February 28, 2014

What happens when we allow legal sanctions for marital rape

Last I heard, the Indian government has decided on continuing to let husbands rape their wives without any legal consequences, apparently to protect the 'traditional family value system in India' (link). The gross injustice and ridiculousness of this has been pointed out by several eminent feminists and women's rights activists. Please go through the links below to understand their reasoning:

"The huge opposition to marital rape laws is shocking" - link:
// The true motive behind the opposition to marital rape might just be the resistance to a woman’s sexual autonomy. Men and even women are brought up with the idea that marriage is a license to have sex whenever the man wants. And that by refusing it, the woman is not doing her “duty”. // // What they they’re defending is not marriage per se, but the warped idea of marriage that Indians have. // - link:
"Where Consensual Sex is rape, and Forced Sex is a legal right" - link
"Making Marital Rape a legal offense is the fastest way to make it clear that Rape means forced sex, not lost Virginity or Honor" - link
Please take a look at these to see what Kavita Krishnan has to say: linklink

Not to mention, the government did the exact opposite of what Justice Verma committee recommended (link). As per my understanding, the Congress government's move was supported by the key opposition BJP; only a couple of MPs from CPI & CPM voiced out their dissent (linklink). After being a part of this move which defied the very idea of a woman's sexual autonomy, I am astonished as to how these parties expect us to trust them with bringing down sexual assaults! To see that this blatantly unfair move came as a response to the historic Nirbhaya protests (link) while ignoring the strong recommendations of the Justice Verma committee (link), I am outraged at their audacity and bigotry. I want the readers to note that criminalizing marital rape does not even require any constitutional amendment! As voters and citizens, we should be concerned about this. Please read these posts from an eminent blogger (link) to understand what happens when marital rape is not criminalized:

// Panchayat Orders girl to marry her rapist because one way to make a Rape right is to make it Marital Rape // (link)
// Girls should be married at 16 so that they don't need to go elsewhere for their sexual needs; this way rapes will not occur // (link)
// Rapist groom should have waited a little to satiate his lusty desires.... // (link)
// Pre Marital sex is same as rape.....the only difference is the consent of both sexes. // (linklink)
// This is what Haryana Khaps are not saying. // (link)
// BJP and Trinamool are objecting to  a lower age of consent on the ground that it is in conflict with "conservative norms" of Indian society. // (link)
// Is it possible to make a man see his wife as a partner, if he has been socially conditioned to see her as someone who is supposed to obey and serve him? // (link)

The confusion in Indian people about rape as loss of virginity as opposed to violation of one's rights is apparent. To understand what victims of marital rape go through, please read these:

"The darkness of marital rape" - link:
// Consider my own marriage. The physical abuse preceded the rapes. I lived in fear of his temper and of the blows that would rain down if I angered him in any way. This fear was sufficient to make me submit to his demands. I knew it was rape but I could not protest. // - link
"My experience with domestic violence" - link
"Who will benefit from criminalising sexual assaults within marriages?" - link
"In my own company in a cosmopolitan city, I know women who were horrified on the First Night" - link
"Why India allows men to rape their wives" - link

Quoting from one of the above posts (link):
// Marital rapes are not something to be tolerated by anyone; to endure rapes is damaging to the woman in innumerable ways. It is a crime that at least thousands of rapists are getting away with. That makes it thousands of victims suffering in terrified silence. //: link

I am hoping that the coming government rectifies this mistake. As responsible citizens and voters, let us keep a watch on this as a tribute to Nirbhaya (link) and to the late Justice Verma (link).

February 25, 2014

In response to 'Why the Wendy Doniger episode is not a free speech issue'

I went through two links which have been shared on this regard in an attempt to argue that the Wendy Doniger episode is not an issue of importance in the context of free speech:

1) Link: http://www.firstpost.com/india/why-the-wendy-doniger-episode-is-not-a-free-speech-issue-1388751.html?utm_source=ref_article

2) Link: http://centreright.in/2014/02/wendy-doniger-academia-racism-and-hinduphobia/#.UwxLEfmSxCi

As these arguments are being taken seriously, I decided to post my response here:

1) The first post article claims that the issue is not that of free speech because the book was withdrawn within the framework of Indian law. Also, that the book was withdrawn on the grounds of factual inaccuracies as opposed to making Hindu texts erotic - making this an issue of fact Vs. error as opposed to stifling freedom of expression.

