Archive for Opinion

Statement on the rape and murder of Dalit woman in Kerala

kerala-rape-and-murder

Jisha’s rape and murder reaffirms how the bodies of Dalit women become sites for the most brutal forms of exercise of caste oppression accentuated by patriarchal power, where the control of and violence on women’s bodies become powerful mechanisms for upholding a Brahminical patriarchal order

By Pinjratod

On 28th April’16, Rajeshwari a daily wage labourer and a single parent, returned home to her one-room house at Kuruppampady village in Kerela at night, to find the body of her younger daughter, raped, mutilated and murdered. Her daughter, who was a Dalit student, had to discontinue her BA degree within a year due to financial constrains. However, she was not one to give up and had been enrolled as an LLB student of Ernakulum Law College since 2010. “She wants to fight for people like us, poor people, those who have been discriminated against,” says Rajeswari as she lies in the hospital, in shock and trauma, unable to accept her daughter’s sudden and tragic demise. Rajeshwari had rushed to the nearby police station on that fatal night, where not surprisingly, the police refused to file her case, “wait for the postmortem” they claimed, ensuring that any ‘crucial evidence’ would essentially be lost in the meantime. Five long days passed since the murder. There were no investigations, there were no arrests, there were no marches or media outrage. There was only a deafening silence and a disturbing apathy. This was not the first time Rajeswari had gone to the police station. She had lived in her one room state-allocated house for 40 years, and during that long period, all she and her family had faced was hostility and severe caste discrimination from their neighbours: their water pipes were destroyed and the women-only family was forced to draw water from a nearby canal, they were not allowed to build toilet in their house, stones were regularly pelted at their small home, they had received threats of murder and the two daughters were subject to constant sexual harassment from neighbourhood men. The police refused any action in all cases, despite repeated complaints.

After five days of silence, news of the rape and murder started to slowly appear in social media due to the efforts of Dalit Bahujan voices, forcing the mainstream media to respond. The mainstream media reports have been accompanied by sickening, voyeuristic and vivid descriptions of the ‘brutality’ of the rape, characteristic of the way in which Dalit bodies are denied respect and dignity even in death. “Kerala’s Nirbhaya”, screamed the media, while the Malayali savarna middle class unable to imagine such ‘barbarity’ to their kind, claimed (in typical display of their xenophobia), that the perpetrators “must be migrant workers”.

The ‘merit’ of the Dalit student had to be interrogated. ‘She had three papers left to clear”, the savarna media hinted slyly, as suspicions on her ‘character’ were raised “why did she not scream? why she did she not call out for help? how could this have happened inside her own house?”. The name and photograph of the ‘victim’ was flashed without consent across media in violation of the law

The media insensitivity that characterises this problematic act of naming, has been subsequently challenged by the emerging movement demanding Justice for Jisha by fighting against the very shaming in anticipation of which the law forbids the name of a sexual violence ‘victim’ from being revealed. However, in a context of upcoming elections in Kerela, the rape and murder of a Dalit woman has now become an ‘agenda’ for the predatory parties to capitalise on, to appropriate. The matter ‘shook’ the Rajya Sabha yesterday, where PJ Kurein, one of the primary accused in the Suryanelli rape case in Kerela, had the audacity to express his condemnation of this ‘heinous’ and ‘shameful’ crime.

The violence that was inflicted on the body of Jisha and what has unfolded thereafter, is not an ‘exception or an ‘aberration’ in Kerela’s ‘progressive’ society  whose impressive HDI (Human Development Index) credentials we are constantly reminded of. In fact,  it is characteristic of the tremendous everyday violence and oppression that is inherent to that state, and this country where Dalit lives are crushed, humiliated, maimed, killed, murdered and destroyed everyday with impunity.

Jisha’s rape and murder, like Delta Meghwal’s death, reaffirms how the bodies of Dalit women become sites for the most brutal forms of exercise of caste oppression accentuated by patriarchal power, where the control of and violence on women’s bodies become powerful mechanisms for upholding a Brahminical patriarchal order. Patriarchal and caste oppression do not operate in isolation, but inherently reinforce each other. When located in the context/history of persistent castiest and patriarchal violence faced by Rajeshwari’s family and the structural negligence of the police, the rape and murder of Jisha is not unimaginable or unanticipated, and almost constitutes the chronicles of a rape foretold. As some form of police investigation of this crime finally begins, we are met with the news of the rape of a 19yr old Dalit nursing student by three men in an auto in the coastal town of Varkala in Kerela. Our rage and anger is hence not to be limited to the ‘atrocity’ of the ‘gruesome’ nature of Jisha’s murder, but has to lead to a persistent struggle towards a structural annihilation of this Brahminical society that violently denies through innumerable everyday acts and practices, a life of dignity and equality to Dalits. 

