Category Archives: Feminism

Anatomy of a Take Back the Night campaign : Nandini Rao

Guest post by NANDINI RAO 

Picture credits: Rakesh and Alana

TBTN

 “I want to break free…”. The Freddy Mercury anthem rang out in the cold winter night, in the middle of a busy marketplace in Delhi. One by one, a group of women appeared out of the crowd and started dancing to its compulsive beat. People gathered around, cheering them on and some women from the audience joined in too. Synchronising steps, the dancers swayed to the medley of music as it moved on to Hindi songs, a snatch of Spanish and finally, the compelling Punjabi phrase “Sadda haq, aithey rak!”. This was officially the first flash mob (or “mob dance”, as we call it) of the members of the Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA).

The Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA) is a Delhi/NCR-based group of organisations, individuals and activists from women’s movements and progressive movements. It works towards addressing issues of sexual violence against women, girls and transgender people. It raises awareness among the public, media, administration and the police on issues of gender rights. It works collectively to build an environment of safety in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. Continue reading Anatomy of a Take Back the Night campaign : Nandini Rao

Bar Association in Kerala suspends woman lawyer…

…for her Facebook post on the “silly” behaviour of her male colleagues, who

address women as ‘sugar candy’ ‘dear’ and follow them with comments such as ‘you are so beautiful’ and the like. All of them follow the ‘Prem Nazir’ style of old Malayalam films. They dont seem to be familiar with newer films. It’s the same old way of making women either lovers or sisters; destroying them either by ‘caring’ for them or ‘keeping’ them. I pity all those who follow such a style.

Anima Muyarath’s Facebook post in Malayalam here.

Ah, would that Calicut Bar Association had acted with such alacrity to discipline and re-train its male members.

In Tragic and Tough Times – Thoughts in the Wake of A Rape Charge and a Suicide: Sucheta De and Shivani Nag

Guest Post by SUCHETA DE and SHIVANI NAG

In Tragic and Tough Times, Let Us be True to Our Democratic and Gender-Just Principles.

We are confronted by a painful episode involving a rape charge and a suicide, that poses many tough and tangled questions to us – as the JNU community and also as individuals and activists committed to secularism, democracy and gender justice. Let us, for a moment, reiterate what one of the late Khurshid Anwar’s friends has said in his recent post on Kafila: the suicide does not prove him guilty of the charge of rape, and it does not prove his innocence either.

The suicide is a horrible, tragic occurrence – and it is a tragedy we should not compound with irresponsible utterances. A charge of rape does not necessarily turn the accused into a convicted rapist. True. And equally truly, it does not turn the woman making the charge, overnight, into a slut, a murderer, or a communal/political conspirator. Continue reading In Tragic and Tough Times – Thoughts in the Wake of A Rape Charge and a Suicide: Sucheta De and Shivani Nag

On the Death of Khurshid Anwar: Kalyani Menon Sen and Kavita Krishnan

Guest Post by KALYANI MENON SEN & KAVITA KRISHNAN

(Find Hindi translation below the English statement)

We are deeply shocked and saddened by the death of Khurshid Anwar.

As activists committed to ending violence against women, we have been trying to ensure the due process of law and justice in relation to the allegations against Khurshid Anwar. Continue reading On the Death of Khurshid Anwar: Kalyani Menon Sen and Kavita Krishnan

Ganguly Must Go – Chairs of Rights Bodies Must be Above Reproach

Statement from Women’s Groups Across India on 16 December 2013

Exactly one year ago, the gang-rape of a young woman triggered immense outrage across the board, putting freedom from rape and sexual assault at the forefront of public debate. From law reform to overhaul of institutions of justice delivery, from media sensitization to public awareness, women’s safety is now squarely on the public agenda, thanks to mass protests. Ironically, during those very protests, on 24 December 2012, a young lawyer revealed that a retired judge of the highest court in land had sexually harassed her while she was working with him as an intern, and that she was unable to speak about it only ten months later.

