There have been sustained protests in Delhi against the rape of a young woman of 23 in a bus, and the callous attitude of police, administration and politicians till the protesters forced their hands. This has been taken up across India. Protests have been heard in Kolkata, in Srinagar, and in many other places. This issue must be put in its proper perspective in order to understand why there has been such a massive outpouring.
 
It is not because this is just an incidence of unusual violence that people are angry. And it is not that this is a middle class issue, and that is why the middle class is angry. The former detaches the particular issue from the general, while the latter is a very one sided presentation.
In 2010, there were 22,000 recorded cases of rape in India, which means the actual number or rapes was around 130,000 (given the ratio of five unreported rapes to every reported case that is widely admitted, while one study of the Punjab for 1995 suggested as high as 68:1 as the ratio between unreported and reported rapes). In Delhi, the national Capital, there have been over 560 cases of recorded rapes in 2012 so far. In West Bengal, there are several thousand rape cases that have been recorded by the police yet have not started moving in the courts. In Manipur, Irom Sharmila continues her lonely protest by hunger strike, while the Armed Forces Special Powers Act continues to shield men in uniform who routinely rape and murder women. In Kashmir, the Shopian Rape and murder was hushed up by calling it suicide due to family conflicts. In Gujarat in 2002, political violence against Muslims included gang rapes in a large number of cases, lauded by the Chief Minister as ‘Newton’s Third Law’. Rape, in other words, is a threat that stalks virtually every Indian woman. The massive and semi-spontaneous outpouring, organised by little more than personal contacts and grass roots level initiative, was born out of popular hatred of this growing trend, and an utter rejection of politicians and police who are seen as vile, corrupt, promoters and protectors of rapists, who have pussy-footed when Khap panchayats have sought to dictate terms against women, and who have routinely put up history-sheeters as their candidates, including men charged with rape (cases still going on) or with other sexual assault on women.
Because people routinely take part in elections, these parties go on repeating that Indian democracy is strong and deeply rooted. In fact it is shallow, and has come to mean little more than periodic contests between different gangs of crooks for all of whom people’s social, economic and cultural rights and desires matter not a whit.
Rape is treated, by the capitalist-patriarchal system and its upholders, in a totally flawed manner. It is equated with sex, and therefore rapists are identified as individual perverts. Often enough, the women themselves are blamed. In the present case too, before the depth of mass outrage was seen, one politician had remarked that the woman was too adventurous in being out so late. In other cases, women are virtually told they were inviting rape if they did not fit into a narrow dress code, if they were seen in various kinds of places socially identified as spaces for ‘bad women’, and so on. It is enough to remember the case of Bhanwari Devi, to understand that the reality is, women are raped because rape is a show of power. It is a display of violence on women by patriarchy.
At every stage, it is the woman who is victimised, traumatised and humiliated. Police routinely refuse to file an FIR (the Shopian case, the initial response in the Park Street, Kolkata case). The woman is humiliated when she goes to the Police Station. Cases are not handled speedily. Medical examination is often tardy or not even conducted. Rape is routinely described as a ‘fate worse than death’. Law-makers have gone on record using terms like Zinda-laash (living dead) to describe the rape victim. This means that rape is not treated as violence on the woman but as the loss of her ‘izzat’ (honour) without which she is ‘better dead’. When Sushma Swaraj, the BJP leader, asserted in parliament that the woman’s life is now worse than death, she was actually endorsing the patriarchal value system that leads to rapes.
It is from this perspective that equally violent responses have been proposed. The most well-known is the demand for death penalty for rapists. Another is the demand for castration or branding rapists (made in the daily Bartaman of Kolkata by none less than a former judge).
We reject this mode of thinking. We assert that it is necessary to relate rape to every kind of sexual harassment and sexual assault on women. Rape is the most violent form of an entire range of patriarchal attacks on women, from passing obscene comments, to leering at women, groping, stalking, and assault that is short of the legal definition of rape.
We also reject all attempts to imprison women and girls in the name of their safety, by declaring which hours are safe or legitimate for them to go out on the streets, and dressed in exactly how much shame. What is needed, rather, is ensuring their freedom as equal participants in society and their right to a life free of perpetual threats of sexual assault, both inside and outside their homes.
We oppose the demand for death penalty on both principled and practical grounds. We are opposed to death penalty per se, and therefore to its extension. But we also assert that in reality, the enactment of a law making death penalty possible for rape will have the opposite effect. That is when class as a factor will seriously come into play. It is the elite who will get away with lesser penalties, or will not even be convicted as police play an even worse role than now, while one or two lower class rapists will be hanged as so-called exemplars. It is worth remembering that rape is very often used as a form of upper caste violence to keep the dalits “in their place”.