Rajeswari’s all-women household was a ‘dangerous’ entity, a collective of women struggling and surviving and  a Dalit working class woman seeking education and entry into a profession dominated by savarna men, was a direct threat to a Brahminical and patriarchal society. The ‘outside’ streets and the neighbourhood never belonged to Rajeswari, Jisha and Deepa. But even their ‘home’ that defied the dictates of a patriarchal world which mandates male control over families, was not to have any illusion of ‘safety’. It was to be always vulnerable to stones, to abuse, to ostracisation and to attack by this disgusting casteist society, that all savarnas (including women) are complicit in perpetuating. This resistance, this deviation by Dalit women was an ‘audacity’ that was not to tolerated, it had to silenced, it had to be dismantled.

Pinjratod is an autonomous collective effort to ensure secure, affordable and not gender-discriminatory accommodation for women students across Delhi

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.

Sisters, why should the Hindu right get to speak in our names?

Hindu-nationalism

Don’t let the Hindu right speak in our names! Calling all Matas, Mummas, Mummys, Nanis, Dadis, Buas, Maasis, Mausis, Behenas, Khalas, Phuppis et all

By Aarti Sethi

Main Bharat Ki Behena
Ab Sun le Mera Kehna
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Behena
“Suraksha” Main Nahin Rehena
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mata
Samajh Nahin Aata?
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mata
Tu Mujhe Kya Sikhata?
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Kehti Hun Bari Bari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Khud Leti Zimmedari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Kisi Aur Ki Kar Tarafdari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nani
I’m talking to you Smriti Irani
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nani
Irani Tu Badi Pareshani
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mummy
Smriti Don’t Get Chummy
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Khala
Rajnath Tu Ganda Nala
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Chachi
Irani tu Gand Machati
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mausi
Irani Don’t Get Saucy
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Bua
Desh se Mat Khel Jua
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Dadi
Band Karo Ye Barbadi!
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Bijli
Beta Kya Hai Teri Khujli?
I Stand With JNU

Why VAMP supports decriminalisation of sex work

sex-workers-rights

Any argument that seeks to define sex work as violence and exploitation forecloses discussion over the rights of people involved in sex work to pursue it as a livelihood. Law enforcement agencies, health authorities and clients often use punitive action to harass sex workers and violate their human rights. Decriminalisation will help sex workers address abusive or sub-standard or unfair working conditions instituted by state and non-state actors

By Meena Saraswathi Seshu and Aarthi Pai

Amnesty International, on 11 August, 2015, voted to recommend the full decriminalization of sex work and prostitution in order to protect the human rights of sex workers.

In the aftermath of Amnesty International’s vote, there has been a huge outcry from anti-sex work groups who contend that this move will legitimise exploitation within the sex trade industry. The critics do not agree that the intention behind Amnesty International’s resolution is to protect the human rights of sex workers and call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad [VAMP] a collective of women in sex work from western India welcomes the decision taken by Amnesty International. We support Amnesty’s assertion that states have an obligation ‘to reform their laws and develop and implement systems and policies that eliminate discrimination against those engaging in sex work’. VAMP works closely with SANGRAM a health and human rights NGO that I helped set up.

As a feminist activist for sex workers’ rights, my (Meena Saraswathi Seshu ) journey began in the movement against violence against women in India in the mid-1980s. I started working with deserted women and cases of dowry deaths in south Maharashtra. Sex workers were always ‘the other’ in every village.

In 1992 the HIV/AIDS epidemic forced Government of Maharashtra to initiate projects to work with ‘prostitutes’. SANGRAM plunged into this work and my world of the well-meaning activist was turned upside down. The involvement with this community of sex workers forced us to address the deep-rooted double standards and biases while dealing with issues related to sexuality and prostitution. It was impossible to ‘preach’ to a group of women who scorned the dominant value systems. The crying victims of the social workers’ imagination were not to be seen or heard.

As the understanding of prostitution as ‘exploitation, victimization, oppression, loose, immoral, illegal’, was broken into, it was not merely ideas and beliefs that had to be questioned but the language too had to be transformed. We had to revise our vocabulary to weed out words that reinforced the stigmatization and marginalization of women in sex work. The need to reclaim the notion of ‘womanhood’ also became necessary since this sanctified moral space refused to acknowledge the fact that the very identity (of being a woman) was obliterated by the “whore, harlot, veshya” image. If women were not “good” then they had no right to be considered women.’ It thus became a matter of claiming citizenship itself.