My counter-view: Below is the link for the official statement of Penguin India on why it chose to withdraw the book only from India (why was Penguin compelled to withdraw the book only from India if as the author claims, the decision was driven by factual inaccuracies?):
// We stand by our original decision to publish The Hindus, just as we stand by the decision to publish other books that we know may cause offence to some segments of our readership. We believe, however, that the Indian Penal Code, and in particular section 295A of that code, will make it increasingly difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression without deliberately placing itself outside the law. This is, we believe, an issue of great significance not just for the protection of creative freedoms in India but also for the defence of fundamental human rights. //

Penguin India does not say that the book was withdrawn due to any inaccuracies on the author's part. It explicitly mentions that it was compelled to withdraw the book because of Indian law. Saying that this is not a matter of free speech just because the book was not explicitly banned by the government is ridiculous because there is no need for the govt. to ban it - the Indian law itself can potentially ban it. Saying that this is not stifling of free speech just because it is within the framework of Indian law is even more ridiculous - in case the author is trying to imply this. The point he is missing is that those who are condemning the withdrawal on grounds of free speech are opposed to section 295A itself, and it is the Indian law which they want to the changed.

2) The centreright article agrees that the centreright team is opposed to banning of books or taking them to court; but puts in a different point of view that the 'real issue' is that of Hinduphobia and not free speech.

My view: As this is a matter of preference on which issues are 'important' according to the author, I don't have any particular reason to 'oppose' it. But I would like to point out my difference of priorities here, just like the author. The author says the 'real issue' is being sidelined because the likes of Rajiv Malhotra are not the people who are being invited to discussions on this. I think it is worth noting here, that whatever Rajiv Malhotra's views may be, the people who are being invited to defend the ban are of the opinion that the book deserves to be banned for hurting the sentiments of Hindus. Please note that Rajiv Malhotra's perhaps valid criticism of the book does not justify or make up for the fundamentalism of some people who want anything which offends their 'sentiments' to be banned.

Another difference of priorities following from the above, is that to me, the 'real issue' is about someone else speaking on my behalf as a Hindu, that the 'Hindu sentiments' are hurt. I refuse to accept that any one Hindu or a group of Hindus can speak for all Hindus on what offends each individual Hindu. And I refuse to give this authority to any bunch of Hindus to speak for me on whether my sentiments were offended or not, when they say the 'Hindu sentiments' were hurt. And I choose not to respond to the attacks on the 'liberals' who are criticizing the ban on grounds of free speech (I hope by now, we've established that this is about free speech from my first counter-argument). If I may say so, just as Wendy chooses to call everyone of her critics as fascist, the author decided to characterize every person criticizing the ban as naive, misinformed and without mentioning the word directly, pseudo-secular.

Related post(s):

February 19, 2014

Taslima Nasreen in Ideas 2014: Every minute worth watching!!

// If free speech means anything at all, it means to tell people what they don't like to hear. //

In a world where so many things seem to be falling apart, some things give me fresh hope. This interview came as a huge relief where sense prevailed and those words of Taslima Nasreen were music my ears. Each line from the interview was precious. I found it to be very bold, honest and simple. Please do watch this interview where she talks about her thoughts on free speech: link

Here are some excerpts: 

// The worst enemy of censorship is always curiosity. //

// Free speech is universal. There is no such thing called national free speech or international free speech. Like there are no such things called Islamic human rights or Eastern human rights or Western human rights. //

// I don't think there is a conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Of course, there is a conflict. The conflict is between two ideas: secularism & fundamentalism. The conflict is between irrational blind faith & rational logical mind; between innovation & tradition; between modernism & anti-modernism; between future & past; between people who believe in freedom of expression & those who don't believe in freedom of expression. //

// Books do not cause riots. People who riot do not read books. If they read books, they would not join any riots. Rioters riot for political purposes. //

She talks about many more great ideas. Please do watch the whole interview and post your thoughts:

Why are the people of Andhra Pradesh shocked?

