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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rapists Of Minor In Chandauli Arrested After People’s Protest

On 16 January 2013 in Dhanapur Thana area of Siyahwal village in Chandauli district the 14-year old minor daughter of Com. Rampyare Saini was raped in broad daylight by goons of the same village. The culprits were under the full protection of the police as well as the administration. In this situation, a people’s movement was launched under the joint banner of CPI-ML, RYA and AIPWA and finally the culprits were arrested. The entire incident highlighted the role of the police, administration and doctors, their insensitivity towards the minor victim, their faithlessness towards their own profession and their efforts to protect the culprits.

The SO of Dhanapur dilly-dallied in the matter of registering an FIR in this rape case. On 18 January the victim told the fact-finding team from AIPWA (including District secretary Anita Kumari and State joint secretary Kusum Verma) that the doctor examining her called her “characterless” and said that she had not been raped.

CPI-ML, RYA and AIPWA mobilized the poor people of Dhanapur village and organized a series of protests against this particular rape as well as against the rising incidents of crime against women in UP and governmental protection to the culprits, thus unmasking the ‘pro-women’ image of the ‘young CM’ of the State.

The protests commenced on 17 January with demands for arrests of the rapists, at Chandauli district HQ, Tehsil HQ, Chakiya and Navgarh. This was followed by a meeting and gherao of Dhanapur Thana on 18 January. The meeting was addressed by Kisan Sabha State general secretary Com. Ishwari Prasad, Com Shashikant Kushwaha and Anil Paswan of CPI-ML, Shravan Maurya of RYA, Anita Kumari and Kusum Verma of AIPWA. Under pressure from the people’s movement, the police were forced to arrest one of the two culprits. On 19 January the representatives of CPI-ML, RYA and AIPWA along with the mother of the victim sat on an indefinite hunger strike at the Chandauli Kutchari HQ demanding the arrest of the absconding culprit and action against the Dhanapur SO as well as the doctor who mentally tortured the victim under pretext of a medical examination. On 21 January the State AIPWA leadership addressed a Press conference at the Kutchari and on 22 January a serial hunger strike and meeting was organized at the same venue. The meeting was addressed by State secretary Com Sudhakar Yadav, Editor of Samkaleen Janmat Sunil Yadav and others. The movement received widespread support from the people of Chandauli. AIPWA district secretary along with 11 representatives from CPI-ML and RYA again sat on a hunger strike.

Finally the administration had to bow down to the growing pressure of the protest and accept all the demands of the movement. The absconding culprit was arrested on 24 January and the DM passed orders for action against the doctor and the SO. This movement has energized the people of Chandauli to fight against the injustices of the powers that be and has inspired the emergence of a new people’s movement.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

‘Freedom Parade’ to Reclaim the Republic - A Report

On Republic Day this year, thousands marched in Delhi in a ‘Freedom Parade’ to assert women’s freedom and people’s freedom. The Freedom Parade, taking place not long after the Republic Day parade ended, was held under the banner of the ‘Freedom Without Fear’ campaign, launched to take forward the ongoing movement against sexual violence. Around 2000 protestors, including students and teachers from Delhi University, JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia, women’s groups and citizens from different parts of the city, marched in the procession from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar to ‘Reclaim the Republic’.

In the weeks preceding Republic Day, young protesters against sexual violence had been branded as ‘dented and painted’ and as a ‘mob’. That is why they marched to assert that the Republic comprises of the ‘public’, whose role is not just to be spectators; to realise the true spirit and the potential of the constitution, you need an active, protesting, dissenting ‘public’.

The Freedom Parade carried placards and banners with the names of 40 victims of rape and sexual violence, including Neelofar Jan, Aasiya Jan, Tanima Gani, Bilqis Bano, Mathura Bai, Bhanwari Devi, Meena Xalxo, Lakshmi Orang, Soni Sori, Surekha Bhotmange, Priyanka Bhotmange, Thangjam Manorama, Tapasi Malik, Rumi Konwar, Putala Bora, Lakhi Gogoi, Anola, Subsunka, Niru Gogoi, Meena Gogoi, Jamuna Gogoi, Punya Gogoi, Bhanimai Dutta, Raju Borua, Nilima Boro, Foudoro Boro, Undibala Roy, Tabinda Gani, Mubeena Akhtar, Srinivas Ramachandra Siras (the gay professor of AMU who committed suicide), Madhumita, Chandini and Kokila (transgender victims of rape), Christy Jayanthi Malar and Rukmani (lesbian couple who committed suicide in Chennai after victimisation and harassment). They also held placards with names of places associated with sexual violence: Delhi, Naroda Patiya, Shopian, Kunan Poshpora, Sarguja, Singur, Hisar, Rohtak, Bamon Kampur, Guwahati, Khairlanji. Interspersed with these, they also held placards remembering the ‘unknown citizen.’ Kashmiri students held placards telling the details of the Shopian and Kunan Poshpora rapes.

Throughout the colourful parade, people raised rousing slogans demanding implementation of the Justice Verma Committee Report. Among the slogans raised were ‘Jang ke hathiyar nahin, Inquilab ke auzar chahiye’ (We want – Not weapons of war but instruments of revolution); Bekhauf Azaadi mang rahe hain, aaj chahiye, abhi chahiye (We demand freedom without fear – today, right now); slogans rejecting ‘Bhagwat’s goons; Maulana’s diktats; politicians’ rhetoric; and state repression; ‘Anjaan nagrik jaag uthi hai, badal raha sansar hai/Duniya bhar mein mang rahi hai, Azaadi ka tyohaar hai’ (The unknown citizen has awakened, the world is changing/in the whole world, there’s the festival of freedom). When the parade reached Janpath, there were slogans of ‘Rajpath (the rulers’ road) may be yours, Janpath (people’s path) is ours.’ Through placards, people asked, “Will Govt Implement JVC Recommendations? Will the Govt Spend On Making Women Safer, With more judges and courts; rape crisis centres; safe houses for women and children; forensic examination facilities; and safe public transport? Or Will the Govt’s Next Budget As Usual Gift Crores to Corporates?”

