Archive for May 26, 2014

Modi-fied intellectuals of the great Indian soil

Hindu- right- India

By Laltu

I am feeling disturbed by an article titled ‘How Modi defeated liberals like me’ by Prof Shiv Visvanathan, published in ‘The Hindu’. I have jotted down a few thoughts in response to his article. I will often refer to the author as Shiv with apologies to those who mind it.

Shiv is a prominent personality of our times. I am aware that I do not have the scholarship in social sciences that he possesses. I am trying to articulate some serious problems I find in his article.

The article begins with a reference to the pooja performed by Narendra Modi at the Kashi Viswanath temple followed by an aarti performed along the Ganga river. Shiv observes, ‘As the event was relayed on TV, people messaged requesting that the event be shown in full, without commentary. Others claimed that this was the first time such a ritual was shown openly.’ It is quite true that it was the first time Modi’s performance at the Ganga was shown openly. But does anyone seriously think that such rituals are not shown openly on public media in this country?

Leaders performing religious rituals in public is not even a matter of debate. From Rajendra Prasad’s pujas to Sonia Gandhi’s visits to religious places, it is a common knowledge that religion, whether for private or public use, is an overwhelming presence in the lives of political personalities in India

Why is it that Prof Visvanathan makes such an issue of it then? One gets a glimpse of the possible reasons in the next sentence claiming that with Mr. Modi around, the message claimed “We don’t need to be ashamed of our religion. This could not have happened earlier.”

Who is ashamed of which religion? Was Modi merely practising a religious ritual? If so, a good question to ask is how many times before that day did he come to the Dashashwamedh ghat to do this act; after all, he is 63+ years old, a person with a lot of power and easy mobility, certainly it would have occurred to him some time earlier too that there is a necessary act to be performed according to his religion.

No, it was not a religious act. One could argue that every religious act is a political act. In this case it was a purely political act devoid of any religiosity. The message was not what Prof Visvanathan reads, the message is, “Behold, the Hindu dictator cometh.” The word ‘Hindu’ here is not a religious term (to begin with there is no religion called the Hindu religion).

Ironically, in another article published in The Hindu a little more than a month ago, Shiv had written, ‘Varanasi breaks the Bharat-India, Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce.’ Read that again, ‘ the Bharat-India, Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’. After Modi winning, he is saying ‘We don’t need to be ashamed of our religion’. Interesting.

In the second para, the article hits the Bull’s eye in quoting a friend, “You English speaking secularists have been utterly coercive, making the majority feel ashamed of what was natural.” That there is something pathological in the Englishwallahs in this country is felt by many of us. I pointed out a few aspects of this in a recent article titled ‘फासीवादी उभार का भाषाई पहलू‘ published in Jansatta. In a poem titled ‘टोनी मॉरिसन इंग्लिशवालों के खिलाफ लिखती है’, published in the literary journal ‘बनास जन’, I expressed the irony differently. While the scholarship in my opinions does not even come close to that of the author I am reacting to, nonetheless I, another desi bugger around, have my take on it. The ‘natural’ as understood by Prof Visvanathan is very different from how I understand it.

Then Shiv moves on to describe the paranoia of leftists about ‘ positing a period of McCarthyism in India’. He may be quite right if we remind ourselves that only 31% of the voters have given BJP ‘the majority’. This is not like an entire Nation has succumbed to authoritarianism. Not even a third of it.

Given that not everyone comes to vote, perhaps not even a fifth of it. Indeed there is no need to be paranoid. But are we not aware of what happened when the last time BJP was in power with even less support than today? Is it unfair that some of us are getting paranoid remembering how the books were rewritten? Today we are ‘some Leftists’, what were we before Modi won, when we shared with Shiv the fear from ‘the Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’? An interesting chapter in the NCERT History text book is written by my friend Prof Anil Sethi, on multiple narratives about partition of India in 1947. It is a widely lauded work – is it wrong to fear that this chapter is likely to be removed because it attempts to show the South Asians across the borders as equal vicitims of the hatred that flared?

As he says, indeed ‘both Right and Left have appealed to the state to determine what was correct history’. Is he suggesting that the books being downloaded are written as the Left’s version of the correct history? Interesting.

His statement ‘With the advent of the Right, there is now a feeling that history will become another revolving door regime where the official and statist masquerade as the truth’, is again right on the Bull’s eye. But then he attempts to give his own explanation of ‘why Left liberals failed to understand this election’ by suggesting that there are anxieties that the middle class suffers from and that is what Mr. Modi understood ‘more acutely than the intellectuals’. Consider this juxtaposed to his 50 days before the victory dictum ‘… Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’. No issues with the words, except that we need to explore the nature of ‘anxieties’.

Shiv seemed to share the understanding of these anxieties with the ‘Left’ earlier. Not now. Today, the Left is a ‘club, snobbish about secularism, treating religion not as a way of life but as a superstition’. This is like going back to debates from 50 years ago – ‘Marx called it the opium of the masses’ versus ‘no, he said it was the agony of the oppressed’. The least I can say is that for the first time I am thoroughly disappointed at such simplistic verbosity from a master that I have held in high esteem for long.

And after this, OMG, he blasts the Left for being the demon ‘that tried to inject the idea of the scientific temper into the constitutions as if it would create immunity against religious fears and superstitions.

Very interestingly, near the end of the article, Shiv calls Dalai Lama his ‘favourite scientist’. Obviously, there is a contradiction. Or perhaps, ‘the scientist’ is one free of the evil called ‘the scientific temper’ which in his words, overemphasises secularism, creates ‘an empty domain, a coercive milieu where ordinary people practising religion were seen as lesser orders of being’. It will be childish to claim that the idea of science does not come with a package of value judgments and power relations, but the suggestion that science creates that domain and the coercion referred to by Shiv, more than other social institutions like the stratifications based on caste, gender, etc., which are intricately related to and are reinforced by the institution of religion, is again very disappointing.

Then Shiv continues his tirade against secularism, a word lost in the quagmire of the intellectual khichdi of the great Indian soil. It is an ‘invidious weapon’. Shiv tells us ‘The regime used to placate minorities electorally, violating the majoritarian sense of fairness’. Pray, what are the placations? Oh yes, there is the old Shah Bano case, then we have the personal law, article 370 for Kashmiris, but presumably those are not the issues that Shiv is pointing out (though, these are the ones that Sangh parivar wants its supporters to be angry about), he is talking about the electoral placations.

Now, even Shiv would agree that much of the Hindutva thought has to do with Brahmanical hegemony, to quote a ‘Left’ idiom, and if so what about the caste based reservations violating the sense of fairness of – no, not a majority, but a dominant minority!

Electoral politics compels candidates to seek support by hook or by crook. There is a large scale corruption in the whole process. Money, liquor, drugs, violence, everything goes. Then there is casteism and communalism. The question is what are the bottomlines that must not be crossed. The Sangh ideology has successfully penetrated large sections of OBCs and Dalits, specially in North India, with what – by giving them a false majoritarian identity and then instilling in them the anger against the violation of their sense of fairness about relations between the so-called religious communities, the Hindus and the Muslims. Pray, is it wrong to care for the minorities?

What are the principles in this regard in our great tradition, some features of which Shiv elaborates in his article? If it is not wrong to worry about minorities, and keeping in mind facts on the miserable condition of minorities as detailed for instance, by the Sachhar committee, then why is a great scholar so perturbed that some parties claim to be caring for the minorities? Interesting. In any case, is it not irresponsible to add to the rant of electoral placations without mentioning the details?

Instead of contributing to false notions like minorities are given undue privileges, we should be concerned that the minorities in this country are insecure and it is what makes them vulnerable to exploitation, electorally or otherwise. We should be concerned that the minorities still live with a low quality of life and poor educational standards and the progressive voices from within them have no power.

Shiv’s interpretation that ‘The majority felt coerced by secular correctness which they saw either as empty or meaningless’ is one way of looking at it. The other is that the existential angst that continued suffering from poverty and exploitation causes in any human being, makes most of us vulnerable to the idea of a modern Nation-state linked with a majoritarian way of life that necessarily looks for an enemy within, Jews in Germany, Hindus in Bangaldesh or Pakistan and Muslims in India.

It is this insecurity that Modi and the Sangh were able to consolidate. It has nothing to do with ‘the cosmic way religion impregnated the everydayness of their lives’.

No, the majority has no such fear of coercion by the ‘secular correctness’, they are hardly even touched by it. On the contrary, the basic human urge of love and altruism is constantly challenged by the bigotry all around cultivated by the Sangh Parivar and their cohorts

Then Shiv gets back to what his scholarship is known for – the rediscovery of our religions and our sciences. But is it sufficient to say that ‘ Indian religions were perpetually dialogic’ forgetting that in practice, they also reinforced with brutality the institutions that dehumanised large sections of society? While there are many good things about the dialogue of medical systems in our tradition, can we forget why the ‘Guptasharmas’ had to be ‘gupta’ (secret)? Indeed we are not like some of the European countries, where religion is just a small part of one’s life, but that does not mean that the religion that we live with is all spiritual and uplifting.

Any one waking up in the morning anywhere in India can see this, and hear this, from the loud blast, by the poor quality audio loudspeakers installed on varieties of places of worship, that destroys the morning serenity.

It can be safely asserted that religion has mostly an oppressive presence in our lives, specially in the lives of the marginalised. That the ‘Left’ in this country has hardly been a champion of the separation of church and state is well-known; any one can dig up the numerous news items on CPIM ministers inaugurating Puja mandaps in West Bengal. What are we talking about? The bogey of ‘Left’ that exists only in the rhetoric of academic campuses? My God, from Shiv’s article, one would think that we just got rid of the Stalin era from India!

Shiv’s emphasis on ‘ Christianity that was continuously at odds with science’ is presumably meant to remind us that secularism is a western idea. True, but is the idea of a modern Nation-state identified with Hindutva an Indian idea? Was Hitler, the source of inspiration for the Sanghis, an Indian?

It is true that some of us find it difficult to accept that practising scientists often mix their religious beliefs with there professional life activities. But to suggest that this has any impact on the larger societal dynamics is absurd. To start with, there are hardly any atheists among Indian scientists and by and large all scientific bodies are extremely conservative. Go to any National conference and see how much time the scientists spend talking about Modi and the Gujarat development.

I thought I write poetry, but I do not understand what Shiv means by ‘There is a sense of snobbery and poetry’! And the illiteracy he mentions that ‘religion, especially Christianity shaped the cosmologies of science’ is not quite fitting. More than anyone else, he knows that the prevalence of flow of knowledge, that eventually became science, across cultures, was quite common and much wider in the last two millennia than the extent scholars believed it to be in the last century.

Besides, if he is insisting on minding the distinction between Christianity and our religions, which anyway were not much different form pagan religions elsewhere in the world, then why should we worry about Indian scientists’ being unaware of how Christianity shaped the cosmologies of science!

Shiv’s attempt to portray secularism as the demon that the poor middle-classes were waiting to be overthrown, is utter nonsense. What kind of lie is this that ‘ The activism of Hindutva groups was treated as sinister but the fundamentalism of other religions was often treated as benign and as a minoritarian privilege.’? The words speak of a sinister design.

The fact is that there is a Narendra Modi in each of us. There is a communal orientation of our minds, that is vulnerable to exploitation

Modi and the Sanghis were able to consolidate this with most of the 31% of voters – the rest of the work was done by the ten thousand crores of capital poured in to buy the media. With as overwhelming a majority in population, that the political entity called ‘Hindu’ has in India, it is only natural that Hindutva will be more noticed here, just like the fundamentalism in Islam is more noticed by liberals in Pakistan and Bangldesh or Iran.

It is very interesting that Shiv refers to the incidents of Ganesha statues drinking milk. I was at that time the convener of a science forum in Chandigarh. Responding to a lot of pressure from friends, I sent a letter to the press (it was published as a letter to the editor in ‘The Tribune’). It had three itemised statements. I pointed out that the idea of a religious idol drinking milk is in not a subject of scientific investigation. For whatever we do following a scientific method will not be acceptable in the domain of faith. We requested those indulging in feeding milk to Lord Ganesha that they should try not to waste milk and remember that their faith will be noticed even if they use a spoon of milk with some water. We asked people to be concerned about children and patients in hospitals who need milk. Notice how different it was from the cynic reaction that Shiv points out in his article. Here I am, a believer in science and secularism. Interesting.

It is sad that today intellectuals like Shiv are equating opposing Modi with science and modernity. In a way, they are doing a great service to science. After all, much of what Modi used to say before 2002 will not be erased. His reference to Muslims inevitably used to be in derogatory and often threatening terms – ‘Ham paanch hamaare pachees’ was a rant we do not forget. After he became the chief minister, he was careful, but not without a loose end every once in a while. There is enough evidence available, that surely Shiv cannot be oblivious of. If science gives us the courage to resist such bigotry, good for us and good for science.

Laltu (Harjinder Singh) is Professor, Center for Computational Natural Science and Bioinformatics, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. He blogs regularly as laltu.blogspot.com

UN’s gay rights music video – an instant hit in India

UN- gay -music -video-India

By Team FI

The United Nations’ new music video on gay rights has become an instant hit in India, despite widely prevalent social stigma and ostracism faced by the LGBT citizens of the country. Launched last month as part of UN’s Free & Equal campaign, the Bollywood-style music video is aimed at promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

The two-and-a-half minute video, called “The Welcome”, stars bollywood actress Celina Jaitly who is known for her open support for the LGBT cause . Last year, Jaitly was nominated as “UN equality champion” in recognition of her support for LGBT equality. She makes her musical debut in the video, singing a new version of the 1979 Bollywood classic, Uthe Sab Ke Kadam. The song was recomposed and remixed by Neeraj Shreedhar of Bombay Vikings. The concept for the video was developed by creative agency Curry Nation.

United Nation’s Free & Equal campaign aims to raise awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination, and encourage greater respect for the rights of LGBT people. The campaign, which had its global launch in South Africa, in July 2013, is led by the UN Human Rights Office.

In December 2011, the UN Human Rights Office published the first official UN report on violence and discrimination against LGBT persons. The report documented widespread human rights abuses. More than 76 countries still criminalize consensual, same-sex relationships, while in many more discrimination against LGBT people is widespread – including in the workplace and in the education and health sectors.

Hate-motivated violence, including physical assault, sexual violence, and targeted killings, has been recorded in all regions. In 2014, the situation has gained greater recognition but has not changed drastically. A few more countries recognize same sex marriages, and adoption. There is also some recognition, in a few countries like Germany of trans gendered individuals as a third category in forms to be filled. However, in many parts of the world, LGBT lives and practices remain criminalized.

Excuse me, where are your daughters, Gentlemen? – Kamla Bhasin

Kamla- Bhasin-Indian-Feminist

By Team FI

India’s veteran feminist activist Kamla Bhasin delivered the keynote speech at a conference organised by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Berlin on May 22. The conference was part of BMZ’s initiative to launch a new gender equality policy

Excerpts from the keynote address;
Dear Friends,

In the name of Justice, Equality, Human Rights and Peace!

I wish to begin by remembering millions, NO, billions of women and girls who have been discriminated, insulted and violated by Patriarchy over the years, all over the world.

I also wish to remember and salute all our feminist foremothers and forefathers who fought for women’s rights all over the world and on whose shoulders we stand tall today.

It is an honour for me to be standing here and sharing my thoughts and experiences with you. Thank you Dr Mueller and Team, for this honour.

As a feminist activist I agree with everything Dr Mueller, you have just said. Thanks for sharing the highlights of the new Gender Policy of BMZ. I congratulate you and your team for adopting this progressive Policy and for showing your commitment to Justice, Women’s Rights and Sustainable Development by organizing this Conference. I totally agree with you Dr Mueller that without gender equality and women’s rights, no country, no community can progress.

I come from South Asia, which is one of the most patriarchal regions in the world. The women to men ratio has been going down, women’s employment rate in the formal sector has gone down; privatization of essential services has increased the burden of women; there are only 11% women in the new Parliament just elected. I can go on in this vain.

However, unfortunately patriarchy, violence against women and gender discrimination do not exist only in the poor countries. I wish progress and education automatically made us gender equal, but they do not.

There is NO country in the world where patriarchy does not exist. Patriarchy is a global system. It exists everywhere, although in different forms and degrees.

I came to Germany as a 21 year old in 1967 ,that means 47 years ago. I did not expect to see patriarchy in a developed country but I saw it all around. For example I came from Mutterland India but found Vaterland Deutchland here. I came from the land of Mutter Ganga and found Vater Rheine here. I came from the land of many Goddesses but found mainly Der Herr Gott here.

I was quite shocked to see naked women as objects of sex on so many Magazines in every kiosk. Women’s bodies were on sale all around, in a democratic country where on paper men and women were equal.

I found the German language also to be quite patriarchal. An unmarried woman was a Fraulein, or a small woman, even if she was 80 years old. A man was a Herr, married, widower, and unmarried or divorced!!

Women Professors were a rare site at the University. Die Herren haben ueberall geherrscht.

Even after over 200 years of democracy the US has not yet had a woman President. The family lineage continues to go from father to son – Bush senior, Bush Junior. Kennedy Senior Kennedy junior. Excuse me, where are your daughters, Gentlemen?

Look at the family names in Scandinavia. So many of them end with Son. Ericson, Johanson. Noch mal- Wo sind die toechtern, bitte schoen?

The Women’s Movement everywhere has been challenging all this and many things have improved. We had to fight for every little improvement and we had to pay a price for every change.

Friends, the biggest and most brutal war ever is Patriarchy’s violence against women and girls.

According to the UN, one in every three women experiences violence in her life time. This means one billion women are being violated. What is worse is that this war takes place within the home and at the hands of people closest to us. This is domestic terrorism which is global.

The two great Civilizations India and China have killed close to 100 million women and girls because of patriarchal reasons

This has been done using the latest technology and done mainly by educated and well off people!! Millions of women were killed in Europe as witches between the 16th and 18th centuries. The story goes on- millions trafficked, millions forced to undergo genital mutilation, millions sick with anorexia in order to look like Barbie doll, millions raped. As a result of all this, for the first time in human history there are less women than men on this Planet.

A new EU study of March 2014 conducted by Joanna Goodey of the European Fundamental Rights Agency states that one third of the women in the EU i.e. 62 million women, have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Germany is even above average, with 35%. 55% women have experienced sexual harassment, among them 75% women in leadership positions. This clearly reveals that sexualised violence is not a result of economic ‘backwardness”.

I have just been informed that in highly developed Germany women get 22% less wages than men and there are only 3% women in top positions. According to several German feminists, the German rape law needs to be revised urgently and made more effective an in line with the European law.

A German feminist scholar has correctly said that women are the last colony. Their bodies, sexuality, reproductive capacity, labour capacity are still colonised. UNDP Human Development report of 1995 reported that the unpaid household work done by women all over the world is worth 11 Trillion Dollars annually.

The 20 year old ILO statistics have been reconfirmed in 2012 by the World Development Report, which states that women do 66% of all the work done in the world, produce 50% of the food, but receive 10% of the income distributed and own 1% property.

One of the questions raised for this Conference by BMZ team is what the challenges we face for achieving gender equality are. In response I mention three challenges. These challenges can also be called root causes. Friends we cannot correct consequences. We have to remove the causes.

Gender discrimination and violence against women and girls is a consequence of various systems and structures, Patriarchy, Class, Race, and Caste. We need to challenge all of them.

All our present day religions are patriarchal. All of them are started, defined, interpreted and controlled by men. They create, justify and promote patriarchy

If I start chronologically, then I would say Religion is the first challenge. By definition none of them accepts a woman to be a Pope, a Shankracharya, a Dalai Lama etc. In their practice and I think also in their theory they create a hierarchy between men and women. If God is man, then man is God. Because they create this unholy hierarchy between men and women, these religions violate our national Constitutions; they violate UN Human Rights declaration. Yet, many of our political parties, even in Europe, are connected to these religions. Many European governments support Religions directly or indirectly.
The US and the Vatican is amongst the few countries that have NOT ratified CEDAW.

Friends, many of us feminists believe that without challenging patriarchal religions, we cannot achieve our dream of gender equality. So, our left hand has to know what the right hand is doing.

I am encouraged to know that organizations like the World Council of Churches and Bread for the World are challenging these patriarchal biases in the Church.

The second challenge according to me is Capitalist Patriarchy. Today pornography and child pornography are a billion dollar industry. Trafficking of girls and women is a billion dollar industry. Cosmetics are a billion dollar industry. Barbie dolls and guns and supermen and violent computer games are a huge industry. Hollywood, Indian Bollywood and Corporate media are all huge industries. All of them objectify women, make them sexual objects, subservient, and turn men in to macho, aggressive, dominating beings. Therefore, in my opinion, all of them violate our Constitutions and Human Rights Declarations.

The third big challenge is the present economic paradigm being practiced and pushed by the developed world. This paradigm is masculinist and violent in nature. It is based on PURE GREED. It is based on and promotes cut throat competition, dog eat dog attitude. Therefore, It has spread inequalities, destroyed the environment and ecology, marginalized women, indigenous people and economically poor people; it has created large scale unemployment. All this has been said by the UNDP and every other responsible body.

This paradigm cannot, will not allow us to achieve gender equality, women’s rights, justice and sustainable development, about which we are talking this evening. A recent study of the Paritaetischer Wohlfahrtsverband in Germany concludes that despite economic growth and increasing private wealth in Germany the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing and the poverty rate has reached a peak with 15.2%. The Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US said similar things.

If this paradigm and economic system cannot provide jobs and dignity, gender equality, in your countries, how can it do so in our countries?

We have to look in to other issues also like wars and fundamentalism in all religions, not just in Islam, which lead to violence against women and restricted spaces and participation for them despite SC Resolution 1325 etc. The US and EU continue to be actively involved with wars. The main members of the UN Security Council are the biggest producers and sellers of weapons.

Friends, many of us, and also the BMZ, are proposing Mainstreaming Gender. But, as I have shown, there are problems with the Mainstream. This mainstream is MANstream. The mainstream itself is at the root of many problems the BMZ wishes and claims to fight. So, instead of getting absorbed in the mainstream, becoming part of it, we have to challenge many, many parts of it. Are we ready for this?

Mahatma Gandhi knew the problems with the present economic mainstream 80-90 years ago. Once a journalist asked him, Mr. Gandhi, would you like India to have the same standard of living as that of Great Britain? Gandhiji replied, “That tiny country Great Britain had to exploit half the globe to have its standard of living. How many globes will India have to exploit?”

The poor of the world and the progressive Civil Society Organisations also know this. This is why in response to the World Economic Forum; we started the World Social Forum, to demand a pro people, pro women, pro Mother Nature economic and political paradigm. The main slogan of the World Social forum is, Other Worlds are Possible.

This, friends, was the analysis. Now I come to the Solutions and the work we have been doing in India and in South Asia. In ten minutes I will tell you about my 44 years work.

Because patriarchy, neo liberal economic paradigm, conflicts and wars are all global, our struggles for justice, human rights and sustainable development also have to be global

We need global solidarity and partnerships. I am in Berlin with all of you in search of this global solidarity. I am the global co chair of Peace Women across the Globe, an organization which came out of our global campaign called 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize, 2005. I am the South Asian Coordinator of the global campaign called One Billion Rising. We give a lot of importance to global work and solidarity. Next month I will be with Terre des Femmes Switzerland for a five day lecture tour.

We want to link with the Women’s Movement in Germany, but it seems the Movement is not so strong and vibrant anymore. Many women today feel that Feminism is no more needed. I think they are wrong. Patriarchy is still all around us and we have to keep hammering at it.

Today men and boys have to join the movement for gender equality and justice. Men have to understand all the ways in which patriarchy harms them also. Patriarchy does give men privileges and power but it also dehumanizes them, it brutalizes them, it robs them of their gentleness, of their humanity. 40% Indian husbands beat their wives. This means 40% men in India are criminals in the eyes of the law. All men are not rapists, but all rapists are men. About 99% terrorists are men. It is boys and young men in the US, never a young woman, who pick up a gun every few months and go around shooting and killing in schools.

Friends, these boys and men are not born violent. They are born innocent. The society or all of us, give them a gun to play with when they are 2-3. We tell them because they are boys they can do what they like. We tell them boys do not cry, men do not have emotions. We make little boys sit in front of the TV and watch violence for 5-8 hours a day. Systematically we make them aggressive, violent, and dominating. No wonder they find it difficult to have equal relationships with women, to look after children and sick people, to manage their emotions.

In order to do well in the present mainstream, many strong and powerful women are also becoming masculine. This is a dangerous trend. We need to help men become gentle and caring rather than we women becoming power hungry and dominating.

For the last over 15 years I have been doing gender sensitization workshops with men in positions of power and policy making, in NGOs, international NGOs. UN, governments, even Members of Parliament. I have written a book on men and masculinity which has been translated by women’s organizations in 10-12 countries.

A global research also found out that the single most important factor which makes organizations gender sensitive and effective, is the presence of strong and committed feminists.

My main work for the last 44 years has therefore been to develop the capacities of people, to sharpen their analytical skills, to enhance their social skills and emotional intelligence. I have been a trainer/ facilitator all my life.

Friends, my first formal job was with the Deutsche Stiftung fuer Entwicklungszusammanarbeit, in Uhlhof, Bad Honnef, as a Dozent. This was in 1970. DSE is today part of GIZ. I lectured there for 11 months, then resigned and went back to India to work with an NGO in Rajasthan. I worked there for four years with the marginalized people. That is where my real education took place. In 1975 I was invited by FAO of the UN to coordinate a training program for people working for development, justice and rights with NGOS in Asia. Through this work I got to know innovative NGOs all over Asia. Through the trainings I organized we created a network of these NGOs. We documented the work of these NGOs, they learnt from each other; we did advocacy work; we influenced the policies of our governments, UN etc. I worked with the UN for 27 years. In 2002, I resigned from the UN because of differences. Since then I do the same work through an NGO network called Sangat- A South Asian Feminist Network.

Friends, from personal experience I can tell you that it is people’s movements and NGOs who push for changes in official policies. It takes about 20-25 years for us to convince the people in power. Concepts like gender equality, justice and human rights, participatory development, transparency, good governance, all that what is today part of the BMZ policy, are the creations of people’s movements.

I have been organizing one month long feminist capacity building courses for women activists from South Asia for the last 30 years. These courses are for women from the 8 countries of South Asia but now women also come from Iran, Turkey, Sudan, Myanmar, Vietnam etc. This is South- South cooperation. We are dreaming of creating a People’s Union of South Asia.

These courses are in English and we can take no more than 40 women in a course. NGOs demanded that we also do courses in local languages. For the last 7-8 years we organize two week long courses in Hindi for people from India, Nepal and Pakistan; in Bangla for people from Bangladesh and West Bengal in India and in Tamil for people from Tamil Nadu in India and Tamils from Sri Lanka.

These courses provide the basis for networking and cooperation across borders for building solidarity.
Production and distribution of educational materials for NGOs is another important part of our work. I have written many books in question and answer form and in a simple language for activists on issues like patriarchy, gender, men and masculinity, human rights, peace etc. These books have been now translated by NGOS in over 25 languages.

I have also written detailed reports on our innovative training programs so that others can learn from our strengths and mistakes.

For our campaigns and public education we have created audio visual materials. A large number of the economically marginalized people of South Asia are not able to read and write. For them we have been making posters and banners to give the messages visually.

I have been writing songs for the women’s movements and also for other people’s movements. We have made ten music cassettes which have now been turned in to CDs. These songs are sung all over the Hindi /Urdu speaking South Asia. Nothing works like songs. In addition to giving messages they energize and empower, they build bonds of solidarity, they unite us.

Humour has also been very important for me in my work. Because our struggles are going to be very long, we need humour. I have made feminist humour books in Hindi and English. Ohne spass und lachen geht es garnicht.

In addition to doing this South Asian work I am a founder of two national organizations in India and I work quite closely with them. These organizations are Jagori Resource and Training Centre in Delhi and Jagori Rural in Himachal, North India. These organizations work with local communities and also do capacity building and networking within India and produce educational materials in Hindi and English.

Jagori Delhi has pioneered a safe City Campaign in Delhi and we are now taking it to other cities of South Asia. Jagori Delhi was given a prestigious award last year by Roland Berger Foundation, Berlin. My two colleagues were here to receive the award.

Through these organizations we have built the capacities of hundreds of organizations in South Asia.
Friends, because patriarchy is in every institution and it is at every level, we have to work everywhere, work through networking and cooperation. We need feminist writers, poets, film makers; feminist theologians, historians; feminist politicians and bureaucrats. And both women and men can be feminist.

Friends, my work are based on LOVE and FRIENDSHIP. Professionalism should not mean being without emotions and love. To have passion for and in our work we need emotions and we need love. This world needs more love to heal. My main slogan in the One Billion Rising campaign is -Not love of power but Power of Love.

In conclusion, I wish to say that the present wounded world needs a new global ethic. We need to work with both our mind and heart. More than the World economic Forum we need a world ETHIC Forum

In addition to social and ecological reforms humankind urgently needs SPRITUAL RENEWAL.

We need a commitment to a culture of inter-dependence, non violence and respect for life, dignity, freedom and justice for each and every individual and for Mother Nature.

More than dollar and Euro Values we need Human Values.

Tribute to Mukul Sinha, Gujarat’s relentless human rights defender

Mukul-Sinha

Saluting comrade Mukul Sinha with resolve to continue our fight for justice and truth, to uphold the values of human rights, to stand up and speak-out for the oppressed against injustice of all kinds, unafraid of all consequences

By Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah

Comrade Mukul Sinha left us on 12 May 2014, just as the time when the state and political parties have declared war against people and people’s movements are struggling against the deceptive development model – now also known as Gujarat Model. For the past eight months he was suffering from lung cancer and undergoing treatment for the same.

In September 1973, Mukul joined the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) as research scholar for his PhD. While doing his research he also organized the PRL cafeteria employees. Reacting to injustice at the Institute, he started a union movement that invited termination of his job. Termination of his job from PRL proved a real benefit for the downtrodden masses. Later on he completed his legal training in 1989. He, along with other comrades formed a trade union ‘Gujarat Federation of Trade Unions’ and a human rights organisation ‘Jan Sangharsh Manch’ (JSM). He and his comrades also launched a political party the ‘New Socialist Movement’ (NSM).

In him we lost a comrade who was at the forefront of the legal and political battle against perpetrators of 2002 carnage, state encounters, deceptive development, communalism and fascism. Through his website, truthsofgujarat.com, this relentless fighter strived for establishing the truth of the Sabarmati Train incident and the carnage in 2002. As a lawyer and advocate he was involved in the Nanavati Commission, the other 2002 cases, fake encounter cases.

He with his dedicated team, was also at the forefront of the fight against the draconian POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Act) enacted by the NDA government.

Let us quote from one of his articles from Combat Law on the issue of labour where he rightly stated that “Globalisation is gobbling up labour laws and workers’ rights besides resources-land, water, mines and minerals. Courts are setting new precedents diluting the Constitution and thereby putting both democracy and people at a grave risk.” He was such a person, while arguing in the courts he never used to limit himself to the mere technicality but was able to articulate the people’s voice with ideological and philosophical input.

His death is a great loss to the working masses and especially for the many victim-survivors of 2002 carnage. His legal intervention in the Nanavati Commission was consistent and he gave a tough fight to Gujarat Sate and Modi’s Government in the commission with his dedicated team.

Even during his severe illness of last 8 months when he was unable to attend the court his presence could be felt in many cases through his fellow lawyers.

In the 1990s, amidst the pro-Narmada dam euphoria, built up by the then Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel of Gujarat, unconditionally supported by many NGOs of Gujarat, Dr. Mukul Sinha and his team boldly stood with oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project.

He lived and fought against fascist and capitalist forces, our real tribute to comrade Mukul Sinha is not in mourning but in making a firm resolve to continue the struggle against such forces especially at the present time.

We activists while remembering his work took the pledge “We solemnly resolve to continue our fight for justice and truth, to uphold the values of human rights, to stand up and speak-out for the oppressed against injustice of all kinds, unafraid of all consequences.”

Red Salute, comrade Mukul Sinha.

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah are Vadodara based activists

Bhagana rape: Survivors and villagers protest outside Hudda’s residence

Bhagana-dalit-rape

Bhagana rape survivors, fellow villagers, activists protest against Haryana CM inaction on the caste and sexual violence against Dalits; demand one crore compensation and rehabilitation

By Team FI
Haryana Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hudda’s residence in New Delhi was gheraoed yesterday by hundreds of women, children and men from the Bhagana village of Hisar, Haryana, demanding justice for the four school-going Dalit girls who were kidnapped and raped on 23rd March.

The protestors, who were joined by an equal number of activists, students, writers, artists and other citizens of Delhi, alleged that the crime was committed by the upper caste men in the village and that the village head and his son were complicit in the act. The protestors demand that the perpetrators and the village head and his son’s names be included in the FIR and they be arrested. The memorandum submitted to the Haryana CM also demanded that the rape survivors’ families be rehabilitated and compensation of Rs 1 crore be paid to the girls.

In March 2014, the four young girls of the Dhanak community were kidnapped from their village Bhagana, and raped by five youths belonging to the upper caste Jat community. The girls were left near Bhatinda Railway station in Punjab after the alleged crime. When their families approached their village head for help, and said that they would file an FIR, the Sarpanch informed them about the whereabouts of the girls. The girls allege that when the Sarpanch and his men came and picked the girls, he threatened them to keep quiet about the rape and the identity of the perpetrators. The press release stated that, “This was one of the few cases of dalit atrocities that came into light; many such cases remain buried and unheard of.”

Jagdish Kajla, protest leader, said, “90 dalit families are living at Jantar Mantar since 16th April 2014 amid so many difficulties. The government has not provided us anything to survive, forget justice for the 4 girls. We will not take our protest back till our demands are met.”

The demonstrators also sought proper rehabilitation for the 400 displaced Dalit families who are living on the streets of Delhi and Hisar. Virendra Singh Wabhoria, who is leading the evicted group’s struggle at Hisar, warned Haryana government that if their demands are not met within a fortnight, their protest will expand to other places of the country. Virendra is sitting on Dharna with 120 Dalit families at the Hisar Collectarate for last two years when these families were displaced from the village Bhagana by the upper caste people.

The press release issued by the Samiti states that the girls are furious and so are their mothers. They say, ‘ Why every time, they make our bodies their battlefields?’ One girl studying in class 10th just wishes to someday be able to complete her studies. She says, ‘They have made us refugees. Bhagana is our own village but we can’t go there. What can be more fateful than this?’, she asks in desperation. One mother, with veil on her face, screams, ‘Aren’t we human? Why every time they do this to us?’ Huda has an answer, only in the form of huge barricades of police outside his house.

As per the press release, “at the heart of the conflict in Haryana is the struggle over land – its use and ownership by the poor Dalits which has been grabbed by the dominant castes. No land reforms, or access to use and ownership of the common land schemes, have been implemented till date. Bhagana’s Dalits have been vocal about their land rights, having faced the atrocities and land grab since 2003. Rape is one of the major tools to silence the Dalit community and displace them in the name of honor. The Huda government never took action against the upper caste as Rajani Tilak of National Dalit Mahila Aandolan cites, “Huda says openly that first I am a jat and then a CM”. This factor contributed to Dalit atrocities in a much more organized way because the state machinery does not act in accordance with the law. After 67 years of the independence and on the threshold of 16th Parliament, Dalits in Haryana are landless, without exception.

Jats dominate both the Gram Panchayats (Village councils) and the traditional Khaps. Their authority is backed by the significant presence of Jats in institutions and administrative positions. The state machinery thus is becoming part of propagating the entrenched caste ideology and hierarchies. The levying of sedition charges exposed a face of the state where it was no longer just exhibiting apathy towards tackling caste oppression, but actively using its authority and draconian laws to suppress any assertion challenging caste and class hierarchies. Protests against caste exploitation have become an expression of “disaffection” against the nation!”

However, the press statement points out that the Bhagana protests showed that the Dalits are continuously pressurizing state institutions, and winning victories like withdrawal of sedition charges, and making the political class sit-up and take notice both within the state and the center.

The protesters want the government to heed their following demands:

1. Arrest all the offenders in Bhagana case including Village head and his son and bring them to justice;
2. High level inquiry of the rape, displacement and land related cases;
3. Fast Track Court in Delhi for hearing of the case. Settle the case within 6 months;
4. Compensation of Rs 1 crore to each Bhagana gang rape victim;
5. Compensation of Rs 1 crore to each boycotted family in Bhagana;
6. A case should be filed against the KHAP and Gram Panchayat under the SC/ST Act;
7. Allot 400 yards plots in Gurgaon or Fridabad to each displaced family from Bhagana till they are suitably resettled in Bhagana;
8. Arrangement of proper education to all Bhagana gang rape victims and provision of government employment after completion of their education;
9. Ban on Khaap Panchayats;
10. 290 acre common land should be vacated from the clutch of the Dabangs and be distributed among the landless Dalits and other marginalised sections of the village .

Bhagana Kaand Sangharsh Samiti:
Sarv Samaj Sangharsh Samiti-Haryana, Hans do India, Republic Thought and Action Group, PUDR, Women against Sexual Violence & State Repression, National Dalit Women Movement, Dalit Dehat Bahujan Mahapanchayat, Youth for Social Justice-DU, All India Backward Students’ Forum-JNU, Democratic Students Union-JNU, Women for Water Democracy, NCDHR, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Ambedkar Seva Dal, National Confederation of Delit Organizations. All India Federation of Trade Unions, Nojaat Bharat Sabha, HRLN, Dhanak Sabha-Delhi, Delhi Students’ Union, Ambedkar Mahasabha, Sahitya Samvaad, United Dalit Students Forum, Avaam, Bharat Ka Manaviyekaran Abhiyaan, Dalit Utthan Samaj, Kabeer Jan Kalyaan Sangh, Haryana Kumhaar Mahasabha, National Movement for Land, Labour & Justice, Bhoomiheen Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.

Appeal to secular parties: Honour our vote, support a secular government

Modi- against- democracy

Indian citizens ask secular parties and candidates to keep their campaign promises and prevent the formation of a communal government at the centre

By Team FI
Indian citizens, individuals from all walks of life and from varied organizations have asked secular candidates and their parties to keep their word given during the campaign to prevent communal forces from forming a central government in India.

The appeal stated that the Bharatiya Janata Party under Narendra Modi’s leadership “has been especially virulent in ridiculing and insulting religious and sexual minorities, dalits and people with disabilities.” It reminds the secular candidates of the speeches given by them on various occasions wherein they had promised the citizens to uphold secularism and stand against communalism.

It informs the candidates that it is in their hands to form a secular government against NDA alliance. The appeal states that the citizens had voted for these candidates and hoped that they would honour the trust put in them by millions of citizens in India.

The appeal contains quotes of candidates stating their secular position from speeches made by K Chandrasekhar Rao, President, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Mayawati, Chairperson, Bahujan Samaj Party, Selvi J Jayalalitha, General Secretary, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Jaganmohan Reddy, National President, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, Mamata Banerjee, Chairperson, All India Trinamool Congress, M. Karunanidhi, President, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Naveen Patnaik, Chairperson, Biju Janata Dal, Nitish Kumar, leader, Janata Dal (United), Arvind Kejriwal, leader, Aam Aadmi Party, Sharad Pawar, President, Nationalist Congress Party and Deve Gowda, National President, Janata Dal (Secular).

The petition is collecting signatures till the night of May 13, and will be released to media and published on social media platforms on May 14. Those who wish to endorse the appeal can go here
or

https://www.facebook.com/CampaignNOMOre

Full text of the appeal:
Appeal to all secular parties, leaders and candidates to help prevent formation of communal central government in India

We, concerned citizens of India, are alarmed by the divisive, abusive and violent Lok Sabha election campaign that has just been concluded. Throughout the campaign, the Bharatiya Janata Party under Narendra Modi’s leadership has been especially virulent in ridiculing and insulting religious and sexual minorities, dalits and people with disabilities. BJP under Modi has also threatened constitutional bodies like the Election Commission. Dissenting voices have been intimidated and asked to leave the country.

The collusion of big corporates with rank communal and authoritarian ideas, visible starkly in the poll campaign, will seep into the structures of governance if a Modi-led NDA government is formed. All opponents to this brand of politics will be hounded and hunted, as they indeed have been in Gujarat. It is only reasonable to anticipate that the policies of discrimination and ghettoisation practiced by Modi’s government in Gujarat will become the national norm. Much of the mainstream media today is not only acting pliant, they are carrying a barrage of misleading facts to promote Modi, leading to legitimate fears that they may further abandon their watchdog role.

In this alarming scenario, it is imperative that you, the secular elected members of parliament ensure that the Constitution and its values, and indeed, the future of this nation, are protected. After all, secularism is not just a catchword in election manifestos. It is the backbone of our democracy.

There is nothing inevitable about the rise of Modi to Prime Ministership. The keys to formation of government in Delhi are held by all of you. We now remind some of you of the promises you have made to the people of India to stand against communalism and uphold secularism during this election campaign, which we have reproduced here. We, along with millions of citizens, voted for you because of these promises.

We appeal to you and all other secular parties to come together to ensure the formation of a secular government, and prevent the formation of a Narendra Modi-led BJP/NDA central government.
We gave you our votes. We hope you will honour our trust.

This petition is also supported by non-voting citizens and NRIs, other PIOs and Overseas Citizens of India and tens of thousands of others interested in India’s democracy, secularism, human rights and the welfare of all Indian residents and social justice.

IN YOUR OWN WORDS
Shri K Chandrasekhar Rao, President, Telangana Rashtra Samithi
Sir, on April 14, you made this important statement. “I am making a policy statement. TRS will not align with communal forces. We will support the Third Front. We are a 100% secular party. We will not join the NDA.”
Millions gave you their votes on this assurance. Sir, we hope you will not betray them.

Kumari Mayawati, Chairperson, Bahujan Samaj Party
Behenji, on May 4 you said “Pura desh sampradayikta ki aag mein jalne lagega agar woh (Modi) PM ban gaya” (the whole country will be in flames if Modi becomes the PM). You have not shied away from challenging Modi head on during the election campaign, calling the bluff of his ‘backward caste’ stunt in your press conference, or even calling for a ban on Amit Shah’s entry into Uttar Pradesh when he made his mischievous remarks of Azamgarh being the den of terrorists.
We sincerely urge you to continue your stand against BJP’s brand of communal politics and hateful attitude of BJP supporters towards Dalits, women and backwards.

Selvi J Jayalalitha, General Secretary, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Amma, on October 31, 2013, you told the country you are against communal politics, and that communalism has been spreading its “dangerous tentacles”, “with the sharp increase in communal tensions and religion-based politics and growth of communal forces in our body politic.” While releasing the Vision 2023 document on February 21, 2014, you said, “I have a vision for India in which Tamil Nadu will play a key role — a vision of a resurgent India; a nation with an inclusive society… a modern, secular and prosperous India. I want to assure you all that this day is not far.”
Amma, that day has come for Tamil Nadu to play a key role in upholding a secular India.

Shri Jaganmohan Reddy, National President, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party
Sir, in October 2013, you said, “I want BJP to change. I want Modi to change BJP. I want BJP to become secular… We don’t want Muzaffarnagar, we want Mohabbatnagar”. After witnessing the divisive campaign just concluded by BJP, do you think a BJP under Modi will change for the better? Are you aware that a Sangh Parivar website throws brutal communal abuse at your late father because of his faith? We quote from it: “Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy alias Yeduguri Samuel Rodriguez Reddy (1949-2009), late Christian chief minister of andhrapradesh for ongoing & last government was the most SECULAR govt. ever!… Many of his ministers are openly Christian and Muslim, and many others are secret Christians… YSR ordered that the jurisdiction of Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirumala Tirupati be reduced from the current seven hills to only two hills and wanted to utilize the remaining five hills to build churches.” This page on http://www.sanghparivar.org was taken down the day after voting ended in Seemandhra, but we have preserved this screenshot.
Sir, several communities in Seemandhra voted for you en bloc, in the hope that you will do everything you can to keep those filled with this kind of hatred away from the levers of power in India.

Ms Mamata Banerjee, Chairperson, All India Trinamool Congress
Didi, on May 5, 2014, you said, “Those who cause riots cannot become the leader of the nation. It is because of their comments that innocent minorities are being butchered in Assam” and “If a party can go to this extent without being in power, it will definitely burn the country if it comes to power. Those who will lead the country if they themselves ignite riots, then what will happen to the nation.” You have also categorically stated at your election rally at Shyambazar in north Kolkata: “We will never, ever have an alliance with the BJP.”
Didi, please abide by these words and ensure a secular government for India.

Shri M. Karunanidhi, President, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Kalaignar, when releasing the names of the DMK candidates for 35 Lok Sabha constituencies, you said that you would like to see a secular government at the centre. On April 17, your party treasurer MK Stalin reiterated this: “Our leader has emphasised that the DMK wishes for a secular government at the Centre. Following the elections such a government led by a prime minister identified by Kalaignar will form the government.”
Kalaignar, people of Tamil Nadu voted for this stated commitment of DMK to secular values. Do not betray their trust.

Shri Naveen Patnaik, Chairperson, Biju Janata Dal
Sir, in 2008 you said that “Each bone of my body is secular” and subsequently left the NDA. On April 9 2014, the eve of first phase of elections in Odisha, you said this about Narendra Modi: “he is a controversial candidate and communal shed remains which is not healthy for the country”. At the same time you said, “We will be equidistant from BJP and Congress. There is no question of joining NDA even if they do not have Modi as PM candidate.”
Sir, people of Odisha voted for you after hearing these words. You must live up to them.

Shri Nitish Kumar, leader, Janata Dal (United)
Sir, vulnerable communities and secular people all over India were moved by your gesture of supporting the candidacy of another party against Narendra Modi in Varanasi. We hope that your opposition to the politics Modi represents will continue and that you will help form a secular government in Delhi.

Shri Arvind Kejriwal, leader, Aam Aadmi Party
Sir, while campaigning in New Delhi on March 26, 2014, you proclaimed that “Communalism is a bigger problem in front of the country than corruption and it is never about people fighting each other. It is political parties who pit communities against one another for narrow electoral gains.” We commend your bold and brave campaign against Narendra Modi, and urge you to ensure that a secular government is formed.

Shri Sharad Pawar, President, Nationalist Congress Party
Sir, when campaigning at Kolhapur on April 13, you said “A Congress MP from the minority community was burnt to death in 2002 by extremists in Ahmedabad, 20 km away from Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar. However, the chief minister had shown no courtesy to meet the family of the deceased MP. It was the responsibility of chief minister to meet his family. Are we going to give power to Modi, who is ready to scare people?”
Sir, we remind you of these words during your efforts to explore government formation.

Shri Deve Gowda, National President, Janata Dal (Secular)
Sir, at your campaign speech in Mandya on April 11, you said “The voters should think whether their family members can live in peace by making Modi the prime minister.” A few days later in Hassan, you said “There must be a secular government” and that you “would oppose fundamentalists from holding reins at the Centre.”
Sir, we hope that you will stand by the word ‘secular’ included in your own party name.

UN asks India to protect sex workers rights, repeal 377, curb growing violence against women

UN- 2014- India-women- report

UN Special Rapporteur highlights pervasive gender stereotyping in media and community and entrenched patriarchal attitudes in public officials, judicial officers and the police force, as an impediment to curbing violence against women

By Team FI

In an important step towards recognizing sex worker rights in India, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women called on the Indian Government to review the trafficking legislation which criminalizes women in sex work.

The Special Rapporteur, Rashida Manjoo, also urged the government to repeal section 377 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex and amend the new rape law of 2013 – in particular to review the provisions that provide for the death penalty and to include the definition of marital rape as a criminal offence.

The Report on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, Mission to India was submitted to the UN General Assembly in April 2014 and was based on the India mission undertaken by the Special Rapporteur in April 2013. The Special Rapporteur received written submissions and listened to depositions from women’s organizations, networks, affected individuals, and government officials across the length and breadth of India during her visit.

According to the report, the overall conviction rate in India for crimes listed in the Penal Code was 38.5 per cent in 2012, the lowest in 10 years, which was largely due to delays in the finalization of cases. Quoting the National Crimes Records Bureau, the Rapporteur expressed concern over the fact that while conviction rate for crimes against women (21.3%) remained low while a 24.7 % increase was recorded in the reports of crimes against women after 2008. The proportion of registered cases of crimes committed against women vis-à-vis crimes in total increased from 8.9 per cent in 2008 to 10.2 per cent in 2012. As per the report, “the low conviction rate and the higher number of cases registered will not act as a deterrent for future crimes against women, nor will it engender trust in the judicial system.”

The Special Rapporteur also raised concern about the deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes of police officers, prosecutors, judicial officers and other relevant civil servants, with regard to the handling of cases of violence against women noted that the “persistence of harmful practices, pervasive gender stereotypes and deeply entrenched patriarchal social and cultural norms is of serious concern.”

The Special Rapporteur stated that it also received reports indicating that the legal basis of the National Commission for Women is not in accordance with international standards; that the institution lacks foundational, functional, operational, political and financial independence. The report also stated that there a “number of allegations highlighted the Commission’s inability to deal with complaints effectively and undertake independent investigations into violations of women’s rights.”

The report is also deeply concerned about the prevalence of dowry-related practices throughout the country and the increasing number violence and deaths related to dowry payment.

Violence against Sex workers
For perhaps the first time, the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, underscored the need to address the violence faced within sex work from state and non – state actors and the lack of avenues for legal redress. It notes that sex workers in India are “exposed to a range of abuse including physical attacks, and harassment by clients, family members, the community and State authorities”.

It further states that “sex workers are forcibly detained and rehabilitated and consistently lack legal protection”; and that they “face challenges in gaining access to essential health services, including for treatment for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases”.

Violence against minority women
Commenting on violence faced by women belong to minority communities, the report stated that impunity for crimes relating to communal violence is “the norm”. The recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women relating to the Gujarat massacre have not been fully addressed as yet. Moreover, the draft Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill has been pending in Parliament for over eight years; despite the necessity for such a law.

The report has also urged the government to Repeal, as a matter of urgency, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and ensure that criminal prosecution of members of the Armed Forces is free from legal barriers.

Main observations made by the Special Rapporteur
Violence against women in India is systematic and occurs in the public and private spheres. Women are discriminated against and subordinated not only on the basis of sex, but on other grounds, such as caste, class, ability, sexual orientation, tradition and other realities. The manifestations of violence against women are a reflection of the structural and institutional inequality that is a reality for most women in India.

Sexual violence

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2012, 2.84 cases of rape were reported every hour. Many interlocutors stated that there was a general sense of insecurity for women in public spaces, especially in urban settings. Women are easy targets of attacks, including sexual violence, whether while using public transportation or sanitation facilities or on the way to collect wood and water.

Civil and political rights
In terms of women’s participation in parliaments, India stands at 111 out of 188 States as per the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The proportion of female judges is very low. At the local level, there have been numerous allegations of abuse of authority by and patriarchal attitudes of women elected to Gram Panchayats (whether by choice or through coercive influences) and of abuse by community leaders, including members of the illegal informal courts of the Khap Panchayats.

The Special Rapporteur stated that she could not engage directly with Gram Panchayats despite her requests.

Violence against women in the family

The physical, sexual and psychological abuse of women in the private sphere is widely tolerated by the State and the community. The perpetrators include husbands, in-laws and other family members. The widespread socioeconomic dependency of women subordinates them to their husbands and other family members. The fear of social exclusion and marginalization, and the lack of effective responses to violence, keeps them in a context of continuous violence and intimidation. The report also noted the prevalence of honour crimes in the country.

As per National Crime Records Bureau there is also an alarming increase in violence and killings linked to dowry payments – as reported under the Dowry Prohibition Act since 2008 and a significant increase in such crimes since 2010. Concerns about the lack of effective implementation of the law were noted.

Sex ratio
Research has documented a trend of declining girl-child sex ratio from 962 per 1,000 males in 1981, to 945 in 1991, to 927 in 2001, to 914 in 2011. Patriarchal norms and socioeconomic factors have reportedly fuelled the decline. The desire for sons has led to a “policing” of pregnancies by spouses and families through prenatal monitoring systems. The results can lead to sex-selective abortions, which are often forced on women in violation of their sexual and reproductive rights. Despite specific legislation to address this problem, including stringent measures in case of contravention, there is a continuing prevalence of sex-selection practices in some states.


Early marriage and forced marriage

With regard to early and/or forced marriages, the implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 has resulted in some reduction in the overall percentage of early marriages. However, there are significant gaps in the legislation, particularly in the Penal Code, whereby child marriages are allowed through the practice of declaring them voidable, not void.

Caste-based violence
Dalit and Adivasi women and women from other scheduled castes and tribes and other “backward classes” are frequent victims of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, as well as violence. The intergenerational nature of caste-based discrimination condemns women to a life of exclusion, marginalization and disadvantage in every sphere of life. Many of those women are denied an education and economic opportunities, and perform dangerous and unprotected work, including bonded labour (debt bondage) and manual scavenging, which are both widely regarded as forms of forced labour and modern forms of slavery.

Communal violence
Numerous testimonies shared on recurrent episodes of communal violence against religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians; reflect a deep sense of insecurity and trauma of women living in those communities. Experiences included women being stripped, burned, attacked with objects inserted into their vaginas and sexually assaulted in myriad ways because of their religious identity.

It was reported that perpetrators of those crimes usually held positions of authority and often went unpunished. Further, those minorities are allegedly excluded from access to education, employment and adequate housing on equal terms with other citizens, despite the existence of affirmative action schemes and measures by the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the National Commission for Minorities.

Women with disabilities
Women with disabilities face multiple challenges, including, for example, the lack of adequate access to public spaces, utilities and buildings, and often experience harassment in public. The Special Rapporteur was informed of violence perpetrated against women with disabilities in State-sponsored shelters.

Lesbian and Transgender women
Section 377 of the Penal Code criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature”. This particularly affects the protection rights of lesbian and transgender women and has been used by parents as an excuse to prevent homosexuality in their families. The mere perception of different sexual orientation is sufficient to put people at risk of violence and is a contributory factor to the inability of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community to report cases of violence.

Sex workers
Sex workers are exposed to a range of abuse, including physical attacks and harassment by clients, family members, the community and State authorities. Many sex workers are forcibly detained and rehabilitated, and they also face a consistent lack of legal protection. Many face challenges in gaining access to essential health services, including for treatment for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. A recent order of the Supreme Court of India took the position that a sex worker engaged in such work to survive and was “not leading a life of dignity”. The Special Rapporteur noted a tendency to conflate sex work with trafficking in persons, and when sex workers are identified as victims of trafficking, the assistance that is provided to them is not targeted to their specific needs.

Trafficking of women and girls
The trafficking of women and girls from, and to, India was reported as widespread. Disadvantaged women from minority groups, scheduled castes and tribes and the “backward castes” are usually the main victims. Women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution are left unable to defend their rights, and lack access to rehabilitation and compensation for such crimes. This lack of protection and prioritization of the problem by the State has intensified the violence perpetrated against them by criminals or those involved in trafficking practices.

The complicity of State officials in human trafficking was also reported as a concern. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and its amendments are reportedly more directed at safeguarding public moral than combating trafficking in line with the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Widows
Widows also face particular vulnerabilities, as they are often denied and dispossessed of property by their in-laws following the death of a spouse. In addition, social exclusion and poverty lead some widows to engage in sex work and prostitution, and their children to perform hazardous labour or beg on the streets.

Forced evictions
The State’s efforts to foster economic growth and implement development projects are allegedly often conducted without adequate consultations with affected communities, with the sole objective being one of economic growth at any cost.

The consequences for women include being forced to live in insecure environments, displacement; the degradation of their environment, the loss of land and livelihoods and forcible evictions. Many victims are left without adequate relocation alternatives, forcing them to live in slums or on the streets.

Witch-hunting

The Special Rapporteur was informed of brutal acts of violence against women, including executions, commonly referred to as “witch-hunting”. The stigma that is attached to women, who are labeled a “witch”, and the rejection they experience within their communities, leads to various violations and is an obstacle to gaining access to justice. Such labeling affects family members across generations. There is reportedly little or no official investigation into such violations.

Violence condoned or perpetrated by the State
Women living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public.

Information received through both written and oral testimonies highlighted the use of mass rape, allegedly by members of the State security forces, as well as acts of enforced disappearance, killings and acts of torture and ill-treatment, which were used to intimidate and to counteract political opposition and insurgency. Testimonies also highlight the impact of that situation on women’s health, including psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, fear psychosis and severe anxiety, with such conditions having a negative impact on women’s physical well-being.

Additionally, the freedoms of movement, association and peaceful assembly are frequently restricted. The specific legal framework that governs those areas, namely, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and its variations, allows for the overriding of due process rights and nurtures a climate of impunity and a culture of both fear and resistance by citizens.

Custodial violence
In 2012 there were 20 women’s prisons and 21 centres for the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Furthermore there are rehabilitation centres for sex workers. Women account for 4.4 per cent of all inmates in the country. Women prisoners are scattered across the country, often in violation of international standards aimed at ensuring that those wishing to maintain family relationships during custody can do so. Concerns were raised about a lack of adequate protective measures to ensure the safety of inmates, including from gender-related killings. In 2012, 55 deaths of female inmates were registered, of which eight were suicides.

Fair trial rights

Fair trial rights, equality before the law and equal protection of the law were affected by numerous challenges, beginning with the reporting of cases of violence against women to the police. Many interlocutors said that victims were often discouraged from reporting to the police and that many women did not file a complaint owing to fear of reprisals or lack of guarantees of adequate shelter and access to livelihoods. Informal dispute settlement alternatives are often sought, allegedly by police, family members or community leaders. Many interlocutors described the complete or partial absence of legal, housing, security and financial assistance measures for victims. To be able to officially report complaints and continue throughout the often lengthy judicial process in safety and with an adequate standard of living is not an option for many women.

The Special Rapporteur received information indicating that human rights defenders, including women’s organizations, face numerous challenges, including harassment, intimidation and reprisals. Those concerns echo the findings contained in the 2011 report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Profit-oriented microfinance institutions
The Special Rapporteur noted concerns with regard to profit-oriented microfinance institutions involving microfinance products for women, and the failure of the State to protect and prevent abuses. Vulnerable women reportedly receive multiple loans and are sold financial products with little or no information, and the unequal bargaining power between such institutions and clients is not addressed by regulation.

Such practices result in over-indebtedness and the inability to pay back, which leads to harassment and threats and women being excluded from their families and communities. Some have reportedly committed suicide as a result of such abuse. It is unclear if the larger problem is a lack of, or inadequate, regulation of microfinance institutions.

Domestic workers
Women employed as domestic workers are often irregular migrants and unregistered women who operate in a poorly regulated labour market and who are usually considered as belonging to the bottom of a social class. They become easy targets for abusive employers, who force them to work long hours in return for low salaries and often deduct amounts for leave days taken. Many are prevented from using the employer’s sanitary facilities and are forced to defecate and bathe in public, and are subjected to various forms of harassment and violence.

Violence against women in the transnational sphere
Many women refugees and asylum seekers are unskilled workers who often perform hazardous labour in urban and informal settings. While access to education and health care is provided for free by the Government, access to livelihoods is still a challenge, particularly in urban or semi-urban areas. Many of those women earn low wages and are forced to live in small and overcrowded apartments, with a lack of access to basic sanitation in less developed urban settings. Such factors contribute to poor health conditions and other vulnerabilities.

Language barriers often impede their ability to gain access to health care, education and the justice system. Despite improvements in criminal law and police procedures, women refugees and asylum seekers continue to voice safety concerns, as they are frequent targets of attacks and harassment by employers, landlords and community members in public and private spheres.

Economic rights and the right to development

Economic development focus for women remains one of subsistence and does not necessarily take into account, or address sufficiently, the gendered and class nature of systemic and structural inequality and discrimination.

Whereas the participation of all citizens in the economy is considerable, women’s labour force participation is significantly lower, at 25.7 per cent, as compared to men at 77.4 per cent. An International Labour Organization source indicates that the participation of women in the workforce fell from 37.3 per cent in 2004/05 to 29.0 per cent in 2009/10.

While job opportunities for women are in decline, women were found to be in precarious jobs requiring low skills and offering low and unequal wages. Daily earnings for women in recent decades has been comparatively lower than those of men in virtually all sectors

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
Legal measures have been instituted to address sexual harassment in the workplace. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 defines sexual harassment comprehensively and is largely in line with the 1997 Vishaka judgment. It provides for complaints committees in all workplaces employing at least 10 persons. Moreover, while penalties are prescribed in the event of a false or malicious complaint, the Act seeks to prevent the revictimization of victims who are unable to provide adequate proof or substantiate a complaint.

Social and cultural rights
Pervasive gender stereotyping, whether in the media, in the community or in discourses by public officials, was highlighted as an impediment to women’s development. The pervasive culture of denigrating and marginalizing women’s perspectives, concerns and also their identity was an issue that was raised by several interlocutors. Concerns were also raised about the resulting impact on the social standing of women. According to official data, between 2011 and 2012 the number of cases involving insult to the modesty of women increased by 7 per cent.

In 1986, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act was enacted to prohibit indecent representation in advertisements, publications, writings and paintings or in any other manner. New amendments have been proposed to include new forms of communication, to strengthen penalties and to provide for preventive measures. No official information was shared as to accountability measures to address the continuing occurrence of such stereotyping by either State or non-State actors.

State’s obligation to eliminate violence against women
States are required to exercise due diligence to prevent and respond to all acts of violence against women. A comprehensive system of prevention and protection, with real prospects of mitigating harm, altering outcomes and ensuring accountability, must be the norm.

National Commission for Women
The legal basis of the National Commission for Women is not in accordance with international standards; that the institution lacks foundational, functional, operational, political and financial independence; and that the Commission is generally unable to adapt to the evolving and transformative demands of the human rights of women.

According to section 3 of the National Commission for Women Act, 1990, the Commission’s composition is determined by the central Government. A number of allegations highlighted the Commission’s inability to deal with complaints effectively and undertake independent investigations into violations of women’s rights. Reports also reflect the Commission’s failure to address the causes and consequences of violence against women, including, for example, by finding that no particular religious group was targeted during the 2002 Gujarat massacre; by consistently justifying sexual assault on women as a result of “provocative dressing”; by its inability, over many years, to promote much needed law reform; and by denying reports of sexual violence by security forces, including in regions governed by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts.

Domestic Violence

The lack of implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was a concern often raised. Under the Act, women victims require the assistance of a protection officer to lodge a complaint and to file a domestic incident report. The recruitment and deployment of protection officers in the country is limited; they often work part-time and lack the resources to assist victims to file complaints. For instance, in the State of Rajasthan, with a population including approximately 27 million women, there are only 607 designated protection officers and 118 organizations registered as service providers.