As I blog, some section of AP population are staring in disbelief at the passage of Telangana bill in Lok Sabha yesterday (link) while some are celebrating and holding their breath to await for its passage in Rajya Sabha. I have no hesitation regarding the necessity for Telangana, but I too abhor the manner in which this was bifurcation is being brought upon (link). But it didn't come as a surprise to me, as it has shocked so many other people of AP who are 'disappointed'.

Given the record of Congress party in the last sixty years where they have clearly displayed zero accountability towards their electorate taking victory for granted, what is surprising about UPA government's behavior on this issue (link)? It is also not surprising that BJP decided to vote in favor of Telangana despite the alleged presence of 'unconstitutional clauses' for electoral gains. And I don't expect a party which supports section 377 (link) to care about the constitutionality of the bills it is voting in favor of in any case. It is not surprising that someone like Lagadapati Rajagopal would defy the very idea of a civilized democracy through his uncivilized act (link) to protect his political and business interests. It is not surprising that a hooligan like YS Jagan has used muscle power to polarize the sentiments of the people, even after it was clear that formation of Telangana was inevitable (link). It is also not surprising that Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu has steadfastly refused to take a clear stance on this issue (link), divided as he is between his political and business interests. And the less I speak about the actions and affiliations of TRS (link), the better it is.

What actually surprised me was that the people of Andhra Pradesh were surprised with this outcome, when they elect people like KCR & YS Jagan to power again & again despite all this. As the wise and pragmatic Jayaprakash Narayan has warned us (link), this is to be expected when we elect such people as our rulers. So please don't be disappointed now, given that you will elect the same parties to power again.

Related posts:

February 18, 2014

Its 'rape culture' not 'tribal culture': On the West Bengal gang-rape

When I saw reports of of this gruesome gang-rape of a woman ordered by a Panchayat (highlighting West Bengal government's failure in addressing women's security issues) (link), I thought the country has moved on a lot from 2010. In 2010, the whole country paid a blind eye towards a West Bengal horror in which an adivasi girl was stripped, beaten, molested and paraded by & among hundreds of people for crossing her maryada, for falling in love with a boy from another community (link). So when I saw the recent case of gang-rape receiving media attention on the first day, I thought the country has progressed after Nirbhaya. As disturbing as the West Bengal incident is, I was hopeful that horrors of this nature are no longer being excused but are being condemned seriously by the people of India. The sensationalism around Tarun Tejpal's case of sexual assault (link) gave me this false hope. 

I'm coming to realize that I was badly mistaken. It looks like West Bengal issue is not a national issue, and tribal courts do not concern the 'modernized, egalitarian, urban elite' who sneered with contempt on hearing the news and then forgot all about it. The outcry which I hoped to hear in the country and in the media against this gruesome incident was not as loud as I would've wanted it to be, nor did the response last as long. I'm trying to understand why. Are these the reasons why we are frugal with our response on this horror?:

1) Do we believe that the decisions of a tribal court do not affect us?

This incident is not about a tribal court, it is about abuse of power and stifling of human rights. When we allow any individual's rights to be stifled, it means that we will not have a say when our rights are stifled by someone more powerful too. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

2) Do we think that we're more 'evolved' than the tribals and are 'safer' from sexual crimes? Is it the 'tribal culture' which facilitated this crime or 'rape culture'?

Why did the villagers call the girl 'immoral' when the police interrogated them? Did they hope her allegation could be discredited by calling her 'immoral'? What gave them this hope? Is rape-justification confined only to tribals? Don't you recall any other parallels where the victim was tried to blame for her own rape, be it a village or the national capital (link) ? Doesn't rape-justifying mindset reflect a more fundamental issue about our society's failure in making every citizen comprehend the right to individual freedom ? What makes a chosen few, be it Khap Panchayats or religious fundamentalists believe that they have the right to decide how everyone else should live or what others must (not) do? What claim do they have on everyone else's lives?

3) Do we think that sexual crimes in West Bengal do not concern entire India? Do we think that criminals who commit sexual crimes understand borders? Please take a look at this:
A UP based Panchayat ordered a rape victim to marry the rapist against her wishes (link)
Six year old rape victim from Rajasthan was ordered to marry her rapist's son by a caste council (link)
AP Panchayat offers Rs. 1,500 to silence a rape victim's family (link)
When we associate sexual crimes with boundaries, we are ignoring the fact that sexual crimes happen within every geography and section of people, urban or rural, rich or poor, literate or illiterate, across people of all religions, castes and ages. If we define these crimes through borders, it means that we've failed to understand the magnitude of the problem.

