Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment’


Navratri, a combination of 2 words, ‘Nav’ meaning 9 and ‘Ratri’ night is a 9-day Indian festival wherein 9 avatars (incarnations) of Goddess Durga are worshipped.

Durga is a Hindu Goddess of power/energy/force. She is divine warrior and has the combined energies of all gods. Goddess Durga was created to annihilate a powerful demon called Mahishasur who was awarded with the power that made him invulnerable to defeat from any male.

The festival of Navratri is celebrated with vigor all over India, mainly in North and West regions as well as in some Eastern states. For the first 3 days, avatars of Goddess Durga are worshipped, followed by worship of Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) and finally worship of Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of wisdom).

On the 8th day of Navratri, a kanya pujan (girl-child worship) takes place wherein pre-pubescent girls are worshipped by washing their feet and traditionally, offering rice grains and new clothes. These girls are worshipped according to the philosophy of ‘Mahamaya’ i.e. the Ultimate Goddess, Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of power). Another reason for worshipping young girls is because they are said to be the purest and most innocent. Feminine gender is at the core of universal creation which is what these girls represent.

In most families, this Kanya pujan is observed on Ram Navmi i.e. the 9th and final day of Navratri. This tradition is still prevalent throughout the Navratri-celebrating population and hordes of girls are ‘worshipped’ by each family in order to complete the Navratri pooja.

Let us now take a look at this celebration of womanhood throughout the country over the last 9 days i.e. from 11th to 19th April, 2013.

 

11th April, 2013 (West Bengal) – http://www.tibetsun.com/news/2013/04/11/monks-among-those-arrested-for-gang-rape-in-kalimpong

12th April, 2013 (Punjab) – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1821724/report-man-rapes-ninety-year-old-woman-in-punjab

13th April, 2013 (Karnataka) – http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/teenager-held-on-charge-of-raping-4yearold-girl/article4631013.ece

14th April, 2013 (Bihar) – http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-04-14/patna/38528481_1_complaint-class-vii-student-ssp

15th April, 2013 (New Delhi) – http://www.ibtimes.co.in/articles/457069/20130415/11-year-old-raped-inside-bus-delhi.htm?cid=5

16th April, 2013 (Maharashtra) – http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/maharashtra/Woman-beaten-up-foetus-dies/Article1-1045222.aspx

17th April, 2013 (Goa) – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1823530/report-school-going-girl-gang-raped-in-goa-five-youths-held

18th April, 2013 (New Delhi) [Kanya Pujan]- http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/woman-allegedly-gang-raped-in-delhi-thrown-semi-naked-onto-road-355746

19th April, 2013 (New Delhi) [Kanya Pujan]- http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Candle-bottle-forced-into-minor-rape-victim-Doctors/Article1-1046989.aspx

9 days of Devi poojan or 9 days of devil worship.

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Guest post by Samar Esapzai, a visual artist and PhD student in International Rural Development and Gender Studies.

In an enlightening class I took last semester, my professor said something that stuck with me long after the class/semester ended, for it held so much raw truth. She said:

“The woman’s body is the battleground upon which cultural and religious wars are fought.”

Being a woman in any given society, whether it may be within South/Central Asia or in the West, there are often triggers of distress and tension, and the constant battle with one’s image and appearance that plays over and over again in a woman’s head like a broken record. We live in a world where, right from the time we are born up until we die, we are told that our body defines us; that our sexuality should be proscribed – protected; and that we should do everything in our power to guard our bodies – our honour – from the enemy: men. And, if we don’t, then the blame falls solely upon us.

While there are some who manage to break free from this never-ending cycle of staring, leering, gawking, examining, judging, etc., most women will, however, be forever stuck in this rut for the majority of their adult lives. The worst part is that some women have even accepted it – accepted that they, their bodies, are the reason behind every incident of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence that have been, and will be, inflicted upon them. It has almost become like an unspoken sort of awareness, where a woman suddenly realizes how dangerous her body is to her safety. And if she slips – even once – she will have no choice but to suffer the dire consequences that accompany it.

Furthermore, when we look back at history, especially in the context of war and conflict, women’s bodies have often been treated as territories to be conquered, claimed and marked by the contender. This is why violence, especially sexual violence, against women was and still is quite common during communal/ethnic conflicts. Women would not only be raped but their bodies would be marked in such a way so as to remind the opposing enemy that their women – who are supposed to be “pure” and a representative of the community’s/nation’s “honour” – are stained.

