A S I F A

Over a human.

 

Once again the country has called for a candle march,

Once again the dirt has risen up against the safety in this nation,

Once again the citizens have drowned in the ocean of disdainful contempt looking at the government they believed in.

This time it is not for a 21 year old Dalit woman,

It is not for a 34 year old Muslim woman,

It is not for a 18 year old Hindu woman,

It is for an 8 year old girl. A human, A Child.

 

When the prayers for Asifa, an 8 year old girl from Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir are bombarding the internet and social media, barraging the now BJP government to take action, people are going out on the streets to seek justice for this girl, from the Bakarwal Community who was abducted, repeatedly gangraped and murdered by a gang of men who wanted to dislodge a sect of a religion.

This is what we have come to? In the name of religion?

 

What  actually happened?

An 8 year old girl is abducted by two men, a juvenile (who is introduced to the plan of taking revenge on the Bakarwal by his uncle, Sanji Ram a retired revenue official and a custodian of the Devisthan Temple) and the juvenile’s friend, while she is grazing her horses. Juvenile and his friend drug the victim, and rape her before locking her up in the temple. Sanji Ram’s son Vishal, the investigating officer Anand Dutta who is bribed by Sanji Ram, the  Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria, all get involved and rape the victim before murdering her and dumping her body in the jungle where it is found by a passerby.

 

The Aftermath:

 

Two BJP officials march out in the rallies supporting the rapists and demanding protection for the rapists in the name of their religion’s  ‘honour’. The lawyers defending the accused have stooped down to the level of stopping the police from filing a chargesheet. These BJP officials have submitted their resignation recently after the matter coming to the limelight.

Is the resignation of the leaders representing the citizens of the country who are blinded by their religion to an extent where they support the rape and murder of an eight year old girl because she is from a lower Muslim Community enough?

  Cops, an investigator, religious enthusiasts, have they all forgotten humanity?

 

How far has the case reached in three months?
A chargesheet has been filed, the accused have been arrested, the family of the victim has fled the village. CM Mufti has appealed to the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir for a faster court trial. The state government has decided to terminate from service the cops accused in the case. PM Modi and many other BJP leaders have expressed their grief, after three months of the incident. The PDP Minister, Naeem Akhtar wants justice for the 8 year old and believes that the government will bring a law stating death penalty for rapists raping minors.
Ram Madhav, BJP General Secretary talks about there being no threat to the PDP-BJP Coalition in J&K. C.P. Ganga states that he will make a sacrifice by resigning to save the image of his party whilst demanding a CBI enquiry in the matter.
(as quoted by Naeem Akhtar, Ram Madhav, C.P. Ganga, posted on https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kathua-rape-case-top-developments/articleshow/63762035.cms)

It is not about the image of the party here, it is about religion overpowering humanity.

It is about laws being made, or in the process of being made but harldy implemented.

It is about the justice to the victim before it is about the coalition of the government.

 

What is the News, Social Media concerned with?

News channels have been following the case quite seriously. News papers have been neutral in their depiction of the case. People have been tweeting enormously questioning the stance of the BJP government. Social Media users have been posting pictures of the victim and writing about the threat the women in this country are posed with. There have been rallies, protests and marches.
This has led for the case to become sensationalized and lurid. And with the access to social media, many users post only to indulge in the trend without even knowing about the pretext therefore being insensitive due to plain ignorance.

Yes, giving voice and speaking up is important. But what is the question you are posing? What do you support? Who are you questioning? What is your question?

When asked to a 21 year old humanities student, Vrushali Kadam, she says, “We keep repeating the same things over and over again. Things always need to be implemented, initiated or eliminated. As a woman who lives in this country my life revolves around these three processes which aren’t even achieved in the end. And when awful incidents like these and countless others that go unreported are so blatantly ignored not just by this sham of a government but by the people, it indeed feels like it going to be a rough ride for this country to establish a strong sense of responsibility, acceptability and a humongous change in the kind of mentality we breed at home.


In the context of the Unnao and Asifa Cases, it is horrendous to know that there are people who support those monsters in the name of the ruling party and its saffron agenda. I mean, what sort of thought process must reign the persons mind before raping, torturing and killing a child in the name of communal politics?

I only need one thing from this government as a woman, a responsible citizen and as a student of humanities who has high hopes for her generation; I want it to leave. We don’t need another NDA government, We don’t need another communal violence. And we certainly do not want to breed another misogynist, biased, Hindutva chanting goons in this country. And your next question aims at, “If not them then who?”

Stop yourself right there and go through every atrocious, violent, uncalled for and attention seeking act pulled off by Bhakts over the last four years in the name of party politics, Hinduism, Misogyny and then we can talk. I am making anyone willing to hear, listen. We cannot let this go like countless other instances.” – Vrushali Kadam.

The public is enraged with the now BJP government. And with the silence received from not only PM Modi but also the women leaders of BJP who otherwise are very effective for changing economies, currencies and institutions overnight have not yet taken a stance on justice.

The thing is, Rape is a crime that was committed even during the NDA government, and has been committed irrespective of which government comes into power. The rapists are not being punished. The corrupt leaders are not being held accountable for their corrupt behavior. And the victim and their family suffers in between all that goes under the table.

How will the law be exercized if the corrupt are not being exposed?

If the political ego and pride come in way of justice?

If we the citizens get blinded by the false media accusations?

It is time we make the law work, it is time we, the people together preach to bring justice by finding out the authenticity of the matter and not blindly falling into pits of false jurisdiction by using the media as a powerful tool.

