Archive for March 28, 2015

Rights group condemns bans on cow slaughter

cow slaughter

Statement issued by People’s Union for Democratic Rights

On March 16th 2015, the Haryana Government unanimously passed Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Bill with main opposition parties INLD and Congress supporting the Bill. The new bill passed by the Haryana Government bans cow slaughter and sale of beef and imposes a punishment of rigorous imprisonment of not less than three years extending up to 10 years and fines ranging from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. one lakh. The Haryana Government’s move comes just days after the President’s assent to Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill 1995 early this month. Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill 1995 not only banned beef but also extended the prohibition to slaughter of bulls and oxen. There was already a ban on slaughter of cows in Maharashtra since 1976. The new amended act imposes a fine of Rs. 10,000 and a maximum prison term of five years for selling or even possessing beef.

What needs to be underlined here is that these bans on cow slaughter are not new; they were in existence in many of the states for many-many years. For example in Delhi, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, slaughter of cows and calves is totally prohibited. In Goa and Andhra Pradesh, ‘cow’ is defined to include heifer, or a male or female calf of a cow under the Goa, Daman and Diu Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act 1978 and Andhra Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter and Animal Preservation Act 1977, respectively. In some states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Madhya Pradesh slaughter of bulls, bullocks and adult buffalos is permitted on ‘fit for slaughter’ certificate if the cattle is over 12 or 15 years of age, is not likely to become economical for draught, breeding or milk. Assam and West Bengal provides for slaughter of all cattle which includes bull, bullocks, calves, cows and buffalo on ‘fit for slaughter’ certificate. Meghalaya and Nagaland have no legislation to this effect.

What, however, is new is the increase in quantum of punishment and fines being imposed in the recent legislations passed against slaughter of cows and other animals. Haryana was covered under the Punjab Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act 1955 and had a rigorous imprisonment upto five years and a fine upto Rs. 5000 or both. The new Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act increases punishment to rigorous imprisonment of three years to ten years and fines of Rs. 30,000 – Rs. 100,000. In many states like Gujarat, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka the punishment for cow slaughter is a maximum imprisonment of six months or fine upto Rs.1000 or both. The 1976 Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act also provided for similar punishment and fines. What also needs to be underlined is that in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan the burden of proof is on the accused. It shows how much importance has been attached to prevention of cow slaughter so as to have this extraordinary provision in the law. It is so ironical that the women’s movement had to struggle so hard to make this change in law in cases of rape to shift the burden of proof on the accused whereas it finds a place in these state’s laws on cow slaughter without anyone even noticing them.

That prohibition of slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught animals finds a place in the Directive Principles of State Policy in our Constitution and that many states in India have a law banning cow slaughter and beef is indicative of a deep seated majoritarian understanding of Indian culture. It shows that the nature of state in India is heavily tilted in a selective understanding of Indian and even Hindu tradition. This questions the whole edifice of secularism and equal respect for all religions in India. The understanding that Hindus stand against cow slaughter or that Hinduism has always shunned and continues to shun beef is a proposition which is deeply contested. It might well be that some castes or groups amongst Hindus revere the cow and find cow slaughter abominable, but this view is not true of all Hindus across India, either today or in the past.

Quite apart from the absurdity of imposing dietary preference of one privileged and powerful group over the rest, there are other compelling reasons to question the ban. The entire meat production industry, from the traditional to the modern, employs and meets livelihood needs of millions of Indians. India’s meat production ranks fifth at 6.3 million tonnes in which share of bovine meat (cow, buffalo, bull) constitutes 62%. Of this, less than a million tones is exported. Thus the rest of it goes to meet the dietary needs of millions of Indians. Thus in banning cow slaughter to appease a minority of Hindus, livelihood needs and therefore right to life of millions of Indians has been put at risk. And in the bargain, it also simultaneously removes cheap high protein diet for hundreds of millions of Indians of every denomination.

These bans which are being extended to cover other cattle as well under an expansive definition of ‘beef’ pose many kinds of problems like for poor farmers who cannot take care of an old cow and because of these bans can no longer sell it to an abattoir. It has serious livelihood ramifications for a large number of families directly and indirectly dependent on cattle trade and related industries like leather, gelatin, animal fat soap industry, pharmaceuticals and meat exports.

It is worth noticing that more than fifty percent of people engaged in meat production and related trade of skin, hides, bones etc are Hindus. And they are beef consumers. To PUDR this ban , therefore, is an assault on the right to life which involves livelihood and a diet of their choice, of Hindus, in whose name it has been brought in, as much as the religious minorities. In other words, it limits the dietary preferences of a substantial section of Indian people.