Such markings would include stripping a woman naked and serenading her in shame in public; physical mutilation and disfigurement, i.e. cutting off a woman’s private parts, or other parts of her body, such as her nose, ears, hair, etc.; tattooing and branding a woman on her private parts, i.e. her breasts and/or genitals, with hate slogans against the enemy; and other forms of debasements to emphasize conquest and suppression.

Thus, the violation of women’s bodies equates the same political territories upon which the men from the rioting communities would inscribe their markings on. It’s like an uncanny sort of relinquishment – a victory, where it becomes blatant that in order to defeat a nation, you must violate their women. Such atrocious violations against women hence create a sense of helplessness in communities where a woman’s honour is more important than her life. And in order to revive this honour, members of the community (usually male) have no choice but to kill off every single female who was either raped or physically/sexually violated in any way. For it is known that a woman’s dishonour is the dishonour of the ethnic race, the community, and the nation as a whole.

Consequently, the targeting of women’s bodies is both an effect and a cause of the acceptability of sexual violence against women. It serves to subjugate women further, and creates an environment where violence becomes habitual and is committed with impunity. And while there is no denying that the blame often falls upon the woman for failing to guard her body from being violated, even if it is against her own volition, an equal burden falls upon the shoulders of men who deeply value their women’s honour.

I personally believe that as long as such societies conventionalize the woman as a symbol of honour and continue to instrumentalize her in such an ignominious way, gender-based violence in these societies will persist, making any iota of progress seem bleak.

Even so, not all societies associate women with honour, despite the fact that rape and other forms of violence against women still occurs. There are societies, particularly within the South and Central Asian region, where a woman’s dignity equates her entire existence as well as the existence of those around her. And though it is clear that men, too, are targets and victims of violence, it is the gendered nature of violence that marks women’s experiences as wholly unique.


Guest post submitted by Samar Esapzai (@SesapZai), Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_), Vanessa D. Rivera (Nasreen Amina @Nasreen_Vr), Ayesha Asghar(@ashsultana) and Hyshyama Hamin (@SisterhoodArt):

This article is in response to a post by Qasim Rashid of the Muslim Writers Guild of America titled, The Islamic Solution to Stop Domestic Violence” published in the Huffington Post’s Religion Blog on March 5th, 2012.

Although this post came to our attention a year after it was written, as young Muslim women having worked with and/or written about gender-based violence issues that have personally affected some of us, we deemed it fit to respond. Also, the points discussed in this article are not only limited to the particular post written by Rashid, but rather it addresses similar arguments that have been made by other writers as well on this issue.

It is a concern to us that Rashid uses the Quran verse 4:34 to explain that it therein contains the “Islamic solution” to domestic violence. He states that according to one perspective of an American social scientist Dr. James Q. Wilson, known for his controversial works on the criminal justice system, that men are more prone to stimulations of anger and aggression and less capable of self-restraint. This, we assume, the author took from one of Wilson’s essays, The Future of Blame in which he cites research from neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Louann Brizendine, where Wilson merely states it as a “claim.” Interestingly, Wilson was also a rational choice theorist on the causation of crime and violence; he has made arguments on the terms that individuals make clear, rational decisions after evaluating all possibilities and does that which benefits them the most.

The theories, both biological and psychological, that claim women and men experience as well as react to anger and violence differently is not new. Christa Reiser, author of Reflections on Anger: Women and Men in a Changing Society writes about how there are other variables such as socio-cultural norms; class and age differences; and process of socialization that explain how men and women react to anger. She writes with regards to a previous research that, “Analysis of independent variables shows that men with low-self esteem, traditional gender roles and attitudes, adversarial sexual attitudes towards women, a history of sexual abuse, and who believe in rape myths generally score higher in hostility towards women.”

So, for Rashid to state only one viewpoint about male violence and saying they have a natural inclination to violence against women is not only biased, but it is also playing into the patriarchal stereotype that men are solely dominated by brute forces, and are therefore unable to control their instincts. This is unfair to men, for not all men are like this; we know of many men who are not violent nor are they inclined towards violent behaviour. And though this behaviour may be universal, for we are living in a global culture of violence and subjugation against women, we cannot automatically conclude that it is part of our biological nature. Violence is a choice; it is not genetically mandatory nor is it innate.