When the parade reached Jantar Mantar, a massive public meeting was held. Sucheta De, former JNUSU President and AISA leader, conducted the proceedings. Addressing the gathering, Kavita Krishnan, secretary All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) talked about the stories of the various people named in the placards the protestors were carrying. She said that the Government was afraid of the Justice Verma Commission report: and this is a sure sign that the Report is a victory for the movement. She called upon people to stop fearing the freedom of others. Hailing the slogan of ‘naari mukti sabki mukti zindabad’ (women’s freedom, everyone’s freedom Long Live), she said that the subordination of women was intimately linked to the subordination of others. Men cannot be free as long as women are held in fear and unfreedom. None of us should fear the right of women, the dalits, adivasis, the religious minorities, the people of Kashmir and the North East, and the sexual minorities, to seek freedom from discrimination, indignity, and violence, because in their freedom lies the freedom of us all.

Advocate Madhu Mehra also addressed the gathering, warning that the Government was trying to reduce the Justice Verma report to a protest management exercise. Several women’s organisations, citizens’ groups, student and youth organisations, including Saheli and Jagori, AISA, RYA, NAPM and the New Socialist Initiative also participated.

The protestors condemned the President of India for awarding a gallantry award to yet another rapist in uniform: SP Kalluri, accused of raping an adivasi woman in custody in Chhattisgarh. Young girls presented ‘Mardangi Maryada medals’ and Laxmanrekha Medals’ to people who have been making atrocious, sexist, misogynist, victim-blaming statements, and who have been accused of rape. These medals were presented to photographs of Abhijeet Mukherjee, Mohan Bhagwat, Asaram Bapu, Kailash Vijayvargiya, Abu Azmi, Ankit Garg and Botsa Satyanarayana.

The protestors demanded the immediate implementation of Justice Verma Commission report, and demanded that the government and various political parties break their silence on the report.

On 24 January, a massive rally for women’s freedom and dignity was held in Patna, organised mainly by AIPWA along with AISA and RYA. Around 3000 women from rural areas of Bihar blockaded the road at Kargil Chowk, and held a mass meeting, where they demanded the implementation of the Justice Verma Committee Report, and condemned the UPA Government and Bihar’s NDA Government for protecting the forces unleashing violence against women.

On 25 January, a mass meeting called by AIPWA was held at Nagbhushan Bhawan, Bhubaneshwar. The meeting was addressed by AIPWA and CPI(ML) leaders.

On 25 January, AISA and AIPWA held a march in Varanasi, against sexual violence, and specifically protesting sexual harassment against women students of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) (see report below).

On 26 January, AISA and AIPWA held a women’s freedom parade parallel with the official parade in Delhi. Demanding ‘Freedom Without Fear and Without Conditions,’ the parade with around 150 participants began from Ramlila Maidan and marched through various streets before reaching Gandhi Chowk. The mass meeting held there was addressed by AISA leader Kamini Pokhriyal, Chanchal Bora and Manisha, AIPWA’s Sheela Punetha, Pushpa Martoliya and others.

Protest at London Against Sexual Violence on Republic Day

Over 80 people gathered on Republic Day at the Indian High Commission in London to express their solidarity with the women's movement in India which poured onto the streets after the brutal gang rape of a 23 year old woman student on a bus in Delhi. Protesters voiced their outrage at the scale of state violence and rape faced by women in India.

The slogans demanded justice for Soni Sori, an indigenous woman sexually assaulted by the Indian police where her torturer was given a police medal for gallantry on India’s Republic Day a year ago. There was also a call for justice for Aasiya Jan and Nilofer Jan, two Kashmiri women raped and murdered by the Central Reserve Police force in 2009. The placards demanded implementation of Justice Verma Commission’s recommendation of immediately removing immunity from prosecution for sexual crimes - the army, paramilitaries and the police. They also stated that ‘the SP of Dantewada Ankit Garg, responsible for the sexual torture of Soni Sori, must be stripped of the presidential gallantry award and punished’, along with SRP Kalluri another Chhattisgarh police officer responsible for rape and torture who was honoured this Republic Day.

A number of groups came together - South Asia Solidarity Group, the Justice for Soni Sori group, the Indian Workers Association and Imkaan calling for an end to state violence and rape. Slogans included ‘Indian president – stop honouring rape’, ‘who raped Nilofer Jehan – Indian military and Indian state’, ‘who raped Soni Sori – Indian police and India state’. Their voices of protest joined by Newham Asian Women’s project, Southall Black Sisters, Older Feminist Network, Iranian and Afghanistan Women’s group and others were heard by a number of passers-by who stopped to read the placards and listen to the slogans. There were many new faces not usually seen at these kinds of public events. Two young women with a placard saying ‘don’t tell us not to go out - tell your sons not to rape’ had taken the slogan from the protests in India ‘Don’t teach me what to wear – teach your sons not to rape’, and made it their own.

Writer and actor Meera Syal addressed the gathering and stated ‘India claims to be a new superpower but look at the way it treats women. More important than being the best in IT is changing the way women are treated’. There were calls for keeping up the pressure and organising more events for protesting sexual violence against women which is taking place in India and Britain.

Courtesy : ML Update, January 29, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who is Afraid of Justice Verma Committee Recommendations?

ML Update Editorial, January 29, 2013

The Justice Verma Committee Report marks a milestone in the struggle for women’s rights in India. The Report is a powerful vindication of the central demands of the ongoing movement against sexual violence, and is also an equally powerful challenge to the Government and the political establishment.

In many ways, the JVC Report has given body and substance to what the protesters on the street were saying. The JVC has done what the Government should, in fact, have done: engaged seriously with activists working in the field as well as survivors of sexual violence, and, in a commendably timely manner, came up with recommendations that reflect their concerns and are truly path-breaking. The protesters raised the slogans of ‘Women want freedom’; the JVC Report is built on the premise that women’s autonomy in all spheres, including sexual autonomy, must be safeguarded by the State. This recognition marks a truly radical break with the prevailing dominant view on women and sexual violence.

The women protesters on the street raised the slogan ‘My dress is not a Yes’; the JVC Report, in the context of the rape law, radically redefines ‘consent’ by a woman as nothing short of an unequivocal ‘yes’ by word or gesture. Protesters had expressed outrage against those who termed rape survivors as ‘zinda laash’ (walking corpses); the JVC Report clearly states that the State, as well as society, has the duty to dislodge sexual violence from the ‘shame-honour’ paradigm and locate it instead as a crime against women’s bodily integrity and dignity.

