Death Penalty for the 3 guilty Shakti Mills rape perpetrators

The three perpetrators found guilty in Shakti Mills Rape case were sentenced to death yesterday, April 4th 2014.

Opinions are divided on the verdict, the Facebook pundits growling in joy while most of the feminist organisations are opposing the death penalty.

Flavia Agnes’s excellent article on the regressiveness of the penalty here.

We had this discussion last April in context of Nirbhaya rape and murder case. Even if you don’t read the post do read Kavita Krishnan’s comments. They succinctly summarise why death penalty doesn’t achieve any concrete results in reducing sexual crimes.

And here on the Nirbhaya case verdict which also sentenced perpetrators to death.

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Commission for Women members play BLAME THE WOMAN PART 34924232932323546576O232324U45Y44..

Right.

Yet another idiot who takes victim blaming to another level.

Yet another idiot who has nerve to ask, “Why should Nirbhaya go for a late night movie show at 11 pm? Why should a photo journalist in Mumbai go to an isolated place like Shakti Mills at 6 pm? Girls should always remain alert.”

Yet another sexist jerk who preaches “Girls should be very careful about what they wear and at what time they move out in city. Their body language should not invite attention of the potential rapists lurking around in the streets.”

The said jerk is a doctor. Sigh.
A gynaecologist. Deep breath.
A member of Maharashtra Commission for Women. Epic scream.

Why the fuck would Dr. Mirge be on this commission in the first place? What does she hope to do there? Teach an advance course in ‘dress code and good manners for good girls’?

All she knew was that until his arrest, he came home for dinner every night, “He was to me like any husband is to his wife,” she said.

IHM’s post today, a must read:

All she knew was that until his arrest, he came home for dinner every night, “He was to me like any husband is to his wife,” she said..

via All she knew was that until his arrest, he came home for dinner every night, “He was to me like any husband is to his wife,” she said..

Delhi Gangrape case perpetrators sentenced to death..

The four men who raped and killed the 23 yr. old student in Delhi, in a highly publicized December 2012 case have been sentenced to death. I have no doubt you have already heard about it, from news channels, to FB statuses to neighbourhood kattas. From elected political leaders, to common Indian people, the news is like a poetic justice to the horror inflicted on a common Indian, whose only crime was to be a woman.

I am not sure death sentence is the answer though. It is a great closure to the mass angst, but in reality, death penalty does not ‘deter’,or ‘put the fear of law’ in the minds of potential criminals .

Very often the popular sentiment of ‘revenge’ against the injustice sates the mass anger with a symbolic, flagship gesture.

To quote Kavita Krishnan from this article, “The real problem we face in sexual assault cases is the abysmal rate of conviction.” The figures are depressing to say the least. Out of almost 1.3 lacs of trials, a shocking 1.1 lac cases are still pending according to the National Crime Record Beureu.

And what about the fact that most rapes are committed by people known to the victim? The media coverage and popular reactions in the recent months has given rise to the myth that rapes are committed in dark places, at odd hours, by strangers ONLY. This could lead to restricting women’s participation in public places, not to mention reinforcing a very limited view of reality.

While we are celebrating death penalty, what about demanding change in laws that refuse to legislate marital rape because it will harm the ‘institution of marriage’? We are talking about changes that were demanded and rejected in 2012!! What about sexual harassment at workplace? What about the fact that 3 Dalit women are raped every day and the judiciary is unwilling to treat it as as a violation of SC/ST PoA Act? Are we saying that some rapes deserve highest punishment while others are ok?

The popular sentiment is no doubt guided by an outrage and a genuine sympathy for the woman who lost her life because she was a woman. No doubt this case has been the most powerful catalyst in recent times as far as mass opinion about sexual violence in India is concerned. No doubt the perpetrators deserve punishment. No doubt we, as a society and as a law and order system need to put women’s safety in top priority list.

But I am not sure if the euphoria from the death penalty is the answer. It definitely shouldn’t serve as a collective ‘revenge’ that will sate the mass anger, while millions of women go on suffering violence that is not ‘recognized’ by their country.

Women’s safety and Media 2

So, what can a woman do to be safe? Correction: what can an Indian woman do to be safe?

I mean, come one, nobody wants to be molested and killed and harassed and injured just like that. Not even Dawood Ibrahim. Not even fans of S&M.

But for women, it is not so easy. Safety of ‘just being’ is a precious precious commodity, you see. You could get unsafe if you just sneeze or have an upset stomach or read Dostoyevsky or do cartwheels. I don’t know. I have stopped counting reasons why one could get raped. Eating Panipuri after 8 pm? Saying you hate Chennai Express? Having diabetes? In India rape could happen for any ‘reason’ and it won’t surprise me.

