Progressive voices for women’s rights

The brutal rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December has set off a wave of national protests, international media coverage, and general introspection about women’s rights in India.

The conservative streak in this country, as in many countries, Western and otherwise, is still inclined to blame the victim, citing a woman’s clothes, lifestyle, sexuality, choice of transportation, and audacity to be out after dark as the reasons for harassment and violence. A panchayat in one Bihar village has banned unmarried women and girls from using cell phones, saying that they “promote extramarital affairs and unsanctioned marriages and erode the moral fabric of society.” Government officials in Pondicherry have decided that “separate buses for schoolboys and schoolgirls, overcoats for girls, ban on mobile phones on campuses and restricted interaction of girls and boys” is the way to stop school harassment.

Progressive voices, of both women and men, have spoken out against these statements and actions. This is a round-up of the most interesting, powerful, and thought-provoking articles from recent weeks.

On not hiding:

“I am here to alter this city’s character, I am here to combat the normalcy of my absence, I am here as an argument against fear. Gawp, glare, gossip, but get used to it, I am here.”

Devika Bakshi, A Woman in the City, OPEN Magazine

On empowering women:

“The presence of women in a visible position of command at the village level has been shown to have a significant effect on the aspirations of young girls, and has also increased general societal acceptance of working women — no small thing in some of the more conservative parts of the country.”

Nilanjana S. Roy, Political Strength Will Force the Issue, The New York Times’ Opinion Pages

On men and inequality:

“Rape is the monstrous face of ordinary domestic injustices. Do not fall into the easy trap of blaming politicians for a flaw that exists in almost every home.”

Tabish Khair, A letter to the young men who protested against rape, The Hindu

On men’s disempowerment:

“In India, women’s bodies appear to have become the principal terrain on which male rage is venting itself.”

Praveen Swami, The rapist in the mirror, The Hindu

On feminism and Orientalism:

“When horrible crimes happen, specifically to women, we reduce the culture, in this case, of about 1 billion people, to a gang-bang-enabling society of rapists. And of course, by blaming Indian culture specifically, Western sexism is brushed under the table.”

Amith Gupta, Orientalist Feminism Rears its Head in India, Jadaliyya

On the media’s role:

“Activists from women’s groups say it is important to speak of rape not as the ruination of a life, but as a horrific act that one can survive and move on from.”

Neha Thirani, After Delhi Rape Victim Leaves India, Questions Raised About Media’s Role, The New York Times’ India Ink Blog

On rape in India:

“The unspeakable truth is that the young woman attacked on Dec. 16 was more fortunate than many rape victims. She was among the very few to receive anything close to justice.”

Sonia Faleiro, The Unspeakable Truth About Rape in India, The International Herald Tribune

On the legal proceedings:

“But while efforts to try the case expeditiously are to be commended, some legal experts are understandably concerned that a rush to judgment could mean that any verdicts will be overturned on appeal.”

Justice for India’s Rape Victims, The New York Times

During her time at Pomona College, Ragini created a computer literacy program in a rural Indian village to provide educational and economic opportunities to under-served students at a resource-poor government high school. After graduation, her interest in rural development issues led to ten months of work at the Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development (FORRAD), a Delhi-based non-profit focusing on natural resource management. While there, she documented the state of clean drinking water and comprehensive water conservation projects in rural areas of Rajasthan, Bundelkhand, and Tamil Nadu, with a focus on sustainable development work that created participatory, accountable systems of community involvement. Ragini speaks English, Hindi, and some Spanish.

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4 thoughts on “Progressive voices for women’s rights

  1. Thanks for putting this together! I am helping my mentor with an op-ed on the need for Human Rights Education in schools, and I checked out some of these articles. This has been an incredibly useful post!

  2. On fearlessness:

    “But we, instead of giving in to paranoia and shunning ‘dangerous’ places and actions, must learn to take calculated risks, for that is the only route to fearlessness.”

    C.K. Meena, This lady is a tramp, The Hindu

    On the patriarchy’s reaction:

    “Every time incidents of sexual assault or molestation happens in any part of the country, we girls face more and more restrictions,” one student said during the discussion. “Why should we pay for the crimes men commit? Lock the men up. We are not the culprits!”

    Nilanjana Bhowmick, The Real Shame: India’s Patriarchy Roars Back After Delhi Gang Rape, Time

    On what men think of rape:

    “What creates the idea of women as ‘fair game’ for sexual violence? What, in effect, do Indian men think about women?”

    Shoma Chaudhury, Rape. And how men see it, Tehelka

  3. Thanks for compiling this.
    But the rape is not limited to the punishable act like that in Delhi. Rape in India happens every day also in coercing a mother to abort the female fetus .
    Two years ago in a speech I gave at a Fundraiser I said( paraphrasing Dean Witter) that India’s future depends on empowering one woman at a time. I only hope that the current outrage in India and that felt after the Sandy Hook shootings in the US do not become just postmarks in our history with no effective action to stop the lunacy.

  4. Sridar, I agree that female foeticide is a major human rights issue to be tackled in this country, but by calling it rape, we widen the definition of rape to the point where it becomes meaningless, and we diminish the power of that word to describe sexual violence.

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