It is high time, we grow sensible and united as a country, as one.

 

The Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 : IS THIS IT ? (Part ii)

Anmol Kaur Bawa

Design Courtesy: Siddhartha Sankar for vartagensex.org

In continuation with the previous article enlisting the problematic aspects of The Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights) Bill 2016

4. Demand for seats among the OBC section :

Lately the with the judgement of the Supreme court, the Transgender community has raised an essential demand of right to prospective opportunities and livelihood. Due to the years of societal suppression and denial of financial independency, the transgender community claims to be entitled to the special provisions laid for the Other Backward Classes in the economic, social and political realms.

Chapter 2 of the Bill on Prohibition of certain Acts , clause 3 states :

(a) the denial, or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment in, educational establishments and services thereof;

(b) the unfair treatment in, or in relation to, employment or occupation;

(c) the denial of, or termination from, employment or occupation;

(d) the denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment in, healthcare services;

(e) the denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment with regard to, access to, or provision or enjoyment or use of any goods, accommodation, service, facility, benefit, privilege or opportunity dedicated to the use of the general public or customarily available to the public;

(f) the denial, or, discontinuation of, unfair treatment with regard to the right of movement; Prohibition against discrimination.

(g) the denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment with regard to the right to reside, purchase, rent, or otherwise occupy any property;

(h) the denial or discontinuation of, or unfair treatment in, the opportunity to stand for or hold public or private office;

(i) the denial of access to, removal from, or unfair treatment in, Government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person may be.

Indeed the welfare provisions look promising however, too utopian to be implementative. The reason behind this assertion of mine is settled in the staunch mindsets of the people who dwell within our society and act as influencing forces on the “norms” of this world we survive in. At first, the demands of Transgender community for incorporating a recognition of their section into the OBC list seemed out of place, but such demands have to be seen while taking into consideration the difficulties a third gender would face to change the age old stigmas and bent perspective on the lifestyles of Transgenders.

Surely a mere Supreme court declaration wouldn’t suffice to shut these social evils, the special provisions under article 16 (reservations) act as a guarantee from the state not only to give effect to the legally recognised right to protection but also form the threshold of administrative implementation of the same.

5. Privacy :

The bill has vast provisions on making identity cards for Third Gender and subsequent medical examination necessary. This has come across as a major concern with respect to one’s bodily privacy. The following provisions in the bill state :

5. A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for issuing a certificate of identity as a transgender person, in such form and manner, and accompanied with such documents, as may be prescribed:

6.Provided that in the case of a minor child, such application shall be made by a parent or guardian of such child.

(1) On the receipt of an application under section 5, the District Magistrate shall refer such application to the District Screening Committee to be constituted by the appropriate Government for the purpose of recognition of transgender persons. (2) The District Screening Committee referred to in sub-section (1) shall comprise — (a) the Chief Medical Officer; (b) District Social Welfare Officer; (c)a Psychologist or Psychiatrist;

(d) a representative of transgender community; and (e) an officer of the appropriate Government to be nominated by that Government.

7. (1) The District Magistrate shall issue to the applicant under section 5, a certificate of identity as transgender person on the basis of the recommendations made by the District Screening Committee in such form and manner, within such time, as may be prescribed, indicating the gender of such person as transgender. (2) The gender of transgender person shall be recorded in all official documents in accordance with certificate issued under sub-section (1). (3) A certificate issued to a person under sub-section (1) shall confer rights and be a proof of recognition of his identity as a transgender person.”

Firstly, the absence of any specific clause assuring to maintain the dignity of the citizen under such physical and emotional screening, makes the community members apprehensive of the Government official’s professional conduct. Secondly, many have questioned the accountability of the psychiatrists and psychologists that the district screening committee shall involve. As, matters relating to one’s personal traumas, experiences, sexual feeling have to be dealt with sensitivity, maturity and trust.

Third, a prior gender-sensitivity training is required to be provided to the government official involved in the district screening, to avoid any and all kind of casual discrimination, further escalating into gender based violence within the premises of the screening department.

Poster prepared by All India Transgender Community, for a major protest at New Delhi,to resist this bill.

● The Road ahead :

The recent hue and cry over the contents of the Transgender Persons (protection Of Rights) Bill 2016 by the various interest groups across the nation have proven to be a result of common dissatisfaction with the discrepancy in expectations and reality.

In my opinion, after having read the judgement on NALSA v.s Union Of India, one can chalk out the depths at which the judiciary demystifies the spectrum of rights that should be granted to the Transgender community. Interestingly, the court has derived a lot from the international treaties and declarations such as the YOGYAKARTA PRINCIPLES in determining the third gender rights,surprisingly not much attention has been paid to the principles while drafting of the bill.

A better approach of the government should have been to call in for recommendations, modifications and comments on the draft bill, leaving the platform open to the interest groups and individuals for a qualitative scrutiny from the realistic perspective by those who would actually be on the receiving end of the proposed document.


Anmol Kaur Bawa

About Our Writer: Anmol Kaur Bawa is the granddaughter of the witches they weren’t able to burn. She’s all of 18 and a law student at SLS, Pune.