Wow, how I thank my luck for not being raped. Ever. I mean WOW IN CAPITAL LETTERS. I am so lucky to have escaped with 20 years of just regular street harassment, a glass ceiling, a few dangerous encounters. I am so lucky to be allowed to be born, to be educated, not to be raped in marriage, not to be abused by people known to me, not to be raped by strangers, not to be physically harmed for being a woman, not to be killed brutally.

I am lucky.

So, from this very privileged position , I can’t help but rejoice that last night all the five accused for the gangrape of Mumbai photo journalists have been taken into custody.

This is great news. Law and order of the country taking women’s safety seriously and acting on it and being responsible for it- is an essential human right. Kudos to Mumbai Police for swift action and hoping for a quick resolution to the case.

Media of course, does play a big role in pressurizing the authorities. Media has played a crucial role on taking up issue of women’s safety, sexual harassment, sexual violence with a gusto since mass media came into picture.

In recent times, in mainstream media- we have seen an upsurge of coverage about crimes against women since the Nirbhaya case. This is not to say that there was no media stories before, but the scale and the lack of rape apologism ( i.e, highlighting facts about victim’s behaviour and suggesting that the rape happened because victim didn’t behave like a good girl) is fairly recent.

And it has shown results. Be it relentless investigative stories about unreported violence, follow ups on pending cases, eloquent condemning of rape apologists, uncovering apathy of police and judiciary, social media campaigns, highlighting stories of women survivors and articles covering serious aspects of gender inequality have gained prominence in recent times in mainstream media .

Which of course is what the role of media is. If media , the fourth column doesn’t care about justice and truth and right to information, then who will?

But looking at the Indian society, which rushes to lock its women rather than men at even a hint of danger, I wonder if this coverage would also have a side effect. That of making women/ their families more scared and ultimately, restricting their presence in public places.

This point was raised by theconjecturegirl commenting on my earlier post : women’s safety and media.
To quote theconjecturegirl:
“I have a problem with the over-emphasis on “women not safe in Delhi/Mumbai/India”. It seems to have driven many women away from the public space, in fear for their personal safety. In general, there is the “let’s be safe than sorry. The city isn’t too safe these days” – as if it was very safe before.”

I sort of agree with her after the reactions one reads/ hears, to so many high-profile cases highlighted in media. Since majority of coverage focuses on violence in public places, as theconjecturegirl rightly points our,’ I feel sad when I get told “are you mad? why do u want to risk your life for a late-night dinner?” and when they look at every car passing by with a fear that it might just sweep them off their feet to be gang-raped. ‘

Would the parents of young girls impose stricter curfews and working women of all classes would be nervous of odd hours? ‘If a journalist is raped, then what chance would less empowered women have?’

As it is, women have to start their struggle to gain freedom of movement right at home. Indian families raise daughters in ‘avoid it if you can’ school of thought. It is always women who are censored : be it their activities, dressing, profession, body language. It directly leads to women being fearful of asserting themselves in any sphere. Now, does this coverage end up enhancing this fear and reluctance?

While this might be a very valid point and a possible side effect, I do believe that people would continue to censor women no matter what. To give an example, so many people said that if Nirbhaya, the woman in Delhi Gang Rape had been submissive, she wouldn’t have lost her life. One doesn’t have to be an Asaram Bapu to see the common-sense argument in this logic.

If I curl on my bed in a high security tower in Amazonian jungle with a drip of nutritious food sustaining me , I will not get raped. But the fact of the matter is, I and millions of women don’t live/ don’t want to live/ shouldn’t have to live in that tower just so that they are safe, no?

This common sense argument doesn’t address marital rape, rape of children, rape of dalit women in rural areas and hundreds of crimes where the victim had no chance to protest. What about the fact that most rapes are perpetrated by people known to victim?

So, to some extent I do agree with theconjecturegirl that this kind of coverage which she calls sensational, might lead to further driving women from public places. Because it focuses so much on violence committed by strangers who belong to lower economic strata, in public places, in dark hours; it may reinforce the myths about rape.

So maybe, what media needs to highlight is the reality of sexual/ gender related violence permeating every corner of our society. Be it child abuse, marital rape, rape by people known to victim, rape of poor/ lower caste women by people who are in authority, rape of sex workers, rape of women by men in diverse economic strata. These also need to be highlighted in equal measure.

What do you think?

RoseChasm , gender and race

An American student RoseChasm has written about her ordeal of living in India. The sexual harassment and threat she faced resulted in PTSD.

The response from people, Indians/ non-Indians has been unanimous on the fact that women do face sexual harassment in India at a mass scale. It is a well documented fact that India is in the top unsafe countries for women.

The debate or controversy is largely focused on the fact that Rosechasm’s statements could be perceived as racist, sweeping the entire nation with a colonial distrust of ‘coloured people from poor country’.

