FAQs-Who needs moral policing, how much and why? #mustread #Vaw #1billionrising #Valentinesday

, by Anjali MonteiroK P Jayasankar

Love in the time of moral policing

The moral police are everywhere. Crawling out of the woodwork into our public spaces. In our legislative assemblies, in our board rooms, in court rooms, on the streets, in colleges, in cinemas and cyber cafes, gardens and pubs, even in police stations. Alas, and perhaps in our heads too. The rabid Sri Ram Sena or the Shiv Sena or the Bajrang Dal foot soldiers who demonstrate their love for ‘Indian culture’ by molesting girls wearing jeans and vandalising Valentine’s Day celebrations are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg. They are supported openly and tacitly, by many ‘honourable’ others, ranging from chief ministers and health ministers to members of the National Commission for Women.

So many people in our country are in a state of moral panic over ‘western’ culture, pub culture, cyber culture and the many other ‘degenerate’ cultures that are polluting the sacred body of our Mother India and her pristine, fragile ‘Indian culture’, all of which call for more and more policing. Here are some Frequently Unasked Questions (FUQs, no pun intended) about moral policing in India.

Question 1: Who needs policing?

The list is long, maybe endless. At the top are impressionable young women and girls, who need to be protected from the corrupting effects of the afore-mentioned ‘evil’ cultures. Women are progenitors and homemakers — their sexuality needs to be strictly monitored, controlled and harnessed. If they have lost moral values, how can they become part of the eugenic project for a healthy and a morally sound generation next? What would happen to the sacred institution of the family if women got out of hand? Remember the Shiv Sena violence against a film like Deepa Mehta’s Fire? Love between two women leaves out the boys as arbitrators of women’s sexuality. Boys after all will be boys, they will settle down after marriage; but girls must be neither seen nor heard. Their ability to withstand the effects of ‘debauchery’ is far inferior to the male of the species. They cannot even handle cigarettes and alcohol. In other words, the moral police have to zealously shield all ‘less powerful others’ who are morally weak and can easily be perversely affected by stimuli of every kind: films, websites, beer, jeans, western music, birds and bees, in fact the list of provocative objects is infinite and ever growing.

This invention of a less powerful other is rampant and not confined just to the moral police, but informs the way in which ‘media impact’ is commonly framed. Our chattering classes are constantly exercised about the impact of the media on children, women, illiterates, poor people, villagers, slum dwellers — all subsumed under the category of the gullible and easily swayed ‘masses’ who have to be protected. This calls for a morally superior, intellectually more discerning ‘filter’ (in other words, people like ‘us’) who will decide what is fit for their impressionable eyes and ears. The censorship of the state is regarded as essential to uphold moral and aesthetic standards which popular cinema and television are prone to constantly violate.

This censorious mentality is widespread in our society and is perhaps uncomfortably close to the fine art of street censorship practiced by the Thackerays and Muthaliks.

Question 2: What needs policing?

Everything, but particularly all sites and signs of ‘modern’ ‘western’ culture, from greeting cards to cell phones, from pubs to cyber cafes: moral panic always hovers over frontier technologies. Our parents thought that films, or even radio, corrupted us. We worry about our children on the Internet; television has already become passé.

When printing was invented, our forefathers would have worried about its corrupting effects on young impressionable minds. In fact, in the medieval scriptoriums in European monasteries, access to certain texts was denied to younger writers. Today, sadly, no one grieves over the corrupting influence of books.

We forget that each generation has its own relationship with the cultural products of its own times. Personally, we have always thought of television as a ‘movie in a box’. When we took our daughter to her first movie, she asked us incredulously, when the first image appeared — “Is that a huge TV on the wall?” As someone who was born into a TV era, the relationship she has with the medium is qualitatively different from ours. Our collective inability to understand new technologies and our suspicion of what young people might be up to behind our backs makes us struggle to assert control — an essentially futile endeavour. Moral panic breeds behind the doors of the unknown.

Question 3: Why do we need policing?

The answer is simple: because ‘Indian Culture’ is fragile, because many Indians have delicate sentiments that are very easily hurt. And when these sentiments are hurt, maybe a few hundred people get massacred or raped, or maybe a shrine is pulled down or several thousand bar girls lose their jobs.