Further, Rashid uses the typical examples of stating facts and figures from the United States, whilst explaining that domestic violence is not only a “Muslim” problem. Of course it isn’t! Women all over the world experience domestic, as well as other forms, of violence regardless of their nationalities or religions. And we all know this. What becomes a “Muslim” problem, however, is the various interpretations to justify domestic violence, and in the author’s case to seek a ‘solution’ to domestic violence, using the Quran. Certainly there are many interpretations of the Quran verse 4:34 and even efforts through initiatives such as WISE – Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality and their Muslim Women’s Shura Council, in trying to make sense of the verse. [link]: Jihad Against Violence Digest

Nevertheless, we are appreciative for Rashid having stated that the verse in fact restricts the husband from using violence and thus promotes the adoption of a restraint and reconciliation approach, which is certainly a more progressive interpretation. Yet, at the same time, this interpretation is more of a “preventative” measure and not necessarily a “solution.”

According to our understanding, verse 4:34 is seen as a one-way street when it comes to placing faultlines, as it rests on the prerequisite that the woman has endangered the relationship in some way. In the instance where a husband may be at fault, Rashid indicates the solution as simply – “women who fear harm from their husbands, Islam gives women an even easier path: demand their husbands to stop their egregious behavior or file for divorce.” Here, the author is deeply mistaken if he believes the “easier path” would suddenly put an end to domestic violence. Neither “demanding” nor “divorcing” is an option for many women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. This is because many are highly dependent on their male family members – both economically and socially – especially when it comes to their livelihood, security, and other dependencies. Additionally, there are also socio-cultural burdens around ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, which affects many women at a deep psychological level.

Conversely, we know today that domestic violence is not only limited to spouses, for many children, elderly women, daughters, sisters and mothers etc. are also subject to violence at the hands of their male family members, as well as female family members (i.e. a mother-in-law abusing the daughter-in-law and vice versa).

Hence, Rashid’s method of rationalizing a solution to domestic violence using verse 4:34 requires a deeper analysis and review. It is not only exclusionary, it is also inadequate to reach such a conclusion based on the living realities of Muslim women. The root cause of gender-based violence is the imbalance of power between men and women, resulting in gender inequality and discriminatory patriarchal practices against women. And in order to resolve this issue, a greater understanding and promotion of gender equality is necessary at all levels, including the promotion of positive masculinity (which the author appreciatively touches on) and shared gender roles. The most highly erroneous assumption is that women are solely to blame for allowing domestic abuse and violence to occur, and this perspective needs to change.

Thus, men and women need to work collaboratively to address these issues at both the domestic and local levels, as well ensure that they raise their children in a community that believes – truly believes – that men and women are equal. And this will only be possible through meaningful, rational and open-minded dialogue in order to gain a deeper understanding of the living realities that exist within the communities we live in.


Guest post by Ankit Gupta, a social activist and avid blogger at Indian Survivor Federation: 

After Delhi gang rape case every Indian wants a solution and demand strongest step against culprits. Now It’s not about a one case or two. It’s about “how to curb India`s rape culture” because on the one side people are asking for justice everywhere in a country for the victims but sadly at a very same time these crimes take places on the other part of country.

Now every one asking following questions :
How to curb rape cases?

How to decrease the incidents of Eve Teasing?
How to create safe public spaces, where women and girls can move freely?

Here we are sharing few suggestions that can play a key role to use and access public spaces and services fearlessly for girls, women and every Common Indians.

In era of 3G, we are capable to decrease physical abuse and criminal activities in public spaces of metropolitan cities with the help of latest technology. Most of the time culprit thinks that “Nobody can catch me and I will never be identifying for my heinous crime”. But that’s not true, it is actually possible to identify these culprits and decrease the number of crimes that take place in our country. For all that we need to set up CCTV Surveillance Network in our city as use in London.
Mumbai, July 6, 2012: Mumbai police on
Friday released CCTV footage of a man
kidnapping a child in full public view at
Chattrapati Shivaji Station.
In our country, CCTV cameras are already in use in many cities at Bus stand, railway station, road crossing, toll plaza, high security area, etc. In some city CCTV camera also installed in local buses and local trains.But unfortunately, the number of CCTV cameras installed at public place is not enough. 