What caught our imagination was the notion that casual sex could be a physical act stripped of emotion, can be initiated by women, can be used in a commercial context and even be pleasurable. Besides, many adult women seemed to appear in the communities, out of ‘nowhere’ apparently, comfortable with this notion of sex within a commercial context with multiple men. This challenged our initial idea that no woman could and would enter sex work on her own and the notion that all women were forced and trafficked into sex work. It was apparent that many women were not there by force, deception or in debt bondage and were freely walking in and out of the communities.

The argument that decriminalisation will increase exploitation by legalising pimps and brothel owners is made with a very limited understanding of commercial sex

We, therefore, realised that the argument that decriminalisation will increase exploitation by legalising pimps and brothel owners is made with a very limited understanding of commercial sex. Punitive laws that criminalise and punish sex work act as instruments through which sex workers are harassed and regularly have their human rights violated by law enforcement agencies, health authorities and clients. In many countries, sex workers are a primary means by which the police meet arrest quotas, extort money, and extract information.

Police wield power over sex workers in the form of threats of arrest and public humiliation and use condoms as evidence of illegal activity, undoing years of effective public health promotion and campaigning around STIs and HIV. Forced testing for HIV is commonplace, along with breaches of due process and privacy. Sex workers in many jurisdictions are the targets of frequent harassment, physical and sexual abuse, and forced “rehabilitation”. Where sex work is illegal, sex workers often feel there is little they can do to address the violations perpetrated against them and are deterred from accessing health services for fear of further stigma and abuse.

Decriminalisation will help sex workers address abusive or sub-standard or unfair working conditions instituted by state and non-state actors

Branding decriminalisation as an attempt to legalise pimps and brothel keepers does not help sex workers in their struggles for rights, including the rights to health, and justice.

The term “third parties” used by the sex workers rights movement recognizes the diverse third party working relationships that sex workers negotiate. In contrast, the term, “pimp” is a stigmatizing racial stereotype. It posits sex workers as victims rather than as workers, denying their agency. Sex workers can be employees, employers or participate in a range of other work related relationships. Framed as targeting exploitative working relationships of sex workers, third party laws are also used to target the personal relationships of sex workers, as well as workplaces. The criminalisation of sex workers’ personal relationships amounts to the criminalisation of sex workers themselves, while the criminalisation of workplaces mitigates against sex workers ability to protect themselves from HIV and other STIs, and gain labour rights.

In environments where aspects of sex work are criminalised, for instance, soliciting, living off the earnings of a sex worker, managers. sex workers face discrimination and stigma which undermine their human rights, including to liberty, security of the person, equality, and health. Evidence suggests that sex workers’ risk of HIV infection is inextricably related to their marginalized and illegal status, which drives their work underground and increases police abuse and exploitation.

According to UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work, “even where services are theoretically available, sex workers and their clients face substantial obstacles to accessing HIV prevention, treatment care and support, particularly where sex work is criminalized.” In countries where sex work is decriminalized, there is evidence that violence directed at sex workers is reduced, relations between sex workers and the police are improved, and access to health services is increased.

The reason why VAMP supports Amnesty International in the decriminalisation demand is because sex workers from VAMP want States to actively seek to empower the most marginalised in society, including through supporting the right to freedom of association of those engaging in sex work, establishing frameworks that ensure access to appropriate, quality health services and safe working conditions and through combating discrimination or abuse based on sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression. This echoes the voices of sex workers around the world who argue that states are responsible for proactively protecting fundamental rights and call on them to undertake measures that will help protect, respect, and fulfill these rights for all.

Any argument that seeks to define sex work as violence and exploitation forecloses discussion over the rights of people involved in sex work to pursue it as a livelihood. It exacerbates the lack of legal remedies to redress violence and erodes the efforts of sex workers fighting for legal and social recognition of their rights to dignity and livelihood. Sex work is work, and sex workers should not be defined as either criminals or victims, such an analysis harms not only sex workers but all women.