The best instance of the JVC Report’s recognition of women’s unqualified autonomy as a person in her own right, is their recommendation that marital rape by included in the purview of the rape law. Marking the first ever break with the colonial legacy as well as traditional patriarchal understanding of a husband’s ‘conjugal right’ over his wife, the JVC Report stresses that a married woman has every right to refuse sexual access to her husband.

The JVC Report has identified the multiple barriers – in policing, medico-legal systems, judiciary, laws, as well as social support systems - that make justice inaccessible for victims of sexual violence. It uncompromisingly holds the state responsible for failure to protect women, recommending punitive measures for police personnel who fail to register FIRs and otherwise violate a well-defined protocol for registering and investing complaints of sexual violence.

The JVC expands the definition of sexual violence to include a range of crimes such as stalking, stripping/disrobing, voyeurism (watching or filming women in their private moments without their knowledge), acid-throwing, sexual harassment, penetrative sexual assault that includes penetration by parts of a man’s body as well as by objects manipulated by him and gang rapes. While recommending harsher punishments for these crimes, based on the degree of harm/hurt caused, the JVC Report recommends ridding the existing laws of the patriarchal language of ‘insulting/outraging modesty,’ and instead adopting a thoroughly modern vocabulary that describes the crime rather than the character of the victim.

The JVC recommends an overhaul of the medico-legal tests for rape survivors. It rightly recommends that the misogynist and demeaning ‘two-finger test’ and other medical tests that focus on the past sexual history of the victim, be scrapped. The JVC holds that medical evidence can at best be supportive, and cannot be proof of a woman’s consent or otherwise. It also recommends a protocol for medical investigation and care for rape survivors, and for setting up properly equipped Rape Crisis Centres that can offer such services in a timely manner. 

Recognising that sexual violence is part and parcel of the larger web of violence against women, and can be resisted only by strengthening women’s autonomy, the JVC Report has come down heavily on crimes committed in the custody of the family against self-choice marriages. From the same perspective of sexual autonomy, the JVC Report has also discussed and mapped out the Constitutional rights of sexual minorities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people) to freedom from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, and also from sexual violence. 

The JVC Report is path-breaking in its recommendation that in the case of members of the Armed Forces accused of sexual violence, no sanction for prosecution need be sought, and such accused be tried in a civil court of law. The JVC also recommends amending the AFSPA to this effect. Justice Verma, in an interview, has correctly justified this recommendation by pointing out that no one can be allowed to claim that sexual violence was done in the course of discharging one’s duty! The JVC also recommends review of the AFSPA, in the light of the fact that it has helped create an environment where sexual violence by armed forces has become common in conflict areas. It also recommends setting up of Special Commissioners to monitor the situation of women’s safety from sexual violence in all conflict areas.

The JVC also recommends the principle of command responsibility: i.e that police and army officers be held responsible for custodial sexual violence that take place under their command, and punished with rigorous imprisonment between 7-10 years.

The JVC Report recognises that rape is an expression of power rather than a ‘crime of passion’. And it specifically recognises that sexual assaults on women and children by the State or by private persons in situation of communal or caste violence “deserve to be treated as aggravated sexual offence in law.” It also discusses the question of targeted sexual violence against SC/ST women at length. However, in its specific legislative recommendations, it has omitted to include these categories of sexual violence in the category of aggravated sexual assault. This omission, which goes against the spirit of the JVC Report, must be corrected in the actual process of drafting legislation.

The JVC report discusses at length the patriarchal attitudes and hostility to women’s rights that continues to permeate the court procedures, and makes several recommendations on recording of evidence, cross-examination, and sentencing, that can make the judicial process gender-just. The JVC also recommends a substantial increase in the number of judges and courts, to ensure speedy justice.

The ‘Bill of Rights’ for women charted out by the JVC – and the body of measures recommended by it to make those rights a reality - is a veritable manifesto for the ongoing movement against sexual violence.

The palpable discomfort of the Central Government as well as of Opposition parties like the BJP with the JVC Report is telling. The UPA Government, for which the JVC was a mere protest management exercise, is now avoiding the eye of the Report submitted by the JVC. The JVC Report has been removed from the Home Ministry’s website! And even the BJP and most other ruling class Opposition parties, have maintained silence on the JVC Report. This is not surprising: the Report hits at the foundations of patriarchy, and the parties which are the pillars of that patriarchy, are understandably discomfited.

It is the ongoing movement which we have to thank for the JVC Report. This movement, which began with empathy for the young fighter whose life was brutally snuffed out, widened the lens and took on the entire patriarchal establishment – challenging misogyny and gender bias and demanding an end to impunity of all perpetrators of sexual violence. Instead of rendering the victims of sexual violence in the contexts of caste and communal violence and state repression invisible, the movement sparked by the Delhi gang-rape has focussed the light on those dark areas in the life of our democracy. In keeping with this spirit, the young protestors observed ‘Republic Day’ in its true spirit: by asserting the liberty and equality of women and all people as citizens, and by declaring the people as the true custodians of the Republic.

The movement has sounded its call – the UPA Government must implement the Justice Verma report – or quit! If the Government and the ruling class political establishment hope to consign the JVC Report to cold storage like countless reports before it, it will have a hard time doing so in the face of a determined people’s movement.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reclaim the Republic! Women's Freedom! People's Freedom!

Keep the Flame Alive....She Has Rekindled
For Justice, Safety and Gender Equality
End Violence Against Women!


Women's Freedom ! People's Freedom!
on 26 January join

Freedom Parade
Mandi House to Jantar Mantar

Assemble at Mandi House at 2pm

Freedom Without Fear
Campaign Against Sexual Violence and Gender Discrimination
Facebook group: Freedom without fear- bekhauf azadi
9560756628, 9868383692, 9868033425

Friday, January 25, 2013

UPA Government: Implement Justice Verma Committee Recommendations Without Delay!

The Report submitted by the Justice Verma committee marks an important measure of victory for the ongoing people’s movement against sexual violence, as well as for the decades of the women’s movement and democratic movement in India.

The Report, commendably prepared within a month, following a welcome process of serious engagement with activists and scholars in the field, does several things that are undoubtedly path-breaking. It firmly upholds the principle that violence on women should be understood from the perspective of women’s autonomy, bodily integrity and dignity, rather from patriarchal notions of honour and shame. From that perspective, it recommends an overhaul, not only in the existing laws against sexual violence, but also in the systems of investigation, prosecution, and trial. It calls to make the state responsible for failure to protect women. It recommends punitive measures for non-registration of FIRs. It recommends that stalking, voyeurism, stripping, sexual harassment be recognized as crimes with appropriate punishment. It calls for harsher punishment for several forms of sexual violence. It recommends a graded system of punishment for a range of sexual crimes. It calls for the scrapping of the demeaning ‘two-finger test’, and spells out the protocol for medical examination and care of a rape survivor. It recognizes that the prevailing exemption of marital rape from the rape law amounts to legitimizing a notion of a wife as the property of the husband. It recommends that a police officer who allows custodial rape to take place under his command, be charged with breach of command responsibility, and punished with rigorous imprisonment between 7-10 years. And it holds that members of the armed forces charged with rape be tried in a civil court of law; recommends review of AFSPA; and calls for appointment of special commissioners for women’s safety and security in all conflict areas. It recognizes, at length, the need to protect the rights and dignity of sexual minorities, and to address sexual violence faced by them. It discusses the crimes that occur in the custody of the family, militating against women’s autonomy in matters of choice of partners. It calls for reforms to make the police accountable and ensure that the judicial process is made gender-sensitive and gender-just. It calls for more judges and more courts to ensure speedier trials. It maps out a Charter of Rights for women. 

If the JVC Report does all of this, it is a real tribute to the ongoing movement which has successfully brought the question of women’s freedom, autonomy, and rights to centre stage. Why is the UPA Government silent on the Justice Verma recommendations? Why are most of the Opposition parties including the BJP, silent on these recommendations? 

Many of the above recommendations need not wait for a session of Parliament to bring into force. 

· For instance, the Government should waste no time at all in scrapping the two-finger test. Not a single woman should have to undergo this demeaning and misogynistic test ever again. 

· The Government, acting on the recommendations of the Justice Verma committee, should immediately take steps to ensure the arrest of the rapists and killers of Thangjam Manorama, and the Chhattisgarh SP Ankit Garg, accused of supervising Soni Sori’s sexual torture, and bring them to trial. 

· The Government should, well in advance of the budget session, prepare and make public an expenditure plan to realise the various infrastructural changes recommended by the JVR: including sufficient judges and courts; rape crisis centres; safe houses for women and children; sufficient agencies for forensic examination; safe public transport, and so on. 

· And the Government should take forward the process initiated by the Justice Verma committee, and continue the process of consultation in order to draft the requisite laws for enactment at the earliest. 

There are some areas, however, where the Justice Verma report disappoints and remains lacking. For instance, one serious omission is that failure to include sexual violence occurring in situations of communal violence, violence against SC/ST women, and massacres under the category of aggravated sexual assault. Suggestions made with regard to the sexual harassment Bill, especially in the context of Universities, have not been incorporated. Many other areas also call for closer reflection and critique, and there is a need for a more comprehensive look at the whole report. 

But above all, there is a need to ensure that the Justice Verma Committee Report, a product of a unique juncture of people’s movement against sexual violence, is not consigned to the cold storage, like so many reports before it. It’s up to us to keep the movement going, and ensure that the Government and Parliament are forced to implement this Report. 

On 26 January, people from all over Delhi are going to march in a Freedom Parade to reassert people’s claim to the Republic, and to demand Women’s Freedom and People’s Freedom. We will also demand immediate steps from the Government to implement the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee report, and take forward the process initiated by the Justice Verma committee towards formulating and enacting gender-just laws. Let’s keep the flame that was lit by the courageous fighter on December 16th, burning bright! 

Join Freedom Parade, 2 pm, Mandi House to Jantar Mantar, 26 January 
Freedom Without Fear – Bekhauf Azaadi Campaign 
9560756628, 9868383692, 9868033425

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Patriarchy, Women’s Freedom, and Capitalism

By Kavita Krishnan
Liberation Monthly Magazine, February 2013

(This article began as a rejoinder to Hindi columnist Raj Kishor [Vaam se dakshin tak ek hi tark, (‘The same argument from Left to Right’), Rashtriya Sahara, January 13 2013], but it has also provided an occasion to address some common misconceptions about women’s freedom and capitalism.) 

When women demand ‘freedom,’ why does it immediately raise the spectre of ‘licentiousness’? 

Why, in other words, is women’s freedom automatically taken by many as equivalent with ‘licence,’ whereas the similar freedom on the part of men is never branded as ‘licence’? 

This question arose in my mind after reading a piece by Hindi columnist Raj Kishor. Raj Kishor’s argument is that those – from Left leaders like I, to those whom he sees as representatives of the market - who are calling for women’s freedom are ‘consigning women into the fire of capitalism.’ When he hears me use the word ‘azaadi’ (freedom) he calls such freedom ‘utshrnkhalta’ (literally ‘unbridled-ness’, or licentiousness). He says and I, and the capitalist market alike, are calling for women to be free to ‘break all bounds of licentiousness’ if they so choose. Of course, Raj Kishor anticipates my criticism of his use of the word ‘utshrnkhalta’, since he says that is a word that ‘has feminists up in arms, demanding with red (infuriated) eyes the definition of ‘utshrnkhalta’. 

For the Mohan Bhagwats and Asarams and Vijayvargeeyas to speak of women’s freedom as the crossing of moral ‘lakshman rekhas’ is no surprise. But when a progressive columnist like Raj Kishor to speak of ‘crossing the limits of licentiousness’ when he hears talk of women’s freedom, it makes one pause: the more so, because he couches his opinion in terms of his opposition to capitalism, rather than a defence of hidebound Indian tradition or feudal values, to which he expresses his opposition. In other words, since the argument is couched in the ‘left’ vocabulary of anti-capitalism, it calls for a more detailed reply. 

Raj Kishore asks if any thinking person can support the notion of women’s freedom that has become the ‘ideological fashion’, declaring that ‘this latest edition of women’s freedom is waving its flag in the air, and has set out to conquer India.’ He quotes from a speech of mine (having called me a representative of ‘revolution’), the lines demanding that we safeguard the freedom of a woman to access public spaces, at any time of day or night, alone or not, irrespective of what she wears. He then quotes actress Priyanka Chopra (whom he calls the representative of ‘counter-revolution’ or the capitalist market) saying that the political class cannot set limits on whether a woman will ‘dent and paint’ or have a boyfriend or dance on TV. Raj Kishor thinks ‘licentiousness’ when he hears such calls for freedom. But he misses the main point being made. Priyanka, I, and countless other girls on the streets with placards saying ‘Don’t teach us how to dress/teach your sons not to rape’ were saying, simply, that women’s clothes or behavior cannot be blamed for rape; and that women should be able to exercise choices and access public spaces on par with men – without having to fear sexual violence. Raj Kishor forgets that men can strip off their shirts, display six-pack abs, unzip their pants to relieve themselves on the street – without being told that such actions may ‘invite’ or ‘provoke’ sexual violence. Why, then, is it acceptable to tell women otherwise? 

It is strange that Raj Kishor sees Priyanka Chopra – a woman who like most people in the world, earns her living in the capitalist market - as a representative of capitalism, instead of the rather more obvious representatives – the capitalists themselves! Do India’s capitalists generally advocate freedom for women? Industrialist Naveen Jindal, also a ruling party MP from Haryana defended the ‘new direction’ given to society by khap panchayats (that pass diktats on same gotra and inter-caste marriages). Another leading industrialist Ashok Todi went to great lengths to break up his daughter’s marriage with a Muslim man, resulting eventually in Rizwan-ur Rehman’s suspicious death. The Indian variant of capitalism is known for its cozy coexistence with the abhorrent institution of caste (which itself is a pillar of Indian patriarchy). The garment industry in Tamilnadu promotes a ‘Sumangali’ (a word that indicates auspicious married woman) scheme, under which young girls labour in conditions of bondage, to earn a one-time payment which, as the word ‘Sumangali’ indicates, is to be their dowry! 

Raj Kishor says ‘Women should kindly avoid roaming around draped in the robes of capitalist culture,’ saying that capitalism and the consumerist market ‘denude’ women in order to sell things, using women’s bodies to ‘incite kamukta (lust/sexuality).’ He, like many others, forgets that capitalism does not only denude women to sell things. The same capitalist/consumerist market also uses traditional orthodox stereotypes about women to sell things. Are there not ads that sell life-insurance using the symbol of the sindoor – exploiting the traditional notions of women’s dependence on husbands and the stigma of widowhood? AIPWA, some years ago, protested against an ad of a leading jewellery brand, that advertised bridal jewellery with the ad-line: “Ensure your daughter’s safety in her marital home”: a not-so-veiled reference to the threat of dowry killings! Many TV serials sponsored by big corporate and MNC media houses promote a variety of regressive, feudal-patriarchal values. The sexy item number isn’t the only female commodity that the market sells: a woman in full bridal costume, head bowed demurely; or the traditional self-sacrificing ‘ma’ of Hindi films are also ‘commodities’ in the same market! Sexualisation of women’s bodies does not necessarily involve ‘denuding’ them. Putting women in purdahs and overcoats (as the Puducherry government has recently tried to do with schoolgirls) also means that you are unable to see women as anything but sexualized bodies, requiring either to be revealed or covered up. 

Raj Kishor says “Let ‘singers-dancers’ (nachaiyyon-gavaiyyon) ply their trade, but why do other women nurture the culture of ‘kamukta’ (lust)?” To him, it is self-evident that the “beauties play the lucrative game of inciting lust in films, TV or beauty competitions, but the brunt of the perversities that are produced fall on girls from poor households.” So, we have it again – this time from the pen of a prominent progressive columnist: the notion that sexual violence happens due to lust, which ‘beauties’ are responsible for ‘inciting.’ And again, we have the misogynistic disgust and contempt for ‘nachaiyyon-gavaiyyon’ and the ‘sundaris’ (beauties): in the same spirit as the Indian President’s son referred to such women as ‘dented and painted.’ Raj Kishor does not seem to see that the problem lies in his gaze, not in women’s bodies. The patriarchal gaze teaches us all to see and judge women on the basis of their sexualized bodies. We do not look at men in the same way. Male actors also display their bodies and sing and dance: how come they are not accused of ‘inciting lust’ and in turn, sexual violence? If ‘kamukta’ (lust) inevitably results in sexual violence, how come women’s ‘kamukta’ (aroused by, say, Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan displaying their six-packs) does not make them violent towards men? 

Raj Kishor quotes Gandhi’s words, to the effect that if a girl can walk from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on foot and remain unmolested, only then will it prove that this country truly respects women. Raj Kishor says that for such a situation to be created, it is necessary that “women should shed the temptation to present themselves as sweets, in order to earn money or just freelance.” When Raj Kishor calls women ‘sweets’, isn’t he seeing women as objects of consumption?! And then, in the next sentence, he has the audacity to accuse women who demand freedom, of encouraging consumerism! Is Raj Kishor’s sentiment any different from Vijayvargeeya’s ‘lakshman rekha’ comment?! How many times must we repeat the obvious: that rape does not happen because women ‘present themselves like sweets’; that rape is not an expression of lust for women but of hatred for them; that rape is an assertion of patriarchal power, not of sexual desire? 

The threat of sexual violence is used to impose and reassert the patriarchal ‘lakshman rekhas’ over women. In this instance, Raj Kishor is telling women that they must avoid certain professions (acting, singing, dancing), or be charged with immorality and ‘inciting’ rape. Well, there is no profession in which women can avoid accusations of ‘immorality’. Not long ago, Hindi novelist Maitreyee Pushpa was branded as ‘chhinaal’ (prostitute) by the Vice Chancellor of a central university, on the grounds that she writes about women’s bodies and desire. 

Is this correct to see every instance of sex or (female) nudity as ‘obscenity’ or ‘objectification’? It is useful to recall how nudity in European art was discussed by Marxist art critic John Berger, in his book Ways of Seeing. He contrasts the hundreds of nude paintings where the woman’s nudity is on display for the spectator-owner, with the few rare paintings where the woman’s subjectivity, her will, intentions and feelings, and her relationship with the painter is so strongly felt that she and her exposed body are not objects on display. The question we need to ask about a film or a painting is not ‘How much flesh does it expose?,’ but ‘Does it allow us to see women – irrespective of whether they are clothed or not - as active subjects, rather than objects of consumption?’ 

It is a common mistake, even among many on the Left, to see and berate women’s modernity and relative sexual freedom as symbols of capitalist and consumerist culture. It also needs to be stressed that capitalist exploitation of women involves much more than just ‘denuding’ women. It exploits women by profiting from their unpaid labour in the home; by paying them less than men for the same work at the job - and it is able to do all of this because of women’s unfreedom as imposed by patriarchy. Resisting capitalism requires that we resist patriarchy to the hilt, not piecemeal or hesitantly, but lock, stock and barrel. 

Capitalism, out of its own interests and compulsions, ushers in some relative freedoms for human beings. Workers who were serfs bound to a single lord’s fields in feudal society, become free insofar as they are no longer bound to a single employer. Capitalism, while forced to allow these relative freedoms, ushers in a new mode of exploitation, for which the worker’s freedom is a pre-condition. But the worker’s freedom also creates unprecedented possibilities for the revolutionary transformation of society. In India, many workers are yet to enjoy even this degree of freedom; in rural India, many continue to remain in semi-bondage to landlords. While knowing full well the severe limitations of bourgeois/capitalist freedoms, do we not see the imperative need to end such semi-bondage and fight for and win those freedoms? 

Similarly, capitalism does usher in somewhat greater economic and sexual freedom for women, while also ushering in new forms of exploitation. Even as we hold capitalism responsible for its commodification of women, and for the neglect of children and the elderly, we must demand, win, and defend each and every freedom that women can enjoy [in a relative sense] in capitalism. Our critique of these bourgeois freedoms cannot be from a feudal, traditionalistic standpoint: rather it is from the vantage point of socialism. In other words, we critique these freedoms because each of them comes with continuing chains of economic inequality, domestic slavery, and new forms of exploitation; because women are not free enough, not because women are too free. And capitalism does not automatically bestow freedoms – most freedoms under capitalism (including the right of women to vote, or for equal wages) are won through hard struggles. It is significant that even in advanced capitalist societies today, sexual and reproductive freedoms are seldom conceded, and require hard struggle to be won. Even in the US, women’s right to abort a foetus, and equal rights for same-sex partners, are virulently opposed by powerful forces. Even in these societies, the culture of blaming women for rape continues to thrive. 

In India, ours is a society where women are denied the most basic freedoms: to be born, to be fed, to study, to work, to have control over property and money, to dress according to one’s choice, to love, to choose a partner irrespective of caste or gender, to give birth to a girl-child, to control one’s own reproduction and sexuality, to free oneself from abusive or unsatisfactory marriages, and to be free of the fear of violence. Women’s fathers, brothers, husbands, families, control or coerce most of these decisions – and her defiance often results in violence and even death. Even the freedom not to be raped by one’s husband is denied by our laws, which assume that when a woman marries, she loses her autonomy over her sexual choices, and her husband’s rightful claim over her body becomes unquestionable. Is this not ‘objectification’? The principle of democracy demands that women’s autonomy be asserted and each of these freedoms won. The shackles cannot be tolerated or rationalised an instant more: and if saying so is seen as advocating ‘utshnrkhalta’ (literally, ‘un-shackled-ness’), then so be it. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

RSS’ Views on Women

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently informed us that rapes happen in Bharat, not India. His words were defended by BJP leaders who said he only wanted to say that Indian culture respected women, and it was Western culture that led to rape. Bhagwat was not setting up gender-specific rules for women, BJP leaders said; he was advising both women and men to stick to Indian culture.
Wonder why Bhagwat’s organization, then, sticks to the khaki shorts uniform? Clearly, Bhagwat has no problem with men in his organization adopting Western dress and wearing shorts. But these shorts-clad men will tell women not to wear ‘Western’ clothes, which they claim lead to rapes! 
Bhagwat also held forth about women being contractually bound to do housework for their husbands. Later, he clarified that he meant this as a criticism of ‘Western’ marriages, not as a prescription for all marriages. Well, what is the RSS model for an ideal Indian marriage? Krishna Sharma, leader of the VHP Women’s Wing, elaborated in an interview, “It is the man who must earn and support his family (while the women manages the household), his education is more important. This division of labour is natural.” (Quoted in Women and the Hindu Right: a collection of essays, Ed. Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia. New Delhi, Kali for Women, 1995, pp: 331-335) Clearly, Bhagwat’s ideas on women being bound to housework are not accidental; RSS leaders say this as a matter of course.  
In the same interview, asked, “What advice would you give to a victim of wife beating?,” Krishna Sharma had replied, “Don’t parents admonish their children for misbehaviour? Just as a child must adjust to his/her parents, so must a wife act keeping in mind her husband’s moods and must avoid irritating him. Only this can keep the family together.”
And Krishna Sharma’s words on wife-beating are echoed verbatim by Sharda, a Rashtriya Sevika Sangh activist when a reporter of Outlook recently asked her about wife beating. (‘Holier Than Cow,’ Outlook, January 28, 2013) 
President of BJP Mahila Morcha, Mridula Sinha, had similarly told the Telegraph, 1993: “I gave dowry for my daughter and received dowry for my son.... Wife-beating is bad, but if it has to be done to bring the woman on proper track it’s all right... Women in their own life should not take independent decisions about marriage and other things. The family should take these decisions.”
RSS founder, Guru Golwalkar held that Manu was the “first and greatest lawgiver of the world”, and suggested that the Manusmriti, which is abhorrent and discriminatory towards women and deprived castes, should be the Constitution of Independent India! We should remember that Dr. Ambedkar, who wrote the Constitution, publicly burnt the Manusmriti.    
Bhagwat’s statements on ‘Indian culture’ are not innocuous and innocent. The Sangh’s definition of ‘cultural nationalism’ imposes an especially heavy burden on women, who are supposed to be flag bearers of ‘Indian culture’. And this definition of ‘culture’ includes a celebration of sati, child marriage, and of social customs that impose restrictions on women’s freedom. Women who wear jeans, celebrate Valentine’s Day, and Hindu women who marry outside caste/religion barriers are often attacked by the Sangh brigades for violating ‘Indian culture’.
In Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts, the chapter ‘Call to the Motherhood’, asks Hindu women to avoid being ‘modern’. According to Golwalkar, women who enjoy the freedom and equality of modernity, lack in virtue and think that ‘modernism lies in exposing their body more and more to the public gaze’!
Golwalkar also led the Sangh in opposing the Hindu Code Bill (which was the first, and incomplete, step towards giving Hindu women equal rights to men), claiming that granting of rights to women would “cause great psychological upheaval” to men and “lead to mental disease and distress” (see Paula Bacchetta, Gender in the Hindu Nation: RSS Women as Ideologues, p.124).
Some other samples of the Sangh’s views on women:
“It is the fundamental right of Hindu women to commit sati, as it is in preservation of our past glory and culture.” - Late BJP leader Vijaya Raje Scindia
In the Sangh’s view, Hindu men must prove their masculinity by raping non-Hindu women, who are seen as ‘symbols’ of the ‘enemy culture’. Savarkar himself advocated rape as an act of nationalism:
“But because of the then prevalent suicidal ideas about chivalry to women, which ultimately proved highly detrimental to the Hindu community, neither Shivaji nor Chinaji Appa could rape Muslim women.” – V.D. Savarkar, The Six Golden Epochs of Indian History, p.71
No wonder Savarkar’s descendants in the Sangh brigade raped and massacred Muslim women in Gujarat! And SP Ankit Garg, of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, no doubt learnt from Savarkar’s views on rape as ‘chivalry’ – winning a gallantry award for the custodial rape and sexual torture of Soni Sori! 
In the wake of the ongoing movement against sexual violence, leaders of Congress, SP, BSP, have all come out with outrageous, sexist statements about women, as have so-called Godmen like Asaram Bapu. But while India’s entire ruling class is united in sexist views on women, there is no doubt that the RSS and the BJP are the most organized political representatives of misogyny and women-hating, with entire brigades dedicated to punishing women who defy their diktats.
From Liberation February 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013


By Imtiaz Dharker

When I can’t comprehend
why they’re burning books
or slashing paintings,
when they can’t bear to look
at god’s own nakedness,
when they ban the film
and gut the seats to stop the play
and I ask why
they just smile and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When I speak on the phone
and the vowel sounds are off
when the consonants are hard
and they should be soft,
they’ll catch on at once
they’ll pin it down
they’ll explain it right away
to their own satisfaction,
they’ll cluck their tongues
and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When my mouth goes up
instead of down,
when I wear a tablecloth
to go to town,
when they suspect I’m black
or hear I’m gay
they won’t be surprised,
they’ll purse their lips
and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When I eat up the olives
and spit out the pits
when I yawn at the opera
in the tragic bits
when I pee in the vineyard
as if it were Bombay,
flaunting my bare ass
covering my face
laughing through my hands
they’ll turn away,
shake their heads quite sadly,
‘She doesn’t know any better,’
they’ll say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

Maybe there is a country
where all of us live,
all of us freaks
who aren’t able to give
our loyalty to fat old fools,
the crooks and thugs
who wear the uniform
that gives them the right
to wave a flag,
puff out their chests,
put their feet on our necks,
and break their own rules.

But from where we are
it doesn’t look like a country,
it’s more like the cracks
that grow between borders
behind their backs.
That’s where I live.
And I’ll be happy to say,
‘I never learned your customs.
I don’t remember your language
or know your ways.
I must be
from another country.’

Friday, January 18, 2013

Taking Forward the Struggle for Freedom Without Fear

Kavita Krishnan, National Secretary of All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), Addressing the Protestors at the Vigil for Freedom Without Fear in Delhi University North Campus on 16 January 2013, that Marks One Month of that Night of Horror When a Young Woman and her Friend were Brutally Attacked on a Delhi Bus, Leading to her Gangrape, Torture and Eventually Death....

Monday, January 14, 2013

Join a Vigil for Freedom Without Fear

Add caption
Campaign Against Sexual Violence and Gender Discrimination 

16 January Marks One Month Of That Night Of Horror, When A Young Woman And Her Friend Were Brutally Attacked On A Delhi Bus, Leading To Her Gang Rape, Torture And Eventual Death....

Let Us Keep the Flame Alive...
For Justice, Safety & Gender Equality

On 16 Jan

Join a Vigil for Freedom Without Fear

At Arts Faculty, North Campus, DU,
12 noon Onwards

With Opinions and Interactions, Poetry, Songs, Paintings and Cultural Performances

Maitreyi Pushpa
Arundhati Katju
Vrinda Grover
Urvashi Butalia
Shoma Chaudhury
Kavita Krishnan
Mary John…
Teachers and Students of DU, Jamia, JNU

· Gender-just protocols for filing FIRs and police investigation of crimes against women
· Drafting of robust, gender-just laws in consultation with women's organisations and students, to be passed in a Special Session of Parliament
· Prohibit the obnoxious ‘two-finger test’ for rape
· Ensure more courts and faster trials for sexual violence cases
· Ensure massive expansion of safe public transport for women
· Review and fast-track the more than 1 lakh pending sexual violence cases in the country
· Prohibit any attempts to impose 'moral policing', discriminatory rules and regulations that prevent women from equal access to public spaces and equal rights.
· Withdraw all false cases against protesters

9560756628, 9868034224, 9868383692, 9953736392

Facebook group: Freedom without fear- बेखौफ़ आज़ादी

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reflections on Rape

A Poem by Saathi from Women's Voice, Jan-Mar 2011

("Tawaif ki lut-ti hui izzat ko bachana aur Tees Maar Khan ko Qaid Karna -Dono hi Bekkar Hai" -Dialogue from the film Tees Maar Khan)

"It's waste of time to save a harlot's honour"
That line from the new movie sets me thinking
About harlots, rape and honour.

You might think it's all too clear
That rape's all about humiliation and fear
The rapist's sole cause
is to prove he's boss;
If you as a woman dared to feel free,
the rape's meant to punish you
for your temerity.

But as common sense and the law define it
Rape is the loot of honour,
the outraging of modesty -
But you have to prove you had it
In the first place
For it to have been taken from you;

If you're a harlot,
The very idea of your honour is a joke
You must have done something to provoke;
And as for modesty the less you said the better
With character so loose
What honour or modesty could you claim to lose?
Why the hon'ble judges even say that a 'kept'
can't complain of domestic violence
how then could she be raped?

A raped harlot is an oxymoron
But so is a a wife raped by her lawful husband
Her honour, after all,
Cannot be taken away by he
Who, by wedding ties, is its guarantee.

If you complain of rape
You've to clear yourself first
of the charge of being a harlot :
Did you dress like one?
Were you out at night alone?
Is your vagina wide enough
To admit a doctor's two fingers?
If yes to teh above,
Then it's enough to prove
You're guilty of harlotry.

It isn't enough even if you're the epitome
Of chastity
You see
Rape itself invites the accusation of easy virtue
To prove he was a man of honour true
Rama banished Sita
Trials of fire twice over weren't enough
to prove she didn't consent
when in Ravana's custody.

That scourge of terrorists, brave cop
Who slapped a woman's behind
Took it on himself to remind
That it's women who by their provocative dress
Are guilty for this mess
Of daily rape in the country's capital.

The farmer's leader
Roared out his support for honour killings -
'Women who choose their own partners are harlot'!

If you choose what to wear or whom to love
You're a harlot;
If you're a harlot, dressing to seduce, can men be blamed
For being inflamed?
If you're a harlot
What can your father or brother do
But kill you to avenge their honour?

When can we hope to divorce
Modesty and honour from rapes and murders -
Define them instead as acts of force,
Crimes by men who fear free women?

Justice and Freedom for Women Rally

In Uttar Pradesh, Jan 10

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Movement for Women’s Right to Fearless Freedom is Invincible

ML Update Editorial , No 03, Vol. 16

Not surprisingly, the sustained nationwide movement for gender justice has evoked an angry misogynist backlash, with none other than RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat taking the lead and a bizarre assortment of patriarchal forces joining the bandwagon.

The chief of the most reactionary bastion of male chauvinism fired two salvos in quick succession. First he said that crimes against women happen in India, not in Bharat. Apart from being grossly incorrect in point of fact, this gives out the impression that ‘Western culture’ in cities is responsible for the crimes and the solution lies in restoration of traditional patriarchal values. A couple of days later he refurbished his position by saying that marriage is a contract that lasts as long as the wife honours it by taking good care of the husband and the household. VHP’s Ashok Singhal lost no time in taking the cue from Bhagwat and blaming the 'western model' of lifestyle in cities, even as Madhya Pradesh minister Babulal Gaur upped the ante by saying that in our culture wives revere husbands as parmeshwar (the supreme god) and therefore marriages are more than mere contracts. Meanwhile Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh, came forward with another gem. Even Sita was caught by Ravan, he quipped, when she crossed the Lakshman Rekha. The message was loud and clear: woman in modern India must keep within the limits set by their male protectors and guardians, or else face the consequences. Considered together, such statements clearly reveal how the Sangh Parivar proposes to go about nation-building – constructing the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ to be more precise – on a medieval patriarchal foundation.

Even more obnoxious and intolerable was 'Godman' Asaram Bapu’s declaration that the Delhi gang-rape victim was equally to blame for the horrific incident. She should not have boarded the bus "at midnight" in the first place, Bapu said, and even when she did she should have addressed the rapists as brothers, fallen at their feet and prayed for protecting her izzat. In his speech to his followers he also came out against stringent anti-rape laws.

Misogynist attitudes have always been a central theme of Hindutva, indeed of all dominant ideologies. In normal circumstances, however, the protagonists take care to try and give somewhat sophisticated expressions to their obscurantist views. But this time around they lost their cool when the current movement, instead of dying down as they had expected, continued and went beyond the immediate demand of justice for the Delhi victim and punishment for the culprits – when it developed into a broader one fighting for a thorough overhaul of gender relations in society and polity, when demands like hundred per cent conviction of rapists and suspension of all MLAs and MPs charged for offences like rape began to be raised. The whole political structure of patriarchy was shaken, and they could wait no more. The hissing serpents came out, one after the other, across the political spectrum. Among the latest of their fraternity were the notorious khap panchayats opposing tightened anti-rape laws and NDA convenor Sharad Jadav praising their role in ‘protecting’ women; Trinamool Congress MP Kakoli Ghoshdastidar depicting the Park Street (Kolkata) survivor and fighter for justice as a sex worker and CPI (M) MLA Anisur Rehman passing obscene comments against the CM of West Bengal; Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Botsa Satyanarayana who made blatant misogynist remarks recently and of course, Congress MP Abhijeet Mukherjee who portrayed women protesters in Delhi in bad light a few days ago – the list is endless.

Patriarchal attitudes have always thrived in symbiosis with all sorts of reactionary parochial prejudices. The single point about the Delhi gang-rape which Maharashtrian mafia leader Raj Thackeray found particularly important was that the rapists according to him were Biharis, the principal target of his chauvinist hate campaign. But Raj is certainly not alone in trying to make political scores out of such tragic and shameful incidents. It was not long ago that Manmohan Singh and Sheila Dixit put the blame for the rising crime graph in the national capital region on the hapless urban poor, calling them outsiders or by other names, and describing them as a criminal community. That does not, of course, prevent the Congress from taking a holier-than-thou attitude now.

While the ugly comments of the sexist 'neta's were vitiating the atmosphere all over the country, in refreshing contrast a whiff of fresh breeze blew in from a village in Ballia in UP, carrying with it a solemn pledge of fighting forward, a bold message of hope and change. Speaking on behalf of the bereaved family, the brave father of the Delhi braveheart told a British tabloid that he was proud of his daughter. She did nothing to be ashamed of and he wanted the world to know her name, so other women could draw inspiration from her courageous battle.

Well, already they are, and not only in India. Encouraged by the rallies and marches staged here, demonstrations have also been held in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, UK and US. There is no power on earth that can stop the movement against gender oppression, discrimination and violence.