According to her statement, Justice (Retd) A.K. Ganguly currently the Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission said, “’You know that I’m attracted to you, don’t you? You must be thinking, what, this old man is getting drunk and saying such things. But I really like you, I love you’. When I tried to move away, he kissed my arm and repeated that he loved me.” This is not merely inappropriate behavior by a senior over junior staff or interns; it is not merely over-stepping of boundaries; it is not merely friendly overtures: such acts constitute a clear case of abuse of power and sexual harassment at the workplace.  Continue reading Ganguly Must Go – Chairs of Rights Bodies Must be Above Reproach

Suresh Koushal v. Naz Foundation: Pratiksha Baxi

Suresh Koushal v. Naz Foundation directs law’s violence on the body of the Constitution of India. Proclaiming colonial law as constitutional, the Supreme Court negates its role in the making of postcolonial constitutionalism. It departs from the theatres of comparative constitutionalism in the post–colonies, which used Naz to strengthen their battles against Macaulay’s legacies. Today the Supreme Court is cited amongst the infamous precedents of injustice that mark Indian legal history. Dubbed as ADM Jabalpur 2, the judgment declares sexual emergency on LGBT communities. By breathing life into s. 377, the Supreme Court attaches a badge of stigma on the body of Constitution.

Taking a jurispathic turn, the Supreme Court asserts that equality is subservient to scale by claiming that the LGBT community is a “miniscule fraction of the country’s population”. Inventing the category of a miniscule minority, the Supreme Court implies that equality provisions will apply only to numerically preponderant body populations. Thereby, overwriting equality jurisprudence by the insidious politics of numbers.  Continue reading Suresh Koushal v. Naz Foundation: Pratiksha Baxi

The Anti-Rape Movement -The Political Vision of ‘Naari Mukti/Sabki Mukti’: Kavita Krishnan

Guest Post by KAVITA KRISHNAN

Anti Rape Protest at CM Shiela Dixit's House, Photo by Vijay Kumar
Anti Rape Protest at CM Shiela Dixit’s House, Photo by Vijay Kumar

A year ago, a massive movement erupted on the streets of Delhi and the country – against the brutal gangrape of a young woman on a bus, leading to her death. Looking back at that movement a year later, it is clear that the questions, concerns and above all the tensions and debates embedded in that movement are with us still – and are quite crucial to the political discourse around us.

Continue reading The Anti-Rape Movement -The Political Vision of ‘Naari Mukti/Sabki Mukti’: Kavita Krishnan

Petition to Withdraw the ‘Golden Mother’ Award by the University of Calicut

To
Prof. M. Abdul Salam, Vice-Chancellor, University of Calicut
Members of the Syndicate, University of Calicut

The University of Calicut has recently announced the institution of a ‘Golden Mother Award,’ with the stated objective of highlighting “the contribution of mothers to societal development and nation building and to provide exemplary models to youngsters.” Mothers in the age group of 50+ and who are actively contributing to their domains of service will be considered for awards in eighteen categories such as Art, Literature, Teaching, Social work, Politics, Administration, Media, Sports, Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Engineering, Medicine, Research, Law and judiciary, Police and Banking, Nominations from educational institutions, trade unions, LSGIs, NGOs and other organizations or from individuals themselves are to be submitted to the Director, Centre for Women’s Studies at the University.

Firstly, this attempt to glorify motherhood is blatantly patriarchal, anti-woman, anti-democratic and a move that pulls society back to the mores of a traditional morality. It implies that a woman’s place is at home and that her principal responsibility (and hers alone) is giving birth to children and rearing them. It pays little heed to contemporary feminist critiques of motherhood as not primarily a biological destiny, one that is made problematic by conditions of poverty, deprivation and societal violence. In ignoring new forms of motherhood and parentage such as adoption, single mothers, and so on, it also upholds elitist, casteist, and patriarchal conceptions of family and womanhood. Continue reading Petition to Withdraw the ‘Golden Mother’ Award by the University of Calicut