We agree with all those organisations and individuals whose statement points out:
“This incident is not an isolated one; sexual assault occurs with frightening regularity in this country. Adivasi and dalit women and those working in the unorganised sector, women with disabilities, hijras, kothis, trans-people and sex workers are especially targeted with impunity – it is well known that the complaints of sexual assault they file are simply disregarded. We urge that the wheels of justice turn not only to incidents such as the Delhi bus case, but to the epidemic of sexual violence that threatens all of us. We need to evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large number of men who commit these crimes. Our stance is not anti-punishment but against the State executing the death penalty. The fact that cases of rape have a conviction rate of as low as 26% shows that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of charges.”(Statement by women’s and progressive groups and individuals condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty. December 24, 2012)
We do express our difference with Arundhati Roy, who seems to feel that the protests are just a middle class anger. We feel this incidence was a tipping point. Yes, middle class youth played an important role. They can do so because in spontaneous mobilisations of this sort they have social advantages (mobiles, facebook, wider networking). But to shrug it off as middle class is to play into the hands of the state, which is trying to play down the meaning of the protests. It is true that media have often ignored the gravity of rapes when committed by upper castes against lower caste women, or by landlords against the rural poor women. That is hardly a fault of the middle class women. At most, we can say that we hope they will draw lessons from this experience and be equally vocal when it is working class women in brick kilns or unorganised sectors elsewhere who are being raped, when dalit women or when agricultural labourer women are raped.
We particularly condemn the violence inflicted on the protesters. The Delhi police has called the violence it has inflicted on the protestors “collateral damage” and at the same time charged eight persons with murder for the death of a police man. If they are going to use the terms of US imperialism and call their violence in terms used in imperialist wars, then the death of the policeman too is collateral damage. If they want to treat citizens as hostiles and cut off the metro links of Delhi’s central areas so that visiting dignitaries (Russia’s Putin) were spared the view of protests, then what do they expect protesters to do. If there was undesired violence, and there was, that is not because there are hidden Maoists or terrorists, as it is being insinuated, but because the state decided not to respond until it was too late, and with promises that were too little.
  • We express support and solidarity with the protestors.
  • We express our heartfelt support to the family of the young women, and to all those injured by cop attacks.
  • We reject Man Mohan Singh’s appeal, that people should go back home now that he has uttered his banalities.
  • We condemn the attempts by the Delhi police to control the nature of the statement being given by the victim.
The reality is that mainstream parties do not care about women’s equality. They do not care about rape, police inaction and related issues except in so far as these help them in election times. And this brings us to the weaknesses of the protests. The protesters utterly distrust and reject mainstream parties. Yet they are still unable to go beyond placing further demands on those very rotten elements.
A second weakness, being exploited by the parties like the BJP, is the demand of the death penalty. They feel that by using the rhetoric of exemplary punishment they can divert attention from the systemic nature of rape and sexual violence.
The crucial demands that need to be made are:
  • Immediate police reforms, so that rape charges must be recorded at any police station, with automatic provision of penal action against the duty officers, the officer in charge, and if necessary the superior police officers, if FIR is not taken immediately.
  • No need for permission from /governor or president if high officials or ministers are to be charged for cases of rape, abetting rape, or sexual assault.
  • Scrap the AFSPA. Bring to book rapists in uniform.
  • Set up fast track courts to ensure that rape cases are dealt with promptly (within a one year time frame).
  • Arrest and punish rapists in every recorded case of rape.
  • Review the role of the national commission for Women, given its numerous actions and utterances against the interests of women.
  • Regarding the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012, we oppose the gender-neutral definition of the perpetrator and demand that the definition of perpetrator be gender-specific and limited to men. Sexual violence also targets transgender people and legal reform must address this.
The bourgeois media, with very few exceptions, has been presenting a distorted picture, and pushing a clear agenda. Its glorification of ‘spontaneity’ has to do with its desire to save the political order in the final instance. The bourgeois media is aware that mainstream parties loot the country whether through the Commonwealth Games or the 2G scam, that they harbour rapists and other criminals, and assist and promote riots and caste wars. But these are also the parties and people who vote for bank privatisation, for turning water into a commodity, for every need of predatory capitalism. So people are encouraged only to ventilate anger at specific cases, not to seek for systemic changes. Against this, we urge protesters to understand the inner unity of the corrupt, the criminals and the political system, and unite with all the exploited for a systematic alternative.