Meena Saraswathi Seshu is the co -founder and general secretary of SANGRAM, an organisation working with marginalised women in rural Maharashtra, India. She was instrumental in collectivising women in sex work to form VAMP (Veshya Anyaya Mukti Parishad)

Aarthi Pai is an activist and lawyer. She is the Director of Centre for Advocacy on Stigma and Marginalisation, (CASAM) a unit in SANGRAM that focuses on laws, policies and structures that impact sex workers and sexual minorities

APJ Kalam was a missile man, let us not get carried away by epithets like “People’s President”

APJ-kalam

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India, popularly known as a ‘missile man’ passed away on Monday, after a cardiac arrest, in Shillong, North East India. He was 83. It was alleged by activists that Kalam’s nomination in 2002 by the then BJP-led NDA, was an attempt to whitewash BJP’s alleged role in the Gujarat violence which claimed over 2000 lives with several still missing. BJP ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni described it as “an attempt to project BJP’s secularism in the aftermath of Gujarat violence.” Here is a response from feminist activist Jayashree Velankar about the tributes pouring in for a man who played a big role in the nuclearisation of the country.

This was written to share my frustrations over the tributes pouring in from all quarters for Dr. APJ Kalam. I am disturbed by some of the tributes paid by some within ‘our’ circles of friends and fellow travelers.

There is no doubt Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was an humble man, came from a very poor family, struggled against many odds, was opposed to death penalty but the fact remains that he was a Missile Man. Kalam chose to build weapons of mass destruction. I can’t call him “People’s President” and I am not sorry I can’t pay tributes to him.

To all those, especially amongst ‘us’ – the social activists, who have said he was ‘visionary’, ‘statesman’, ‘rushitulya’ (like a Sage), ‘apolitical’ my earnest plea is to ponder over these few things:

1) Rajdeep Sardesai, in my opinion, was the first journalist to use the adjective “People’s President” for Kalam. The rationale was, unlike other presidents who kept a safe distance from people in the name of protocol, Kalam mingled with people freely and answered emails by common people, especially young people and school children. All these were welcome gestures but do they suffice for us to call him People’s President – somebody who excelled in building weapons that would kill tens of thousands of ‘people’?

Make no mistake here. Nuclear weapons will make no distinction between people from Pakistan and India. They would kill thousands, if not more on both sides of the border

2) As my comrade in peace movement, Sukla Sen pointed out, Kalam played a big role in India’s nuclearisation that has had disastrous consequences like Pakistan going nuclear within a fort night of India doing so, Kargil war, hijacking of IA plane in December 1999, Parliament attack in New Delhi in 2001 to name a few. Only hawks can think this to be ‘visionary’. Can we?

3) Yes, he opposed death penalty but again isn’t it a bitter irony? By building missiles, in reality, he signed death warrants for thousands.

4) This ‘great statesman’ kept mum when George Fernandes and others in NDA government sacked Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat in a most humiliating manner when Bhagwat exposed huge scams and Fernandes’s connections with illegal arms trade ( I haven’t found the time to cross check this part so I will stand corrected)

5) Nirmalaji Deshpande, well known Gandhian and a staunch opponent of nuclear weapons was chosen by Congress party to be the next President of India. (I think NDTV had made an announcement to this effect) but then a doubt was raised – will she allow use of nuclear weapons in case a war breaks out with Pakistan and her name was dropped like a hot potato. All those who argue that someone like APJ – a Muslim getting the highest office is a sign of maturity of Indian democracy, please rethink. His being Muslim was overlooked only because he was a Missile Man. In the eyes of jingoists, Nirmalaji lacked phallus on both accounts – being a woman and by opposing nuclear weapons. (Eventually Pratibha Patil was chosen as his successor.)

Traditional protocol demands one to be not critical of a person who is no more. But as a feminist peacenik, my conscience demands that I bring these facets to the fore.

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.

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.

Feminist fictions for teens

feminist fictions

By Team FI

This is a list we made based on suggestions sent by several members of the feministsindia e-group. This is not a comprehensive list but a good one to start by if you are looking to introduce young adults to characters, situations and issues they would not meet in popular culture fiction and non-fiction books. If you wish to add titles, provide corrections and comments, please use the comment space.