A hunt, the aftermath, angry Indian men and a tragedy: Rahul Roy

Guest Post by RAHUL ROY

Nivedita Menon ends her commentary on the unfolding Tehelka sexual assault case in Kafila by asserting – “the time has come. It is now”. It should be, but is it? Are we witnessing the end game of an old Indian patriarchal sport called sexual assault? The sport is akin to another old game called the royal hunt that was an important part of elite political culture of South Asia. The rules of the sport were then as now heavily loaded in favour of the royal huntsman – weapons, support teams, timing, everything required for the thrill of a kill were with powerful men out to conquer. The expeditions however were not just about the kill. The sport was also a means of asserting authority over tracts of the wild and those that lived there and were by some misfortune not aware of prevailing authority structures. The royal hunt was an event to showcase to subjects the might, prowess and authority of the elite rulers. It was the stamping of power over human as well as animal kingdom. The royal huntsman could not but win. He could not but kill.
Continue reading A hunt, the aftermath, angry Indian men and a tragedy: Rahul Roy

The Misogyny of India’s Cultural Elite: Kavita Bhanot

Guest post by KAVITA BHANOT

Thanks to the brave actions of a woman who had the courage to speak out against her very powerful boss, something huge has happened in the last week in India. The very sophisticated, cosmopolitan English-speaking cultural elite of India has been forced, for once, to look at itself, to face up to the sexism and misogyny that it has long harboured.

For many years this elite has been protesting, exposing, judging, mocking the patriarchy of the lower classes – of the policeman, the religious fundamentalist, the ‘unpolished’ politician, the working class urban migrant, the eve-teaser on the street.  But rarely have the men, or the women of this class, looked, in public, at themselves – the men examining their attitude towards women and the women thinking about their own complicity, the ways in which they have allowed or turned a blind eye to the misogyny of the men of their own class.

Neither the incident, nor Shoma Chaudhury’s response to it, surprises me in the least. In the time that I spent in this world, it became quickly apparent to me that deeply entrenched in the suave, cosmopolitan world of English language media, literature, art – were problematic attitudes towards women that neither the men or the women seemed to question.

Continue reading The Misogyny of India’s Cultural Elite: Kavita Bhanot

Tehelka, Jhatka and now Tamasha:Satya Sagar

Guest post by Satya Sagar

Eight years ago I remember listening to Tarun Tejpal in Bangalore as he held forth on how the news media could change the world for the better. It was a gathering of journalism students from Catholic institutions around the country and Tejpal was impressive in his defense of media freedoms.

He was passionate, charismatic, extremely articulate and as Chief Editor of Tehelka- with some of the best stories of Indian journalism behind them- very credible too. After his speech Tejpal left in a hurry, like a star priest dashing off to his next flaming sermon and fawning audience. Continue reading Tehelka, Jhatka and now Tamasha:Satya Sagar

Feminists condemn the BJP lynch mob attack on Shoma Chaudhary

This is the text of the statement released yesterday condemning the  attack on Shoma Chaudhary by a BJP mob led by Vijay Jolly.

We condemn the BJP lynch mob that attacked Tehelka managing Editor Shoma Chaudhuri’s house, physically jostling her at the entrance. Unsurprisingly, the BJP and right-wing forces in general have pounced upon the Tehelka sexual assault case to sweep attention away from the sexual crimes of their own Asaram Bapus and their Sahabs.

While Shoma Chaudhuri failed in her responsibility as an employer when approached by an employee complaining of sexual harassment within the organization, she is neither an accomplice nor an accessory to the crime of sexual assault of which the Tehelka Editor Tarun Tejpal is accused.

We also condemn the online harassment meted out to other women employees in Tehelka by the right wing brigade in the internet. Such harassment is only further evidence of the double standards of the right-wing forces who see this attack on the woman journalist as a political opportunity.

Sexual harassment and violence against women respects no political boundaries, and we are appalled that a party responsible for large scale violence against women should present itself as the saviour of women’s rights, and that, through a physical attack on a woman journalist. We recognize the distasteful political pre-election opportunism at work in these self-righteous stands by an ethically bankrupt party, and demand that Shoma Chaudhuri’s safety be assured by the state.