The issues of race, class and colonialism are intersecting with issue of gender here.

I read her article. I have been reading the diverse response it generated and here are my thoughts.

1. I do not think she is generalising about the entire country,India. It would be impossible to, considering the diversity of cultures, geographies, religions, classes in India. A Gangtok is as different from a Chennai as Paris is from Vatican. Virtually every tourist guide aimed at foreign tourists emphasizes the fact in introductory chapters.

2. I cringed at the references of spicy food and dancing on street and beautiful sarees in her account. While one can look at it as a harmless universal touristic obsession when in foreign land , there is a long colonial history of whites ‘exotisizing’ India, that makes me uncomfortable to see experiences reduced to fluffy stereotypes. These kind of references smack on touristy condensation.

3. I do think mainstream Indian media criminally under-represents harassment of lower-class, lower caste, non-urban women. PERIOD.And it needs to be corrected. ASAP. However, that doesn’t mean any account of privileged women being harassed is to be rubbished as ‘less pertinent’. The harassment differs, but Indian women are united by atrocious sexism inflicted on them no matter what class, caste, location, education.

4. An extension of the point above is white privilege. I do agree that Rosechasm’s account is getting this level of attention because she is white and she is from United States. Would an account of, say a Korean woman or a white woman from Ukraine generated this heat? No way . There is a long history of colonial stereotype of ‘dark skinned predatory male sexually threatening white woman from civilized nations’. It requires another post in itself. This stereotype is at play to make this experience resonate in white world. The colonial hangover of perceiving white experiences as somewhat more important, rational and universal does contribute to educated , upwardly mobile Indian people bristling with indignation, which would have been lesser had she been an African or from a non-western country.

5. General prejudice Indians ( of all classes) have about white people, specifically white women , is that they are sexually loose and more adventurous than Indian women. There is no doubt that white women are targeted in public as sexual objects. The fact that Indian women also are objectified, should not make Rosechasm’s experience less important. Media does highlight rapes and harassment of white women more than say, a dalit woman in a village. But again, does that take away validity of a white woman’s experience? No.

6. I do not think how ‘women are harassed everywhere in the world and not just India’, is a pertinent issue here. Yes, sexual harassment happens everywhere and travelling women are vulnerable. But that doesn’t excuse the plight of women travellers in India.

As a very enthusiastic woman traveller who doesn’t shy away from new experiences in new places when travelling solo, I have had my share of harassment. From Europe, to Asia to America. Whether I was a budget backpacker or a in more comfortable setting, there have been scary moments. All around the world. But certain pockets of India have been scarier than any country I have travelled to ( and not just rich countries, mind you), that is a fact. I would be far more careful and watchful when travelling alone in these pockets ( not generalizing the entire country here).

I feel deeply ashamed that I feel more unsafe in my own country. I feel deeply ashamed that millions of women from my own country lack resources available to me that would make them slightly less unsafe. I feel deeply ashamed that if any woman – Indian or non-Indian asks me tips on travelling/ living in India, I need to caution them about one million things.

I feel deeply ashamed for thousands of small tiny things I have internalized while living in this sexist society. It DOES NOT TAKE a white woman’s account which is trending across the world to make me and millions of Indian women feel like that. It is a sad reality that needs to be combated at every level from within. Before we worry about what the world thinks of us, let us think about what the oppressed half of Indian people ( also known as Indian women) are thinking.

2 finger test for rape victims abolished

2 fingers: Thumbs up SC, Up yours Sexist government!!

Yesterday I read in the papers that the Supreme Court has held that the  2 finger test for rape victims violates the victim’s privacy and that the government should provide the victims with better medical alternatives.

High fucking time !!!

We know that the test was intrusive and degrading, especially to a woman who has just been raped.

Great job SC , for moving the justice system one more step closer to 21st century.

What I didn’t know was that this so-called test is done to check if the woman’s hymen is injured post rape. The presumption being, if she is ‘violated’ then her hymen would be injured.

Doesn’t it remind you of virginity tests? Like if the bride is a virgin.. the white sheet would stain on her wedding night… that one?? That highly scientific test of checking that the product is not second-hand.

So basically our government was doing their version of virginity or ‘good woman’ testing. This ridiculous test with its antiquated sexist presumption can be used for the classic victim blaming in court. ‘She was used to sex. ‘ Also known as ‘ she deserved to be raped’.

And it assumed rape has to be only with penetration. All other forms of rape are automatically ruled out.

Human Rights Watch published a report in 2010 called ‘Dignity on Trial: India’s Need for Sound Standards   for Conducting and Interpreting Forensic Examination of Rape Survivors’,   clearly stating this test had no forensic value. This article sums it up very well.

So good riddance!!!