Contemporary Writing- Indian
Suniti Namjoshi – The Fabulous Feminist and Suki (a dialogue with her cat); Published by Zubaan

Anita Roy and Samina Mishra (editors)- 101 Indian Children’s Books We Love (Young Zubaan) Rs 195; Published by Zubaan

Vandana Singh – Younguncle Comes to Town and Younguncle in the Himalayas; Published by Zubaan

Payal Dhar: The Shadow of Eternity, The Key of Chaos, The Timeless Land, a trilogy – fantasy, science fiction ; Published by Zubaan

Aditi Rao and Chatura Rao: Growing Up in Pandupur (slightly younger girls); Published by Zubaan

Subhadra Sengupta: Star Struck and The Foxy Four; Published by Zubaan

Kate Darnton: The Misfits; Published by Zubaan

Sowmya Rajendran, Niveditha Subramaniam, pictures: Niveditha Subramaniam: Mayil Will Not Be Quiet and other Mayil books; Published by Tulika

Samhita Arni – graphic novel Sita’s Ramayana – illustrations by Moyna Chitrakar; Published by Tara Books

Salman Rushdie – Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Classics – Indian
RK Narayan’s Swami and Friends

Contemporary Writing – Non-India
Refaat Alareer (editor): Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine

Ira Ebbotsons – Land of the river sea, Star of Kazan etc

EL Konigsberg – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and other books

Liv Ullman’s autobiography – Changing

Megan Stine – Who was Marie Curie?

Roberta Edwards – Who is Jane Goodall?

LGBTQ Books
Leslea Newman and Diana Souza – Heather Has Two Mommies: 20th Anniversary Edition- Alyson Books, 2009

Meredith Maran – How Would You Feel If Your Dad Was Gay?- Alyson Books, 2000

Peter Parnell – And Tango Makes Three- Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2005

Robert Skutch – Who’s in a Family?- Tricycle Press, 1997


Classics – Non-Indian

Katherine Paterson – Bridge to Terabithia

E Nesbit – The Railway Children, Five Children and It.

Anne Frank’s Diary

Louisa Alcott – all books

Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables Series

ABOVE 16
Contemporary Writing – Indian
Anita Roy (ed) 21 Under Forty (21 stories by women under 40); Published by Zubaan

Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra: The Good Indian Girl; Published by Zubaan

Anita Roy (ed) Flying High: Amazing Women and their Success Stories; Published by Zubaan

Lakshmi Holmstrom – The Inner Courtyard – stories by Indian women; Published by South Asia Books

Arundhati Roy – God of Small Things; Published by Random House

Anita Desai – Village by the Sea; Published by Heinemann

Gogu Shyamala – Father May Be an Elephant and Mother Only a Small Basket, But…; Published by Navayana

Anjali Deshpande – Impeachment; Published by Hachette India

Amrita Das (art); Gita Wolf & Susheela Varadarajan (text, from the Hindi original by Amrita Das): Hope is Girl Selling Fruit; Published by Tara Books

Ranjit Lal: Smitten (about incest); Published by Zubaan

The Blue Book; Published by Zubaan with TARSHI

The Yellow Book (both of these are about sexuality, knowing your bodies etc); Published by Zubaan with TARSHI

Begum Rokheya Sakhawat Hossain; Illustrated by Durga Bai – Sultana’s Dream; Published by Tara Books

Urmila Pawar – The Weave of my Life; Published by Columbia University Press; Motherwit Published by Zubaan

Sampat Pal – Warrior in a Pink Sari; Published by Zubaan

Sunanda Sikdar – A Life Long Ago, translated from Bengali by Anchita Ghatak; Published by Penguin Books

Classics – Indian
Ismat Chughtai – The Quilt: Stories; Published by Penguin

Malati Bedekar aka Vibhavari Shirurkar – Kharemaster; Published by Stree

Contemporary Writing – Non-India
Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis

Emma Donoghue – The Room

Tamora Pierce – Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small series – speculative fiction

Philip Pullman – Sarah Lockhart series, The Golden Compass series (speculative fiction)

Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan

Isaac Asimov – All books – Speculative Fiction

Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle In Time – Speculative Fiction

LGBTQ Books
Eric Marcus – What If Someone I Know Is Gay?: Answers to Questions About What It Means to Be Gay and Lesbian- Simon Pulse, 2007

Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman – Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies- Harper Perennial, 1996

Kelly Huegel – GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens- Free Spirit Publishing, 2003

Classics – Non-Indian
JD Salinger – Catcher in the Rye

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird

Jane Austen – all books

Websites
www.everydayfeminism.com
Books reviews for kids, by kids: http://bookwormsbookshelf.com
A Mighty Girl’s book section features over 2,000 girl-empowering books starring stellar Mighty Girl characters: http://www.amightygirl.com/books
Zubaan books: http://zubaanbooks.com/product-category/books/
Tara Books: http://www.tarabooks.com/books/books/young-readers/teens/
Tulika Books: http://www.tulikabooks.com/
Navayana Publications: http://navayana.org/