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’?

Nope, not done…

A quick note here. I wrote about an Additional Sessions judge’s comments on how pre-marital sex is immoral. Bhagwad‘s very apt comment has prompted me to write a post script to it.

Basically, the situation in which the judge made these comments goes like this. A woman accused her ex boyfriend of promising marriage before having consensual sex with her. She alleged rape because in Indian Penal Code (IPC), sexual intercourse with a woman after obtaining her consent on the false promise of marriage amounts to rape. After checking the email exchange, the judge didn’t find enough evidence that she was indeed misled and thus acquitted the man of rape charges.

But had the law found evidence of marriage promises, the man would have been guilty of having committed rape.

First and foremost, don’t you find this law archaic and extremely sexist?

It assumes that women have no agency/ interest in sex unless marriage is on board.

It assumes women are wronged if consensual sex doesn’t result into marriage, modesty and honour and all.

Do we need to enter in civil union with anyone we have sex with?

Will a woman be forced to marry the man she has sex with?

More so, how can it be called rape if the sex is consensual?

Is it either rape or marriage, with nothing in between?

I understand what a terrible blow it would be to a woman in our society, which puts a woman’s sexual purity above her individuality. But the same logic has been used to force women to marry their rapists in our venerable culture.

So, no. Civil union can not be linked to sexual activity that is consensual. Women’s violated honour can not be used as a double-edged sword.

If it is not consensual, prosecute the hell out of the guilty party. But until it was consensual, women ought to be considered adult citizens by law. And by women themselves.

Tarun Tejpal and games powerful men play

Tarun Tejpal sexual assault case is yet another example of how sexual crimes are about power, and not sex.

And how the men in power think molesting their employees is another word for ‘flirting and sexual liaisons.’

In media, Tejpal is not alone as a powerful man, whose power is flanked by ‘flirtatiousness.’ When it is a powerful man who likes to ‘flirt’ with young women employees and can get away with these’liasons’, he is universally admired. Irrespective of his character and his position of power, it is usually the women who are sniggered at, as wanting to get ahead using their looks. The powerful man is entitled to liase, but a young woman ought to behave, if she doesn’t want to be accused of winning promotions on her back. Note that almost always, these men liase with their junior employees. It is very rare that their ‘affairs’ extend to those women who are their equal or higher up.

Most of the times, when you call the man what he is, i.e., abusing his power, you are told by your peers to be liberal and respect the different lifestyle. You are called a prude. You are told that women like powerful men if they are charishmatic and charming and wooing. They are not rapists afterall, they are just ‘natural’ extensions of women’s desire to be protected and pampered by powerful men. Evolutionary biology and all that shit.

When powerful men start waving their dicks in workplace, there is almost always an imbalance of power. Even when they do not molest, the ‘liasons’ are always about power. As one of the news stories went on to ask how Tejpal, a charishmatic man, was foolish enough to molest a woman, when so far he had gotten what he wanted by non-criminal ways? By reciting poetry verses and speeches on gender injustice, I am assuming?

The imbalance of power is not ‘flirting’ or ‘romantic relationships’. It is harassment, naturalised and clad as a harmless charm. I am not saying that all women are just helpless victims here. Some women might look at the situation as a necessary evil of working for a horny bastard without morals. But the system largely favours older, powerful men to initiate sexual contact and younger women to fall in line, albeit for professional favours that might be forthcoming as a result.

Smarter companies recognize this and that is why employees are not allowed to be in any kind of sexual relationship with their juniors, even when it is mutual. That is why smart companies also have a strict code of conduct. Because when there is no balance of power, there can be very little choice.

Several women resign, change jobs, change department or tolerate the situation, if their boss is ‘flirtatious’. Women who stay and fight, usually have it hard because flirting is tough to prove and difficult to accuse of. Women who respond are accused of being ambitious bitches with no morals.

When the boss starts flirting in workplace, it is always women who are required to make the choice. And this choice has virtually nothing to do with their skill-sets. When it is just the women who face the choice, it is decrimination, pure and simple. And any company who doesn’t address it, is violating the law.I was mildly shocked at the response of Tehelka management and Tejpal’s arrogant stance post the assault. Not because Tehelka is some citadel of justice, but simply because this case was a glaring example of harassment and sexual crime, and they chose to shush it as ‘internal matter’ and ‘misunderstanding’. Tehelka has plenty of skeletons in their closet, but they have been one of the few newsgroups vocal about sexual crimes and gender inequality. It is not tragic that a pathetic man on power trip decided to amuse himself by raping an employee. It is tragic though that he felt he could get away with it with his management.