With Haryana and Maharashtra Governments’ pushing cow slaughter ban, not withstanding Goa’s BJP Chief Minister ruling out a cow slaughter ban in Goa, a majoritarian agenda is being promoted. Although, most of the state laws banning cow slaughter were passed by Congress governments, RSS affiliated Hindu right-wing groups are clamoring now for an all India ban on cow slaughter and for the strictest punishment for anyone indulging in it. This opens the door for fanatics to carry out raids, effect arrests and resort to organized violence against Muslims in particular. These laws provide a social and legal sanction to such groups to harass people who transport the cattle for selling, export and other purposes. The Haryana law includes police action against drivers of vehicles transporting beef and the impounding of such vehicles. PUDR’s 2003 report on Dalit Lynching at Dulina (in Jhajjhar district of Haryana) traces the underlying tensions on the issue of cow protection and its threat to some castes traditionally associated with cow slaughter and trading.

In light of all this, PUDR condemns the recent bans on ‘cow’ slaughter, which like many bans/proscriptions on books, literature, scholarship, films can only be understood in the context of right-wing Hindu upsurge in recent times. The ban is an infringement of personal dietary choices with the state having assumed the power to criminalize some of these. It is indeed a cruel irony that the exercise of this basic freedom invites a greater prison term as punishment than a grave criminal offence like rape for which the term is 7 years; or for deaths due to criminal negligence where the prison term is two years.

While it cannot be stressed enough that a democratic strategy is required to contest the upper caste Hindu bias which is reflected in the Constitution with regard to cow slaughter, we acknowledge that issues of cruelty to animals, animal shelters, maintenance of hygienic conditions in abattoirs, effective waste disposal do need attention. The ban is a reminder that we are being served a fait accompli leaving no room for debate/s or reasoned discussion. PUDR therefore denounces the narrow sectarian construction that conceals a much diverse and complex reality.

Megha Bahl, Sharmila Purkayastha
Secretaries
24 March 2015

Obituary: Tahira Mazhar Ali (1925-2015)

Tahira-Mazhar-Ali

Pakistan’s legendary women’s rights campaigner Tahira Mazhar Ali passed away in Lahore on Monday. She was one of the founding members of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). In 1981, Tahira Ali, along with other women activists, formed the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) to resist the Islamisation agenda of the Zia-ul-Haq regime. A tribute by Kavita Panjabi

I just read about Tahira Mazhar Ali passing away, feeling really sad, hence this. I met her only thrice, and it was like I carried her within me all these years.

The first time was in 2001 at the ASR seminar on the 30th anniversary of the genocide in Bangladesh. She came up to chat after my presentation on the Mahila Atma Raksha Samity (MARS) and the Tebhaga women’s movement, excited. It had taken her on a nostalgia trip, and she said she remembered the MARS on a collection drive for the Bengal Famine in Lahore too; many, including she, had taken off the gold bangles they were wearing and contributed on the spot.

The next time was a couple of years later on the way back from the Karachi conference of the PIPFPD – NIghat had generously opened up ASR to the whole Bengal contingent, and it was like a shaadi baari when we arrived there, late in the night – mattresses had been hired and laid out last minute, to accommodate the extra people who had suddenly called up to say they too were coming, steaming hot degchis of food were put out for us in the kitchen. And Tahira Apa invited all of us to lunch the next day – for we were from Bengal and she wanted to meet us. I remember one of the most serene Buddhas I have ever seen, sitting to the right of her doorway, close to a glass cupboard full of the latest finds from digs in Baluchistan, “Of course its …., she grinned, But if I didn’t buy them, they would have gone out of the country. People are such thieves you know – all this would have gone out of the country…..” As unforgettable as her robust welcome, that made us feel so wanted in a stranger’s house, was the amazing Punjabi meal, which included various meats, naans and rotis of course, but also some of the finest baigan ka bartha and shalgam ka bartha we had ever had.

I instinctively took to her, wanted to record a proper conversation with her. She met me early the very next day – for we were leaving soon after that. I remember sitting with her in the morning light – in an open courtyard, maybe in a garden, with the sun and shadows flickering across her face that had such character. She talked about her younger days, Nehru and her deep admiration for him as well as major differences, Jinnah, the CP being sent underground, her work with peasants, the National Workers Party and the Democratic Women’s Association. Especially striking was the completely natural way in which she talked about ‘us’ across generations, contexts and movements. Included in that ‘us’ was I, a woman from across the border, and all the women whom I had protested with, walked the streets with, and sung with, completely off key, but lustily nevertheless, in Kolkata, Dhaka and Delhi, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. She had a no-nonsense, down to earth way of articulating that ‘us’ with such ease and confidence – it sounded so natural because, one realized the moment one heard it, it was natural

Stop partnership with Uber, activists appeal to UNwomen

Uber-women

Activists aghast at UNwomen’s joint campaign with a company that has a record of its driver’s violence against its passengers including rape and molestation

By Team FI
Women activists and organisations in India have expressed their shock and dismay at UNWomen’s association with Uber, the private cab company whose recruitment and verification of its drivers were questioned after the rape of a woman passenger by the Uber cab driver.

