Archive for March 26, 2016

Hyderabad University strike: Women´s groups extend support to students as police and administration continue to use brutal force on protesters

Hyderabad-university-strike

The strategy of the BJP government – to crush all dissent and establish a totalitarian saffron regime in institutions of higher education – is now visible in campuses across the country, from Hyderabad to JNU, Pune and Chennai

By WSS
WSS strongly condemns the brutal police action against the students of the University of Hyderabad. The students, who were exercising their democratic right to protest, were lathi-charged, beaten and manhandled and women students were mauled and threatened with sexual assault. Students and faculty members were forcibly dragged into police vans, thrashed and moved from thana to thana to prevent them from contacting their lawyers and families. They have also been mercilessly beaten while in custody. As many as 34 students and three faculty members have been sent to jail – the beatings have continued even after remand.

For the last two months, the students of the Universty of Hyderabad have been protesting the institutional murder of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula. Their campaign for justice for Rohith has reverberated across the country and has rallied thousands in support of their call for an end to caste discrimination in educational institutions.

The police action follows hard on the heels of the re-appearance of the VC on the campus. This individual is one of the key actors in the events leading to Rohith’s death, and stands charged with offences under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. He was supposedly on indefinite leave pending the results of the inquiry instituted against him, and the students protested against this stealthy attempt at his re-instatement with a gherao of the VC’s lodge.

The response of the Government of Telengana and the University has been to turn the campus into a war zone. The students are under siege – hostel messes have been locked down, electricity and water have been cut off and the gates sealed to prevent the entry of media persons and “outsiders” trying to provide food, water and medical aid to the injured. Students who have volunteered to keep the kitchens running to feed their comrades have been beaten and their provisions confiscated. At least one of these volunteers is critically injured and still not out of danger. The media is being fed with concocted reports that are contradicted by video footage taken by students, with testimonies describing the attacks and showing their injuries. The continued presence on the campus of large numbers of armed police tells its own story.

The HRD Ministry is brazenly using every possible instrument to foist their regressive, limited and flawed version of education on the academic community. The government has shown its willingness to use force to stifle critical enquiry and independent thought, and to silence dissent and questioning

The strategy of the BJP government – to crush all dissent and establish a totalitarian saffron regime in institutions of higher education – is now visible in campuses across the country, from Hyderabad to JNU, Pune and Chennai.

We stand strongly with the students of the University of Hyderabad in their struggle to protect democracy on the campus and to challenge and combat casteism and discrimination in educational institutions. We salute them, and their comrades in struggle in universities across the country, for bringing new energy and hope to our democracy through their determined opposition to the repressive casteist, communal and patriarchal ideology and world view that the Hindutvavadi regime seeks to foist on us.

We salute Radhika Vemula for her determination to claim justice for her son and for the lakhs of Dalit students who are daily facing violence and discrimination in their pursuit of education.

We condemn the actions of the state government, which has shown its subservience to the Modi sarkar and cynically sold out its commitment to the students without whom Telengana would not have come into being.

We demand
Immediate withdrawal of police from the campus.
Immediate release of all arrested students and faculty.
Suspension of P Appa Rao.
Judicial enquiry into the role of the HRD Ministry, the HRD Minister and Sri Bandaru Dattatreya in inciting violence against Dalits on campus.
Independent enquiry into the incidents of violence on the campus including the role of the ABVP in vandalising the VC’s office.
Action against police personnel named by students in their complaints.
Passage of the “Rohith Act” against caste discrimination in education.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

Featured photo courtesy: Bilal Veliancode

Feminists in solidarity with JNU professor Nivedita Menon

nivedita- Menon

The attacks being carried out on Nivedita Menon by certain political groups through student bodies like the ABVP, who are filing baseless complaints with the police, and the media like Zee News, who are maligning her with footage shown out of context, is an attack on reasoned debate and informed conversation, both of which are inimical to democracy

The women’s movements and the feminist voices in India are part of the tradition of the movements that believe in pluralism in thought, action and manner of organizing. There are as many individuals and small collectives that enrich the voices within the women’s movements, as there are larger groups and even party affiliated groups. It has also the rich tradition of the academic and the activist informing each other and learning from each other.