 

Rape Cultures in India- #mustread #Vaw #Torture #AFSPA


DECEMBER 23, 2012, Kafila.org

Guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI

Delhi has tolerated intolerable forms of sexual violence on women from all backgrounds in public spaces for decades. It is a public secret that women are targetted in streets, neighbourhoods, transport and workplaces routinely. There have been countless campaigns and appeals to all agencies concerned to think of safety of women as an issue of governance, planning and prevention. However, prevention of sexual violence is not something, which features in the planning and administration of the city. It is not seen as an issue for governance that extinguishes the social, economic, and political rights of all women.

It is a public secret that rape of women in moving vehicles is popularly seen as a sport. The sexualisation of women’s bodies accompanies the projection of cars as objects of danger and adventure. Private buses now participate in this sexualisation of moving vehicles as a site of enacting pornographic violence. In this sense, safety is not seen as a commodity that can be bought, purchased or exchanged. Men consume images of a city tolerant of intolerable violence. City planners enable rapists to execute a rape schedule. Streetlights do not work. Pavements and hoarding obstruct flight. Techniques of surveillance and policing target women’s behaviour, movement, and clothing, rather than policing what men do. The city belongs to heterosexist men after all.

The brutality of the assault on the 23 year old student who was gangraped and beaten mercilessly with iron rods when she resisted has anguished all of us—generating affect similar to the infamous Birla and Ranga murders decades ago. The nature of life threatening intestinal and genital injury has shockedresulting in angry protests in the city and elsewhere.Yet most remain unaware that the brutality accompanying sexual violence such as assault with iron rods, swordsand other objects; mutilating a woman’s body with acid;stripping and parading women; and burning them after a brutal gangrape routinelyscar the pages ofourbloodied law reporters. There is no political or judicial framework to redress such forms of aggravated sexual assault.

The judiciary, tall exceptions apart, construct rape as sex. This perspective from the rapist’s point of view, does not frame rape as political violence,which posits all women as sexual objects. Rape is repeatedly constructed as an act of aberrant lust, pathological sexual desire or isolated sexual deviancy.

Politicians for most part do no better. The parliamentary discourse on rape, after the brutal attack on the 23 year old woman who is fighting for her life, uses sexual violence as a resource for doing politics, and therefore re-entrenches rape culture. By arguing that rape is worse than death and rape should attract death penalty, rape survivors are relegated the space of the living dead. The social, political and legal mechanisms of shaming, humiliating, and boycotting rape survivors are not challenged. Nor are the mechanisms of converting rape narratives into a source of further titillation and excitement displaced. Rather most political actors convert rape into a technique of doing party politics. No one reflects seriously on why India sports a rape culture—surely the political and social toleration of intolerable sexual violence in everyday and extraordinary contexts of violence produces an effect of immunity and impunity to men who enjoy rape.

The right wing politician who is exhausting lung power on death penalty for rapists is not concerned with how a strident Hindu nationalism is built on violated bodies of women. Nor are such politicians concerned with what may happen to women if rape is punishable by death—surely there will be more murders and even more acquittals, since judges prefer to give lower than the mandatory sentence in rape cases. They have not marked the upsurge of the phenomena of burning and mutilating women after rape, as reported in the media, after a spate of such cases in Uttar Pradesh last year. Nor has any political party even acknowledged or apologised for the sexual violence during mass scale violence. Surely if chief ministers who get elected year after year dismiss mass scale sexual violence as a figment of imagination, this generates, endorses and even celebrates a new national rape culture.