The state is assiduous in protecting the hurt sentiments of these sentinels of virtue. It usually turns a blind eye and sometimes even defends these actions — after all, how long can one hold back hurt sentiments? Our moral police know that they can strike with impunity; the chances are that the victims will get blamed for ‘provoking’ them.

Question 4: What is ‘Indian culture’?

The moral police are blissfully unaware of the contested nature of both the terms. Many years ago, a second generation ‘Indian’ child in London hesitantly admitted to us that she did not speak any ‘Indian’. Indian culture is as elusive as Indian food. In fact, one strong marker of it is the chilly. How many among the moral police, who lament about the fragility of ‘Indian culture’ know that the chilly first came to India with the Portuguese from South America not so long ago?

There are grids of exclusion at work, relations of power that begin to define the boundaries of Indian culture. A painting by Hussain done in the 1960s is suddenly a threat to our pristine traditions. Many of our 330 million Hindu Gods have spent the prime of their lives unclothed; the time has come to design moral robes for them. Khajuraho and Konarak now badly need saffron fashion designers.

Question 5: Why do the moral police indulge in policing?

Unfortunate tautology. How else would they grab the eyeballs of the nation? With very little work and no long-term investments, they can become famous overnight and reap rich political dividends. There are few risks involved, given the state’s sensitivity to their hurt sentiments.

Valentine’s Day provides rich opportunities. Dubbed as a threat to Indian culture, it throws up immense possibilities for great photo ops. The media has coined an endearing acronym to discuss certain goings on between young adults — PDA, roughly translated, it reads public display of affection. These acts are firmly handled by the moral police, who reiterate their faith in our great traditions by molesting the women publicly in front of television crews, who promptly arrive at the scene of the spectacle, forewarned and forearmed.

Question 6: Who gives the moral police the right to police?

Too many of us, through our sins of omission and commission. When the captains of industry cosy up to a champion of ethnic cleansing, when a leading television news channel gives an award to a staunch defender of the politics of hate, one begins to understand how deep and pervasive the rot is.

The normalisation of hate politics, the selective amnesia of the middle class — all these add up to strengthening the power of the moral police.

Question 7: What of love in the time of moral policing?

The moral police hate love and love hate. While the militant ones are easy to spot, the ‘soft’ ones are insidious.

They begin to define the realm of the ‘normal’. They censor our films, define dress codes, and make laws to control the Internet, all in the name of decency and order, of protecting the vulnerable and preventing social chaos.

While we must protest, firmly and loudly, against gross violations like Mangalore and Meerut, can we begin to speak fearlessly against the little everyday violations, the covert ways in which our spaces for love and freedom are encroached upon? And above all, we must never forget: Ayodhya and Mangalore are both manifestations of the same politics of hate and intolerance that we must resist till our last Valentine’s Day.

(The authors are professors at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)


#India- women coming out on ‘ sexual Abuse ” #Vaw #Torture

Monday , December 24, 2012 at 10 : 55

‘Nice Boobs

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

This is personal. It has to be. It must.

This is the truth. It’s plain and simple. The way all truths are structured at the core, sans excuses.

This is painful. Not anger. Just the pain… the kinds you feel when the anger dies. Somewhere, after the sense of shame. Somewhere towards the end…a dark, closed ball of rage. The kinds that you see every night. Eyes shut. Lips pursed tight. Lines appearing on your forehead… before they disappear.

I was around twelve. I had my periods early. Or so I was told. I never asked whether that was common. If girls my age bled for four days, clutching their stomachs, writhing in pain, sitting out at the school basketball tournament, walking cross-legged, slinging their heavy satchels over their backsides, hoping to hide a faded blotch of redness. I don’t remember much else. Except that we were on a holiday. Except that my mother had packed a huge, big packet of Angela sanitary pads. Except that I was sore. Inside out. Except that I felt different. Walking slowly to the toilet outside our musty train compartment.

My grand-father had packed a lot of storybooks. In case I got bored on the onward journey. Tales of bravery and bravehearts. Rajkahini. By Abanindranath Tagore – folklore from the land of warrior princesses and dusty sand dunes. Of camels and concubines. Of conquests and caravans. Tall tales. Of handsome, moustached Rajput men saving damsels in distress and bejeweled queens burning on the funeral pyre of their slain warlords.

