This is a revised version of an article that appeared in Seminar January 2014.
The past year is bookended by two extraordinary moments, both of them inspired by the courage and determination of young women who refused to take sexual violence as routine.
December 2012 – a young paramedic fought till her last breath for justice.
November 2013 – a law intern exposed the sexual assault she faced from a retired Judge and a Tehelka journalist taught Tarun Tejpal a long deferred lesson – No Means No.
The massive mobilization of public opinion around these incidents has reopened the question of ‘agency’ in familiar and unfamiliar ways.
Feminists have long asserted women’s agency in contexts of sexual violence by attempting to desexualize rape – in law and in everyday life. Taken out of patriarchal discourses of honour, rape is merely an act of violence that violates bodily integrity. This delicate balance between two opposing notions – on the one hand, that sexual violence has a distinctive character, it is more humiliating, more paralyzing than physically less harmful actions; and on the other, that sexual violence is merely another kind of physical violence – this is the razor’s edge occupied by feminist understandings of rape. Continue reading The Conundrum of Agency in Sexual Violence
This document has been put together by the group pursuing advocacy related to CLRB 2013, in Delhi. It addresses several myths about the new Criminal Law Amendment Bill that are circulating in the media. The note also explains the one change feminists continue to push for and did not get – to make the victim of rape a person, that is to say, gender neutral. The new law must be expanded to protect all persons, and not be limited to women – because all persons/ anyone can be raped.
The Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report was a landmark statement, applauded by all citizens, welcomed by all Political Parties. JVC was significant because it showed a mirror to the Constitution of India, and reflected its wise and just guarantees of women’s equality. Today the women and youth of India are looking with hope and expectation towards Parliament, and towards all Political Parties. We urge all Members of Parliament to pass a law upholding the spirit and letter of the Justice Verma Committee; to pass a law that makes a step forward in our collective struggle to end sexual violence in India.
Myth 1: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 is against men
Fact: The new anti-sexual violence Bill is NOT against men. For our fathers, brothers, husbands, partners, neighbours and colleagues are men too. Are these Men in our lives not committed to seeking an end to the constant threat of sexual violence lurking around every corner? Continue reading Myths and Facts About the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013
- Protestors at the ‘Freedom Parade’ Rally of the Bekhauf Azadi Campaign, New Delhi, 26 January, 2013
Guest Post by Bekhauf Azadi (Freedom Without Fear) Campaign.
People’s Watch Over Parliament: February 21, 1st Day of the Budget Session, Jantar Mantar
Gather in large numbers – 12 PM onwards at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.
Are Our Lawmakers Ready to Listen to the Voice of the Movement Against Sexual Violence?
Continue reading People’s Watch Over Parliament: Bekhauf Azadi Campaign
Letter from Indian feminists VRINDA GROVER, MARY E JOHN, KAVITA PANJABI, SHILPA PHADKE, SHWETA VACHANI, URVASHI BUTALIA and others, to their siblings at Harvard
We’re a group of Indian feminists and we are delighted to learn that the Harvard community – without doubt one of the most learned in the world – has seen fit to set up a Policy Task Force entitled ‘Beyond Gender Equality’ and that you are preparing to offer recommendations to India (and other South Asian countries) in the wake of the New Delhi gang rape and murder. Not since the days of Katherine Mayo have American women – and American feminists – felt such a concern for their less privileged Third World sisters. Mayo’s concern, at that time, was to ensure that the Indian State (then the colonial State) did not leave Indian women in the lurch, at the mercy of their men, and that it retained power and the rule of the just. Yours, we see, is to work towards ensuring that steps are put in place that can help the Indian State in its implementation of the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, a responsibility the Indian State must take up. This is clearly something that we, Indian feminists and activists who have been involved in the women’s movement here for several decades, are incapable of doing, and it was with a sense of overwhelming relief that we read of your intention to step into this breach. Continue reading Dear Sisters (and brothers?) at Harvard
Guest post by CAROLE VANCE
Two faculty members at Harvard, associated with gender studies, convene a Policy Task Force, designed to “to offer recommendations to India and other South Asian countries in the wake of the New Delhi gang rape and murder” and in this semester “to produce a working paper that advises on the implementation of the recommendations from the Verma Committee”. This is not a student initiative, though a meeting with students is scheduled to invite their input, along with that of the larger Harvard community. Continue reading What is wrong with this picture? Carole Vance
Guest post by PRABHA KOTISWARAN
Taking off from the debate here on the Harvard Task Force, I’d like to flag some disagreements among feminists on law reforms. There are many strains to this debate – I will only engage with a few.
