Archive for November 27, 2015

Renowned editors and activists join the campaign to free Journalists jailed in Chattisgargh

media- freedom-India

several well-known media personalities and civil rights activists, including Shekhar Gupta, Sevanti Nainan, Rajdeep Sardesai, Aruna Roy and Indira Jaising appeal to the authorities against the arrest and custodial torture of two Hindi language journalists – Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag – for their alleged involvement with the Maoists

Here is the the full text of the petition:
Appeal to Release Journalists Jailed in Chhattisgarh
A petition has been submitted to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Dr. Raman Singh, the Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the Minister of Information & Broadcasting Arun Jaitley and the Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram by 160 journalists and members of civil society, asking for the release of two journalists in Chhattisgarh, jailed in July and September. It reads as follows:

“We, the undersigned journalists and members of civil society, are deeply concerned about the reports of the arrest and custodial torture of two Hindi language journalists SantoshYadav and Somaru Nag, in September and July this year, from the Darbha block of Southern Bastar in Chhattisgarh, on the charge of supporting Maoists.

Santosh Yadav, was arrested by police on September 29 2015 and Somaru Nag, an Adivasi journalist, was arrested on July 16 2015. Yadav used to report for multiple Hindi newspapers including Dainik Navbharat and Dainik Chhattisgarh. Nag was a stringer-cum-news agent with Rajasthan Patrika.

While Nag has been charged under the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act, Yadav has been charged under the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act (CPSA). There is no clarity as to the charges against them, or the evidence which the police hold about their alleged involvement with Maoists.

According to these reports (Arrested, tortured and Jailed in South Bastar and Truth has two versions in Bastar), Yadav’s name was added to a case where 18 villagers were arrested and charged with an encounter, which took place on 21st August during a road-opening operation by the security forces in which a Special Police Officer was killed. Nag was charged with keeping a look out on the movements of the police, while a group burnt a crusher plant employed in road construction in Chote Kadma on 26th June.

Local lawyers and members of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties said that police had been harassing Santosh Yadav for several months now, ever since he began reporting on the conflict between the police and the Maoists. While the police personnel state that he had links with the Maoists, civil liberties activists allege that the police was pressurizing Yadav to become an informer for them.

The arrests have only brought to the fore the extremely precarious condition of journalists reporting from these conflict areas, in particular journalists who live and work in rural areas. They face a Hobson’s choice, and their reportage as well as their independence and their very safety, is severely compromised. In this situation, police arrests end up intimidating and silencing all independent voices.

Somaru Nag and Santosh Yadav’s arrests have contributed to a deep sense of insecurity amongst journalists in the state and a fear that, not just their work, but their own lives, will be in danger if they venture out to do any independent investigation, or stories that are critical of either the security forces or the Maoists

Either way, they face a threat, and these arrests suggest that journalists cannot expect any protection under the law from police and security forces.

In order to protect their right to work and report freely, the local journalists have formed a Patrakaar Suraksha Kanoon Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti (United Struggle Body for the Security of Journalists). This body has demanded

1. that Somaru Nag and Santosh Yadav be immediately released;
2. that the state create conditions for reporters to work and travel freely, and without fear or harassment;
3. that the practice of fake arrests stop and that the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act be repealed or not used against reporters;
4. And finally, an investigation into the methods adopted by senior police official S.R.P.Kalluri, who has created an atmosphere of terror in the Bastar region, especially against the media.

The full petition is attached.

The signatories so far:

