A few facts and some thoughts on the reception of Michaela Cross’s experience of India – Guest Post by ARVIND ELANGOVAN
Since Michaela Cross’s experience was part of a study abroad program conducted annually by the University of Chicago, and I was part of the program – for three years as a graduate student assistant (for the Fall quarters of 2007-2009), and one year as faculty in the program (Fall of 2010) – I think I could most usefully contribute by highlighting a few facts about the program itself. In the process I would think aloud about some of the issues that have come up in the reception of Cross’s experience in India, especially in the responses of Rajyashree Sen and Ameya Naik. I choose Sen’s and Naik’s responses partly because they have been the most recent, but also because between them they represent the spectrum of possible positions that one could usefully take about this issue. Needless to add, there have been other responses, such as the one posted by another fellow University of Chicago student on the trip, an article titled ‘In Defence of Rose Chasm (Michaela Cross) and countless other comments, criticisms, and responses that have flooded the Internet world.
However, between Sen and Naik, the basic ends of the spectrum are quite clear. Sen contends that it is not only a white woman’s problem but an issue for all women and that some self-regulation and discipline would have gone a long way to avert the unsavory experiences if not completely eliminate their possibility. Naik, at the other end of the spectrum, points out that the expectation of preparedness or caution urged by Sen belies the possibility of questioning the pervasive culture of sexual violence, in which any cautionary attempt to be safe, is to pay merely lip service to acknowledging the crime of sexual violence, instead of combating more difficult questions about such a culture. Continue reading Race too, after all, along with Gender: Arvind Elangovan
As we note the unprecedented, if not always productive, attention being drawn to widespread sexual violence in India, we need to remember that in the shadows of media attention, legal activists routinely wage long, arduous and painful struggles in courts. One such set of activists located at MAJLIS LEGAL CENTRE, Mumbai, recently secured the conviction in Sessions Court, of a 60 year old man for the sexual assault of a toddler. Here is the inspiring (and infuriating!) account of this battle in the words of Majlis. Some of us have been making an argument for CCTV’s in police stations, to monitor the behaviour of the police towards complainants, especially of sexual violence. This case only reinforces our belief that the surveillance by citizens, of the coercive apparatus of the state is imperative.
It’s been two long years of trials and tribulations as we journeyed a difficult path with a very young rape survivor. In fact, this case started off the ‘Socio-Legal Support to Survivors of Sexual Assault’ Programme of Majlis.
The incident had taken place within the premises of Kalina Education Society in Kalina in February, 2011. When the mother noticed an injury on her child and rushed to the police station, the police, instead of registering a case, recording her complaint and sending the child for medical examination, preferred to call the school principal to the police station. The Principal, in the presence of the lady Police Sub-Inspector, threatened the mother that if she filed a complaint, her child would be thrown out of the school. This led to valuable medical evidence being lost. The next day the mother was asked to bring to the child to school by the lady Sub-Inspector, for “investigations”. While the mother was asked to wait outside the school compound, the child was interrogated alone by the principal and teachers in the presence of the police, and was threatened. The case was recorded only when the mother, on the third day, at her own initiative, took the child to a private doctor, who after noticing the injury referred the child to the Sion Hospital (which is a Government Hospital). Continue reading Justice for a rape survivor: Majlis Legal Centre