Nivedita Menon
Rohini Hensman
Ayesha Kidwai
Devaki Jain
Abha Bhaiya
Radhika Desai
Janaki Nair
Urvashi Butalia
Arundhati Dhuru Continue reading Feminists condemn the BJP lynch mob attack on Shoma Chaudhary

Former Tehelka journalist speaks out

This is the full text of the statement issued today to the media by the gutsy woman journalist who refused to take sexual harassment as routine. More power to her and others like her!

I am heartened by the broad support I have received over the past fortnight. However, I am deeply concerned and very disturbed by insinuations that my complaint is part of a pre-election political conspiracy.

I categorically refute such insinuations and put forward the following arguments:

The struggle for women to assert control over their lives and their bodies is most certainly a political one, but feminist politics and its concerns are wider than the narrow universe of our political parties. Thus, I call upon our political parties to resist the temptation to turn a very important discussion about gender, power and violence into a conversation about themselves.

Continue reading Former Tehelka journalist speaks out

Feminist interventions and the agency of the survivor: A Statement

We write as feminists and activists in the women’s movement, disturbed by imputations of motive to some fellow activists who have spoken out publicly in the Tehelka sexual assault case. These allegations of pandering to the Tehelka management’s attempts to cover up the serious charges against Tarun Tejpal, have come expectedly from the Right, but also disturbingly, from sections of the Left, who interpret the insistence on respecting the decisions of the complainant, as disrespect of the law on sexual assault.

Many of us have been in the position of being confidantes to women who come to us with complaints of sexual harassment and assault. In such situations, we see our prime responsibility as that of offering unconditional support to the complainant, making available to her the largest possible range of options, helping her to take difficult decisions. Among these options is always the recourse to the police and criminal prosecution. But we believe it would be entirely counterproductive to insist that the complainant report to the police if she is not prepared to do so immediately. And until she expresses her readiness to move forward on that path, we try to build her courage to take that step, while remaining quietly supportive of whatever steps she does wish to take in the interim.

Continue reading Feminist interventions and the agency of the survivor: A Statement

The Tangled “Tonalities” of Mr. Tejpal

By now the details are well known: a young journalist describes a harrowing encounter with Tarun Tejpal, owner and editor of Tehelka, in an elevator during Tehelka’s Think fest in Goa. The description of the incident alleges gross sexual misconduct and bodily violation of an aggravated nature.  Her description does not make for easy reading: it clearly demonstrates the incredibly vulnerable position in which young women are placed when confronted with the sexual misdemeanors of powerful men in positions of managerial authority. Indeed Mr. Tejpal says as much, that to cooperate with him is the best way for her to keep her job. She writes to Ms. Shoma Chaudhury the managing editor describing the incident and asks that she be tendered an official apology, and that Tehelka’s senior management constitute an enquiry and anti-sexual harassment committee as per the Vishaka guidelines. Instead what she is offered is a pathos-laden tale of fall and redemption: directed by and starring Mr. Tejpal, producer Ms. Shoma Chaudhury. There has been near continuous discussion across the web and the news and it can get difficult to keep track of all the various versions being produced on an hourly basis by Tehelka’s bullshit factories. So at this stage it might be useful to simply collate and compare various accounts. Continue reading The Tangled “Tonalities” of Mr. Tejpal

Protect the Privacy of the Tehelka Journalist: Report Responsibly

GUEST POST BY ‘REPORT RESPONSIBLY’
To all editors, journalists, bloggers, users of social media, and the public:

Some websites and blogs are posting the Tehelka journalist’s complaint to the magazine’s management or reproducing parts of it, perhaps with intent to expose a grave act of sexual assault by a man occupying a powerful position. However, in doing so, they are violating basic ethical and legal injunctions on the way cases of sexual assault must be reported.

The journalist’s complaint to her company is a private document and not a public one. While private documents can be leaked in the ‘public interest’, this principle is applicable to the emails of Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhury sent to Tehelka staffers, not to the journalist’s emailed complaint. In cases of sexual assault, it is a well established principle that the media can name the perpetrator, but not the victim. The identity and privacy of a victim must be protected at all costs.We are distressed that many people are circulating the journalist’s emails, and other journalists, bloggers and users of social media are publishing it in parts or whole.