As a serious academic and an activist, Nivedita Menon is an important voice in this plural, multifarious, diverse, political conglomeration that we call the feminist women’s movements. Her engagement with diverse issues like feminist theory, law, sexuality, technology, understanding of the body, queer theory, has helped deepen the understanding in these areas and also find new ways of campaigning on specific issues like the sex determination tests, personal laws, decriminalization of homosexuality, to name just a few. Her prolific writing and impassioned talks have made many of us, old and young, academic and otherwise, debate and discuss issues. Her commitment to academic discourse is thus not confined to the University campus alone but has extended to many spaces occupied by campaigns and activists.

As fellow travelers in these movements, we stand by Nivedita in claiming the space within the University campus to freedom of speech and debate and discussion. We find the attacks being carried out on Nivedita Menon by certain political groups through student bodies like the ABVP, who are filing baseless complaints with the police, and the media like Zee News, who are maligning her with footage shown out of context, as an attack on reasoned debate and informed conversation, both of which are inimical to democracy. Without a space for these, we do not think that the principles of equality, justice, and non-discrimination granted to us through the Indian Constitution can ever be realized.

We unequivocally condemn these attacks and this harassment of a fellow feminist activist and stand in solidarity with her.

Maternity entitlements must be universal and unconditional

Women's-rights- India

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Women and civil organisations write to Prime Minister demanding immediate implementation of the National Food Security Act of 2013

By Team FI

In an open letter to the Prime Minister on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, 8th March, 2016, women and other concerned civil society organisations have asked for the immediate implementation of the National Food Security Act 2013, under which the Central Scheme for Maternity Entitlements would extend its outreach to atleast 200-high priority districts which includes those villages with a higher percentage of tribal population.

The letter demanded that the “universal guarantee of at least Rs. 6000/- is only to be read as a beginning, and it should subsequently be rationalised as wage compensation.” More importantly the letter has demanded that “Maternity entitlements in all sectors must be universal and unconditional, and not linked to the number of children or age of the woman, as that is fundamentally discriminatory to both women and children.”

The letter signed by National Alliance For Maternal Health And Human Rights (NAMHHR), the ECD Alliance, the Working Group for Children Under Six and the Right to Food Campaign, India also asked for the “progressive realisation of nine months of maternity leave (three months before childbirth to six months after) with full compensation of wages for all women, calculated at least according to minimum wages at prevalent rates.” They have asked that this revised Maternity Benefits Act (1961) recognise “women’s work in all spheres, markets, domestic, for care and reproduction and subsistence; and guarantee maternity entitlements to all pregnant women, adoptive parent(s), surrogate mothers etc without discrimination.”

Given below is the full text of the letter:
An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India on the occasion of 107th International Women’s Day, 8 March 2016

Dear Hon’ble Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned women’s organizations and other concerned groups, convey our greetings on the occasion of 8th March, Women’s Day. This day has been celebrated for more than a hundred years to commemorate the women’s movement’s struggles for equality, justice and peace across almost all countries of the world.

On this memorable occasion, we are aware that you and your colleagues will be making speeches and statements to indicate how much this nation values the contribution of its women to the country’s progress. We expect that many will praise women as mothers, caring family members and hard workers; we hope some will acknowledge the diverse struggles of women everywhere in securing freedom from violence and ensuring peace.

We appreciate your earlier efforts to promote the value of daughters and encourage education for the girl child. We therefore look forward to more announcements from you this year that will indicate just how much this nation, and your government, shows appreciation for the women of this country. We would especially like to draw your attention to women’s work that produces food, goods, services, and care for the household as well as children who will be the future workforce of India; yet women’s care work continues to remain invisible, unsupported and unshared. You must have noticed how everywhere women work simultaneously in fields, forests, water bodies, and at home; providing water, fuel, fodder, cooking, cleaning, caring of children, sick, elderly, yet they are often unpaid and sometimes get much lesser wages than men on farms, work sites, factories, and markets. In fact unpaid care and household work by women, even though it is ten times as much as men, remains unrecognized and unaccounted for in the System of National Accounts (SNA).

The McKinsey report (The Power of Parity, 2015) points out how the gender gap in employment is exacerbated by unfair conditions for working women who become pregnant. In India 95% women workers are in the informal and unorganized sector and do not receive any wage compensation during pregnancy and after childbirth, although we expect them to rest, gain weight, improve their own health and then provide the baby with exclusive breastfeeding for six months. The Economic Survey of India 2016 (Ministry of Finance, Government of India) points out that ‘42.2% Indian women begin pregnancy too thin and do not gain enough weight during pregnancy’ and recommends that ‘some of the highest economic returns to public investment in human capital in India lie in maternal and early life health and nutrition interventions.’

Sir, on the occasion of Women’s Day we would earnestly request you to announce some substantial entitlements for women that would show very tangibly how much this country values women’s contribution to society and their families: as workers, as mothers and as valuable members of communities.

I. At the very least, we expect your leadership in immediate implementation of the National Food Security Act 2013, within which:

a. The Central Scheme for Maternity Entitlements should immediately be up-scaled from its pilot phase into at least 200 high-priority districts especially including those with a larger proportion of tribal (ST) population. The universal guarantee of at least Rs. 6000/- is only to be read as a beginning, and it should subsequently be rationalised as wage compensation.

b. Maternity entitlements in all sectors must be universal and unconditional, and not linked to the number of children or age of the woman, as that is fundamentally discriminatory to both women and children.

c. Supplementary nutrition through locally prepared foods – preferably hot cooked meals to be supplied to all pregnant and lactating women at the local Angawadi centre. The money invested for such a meal is highly inadequate currently under the ICDS program, leading to poor quality and quantity of the supplementary nutrition

d. The public distribution system must provide universal access to 10 kgs of cereals, I kg of pulses and 1 kg of oil rations under the NFSA.

II. We also hope within a short time to see:
a. The progressive realisation of nine months of maternity leave (three months before childbirth to six months after) with full compensation of wages for all women, calculated at least according to minimum wages at prevalent rates. This revision of the Maternity Benefits Act (1961) should recognise women’s work in all spheres, markets, domestic, for care and reproduction and subsistence; and guarantee maternity entitlements to all pregnant women, adoptive parent(s), surrogate mothers etc without discrimination.

b. Large scale campaigns that call upon men to increase their contribution to care work and domestic chores, and reduce the burden on women.

c. Creche and breastfeeding facilities at every work place and community (through Anganwadi-cum-creches) to be made mandatory to ensure women can continue to work and care for the infant.

d. Financial resources for maternity entitlements and crèches should come from all economic activities in the country as a state obligation to ensure entitlements and services, since reproduction is a social function which benefits the family, society and the nation.

Sir, on the occasion of Women’s Day, while paying compliments and appreciating the role of women, we are sure the government would want to change the embarrassingly inadequate allocation of 400 crores for Maternity Entitlements against the requirement of 15000 crore annually. We urge you to translate rhetoric into action by allocating resources for social security in maternity, and acknowledging unpaid reproductive work done by women in this country, even as you greet them on this Women’s Day.

Signed on behalf of: National Alliance For Maternal Health And Human Rights (NAMHHR), the ECD Alliance, the Working Group for Children Under Six and the Right to Food Campaign, India

Sex workers express solidarity with JNU students, demand Azadi from `Goddess’ Durga

Sex-workers-india

Veshya Anyay Mutki Parishad writes to Jawaharlal Nehru University students expressing solidarity with their fight against right-wing orchestrated violence and intimidation

Dear Students of JNU,
Salute! Jai Bhim! Laal salam! We will win this war against sedition! March 3rd, International Sex workers Rights Day, Zindabad!

We write from the sex worker’s rights movement to hail your struggle and to add to the discourse you have sparked. We would like to discuss why using the term sex worker in the alleged pamphlet in JNU on Mahishasura Martydom Day is a concept fraught with the Whore Stigma. The use of the politically correct sex worker instead of the commonly used `prostitute’ does not take away from the fact that it is used to depict an insalubrious deed. The use of this term has only led to more misunderstandings of the term itself.

Sex worker is the term used by the sex worker’s rights movement in order to claim dignity to the work adults do consensually by providing sexual services for money. The sex workers use this term to give dignity to those that exchange sexual services for money but the use here is to supposedly strip the `goddess’ in this instance, of any dignity. The term since then has taken a life of its own. From a politically correct term it is now being used to describe anti-nationals, anti-goddesses even anti- patriarchy! But the thinly veiled contempt for the sex worker is huge in every utterance, from the Hindu Goddess Durga to the `anti-national’ women students in JNU.

It was brought to the nation on Februrary 24, 2016 when an alleged pamphlet issued in JNU to mark Mahishasura Martydom Day, October 2014 was produced in Parliament by Minister for Education Ms. Smriti Irani stating that it contained offensive material regarding the “Durga Puja”— “where a fair skinned beautiful goddess Durga is depicted brutally killing a dark-skinned native called “Mahishasura, a brave self-respecting leader, tricked into marriage by Aryans. They hired a sex worker called Durga, who enticed Mahishasura into marriage and killed him after nine nights of honeymooning, during sleep.” The pamphlet was issued on “Mahishasura Martyrdom Day” observed by scheduled tribe, scheduled caste, other backward caste and minority students of JNU.

The minister asked for forgiveness from her god to even utter the words as printed in the pamphlet. The use of the politically correct term sex worker and the use of the words like enticed and honeymoon to depict sexual exchange are the reason for the chocked anger of Ms. Irani. Would it have been better for the pamphlet not to have used the term sex worker? Because I cannot see what else the minister could have to ask forgiveness for, a fair skinned woman enticing Mahishasur and killing him is a well-accepted concept among the tribals, whether the woman was Durga is unclear.

Earlier on February 13th Jawahar Yadav, former Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister of Haryana In his tweet, Yadav wrote “For the girls who are protesting in JNU, I only have one thing to say that prostitutes who sell their body are better than them because they atleast don’t sell their country”.

Almost after two hours, Yadav wrote a clarification and deleted his previous tweet. In the clarification he said: “No girl has been compared to any prostitute in my previous tweet. Instead I meant that the girls who are forced to enter prostitution are rather better than the girls who were protesting in JNU and raising anti-India slogans, Pakistan Zindabad slogans. The daughters and sisters who are forced to sell their body are better than the girls who were demanding the freedom of Kashmir and Kerala and shouting that their fight will continue till India is destroyed.”

To continue this saga, on 27th February Devdutt Patnaik has written a piece on `How patriarchy makes ‘sex worker’ a term of abuse’ where he explains that, The Goddess as a free woman discomforts many, who cannot bear to see any female, divine or otherwise, in positions of power. His analysis however is very far away from this misleading headline in the Daily O. Devdutt’s simplistic analysis cannot move away from its moral frame of the single woman who has to satisfy `the unsavoury yearnings of men’. Mr. Patnaik also falls into the same trap of having a very interesting analysis but not addressing why the term sex work cannot be used interchangeably with the stigmatising concept of the `prostitute’.

Then on February 29th there is the headline, ‘Threatened and termed a sex worker after Mahishashura debate’: Asianet News editor Sindhu to TNM. Now we move from the alleged JNU pamphlet to the discussion on the Mahishasura Martydom day and all hell breaks loose. The anchor is threatened with life and also called a sex worker.

The mobile number of Sindhu Sooryakumar, the Chief Coordinating Editor of Asianet News, was circulated on WhatsApp allegedly by activists of right wing groups offended by a TV programme where members of Congress, BJP and Left parties debated whether celebrating Mahishasura, a common custom among certain tribes in India, is enough to accuse students of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University of “anti-national” activities.

This constant reference to sex work and women in sex work in particular is made to stigmatise and put down the woman it is describing. It is used to depict sleaze, disgust, distaste and revulsion. Mere use of the politically correct term has not taken away the whore stigma attached to the term `prostitute’ if it is used to divide women into the `good and the bad’.

The sex worker rights movement would like to bring to your notice the fact that it is therandi [whore] stigma that pushes sex workers outside the rights framework, effectively cutting them off from privileges and rights supposedly accorded to all citizens irrespective of what they do for a living. Stigmatization, which has its roots in the standards set by patriarchal morality, is experienced as the major factor that prevent sexworkers from accessing their rights. In the real world of sex workers, the lives of women in sex work are particularly held hostage. Stigmatization impacts the lives of women in more ways than one. Some of the rights denied due to discrimination are: freedom from physical and mental abuse; the right to education and information; health care, housing; social security and welfare services to name but a few.

We also demand Azadi!

Azadi from discrimination, azadi from the violence of a judgemental attitude, azadi from the multiplicity of injustice meted out to sex works, Azadi from the loose use of the politically correct but deeply stigmatised use of the term sex worker.Sex workers demand Azadi from `Goddess’ Durga

In solidarity,
Shabana Khazi, Durga Pujari, Kiran Deshmukh, Chanda Vazane, Neelawa Siddereddy, Suvarna Ingalgave, Meenakshi Kamble, Raosaheb More, Sudhir Patil, Aarthi Pai, Meena Saraswathi Seshu.

Veshya Anyay Mutki Parishad

Muskan [ TG and Male sex workers]

SANGRAM.