A couple of days back, representatives of a group that wanted a petition demanding death penalty for all the accused in the Chennai gang rape case sought an appointment with me. I had clarified that I will not be part of any process demanding death penalty and would be glad to meet them on any other discussion they might want on the case. While, I managed to convince those who met me that death penalty cannot be a deterrent against rape, I suggested that instead of the petition they should spend their efforts to energize a change in the current discourse on rape in whatever small ways possible. The meeting ended with plans of a more substantive plan of action to discuss possibilities of advocating accessible spaces for children vulnerable to physical or sexual abuses at least in the neighborhood. I have summed up some of the points that I made at the discussion and I thought it would be important to share them with a wider audience.
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In the wake of the protests following the 2012 Delhi gangrape, India had witnessed a welcome sharpening of understanding around sexual violence and consent. Legal reform recognized the principle of affirmative consent – i.e the principle that consent must be nothing short of an unequivocal positive ‘Yes’ (whether through words or gestures) to engage in a sexual act.
In public discourse and popular understanding too, the understanding that ‘No means No’ had been strengthened. Recent Court verdicts and orders have however dealt a deep blow to this hard-won progressive advance.In the wake of the protests following the 2012 Delhi gangrape, India had witnessed a welcome sharpening of understanding around sexual violence and consent. Legal reform recognized the principle of affirmative consent – i.e the principle that consent must be nothing short of an unequivocal positive ‘Yes’ (whether through words or gestures) to engage in a sexual act. In public discourse and popular understanding too, the understanding that ‘No means No’ had been strengthened. Recent Court verdicts and orders have however dealt a deep blow to this hard-won progressive advance.
Dangal literally means the Indian style wrestling competition for male pahalwans (wrestlers). Dangal has been an important form of entertainment for ages, especially in rural (north and west) India. Dangals act in many ways. It works to settle the personal score between different Akharas and pahalwans. It’s a place where honour, reputation and social status are on stakes and personal and political rivalries are fought out, or settled. For example, one of the most important dangals used to happen every Sunday at Eidgahi Maidan, Jama Masjid in Delhi, till very recently. Itwari dangal, as it was fondly called, was the place where pahalwan like Gama, Imam Baksh, Chandgiram used to come and show their talent in front of thousands of wrestling lovers. I remember whenever I used to come to Delhi, I always wanted to win the bout at Eidgahi Maidan, as it meant a lot to win at Eidgahi maidan rather than any other place!
As it was strictly meant for male pahalwans, women were not even allowed to watch them fighting, let alone participating. Something similar to Khap Panchayats, where women still are not welcome. Women are the fairly latecomers in wrestling arena and yet not so welcome. In this context to make a film on the emergence and development of women wrestling in India itself is a fascinating idea.
Dangal, the movie is based on a true story of Mahavir and his firebrand daughters and their ‘quietly’ active mother. It is an important movie to watch for many reasons. Firstly, it portrays a father who wanted his daughters to pursue something (wrestling) which was un-imaginable in those days. It reveals what it took for the first generation of women wrestlers to break those masculine stereotypes and depicts the overall impression of wrestling in the realm of sports culture in India. There are so many moments in the film to cheer about, to get goosebumps (at least I got many). Writing review is an unknown territory for me but there is a personal reason to taking to this venture of writing. The release of this film forced me to say something which, as a former wrestler for almost ten years, is still left with me. Continue reading Dangal and the Phogat Sisters – A Tale of Many Struggles: Praveen Verma→
Sonam Mittal’s recent piece in Kafila, “Kashmir is Feminist Issue” draws upon an oft-cited gendered analogy to describe the Kashmir’s relationship with India and Pakistan. Though it makes a few pertinent points about the nexus of power and patriarchy and the urgent need for Indian feminist solidarity with the Kashmiri resistance, I found the analogy deeply problematic and strongly feel that it needs further unpacking to underline its worrying implications.