Continue reading Protect the Privacy of the Tehelka Journalist: Report Responsibly

Sexualized workplaces, predatory men and the rage of women

Listen. Can you hear it? That low growl on the horizon, coming closer, growing louder? It’s the dam bursting its bounds. It’s the quiet shriek of convivial silence being ripped apart.

The silence around the normalizing of a range of behaviour from the apparently casual to the outrightly violent. The laughing sexual innuendo; the misogynist jokes; the well-known ‘displaced squeeze’ of the upper arm, the shoulders; the repeated, relentless expression of romantic or sexual interest despite clear NO’s; the grabbing of the breast, the unwanted kiss, the out-of-town work trip ending in physical assault, presented as flattering interest; and through it all, the clear invocation of the power relationship.

You look great, Sir, retirement suits you, says a younger female colleague to a Professor visiting his former institution. Really, he smirks. Two other people told me this, and they are both women. What do you think it means? She smiles uncomfortably and hurries out of the office of the male head of the institution in whose presence this comment is made.

Continue reading Sexualized workplaces, predatory men and the rage of women

Ka Tvam Baale? Kaanchana Maatha! Or, the University of Calicut experiments with the Grotesque!

Now let me confess, it is high-time in life that I got an award — I am 46, nearly. It isn’t really a question of whether I desire it or not. If you are in the business of reading and writing in Kerala then you MUST receive some award by mid-career — it’s a bit like experiencing nausea and tiredness in early pregnancy. You MUST have it, it is the surest sign of being pregnant, and sometimes to enjoy people’s kindness towards a pregnant woman, you need to get vomiting soonest possible. You can’t get into a conversation about pregnancy with other women without being able to recount your experience of being nauseous and tired. Continue reading Ka Tvam Baale? Kaanchana Maatha! Or, the University of Calicut experiments with the Grotesque!

“Equality is like gravity – we need it to stand on this earth” Joss Whedon

WHY DO YOU CREATE STRONG WOMEN CHARACTERS?

A question Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) gets asked every single time by reporter after reporter (a question that Indian reporters may be spared from ever having to ask any man – or anyone – in TV or cinema here?)

This video gives you Whedon’s answer:

 

Will Logarani Be The Last Victim Of Violence Against Women? Cayathri. D

GUEST POST BY CAYATHRI D via Ground Views

All photographs by the author, or sent by the author (in the original post)

Around 5pm on 17 October 2013, within the Jaffna municipality, one of our friends (a male youth resident of Jaffna) came to our home (a few friends were gathered there) looking very disturbed.…

READ MORE HERE

Storm in a Calm IIT Campus Over a Sexual Harassment Case: Pronoy Rai

Guest post by PRONOY RAI

The serene, picturesque campus of the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati has been witnessing some very noteworthy events in the recent past. According to reports in the popular media, a professor at the institute’s biotechnology department was accused of sending obscene text messages to his PhD student over her phone. Though the professor pleaded innocence, claiming that messages were sent from his sim card that was stolen, the local police found this hard to believe. The professor has also been accused of harassing the student during other instances on campus. Upon receiving the advice of the ‘Working Women’s Committee’ of the institute, the professor was recently suspended. This narrative constructs for us a simple, fair story of a just state-society system. A person breaks the law, and he is disciplined, as one would expect in a fair democratic society. If only that was the case.

The suspension of the professor was not immediately followed by the submission of the report, let alone the filing of complaint at the institute and with the local police. On August 13, Amingaon police in Assam arrested the professor for sending obscene text messages to a student. The arrest happened because the student had to file a FIR in order to request a telecom company to reveal the identity of the owner of the phone, from where the obscene messages being sent to her, were emanating. The delay in the inaction of the institute administration is unjustified, but perhaps not very inexplicable. Continue reading Storm in a Calm IIT Campus Over a Sexual Harassment Case: Pronoy Rai