Alex- award winning sexist crap

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre


So I read Alex– by Pietre Lemaitre. It won this year’s CWA’s international dagger along with Fred Vargas’s Ghost-Riders of Ordebec. I have read crime fiction from France now and then. It has never turned me on enough to actively dive in it. I liked Vargas, but not enough to trigger me to actively hunt for and buy buy buy all that is available, like my long time love affair with the Scandinavians.

For some time now, I have been reading about how the interest in Scandinavian crime fiction is on a low tide in UK ( their loss, I say!!). And how it is the French who are going to make Scandinavians look like staid uncles and aunties of murderland.

If so, by awarding Alex, CWA has made some seriously wrong statement. The novel can’t compete even with the likes of James Patterson, forget the immortal and hellish talents of even the most mediocre of Scandinavians.

OK, I exaggerate. Alex is better than James Patterson. Which is hardly a compliment.

Now everything I say about Alex is going to be a spoiler since this is the nature of the novel. Maybe that is why the committee liked the book? I can imagine the members stating ‘I can’t comment on this and that because it will spoil the twist’, and the book gaining phantom like proportions of mysterious silence covering it, till you have to have to have to read it.

Whatever. The only pleasure I got by the end of it was that it cost only 150 rs. I am quite footloose with money when it comes to books, but when I have read a TRULY crappy book that costs little, it actually cheers me up.

Time wasted is deeply regretted though.

First things first, it is so so so sexist in a tired out conventional manner that for the first few pages I thought it is some sort of sarcastic commentary on the nature of sexism itself. No, it is just tired out conventional sexist crap all over. Raped girl killing men: check. Raped girl’s beauty described more than her motivation: check. Raped girl being all mysterious: check. Raped girl tortured by older man with vague sexual overtones: check. Raped girl cherishing small girlhood that she lost at the hands of an abusive family: check check check. To make it even titillating, author makes the brother loan the girl to several friends. And makes him pour acid on her vagina for a good measure. For all of us to feel sorry in this beautiful young girl’s ultimate disfigurement. If I was not so angry at the sexism, I would be howling in laughter at the sheer exaggeration of it all.

You might as well watch movies like Jakhmi Aurat. Or ‘I spit on your grave’.
This type of famme fatale genre self-consciously states, ‘If thou are a woman who kills, thou should be stunningly beautiful and have suffered either the loss of your child or been raped. Thou can have no other reason for being interesting. Unless you are Scandanavian

Gratutious descriptions of wounds, underwear, body parts, beauty achieve a new sexist height here, like a bad slasher movie where camera lingers over the breasts of the woman while she is being killed. Towards the end, every injustice that has a potential to titiliate, has been heaped on Alex. As far as characterization goes, her character is so so so so insultingly flat. Why she kills even good men is never explained as it would spoil the convenient ‘beauty killing beasts’ theme of the book. The small girl motif is laughably predictable. Characters of men she kills are singular caricatures of bad men doing bad things to small girls.

I am so so tired of women made interesting in crime fiction only because they have vaginas: either to be raped or to give birth. Unless they are Scandanavian.

Apart from the crude sexism, the twists are also extremely self-conscious. I admit I sat up straight at the first one, but soon it became clear that this is all there is. This twist. Before and after the twist are tired cliches that the twist doesnt challege or threaten, as good twists are supposed to do.

And then there are more b grade versions of the same till the end. I imagine the writer wrote them first, smirking to himself, and filled the pages later, not forgetting even for a second how clever he was to have thought of the twists. They are not only sad excuses for plot and narrative, they are also totally silly towards the end. I was laughing by the end of the book at the very obvious smugness reeking from the pages.

The characters of the cops are sort of interesting, the language is sort of interesting. And this is perhaps the most redeeming feature, Camille, the cop in charge of the investigation is a genuinely interesting character. That’s it. That is all I can say to make the review sound not too tilting towards the conclusion of ‘burn this book right now’.

There. I am not going to generalize about an entire country’s crime fiction output by one crap book which won the year’s most prestigious prize for the genre, somehow, god knows how. Maybe there are awesome writers there and maybe this award means more translations, more diversity. Which is great and one must be open and all.

But till I fall headlong in another new country/ language/ genre, intensely enough to consume majority of my money and my time, I am sticking with the nordic bloodlust.

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?