I was singing. It was almost dark. The toilet was occupied. I stood outside, staring at the smudged evening Sun. The way everything was just moving away too fast. On the inside that is. The world from a tiny train window.

He wasn’t very tall. But, he had a moustache. And had a pot belly. He was wearing a kurta. It’s corners damp. He was elderly. Younger than grand-father.

I don’t know why I smiled. Moving aside. The Sun set just then. It was the last day of my periods. I was carrying an Angela in a plastic bag. He grabbed it from my hands, placing his hands over my mouth, pulling me deftly into the bathroom. I tried screaming. I was shell-shocked.

He was stronger, overpowering me. At first. All the while moving his mouth in a strangely insidious manner, his chest heaving up and down. I tried reading his lips. It was also the first time I’d been touched by a man. Facing an Indian style commode. Stained in parts.

With one swoop, he lifted up my sweater. It was winter. His one hand still covering my mouth. I was gagging. I tried saying something. Screaming.

I don’t know how many times I tried, before I failed. Before he won. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. Now.

‘Nice boobs,’ he kept muttering, squeezing my breasts up and down, his yellowed nails digging in through my simple cotton bra. My first undergarment. Called Peter Pan. Bought from New Market in Kolkata.

Ironical, isn’t it? As I often tell myself now, whenever I recall that day. That moment. Those few minutes in a train to Jaisalmer, when a man I knew not fondled my breasts in a discolored train loo. His front pressed to mine. His stale after breath covering my face as he grinned lewdly, his hands fidgeting with my bra strap.

‘Nice boobs,’ he said again. And again. And again.

I’ve never spoken about this incident to anyone. Before tonight. I tried once. Telling a cousin sister I was very close to. A year or so after the ugly incident. ‘You’re lucky he didn’t shove his thing into you,’ she smirked, sucking on raw mangoes on our terrace.

I was crying a lot. Mosquitoes circled over our heads. An odd buzz. Like the mechanical drone of a train, perhaps.

‘Oh stop it. You know how many women get felt up in crowded buses, huh? Or in market places? You know I once had a family friend flash me his private. He was quite old. These things are normal. I mean… I know you feel dirty and stuff. But really, thank your lucky stars that there were others waiting outside the loo that evening. Imagine if the guy outside wasn’t dying for a shit! Get used to this – it’s what being a woman means. In India,’ she stated sternly, pulling me up by my shoulders.

As I sit watching the city of Delhi shudder in shame and cry itself hoarse, as I stare at women carrying placards and shout angry slogans, as I hear dozens of panelists shake their grim faces and propose ways to make this nation rape free, as I flip channels, moving from one press conference to the next. The same dialogue. The same police officer.

A woman this time. Defending an impotent system. A lawless country where the sons of ministers and rich film stars get away with molestation charges by stuffing wads of cash into the right pockets, where justice delayed is norm, where most often the police force is a mere political pawn acting at the behest of their high command, where women are still burnt for dowry and hit by their husbands.

A country of Sita, Kali and Durga, where women are often objectified and defiled and yes, in the same breath. Where a mother-in-law and a mother still forbid a woman from entering the kitchen or participating in a puja because she’s having her periods, for fear of contamination. Where women are married to trees to get rid of planetary infliction, where she is made to follow rigorous fasts every Tuesday to aid in contraception. Where witch doctors and God men and women still control a woman’s fate. A country of contradictions where mothers are still heard telling their daughters, ‘Beta dhang ke kapde pehno’. Where words like izzat and aabru shelter a woman’s soul, instead of setting it free, instead of celebrating her female form. A country where in arranged marriages, prospective in-laws still ask the parents of the girl to send her side profile and full profile shots. Where fair and lovely is what sells. Where a woman who is single, by her own choice is often crucified as being fast. ‘Uska toh character dheela hai,’ you say.

A country where the national capital has registered a whopping 17% rise in rape cases this year with 661 such incidents being reported till December 15 as compared to 564 during same period last year. A country where female fetuses are still aborted. A country of superstition and secrets. A country of corny Kamasutra brochures, where sex is still taboo. Where something as banal as Valentine’s Day still draws fanatical political ire in some regions. Where prime time soap operas thrive on venerating the suffering, silent, pativrata bahu whose biggest battleground is predominantly the kitchen. The lakshman rekha of her womanhood. After which a ghunghat must be neatly drawn. Head covered. Eyes lowered.

As the night draws and the dust settles over Raisina Hill, I’m left wandering is sloganeering and demanding the death penalty for rape enough? Is blaming the Congress Government or Sheila Dixit or Sonia Gandhi the solution? Is social activism a sure shot cure for a malaise in the system? A largely parochial, patriarchal order, where for generations, women have been treated like fodder. Pleasure givers. Baby makers. Forbidden to seek pleasure, in the same measure. Sometimes even from the same master.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for outrage. But, I can’t help cross referencing my own personal history here. About how I hid for all these years. About friends I have seen and strangers I have listened to – especially while researching my third book Sita’s Curse who were raped daily in the privacy of their bedrooms, behind closed doors. Tied to bedposts, asked to make MMS videos, whipped by hairy husbands, paraded to family gurujis who touched them, inappropriately. How so many women… how someone like me, just chose silence, delineating ourselves to a mere statistic? Becoming in that moment the women without a voice, the ones who sold out. Sold out fast.

Why do we chicken out when it comes to ourselves? Why don’t we raise our voice when a male colleague at work sends us dirty texts after work? Why do we not walk into the HR department at once when an ageing boss makes lewd, suggestive remarks? Why do we allow our perpetrators to think they can get away? That it’s easy enough. That this is India. Yahan pe sab chalta hai.

Could it be the low conviction rate for rape? As low as 10 percent declares a recent news report if you count rapes that are not reported. This despite rape being a punishable offence with 7 years jail, or 10 years to life for gang-rape. What are we so ashamed of? Our social terra firma? Our conscience? Our moral fabric? Our gender inequality? Generations of abuse? Unreported? Unnoticed? Untouched?

‘Let’s face it, if a rape victim lives, will our narrow minded, hypocritical society ever allow her live a normal life? Will she ever get married? Will her family ever be spared the snide remarks and the cruel stares? And what about counselors and women and child shelters? Are there enough here? And what about the Police? Are they even sensitive to the victims in such cases? And don’t even get me started on our judicial system… man… that torture for the victim and her family tantamount to another rape probably,’ claims a friend who is incidentally a Supreme Court lawyer.

‘But there is talk of fast track courts to speed up justice for rape case victims,’ I try interrupting when she adds firmly, ‘Listen we are just shouting hoarse right now, getting so emotional because of the enormity of the crime that was just committed. The scale of cruelty and torture… the way the girl in the school bus has shown a mirror to our own social impotency. Would the same reaction be witnessed if such an incident had occurred in a small village in the heart of India? Something the media would have not even got wind of. Then what? Who would we blame then?’ she quips in.

Her question gets me thinking. One last time. I wander what would have happened had I run back to my mother and pulled the chain to stop the train. I go back in time.

And just when the frustration rears its familiar head, I tell myself that this time… this time I will not look for someone to blame. That like the India unfolding before my eyes, I must look outside now.

To not see rape and abuse as the man who groped my breasts, but the person who made me into a woman. Making me grow up. Making me know that I had something that needed to be guarded and fought for. That I was worth that – an iota of dignity and lots of self respect. That I wasn’t too young back then. Just too ashamed. Thinking that what I had could be taken away by someone. By a stranger with eyes the color of night. Someone with some power over me.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to be a woman. It always has. It always will and trust me when I tell you it’s never going to get any easier. But as I watch a young woman protester punch a police officer, shoving her hand indignantly in his face, trying to balance her lone poster, falling on the ground and shaking off the dust from her trousers as she gets up on her feet again, I know we will win. In the end.

Women like us. Everyday women. Women in short skirts. Women in high heels. Women without brassieres. Women with streaked hair. Women with naval piercings and tattoos. Women with multiple lovers. Women and children. Women with elaborate ghunghats and pallu trailing. Women in burqas and bazaars. Women in red light areas. Women in discos and nightclubs. Women protestors. Women on Facebook and Twitter. Women on top. Women with scars. Women with stories. Women with stains. Women in bikinis and bikes. Women on poster covers. Women in sports. Women in saris and salwaars. Women with moles and warts.

And ‘nice boobs’.

Women who live on. The women of India.

The fight that never ends. A fight that must turn inwards with the same sharpness that it now defends itself.

more here http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/author/3308/sreemoyeepiukundu.html

What Women Really Want for Valentine’s Day

Many of the women who must rely on men for financial support are also subjected to their partners’ views on contraception. 

Valentine’s Day has long celebrated love with caring notes, decadent chocolates, and romantic arrangements of flowers. But this Valentine’s Day, perhaps it’s time to celebrate with a gift many of the world’s women desperately want and need: reproductive health.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 1,000 women die every day due to pregnancy or childbirth, or one woman every 90 seconds. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in the developing world, 90 percent in Africa and Asia. A handful of complications account for 80 percent of these maternal deaths—severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure, obstructed labor, and unsafe abortion—and the bulk of these deaths are preventable.

Reproductive health, including access to the information and means to plan a family, is a human right the world’s nations have recognized in various forms since 1968. Access to family planning and other reproductive health services safeguard the lives of women and their children and promote families that are emotionally and economically healthy.

In my book, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want, I explore centuries of reproductive history and concludes that, if given the chance to do what they really want, women on average have smaller families, with childbirths later in their lives. This pattern is safer for women and children, and promotes environmental sustainability through the slower population growth that lower fertility rates and later births bring about.

The Health of Women and Children

The UNFPA report Women and Girls in a World of 7 Billion notes that poverty, marginalization, and gender inequalities based on culture are key challenges to reproductive health. The report relays that women own less than 15 percent of the land worldwide; their wages, on average, are 17 percent lower than men’s; and they make up two-thirds of the world’s 776 million illiterate adults.

This means that women, particularly in the developing world, must often rely on men for financial support—creating situations in which women are subject to their partners’ views on contraception, feel trapped in physically or emotionally abusive relationships, and marry and have children young instead of pursuing further education or employment outside the home. In the developing world, one in seven girls will be married before she turns 15, and worldwide, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls 15–19.

Many women are not empowered to make their own decisions regarding if or when to have children, how many to have, and how long to wait in between them. Some 40 percent or more of pregnancies are unplanned, with more than 21 percent of all births resulting from such pregnancies worldwide, according to estimates of the Guttmacher Institute. If given access to family planning, and permission by their families and societies to use it, fewer women and children would die from unsafe abortions and high-risk pregnancies.

When women and girls are empowered with education and the capacity to make choices about sex, marriage and childbearing, they have opportunities to realize futures as farmers, businesswomen, politicians, or whatever dream drives them.”

The Health of the Planet

The United Nations Foundation sponsors Girl Up, an organization that encourages a world where young girls can avoid the pitfalls of too-early marriage and childbearing and can instead go to school, enjoy health and safety, and grow into the next generation of leaders. In the Amhara region of Ethiopia, where half of adolescent girls are married, Girl Up is helping to promote education for young girls. The project offers basic literacy classes, family planning information, and agricultural training.

When women and girls are empowered with education and the capacity to make choices about sex, marriage and childbearing, they have opportunities to realize futures as farmers, businesswomen, politicians, or whatever dream drives them. These benefits ripple out from the lives of individual women and girls to their families, their communities, their nations—and ultimately to the entire world.

In the Worldwatch report Population, Climate Change, and Women’s Lives, I suggest that if women are given access to increased reproductive health, they are better able to more naturally control the size of their families and counterbalance the resource depletion and pollution that are exacerbated by unabated population increases. The importance of women and the autonomy they exercise may be far greater to the climate’s future than most experts and negotiators on climate change have realized.

What Women Really Want

Reproductive health is not about state-mandated family sizes; it is about freeing women to make their own choices about when and how often to give birth. In all countries where affordable access is offered to family planning resources and women have the option of safe and legal abortions, women’s fertility rates drop to two or less children per woman. Such rates are normal for nearly half the world and are less than the “replacement fertility” rate of slightly more than two children per woman, that fuels present and future population growth.

When women are free to make their own choices, they improve their own health and that of their families. A study by the UNFPA and the Guttmacher Institute suggests that it would take US$24 billion to fulfill unmet reproductive health needs in developing countries, several times what countries spend today. According to the report, such an investment would “provide every woman with the recommended standard of maternal and newborn care” and would “[r]educe unintended pregnancies by more than 66 percent, prevent 70 percent of maternal deaths, avert 44 percent of newborn deaths, and reduce unsafe abortion by 73 percent.”

Robert Engelman  for  World Watch Institute.


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