We know that CCTV Surveillance Network may help us to catch culprits of rape, eve teasing, chain snatching, bag lifting, hit & run cases, kidnapping, murder, terror attacks and many more. 
According to the crime rate we need a CCTV Surveillance Network with large number of CCTV camera as used in UK. We need a Centralize Control Center that helps us to control criminal activities in real time.
(CCTV + High Tech Control Center + Help line Number + Active Police) = Safe City
To know how successful CCTV Surveillance Network just type “CCTV Network in London” or “CCTV surveillance network in UK” on any popular search engine site. You will find an eye opener statics that describe the success story of CCTV Network.
If we follow CCTV Surveillance system as used in London, then with the help of centralize control room, CCTV Surveillance Network can be used very dynamically not only for decrease crime rate even it helps us to controlling traffic to prevent traffic Jam and plays an important role to send aid for road accident injured in minimum time.
After 26/11 Mumbai Incident, Honorable Home minister R R Patil with high-profile delegation visited London on September, 2011 for three days to study the city’s integrated intelligence and CCTV surveillance network. And then an ambitious plan created to install a network of 5,000 CCTV cameras in Mumbai. To read more please click following link :
After much delay in executing the ambitious project, the Maharashtra government on 26 September, 2012 invited fresh tenders for the Rs 864-crore cover plan for Mumbai. To read more please click following links :
Unfortunately red tapism and careless nature become a main cause of delaying cover plan for Mumbai with CCTV.
In last few years various state government spent lots of money on parks, museums and many other city decoration plans but unfortunately they don’t take seriously an ambitious plan “To cover metropolitan cities with CCTV surveillance network”.
At this point of time when every single human is asking for justice for the 23 year old victim the Government of India seriously thinks about various options to take the strongest step against rapists and working hard to decrease rape cases.
We request to Government of India please take necessary steps to cover every nook and corner of all metropolitan cities with CCTV surveillance network and pass a sufficient budget for CCTV surveillance in next budget 2013.
We also appeal to all Indians , police, social workers please demand to state government an action plan for covering metropolitan cities with CCTV surveillance network. 
(CCTV + High Tech Control Center + Help line Number + Active Police) = Safe City 
It may be possible that due to lack of sufficient budget some state government will show their inability to establish CCTV surveillance network in every metropolitan city because it is very expensive to follow the city’s integrated intelligence and CCTV surveillance network of London. Only in London there are more than 4 lac CCTV cameras. 
We have few suggestions to fight insufficient budget problem.
First Suggestion:
As we all know that Metro train project is also an ambitious and very expensive. To create a metro train track in all over Delhi city this project has been divided into various stages. In the last decade, the number of metro tracks has been increased after completing various stages and shows its success story.
Another example of Cable TV Digitization in all over India project has also been divided in various stages. In first phase of cable TV digitization done in only in 4 metro city and now second phase is about to start in various cities. 
Covering all metropolitan cities with CCTV surveillance network project also can be divided in various stages. For example:
1. Cover all road crossing
2. Cover all public places (govt. office, bus stop, taxi & auto stand, school/college/institute gate, mall, park, etc.)
3. Cover all public transport (bus, train, taxi, cab, auto, etc.)
4. Cover all colony main gate, gali and mahola
5. Finally cover every nook and corner of city  
Second Suggestion:
We know that government of India to running various education schemes charge Education cess at 2% and Secondary and higher education cess at 1% on income-tax, service tax, etc.
To cover all metropolitan cities with CCTV surveillance network within a record time government of India think to charge a security tax (cess) for a limited period only in metropolitan cities. 
Third Suggestion: 
Joint Venture of Government of India and Common Indian
Add a fix charge in an electricity bill for a limited period only in metropolitan cities. For example:
      0 – 50   electricity unit Nell
     50-100   electricity units Rs. 10   per month
   100-150   electricity units Rs. 15   per month
   150-200   electricity units Rs. 20   per month
   200-500   electricity units Rs. 50   per month
  500-1000  electricity units Rs. 80   per month
1000-1500  electricity units Rs. 100 per month
1500- 2000 electricity units Rs. 150 per month
And above Rs. 250 per month
Now it depends on us how we create safe public spaces, where women can move freely and use and access public spaces and services fearlessly.
At the end we want to share question of “A Wednesday” movie in different word:
“Ye Guwahati me, Delhi me, bus me, train me, ye sabi rape ke case nahi hai, ye ek Bahot Bada sawal hai aur wo sawal ye hai ki bhai hum to yunhi rape or eve teasing karte rahenge tum kya kar loge. Yes they asked this question.”
Now the time has come to answer them…