UNwomen, a United Nations organisation, that calls itself as a global champion of woman, has partnered with Uber as a part of their mission for global economic empowerment of women. Uber has promised to create ‘1,000,000 jobs for women as drivers on the Uber platform by 2020’.

Uber, a private cab company, began its services in India in 2013. In December 2014, an Uber driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, was accused of raping a 27-year-old woman. Yadav, whose criminal record includes cases of violence, molestation and even a case under the Arms Act, had been arrested and sent to jail in 2012 on the charges of raping a woman in his cab in 2011. He was acquitted due lack of evidence.

The private cab company that has had its share of controversies in the US, regarding its business practices, has also a record of its drivers being accused of kidnapping a female rider, assaulting a passenger with a hammer, abusing his passenger, killing a six year old (where the company went scot free because its drivers are not employees but contractors), fondling a female passenger and so on. Ironically, a joint statement about the campaign put forward by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick includes this sentence – “This important mission can only be accomplished when all women have direct access to safe and equitable earning opportunities.”

According news reports, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, once told a reporter that Uber’s success has made him more desirable to women – “We call that Boob-er,” he said. http://fortune.com/2014/11/18/a-brief-history-of-ubers-controversies.

The letter sent by women’s organisations pointed out the double standards practiced by Uber which has a process of a seven year background check for its drivers in the USA, which it failed to apply in India. The letter appealed to the UNwomen team not to participate in a campaign that is designed to gain Uber “their loss credibility and in fact damage UNWomen’s standing in people’s mind.”

Delhi CM Kejriwal’s message makes a mockery of the spirit of International Women’s Day

Kejriwal-women's-day-message

By Kavita Krishnan

On International Women’s Day, the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s has chosen not to give a message of solidarity to the women’s movement fighting for justice, equality and freedom for women. Instead he has chosen to give a paternalistic message that reinforces the stereotypes of women in family roles, supportive and nurturing of men.

Mr Kejriwal cited the role of his wife and mother in running the house and supporting him while he fought against corruption. This sounds ominously like ‘Men will lead, women will run the house and support men who lead’. Is it because he sees this as the only fit role for women that he has no women in his Cabinet and his party’s PAC (Political Affairs Committee)?

Mr Kejriwal praises ‘how women fulfill responsibilities honestly without making any fuss.’ But Mr Kejriwal, you haven’t been listening. The thousands of Delhi women, with their sisters across India and in the world, HAVE in fact been ‘making a fuss’ about the gendered division of labour and at having to fulfill familial roles as if that is ‘women’s work’ alone!

By praising women for not making a fuss about this, you have insulted the legacy of International Women’s Day, the day commemorating a century of ‘fuss’ and fight by women!

You praise women for their ‘rock solid tolerance’, Mr Kejriwal. Tolerance of what? Is International Women’s Day an occasion to praise women for ‘tolerating’ injustice, inequality, and lack of freedom?

You chose the Women’s Day as an occasion to give a message to men. But why a message of ‘safety’? Why not tell men on this day to share the roles of housework and childcare and cooking equally with women? Why not tell men to respect and defend the freedom of women inside their own homes? If you just tell men to ‘make Delhi safe for women’, that won’t change the reality, which is that men take away the freedom of women in their own homes in the name of keeping the women safe!

You chose to reinforce the patriarchal idea that men should respect women outside the home as a show of respect for their own sisters, mothers etc. But women deserve respect even if they do not fit the roles of ‘sister, mother, and wife’. it is because men feel entitled to control the lives of and expect services from their wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, that men also feel entitled to sexually harass and rape women.

Meera Kosambi (April 24, 1939 – February 26, 2015)

meera-kosambi

Uma Chakravarti reminisces about the historian and feminist scholar Dr Meera Kosambi who carved her own distinctive space within a legendary family

Many years ago, before Meera Kosambi began to write on women in 19th Century Western India, a region that I wrote on in my work on Pandita Ramabai, the only Kosambi on my intellectual horizon was D.D. Kosambi, her father, who towered over the history writing scene.

So it was not surprising that when I first met her sometime in the 1990s, a lot of our conversation was about her father and also about her grandfather Dharmanand Kosambi because of my interest in Buddhism. Belonging to such an illustrious family it would have been difficult to carve a distinctive space for herself as Meera Kosambi certainly did.

Meera began as an urban studies scholar with a fine urban geography of Bombay city (1986- Bombay in Transition : The Growth and Social Ecology of a Colonial City, 1880-1980, Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International). But it was her persistent work on 19th century women’s history that actually drew attention to her as a serious scholar.

Today her work on history, based on the written archive has been pioneering and her persistence with her chosen field of work—women’s history has also resulted in some important translations of the entire Marathi corpus of Pandita Ramabai’s writings into English so that it can be read by a wider community of feminist scholars. Her stint as Director of the RCWS at SNDT women’s University was in all probably a significant shaper of these intellectual moves that Meera Kosambi made.

In recent years, Meera Kosambi also contributed to the compilation of D.D. Kosambi’s writings so that we now have a really good collection of his papers. These had been published in a wide array of journals, some of which were difficult to access.

The last book she worked on and published was a completely fascinating account her grandfather Dharmanand Kosambi, based on the papers and oral accounts that she must have accessed. For me this has been the most interesting book that she authored. His travels to Nepal and Sri Lanka in search of Buddhist manuscripts, travelling with great difficulty, finding financial assistance from wherever he could was an amazing story. The account of how he went in and out of grihastha status moving from householder to half monkhood over the decades. was equally fascinating.

She must have had a feel for Buddhism, as her father too had, because she advised me once to return to Buddhist studies and not meander here and there. I have tried to do both—stay with Buddhist studies and meander here and there, but I am not sure she would totally approve. In the last few years I never met her for a serious conversation but I read everything that she published and so should others.

Hers was a most serious engagement with Maharashtra once she returned to it and what she did gave her an independent stature. Even though two generations of larger than life Kosambis hung over her all her life and could have dwarfed her completely, she did not let that happen.

Meera Kosambi’s other books
• 1994 Women’s Oppression in the Public Gaze: an Analysis of Newspaper Coverage, State Action and Activist Response (edited), Bombay: Research Centre for Women’s Studies, S.N.D.T. Women’s University
• 1994 Urbanization and Urban Development in India, New Delhi: Indian Council of Social Science Research
• 1995 Pandita Ramabai’s Feminist and Christian Conversions : Focus on Stree Dharma-neeti, Bombay: Research Centre for Women’s Studies, S.N.D.T. Women’s University
• 1996 Women in Decision-Making in the Private Sector in India (with Divya Pandey and Veena Poonacha), Mumbai: Research Centre for Women’s Studies, S.N.D.T. Women’s University
• 2000 Intersections : Socio-Cultural Trends in Maharashtra (edited), New Delhi: Orient Longman, New Delhi
• 2000 Pandita Ramabai Through Her Own Words: Selected Works (translated, edited and compiled) New Delhi; New York: Oxford University Press
• 2003 Pandita Ramabai’s American Encounter : The Peoples of the United States (1889) (translated and edited), Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
• 2007 Crossing Thresholds: Feminist Essays in Social History, Ranikhet: Permanent Black
2008 ‘D D Kosambi: The Scholar and the Man’ Economic and Political Weekly, Kosambi Special Issue vol. XLIII no 30 July.

Noted activists discuss their concerns over India’s Daughter in a letter to NDTV

India- rape-protest

The BBC Documentary India’s Daughter which has been banned by the Indian Government was the subject of a letter sent to NDTV by noted women activists /strong>

Following is the full text of the letter:

5th March, 2015
To,
Dr. Prannoy Roy,
Co-Founder and Executive Co-Chairperson,
NDTV, New Delhi.

Dear Dr. Prannoy Roy,

On receiving a letter from Ms. Indira Jaising and others, on 3rd March 2015, which raised legal and ethical objections with respect to the telecast by NDTV of Leslee Udwin’s film “India’s Daughter” a DVD of the said film was sent by you to Ms. Jaising. Indira Jaising invited us to view.

Before articulating our concerns about the film, we would like to restate the legal objections, raised in the letter of 3 March to NDTV.

It was pointed out that the interview with Mukesh Singh, which is replete with explicit derogatory statements, falls within Section 153A (1) (a) of IPC which reads:
Whoever—
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities

The right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. It is subject to the restrictions contained in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution, namely decency, morality and contempt of Court. At present, the defendant’s appeal against conviction and death sentence is pending before the Supreme Court, therefore, airing the documentary would amount to gross contempt of Court. Section 2(c) of Contempt of Courts Act 1971 states:

“Criminal contempt” means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which-
(ii) Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or
(iii) Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

Therefore, to project the discussion on this film as being posited between ban and no-ban lobbies, is misplaced and seeks to evade the complex issues that is involved.

We have always upheld freedoms and civil liberties, and hence we write this letter to seek a postponement of the telecast, till the appeal and all other legal processes and proceedings relating to the 16 December 2012 gang rape and murder case have concluded.

As held by the Supreme Court of India in Sahara India Real Estate Corp. Ltd. vs. Securities & Exchange Board of India reported in 2012 (10) SCC 603:

“ In our view orders of postponement of publication stroke publicity in appropriate cases as indicated above, keeping in mind the timing (the stage at which it should be ordered), its duration and the right of appeal to challenge such orders is just a neutralising device when no other alternative such as change of venue or postponement of the trial is available as a preventive measure to protect the press from getting prosecuted and also to prevent administration of justice from getting perverted or prejudiced,”(emphasis added).

In the light of the above, we would like to emphasize that all marginalized communities have a stake in the rule of law and in maintaining the integrity of the judicial processes.

This communication, we are sending after viewing the documentary film, which ironically, you had proposed to telecast on 8th March 2015, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. We are writing to you to express our serious concerns about some aspects of this film which, as a responsible channel, we fully expect that you will take on board and postpone the broadcast of this film, till all legal processes and proceedings pertaining to the 16 December 2012 case have concluded.

1. After viewing the film we are of the considered view that the film infringes upon and compromises the rights of the rape victim and the accused men. It must be underlined that the appeal in the case of 16 December 2012 gang rape and murder is still pending before the Supreme Court of India. This film clearly constitutes an obstruction in the administration of justice, and therefore violates the law. The film carries the potential to prejudice the outcome of the legal proceedings. Our objection to it being telecast during this period stems from our deep commitment to defending the human rights of all and upholding the rule of law.

2. This film thwarts the sanctity of the evidence recorded in the trial thereby threatening to jeopardise the rights of the victim and the accused.

3. The film maker has in an interview on your channel on 4 March 2015, argued strenuously that she has diligently complied with all the conditions laid down by the prison authorities. The relevant question is, does the film infringe the rights of the rape victim, the accused and women against whom the hate speech is being targeted. Simply because the prison authorities and the state have been derelict does it give the film maker license to violate Indian law and constitutional rights.

4. The centerpiece of the film is an extensive interview with Mukesh Singh, one of the convicted accused in the crime of gang rape and murder on 16 December 2012. It is necessary to find out how Mukesh Singh’s “informed consent” was sought and given for this interview, as claimed by the film. You would appreciate the vexed nature of assuming free, informed and voluntary consent of a man who is in custody in a jail, convicted of death sentence.

5. While interviewing Mukesh, the film maker also pans the camera to show all the other convicted co-accused lodged in Tihar Jail. It would be pertinent to ask if their informed and voluntary consent has been obtained, and are they aware of the detailing of the crime by Mukesh Singh in this film, where he exculpates himself while making incriminatory statements against the other accused.

6. The film also carries an extensive interview with the lawyer M. L. Sharma, the defense counsel for Mukesh who is heard, again and again, advocating a misogynist perspective, that treats women not as rights bearing persons or equal citizens, but as objects deserving of sexual assault if they transgress patriarchal norms and rules. Advocate M.L. Sharma, wearing the lawyer’s black coat, likens women to flowers and diamond, and asserts that if the diamond is out on the street, then the dogs will get hold of the diamond. Another defense lawyer asserts that women should not step out of the house after 6.30pm, and further, that if his daughter were to exercise sexual autonomy outside the bounds of marriage he would himself drag her to his farmhouse and set fire to her.

While it is true that many men across the world hold such regressive views, the amplification of the same by this film also serves to push back the work of the women’s movement in India, which is engaged in contesting and challenging this mindset. We cannot lose sight of the fact that these unlawful and reprehensible statements voiced by two male lawyers are dangerous, inasmuch as they can be received by people as being the opinion not only of lay persons, but informed by law. Such misogynist statements surround us and we constantly refute them; do we then need this film to add to the cacophony of hate speech spewed against women. By foregrounding these voices the film serves to amplify views that encourage and justify brutal sexual violence against women.

7. The graphic description of the physical harm and injuries caused to the victim is horrific and unnecessary. We are concerned to find that the film maker wishes to show this film to children, and we learn from press reports that it has already been shown to many students in Maharashtra.Our view is that this kind of focus on violence, the lack of regret on the part of the perpetrator, and the detailed description of the torture the victim was subjected to, is actually harmful for young children. The egregious impact of descriptions of violence, verbally or through images, cannot be discounted.

8. Further the film makes a disturbing and direct incitement to violence, by once again focusing on accused Mukesh who states that, “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, “Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.” Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.” We do not subscribe to the view that death sentence should be awarded for the crime of rape, but it is shocking that the film maker does not see the danger inherent in this kind of incitement to violence and hate speech.

9. Also, in spending so much time on interviewing the rapist Mukesh, and in giving so much attention to the remarks of the lawyer, the film maker seems to be building a narrative of a lack of remorse which, according to her, characterizes ‘the rapist’ in India. The issue of rape is complex and this singular case does not exemplify the psychological or mental make- up of a rapist.

10. The focusing on poverty and repeatedly showing clips of the slum to which the rapists of the December 16, 2012 belonged, she is strengthening the very harmful stereotype, that rape is only perpetrated by poor men. This kind of profiling is misleading and unhelpful for advancing women’s rights.

11. We are also concerned with a larger, and to us, very important question. The unfortunate death of the young rape victim in December 2012, resulted in opening up a major discussion and a serious societal conversation and reflections on ending violence against women, and particularly sexual violence, in Indian society. This film, purporting to contribute to this discussion, in fact does not in any way advance the dialogue and indeed, by focusing on the perpetrator of rape, and a lawyer who advocates violence, it makes a mockery of the International Women’s Day marker, on which this film is to be launched. How shocking that on Women’s Day, instead of talking about the serious issues of ending all forms of violence against women, we should be listening to hate speech and incitement to violence against women.

12. Hate speech and incitement to violence against any person or class of persons is restricted, and this constitutes a reasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression, under the Indian Constitution. Would any right thinking person or responsible channel provide a platform to hate speech that sanctions or condones violence against say Dalits, religious or ethnic minorities? This film gives disproportionate attention and significance to hate speech against women and here lie our deep concerns.

13. Having viewed the film, we are of the opinion that not only does it not meet the objective that it purportedly seeks to advance, in fact to the contrary it gives a platform to canvas misogynist views and hate speech. NDTV has through the evening of 4 March 2015,sought to canvass through its channel, that the film puts the spotlight on the delay and other dysfunctionalities of the Indian criminal justice system, that aid and abet injustice for sexual violence. Having seen the film we can say with responsibility that the film does not deal with the systemic problems that plague the criminal justice system. Rather we have through our work been highlighting and seeking reform in the legal system for the systemic impunity for violence against women.

14. We also want to make it clear that our concerns do not emanate from the view that the film hurts the image of India. The pervasive violence against women is what tarnishes India. We distance ourselves from the grounds cited by the government for stopping the broadcast of the film.

Dr. Roy, these are issues that should be deliberated by all in India today and in writing you this letter, we would like to assert that we write out of concern, and out of a grounded and longstanding engagement with the issue of sexual violence as part of the women’s movement in India. We have also carefully considered the edits in the film proposed by you.However we are of the view that the same do not address the concerns that we have highlighted here. In view of all the concerns expressed above we would like to seek a postponement of the telecast of the film, until all legal processes are duly completed

Sincerely,

Indira Jaising
Deviki Jain
Vrinda Grover
Urvashi Butalia
Kavita Krishnan
Suneeta Dhar
Navsharan Singh
Nandita Rao

India’s Daughter is not an act of global solidarity

vrinda_grover-on-India's-daughter

Film does not probe sexual violence as a systemic issue, opines eminent lawyer Vrinda Grover in her Facebook post

I have seen the documentary film, India’s Daughter. I think we need to take a position of engagement rather than posit it simplistically as a ban or no ban issue, which to my mind is much more convenient but not necessarily a helpful position.

One significant issue here is of rule of law; the fair trial and rights of victim and accused. It is critical to remember that the legal process has not yet concluded, the appeal is pending in the Supreme Court of India.

The other concern is that the film serves to amplify hate speech against women and broadcast misogynist views.

It is quite interesting that NDTV has spent a major part of the last evening discussing the issue of Violence Against Women, including the problems with the criminal justice system , impunity etc. This to my mind is the ONLY unintended positive fallout of the Udwin documentary.

What is terribly misleading in NDTV’s programmes though is the projection that Udwin’s documentary discusses or raises these issues.

In fact the precise problem with the film is that it does not probe sexual violence as a systemic issue; it isolates the 16 December gang rape and the murder accused. It profiles poor Indian men as rapists.

Thus, on the one hand, the film will serve to incite the wrath of the public and very soon cries of death to the rapists will resound, for they now carry the tag of ‘monsters’.

On the other hand, the film will, for many others, particularly men, reinforce that women deserve rape and their lives must be circumscribed by misogynist and patriarchal notions. Either way it is a lose- lose situation for women in India.

Telecasting this film, even as legal proceedings are pending does not advance the cause of women’s rights or the rule of law or the right to a fair trial

I do not subscribe to the government’s stance that the film defames India. India should be ashamed of each and every act of violence against women.

This film is however not an act of global solidarity. March 8th marks the day of struggle for the rights of women. The telecast of this film on that day will provide a platform for the broadcast of hate speech against women on International Women’s Day.

Related reading: Noted activists discuss their concerns over India’s Daughter in a letter to NDTV

India’s Daughter, a point of view

India's-daughter-documentary

Leslee Udwin’s documentary India’s Daughter relies on emotional narrative but fails to form a coherent understanding of rape culture

By Supriya Madangarli

The past few days the BBC documentary India’s Daughters directed by Leslie Udwin has caused a furor in media, both print and television, as certain segments of the film were released to the public. There were legal questions raised about the film, how did the producer-director get permission to interview the convicts in the case when the matter was sub-judice. With the case under appeal in the Supreme Court, is it legal to show the film to the public?

The film was fought over in the Parliament with the Government’s decision to ban it. I got an opportunity to watch the film on youtube and these are a few comments I would like to make.

a. Watching the rapists and the reconstruction (in my opinion not necessary) was nauseating and gut-wrenching.
b. The pain of the young woman’s parents was heart-rending
c. The quotes of the rapist and his lawyers overwhelmed the narrative.
It evoked a response of fear, agony and anger. But as the film went on, I was disappointed in its attempt to analyse the rapists ‘mind-set’.

A very feeble portrayal of their economic class and deprivation and the environment they lived in, is shown and I am confused of its purpose. The film talks to an ngo director and a prison psychiatrist in an attempt to understand the ‘why’. Why did these men commit the rape? Are we to understand, that the focus of the film is purely and subjectively on only this particular case and it was treated in isolation – that the analysis was only about these men? However, the quotes of ‘mindset’ and ‘cultural values’ sought to link it with society and the ‘mindset’ of the society.

The intersections of caste, class, consumerism, misogyny, patriarchy and other factors that create rape culture have been ignored. This could have been done if the director had talked to those women who have fought for and been instrumental in changing not only Indian laws, but also fought rape culture from the Mathura rape case to Nirbhaya

Even as activist Kavita Krishanan spoke in the film of how the protest movement that raged in the aftermath became not just about the young woman in Delhi but about a collective anger against rape culture, no such analysis is done in the film. There were no in-depth interviews with the women activists in India, instead the film kept talking to a writer/historian from Oxford who gave inputs which one could have got from wikipedia.

There was also no mention of the painstaking work put in by individuals, activists and women and human rights organisations across India who worked within a nearly impossible deadline to give their submissions to the Justice Verma Commission – these submissions were the core of the content that framed the recommendations for the amendment to criminal law.

However, the criticisms aside, there is no call to ban the film. The need is to continue the conversation by talking about the points that were feebly addressed or ignored by the film. If we are to talk about justice to the young woman, then we need to talk not just about her case, but about Manorama Devi, about Soni Sori, about Sister Abhaya, about Nilufer and Asiya, about Khairlanji, about Rohtak, about Bhagana rapes, the rapes in Gujarat and in Muzaffarnagar etc.

Union Budget 2015-16, through gender lens

Gender-budgeting-India

By Vibhuti Patel

The Union Budget (2015-16) has subsidized the corporate sector by providing the tax reductions and sops. The wealth tax (replaced by a 2 per surcharge) and the phased reduction of corporate tax have made the richer sections of the economy jubilant. The burden of indirect taxes is going to break the back of poor women.

Macroeconomic measures proposed in the budget are detrimental to the working class and marginalized sections of the economy. Instead of raising the direct taxes from rich sections to fund the Railway budget, public-private partnership (PPP) model is promoted to further the cause of corporatization of transport and make the masses pay more for the transport services.

The budget has demanded the diversion of pension funds and MP Local area Development (MPLAD) funds thereby absolving the government from any direct responsibility to enhance financial support for regional development and pensioners. Reduction in financial allocation for Panchayati Raj, the Union Budget makes a mockery of democratic decentralization in the absence of financial decentralization, the local self government bodies become ineffective and the talk of 50% reserved seats for women in the rural and urban local self government bodies becomes an empty rhetoric of ‘empowerment of women’.

Public economics with no concern for the marginalized groups
The state is increasingly withdrawing from the social sector in which the financial allocation has been reduced to from 16.3 percent 2014-2015 (budget estimates) and 15.06 percent revised estimates, 2014-15 to 13.7 percent of the current budget outlay for 2015-2016. Financial allocation for women’s needs gets reduced in the current budget as the percentage of allocation for women and child development remains stagnant at 0.01 percent of the total budget. This budget fails to translate gender commitments of the government into budgetary commitments as the financial provisions for gender concerns have reduced from 4.19 percent of the estimated total budgetary expenditure in 2014-2015 to 3.71 percent of the total expenditure in the current budget.

Gender budgeting
In the Union Budget 2015-16, there has been nearly 50% percent decrease in the allocation of the Ministry of Women and Child Development over the revised budget of 2014-15. Even if we add the Rs. 1000 Cr for the Nirbhaya fund and Rs. 100 Cr for the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao fund to the ministry’s allocation, there is still a decrease of more than 1/3rd allocation in the total amount allocated for women and child development. The Gender Budget has been drastically slashed by 20 per cent (less by Rs. 20,000 crore). Major chunk of gender budget is cornered by Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) with an aim of population stabilization and to meet the targets of ‘two-child norm’.

MGNREGA – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
MGNREGA, a major safety net for poorest of the poor women has received a major blow. For women headed households where main economic burden of the family is shouldered by widows, separated, single and deserted women; the survival struggle will be more painful and extremely arduous due to symbolic increase in budgetary allocation for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme in the context of galloping inflation. The Finance Minister stated that he will only allocate an additional Rs. 5000 Cr to the scheme if there is an increase in the revenue receipts of the government.

Health and nutrition

The economic survey presented along with the budget, criticizes the PDS systems and argues for the uniform application of the cash transfer scheme through JAM (Jan Dhan- Aadhar and Mobile network) as a means of implementing food subsidy. Experience shows that this policy measure has failed to ensure proper nutrition for women as it cannot ensure adequate food for them.

ICDS and Midday meals
The allocations under the ICDS and Midday Meal Schemes have come down by half, from over Rs. 16,000 crores to Rs. 8,000 crores only in the Union Budget. The government made an empty promise of increasing the allocations for ICDS by Rs. 1500 Cr on condition of increase in revenue receipts. The gender budget in the health sector has been reduced by 17.9 percent over last year’s revised estimate. The budget perceives women only as reproductive beings, as a result overall health needs of women and girls are neglected. There is nothing in the budget for elderly women.

Budgetary allocation for housing and urban poverty alleviation has been reduced from Rs. 6,008 crores in the previous year to Rs. 5,634 crores in the current budget. Financial allocation for the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) has reduced to 5.5 per cent as against mandated 8.2 per cent. Thus, as compared to the previous year’s budget, the current budgetary allocation for tribal development is short of Rs. 5000 crores. For SCs it is 8.34 per cent instead of the mandated 17 per cent (less by Rs. 12,000 crore

Education of girls
The disregard for girls’ education is also evident in this budget. The overall gender budget for school education has come down by 8.3 percent over last year’s revised estimate. The budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been reduced by 9.5 percent. The much touted Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan gets only Rs. 100 Cr which is a mockery of this important slogan.

Rail Budget
The Rail Budget must give priority to increase the number of women’s compartments and prevent men from encroaching in them, improve lighting in all compartments, toilets and on railway platforms and outside railway stations, post policewomen and have a special helpline for women commuters. Moreover, the ministry must give top priority to cleanliness, affordable and safe food, sufficient toilets, clean drinking water and adequate health services on railway coaches and platforms. Most of the cases of kidnapping of women and children take place at the railway stations. Hence, budget for ‘Women’s Help Desk” functioning 24 X 7 must be created to cover all major railway stations and junctions throughout the country.

Social security
Women’s organizations have been demanding universal social security coverage for all women workers. But, in this budget, there is no special focus on the needs of working women, especially in the unorganized sector. Though the budget has provided for a pension, old age pension and social safety net fund, the allocation for finances for these much needed schemes is highly insufficient. There is a virtual phasing out of schemes like shelter homes for single women, one stop crisis centres and there is only a meager allocation of Rs. 30 Cr for hostels for working women. The scheme for improving the working condition women and child labour has also got a slight increase.

As far as the allocations for women safety are concerned, the budget increases the Nirbhaya Fund by Rs. 1000 Cr. But let us not forget that last two years’ budgets, 2013-14 and 2014-15, allocations under Nirbhaya fund were not utilized as the government has no concrete plan of action to create structures, channels and mechanisms to use this fund.

India’s commitment to universal social security does not offer much in reality. In spite of high maternal and child mortality rates in our country, there is nothing on universal maternity benefit. In spite of hundreds of thousands of women involved in subsistence production, neither Economic Survey nor the budget recognizes women farmers. Budget talks about the raised agriculture credit target by Rs.50, 000 crore to Rs.8.5 trillion for 2015-16 fiscal and also announced financial support to enhance irrigation and soil health for higher agriculture productivity. Lot in the budget is being talked about farmers, small farmers but nothing on women farmers.

Infrastructure

The allocation for infrastructure sector Rs 70,000 crores, but it doesn’t talk about the investment for reduction in the daily grind of unpaid care work done by women in terms of cooking, cleaning, caring, collection of fuel, fodder, water, looking after live-stock and kitchen-gardening. It is high time that budget recognizes, reduces and redistributes the women’s unpaid care and non-care work. Women pedestrians need footpaths, women vendors and entrepreneurs need market places, women commuters need affordable and safe transport, rest rooms and public toilets, elderly women in half way homes, but the union budget is not bothered about these crucial concerns of women.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that the toiling poor, majority of who are women, are the major casualty as the budget hardly offers anything in terms of

Protective Services- Sabla, Swadhar-scheme for women in Difficult Circumstances, Ujjawala Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking, One stop Crisis centre for women and children survivors of violence, night shelters for homeless women and children, short stay homes, welfare of working children

Social Services-ICPS, JSY, GIA, Creche, CFNEUS, Kishori Shakti Yojana, Nutrition Programme for adolescent Girls

Economic services such as schemes for training and skill development, and provision for credit, infrastructure, marketing etc. which are critical to women’s economic independence and autonomy. e.g. STEP, Support for Training and Empowerment of Girls, working women’s hostel.

Regulatory services which include institutional mechanisms for women’s empowerment, such as State Commissions for Women, women’s cells in police stations, awareness generation programme etc.