No feminist, whether of Indian origin or not, whether primarily located in India or not, is insecure about feminists/lawyers around the world working on rape in India. Circuits of feminist scholarship and activism become so inter-disciplinary and transnational that maintaining and policing turf (if at all that were possible) is an utterly useless endeavour. Continue reading Unintended consequences of feminist action: Prabha Kotiswaran
Guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI
Once the Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 was uploaded, circulated and read many times, an overwhelming desire to mark the ordinance to all one’s students as an example on how not to frame laws has grown. Yet, explain one must, why the current law on sexual assault is so bizarre, even if we do not bring in the so-called controversial elements and keep to the text of the ordinance.
The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 begins with the definition of sexual assault as a gender-neutral offence. It does not make an exception to state that women do not rape men in everyday contexts under s. 375. Since such an exception is not added, and the ordinance specifies that ‘sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under sixteen years of age, is not sexual assault’, we are faced with a confounding and deeply misogynist legal consequence. Wives, we are told cannot prosecute husbands for sexually assaulting them. But since sexual assault is gender neutral without any exceptions and the marital rape exemption is not extended to husbands, now husbands can accuse wives of sexual assault but wives can never prosecute husbands for sexual assault! Continue reading The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 on Sexual Assault – Cut, Paste and Shock! Pratiksha Baxi
Legal activist Vrinda Grover said in the FeministsIndia e-list about the Ordinance: “The impunity of every citadel is intact – family, marriage, public servants, army, police.” In effect, she said, the Ordinance is simply the pending Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012, widely criticized by women’s organizations, which has been sneaked in as law without debate or consultation, in Parliament or outside. Feminists activists are rightly suspicious of the sudden sense of “emergency” that has gripped the government, when it has ignored our demands for criminal law reform on sexual violence for over twenty years.
Here I will document two press releases issued by women’s groups, and draw attention to some troubling and unresolved debates within the women’s movement in India today. The post will conclude with a useful table comparing the Ordinance and the JVC Report, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Continue reading “The impunity of every citadel is intact” – the taming of the Verma Committee Report, and some troubling doubts
Guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI
The reform of rape law, which was not a priority for more than two decades, seems more like a 20-20 match now. The spectacle of judicial reform has all the elements of cinematic imagination built into it—violence, voyeurism, repression, tears, scandal, redemption and betrayal. We are all consumers and participants of this judicial spectacle. We veer between manic hope and dark despair as we are left conjecturing how this theatre of judicial reform will enact equality and dignity for survivors of sexual assault. The latest twist in the tale is the introduction of an ordinance, following the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report.
Continue reading The Official Emergency Continues – The Ordinance on Sexual Assault: Pratiksha Baxi
Guest post by BEKHAUF AZAADI CAMPAIGN
The UPA Govt, in a Cabinet meeting held on 1 February, has introduced an ordinance that it claims will address the most urgent concerns on sexual violence. In fact, the Government has been completely reluctant to acknowledge and implement the Justice Verma Committee recommendations: the PM refused to accept it from Justuce Verma, the Ministry of Home Affairs removed it from their website, the Govt never adopted any transparent process of discussion to decide the way forward on implementing the recommendations, rather they said Justice Verma ‘exceeded his brief’. Now, they claim that their ordinance has ‘implemented’ the Justice Verma recommendations. Is this true?
The fact is that the Government’s ordinance is a mockery of the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma recommendations. Why? Let us take a closer look.
Continue reading Why the Govt’s Ordnance is Fraud & Mockery of the Justice Verma Committe Recommendations: Bekhauf Azaadi Campaign
- [ Protestors from the Bekhauf Azaadi/Freedom Without Fear Campaign Demanding Complete Implementation of the Justice Verma Committee Recommendations during the Freedom Parade to Reclaim the Republic on Republic Day, 26 January, 2012 in New Delhi. ]
So, first they come with water cannons and tear gas, and then they come with an ordnance.
Yesterday, the Union Cabinet decided to rush drafting an ordinance in response to the massive protests against rape and sexual violence that have been occurring ever since the 16th of December, 2012. According to preliminary reports, the ordnance, which will be signed into law by the President of India before Parliament even meets, flies in the face of the detailed and exhaustive list of recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) which had been hailed by the protesting young people and a large number of women’s organisations. In other words, the government feels no need to discuss the JVC in parliament. It feels no need to even give time and an opportunity for its recommendations to sink in, for there to be more thinking, more ideas, more awareness of the issues and questions at stake. No wonder, the government had so hastily pulled down the JVC report from its own websites after it had been released. Continue reading Water Cannons, Tear Gas, Ordinance: How the State Responds to Protests Against Rape and the Justice Verma Committee