Guest post by Monica Sarkar, freelance journalist:

‘Eve teasing’. It’s such a cute, endearing term, isn’t it? Almost sounds like a child’s game, like ‘Hyde and Seek’ or ‘Kiss Chase’.

Well, it’s not. It’s a sugar-coated expression commonly used in India for the sexual harassment of women; invading their personal space as they walk down the street; and heckling, amongst other less pleasing but truthful terms.

Since the horrific Delhi gang-rape and murder of a 23-year old woman, many Indian women have come forward with their stories of the perils of being a woman in India. As a British-born Indian woman who has visited India many times, I can also share the same tales.

Men aggressively – or subtly – brushing past me or following me, even though I was in the company of elders. I was once getting off the metro in Kolkata in broad daylight and a crowd of men who were stood either side of the train doors suddenly moved in front so I would be forced to barge past them as I disembarked the train.

During New Year’s Eve in Goa a few years ago, similar occurrences happened whilst I was in the company of male and female friends in a crowded area of the North. It got so bad that I threateningly raised a water bottle to hit anyone who dared to come close, under the blind eyes of patrolling police officers. That’s the worst thing – not really knowing who you can turn to.

Even during the recent mass protests following the gang-rape attack, the BBC reported that men still tried to grope women in the crowd.

Can we talk?

But where does this frustration come from, to the point where a man will get his kicks from brushing past a strange woman? And why can it transform itself into a monstrous desire to abuse, or even kill?

Walk of life doesn’t matter either, as three politicians – governors of the country – resigned after being caught watching porn on their mobile phones in parliament. One was even a women’s affair minister.

Most importantly, if these men, or people close to them, feel they have a problem, where can they go and who can they talk to in order to solve it? There lies a real problem: Indians don’t talk enough about sex. Having spent extensive amounts of time in Indian society, talking about it is seen as embarrassing, or even dirty.

Even topics such as homosexuality or a physical or mental disability can be seen as shameful and hampering the chances of marriage.

The gang-rape victim’s friend recently revealed the hesitancy of passers-by and even the police to help them as they were left badly injured at the side of the road by the attackers. When asked why Indians do not discuss such issues, he reportedly told Zee News:

“In our society, we try to hide such things. If something bad has happened with us, then we try to hide thinking what will the other person say. Also because our friends and relatives talk behind our back about such incidents, that we try to prevent them from becoming public.”

Shame is on the woman

In fact, sexual assault or rape is commonly seen as humiliating for the victim. Attacks are so common that many Indian media outlets reuse the same images to illustrate stories of such attacks, usually depicted as a “shamed woman”.

In addition to these perceptions, there is a complete lack of trust in India’s justice and policing system to give people the confidence to come forward. In fact, Indians often joke about the carelessness of their police officers. But now is the time to stop laughing and start talking about the issues which are suppressed and subsequently not dealt with.

Official figures show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year in India were against women. It is thought that the real figure is much higher because of the many cases that are left unreported to the police.

India is a country of contrasts indeed. On the one hand, you have the peaceful haven of temples and ashrams and vibrant celebrations. On the other, you have a deeply rooted, dark culture of female oppression that lurks beneath a colourful surface.

However, with the mass outcry and demands for change, India has reacted brilliantly. Let’s not forget other countries in the shadow of this tragedy that have the same problems; I’ve been heckled and received sexual advancements in places like Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and even here in London too.

In India, the message is loud and clear – Indians have had enough. But along with protesting to governors of this country, Indians need to communicate more openly and freely with one another as well, in order to break taboos and cultivate understanding.

Firstly, though, let’s stop using a pretty name like ‘eve-teasing’, shall we? It’s called sexual harassment, or gender violence at its extreme. Let’s be very clear about that.