Let's try and teach a lesson to the West Bengal government which has been consistent in ignoring sexual crimes against women. Let us support those protesting against the government's negligence. Let's not give out the message to politicians, like we've been doing for the last 60 years that Indian public has a lot of tolerance towards its government's failures. Let's not take this condescending attitude towards crime against women. Let the outrage in our silent voice be heard.

P.S: This post might be seen by readers as coming too late. I confess it has been in my drafts since long and apologize for the delay.

February 11, 2014

Dear Andhra Pradesh, you can't stoop any lower or can you?

This post is with reference to the attack on Jayaprakash Narayan (link): 

// The attack on Lok Satta Party national president Jayaprakash Narayan by Telangana lawyers and members of the student JAC at AP Bhavan in New Delhi on Tuesday evoked angry protests from party leaders and workers here. //

This is how low we've stooped (link). How can a mob of people simply physically attack someone in full public view in the national capital, when that person hasn't made any derogatory/abusive statements? (Even if this was the case, I would've condemned any such physical assault). Do we understand 'dignity'? Looks like we've not moved on from a barbaric civilization - except that we wear modern clothes and use technology today - mindsets have not changed. Given that the person who was attacked is JP from Lok Satta, I think our state deserves to continue to rot like it did in the last ten years. Don't these fools realize that JP is the only politician who is speaking the language of sense to actually communicate to the people of Seema-Andhra that formation of Telangana is necessary?

Also, this was not the first time when hooligans with no respect for dignity attacked Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan  physically (link). These attacks were not made by honest citizens of the state, do you say? But you permitted people who let this happen to come to power, didn't you? And what are you going to do now? Vote again for the same hooligans? Are the people of Andhra Pradesh going to be silent spectators, like they've been throughout when every other political party destroyed the progress in the state (link) ? Do we even have any rights to ask for security when we permit lynch-mobbing anyone to be the privilege of a chosen few hooligans? Or when we vote to power politicians who preach that "India got freedom at midnight doesn't mean that women can travel at midnight" after Nirbhaya (link) ?

Here is the video which shows what JP was saying when he was attacked by those hooligans: link

Related posts:
1) Please read the story of Andhra Pradesh and how it was made to rot by all political parties (except Lok Satta): 
2) My views on Jayaprakash Narayan's speech in assembly on Telangana and his brilliance: 

Be nice to people: No matter WHAT (re-post from my old blog)

Well...I've read this some time before in one of the websites and ever since...I can't help remembering it whenever I lose my temper and end up being nasty and feel bitter myself. It always, always helps to be nice to people, however annoyed you are with them. Patience is a virtue with bound-less rewards, even if you don't see them right now. Just overcome whatever that feeling is you've towards that other person - jealousy, hatred, anger whatever. Remember - you are being the bigger person if you can maintain your calm Umm..we all know that itchy feeling after a fight I guess - even if we've won technically, even if we were right - just because you were nasty "during" the fight, it somehow doesn't feel like you've won. It just feels like you've lost something.

Most importantly, never be bad to someone who is approaching you for help. Just understand that you can make their life atleast a tad bit better if you can overlook your bitterness. Even if they don't say it, you know they're going to be grateful. And who knows - Life is strange. You never know when you'll need that person's help. And you'll just feel elevated knowing that you've helped someone inspite of your negativity towards them. Imagine - otherwise you're just going to end up being frustrated and bitter, unknowingly trying to justify to yourself why you are sad.

And believe me - It has never helped me till now whenever I've lost it and started being nasty or cold or unhelpful. Not when I had to fire my cook or when I yelled at my dad. It's always good to break the ice. If you feel that you're justified, just express it calmly and don't be nasty. I know it's hard and may be not always possible - But why wait to learn things the hard way? It's good to keep remembering it whenever you want to be angry or nasty for the heck of it. And don't show your own irritation on others. Just be nice and helpful - always.