1. Mrinal Pande, Chairperson, The Media Foundation, Delhi
2. Ravish Kumar, Senior Executive Editor, NDTV, Delhi
3. Shekhar Gupta, Television Anchor and Columnist, Delhi
4. Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
5. Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor-in-Chief, The Wire, Delhi
6. Rajdeep Sardesai, Consulting Editor, India Today Group, New Delhi
7. Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate Supreme Court, Trustee Lawyers
Collective, Delhi
8. Sagarika Ghose, Consulting Editor, Times of India, New Delhi
9. Vipul Mudgal, Common Cause & Foundation for Media Professionals
10. Dileep Padgaonkar, former editor, Times of India, Pune
11. Shoma Chaudhary, Editor-in-Chief, Catch News, Delhi
12. Nitin Desai, Economist and Columnist
13. Bharat Bhushan, Editor, Catch News, Delhi
14. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Senior Journalist, Delhi
15. Pamela Philipose, Senior Journalist, Delhi
16. Harsh Mander, Social Worker and Writer, Delhi
17. Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, Mumbai
18. Kalpana Sharma, Journalist, Mumbai
19. Seema Mustafa, The Citizen, Delhi
20. Raman Kirpal, Editor, DNA
21. Siddharth Dube, Contributing Editor, Caravan Magazine
22. Subir Bhaumik, Former BBC Correspondent, Kolkata
23. Mannika Chopra, Managing Editor, Social Change, New Delhi
24. Sevanti Ninan, Thehoot.org, Delhi
25. Dr. Shujaat Bukhari, Editor-in-Chief, Rising Kashmir, Srinagar
26. Sujata Madhok, Delhi Union of Journalists
27. M J Pandey, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists
28. Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
29. Ammu Joseph, Senior Journalist, Bengaluru
30. Shubhranshu Choudhary, CGNetSwara, Raipur
31. Jyoti Punwani, Journalist, Mumbai
32. Nupur Basu, Filmmaker and Journalist, Bengaluru
33. Ashis Kothari, Pune
34. Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre
35. Madhusree Mukherjee, Writer, Germany
36. Ravi Rebbapragada, Editor, Dhimsa
37. Chitrangada Choudhury, Journalist & Researcher, Bhubaneshwar
38. Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai
39. Pushpa Achanta, Journalist, Bengaluru
40. ManishaSethi, Academic, Delhi
41. Arudra Burra, IIT, Delhi
42. Kamayani Bal Mahabal, Independent Journalist, Mumbai
43. Rohit Chopra, Professor, Santa Clara University
44. Kaveri Gill, Independent Researcher
45. IshanTankha, Photographer, Delhi
46. Rahul Basu, Goa
47. Aniket Aga, Yale University
48. Manoj Gopalkrishnan, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
49. Kiran Shaheen, Independent Journalist, Delhi
50. Pushpendra, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
51. Aritra Bhattacharya, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
52. Arunima Kaushik, Mumbai University
53. Stan Swamy, Ranchi
54. Linda Chhakchhuak, Grassroots Options, Shillong
55. Revati Laul, Independent Journalist, Ahmedabad
56. Karen Dias, Photographer, Mumbai
57. Rajashri Dasgupta, Independent Journalist, Kolkata
58. Javed Iqbal, Journalist and Photographer, Mumbai
59. Paroma Mukherjee, Photographer, Delhi
60. Padmaja Shaw, Hyderabad
61. Vani Rupela, Speech Pathologist, Fairfax
62. Nilanjana Bhowmick, Independent Journalist, Delhi
63. Arti Jaiman, Station Director, Gurgaon ki Awaaz
64. Smita Nair, Journalist, Mumbai
65. Akhileshwari, Journalist
66. Kavitha Muralidharan, Journalist, Chennai
67. Dilip D’Souza, Writer, Mumbai
68. Shahina KK, Assistant Editor,OPEN
69. Sudhir Pattnaik, Editor, Bhubaneswar
70. Raksha Kumar, Journalist, Bangalore
71. Aditya Sinha, Journalist
72. Dilnaz Boga, Journalist, Mumbai
73. Rohini Mohan, Journalist, Bangalore
74. Laxmi Murthy, Consulting Editor, Himal Southasian, Bangalore
75. Soumyadipta Banerjee, Journalist, Mumbai
76. Sumi Krishna, Writer, Bangalore
77. Freny Manecksha, Journalist, Mumbai
78. Noor Enayat, Brand Consultant, Delhi
79. Sobhi Mohanty, Government Consultant, Bhubaneshwar
80. Ananya Vajpeyi, Professor, Delhi
81. SibiArasu, Independent Journalist, Chennai
82. Govind Krishnan, Fountain Ink, Bangalore
83. Latika Padgaonkar, Pune
84. Nikita Sud, Associate Professor, Oxford University
85. N P Chekutty, Editor, Thejas Daily, Calicut
86. Kartikeya Date, Academician, Haifa
87. Ruchi Sharma. Freelance Journalist, New York, USA
88. Anuradha Nagaraj, Journalist, Chennai
89. Priyanshu Gupta, IIM Kolkata
90. Suvir Kaul, University of Pennsylvania
91. Dharitri Bhattacharjee, University of South Sewanee
92. Uma Chakravarti, Delhi
93. Virginia Saldanha, Activist, Mumbai.
94. Preetha Nair, Journalist, IANS, Delhi
95. Kalpana Mehta, Indore
96. KarthikBittu, University of Hyderabad
97. Nandini Rao, Activist, Delhi
98. Urvashi Butalia, Publisher, Delhi
99. Shewli Kumar, Associate Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
100. Nilanjana S Roy, Writer, Delhi
101. Aarthi Pai, Lawyer, Bangalore
102. Aruna Chandrasekhar, Amnesty India
103. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Independent researcher and writer
104. Nitya Vasudevan, Bangalore
105. Sudipto Mondal, Journalist, Bangalore
106. Neha Dixit, Independent Journalist, Delhi
107. Priyanka Borpujari, Independent Journalist, Bombay/Guwahati
108. Susie Tharu, Author, Hyderabad
109. Sujata Gothoskar, Activist and Researcher, Bombay
110. Sneha Rajaram, Bangalore
111. Seema Krishnakumar, Communications Designer, Trivandrum
112. Rochisha Narayan, YALE-NUS College, Singapore
113. Aheli Moitra, Journalist, The Morung Express, Nagaland
114. Anannya Bhattacharjee, Labour Unionist, National Capital Region
115. Nivedita Menon, JNU, Delhi
116. Anita Ghai, Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi
117. Mary E John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi
118. Abha Bhaiya, Jagori, Delhi
119. Vidya Kulkarni, Independent Journalist, Pune
120. Geetartha Pathak, Vice-President, Indian Journalists Union, Guwahati
121. Dr. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Medical Officer and Writer, Pakur
122. D W Karuna, Researcher, Chennai
123. Ramlath Kavil, Photographer, Writer, Mumbai
124. Supriya Madangarli, writer, Mumbai
125. Amrita Shodhan, School of Oriental and African Studies, London
126. Geetanjali Gangoli, University of Bristol
127. JaideepHardikar, Journalist, Nagpur
128. Subir Ghosh, Journalist, Bangalore
129. Anuradha Banerji, Ambedkar University, New Delhi
130. Richa Minocha, Member Secretary, Jan Abhiyan Sanstha, Shimla
131. Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, New Delhi
132. Aatreyee Sen, Forum for Human Rights and Justice
133. Lalita Ramdas, Delhi
134. WSS (Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression)
135. Nihar Gokhale, Journalist, Delhi
136. Shailesh Rai, Bangalore
137. Sandhya Srinivasan, Journalist, Mumbai
138. Pavan Dahat, Journalist, Raipur
139. Jitendra Choubey, Journalist, Down to Earth
140. Tara Chettur, Journalist, The Hitavada
141. Joydeep Gupta, Editor, The Third Pole
142. Rituparna Borah, Nazariya: A Queer Feminist Resource Group, Delhi
143. Ritambhara Mehta, Nazariya: A Queer Feminist Resource Group, Delhi
144. Anshu Jain, Nazariya: A Queer Feminist Resource Group, Delhi
145. Veena Poonacha, Academic, Mumbai
146. Gabriele Dietrich, Madurai
147. Jinee Lokaneeta, Academic, New Jersey
148. Saswati Ghosh, City College (under Calcutta University), Kolkata
149. Sakina Bahora, Mumbai
150. Neeraj Malik, Academic
151. Ammu Abraham, Women’s Rights Activist, Mumbai
152. Ritu Menon, Publisher, Women Unlimited, Delhi
153. Ayesha Kidwai, Academic, Delhi
154. Sarojini N
155. Rama Vedula, Delhi
156. Roshmi Goswami, Shillong
157. Shubha Singh, Journalist, Delhi
158. Anjali Monteiro, Filmmaker and Academic, Mumbai
159. Simpreet Singh, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
160. Ashoke Chatterjee, Ahmedabad
161. Suvojit Bagchi, journalist, Kolkata

Kiss Of Love supporters issue statement on Rahul Pasupalan and Resmi Nair arrest

Kiss_of_Love_kerala

After the arrest of Rahul Pasupalan and his wife Resmi Nair, who were active members of Kiss Of love protests, over sex trafficking charges, supporters and organisers of Kiss of Love campaign, disassociating their connection with the duo, put forward their opinion about the event in the form of an open letter to the public

Kiss Of Love completed one year on November 2nd with the first Kiss of Love organised at Kochi Marine Drive last year challenging the cultural moral policing and violence unleashed on people. It is the realisation that the attack on the Down Town Hotel in Calicut was was an attempt to recreate the violent model of attack that Sangh Parivar forces have been unleashing in Mangalore and Bangalore. Several individuals, universities and organisations embraced and organised it in various places in Kerala and several parts of the country such as Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Trivandrum, Calicut, Alapuzha, etc. It also created a network of people who endorsed and participated in several progressive movements and protests henceforth. Most of the members have been verbally abused online, threatened in person and vilified in TV discussions, but the movement and its members have slowly and steadily been able to make a space for discussion and debate to voice their progressive stands through online spaces, alternate news portals and holding public meetings.

The latest assault on the Kiss Of Love (KOL) movement, the last in the long list of assaults against its activists over the past one year in Kerala. It involves the arrest of KOL activist, Rahul Pasupalan and his wife Resmi Nair, over sex trafficking charges. Under these circumstances, as people who have been active members of the KOL, we think it is important to bring to your attention to a few facts with regard to KOL and the recent controversy.

1. KOL is not a movement which was executed with any official leadership. There are no full time KOL activists or an official committee to review and take a disciplinary action or suspend a supporter from the movement if they act against the ideology of the movement. It does not keep a tab on their personal activities or political affiliations of its supporters, but surely there is social auditing.

It was the media that projected the couple as ‘leading spokespersons’, and baptised them as Chumbana Samara nayakan and nayika and made them icons of the Kiss Of Love movement

It is the voyeuristic tendencies of the media that reduced KOL to these two individuals who are involved in the modeling and filmmaking profession. In the past months, both in the issue of Cherian Phillip’s misogynist comments Rahul Pasupalan had revealed himself to be totally opposed to the spirit of the KOL. Several people involved have questioned his statements and openly challenged his refusal to withdraw his statements. Ignoring these developments, the media has consistently and systematically equated Rahul Pashupalan with KOL in all its reports. This is a clear indication that media wanted malign the credibility and ruin the relevance of KOL which has emerged as a strong threat to right wing fundamentalist forces. However this media bombardment is just the last in a long line of assaults we have suffered over the last year. We have weathered them, and we will weather this too.

It is also important to state that the case against the two has been registered only on 18-11.2015 (two days back) and it is not appropriate to assume them to be guilty already. We demand that they receive a fair trial and if they are found guilty, they must be punished as per law. Proclaiming them guilty before that is illegal and unethical.

2. There is no common position on sex work in KOL though all of us are against pedophilia and many of us have worked to report such pages, including the one mentioned in the case: Kochu Sundarikal. As has been mentioned in many reports, those who have reported the page and helped the police are also individuals who are involved with KOL. Why is it that the media is doing this selective reporting and ignoring the positive involvement of the movement in bringing the pedophile racket to the eyes of law?

3. The rising intolerance and violence unleashed on people who assert human and constitutional rights make movements like KOL the need of the hour. KOL has been able to create a collective of individuals who question, oppose and resist the prevalent norms of patriarchal society and the right wing agenda of those in power. The effective use of social media space to circulate the news that the mainstream media ignores and blacks out is another threat to the fascist forces. It also saw some of the members coordinating and involving in various progressive movements and protests ranging from Catch the Pamba Bus, Aarthavasamaram, Kalyan Sarees Irikkal Samaram, entevaka500, forabetterFB campaign, Queer Pride March, Munnar Penpillaiorumai, etc. Thus the emergence of such a powerful counter voice threatens both those in power and the proponents of cultural morality. Hence it is their combined necessity that such progressive movements be countered and crushed. Misogyny, sexual conservatism, gender inequality, and such interrelated evils are enduring structures and these cannot be undone with a few struggles. If KOL questioned and alarmed the carriers of these tendencies, it will continue to do so through several such struggles in the coming months.

We the undersigned, hereby endorse this statement. Kindly add your name, place and affiliation.

KR Meera, Writer, Kottayam
Tejaswini Niranjana, TISS, Mumbai
Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women’s Association, Delhi
K Satchidanandan, New Delhi
Prem Chand, Mathrubhumi, Calicut
S Anand, Navayana
EP Unny, Cartoonist, Palakkad
Nivedita Menon, JNU, Delhi
Aditya Nigam, CSDS, New Delhi
Anjali Monteiro, Mumbai, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
K P Jayasankar, Mumbai, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
C Gouridasan Nair, Journalist, Thiruvananthapuram.
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights Activist, Mumbai
Jayan Cherian, Filmmaker, New York
Geeta Seshu, journalist, Mumbai.
Shahina Nafeesa, Open, Kochi
Devika J, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram
Aswathy Senan, Delhi University, Delhi
Arundhati B, Hyderabad Central University, Hyderabad
Shafeek Subaid Hakkim, Doolnews, Calicut
Jolly Chiriyath, Human Rights Activist, Kochi
Lasar Shine, Writer, Kochi
Bindu Menon, Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi
Adv Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, Janakeeya Manushyaavakaasha Prasthaanam, Kochi
Adv Nandini Sundar, Sthree Kootayma, Kochi
Najmal Babu(TN Joy), Social Activist, Thrissur.
Naveen Gaur, Delhi University, Delhi
Madhuresh, NAPM, Delhi
Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNUSU, Delhi
Shweta Raj, Convener, JNUSU, Delhi
Mukesh Kulariya, Convener, JNUSU, Delhi
Rama Naga, General Secretary, JNUSU, Delhi
Geeta Kumari, GSCASH Student Rep, JNU
V Geetha, Writer, Chennai.
Nisha Susan, Journalist, Bangalore.
Shruthi Dileep, Kottayam, Kerala.
Bindulakshmi Pattadath, TISS, Mumbai
Deedi Damodaran, Script Writer, Calicut
Gowri Parameswaran, New York.
Lokesh Lucky, Sthree Mukti Sanghatan, Delhi
Gopika G G, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram
Anil Tharayath Verghese, Delhi Solidarity Group
Anitha Santhi, Tree Walk, Thiruvananthapuram.
Satyam Siddhartha Singh, Pune
Vineeth Chakyar, Filmmaker, Ernakulam
V J Varghese, University of Hyderabad
Padmanabhan J, Chennai, Tritan Leather
Shajahan Madampat, Dubai
Ravi Raman, Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi
Rushabh Mohan Nair, Thiruvananthapuram.
K T Ram Mohan, School of Social Sciences, MGU, Kottayam.
Naveen CHander, NEw Socialist Initiative, Delhi
Suchismita Chattopadhyay, JNU/Shiv Nadar, Delhi
Aarathi G, Centre for Development Studies
Akhil C S, Centre for Development Studies
Padmanabhan J, Chennai, Tritan Leather Works
NP Ashley, St Stephen’s College, Delhi
Maya Leela, Researcher, Spain
Sriranjini R, Trivandrum
Najma Jose, Canada
Jerald Jose, Canada
Nanditha Mathew, Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies, Italy,
Vinaya Raghavan, Bangalore
Govind Krishnan, Fountain Ink, Bangalore
Jaljith, Trivandrum
Ardra, JNU, Delhi
Preetha GP, Thiruvalla
Arun Lal K, GAVC, Kannur
Premjish Achari, JNU, Delhi
Hagen De Sa, Goa
Inji Pennu, Global Voices, New York
Arya Thomas, Political Activist, Delhi
Themeem Thazhatheri, Hyderabad Central University
Benston John, St Stephen’s College, Delhi
Peter Ivan, Bangalore
Deepa Praveen, Criminologist, Wales
Bincy Y, Trivandrum
Syam Nath, Trivandrum
Ajin K Thomas, Malappuram
Jina Dcruz, Atlanta, USA
Avaneet Aravind, Bangalore
Avipsha Das, JNU, Delhi
Pratheesh Rani Prakash, Kollam
Jisha Josh, Pedestrian Pictures, Bengaluru
Aysha Mahmood, Calicut
Divya DV, Research Scholar, Government Law College, Ernakulam
Hemantika Singh, AISA, Delhi
Anand Vijayan, Bombay
Ullas TS, Kochi
Suhana Rashee, Punalur
Anumita Mitra, AIPWA, Kolkata
Binitha V Thampi, IIT Chennai
Rajashree R, Young India Fellow, Asoka University
Nisha Jayan, New York
Ajith Unnikrishna Pillai, Alappuzha
Seema Krishnakumar, Photographer, Coimbatore
Adv Rajif, KOzhikode
Delton, Human Rights Activist, KKozhikode
Ashwain Babu, HUman Rights Activist, Kozhikode
KP Lijukumar, Social Activist, Kozhikode
Nadi, Human Rights Activist, Kozhikode
Jasmine, Youth Dialogue, Kozhikode

Muslim women’s collective demand a ban on triple talaq

ban- triple-talaq

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan’s latest report on talaq calls triple talaq un-Islamic and demands a ban of the practice. The report also slams various religious seminaries for upholding arbitrary divorces as valid

The Sachar Committee gave a comprehensive report about the socio-economic and educational marginalization that signifies the lives of Indian Muslim community. Their report highlighted how the largest minority ives in poverty and backwardness with a sense of fear and insecurity from communal violence. They studied the condition of the whole community in detail although they were not tasked with a particular study of the condition of Muslim women. They have however, dwelt upon aspects such as access to education and health mechanisms, public transport and public services as well as identity and security issues in relation to accessing these. The report mentions about the singling out and stereotyping about Muslim women that takes place in our society.

However, we are aware that like their fellow male citizens the Muslim women face socio-economic challenges about inclusive education, livelihoods, health care etc. Additionally and very importantly the Indian Muslim women face hardships in marriage and family emanating from the rampant misinterpretations of Quranic tenets related to marriage and divorce.

Since January 2007, in the course of our work we have come across thousands of cases of oral talaq rendering women destitute with nowhere to go. We have been hearing numerous accounts of women being rendered homeless overnight along with their children as their husbands chose to unilaterally say talaq talaq talaq. In most cases the husband’s mindset as well as action is dictated by a common sensical understanding about their “ right “ to pronounce talaq and part permanently with the wife as “given by Islam”.

Hardly is there any awareness about the actual Quranic injunctions or the meaning of triple talaq. Partly, the maulvis and qazis should accept their share in the prevalence of this malpractice as should those who have insisted on being sole arbiters of our religion in the country! Also those who have been claiming to be speaking on behalf of all Indian Muslims have a lot to answer! All of them must accept that together they have failed to build an awareness about the Quranic tenets on divorce that call for a 90 day time period of discussion, dialogue, arbitration and considered action. Perhaps with the right education and awareness this problem would not have arisen at all.

Full report here

Bookmybai advert raises concerns over awful working conditions of domestic helpers

domestic- workers- india

Pinjra Tod, an autonomous group that works to ensure affordable and non gender-discriminatory accommodation for women students in Delhi gives a fitting reply to a sexist advertisement that commodifies and dehumanizes domestic workers in the country

By Pinjra Tod
This Diwali, we were hit with the promise that women were to be finally liberated from the shackles of housework and that they would never ‘need to enter the kitchen again’. Years of patriarchal oppression that caged women to house work would now be miraculously over through a savy ‘master’stroke accomplished in a few minutes: the ‘maid’ that a husband (mind you!) needed to ‘gift’ to his beloved wife (instead of ‘useless diamonds’) through the newly launched online service of bookmybai.com.

This advert has left us fuming in rage, not only with its sexist, misogynist, casteist and classist constructions, but also by the twisted manner in which it seeks to co-opt/appropriate the feminist dream and discourse of women’s emancipation from the slavery and monotony of domestic work. How does bookmybai.com construct the breaking of the cage of domesticity for women? Who are these women who would never need to enter the kitchen again? Who are the women whose labour would make this possible?

While middle class women are promised “trusted”, “safe,reliable & easy”, “background verified” and “hassle-free replacement” of maids to achieve their freedom from the kitchen, the intensely precarious conditions of work (extremely low wages, indefinite hours of tremendous hard work, no job security, no medical or holiday pay, blatant practices of untouchability and sexual harassment by employers etc.) that characterise the lives of women involved in the domestic and care work industry are completely invisibilised.

While emergence of domestic work as a “saleable” commodity has directed attention towards the labour of women within the house earlier invisiblized under labels of ‘love’ and ‘affection’, the bad working conditions and market value of that work also reflects the little social, “productive” value that is attached to that work, and other work historically associated with women.

It is also interesting to note at this point that despite the idea of women’s economic independence gaining currency across larger sections of society and notably among the middle and lower middle class, the actual share of women in the urban working population remains ridiculously small, out of which the largest growing sector is one of the lowest in the world (15%). What this implies is that the largest growing section in which women seeking economic independence find jobs is the low-paid and highly exploitative sector of domestic work and others like it. This in turn also reflects on how all women and “women’s work” is perceived and valued in society, touching on women of all backgrounds, even the one shown beaming in this advert!

Middle class homes constitute some of the most brutal prisons for domestic workers, who are often literally caged inside houses and their physical mobility is severely restricted

domestic maid adMany of us have grown up in our families complicit in these practices of exploitation — the pittance wage paid, the separate utensils, the different seating and sleeping areas, the daily abuse, the regulations, the harsh regimes of work and surveillance: the lists are endless. Many of us who live in university hostels know that over the last decade the women who perform the important tasks of cleaning and maintaining the hostel premises are being increasingly thrown in more and more insecure conditions of work, where jobs which were earlier permanent positions under the university administration, are now operating under sub-contracted and casual contracts. Bookmybai slyly appropriates the language of women’s liberation from domesticity to essentially reinforce a hierarchical model of society, where the emancipation of middle class and upper-caste women is to be premised on the continued exploitation of working class and Dalit women.

It is the husband constructed as the primary ‘bread-winner’, who is to ‘gift’ the ‘maid’, the husband/man is not even imagined as needing to contribute to housework. To add to it all, the website contains filters for ‘religion’ and ‘region’, legitimising the discrimination and exclusion that is already practised in society in an employment portal

There is absolutely no challenge to the sexual division of labour, which confines women to the burden of reproductive work.

The CEO justifies this by saying that this is information that customers want. Can we imagine a website in the US that profiles ‘black’ and ‘white’ ‘maids’? What does the buying and selling of humans remind you of? Feudalism? Slavery? The CEO unapologetically claimed that this sexist and casteist advert was supposed to be ‘funny’.

In the horrific gesture of commodifying and dehumanising the domestic worker and her labour into a ‘gift’ to be traded and exchanged in the market, this ad inadvertently lays bare the oppression and alienation that marks the lives and experiences of domestic workers. Bookmybai.com is however not an isolated case, but a new and more ‘organised’/'formal’ avatar whose outrageous articulations brings out very starkly the issues and questions that characterise the domestic work industry in general. The struggle for higher wages and unionisation that is being waged by domestic workers across the globe hence becomes very significant in such a dystopic context.

Women’s liberation from the cages of domesticity will only truly be possible when we build and create institutional and collective forms of sharing and engaging in reproductive labour and care work that dismantles the sexual division of labour, and where the liberation of one section of women is not contingent on the exploitation of another section.

Closing doors for women empowerment: Govt to shut down Mahila Samkhya Programme

Women's-rights- India

Modi government’s proposal to merge Mahila Samkhya programme with National Rural Livelihood Mission is unacceptable to women’s rights activists, researchers and scholars who have worked with the programme

By Team FI
Expressing their concern about the government of India decision, reportedly, to close down the Mahila Samkhaya (MS) programme, women’s rights activists, researchers, academics, scholars calling themselves as friends of Mahila Samkhya have written an open letter the Minister of Human Resources and Development (MHRD).

The MS programme was launched in 1988, as per the website of MHRD to pursue the objectives of the National Policy on Education, 1986, which “recognized that the empowerment of women is possibly the most critical pre-condition for the participation of girls and women in the educational process.” Though there has been no formal announcement, it has been understood that negotiations are currently on for the state societies of the MS programme to be merged with National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM).

The letter stated that “the rationale for a merger of MS with NRLM is also unclear, given that an independent evaluation commissioned by the Ministry of Education and undertaken by IIM Ahmedabad in 2014 strongly recommended expansion of the scheme.”

As per the National Review of the MS in 2014 by the Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, the programme “covers 130 districts and 679 blocks/ mandals in the country. MS covers 36% of the blocks/ mandals in the districts in which it is working. This indicates significant coverage on average.” The review also states that MS “has a presence in 44,446 villages, that is in about a quarter of the villages of the districts where it is present. In the villages under MS coverage, there are 55,402 sanghas. About 32% of these (17507) are under autonomous federations. This is a significant number and reflects the move towards greater autonomy and independence for the older sanghas. The sangha membership stands at 14,41,9286. There are 325 federations; 156(48%) are autonomous. There are 21,825 savings and credit groups, with 5,31,239 members (about 37% of the total sangha membership).”

As per the review, the programme “is involved in 102 Mahila Shikshan Kendras with an enrolment of 2989. Cumulatively, under the programme, there are 28,507 MSK alumni, and 17,606 of these (62%) have been mainstreamed into formal schools. There are 16,864 alternative learning centres of various kinds in most states. In four states MS runs 187 KGBVs and in one state there are 802 NPEGEL centres. There are 23,026 kishori sanghas with 5,23,701 members. There are 481 Nari Adalats, which have dealt with, cumulatively, 30,410 cases up to now. A total of 30,090 sangha members have contested panchayati raj elections, and 12,905 (43%) have been elected. “

The review stated that MS has “successfully mobilized marginalized women; nearly 90% of the sangha membership is drawn from the disadvantaged sections of society. SC and ST constitute 56% of the sangha membership at the national level.” The review sampled 72 sanghas and as per the discussions with these sanghas, the review stated that “the inter-generational shift in favour of girls’ education is strong.

In the families of those members who do not have formal education, the younger generation of girls is doing well; 77% of the members with no formal education have all the girls in their families in the age group of 6 to 16 in school. Members with formal education, though, still seem to be at an advantage, but the picture with respect to those members without formal education is encouraging.”

The letter presents a detailed study of the relevance and scope of Mahila Samkhya programme stating that “The MS experience proves that expansion of women’s autonomy, agency and voice cannot come about through atomised initiatives for “economic empowerment”, “political empowerment”, “legal empowerment” and so on. This complex and holistic understanding of empowerment is not confined to the programme document – it is clearly and strongly articulated by sangha members.”

Here is the full text of the letter

International human rights group ask TN govt to release Dalit folk singer Kovan

dalit singer Kovan

Forum Asia criticises the arrest of folk singer S Sivadas, known as Kovan by the Tamil Nadu Government, as an infringement of people’s basic freedom

BY Team FI
An international human rights group FORUM-ASIA with 47 member organisations in 16 countries across Asia issued a press release yesterday asking the Tamil Nadu Government to release Dalit folk singer and activist Kovan. The singer was arrested under the Indian sedition law for singing songs that criticised the Jayalalitha government’s anti-liquor policy. The following is a full text of the statement.

Statement:
Authorities in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu must immediately release Dalit folk singer and activist S. Sivadas, also known by his stage name Kovan, who was arrested under India’s archaic and excessive sedition law for singing songs satirizing the chief minister and state government of Tamil Nadu.

Kovan was arrested in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu on 30 October at 2 AM in the morning by plain clothes police officers and was later charged with sedition, provocation with intent to cause riot and public mischief. In the early hours of the day, with no notice to any of the family members where he was being taken, he was taken to Chennai, nearly 375 kms away. He is been placed under judicial custody till at least 12 November 2015.

“Kovan has been arrested for simply exercising his fundamental right to freedom of expression. Free speech in a democracy includes the right to criticize elected representatives and dissent,” said Henri Tiphagne, chairman of FORUM-ASIA. “The Tamil Nadu government should immediately release Kovan and stop infringing on people’s basic freedoms.”

Kovan is a member of Makkal Kalai IlakkiyaKazhagam, or People’s Art and Literary Association, a group that performs folk songs and street plays on important issues such as women’s rights, and rights of marginalised groups including Dalits. He was allegedly arrested for two songs which ask the state government to stop profiting from state-run liquor stores at the expense of poor people.

“Kovan’s case is another reminder that India should urgently repeal the regressive sedition law which is a remnant of its colonial past. This law has been used too often to muzzle the voices of human rights defenders, journalists, artists and a range of other critics in India,” said Tiphagne.

Background
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code defines sedition as any act or attempt “to bring into hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection towards the government.” Offence under this law is often punishable with life imprisonment. This law is inconsistent with international standards on freedom of expression.

Mr. S Kovan, a 52-year-old Dalit Tamil folk singer, hails and lives at Maruthanda Kurichi, Oraiyur in Tiruchirappalli city of Tamil Nadu. He is leading the cultural wing of Makkal Kalai Ilakkiya Kazhagam or People’s Art and Literary Association which is a 30-year old movement working for the weaker sections of the society with an active cultural wing that performs folk songs and street plays on socio-economic-cultural issue.

About FORUM-ASIA:
FORUM-ASIA is a Bangkok-based regional human rights group with 47 member organisations in 16 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expressions, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratisation.

For further inquiries, please contact:
Raghu Menon, Human Rights Defenders Program Manager, FORUM-ASIA, raghu@forum-asia.org

Women’s groups ask Delhi govt to withdraw proposal for death penalty for rapists of minors

Death- penalty- for- rapists-india

Women organisations in Delhi send memorandum to Delhi government for immediate withdrawal of proposal to introduce capital punishment for rape of minors and reduction of age of juveniles to 15 years

By Team FI
A memorandum was send to the Delhi AAP government on 29 Oct, 2015 by women’s organisations in Delhi and individual activists demanding an immediate withdrawal of the proposal to introduce capital punishment for rape of minors, and to reduce the age of juveniles to 15 years. They have also demanded that the government consult with women’s groups, child rights groups and experts before making such hasty decisions.

The full text of the memorandum follows;

To
Mr Arvind Kejriwal
The Chief Minister
Delhi

On 19 October 2015 we, women’s organizations and concerned individuals of Delhi and the NCR who have been working on a range of issues related to women for many decades were shocked to hear that the Delhi government has constituted a group of ministers (GoM) headed by Deputy CM Manish Sisodia to explore the ‘feasibility’ of introducing death penalty for the rape of minors as well as lowering the age of juvenile offenders from 18 to 15 years by amending the Juvenile Justice Act.

WHY THE GOVERNMENT MUST NOT INTRODUCE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR RAPE, EVEN OF MINORS
While we recognize that there is an urgent need to stem the tide of growing violence against women, girls and infants, this is just the kind of knee-jerk reaction this city-state and nation do not need. As a government, you have repeatedly stated your commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee on sexual assault. As you are aware, the Committee, after careful deliberations, categorically concluded in their report: “In our considered view, taking into account the views expressed on the subject by an overwhelming majority of scholars, leaders of women’s organisations, and other stakeholders, there is a strong submission that the seeking of death penalty would be a regressive step in the field of sentencing and reformation. We, having bestowed considerable thought on the subject, and having provided for enhanced sentences (short of death) in respect of the above-noted aggravated forms of sexual assault, in the larger interests of society, and having regard to the current thinking in favour of abolition of the death penalty, and also to avoid the argument of any sentencing arbitrariness, we are not inclined to recommend the death penalty.”

Further, based on a detailed study of international covenants as well as experiences of other countries, the Committee stated: “we do take note of the argument that introduction of death penalty for rape may not have a deterrent effect.” In fact, many independent surveys from across the globe have also been unsuccessful in establishing that executions reduce crime. In fact, an American survey reported by the New York Times in the year 2000 stated that in the preceding 20 years, homicide rates of states with the death penalty were 48 to 100 per cent higher than in those without the death penalty. Global studies have also shown that judges were less likely to convict rapists and sexual assaulters of crimes if the punishment was as severe as death. This is in addition to the fact that the wrongful execution of an innocent person is an injustice that can never be rectified. In trying to introduce capital punishment for rape, your government is working against both the letter and the spirit of the Justice Verma Committee Report.

As women who have staunchly opposed the death penalty on principle, we have always stood firm against this form of retributive punishment awarded under the pretext of dispensing ‘justice’

A study by The Hindu based on data from 600 cases decided in the District courts in Delhi showed how much still needs to be understood about sexual crimes. Its statistics revealed that rape by acquaintances and family members constituted the largest segment, while rape by strangers accounted for a mere 2% of the crimes we are witnessing. In such a scenario, the death penalty will only make it more unlikely that the survivor will report against fathers, uncles, cousins, family friends etc. This makes the possibility of justice even more remote.

While dealing with cases of sexual assaults, our experience shows that it is not the inadequacy of punishments that is the challenge. The real problem is that the crime is under-reported and rendered invisible. The system of policing and the trials themselves can often work to deter justice, leaving victims without the necessary support to resist the pressures of bribery, intimidation and emotional blackmail. While remedying this situation involves reform at both the level of the police and the courts, what is even more crucial is for the issue of child sexual abuse to come out of the shadows. We must enable children to respect and recognize the boundaries of their bodies and safety and report sexual abuse without fear. For as we have already stated to you in our joint Memorandum dated 27 July 2015 focusing on women’s safety, swiftness and certainty of justice for perpetrators of crime is the only effective deterrent to crime. We are against death penalty for any crime. We demand no impunity for criminals, irrespective of who they are, and complete accountability of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

WHY THE GOVERNMENT MUST NOT LOWER THE AGE OF JUVENILE OFFENDERS FROM 18 YEARS
Let us start by quoting the Justice Verma report’s observations on the question of amending the Juvenile Justice Act to lower the age of juvenility in rape cases: “We have heard experts on the question of reduction of the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16 for the purpose of being tried for offences under various laws of the country. We must confess that the degree of maturity displayed by all the women’s organizations, the academics and a large body of thinking people have viewed this incident both in the criminological as well as societal perspective humbles us.” Quoting extensively from international experience, the Justice Verma report concludes, “we are of the view that the material before is sufficient for us to reach the conclusion that the age of ‘juveniles’ ought not to be reduced to 16 years.”

Following the horrific incident of December 16, 2012, there has been public rage against juveniles in conflict with the law, which has been further heightened by statements from politicians and governments trying to demonstrate their commitment to stemming such violence by ‘taking severe steps’. The central government headed by Mr. Narendra Modi has attempted to address this rage by introducing legal changes to reduce the age of juvenility from 18 to 16 years, despite a standing committee’s recommendations to the contrary. Now, in seeking to reduce the age of juvenile criminality further, your government is simply indulging in a competitive bid to appear more tough on crime. To dismiss long jail terms of upto 14 years, especially for minors, as “trifling” is both irresponsible and dangerous. When you cannot imagine measures to reform even a 15-year-old, it raises questions about your vision for the future.

In a country where there is so much hypocrisy and silence around teenage sexuality, you also need to consider the dangers of how such legal measures, as proposed by you, could turn consensual underage sex from a technical crime in the eyes of the law to a crime worthy of hanging.

We urge you stop and consider these issues urgently, keeping in mind what the Law Commission headed by Justice Shah noted in its report on the death penalty: that we as a society must help the families of victims not to see the death penalty as the only fair punishment.

There are other urgent issues that need consideration. Working class parents must have access to crèches/child care to ensure that there are safe spaces available for their children while they are at work. Sexual abuse of children cannot be addressed in isolation from other realities like domestic violence suffered by women, nor can we ignore evidence that indicates deep impact on children who grow up in homes/environments marked by such violence. Survivors of such violence also need structured support to enable and empower them to approach the police and courts. Public campaigns have to be envisaged to educate the wider public about consent, autonomy and the bodily integrity of women and children.

These urgent concerns cannot be addressed by voicing banalities. We urge you to think through these issues and put in place systems that provide safety to both women and children. These are measures well within your powers to implement and we urge you to do so without further delay. The well-being of Delhi’s women and children are at stake, there is not time to lose.

Signed by:

1. Saheli
2. Kavita Krishnan
3. Pamela Philipose
4. Jagori
5. Partners for Law in Development
6. Vrinda Grover
7. Nirantar
8. Kalpana Viswanath
9. Indira Jaising
10. Pratiksha Baxi
11. Nivedita Menon
12. Lalita Ramdas
& others