The Transgender Persons(Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 : IS THIS IT ? (Part i)

Anmol Kaur Bawa

Design Courtesy: Siddhartha Sankar for vartagensex.org

Introduce yourself. Go on…elaborate! Easy-peasy right? Telling about yourself, your identity is a sheer cake walk for most,isn’t it ? But what about a person, who is, DEFINED as a ‘transgender person’, it implies a person who is:

(A) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or (B) a combination of female or male; or (C) neither female nor male; and whose sense of gender does not match with the gender assigned to that person at the time of birth, and includes transmen and transwomen, persons with intersex variations and gender-queers. “

Surely in the aforementioned introduction, confusion is inevitable. However unfortunate it is, but that’s how the lawmakers intend to introduce the transgender community in the parliament. The burning question is, Is this sufficient or even close to “simplified” for a layman’s understanding about the laws relating to the society s/he dwells in ?

Seeing the unkempt attitude towards the threshold elements involved in the peculiar community of transgenders, the answer to that question is not in the affirmative.

The loop of episodes :

The transgender Bill 2016 has been a result of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the case of National Legal Services Authority v.s The Union of India (2012), where the court has upheld the right of recognition of Transgenders as the ‘third’ gender and directed the parliament to give appropriate legal stature to the same. During the course of the petition, an expert committee on ‘issues relating to transgender community’ was set up under the aegis of the ministry of social justice and empowerment. The report of the committee was to be submitted to the ministry so that appropriate recommendations and solutions could be deliberated upon. However, the draft bill that has been framed has come across a lot of criticism for its failure to capture the essence of the issue in various spheres.

1. Psychological sex :

For any new addition to the list of statutory definitions declared by the legislature, clarity and objectivity is of utmost importance. The very definition of a ‘transgender’ has been made problematic to comprehend. Not only does it include ancillary terms like ‘transmen’ and ‘transwomen’ which need a definition themselves to define anything before, but also that the social and psychological aspects of “third” gender have not been adequately and directly dealt with. Most of the critics have highlighted that the bill refuses to confront the idea of psychological sex and beats around the bush when it comes to defining what transgendence is precisely. Psychological sex is multifaceted variant of self-identification of genders. It involves the self-reflection of one’s likes and dislikes for self and others in terms of sexuality and a mental make up of this self-reflection which is exhibited in the overt and covert manifestation.

Justice K.S Radhakrishnan in his judgment on the NALSA v.s Union Of India explained :

‘Gender identity as already indicated forms the core of one’s personal self, based on self identification, not on surgical or medical procedure. Gender identity, in our view, is an integral part of sex and no citizen can be discriminated on the ground of gender identity, including those who identify as third gender.

We, therefore, conclude that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity includes any discrimination, exclusion, restriction or preference, which has the effect of nullifying or transposing equality by the law or the equal protection of laws guaranteed under our Constitution, and hence we are inclined to give various directions to safeguard the constitutional rights of the members of the TG community.’

It is however an unfortunate state of affair that the Supreme Court’s judgement of Third Gender recognition has either not been taken cautiously or hasn’t been absorbed in its true spirit while drafting of the bill. Nowhere does the bill attempt to emphasize on the right of gender Identity in light of article 21 ( right to life and personal liberty )and neither does it brief on the link between sexual orientation and gender identity .

2. Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation :

Gender identity refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body which may involve a freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or functions by medical, surgical or other means and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

Whereas, sexual orientation refers to an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Sexual orientation includes transgender and gender-variant people with heavy sexual orientation and their sexual orientation may or may not change during or after gender transmission, which also includes homosexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals, asexuals etc

Hence, we return to our basic question, IS THIS IT?

The bill refers to only ‘transgenders’ but which category of them ? if the indication is towards “third gender” then what about the people who have gone through Sex Re-organisation Surgery (SRS) and switched their sex but have romantic/emotional attraction to the same people belonging to their new sex (homosexuality)? Is biological determination enough to establish transgenderence?,as one born as a male may choose female-oriented lifestyle. The bill remains silent on these questions.

3. Right to self-perceived gender identity v.s section 377 :

Chapter 3 on the Recognition of Identity of Transgender Person, clause 4, sub clause (2) states:

‘A person recognised as transgender under sub-section (1) shall have a right to self perceived gender identity.’ The provision herein recognises the liberty granted by the state to the transgenders to associate themselves to any gender they feel they fit aptly in, which also includes the transgender’s right to choose his/her/their sexual preferences. Does this mean that the bill is camouflaging the liberty to choose homosexual relations among the third gender or SRS subjects within its ambit? No clarification has been provided as to whether right to “sexual orientation” has been incorporated within the purview of the right to self perceived identity. If at all the clause takes into consideration homosexual relations then wouldn’t it be declared at loggerheads with section 377 of the IPC that criminalizes homosexuality under the garb of “unnatural offenses”?

Furthermore, In NALSA v.s Union Of India, the Supreme Court on one hand has declared the rights of third gender while on the other hand has kept the question of decriminalizing homosexuality under examination for long. The bill remains silent on the issue of 377 which may create problems in interpretation and implementation by courts and judges if given a legal assent in future.

Watch out for more problematic aspects of this Bill in the next article…

Triple Talaq: Looking at the Other Side of the Coin

Sadaf Vidha

Image Courtesy: The Quint

Like a lot of Muslim women out there, I was really happy when I read about the ban on Triple Talaq. I had heard of many relatives who had faced problems because of this, as the husband would utter the three “talaqs” based on his whims and fancies and the woman was often left in a lurch. According to Islam, between the utterance of the three “talaqs”, there has to be a waiting period of 6 months each so that the couple could work on their issues. The point of this waiting period was to ensure that the decision was not taken in the heat of the moment. I have also seen men misuse this provision by giving two talaqs and not the third one, such that the marriage is affected and cannot continue as normal, but at the same time, she is not free to live an independent life or marry someone else. Since many Muslim women do not know that they too can start divorce proceedings (known as tula or khula), they stay stuck in this situation, often victimized and with fleeting economic support.

Looking at this we can witness that there is problem with the education on religious laws when it comes to Islam. This has now come to light as we know and is being talked about a lot since it as a social issue and an unjust act exercised against women when already the religion has been on the altar for many of its confounding beliefs. A lot of questions have emerged as to the sudden interest of the BJP led government into the Islamic religious rules and although it masks on the front, the intentions of helping the Muslim women, yet the consequences of the entire proposal of the ban is hardly discussed in the media.

In the light of all this, I was really happy about the law. However, the law is not as innocent as it might seem. In an article in the Asian Age, Flavia Agnes, a woman’s rights lawyer and founder of the organization Majlis which helps Muslim women to get their basic rights, pointed out the following problems in the law:

  1. Triple Talaq was already criminalized before the act: It got invalidated back in 2002 by the Supreme Court (SC) in the Shamim Ara case and even before that in 2001, through another significant ruling. So a woman with a single talaq is not considered divorced, neither if all three talaqs have been uttered at the same time. Such women can take the recourse of laws like Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act of 2005.
  2. It’s a knee-jerk reaction and will likely suffer the similar fate as 498 A: The dowry act (498 A) got a lot of flak because police could arrest men and their relatives on simply an oral statement. Due to this, the court intervened and asked for the use of this law to be limited/modified. Fighting for women’s rights has become harder due to this law than easier because many men without having taken dowry have been framed under this law. Flavia Agnes suspects that the way this law has been framed, it will suffer a similar fate as the dowry law.
  3. Muslim men can be easily incarcerated: In the light of such sentiments, where there’s already a lot of hate propagated against Muslim men, a law like this will make it easy to arrest Muslim men without much cause. Since the law allows third parties to also lodge a complaint, this gets really murky and beyond the life of the couple in question.
  4. It’s too complicated for an average Muslim woman, and doesn’t cover her economic rights: The law requires a lot of understanding of the legal procedures which is hardly the sort of acumen an average Muslim woman has. She is more likely to approach community based panchayats or religious committees and so we need to help her understand the existing laws than make new, complicated ones. Also, the law does not guarantee her any economic rights while the husband is in jail, neither does it shed much light on alimony.

Apart from this, the number of Hindu women who have been dumped by their husbands without support is actually much larger than Muslim women. Yet we do not see a law to help them out, which strengthens the fact that this law might have communal flavor. Therefore, all in all, it seems like a communally motivated law. The good news is that the law has not been passed yet and it can still be insulated against all these problematic points, with certain amendments.

To conclude, it is very important for the court and the media to take upon the other aspects of a law that are being proposed. Especially, the media must not only throw light on just one side of the coin but also question what the other side offers. As a representative of the people, it is important to talk about the consequences of the actions demanded. Also, once a law has been proposed, it is a fundamental need to look into the execution framework of that law. When we witness all the debates conducted on news channels we only hear how Triple Talaq needs to be banned and not on how will the women be affected by it, considering the economic standard of the family conditions she is in. Therefore it is necessary being a medium between the government and the governed, and bringing into consideration all the vital attributes of an issue without letting any religious, cultural or political bias in the way.


Sadaf Vidha

#Event Update : “In the Shadow of the Pyramids by Laura El-Tantawy”

Neelesha Dhawan

Image Courtesy: Neelesha Dhawan

“Look! it is a photojournalism project!, I HAVE to go!”. I exclaimed dragging a poor friend along, pushing open the door. For a person who is not an avid newspaper reader, this exhibition banner outside Triveni was very inviting.

Entering the hall, I entered a whole different era, it seemed. January 2011. Tahrir Square. Cairo, Egypt. Different shades of crimson, intertwined with black. Slideshows and slideshows of pictures. What IS this place? Hoards and hoards of people, bloodshed and body parts strewn about the landscape. Mothers with children clasped to their bosoms. Men with grime-smeared faces. Torn clothes. Hopeless faces. Innocent dead bodies. My entire aura flipped.

How did I absolutely not come across this?

Image Courtesy: Neelesha Dhawan

This exhibition spoke volumes about the tragedy of Tahrir Square. Overthrowing Mubarak might have been a success for the Egyptians and a moment of celebration. But they paid heavily for this freedom. What started as an electoral fraud, further developed into a full-blown Egyptian revolution. The causes may be few, but the damage was humongous. Corruption, inflation and low wages was nothing in comparison to the state of emergency laws and police brutality, claiming lives of more than 11,000 people and arresting more than 12,000.

People resorted to many methods of protest, including online protests, riots and strikes. But the most barbaric ones were those in which people had to resort to self-immolation for a successful coup. Here I saw, what I would call inhumanity at its best.

Image Courtesy: Neelesha Dhawan

In 2005,Laura El-Tantawy, first began documenting the everyday lives of Egyptians, going about their chores like any other day. What escaped the eye, was caught in her lens. People living on the fringes of the city in burial grounds, and people living on the verge of humanity, in dumping grounds among scurrying rats and decaying flesh.

In 2011, she ventured on to capture the post-Mubarak Egypt. From the capital to the coast, to the villages and the tourist hubs, she tried to understand what the new Egypt was like and identify the essence of being an Egyptian in those conflicted times.

I honestly, could not fathom the words through which I could portray the misery of people who felt this crisis, as some feelings can never be summed up in a string of words. Should I say, I’d pray for the people? It’s too late. Should I say, the government should step up to provide relief? It probably has. There’s nothing more I can say than whisper a small sigh and put a full stop.


About our Writer: Neelesha Dhawan is an avid reader and a caffeine addict. A writer, painter, blogger and nose-deep into all kinds of creative stuff, she’s at KrantiKali to reach out to the silenced, and hopefully give them a voice; breaking the false conscious in a prejudiced society.

TUMHARI SULU makes a strong feminist statement, Here’s Why :

Poornima Mandpe

Google Images

A quintessential middle class housewife Sulochana from Virar becomes a star Radio Jockey after an ordinary competition leads her to discovering her talent to appeal with a voice that can set the listeners’ heart racing with dreams of amorous adventures.

The primary listeners of her night show are, needless to say lonely men (overworked or without work) seeking moments of respite and pleasure.

Her domestic struggles before the stardom are typical- a spouse with an ordinary and low paying job, a son taking steps towards adolescence, and relatives who leave no stone unturned to chide her for her failures, highlighting especially her failed attempts at higher education. Her husband Ashok however is a man with a difference. I don’t mean to say that he is extraordinary in his work or has this amazing personality. He is not even good looking as far as the social standards of beauty in men go. The difference stands out in the first scene itself, when he is seen to be holding his wife’s purse with easy comfort on his right shoulder as he cheers her to complete the chamcha limbu race. On a typically hard day at work, he comes home drunk, but does not vent out his frustration on his wife and child. Even when Sulu’s titillating words to her truck-wala & chowkidar male audience upsets him, he goes as far to sulk in the mornings or nudge her to reflect on her offensive language. He does not react violently or level cheap allegations, with other normal husbands in other normal films would “very justifiably” want to do.

In the scene in which Sulu announces her new job at the Radio station, he demands that she should have discussed it with him first. And what does Sulu do in this situation? She does not walk out giving him a dose of ‘my life, my choice’ (even when she is actually making a conscious and unconventional choice), but promptly takes him to her office. Star struck at the surroundings and convinced of the value the job holds for Sulu, he easily gives in. Negotiation and the belief that they would support each other’s decisions thus, lie at the core of their successful marriage, on which both draw strength.

Her older twin sisters on the other hand, in a series of “well meaning” advises throughout the film invariably berate her for her incomplete education which denies her financially stable banking like jobs (which both of them are into). I wonder if they are shown to be twins because of their identical ideas of respectability and propriety, identical to each other and identical to so many families. They not only admonish Sulu for losing respectability because of her stint at the radio, but also attempt to influence Ashok to take a stand and prevent her from going, to “be a man” in other words. Ashok unfortunately does succumb for a while and in a high end family drama, asks her to leave the job. This is when their son was punished at school for some naughty behaviour, which the family attributes as the consequences of her “odd job” at night.

But even here we understand and feel for Ashok more than ever. Trapped in the ‘man’s world’ like the rest of us, he falls short of showing decisiveness and control expected from him and becomes an easy prey to his boss at the office and his sisters in law at home, both of whom would want to humiliate him for his submissiveness.

Contrast the boss and the sisters with Sulu’s superior and colleague (both woman) at the Radio station, and here is a breath of fresh air. When Sulu tells them her intention to try out for the job of Radio Jockey they are sceptical and amused. They however, do not mock or belittle her for wanting to try this out, even as we think they would for her class, “unsophisticated manners” and lack of spoken English skills. Her boss Mariam is a cool, non competitive and yet successful young woman in a corporate world. She offers a fair chance to Sulu to give the radio audition and appreciates her talent and ambition. Urban, suave and in a position of power, she effectively break the stereotypes that media portrays women in her situations i.e. mean and disrespectful to their female colleagues. Mariam and Mallishka in fact are welcoming and warm and offer full support to her growth, re-creating a safe feminist working space in the minds of the audience.

Google Images

Sulu slips into the role of sexy Sulu every night, but at daytime she is her normal quirky self who loves her family and life, she does this with an ease of a seasoned actor removing her apparel and make up after the act is over. She does not take dictates from her colleague who urges her to speak to address the carnal lust of the callers. In a sense thus, she does not allow herself to be objectified. Combining her sharp wit and a dash of erotic playfulness, she beckons desire in her listeners with her silken drawl. She merely creates a fantasy, leaving it to each one’s own interpretations. And that is why when an old man calls up and tells her that her voice resembles the voice of his late wife also called Sulu, she is able to reply with the same warmth and alacrity with which she replies to her other callers.

The film while speaking of women empowerment retains a light hearted narration till the end. (A relief from Vidya Balan’s earlier film Begum Jaan, which in spite of having a potentially liberating female working place of a brothel disappointed the audience with bickering women and screaming and dominating Begum Jaan at the lead) It is simply a story of female protagonist not seen through a male gaze, and that what is giving it all the box office collections!


Poornima Mandpe

About our writer: A dreamer and a book worm, I believe in following the dictates of my heart. I intend to make a meaningful contribution to society in a small way through my writing! Currently a part of an NGO (Akshara) that works for women empowerment and gender justice.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of KrantiKālī.

Artist of the Week: Tara Anand

Rhea Dangwal

Tara Anand

Somewhere between lines and colour, artist and illustrator Tara Anand found the spectrum of her palette in intersectional feminism. The 19-year-old has since used her medium to create some amazing projects like a series on warrior women of the subcontinent called ‘I AM NO MAN’, another one exploring the origins of feminism in India, and even getting featured in Vogue India with her illustration of Savitribai Phule.

Ellie Lee

Her most recent project with illustrator Ellie Lee‘I am like other girls’ has taken Instagram by storm with submissions pouring in from across the world and an expanding collaborative of artists and illustrators on the bandwagon. Sparking dialogue on what it truly means to be a woman in comparison to the hetero-sexist-racist, capitalist patriarchy that peddles us its definition in main stream media; the project lets girls send in a picture and a defining trait of theirs, that may resonate with other women too.

From History of Feminism in India-Tara Anand

We got to talking with the artist about her creative process, where her art intersects her revolution and more.

What is ‘I am like other girl’s’ origin story?

The project came about from a conversation between Ellie and I, about how both of us had noticed girls and women around us bragging about not being able to make female friends or “not being like other girls”. This was a trend we saw in our peers and in ourselves when we were younger — the need to compete with other girls and label the women around us petty, shameless, or dramatic.

We found ourselves angry and upset at the lack of a culture of female solidarity in our lives and we were inspired to create something that might spark the formation of a culture like this. We were surprised at how many people this idea seemed to resonate with and how many women just UNDERSTOOD and picked up the idea so quickly!

I am like other girls- Ellie Lee

Describe the project.

“I’m not like other girls” — is a phrase too familiar to most young women trying to be “individual”. Too many of us try to achieve individuality by distancing ourselves from our gender but who decides what girls are like? And who decides that they’re all the same? With 3430000000 women on the planet from 195 countries, thousands of religions, complexions, cultures, and with incredibly diverse interests, professions, talents and personalities — it is impossible to generalise an entire gender. The project strives to redefine what it means to be like other girls.

How do you plan to take the project forward?

Honestly, we hadn’t expected this project to get as big as it has so soon so our plans for the future are currently just to wrangle with the mountain of responses we’ve got! We’d love to collaborate with other organizations with similar messages, figure out some way for our project to have a physical impact on girls who come from less fortunate backgrounds

What inspires your art? (as an independent creative)

People around me, Literature and History most of all, cities. For me, my art is a way to say things or express things in general; so it could be inspired by something that I believe in deeply and need to express or something as simple as a thing that gives me joy.

What are some of the most common themes in your art? What are your top three favourite motifs and your most preferred medium?

Common themes are women in powersouth Asian culturemythology, colourism. My top three favourite motifs is a really hard one but my top 3 favourite things to draw are elaborate costumes, big features and hands! My favourite medium is ink.

I am like other girls- Tara Anand

Do you consider yourself a feminist? How would you describe your personal revolution?

Of course! I believe very strongly in the power of art and media in changing what people believe and the way they think. I think my personal revolution involves simply trying to popularize feminine narratives both through my art and the way I live my life. I think changing the presence women have in the media is more likely to humanize them and change the way society perceives women!

What lies down the pipeline for TaraAnandArt?

Too many projects and too little time to execute them! I’m working on something more about colourism and beauty standards, I hope to look more at LGBT themes and the history and cultural significance of Indian women!

You can find Tara Anand here!


Rhea Dangwal

Decoding “Obscenity”, legally

Anmol Kaur Bawa

A young feminist and lawyer-in-the-making explores the meaning of “Obscenity”.

Do your facebook posts dare to voice your political inclinations ? Love face-swapping on snapchat? Or enjoy the simple pleasures out of viewing porn? If your answer to all or any the questions is a yes, then my friend, you’re apparently a criminal under the very “instrumental” section 67 of the Information Technology Act,2000. Furthermore, if you somehow managed to gulp down the aforementioned, it shall be brought to your notice that the said section deals with “obscenity”. So now you’re a legally acknowledged “ASHLEEL” in the broadest sense of the term!

The Substantive (f)Laws: What is Obscenity?

The basic minimum threshold of any legal claim and reference is embedded in the statutory clause that intends to codify the rule and the objective behind the regulation of the same. This branch of law is called ‘substantive law’ which codes, defines and states the legal terms and rule. Classic instances include the Indian Penal Code, the Constitution of India or any Statutory Act that lays down the initial provisions of the larger objective.

The key agenda of substantive laws is to objectify the legal terms to leave no room for subjectivity. In common law, certainty and specificity of terms is of primary importance while construing the law and giving judgements therefore it is important to precisely define the terms under each section. In this light, the sections under Information Technology Act,2000 are considered as both substantive and procedural laws as they contain definitions of crimes along with the consequently prescribed punishments of the same.

A fantastic observation brought by “Legally Obscene” throws light on the poor framing of section 67. The section is stated as follows –

“Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.

The problem with such a flowery embracement of words is that they are too vague and victorian for any government official to understand in a linear sense of the term. Perhaps when laws are made, they aren’t just for the governmental organs to refer to but also for the public to explore and understand. Terms like “lascivious”, “prurient”, “deprave” and “corrupt” need a proper definition for them to constitute a definition for obscenity. Hence, this leaves space for cyber crime officers, police officers and even the judges to implement the law as per their own interpretation of what is lascivious or prurient and “corrupts” persons.

The research explains how the section has been misused in a plethora of cases. Out of the ninety-nine cases, the researchers examined, nearly all of them are instances where the situations leading to the said act of “obscenity” are very different making it difficult to determine what exactly constitutes as an obscene act. The cases range from Tanmay Bhatt snapchat filter rage to a casual comment on maharashtra CM’s vacation pictures to the heinous rape videos recorded by the rapists as token of their shameful “victory”.

Image Clicked from Point of View’s presentation “Legally Obscene”.

How obscene is obscenity ?

The historical background provided by the research shows the genesis of obscenity to be traced back to the 17th century where obscenity was equivalent to a sin in the theological rule and censorship was seen as the only purification. This was also the time for print media to flourish, a time where freedom of speech and expression was in its initial stages of experimentation. Print soon became a weapon for the protestants to express their dissent through controversial pamphlets, highlighting lesbianism, slavery and catholic orthodoxy. This movement threatened the ruling clergy that in turn came to tag any attempt to encourage open sexuality as “obscene” the primary aim of such censors was to restrain bodily exploration and openness towards sex.

Perhaps, the journey of turning obscenity into a crime from a sin has stretched from the victorian era of bodily morality to the 20th century of bustling sexual literature.

In the Indian context, Section 292 of the IPC, the 19th century statute states the archaic words as those reflected in Section 67. One can say that the wordings of a 19th century law have been recklessly picked and thrown at during the framing of a supposedly reformed Act of 2000. What is crucial is that neither section 292 nor 67 define what exactly is meant by obscenity, it has been used over centuries first by the British and now by the Indian Govt. at the behest of their own cultural and colorable understanding of the same.

The notion of “obscenity” has more to do with the changing cultural and socio-psychological dynamics of a society. What might be obscene in one society may not be seen as the same in the other. In addition to this, Section 67 has failed to draw a distinction between sexual rights and sexual vulgarity. As a result of which any usual act of personal satisfaction has also been slapped with this barbaric law of “obscenity” .

Image Clicked from Point of View’s presentation “Legally Obscene”. Creators of above image were charged with obscenity.

66E v.s 67 :

The most observed mistake as to the charging of sections in this regard has been the frivolous attempt to club section 66 E of the IT Act along with 67. I rather call it frivolous for the intent behind such an arbitrary charging of cases is not because the situations in the said case match the objectives laid under the sections but because such a clubbing would yield higher imprisonment terms and exemplary damages. This is a dangerous tangent to duck through! Firstly, this promotes a retributive role of the law rather than a reformative one, that too when most of such cases are filed by either ruling party members or politically muscular men . Secondly, in cases of viral rape videos and similar cases of harassment , the slapping of section 67 along with 66 E is unjust to the dignity of the rape survivor/harassed victim. Section 66 E is stated as follows :

“Whoever, intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both.”

By the wordings of the section, the main objective of the law is punish the wrongdoer for any act in contravention to bodily privacy of a person (as exemplified in the section). The nuances of section 67 of the IT Act 2000, have been beautifully analysed and demystified by the NGO- “Point of View”. Under the aegis of Journalist Bishakha Datta,the research launch titled “Legally Obscene” highlights the burning question of whether the blindly adapted colonial laws should be done away with. The research focuses on the issue of “legality” of obscenity and reveals the major fallouts in very spirit of the 67th section of the IT act.

The problem arises when the police refuses to consider the “rape” video heinous enough to be an “actual rape” video and declare the victim as voluntarily “consenting” to the videography. Section 67 which should ideally punish the rapists/harassers to viral such a satanic act “lascivious” enough to “deprave” the image of the victim in the society in turn ends up charging the victim with crime of obscenity along with the rapists.

Furthermore, while section 66E intends to protect the interests of the victim whereas the loopholes in section 67 give way to violate and trap the victim in her own dilemma. The recommendations made by the research staunchly press for the deletion of section 67 which is not only meaningless but also obsolete in the growing times.

To conclude, “legally obscene” tackles not only the gruesome issue of misconstruing the section but also gives an insight of the mechanics of data collection by the National Crime Records Bureau. The research recommends the Bureau to enhance the quality of data collection by making more definite and comprehensive modules to store the raw data. Categories such as “computer geeks”, “perverts”, “mentally disabled”, “friends, relatives and neighbours” under which past cases are organised somewhat attempt to label the guilty on pre-determined notions which in turn hampers the goal of an unbiased deduction of data. Furthermore, cyber crime officers need to be educated in realms of the objectives and implementation of the various sections concerning cyber laws as many officers fail to make a distinction between section 67 and other sections which again traps the victims into their own cause.

Resource: As per Point of View, Mumbai’s research titled “Legally Obscene”.


About Our Writer: Anmol Kaur Bawa is the granddaughter of the witches they weren’t able to burn. She’s all of 18 and a law student at SLS, Pune.

#Events Update: Mental Health Week

Neelesha Dhawan

Image Courtesy:Facebook/ Express Yourself

Cluster Innovation Center, University of Delhi, in collaboration with MASH Project teamed up for another steaming event in the city- The Mental Health Celebrations week. This two day event saw a vibrant population of young enthusiasts ready to unveil the veiled, the itching issues of mental health and LGBTQ community rights in our society.

The day began with a panel discussion around the theme of “Sorting Through Gender, Sex and Sexual Identity”. The panel of speakers included Mr. Rakesh Sharma, who sought to revolutionize the concept of molestation, rape and consent; one cycle ride at a time. In his initiative “Ride for Gender Freedom”, he has conducted workshops, puppet shows and discussions from schools to tea stalls and bus stops.

Ms. Bhani Rachel Bali, our second panelist and founder of “KrantiKali”, a multi-platform gender innovation lab working for the gender revolution, went on to talk about how crucial it is to realize the mental state of various LGBTQ groups and the plethora of emotions, mental harassment they go through, being exposed to the harshness of society.

Picture courtesy: Neelesha Dhawan

The third and the last panelist, Ms. Taksh Sharma, a renowned model talked about how cis-gender people alienate transgenders, believing them to be the most unhappy and unwanted sect of the society.‘Ask me, and I am the happiest person on the planet!’, she exclaimed.

As the day progressed, there was a mental health quiz, titled Psyched!, followed by a Menstrual Hygiene Workshop, which broke away a lot of myths associated with menstruation and female hygiene. The screening of the Oscar-winning film The Danish Girl was what stole the show on the first day of the MHW.

The second day ushered in a warm and lively event of The Living Stories with a lot of people engaging with the speakers on a warm wednesday morning. Next in queue was the second panel discussion titled What’s Depressing the Millennials?, inviting speakers like Ms. Aashima Taneja, founder of “You Are Beautiful project”, highlighting how people need to remind themselves of their worth, just the way they are.

Picture courtesy: Neelesha Dhawan

Simran Luthra, the second speaker, is the founder of “Talk Happy Therapy”.She went on to talk about how sometimes depressed people need something as simple as an understanding ear. Shubhra, the third speaker of the day, pointed out the fact that how millennials feel the constant need to “do something”, which is the ultimate cause of mental disturbance.

One of the major crowd pullers of the day was the slam poetry event, “When Love Checks In”, judged by the award winning slam-artist, Shibani Das. Her performance towards the end left the entire hall in awe of her expression.

The event came to a close with some amazing performances by Rubhen D’sa, Apoorv, Prateek Sachdeva and the Dramatics society of CIC, “Zikr”.

MHW was a massive eye opener, shedding some much needed light on the taboo topics of our society- the mental health, and of course, the LGBT community. The entire concept of linking the two dimensions and crusading on the nooks and crevices of the thoughts of these communities is immensely engaging. The thought that, how one of our very own, are surviving, fighting a fight everyday, with their hearts and minds at stake, and how we, conveniently surpass them uttering a snide comment, is something to be introspected!


Neelesha Dhawan

About our Writer: Neelesha Dhawan is an avid reader and a caffeine addict. A writer, painter, blogger and nose-deep into all kinds of creative stuff, she’s at KrantiKali to reach out to the silenced, and hopefully give them a voice; breaking the false conscious in a prejudiced society.

Woke

Krishna Wagh

A young feminist’s journey to her feminist political awakening!

As a young woman from a relatively small town who had moved to Mumbai, I had been sufficiently warned by my parents about the different ways I may be harmed, ranging from not wearing open toe shoes in monsoon lest I get an infection to getting kidnapped in a taxi. My parents had never experienced “The Mumbai life” but were sure to watch crime patrol daily to alert me about anything from getting pickpocketed to sex trade. My experience in this city was severely limited and backed by parent-fed paranoia.

It took me 3 years in Mumbai before I could actually have a social life without the lingering fear of being kidnapped, raped or being sold into sex trafficking. I had started trusting the city because my adventures in Mumbai had not substantiated my fears. This was also the time when women’s safety issues were brought to the forefront by the mainstream media. The Delhi rape case was smacked into my face every time I ventured out. Women were getting vocal about the lack of safety and why shouldn’t they ? Finally, there was at least one gendered incident covered by the media which was gruesome, to say the least, to men and women alike.

The dialogue that took place within the socially aware strata of the society basically revolved around the state of women in the country and whom to blame for it. As it happened, the final allegations rested on the government. But is it entirely right for the government to be on the receiving side of the blame? Shouldn’t we address the issue of changing the mindset that men have… men who treat women like something that is disposable.

The Delhi rape case actively brought a discourse about feminism in India, not that it wasn’t present before. It was. But, now this discourse was happening on a larger scale and not just in a class full of women pursuing a course on gender and sexuality.

‘The centuries of subjugation, from sati to the glass ceiling; I felt the weight of injustice of it all in one incident.’

Gender Inequality by Emilio Morales Ruiz

It was during this time that I felt myself getting confrontational about women rights and feminism. The centuries of subjugation, from sati to the glass ceiling; I felt the weight of injustice of it all in one incident. I started noticing little points in the mundane conversations with my friends which hinted at sexism and in some cases, it was outright gender discrimination. The discourse had brought out one important aspect…why is there a need for precautions to be taken by women while venturing out in a world where men have none?

A woman is required by this modern society to be educated, work at “reasonable time”, get married, have kids and fulfill all the gender roles assigned to her by the society or to face the judgments of the society . This was when I hadn’t even experienced a single instance of gender discrimination personally until that point. My opinions were largely based on secondary experiences which were formed through someone else’s lived experiences and still it hit me like a boulder.

What must the women in the weakest sections of society feel? Were they capable of accepting that they do not exist in this world to suffer incessantly? To be fair, men also have certain pressures thrust onto themselves by the society. Males have to ‘act like a man’, be the breadwinner in the household, and get married at certain age. But comparing the lived experiences of the two genders feels just like comparing two ants…one carrying a pebble and another carrying a boulder.

Just when the burden will be shared by men, alike?


Krishna Wagh