Even as the communal cauldron in UP is kept on the boil, there is news that the RSS has launched a campaign to tie Rakhis to lakhs of Hindu men, asking them to pledge to protect their sisters from Muslim men and “love jehad.” The VHP has been running a helpline urging Hindus to approach them “if your daughter is being harassed by Muslim boys.” And a khap panchayat in Muzaffarnagar has imposed a ban on mobile phones and jeans for girls, claiming that these result in ‘eve-teasing’.
Woven into the above events is an old, familiar theme – that of patriarchal restrictions packaged as ‘protection’. In the wake of the anti-rape movement that followed December 16 2012, the streets of Delhi and many other parts of India had resounded with the voices of women declaring ‘Don’t take away our freedoms in the name of ‘protection’ – protect our right to fearless, fullest freedom instead’. Those women had raised their voice demanding freedom from sexual violence – and also freedom from rape culture that advices women to dress decently to avoid rape; and freedom from the khap panchayats, freedom even from the restrictions imposed by one’s own fathers and brothers.
वर्त्तमान परिदृश्य में हमारे इर्द-गिर्द जितने भी विमर्श मंडराते नजर आ रहे हैं उन सबके के आक्रामक शुरुआत को सोलह दिसंबर की बलात्कार की घटना से जोड़े बगैर नहीं देखा जा सकता है। इसमें कोई शक नहीं कि उस रात को दहला देने वाली घटना तक को कई खांचों में रखकर देखा जाता है। उदाहरणस्वरूप, आलोचना के तौर पर यह भी कहा गया कि निर्भया अभिजात वर्ग से आती थी इसलिए उसके बलात्कार ने पूरे देश की राजनीति को झकझोर कर रख दिया। जबकि उसी दरम्यान दिल्ली के करीब हरियाणा में कई दलित और सामाजिक रूप से प्रताड़ित लड़कियों और महिलाओं का निर्ममता से बलात्कार किया गया और मारकर फ़ेंक दिया गया और जिसका आज तक कोई अता-पता तक नहीं है। इससे भी इंकार नहीं किया जा सकता कि दिसंबर की घटना के पहले भी अनगिनत बलात्कार की घटनाएं हररोज हो रही थी और उसके बाद भी हो रही है। मगर कभी भी किसी विरोध ने इतना विकराल रूप धारण नहीं किया जिससे देश की राजनीति को हिलानी तो दूर उससे आजतक न्याय प्रक्रिया में गति तक आ सके। इसके कई कारण हैं।
मेरा उद्देश्य उस तरफ ध्यान खींचना कतई नहीं है। मेरा उद्देश्य है मुख्यधारा में इन मुद्दों से जुड़ती सवालों को उठाये जाने की तरफ ध्यान ले जाना। मैं बात कर रहा हूँ मुख्यधारा में चल रही फिल्मों और उससे जुड़े सवालों के ऊपर। फ़िल्म समीक्षा की दुनिया में ऐसा कम ही देखने को मिलता है जब कोई फ़िल्म अपनी रिलीज के बाद एक चर्चा का विषय हो या विवाद का हिस्सा हो। बल्कि तमाम विचारधारा से जुड़े लोग जब किसी फ़िल्म के ऊपर अपनी प्रतिक्रिया जताने लगे इसका मतलब है कि ऐसी फिल्में लोगों को संवाद करने के लिए विवश कर रही हैं। Continue reading मर्दवादी और असमान सामाजिक व्यवस्था में स्त्री प्रतिरोध – ‘हाईवे’: धर्मराज कुमार→
Saurabh laughs that he had the advantage of knowing what the process of spouse-hunting involves. A year before he went through the drill, his sister did.
However rosy the courting period may be, once you’re married, you get a rude wake-up call when you’re living in the same space. ‘Living with a strange person takes adapting. You could be in love for a few years and then get married, but even that doesn’t prepare you for sharing your personal space with another person. Of the other gender. Who has a different set of bodily smells, and opinions on the way your clothes smell.’
He has an interesting comparison for what men go through after marriage. ‘Remember when you, as a girl, got up close and personal with menstruation. That’s what most guys go through in the first month of marriage, unless they’ve been in a live-in relationship before. The first month is very chaotic because you’re experiencing another gender’s physicality and emotions.