The men (and even some women in positions of power) who lead India are successfully able to de-link the celebratory stories of neoliberalism, militarisation, nationalism,growth and development from the toleration of sexual violence as a sport, a commodity, as collateral damage, or a necessary technique to suppress women’s autonomy. Fact of the matter is that Surekha Bhotmange and her daughter were stripped, paraded, raped and killed in Khairlanji for expressing and asserting their autonomy. The men who assaulted and murdered them were not tried for rape.  Does anyone even remember that Bhanwari Devi’s appeal still languishes in the Rajasthan High Court? A courageous woman in whose debt all middle class women working in universities and everywhere else remain for the promulgation of the Vishaka judgment. We got the guidelines on sexual harassment in the workplace, but Bhanwari Devi did not get justice.  All of us remain in the debt of BilkeesBano who is perhaps the first survivor of mass scale sexual violence in Independent India to secure a prosecution in a rape and riot case but only after the trial was transferred. Manorama’s gangrape and murder by the army did not result in the withdrawal of AFSPA, which gives the army the licence to rape as ifto rape is in the line of duty. Can we de-link these issues from what Delhi protests today? Surely we must make these connections since we have benefited from the courageous litigation by women whose lives have been made absolutely abject.We must then equally resist the politics, which institutes public amnesia about these voices of suffering.

Alas, the brutality that Delhi witnessed is the effect of the toleration and celebration of rape cultures in India. Men and women, alike, from all classes, castes and communities must adopt a stance of solidarity that will not tolerate politicians, police officers, planners, judges and lawyers who build their careers on silencing the voices of raped women. Only a heightened intolerance for any kind of sexual violence as a social force will begin to chip away at the monumentalisation of rape cultures in India. Our collective melancholia must be far more productive.

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

Brutal Attack and Sexual Abuse on six Dalit women


On 09/12/2011, Friday, an upper caste mob brutally attacked Six Dalit Women namely 1) Smt Manju Devi, w/o Satan Sada, 2) Smt Dulari Devi w/o Kainu Sada; 3) Smt Parodevi w/o Ramnath Sada, 4) Smt Pabiya Devi w/o Tarani Sada 5) Smt Reshma Devi w/o Wakil Sada 6) Geetha Devi w/o Dinesh Sada. All are belongs to Nararia village of Khagaria district in Biharhttp://www.change.org/petitions/brutal-attack-and-sexual-abuse-on-six-dalit-women/edit

The accused mob 1) Saroj Singh s/o Promod Singh 2) Anoj Singh s/o Promod Singh 3) Manoj Singh s/o Promod Singh 4) Dharmendra Singh s/o Promod Singh 5) Promod Singh s/o Uchit Singh 6) Uchit Singh s/o Ramswaroop Singh7) Wakil Singh s/o Maheshwar Singh 8) Kailas Singh s/o Maheshwar Singh 9) Maheshwar Singh s/o Sukhdev Singh, all belongs to Chatar Village of Khagaria District in Bihar

All the accused went to the farm of dalit women Manju Devi on 09/12/2011 at 9 AM, to encroach it illegally, and started destroying it. When she came to know, she along with her above said neighbor women went to the farm and tried to stop the mob that started destroying the farm

The accused mob circled the 6 dalit women and abused them in filthy language, on the name of their caste and attacked them by lathi danda and guns. All the 6 dalit women shocked and asked them why they are destroying the farm. The irritated mob had beaten all the women. Due to this two women went unconscious. One woman Dulari Devi’s both hands fractured, they also snatched the gold rings worth of 15000/- (Fifteen Thousand Rupees)

Satan Sada the husband of Manju Devi reached the place and requested for compromise. The accused mercilessly looted Rs 10000/-(Ten Thousand) from him at gun point. The accused number 1, Saroj Singh fired a bullet on Satan Sada, fortunately it missed

The Accused 2 Anoj Singh and Accused 3 Manoj Singh both sexually harassed Pabiya Devi and Parodevi; they removed Sarees and blouses of both dalit women and paraded nakedly. And they spit in the mouths of dalit women. Now all the victims admitted in the Sadar Hospital in Khagaria.

The victims lodged a complaint in the Morkahi Police Station; FIR is registered number 80/2011 under section 147, 148, 149, 342, 323, 325, 504 of Indian penal code and Section 3 (i) (ii) (iii), (iv), (x), (xi) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1987. The station house officer Sathyendra Kumar took up the investigation

Even after a month of incident, neither an inquiry is conducted nor the accused arrested by the police, due to the political influence of the Accused. And meanwhile the accused regularly calling and sending mediators to victims and threatening to withdraw the complaint by saying that “police and other government officials not going to help the victims, nothing will happen to accused” police only serve the rich people not poor like you”.

The Dalits in this locality are feeling panic after this brutal attack on the dalit women so werequest National Human Rights Commission to visit the Nararia village of Khagaria district in Bihar. And conduct an inquiry in this case, to give moral support to the victims and local dalits

Please sign the  Online petition

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 6,245 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,672,715 hits

Archives

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  
%d bloggers like this: