An Open Letter to Yo Yo Honey Singh #Hiphop #Vaw #Misogyny


A number of voices — some cogent, some misguided — have come out in protest against Honey Singh’s ‘obscene’ & ‘inflammatory’ lyrics, but Annie Zaidi writes that the matter of vital important is the rapper’s casual depiction of wanton violence against women

ANNIE ZAIDI  5th Jan 2013, Sunday Guardian

 

 

 

Members of Progressive Student’s Association protesting against Honey Singh’s ‘anti-women, vulgar and disturbing’ music in Jammu on 4 August, 2012

Dear Yo Yo Honey,

Listen. What was your first word? ‘Ma’?

Words are one of the first things we ache for. A baby learns to say ‘Ma’ or ‘Pa’ or ‘Daadi’ because those are the words of first love. Then comes ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Biscuit’. They point to eyes, say ‘eyes’. They are happy when they go to a park. They ask: Why do cats eat rats? Why can’t I follow you into the bathroom?

Yo Yo, a baby learns words as a way of understanding his world. Papa says he must go out to work so he can feed you. You learn that a man must make money. If Ma beats you, you learn that beating is alright. You listen to a song about heartbreak and learn that pain can be expressed through art. You hear of other boys stalking girls; you start doing the same. You want to know how sex works; you look for photos, books, videos.

Words are the tools through which we assimilate, and learn to negotiate society. This process never ends. Every year I change a little bit because of what I absorb, mostly through words. What I read, watch, experience, dream, overhear.

Society is a mish-mash of image, word and experience. This is what culture is. Artists are not loved for nothing. They grasp our shared truth. They help us derive meaning from the chaos of life.

But many male artists have confused ideas about sex, masculinity and femininity. Their lyrics and videos create fake meanings. For example, a man and woman are dancing. They are smiling. But the lyrics suggest violent sex, or hint at a disrespectful relationship. The viewer is left to connect the dots.

The women acting in most videos are not dressed in working clothes. But the men often are. Women are never shown doing any work, although most women put in twice the number of work hours.

What do the songs say? They tell a lie, right? A dangerous untruth about what women are like and what they deserve. Lyrics in your newer songs – High Heels, for instance – are entirely focused on the outer shell of a woman. It makes me wonder if you can see us as anything other than female-shaped thingies. Video after video after video.

Perhaps you’re feeling petulant. Perhaps you’ve moved on from that sort of video or lyrics, and you want everyone to forget your past.

Sadly, Yo Yo, it doesn’t work that way. Fame comes slowly. It took 6 years for your infamous song to reach my ears. Art is not witnessed or dismissed overnight. Just like violent ideas are not assimilated and put into practice overnight.

About your Gurgaon show, there were two petitions going around. I did not sign one because it used words like ‘pornographic’ and ‘offensive’. I know you have a right to give offense. Besides, I am not opposed to nudity or sexual imagery in any art form.

So, this is not about pornography. It is not about obscenity. It is definitely not about sex. I did sign the other petition because it objected to the violence embedded in your songs.

 
Lyrics in your newer songs – High Heels, for instance – are entirely focused on the outer shell of a woman. It makes me wonder if you can see us as anything other than female-shaped thingies. Video after video after video.

The free speech bogey was raised, although there’s a big difference. In other cases, it was the government imposing a ban, or a bunch of hooligans threatening physical violence, or damaging spaces where artists exhibit.

I did not threaten to attack the hotel. I just let them know that I would cease to respect the management. These are the tools of democracy, Yo Yo. If the hotel did not care for my opinion, they could have gone on with your show. But perhaps, they want to be thought of as responsive. Or maybe they’re just avoiding bad press. Maybe you’ll do a show in Gurgaon a week later.

If the government bans you, Yo Yo, I’ll protest on your side. But you have exercised your right to free speech. Now I am exercising my right. And I’m saying – Stop!

I have no desire to destroy your career, Yo Yo. This is actually about your fans. And hotels, sponsors, record labels, film producers – everyone who banks on misogyny to make money. I cannot help it if fans of songs like Choot exist. I cannot stop people from acting on their hatred and fear of women‘s sexuality. But I will not let it flow on, unchallenged.

I’m not unreasonable, Yo Yo. I read petitions before signing my name. And I accept that people can change. You could spend time thinking about what kind of music you make, and whether it is honest, whether it hurts women. You could just put out a note in the papers – or even on Facebook – taking a stand. You could do it even now.

But our ideas about democracy are funny. We forget that with fundamental rights come fundamental responsibilities. That’s what it means to be free – taking ownership of your work, your environment, your ideas.

Slowly, slowly, our society learnt to associate sex with shame and violence and self-hatred and woman-hatred. Yo Yo, we must unlearn it very quickly.

But I have said enough. You say something now. And make it mean something.

Annie Zaidi is the author of Known Turf and the co-author of The Bad Boy’s Guide to the Good Indian Girl

 

Women and Reasearch Action Group submission to Justice Verma #Vaw


To:

The Honorable Justice Verma,
Attached and reproduced below are our submission on addressing sexual assault.  We look forward to your final observations and recommendations and hope that they reflect the points and issues we raise in our submission.
Sincerely,
Saumya Uma
******************

SUBMISSION TO JUSTICE VERMA COMMISSION ON SEXUAL ASSAULT From: WOMEN’S RESEARCH & ACTION GROUP (WRAG)

Women’s Research and Action Group (WRAG) is a non-profit organization based in Mumbai, working for the past 20 years on empowerment of women through community action and the law. Through its work with women from underprivileged, marginalized and vulnerable communities of Mumbai and other parts of the country, it has engaged with issues of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, the absence of justice and accountability in various contexts including mass crimes, and has engaged in advocacy initiatives towards addressing the existing impunity for crimes against women.

At the outset, WRAG wishes to foreground the inter-linkages between ‘everyday’ violence and harassment faced by all women and girls, and contexts of increased vulnerability, where such forms of violence are exacerbated. The increased vulnerability is caused due to

a)     identity of the victims / survivors – such as physically and mentally challenged women and girls, dalits, adivasis, sex workers, members of denotified groups, religious and linguistic minorities, as well as members of the LGBTI community; and

b)    special contexts – such as custodial situations, militarisation, communal violence, caste-based violence and other contexts of mass crimes, when the perpetrators enjoy de facto and de jure impunity.

WRAG is deeply concerned that the current public discourse has focussed on a ‘strong law’ and stringent punishment, including support for a capital punishment and chemical castration.  We believe that such suggestions are made for political expediency and to assuage public outrage at this point in time, without any genuine attempt to substantially understand and address the complex issues contributing to violence against women and girls, particularly sexual violence. We are convinced that in addressing / arresting sexual assault against women and girls, the following aspects deserve to be examined:

a)     Amendments in law – substantive, evidentiary and procedural;

b)    Ways in which the law should be effectively implemented – including functioning of the police and judiciary, and accountability for dereliction of duties by public servants, and introducing transparent processes;

c)     Protection of rights of victims and survivors before, during and after trial – including issues of reparative justice;

d)    Working at the preventive level and addressing the root cause for violence against women and girls – the patriarchal and misogynist attitudes that exist in all sections of the Indian society;

e)     Enhancing aspects of good governance, ensuring efficient and transparent functioning of democratic institutions and eradicating corruption among government departments through a series of incentives, disincentives and administrative actions; (e.g. corruption within the police force, hospitals, transport authorities and various government departments duty-bound );

f)     Provision of services and infrastructural facilities that would enhance the safety for women and girls (safe, efficient and cheap modes of transport, well-lit roads etc.); and

g)    Other social, economic and cultural processes by which women and girls can be empowered and the perpetrators deterred / discouraged from committing violent acts.

Seen in this light, we believe that amendments in law form a part of the multi-pronged strategies that are required to effectively address the issue of sexual assault, and would not, by themselves, guarantee safety. Our suggestions on legal provisions are as follows:

 

I.   DEFINITION – WHAT AMOUNTS TO SEXUAL ASSAULT?

 

a.     Sexual Crimes as a Continuum: The IPC provision focusses only on peno-vaginal penetration. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012 continues to retain a narrow definition of sexual assault, that focuses on penetration, albeit by body parts excluding objects other than the penis.  The gap between outrage of modesty (S. 354 IPC) and penetrative sexual assault remains large. We believe that sexual crimes form a continuum that include a wide range of sexualized criminal acts.  We believe that the Bill should recognise the structural and graded nature of sexual violence, based on concepts of harm, injury, humiliation and degradation, and use well-established categories of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual offences / harassment including attempt to sexually assault and rape.  Consequently, we suggest a repeal of S. 354 and S. 509 of the IPC.

 

b.     Sexual Assault: Sexual assault crimes include but are not limited to penetrative assaults. They include acts that use criminal force, including stripping, parading and mutilation which are intended to sexually assault, degrade or humiliate those who are so targeted.

 

c.     Aggravated Sexual Assault: Recognising sexual assault in certain specific situations of conflict based on community, ethnicity, caste, religion and language, as well as physical / mental disability of the victim merit special recognition. Such contexts ought to be treated as aggravated circumstances due to the use of criminal force, the custodial position of the perpetrator, the nature of coercive circumstances, and the presence of multiple perpetrators;

 

d.     Sexual Offences / Harassment: Acts within this definition could include public stripping and parading of women, groping and pinching of women, and also non-contact acts such as flashing, gesture, stalking, blackmailing via electronic media like MMS, etc.

 

 

e.     Recognition of Marital RapeWe recommend a deletion of the exception provided for marital rape, bearing in mind that women are full citizens of this country, who enjoy the constitutional guarantees of, inter alia, right to life, liberty, equality and non-discrimination. Similarly S. 376A of the IPC, which prescribes a lesser punishment for a man who commits sexual assault on his wife during separation, is regressive and requires to be deleted with immediate effect.  Any apprehensions about introducing laws into the “privacy of the home” hold no waters, in the light of introduction of laws such as Prevention of Domestic Violence Act – which recognises sexual assault as a form of domestic violence and a civil wrong.

 

f.      Gender Neutrality: Further, while the effort to ensure gender neutrality with respect to those who are the complainants/ victims of sexual assault is welcome, as it would extend protection to men, transgender and trans-sexual victims.  However we believe that the perpetrator has to remain gender-specific under all circumstances (custodial and non-custodial) and limited to men as perpetrators, as there is no empirical evidence in India to support a finding to the contrary.  In addition, introducing gender neutrality of perpetrators brings in a false notion of equality in a society that is otherwise highly inequal and discriminatory against women, misogynic and infact the root cause of violence against women.

 

g.     Age of Consent: In the light of increasing evidence from courts, legal precedents, records of crimes, as well as studies on the exercise of agency by young people in asserting their choice with respect to sexuality and relationships, we suggest that the age of consent to sexual intercourse should be retained as 16 and not increased to 18.  We believe that increasing the age of consent to 18 would enable parents / guardians to misuse the provision in the context of choice marriages and inter-caste / inter-religious relationships that they do not approve of, by making false allegations of rape, in order to exercise control over the adolescent girl using the state machinery and the power of law. Such a provision would also provide a tool with which the boy and his family would be harassed and humiliated.

 

 

 

II.    PRE-TRIAL STAGE

The protection of victims of sexual assault requires developing a set of measures aimed to ensure the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity, and privacy of victims who are appearing as witnesses in criminal proceedings or otherwise seeking legal redress. Simultaneously, through a combination of penal sanctions and administrative action, public servants ought to be made accountable for dereliction of duty, which prevent the law from being implemented in an unbiased and effective manner, thereby scuttling the process of justice.

a.     Address social obstacles: address social obstacles to lodge a complaint of sexual assault – bias / insensitivity of police, stigma faced by woman, lack of familiarity with legal processes, lack of confidence in the police, safety of women complainants at police stations

b.     Address issue of autonomous functioning of the police force: address bias of police and the need for autonomous, transparent functioning that is free of political pressures

c.     Standard Operating Procedures: Provide for Standard Operating Procedures with detailed guidelines for each aspect of investigation (Refer to the SOPs in place for the Delhi Police since 2005); build in provisions for accountability for violation of the   SOPs; SOPs should be reviewed to ensure that they reflect a gender sensitive and meticulous approach to investigation and officially adopted by all police departments in states and UTs, and should be made publicly accessible.

d.     Improper / Biased / Shoddy Investigation: The responsibility of a proper investigation falls on the investigating agency. Any delay, shoddiness, partisanship and inefficiency in collection of evidence, and lack or delay in medical examination etc should be considered as a grave dereliction of duty, liable to administrative and / or other action.

e.     Proforma for Medical Examination of Sexual Assault Victim: Ensure that the proforma is not biased against the victim; prohibit the two finger test which is widely used during medical examination of the rape victims to determine whether they are ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’; also exclude other observations that comment on the past sexual history of the victim – such as old tears to the hymen.

f.      Professional Training for Collecting Medico-legal Evidence: Recording of medico-legal evidence is imperative, that may be used to obtain a conviction in rape cases) and crime kit (additional tool used for the collection of medico-legal evidence, containing slides, swabs, test tubes and other equipment to collect samples of blood, hair, semen fingernail scrapings). Investigators should be provided professional training in this regard.

g.     Sensitive and Humane Treatment to Victim-survivor: Gender-sensitivity, professional and humane treatment to the victim-survivor with full respect to the dignity, privacy and confidentiality should be provided for; complaints to the contrary should be taken up by higher authorities. Continuous supervision by senior officials of the manner in which victims-survivors are treated is important.

h.     Support Services to Victim-survivor: When a person complains of sexual assault, every police station should be duty-bound to provide an immediate access of the victim to lawyer, medical attention, psycho-social / trauma counselling and other support services as may be required. Psychological support is crucial to the healing of the survivor. Medical professionals should be allowed to provide medical / psychological assistance to the victim-survivor without undue interference by the police.

i.      Exclusion of Sanction for Prosecution of Public Servants: We suggest an exclusion of the application of S. 45 and S. 197 Cr PC to the provisions of sexual assault, in order that the existing widespread impunity for sexual assault where it is committed by public servants, is ended.  We believe that no sexual assault can ever be construed as being perpetrated “in discharge of official duty” and therefore the statutory requirement of prior sanction from the government for prosecution of public servants ought not to be extended to the crime of sexual assault;

j.      Witness Protection: Protection of victims and witnesses from the pre-trial to post-conviction stages in accordance with the jurisprudential developments and Law Commission’s 198th report released in August 2006; strictly enforce legal action on those who attempt to intimidate / threaten / coerce a witness, including pressurizing the victim-survivor and family members to turn hostile during trial, thereby obstructing the course of justice.

k.     Compensation: Compensation to be given to the victims, computed on the basis of injury received. The first instalment to be paid within 15 days of filing of FIR. This should be independent of the outcome of the trial or the victim retracting her statement at a later point due to whatever reason. Proactive enforcement of Section 357A of the CrPC, which talks about awarding compensation to the victims of crime. The the framework of compensation under the SC ST protection of atrocities Act 1989 may be adapted suitably for compensations to victims..

l.      Need for a Humane Police Force: Recruitment of women into the police force, by itself, will not ensure that victims-survivors of sexual assault are treated in a dignified, humane and respectful manner. Training in this regard is required for both male and female police officials. Continuous supervision and monitoring is imperative to ensure that they follow this.

m.   Collection and Compilation of Data: Ensure efficient methods of collecting and compiling data related to complaints of sexual assault.

 

 

III.     TRIAL

 

i.         Swift and certain prosecution

ii.         Time bound trials: Trials in rape cases must be concluded within a period of 90 days; lengthy trials that erode the victim’s resilience, patience and memory, should be avoided.

iii.         Victims’ Lawyers: In trials of sexual offences, the victim-survivor should ordinarily be permitted to engage a counsel of her choice to assist the prosecution. In addition free legal, medical, psychological and rehabilitative services should be made available to enable working class women to pursue legal justice.

iv.         Interpreters / translators: Provision for interpreters/ translators in order to record the testimony of disabled victims or witnesses. Cases involving disabled women end in acquittal as their testimony is either not recorded at all or is recorded without the help of independent interpreters. Often the help of family members is taken in interpreting the testimony, which affects the case at the High Court stage as family members are interested parties and relying on their interpretation of the testimony goes against the rule of impartiality of criminal trials.

v.         Accountability of Prosecutors: an analysis of reported cases show that a large number of cases are end in acquittal because key witnesses such as doctors are not examined in court. This needs to be addressed.  Prosecutors should be made accountable through administrative and / or other action for dereliction of their duty.

vi.         In camera trials: Experience has shown that in-camera trials are not helpful as it is more traumatic for the victim to be surrounded by aggressive defence lawyers and the accused in a closed court room. Additionally there is no scope for monitoring the trial, which becomes important given the attitudinal biases that actors in the legal system have towards women who complain of sexual assault. On the other hand, in camera trials have also been helpful in preventing voyeurism in an open court, which obstructs a safe and secure atmosphere for the victim-survivor to depose in. Hence, it is suggested that in camera trial could be left to the option of the victim-survivor, and where opted for, 3-4 persons of her choice should be allowed to remain in the court room to provide her psychological support.

vii.         Witness protection: better provisions should be implemented for shielding the victim from the defence, including the accused – such as through the use of a physical shield, closed circuit cameras, video conference, voice and face distortion.  These are discussed in further detail in the Law Commission of India’s 198th report. Distance between the witness box and the seating of the accused should be substantial, and direct confrontation between the victim and the accused should be avoided at all cost.

viii.         Cross Examination: Guidelines must be laid down for the cross examination of a victim of sexual violence, particularly highlighting the changes in the CrPC sections which now do not allow character assassination or looking at past history of the victim.

ix.         Protection of Human Rights Defenders: Take measures to protect human rights defenders and other individuals who provide protection to victims.

 

 

 

IV.      PUNISHMENT

 

We believe that much of the recent public discourse around introducing capital punishment for sexual assault in the rarest of rare cases as well as physical / chemical castration, are reinforcing aspects of retributive justice aimed at an eye for an eye, rather than restorative justice which are more suitable for a just and humane society that we believe in. We are principally against retributive forms of justice, and feel that the Indian legal system needs to move towards restorative forms of justice, where the perpetrator is not considered less than human, but as a person with a potential to repent, reform, be rehabilitated and reintegrated in society. Such a potential maybe assessed during the course of the sentence and parole.  The assessment of perpetrators of sexual assault or reccurent domestic violence need to be carefully done observing his attitude towards all women and the victim in particular.

 

i.           No to Death Penalty:  For the reasons stated below, we suggest that death penalty be excluded as a form of punishment for sexual assault.

  • There is no scientific basis for claiming its deterrent effect.
  • Studies show that as punishments become stricter, the rate of conviction falls as then judges are reluctant to award harsh sentences.
  • Death penalty embodies the idea of retribution which is as violent as the offence for which it is being suggested.
  • We also believe that the state does not have the right to take away anyone’s life. There are caste, religious, class biases that are bound to come in, as those who are more privileged and enjoy political clout in society will engage highly professional legal services to escape from death penalty.
  • Given the fact that an overwhelming number of women are sexually assaulted by people known to them, and often include near or distant family, friends, husbands, workplace superiors and partners, we believe that the punishment of death penalty for rape will further deter victims-survivors from reporting the crime.
  • There have been, and are bound to be, errors of judgment – which cannot be undone.
  • We believe that death penalty becomes a tool in the hands of the State to further exert its power over its citizens, which we do not support.

 

ii.              No to Physical / Chemical Castration: We are against physical / chemical castration as a form of punishment for sexual assault, irrespective of whether it is voluntary or involuntary, for the following reasons:

  • Sexual assault is not about the inability to control sexual urge or desire but about exercising power over the victim, stemming from patriarchal values. Suggesting castration as a punishment for sexual assault is therefore, based on an erroneous presumption of the philosophy of rape.
  • Even if it was argued that chemical castration would impair the production of testosterone which is linked to aggression, aggression is an important component of not only sexual assault but also other brutal forms of assault and murder that are non-sexual in nature. There is no logic in privileging sexual assault for this form of punishment, over other crimes that involve comparable amount of aggression.
  • Castration does not guarantee non-penile forms of brutal sexual assault, such as insertion of objects into the orifices of the victim’s body, forced nudity and mutilation of sexual organs.
  • Castration – physical or chemical, voluntary or involuntary – violates the fundamental right to life and bodily integrity of the person concerned, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
  • There is no empirical data indicating its deterrent effect.
  • At a practical level, since it involves administering injections to convicted persons every three months, how will the police trace them once released? If they are not released and are kept in prison, what is the rationale behind castration anyway?

 

iii.       No to Life Sentence Without Parole: Though this is an option being thought by many to contribute to the safety, awarding a person convicted of sexual assault with a life sentence for the whole of his life without parole, deprives the person of a window of opportunity to repent the crime, to reform and rehabilitate.  However there have to be strict forms of assessment to ensure that the accused has the potential to reform before being released on parole.

iv.           In cases of aggravated sexual assault, punishment should be for life imprisonment with no remission.  The sentences for custodial rape and sexual assault must be enhanced compared to the sentences for civilian rape and sexual assault, to act as a deterrent for security officers misusing the power they have derived from being officers of the state.

v.           We also believe the law should punish sexual assault with murder more strongly than that without murder, so that the law does not provide an incentive for the perpetrator to kill the victim-survivor of rape.

vi.           Reparative justice: effective implementation of existing schemes for compensation / rehabilitation for sexual assault with budgetary support.  These include but are not limited to the Victims Compensation Scheme (brought about through a 2008 amendment to S. 357A of the Cr PC) as well as the National Commission for Women’s scheme for assistance and support services to victims of rape. Statutory recognition of comprehensive psycho-social support, care and treatment to victim-survivors.

 

Contact Persons: Saumya Uma & Vahida Nainar (Trustees)

Vibhuti Patel (Trustee), Nasreen Contractor (Co-Director) and Varsha Rajan Berry (Co-director)

Women’s Research & Action Group, 101, Zaithunvilla, Behind Airview Building, near Vakola Market, Santacruz (East), Mumbai 400055. Ph: 022-26674830; wrag2009@gmail.com /codirectorswrag@gmail.com

 

Nivedita Menon: We’re witnessing new interventions by feminists of all genders #Vaw #Womenrights


By Amrita Nandy | Jan 7, 2013, 1

Nivedita Menon: We're witnessing new interventions by feminists of all genders
Feminists have long tried to build an understanding that desexualises rape — in law and everyday life, says Nivedita Menon.
  • With violence against Indian women on the rise, the debate over feminist politics and its relevance has acquired new importance. AcademicNivedita Menon has researched this in Seeing Like A Feminist. Speaking with Amrita Nandy, Menon discussed the role and energy of feminism today, how rape and dress are analysed by convention versus feminism — and how feminism eventually liberates women, even from being feminists:

You write about rape usually being analysed within a patriarchal discourse of honour — how is rape understood outside that frame?

Feminists have long tried to build an understanding that desexualises rape — in law and everyday life. If you take rape out of patriarchal discourses of honour, it is an act of violence that violates bodily integrity. It is not a fate worse than death but it is traumatic, like any act of physical violence, and it should be punished as such.

In the way young women and men in the recent protests are writing and singing about this, you can see this understanding has wide currency now.

One issue about rape centres on women’s dress. In contrast to patriarchal norms, the liberal discourse emphasises free choices for women. But why are miniskirts projected as choice as opposed to say, veils?

For feminism, this is a key issue — are women victims needing protection or active agents engaging with power? The notion of choice is not enough to answer this because such freedom of choice is always exercised within strict boundaries that are non-negotiable — class, race, caste and gender-based. Women do make choices but not in circumstances of their own making. And often, women choose options that go against normative feminist values.

Here, we see the contradiction between two core beliefs of feminism — the belief in the autonomy of women versus the hegemony of dominant values that constrain the freedom to choose. Values liberals consider desirable are not dominant in society, so the freedom to choose often simply reasserts existing problematic values — thus, for example, a woman may choose to abort a fetus because it is female. We must deal with this troubling recognition in our politics. Feminists must treat these choices with respect, work towards changing the circumstances that shape them, engage in dialogue and be open to the destabilisation of our own norms.

As for the veil versus the miniskirt — the feminist critique is of cultural pressure to dress in particular ways, whether this involves showing more skin or covering up. In either case, the element of force is what we isolate as the problem, not the dress itself.

Finally, is there a somewhat wary distance between women and feminists today?

Well, feminism is not about a moment of final triumph but the gradual transformation of the social field, so that old markers shift forever — this shift actually enables many young women today to say, ‘I believe in equal rights for women but i’m not a feminist.’

What feminist struggles fought for yesterday have become beyond challenge today. In the protests that galvanised the country, many slogans, and not just in English, expressed feminist understandings about the autonomy and mobility of women. The young women on the streets were unafraid. The young woman whose rape and murder moved all of us also showed exemplary courage and no false notions of shame in her statements to the police.

I think we are witnessing the gradual transformation of ground-level common sense by feminist interventions, from rural areas to urban classrooms — and by feminists of all genders.

 

“This is about you and me”: RJ Balaji on Men #mustread #Vaw


Image source: The Hindu

http://orinam.net/rj-balaji-on-men/

RJ Balaji, a radio jockey with the 92.7 BIG FM station in Chennai, has podcast his thoughts on men’s roles in the home and how strong beliefs in and reinforcement of gender roles lead to a range of oppressions including the recent Delhi rape and countless other sexual crimes.

We are including herewith a link to the original podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/balajipatturaj/92-7-big-fm-rj-balaji-being

Our hearty thanks to Mr. Balaji for sharing his progressive views, and to Orinam member KMRamki for the English translation provided below.

Even though the discussion of gender roles is in the context of violence against women it applies equally to violence against LGBT people. Strong notions of how a man and woman should be/behave/look are what result in verbal, physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse of those of us who do not conform to such rigidly gendered expectations of society

– Orinam webteam


Being Hu’man’

(English Translation by KM Ramki)

A humble word, to all my fellow men…

I mean, for us to have pride, to feel proud, that we are men.. I don’t see anything there. I don’t know what’s there (to feel pride). You say we can grow a moustache… is that a superior quality?

Some say, “you talk about this now only because it happened in Delhi… will you talk about it if had happened in Chennai, or Thoothukudi or Sri Lanka?” To them, this is not a Delhi, Mumbai, state-over-state, country-over-country issue.

It’s an issue of you and me: it’s a vulgar revelation of what we think in our hearts about women. These rapes, the violence, have become just that. Even if only one in hundred, or one in a thousand men perform these acts, it is true that the rest of us also have  thoughts that we are ashamed of. We don’t say it aloud.

For the first time, we are angrily protesting against something all over India, about something that affects us, with the intention that there needs to be a solution to it. Meanwhile, how long this anger will last, what the results from these protests will be, what will actually be done, is not in your hands or mine.

However, I want to speak as an ordinary man, about what we usually do, how it can create a better environment. That’s what this podcast is about.

We, men, say we are modern thinking, we are youth, etc. Though we praise ourselves so much, but it is deeply rooted belief even among us, that a woman has to cook for me, press my clothes, etc. Even if both of them work, go to sleep after 11.30 in the night, the woman is expected to wake up at 5 in the morning, make coffee, cook and then go to work. But if the guy occasionally cooks one day, he takes immense pride in it. Even today, we think it’s a thing to be (inordinately) proud of for a guy to say he cooks (occasionally). It’s actually nothing special.

Women don’t take pride in saying I cook daily, I press my husband’s clothes, I get my children ready for school daily, etc. We have impressed on them that it’s their way of living.

Do guys boldly say “I work at home, I cook at home, and I see no shame in it. She and I both work”? If we go to a corporate space, and see four women smoking, what comments do we pass about those smoking women? If we see a girl in a pub at night, we know what comments we make about her. Isn’t it all quite shameful?

What’s so ‘manly’  or ‘womanly’ about these things? We claim to be very modern. If a girl comes to the pub with us, she is good, but if she goes with others, she is bad? Smoking or drinking is going to affect everyone’s body and health. If you take a stand, that smoking or drinking is wrong, whoever does it, there is some fairness to it. But you claim guys can do it, but women should not. If I point [the hypocrisy] out, you challenge me, that I don’t know Indian culture and mores. It’s in this country with these vaunted culture and mores, that we are having all these rapes.

The most important thing is for us to reflect on what thoughts we hold about women. To this day, husbands tease their wives if they skip cooking one day.

There is this claim that all these are happening because women dress the way they do. What a shameful thought! A minister or some politician has said that we should ban skirts that schoolgirls wear. This is crazy. A three year old girl and a sixty year old grandmother have also been raped. Were they also dressed for rape?

This is not about the few rapists. This is about you and me. When we were young adults, how many times have we made jokes or passed comments based on the clothes women are wearing, or their physical parts? Has a woman ever made sexual jokes and harassed a guy based on his clothes? They never have that thought. We guys mostly think cheap thoughts.

We always say women are elegant, graceful and beautiful. I don’t know when these tags and adjectives are going to change. Are women nothing beyond these? Who are we to be moral police, to decide how they can dress, and what their dress says about the sort of a character they are? You and I have no right to to blame them, or tag them. It is also immoral to do that. We should understand that.

People ask why that girl was in a bus at 10 pm. Why shouldn’t she be in a bus at that time? Who are we to ask that question? They say things happened because that girl went to a pub at midnight. No, it did not happen because she went to a pub at midnight. It happened because your thoughts are perverted.

In this same India in which we used to give prominence and pre-eminence to women. But now, every woman is expected to fear and be submissive to a guy. It’s become the norm. If a guy does the chores at home, fears his wife, we make fun of him, and make him a comedy piece in our movies. What is wrong with that? What is shameful in that?

The other day, when I said this on Twitter, some guy replied, “Men should be men, women should be women. That will solve all the problems.” What does it mean, “women should be women”? Why should we define what women should be, how they should be? Who are we to do that? This question is for the menfolk.

If you ask me what qualifies to sermonize on this, I partake in all the chores at my place. I wipe the floor, I bathe our kid, I get him ready for school. I don’t feel ashamed of it. I don’t feel a need to boast about the times I cook at home. It’s just a part of my life. When my son grows up, he will not have the thought that women are beneath him, that they should serve him, that only his mother should get him ready for school. I wash my son’s butt. I get him ready for school. I feed him. So, my son, when he grows up, won’t have such [discriminatory] thoughts, and I am responsible for that, as his father. As a man, I will be responsible for the happiness of the women around me. I don’t know if I can change all the men in my country or change the laws here. But I can guarantee that my son will not have [discriminatory] thoughts in his head.

This is not preaching or advising. I cannot watch my TRP for everything. I could just comment on the latest hits and flops. But I am human. This is something that happened in my country, and affected me deeply. That’s why I am speaking out about it. I might have called fifty people and held a vigil. But that would have ended with those fifty people. I wanted to talk to more people. Lots more men. Change is something that has to start with the individual, in every household.

Using the Internet, Twitter and Facebook alone does not make me a modern man. I become a real modern man – a real man – only when I can respect the women in my society who are equal to, or greater than, me. When I don’t define what their role is, I do whatever they do. And I have no shame in doing the chores, beginning with cleaning the toilet. After all, I am cleaning the toilet in MY house.

This is just what I think. It has not been scripted.

I wish you a happy new year.

This post is also available in: தமிழ் (Tamil)

#India- No Shortcuts on #Rape – Make the Legal System Work #Vaw #Justice


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

EPW Vol – XLVIII No. 02, January 12, 2013

The vigorous public discourse following the recent brutal gang rape and
mutilation of the 23-year-old in Delhi is a positive sign but hopefully the
demand for quick solutions will not ignore the complexities involved in
dealing with all forms of violence against women. There are also other
connected issues that require urgent attention including the description of
a rape as a “state worse than death”, making out certain acts of violence
to be rare aberrations when they are depressingly routine, ignoring the
sexual violence within families and the need to make the legal system
accountable to the female citizenry.

Now that the gang rape victim christened as “Nirbhaya”, “Braveheart”,
“India’s Daughter”, etc, by the media, has finally been laid to rest,
despite the Delhi administration’s best efforts to prolong her ordeal until
the protestors at India Gate were worn out, perhaps it is time to address
deeper concerns that surround the issue of rape in public discourse.

Though many of us would like to change the terminology from “rape victim”
to “rape survivor”, unfortunately that cannot be done in her case since she
did not “survive”. The brutal injuries inflicted on her body during the
gang rape took her life. One is therefore constrained to label her a
“victim” despite her heroic struggle.

Had she survived (as many of us wished she had) she could have been the
mascot for the movement against violence perpetrated on women. She might
have come out in the open in the wake of the massive support she received
across the nation, and by this very act made a strong statement to the
world at large that a rape victim does not have to survive like a *zinda
laash* (a living corpse), a title awarded to rape survivors by our
parliamentarians. Her fight for justice would have become a beacon of hope
for many others. Her struggle for justice may even have helped to lessen
the stigma attached to the term “rape” itself in public discourse and her
struggle might have inspired many youngsters to come out and report
incidents of sexual assault. But that was not to be. This mantle has now
fallen upon the protestors and the political leaders who collectively mourn
her death.

*Not a ‘Living Corpse’*

Rather sadly, the wishes of those demanding the death penalty to avenge her
rape seem to have been fulfilled, without any major changes taking place in
the rape law, since it has become a case of “rape and murder” and the
“rarest of rare” maxim can be applied to it. But if the death penalty is
all that we are seeking, then her heroic struggle would be in vain. Her
death is not something to be proud of, because death is not what she wished
for. In the few moments in which she could express her wishes after the
traumatic incident, she had clearly indicated that she wanted to live. Live
life fully, not as a mere shadow of her earlier self, like a “living
corpse” – complete her training, earn and support her family. I hope after
this, all of us will refrain from referring to a survivor as zinda laash* *or
describe rape as a “state worse than death”. With death one reaches the
point of no return, but as long as there is life, there is hope. An
incident of rape, not even a brutal gang rape, ought not to have snuffed
out the hope of a 23-year-old, eager to scale new heights. One can only
hope that this is one lesson the nation has learnt through this episode.

The nationwide protest which this incident helped to ignite and the clarion
call for reforms in the rape law are positive signs. But for the sake of
easy and quick solutions, hopefully the discourse will not flatten out the
complexities involved in issues concerning violence against women and will
help us to seek answers to complex questions which do not get resolved
through retributive justice measures such as the death penalty, public
hanging, castration or instant “justice”. We need to keep reminding
ourselves that the girl died due to the brutal attack on her with iron rods
which damaged her intestines and led to the poisoning of all her vital
organs. Nothing can be more brutal than this. When we describe rape as
“worse than death”, we need to remind ourselves that insertion of objects
such as wooden splinters, iron rods, glass bottles, knives and swords into
the vagina causes far more serious damage to the female anatomy, but
unfortunately it does not warrant the same kind of punishment as rape since
it is not perceived as a “state worse than death”. In cases of brutal
sexual assault on children one can observe this type of violence. One can
also notice this kind of mutilation of the female body during caste and
communal violence such as that during Partition, the Gujarat carnage and
atrocities on dalits (like the Khairlanji rape and murders in Maharashtra).
Therefore, we need to move away from the patriarchal premise of vaginal
purity while we are addressing issues of sexual assaults and stop awarding
a special status for peno-vaginal penetration as compared to other types of
violations.

Vaginal penetration is only one of the many ways in which women are
chastised and humiliated. Acid attacks, slashing of the face, stripping and
parading, dragging women to the ground and kicking them on their abdomen,
etc, are some of the other violent ways in which women are shown their
place in public. Even while the protests were going on in most of the major
cities, a young student in a local college in Mumbai stabbed his ex-girl
friend several times and then stabbed himself. While the boy died
instantly, the girl succumbed to her injuries after a few days. This
violence is no less gruesome than an incident of gang rape.

*Routineness of Violence*

If women’s lives are endangered in so many different ways, then castration
of the rapists cannot give us the answers that we are seeking as it
reinforces the same old value system that continues to view rape as a state
“worse than death”. It is too short-sighted and serves only to lay the
emphasis back on the patriarchal premise of the sanctimony attached to
vaginal purity and does not help us to move forward. We would then be
forced to move on to other barbaric and medieval forms of retributive
justice like cutting off the hands of all those who indulge in heinous acts
of violence against women. This demand obscures the routineness of the
violence that takes place in our society, in our homes, in our private
spaces and makes it seem like a rare aberration.

One wonders whether the protests would have been on this scale if they had
not raped her but only assaulted her and her male companion with iron rods.
Is it the titillating aspects attached to a gruesome gang rape that arouses
feelings of grief and vengeance? The brutal manner in which the girl was
attacked is indicative of a deep-rooted hatred towards women, particularly
towards those women who dare to cross the boundaries. They are seen as
“free for all” or rather, everyone thinks that they are the custodians of
women’s morality and that they have a right to “teach them a lesson”.

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

It is these incidents that make us wonder whether the gang rape in Delhi is
meant to be a message to all youngsters not just to not venture out in the
dark but to not venture out with male companions. It is the same message
that the parents and the community give their daughters. It is the same
message that the moral brigade has been communicating through the raids on
young couples in Mumbai under the direction of Maharashtra’s Home Minister
R R Patil, who has now recommended the death penalty in rape cases. Perhaps
he and most protesters out on the streets in India today are unaware that
around one-third of all rape cases are filed by parents against the boy
concerned when their daughter exercises her sexual choice and elopes. Such
cases will only increase in the years to come as the recent enactment of
the Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse Act has raised the statutory
age for consent to sexual intercourse from 16 to 18 years and all
youngsters who are sexually active are prone to harassment through
collusion of the family and the state. These types of cases have led to the
use of phrases like “genuine cases” and “false cases” among the police,
prosecutors and judges. The recent Act has also shifted the burden of proof
to the accused which is an extremely dangerous proposition in the context
of human rights and rights of the accused within the criminal justice
system.

*Male Role Models*

There is another question which is worrisome. Is it possible to examine
this issue only within the framework of men versus women or, more
particularly, middle-class women versus lower-class men? The girl was not
alone, she was travelling with a male companion. He, too, was beaten and
thrown out. If he had lost his intestines in the scuffle that followed,
what would the public response be? What about the death of a young
19-year-old boy of Mumbai who lost his life while protesting the lewd
comments being passed against a girl from his housing society? Should not
his murder be avenged by awarding the death penalty to the accused? In
another well-publicised incident that took place about a year ago in
Mumbai, two young men, Keanan and Reuben, were brutally and fatally
attacked when they protested against the sexual harassment of some girls in
their group. Why is the loss of their lives less gruesome a crime? These
men were also role models to be emulated by the youth of today. We
desperately need such bravehearts who will stand up for women’s dignity in
public places because in most cases the public just looks on while the girl
is molested, stripped, raped and dragged naked in full public view. So it
is not just women, but also men who defend women, who are subjected to
brutal attacks.

*Wrong Popular Perceptions*

Despite all the positive impact of the campaign revolving it, the Delhi
gang rape incident does not foreground the different types of violations
that take place in our society. Rather, it reinforces the popular
perception that rape takes place in lonely places, late at night, by
strangers and that rapists are brutes or psychopaths who deserve to be
hanged. But most rapes take place in the privacy of our homes, in our
schools. Rapes by family members are seldom reported. They come to light
only when the girl is found to be pregnant and by then it is far too late
to have an abortion. The girl is then sent to a government run shelter home
where she languishes while her child is put up for adoption. The risk of
sexual abuse is even greater in these homes as some recent incidents that
have been reported in the media indicate.

In a case decided by the sessions court in Mumbai last month, the father
had been raping his daughter for two years. When the child confided in her
mother and the mother confronted her husband, she was silenced by threats
of desertion. It was only when the maternal uncle was alerted that the
complaint was registered. The case resulted in conviction only because the
uncle testified, but the mother refused to come to court and depose. In yet
another case of a father raping his daughter, the mother attempted to
register a case thrice and each time was sent back as the police refused to
record her statement. Finally, the case could be registered only after the
intervention of a local social worker. What should be the punishment for
fathers who violate the most sacrosanct fiduciary relationship of trust and
sexually violate their helpless daughters? And what should be the
punishment for those who through their silence or negligence abet the crime?

The infamous ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) in the Mathura rape case in
the late 1970s became the catalyst for a nationwide anti-rape movement. The
SC had acquitted two policemen who had raped a 16-year-old illiterate
tribal girl inside the police station while on duty on the ground that
since there were no injuries on her body she might have consented to the
sex. Further, the Court contended, since the girl had eloped with her
boyfriend and was not a virgin, she could not have been raped. The campaign
that followed resulted in bringing some changes in the archaic laws; the
most significant being the mandatory minimum punishment of seven years
which could extend to life imprisonment. It was perceived that it would
have a deterrent value. But when we examine the graph of reported cases
since 1983 (when the amendment was introduced) there is a steady increase
in reported cases. It is obvious that the amendment has failed to act as a
deterrent. Worse still, conviction rates are so low as to be negligible.
Even in these cases, the trial courts seldom award the statutory seven
years and give as low as three years or at times, just six months. Even
these result in acquittals at the appeal stage.

The conviction in the well-publicised Shiny Ahuja rape case in Mumbai is
not the norm, but an exception. In this case despite the complainant’s
retraction, the trial court convicted the accused based on forensic
evidence. There was a contradiction. While the actor denied that there was
ever any sexual intercourse between him and his domestic help, his defence
in court was that it was consensual. The judgment was condemned by Mumbai’s
socialites. A systematic media campaign was launched to clean up the
actor’s public image. And it is highly plausible that the conviction will
be set aside in the appeal which is pending before the high court. Three
other high profile rape cases in Mumbai – one involving the son of an
industrialist who was charged with raping a 52-year-old divorcee in his car
in his factory compound in the early hours of the morning and in which the
victim suffered a fracture of her wrist while resisting, the gang rape of a
student of a prestigious social work college in Mumbai and the rape of a
12-year-old ragpicker by a policeman – all resulted in acquittals, either
in the trial courts or in the appeal courts.

The retraction in the Shiny Ahuja case brings to the fore the important
issue of witness protection and compensation for the victim. Cases are
“settled” before the victim can depose, by the relatives at times with
active intervention of the police, sometimes even with the knowledge of the
court. We do not have any mechanism to protect a poor victim and other
witnesses against the onslaught of a powerful rapist from the time the
complaint is filed till the time of deposition in a trial court which may
take about a year or two at best. There are many constraints that work
against a girl from deposing in the court which calls for a strong witness
protection programme in order to ensure convictions.

*Fear of ‘False Cases’*

The trauma of rape and the stigma caused by it usually forces poor families
who file complaints of rape to change residences to protect their wards
from the stigma of rape. In most cases, the abuse is detected only when
these young girls in their early teens are taken to the hospital to
investigate delayed periods. The families are so poor that they cannot
provide even the basic care to their child. They need financial aid and
state support to overcome the trauma, the stigma and the adverse
consequences of rape. But each time the issue of compensation is raised,
the bogey of “false cases” is foregrounded to throttle the demand.

In Maharashtra, district boards were set up two years ago under the
district collector with high level officials of the home, health, law and
judiciary and women and child welfare departments’ along with
non-governmental organisation (NGO) representatives to scrutinise
applications for compensation, and the police were mandated to send in
copies of the FIR along with medical reports. An amount of Rs 2 lakh was
stipulated out of which Rs 20,000 is to be disbursed initially and the
balance after the girl deposes in court and an amount set aside for medical
aid, trauma counselling or skill training. But despite the grand “centrally
sponsored scheme”, the central funds have not reached the state government
and the victims wait in vain. This amounts to taking the most gullible and
most victimised for a ride. No one wants to act because of the all
pervasive fear of “false complaints”. One shudders to think how the family
of the Delhi gang rape victim would have dealt with the medical bills if
the case did not turn out to be a high profile one and the state
administration had not been forced to step in as a face-saving measure. But
then, is it wrong to expect this kind of state support to all survivors of
sexual abuse?

The fear of “false complaints” is all pervasive within our legal system
right from the time a victim tries to register the complaint to the time of
the trial. All stakeholders: the police, the medical officers who examine
the victim, the public prosecutors who are meant to defend her, the defence
lawyers who are out to tarnish her reputation and the presiding judge who
is supposed to be the neutral arbiter are plagued with this and constantly
look for evidence of falsity on the part of the victim. If this is the
present reality, one can just imagine what will happen if the punishment is
raised to a minimum of life imprisonment and maximum of death penalty. Then
even the few convictions which the judges award today will not take place,
and every accused will be given the “benefit of doubt”.

*Accountable to Women*

Instead, what we need is a criminal justice system that works with
responsibility, protocols for all stakeholders which are binding and most
important, a periodic audit that ensure that the protocols are followed.
This tedious process cannot be replaced by sensational measures such as
death penalty and castration which may momentarily satiate the public
thirst for blood, but will fail to have any deterrent impact at the ground
level. What we need most of all is a clarion call to make our legal system
accountable to the female citizenry in small but meaningful ways.

By-
Flavia Agnes (flaviaagnes@gmail.com) is a women’s rights lawyer and
director of Majlis which also runs a rape victim support programme in
Mumbai.

 

Press Release by Women with Disabilities India Network #delhigangrape


Last year  a young girl of 23 years died after being brutally raped in New Delhi. Her struggle lasted from 16 to 29th December 2012. Travelling with her friend who hailed a bus they were  brutally attacked by a group of six men, while the man was thrown off the bus, the woman was gang raped. The brutality perpetuated on the victim has outraged the nation.

We the ‘Women with Disabilities India Network’ join other women and concerned citizens in condemning the act.

We can understand the trauma faced by the young woman because we are targets of such violence each day in both public and private sphere.Such rapes are not isolated incidents, but are rather experienced in a continuum of violence. They happen within the homes, in buses and trains and in State run institutions for instance against women with mental illness and young girls with intellectual disability where rape is an everyday affair.    Rape by household members often remains unreported to avoid further stigmatization.

We believe that rape as a weapon of violence must be stopped and impunity enjoyed by perpetrators brought to an end. Impunity for the rape of women has become a national concern, because it compounds the effects of such violence. It intensifies the subordination and powerlessness of the targets of rape and sends a message to society that male violence against women is both acceptable and inevitable.

We urge that the cases of such heinous crimes be taken up and speedy action taken so that justice can be done.

We do not believe that death penalty is the answer as it reflects attention away from the violence perpetuated against us. This is especially the case when much of the violence perpetrators are mostly men from within families.  We aim for dignity and justice and safe homes, society and country. We believe that The normalcy and ethical acceptability of this violence must be challenged by the normative and ablest  attitudes

We must adopt laws and policies recognizing that all actions that violate women’s bodies are illegal.  Women must themselves be key decision makers in efforts to identify priority concerns and legal responses.

There is a need for further popular, police, and judicial training that builds specific cultural awareness   about disability issues  and legal knowledge on the issue.

Without such efforts, further elaboration of domestic and international, legal standards will fail women.

There has to be an appropriate strict punishment for all rapists, ensuring that they do not indulge in such activities again Concerns of deaf women in relation to rape came out very blatantly in our meeting in Delhi on 1st October 2012.
Since most disabled women are raped by men they trust the most who may be their family member’s or care givers (in institutes), there must be a mechanism set across the country where they can report such matters without the scare of any negative consequences. Also psychological and vocational support must be provided to such women.

Additional vulnerability of WWD is not recognized anywhere. I think that it must be recognized and addressed at all levels whether it be in the women commission, women groups and NGO programmes or any programmes and schemes instituted by the government.

Prepared by

Anita Ghai
Associate Professor
Fellow, Teen Murti (2009-2011)
IAWS president (2008-2011)
EC member IAWS (2011-2014)

Jeeja Ghosh
Head Advocacy and Disability Studies IICP,

Kolkata

Shivani Gupta

Founder and Chief Consultant

AccessAbility

New Delhi

Anjlee Agarwal
Executive Director & Access Consultant
Samarthyam
New Delhi

Smitha
DLU South
Chennai

Asha Hans
Former Prof & Director Women’s Studies
Utkal University
& EVP SMRC
Bhubaneswar

 

We must find a new language of defining women #Vaw #Feminism #Patriarchy


All about my mothers

Monobina Gupta | January 5, 2013

 

We must find a new language of defining women because they can never be free, or safe, if we persist with old patriarchal notions of looking at them, says Monobina Gupta.

Driving to office the other morning, I heard a government commercial against sex selection  on the radio. It urged us not to kill female foetuses because men would soon be hardpressed to find wives. A few days ago, at the protests in New Delhi‘s Jantar Mantar, some among the protesters were heard using the widely prevalent mother and sister curse words to abuse the rapists;blithely oblivious to the vulgar dichotomy of their words and actions.

In that recent outpouring of rage and sorrow on the streets of the Capital, we heard repeated invocations to this land of ‘mothers and sisters’. Indian men, we were told, should learn to respect their ‘mothers and sisters’. But in cases like this, the redressal is also the malady. It’s part of our collective failure – starting right at the top of the political order and percolating down to every societal nook and cranny – to treat women simply as human beings. We are unable to think of women outside of their roles as mothers and sisters. This is the reason we keep reverting to that ineffectual conventional script.

The mother-sister platitudes, in more ways than one, convey a fixed patriarchal notion of women. Women are always perceived as existing in relation to somebody else, more often than not to the men around them. Seldom are they seen or portrayed as autonomous agents. Strangely, this perennial invocation hasn’t prevented us from coining abuses in the names of mothers and sisters. Some of the crudest parts of our mainstream culture of abuse, particularly in north India, hinges around our mothers and sisters. Consider the irony of singing paeans to maa and behen while stringing out abuses in their name.

You hear these abuses on crowded streets, in packed buses, inside homes, in casual conversations and during heated arguments. Public and private spaces are replete with the words. In fact, so common are these epithets, bandied about in day-to-day conversations, that they have almost been stripped of their poisonous misogyny. The curses have been transformed, as it were, into benign admonishments.

Take the latest case of the 23-year old paramedic student whose gangrape and subsequent death sparked off the nationwide protests mentioned above. The youngest rapist, a juvenile, asked the victim to board the bus, by calling her ‘sister’. That familial address must have evoked a sense of security.

There are countless cases where defence lawyers and even courts or traditional bodies have asked rape victims to marry their rapists. The implication is that by marrying the victims rapists perform an act of atonement and salvage the woman from sexual humiliation. Then there are numerous cases of domestic sexual assaults, sisters raped by brothers, daughters by fathers, wives subjected to marital rape. The last one isn’t even legally recognised as a crime.

In a society where rape occurs within families, violating the very relationships held up as symbols of sacred dignity and pride, we must find a new language of defining women. The absence of such a discourse is especially jarring when even our political class seems to make these relationships the reference points to condemn violence against women.

Such discourse valorises women as daughters, sisters, and mothers. Wives, though, are rarely mentioned in such invocations. Consider the manner in which our top political leaders expressed their anguish in the recent case of Delhi gang-rape. “I and my associate (Minister of State for Home R P N Singh) have three daughters each. . . we are concerned about their security. Such incidents can happen to them too, ” Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters. Days later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “As a father of three daughters myself, I feel as strongly about this as each one of you. ”

This problematic imagination of women is adding to the present crisis. There is a clear refusal, deliberate or otherwise, to take into consideration the radical choices women are making in terms of relationships and how they live their lives. For instance, though the law has now recognised livein relationships as legally acceptable, our political classes and society still mouth regressive ideas. The victim of the Kolkata Park Street rape case, a single mother who was out at night, drinking in a bar, has been portrayed as a sex worker by West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress. Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, a prominent party MP, has gone to the extent of saying the incident was not rape, but the result of a misunderstanding between the victim and her client. Do sex workers deserve to get raped?

Women are tired of being boxed into traditional roles. They are angry at being told what to wear, how to behave and lead their lives. Along with the maa-behen abuses, the streets of Delhi recently also reverberated with a revamped version of “Azaadi, ” one of the strongest legacies of the feminist movement of the 1980s. As women and men sang “din mein bhi azaadi, aur raat mein bhi azaadi, ” they helped break the barricades of patriarchal language. Its time to ensure that women’s freedom be guaranteed because they are women, not because they are mothers and sisters of men.

#India- The Power of Shame #delhigangrape #Vaw


 

December 31, 2012, sarai.net

 

By Saroj Giri

‘National shame’, lajja – this is the sentiment most Indians feel, now that the raped girl has died. The rape has so far been essentially portrayed as a heinous but aberrant crime, a deviant behavior which apparently did not follow from the kind of society we inhabit. So, why should we, the entire society, feel the shame? This only means that shame has burst through exposing all the denials and attempts to contain the enormity of the problem and just make it a case requiring strong laws. Shame has come upon Indian society in spite of itself. Society as a whole stands implicated – this is what the sentiment of shame entails.

Shame, said Marx, is a revolutionary sentiment. Shame is introspective, loosens the inner resistance one can put up against looking into oneself. Now Indians might be willing to look into their society, their family, their institutions, their day to day life, their values, their civilization, their ethos, their human relations – and locate the recesses of patriarchal domination in them all. Indian society today, that real society where violence against women is normal, almost casual, and where love towards women is deeply patriarchal, seems to have loosened itself up a bit. It appears far less confident about its claims, its self-lauding proclamations. Its defences are down – a rare occasion. It is caught offguard today. It cannot act as though violence against women is only an external problem, exceptional and a deviation from ‘our’ social norms.

When Frantz Fanon revealed the horrors of French colonialism, Sartre pointed out that the French, even the liberal and humane ones, should feel shame. Feel ashamed. Similarly instead of pointing the fingers to this or that minister or the police or some such particular agency or authority as responsible for rape, society should open itself up for introspection. What will be revealed is simple: an out and out patriarchal society, male domination and female subjugation.

This shame has forced a realization even in the mainstream media. Here is the Times of India: “The Delhi gang-rape victim succumbed to her injuries at a Singapore hospital on Saturday morning. The death of 23-year-old Nirbhaya (a name given to her by TOI) not only leaves us sad and heightens our sense of outrage, but also makes it important for all of us to focus now on the real reason behind her agony — the lack of respect for women in our patriarchal society” (Dec 30, 2012).

‘Lack of respect for women’, ‘patriarchal society’ – the right noises are being made. The right noises are being heard. From this ‘real reason’ of course the media being media goes on to suggest that people take a pledge to individually refrain from engaging in violence against women. There is a problem here. For this ‘pledge thing’ again tries to turn the focus away from the internal power relations that constitute this society, the relations of domination through which most men relate to women in this society.

So people are introspecting. They are on their own making all the connections – putting two and two together. They seem to be secretly sensing that the capital punishment and death to the rapists will only serve to shield society, cover up its true character. ‘India’s daughter’ precipitated a process where the accusing finger can also slowly turn towards ‘India’. Every family, every bastion of patriarchy, every woman within the family, every ‘victim’ of patriarchy, is following ‘the news’ – and getting inspired to raise new questions and not just provide ready solutions about ‘preventing rape’.

‘India Rising’
So the question: will shame be the signage, the starting point for the movement against patriarchy? Or will it be, in the name of ‘fighting rape’, another addition to the Indian nation’s list of ‘fighting untouchability’, ‘fighting poverty’, ‘fighting communalism’.

Indeed ‘fighting rape’ might, I fear, soon enter the lexicon of the ‘tough administrator’ Narendra Modi vying to be Prime Minister. In surmising this I thought I was only being a slightly paranoid leftie – till I saw some placards at the protests.
Stop Sexual Terrorism, it said. Rape as sexual terrorism, like a bomb blast! Rape is here externalized, like terrorism from across the borders, an evil enemy which attacks your good society.

I can already hear those like Chetan Bhagat saying how this is ‘new India rising’ – how the youth are not willing to take all this lax laws and all this disruption of life in a decent society, this kind of barbaric treatment of our upwardly mobile women. ‘New India’, ‘India Rising’, by invoking the hyperbole of capital punishment against rape, secretly reinscribes the myth of an essentially good society – ‘Indian values’. After anti-corruption, is ‘fighting rape’ the new cause of the self-righteous, self-aggrandising upper middle classes? This moment of shame will provide the long overdue antidote to the self-righteous middle classes and at least lessen their confidence and aggression, slow them down.

The initial outrage

The protests however were initially not in a mood to feel this shame, not in a mood to introspect. They started off dominated by the feeling of outrage.
Outrage has a target – Shiela Dixit, the Home Minister, Delhi Police, private bus operators. It functions with an accusing finger towards something external. It is essentially non-introspective. To start with, the protests against rape had this basic tendency to regard rape as having nothing to do with the patriarchal power relations that constitute society. Instead rape is located in something external, external to an essentially good society – it is a deviation, a crime, a criminal act to be explained by say the rapist’s ‘psychology’ but not by the tissue of social relations. Rape as a result of a criminal and sick mindset rather than what would follow from the gendered power relations that constitute this society we inhabit.

So the ‘prevention of rape’ does not involve transformation of society. It can be achieved by delegating responsibility to an authority which stands at a remove from society. So ministers and police must fix this problem for the smooth functioning of this society. This delegation meant exoneration of society, of precisely that society where patriarchy is felt and sensed every moment. Rendering this society invisible! To achieve this feat, it had to generate its own histrionics, high drama, extreme emotions, extreme everything – the smokescreen of ‘death to the rapists’. ‘Hang the rapists’ and leave society as it is – this is the motto. The mythical good society must be left unquestioned.

So here violence against women is not always already happening, not already foretold. It ‘takes place’. It is an incident – when, where, who. This is the way violence against women is rendered contingent, exceptional, forever an aberration – it just so happened. It took place on that night of Dec 16th 2012. It takes place every other day, or the same day some other place, or perhaps every hour – but each is a separate case. Each can be explained by referring to the ‘background’ of those individuals involved. ‘They were from the slum area’. The bus in which the girl was travelling did not have proper licenses. They were ‘those types’.

Society here sits as the judge and takes the moral high ground – it exonerates itself. What is rendered invisible is the thousand and one ways in which the rape and violence against women are mandated by ‘society’ – from female infanticide, to bride burning, to dowry deaths, to sexual harassment, to getting groped in the metro, to rape within marriage, to honour killings… The list is endless. Not just the violence – even the love and care reserved for women is laden with inscription of male power. The ideal wife, the ideal daughter, the respectable woman, adarsh bharatiya nari, the super mom – these are notions, tendencies and inclinations that constantly push women towards precarity, a lack of confidence, a fear, an anxiety. These are indeed sometimes more dangerous than the committed ‘crimes’.

So the outrage overlooked all of this. And yet this outrage gave way to shame. This shame might inspire a movement which could irrigate the veins and arteries of resistance against patriarchy in the street, in the family, in the bedroom. It might lead to social critique. It might allow women to go beyond merely fighting for basic safety and security. It might, indeed must, allow them to freely assert their powers and desires, their thoughts and their sexuality.

Today women are on the defensive, seeking to be the beneficiaries of protection accorded by an essentially male dominated society. This is extremely infantilizing. Even if this movement might succeed this might not change. In fact it might actively contribute to this infantalising – women might be ‘safe’ and infantilized. For example, if Delhi Police gets better in protecting women from sexual attacks then will women also be obliged to follow some of the ‘do’s and don’ts’ put up by the police? Will this enhance or lessen women’s agency?

Social evil?
So how will this shame be mobilized? Should feminists now work with the government to help make good laws? Feminists might proceed by laying the statistics of so many other kinds of violence against women: bride burning, dowry deaths, sexual harassment and so on. Feminists might provide the inputs to good policy formulation. But will these inputs only mean that in this era of targeted policy making, patriarchy would start getting ‘measured’ in terms of ‘affected groups’ or stake-holders and the benefits they should get? If we demand so much protection from the police, then will women also be obliged to abide by some of the rules ‘for your own safety’ that Delhi Police might frame?

 

Too many voices are calling for ‘strong laws and speedy justice’ to deter rapists, a call for a strong state. Perhaps a technocratic or security-centric solution is in the offing. If not this, another bad option that might impose itself is to adopt an approach of something like ‘the unfinished task of social reform’ carried over from the 19th century. So, like fighting sati, or widow remarriage, or untouchability, violence against women will be identified as a social evil. Yes it is a ‘social evil’. But is violence against women, like untouchability, a malignant growth in an otherwise healthy ‘social body’, as Gandhi would have it? Or is it intrinsic to the ‘social body’?

 

It is not to a cool and calm deliberation for policy formulation that this shame must lead to. What we need is a much more enriched rage, now carrying the moment of shame, of social critique. The narrow focus of the rage – ministers, police, strong laws – must now give way to taking account of how this rage must also be directed against the manner in which rape and violence against women is routinely deployed by none other than the state itself. Just check out the reports coming from the North East, in Kashmir and elsewhere. Or the rape of over 30 women by the Rajasthan Rifles in Kunan Poshpora. Or the gruesome rape and murder of Dalit women in Khairlanji. This list is very long. These are neither the result of an exception, bad policing nor a social evil. It is instead a well calculated strategy to inscribe the power of the state through patriarchal violence.

#INDIA- Disturbing rise in male intolerance to empowerment of women #delhigangrape #vaw


 

PUCL press statement on Delhi gang rape, 24th December, 2012
PUCL strongly condemns the brutal, bestial and savage sexual assault of a 23 year old girl in a moving Delhi bus on 16th December leaving her battling for life. We also condemn the unprovoked, unacceptable, unlawful and brutal attack launched by the Delhi police on 23rd December, on thousands of citizens, protesting against state inaction in the rape incident in and near India Gate and the continuing attempts by state police to crush the growing agitation by young people.
The response of the Union Home Minister, Chief Minister of Delhi and the Prime Minister, has been both belated as also insensitive, mechanical and sometimes even farcical as when the Union Home Minister used the Maoists as an alibi for not meeting and addressing the agitators. The political executive has failed to understand that the agitation is not in respect of this one incident alone. The agitation is symbolic of the loss of trust and confidence of people of this country in the criminal justice institutions and the people managing them. For decades now, every single institution without exception has been manipulated and subverted with impunity and citizens are no longer willing to trust persons in power – whether ministers, bureaucrats or police officials.
The agitation has also to be seen in the context of increasing incidents of aggravated sexual assaults on young girls, some as young as 5-8 years old across the country. The situation of rape and sexual violence is particularly severe in rural areas where on a daily basis, there are reports of women from Dalit, minority and economically vulnerable sections suffering violence and sexual assault at the hands of men, on the streets, in work places and other social spaces. This apart, the sexual violence on sexual minorities, transvestites and others is also very worrisome. Most such cases never make it to national media and do not become subject of mass action in urban cities. While we welcome the mass outpouring of support to the Delhi sexual assault survivor we also urge concerned citizens nationwide to become continuously engaged with the larger issue of violence against women in each state, city and locality.
However the issue of sexual assault and violence against women cannot be addressed merely by better policing and more security for women. Very often it is the police and the security guards who become threats to women’s safety considering the current experience of sexual assaults on women and men within police stations and by armed forces. The issue is symptomatic of a much larger, complex social phenomenon. Rapes and sexual violence will have to be seen in the backdrop of rising male intolerance to assertion of independence, self reliance and empowerment of women, in the work arena, professional and social spheres. Questioning of patriarchal values of male superiority, domination and gender discriminative practices are amongst many other social and economic factors responsible for increasing sexual assaults.
PUCL strongly opposes the demand to introduce death sentence as a penalty for rape. Demanding death sentence for rapists is not going to solve the problem of increasingly brutal and bestial sexual violence. Worldwide, as also in India itself, there is no scientific evidence that death penalty acts as a deterrent. By the same token, neither are other measures such as castration of rapists useful or relevant as punishment, as put forward by a number of groups.
It is also pertinent here to point out that punishment is only the last link in the criminal justice system. Conviction and sentencing is dependent on the strength of the prosecution which is in turn dependent on proper investigation. So amending law to have harsher punishment is a non- starter when a large percentage of cases end in acquittal when investigation and prosecution are often compromised deliberately.
The subversion of law begins from the stage of registration of FIR, medical examination of survivors of sexual assault as also the perpetrators, forensic science reports, witness statements, identification of accused through `identification parades’, letting in evidence in court, threat and buying up of witnesses and trial proceedings. We should also not forget the collusion, indifference and inefficiency of `Public Prosecutors’ in the conduct of trials. This subversion is apart from inherent patriarchal attitudes and prejudices of investigators, prosecutors and judges alike. It is only cases which surmount these hurdles which results in conviction and punishment. Thus without addressing these systemic issues, merely demanding new, more stringent laws and harsher punishment is a simplistic approach and no solution.
PUCL firmly believes that apart from punishing perpetrators and providing support to the survivors there is a need for a national level debate on the issue of violence against women across a whole range of issues – starting from language and discourse and spanning social, economic, cultural and psychological factors resulting in the commission of crimes against women. There is an urgent need for men and women from all sections including scheduled castes, religious and sexual minorities to understand, analyse and find solutions to the issue of sexual violence on women. In the end, the ultimate aim should be prevention of crime against women and not just punishment.
Prof. Prabhakar Sinha, National President
Dr. V. Suresh National Gen. Secretary

Rape Culture, Capitalism and India #AFSPA #Vaw


 

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