February 06, 2014

To the unrelenting frustrated misogynists: Here's the reality you are running away from

To the utterly frustrated misogynists (and/or racists) like the acquaintance of Mr. G.V. on this post (link): Your vent-outs about the arrogance of women and their parents who do not fit into 'your' misogynistic ideals are a reflection of the happy reality for us. More we hear such vent-outs, more we know that women empowerment has made its mark. While you are right in grasping that women empowerment is turning into a reality (causing your frustration), you're masking the other half of the reality under your frustration. So let me uncover the other half of the reality for you (For the context of this post, I'm using the same word 'Lalli' to refer to a girl as referred to by the sexist acquaintance of Mr. G.V):
  1. Whatever Lalli and her parents use to describe themselves ('positive'/''negative', 'lower/middle/upper middle/higher class', 'affluent'/'poor', 'well connected'/'disconnected'), they're happy with it. And 'your' views on how they describe themselves neither affect them nor matter to them.
  2. Middle class/lower class/upper middle class whatever class: Lalli is independent & self-reliant. Fortunately, her parents have embraced this fact and are proud of it. Lalli's family is self-sufficient and that gives them the right to describe themselves as any 'class' they want.
  3. Contrary to what you're tricking yourself into believing, divorces happen in both arranged marriages and love marriages, irrespective of whether they are within or outside 'community' (whatever the 'community' may be).
  4. All the women who are not divorced are not necessarily happy with their marriage. And all the women who have divorced are not necessarily unhappy with their lives. You are wrong in case you are assuming this.
  5. Again, contrary to what you trick yourself into believing, Lallis are increasingly successful in all spheres across strata – not just restricted to the third rated colleges or B.E/MCA/MBA that you mentioned, happily ignoring the rest. Please realize that most top banks in India are run by a female CEO. From politics to astronomy, there's hardly any field where Lallis have not left their mark!
  6. No matter how much you belittle Lalli's designation/pay/company she works for, her employers simply don't care. They continue to evaluate her performance based only on her contribution to the organization (and not on 'your' remarks), which I may add, they believe is quite good because they insist on retaining her in the company paying her what she deserves (be it a 4 digit package or a 10 digit one).
  7. There are professionals in varying levels of income, among both Lallis' parents and Venkys' parents. And each one is entitled to hope for a better future of their children. Every Lalli (and Venky) is entitled to have her own set of aspirations, be it about a Wagon R or about professional success. Again, your say is irrelevant.
  8. More importantly, Lalli and her parents do not care about ‘your’ assessment of their ‘achievements’/'aspirations' (in education/career/finance/personal life). Lalli will continue to be content with herself while trying to achieve what ‘she’ feels is worth achieving based on ‘her’ priorities.
  9. Divorce is not a dirty word. Lalli and her parents do not see walking out of an unhappy relationship as 'demeaning' irrespective of how 'you' see it and they don't care whether/how much you judge them. May be 'innocent divorcee' was coined to give out the message that many members of the society do not see divorce as a bad thing anymore.
  10. Nor is marrying 'outside' community demeaning to Lalli and her parents. 'Your' opinion of Lalli's choice of partner is of no importance to them, to Lalli in particular. She has and will choose to marry whoever 'she' believes will not demean 'her' and she will be happy with. 
  11. Of course, sometimes she chooses to not marry at all if that makes her happy, even if you feel she is getting 'older'/'fatter'. She will marry when 'she' feels it is the right time for her to do so, and sometimes, she may choose to not marry ever.
  12. Again, 'your' views on whether Lalli is getting fatter/uglier/older do not concern Lalli or her parents because Lalli is content with herself/her life and her parents are content about this too.
  13. Some Lallis will still choose happiness and  independence over obedience and sacrifice - irrespective of whether their parents will approve of this choice or not. So Lalli will do what she wants with her life, irrespective of how 'you' want 'her parents' to carve her life. You should start addressing Lallis directly first, not that your views matter anyway.
So, may all you frustrated sexists embrace the reality of women empowerment or you may perish sooner/later!!

Related posts:

1) As women empowerment is making its mark and we have come a long way, let us strive to achieve complete justice to ourselves and our future generation (link)

2) May be the acquaintance of Mr G.V. was frustrated that women are no longer fitting into these ideals (link)