When the religion of the perpetrators becomes more important than the crime of rape itself, then you know you are witnessing a civilisational breakdown.
To find evidence of the epidemic of violence against young girls and women gripping India, you have only to flick through your newspaper.
In the recent past: Two minor sisters, 13 and 15, gang-raped at gunpoint in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh (UP). In Singrauli district, Madhya Pradesh, an eight-year-old gang-raped by two boys aged 15 and 16. Also in Madhya Pradesh, near Bhopal, a 10-year-old girl first murdered, then raped and sodomised.
These are a fraction of the horror stories in a country where, according to National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016, not updated since, 19,764 rape cases were registered — an 82% jump in rape cases from the preceding year, with the worst rise in UP where figures have trebled. These are, of course, reported cases in a country where, according to Mint, 99% of sexual assault goes unreported.
Continue reading “India’s child rape crisis”
In a country where 52% of women say it’s ok to be beaten by a husband and one in three experience violence at the hands of a partner, the views of Kabir Singh director, Sandeep Reddy Vanga that physical violence is a sign of true love are dangerous, I write in my Hindustan Times column.
In a country where 52% of women believe it is okay to be beaten by their husbands, the views of Sandeep Reddy Vanga, director Kabir Singh, apparently endorsing physical violence as a sign of love, are deeply disturbing.
“When you are deeply in love … if you don’t have the liberty of slapping each other, then I don’t see anything there,” Vanga told Anupama Chopra in an interview.
I am not sure the one in three married women who have experienced physical violence – slapping, choking, punching and burning — by their husbands, according to the National Family Health Survey 4, would agree. In the first 10 years since the Domestic Violence Act came into force in 2006, over 10 lakh cases of domestic violence have been registered. And, yet, domestic violence remains vastly underreported primarily because of the victim’s relationship with a husband or a partner.
Mainstream Hindi cinema has not been known for its affirmative messages of women’s empowerment. A 2017 study on gender stereotyping by Nishtha Madaan and others shows that the percentage of female-centric films has gone up only marginally since the 1970s and remains in the low teens. Certainly, Kabir Singh’s female lead played by Kiara Advani is no more vacuous than the character played by Sonakshi Sinha who says in Dabangg: “Thappad se darr nahin lagta saab, pyaar se lagta hai.” (I’m not scared of your slap, but of your love).
Continue reading “No. Physical violence is NOT a demonstration of true love.”
The world’s longest and largest march by survivors of rape and sexual assault covering 24 states over 10,000 km in India seeks to break the silence and stigma around rape. My Hindustan Times column.
Y’s husband beat her senseless when he found out that she had been raped by three men in the fields where she had been working. Then he threw her out of the house and told her to go back to her parents. “I had done nothing wrong. I was just trying to earn a living,” she says.
When M managed to escape from three male captors, who told her they had bought her for Rs 2 lakh, her family barred her from seeing her kids. That was in 2016.
Just two out of an estimated 15,000 women and men who have taken part in what is perhaps the world’s largest and longest march of rape survivors, Y and M are finally at the end of a two-month, 10,000 km journey covering 200 districts in 24 states. Along the way, they have met police, judges, doctors, administrators, students, lawyers, teachers. They want to change the way you see them. They want to end the silence that continues to shroud survivors of sexual assault.
Continue reading “The long march to justice”
A new book by my friend and college room-mate Sohaila Abdulali explores the idea that victims of sexual violence are not broken beings. Awful as it is, rape is survivable, and those who have been raped are deserving and capable of happiness again.
I don’t remember the precise moment when my then college roommate, Sohaila Abdulali, told me about being gangraped when she was 17. It was just an incontestable fact of her life: she was from Mumbai, she loved to dance, her parents grew orchids, she had been raped.
This is not to imply that being raped was not a big deal. It was. If I remember correctly, this is how she explained it. “It’s like being run over by a bus and getting terribly hurt. You might never fully recover from your injuries. But you go on living. You can be happy again.”
In the three decades that Sohaila has remained my friend, she has never let that single event define her life, even though it is an inseparable part of who she is. Three years after being raped and while writing her undergraduate thesis on rape in India, she created a minor stir by writing about her own experience for Manushi. Nobody, at least not in India, had ever written about being raped. Nobody had run such an article with their photograph.
Continue reading “What we talk about when we talk about rape”
We can’t seem to stop talking about sexual violence from strangers, but cannot seem to start talking about it (or even acknowledge), about the violence many women face from within their own homes.
If a picture says a thousand words, then a graphic illustration of 137 figures — the number of women killed every day around the world by a partner or family member — doesn’t even begin to tell you the horror.
The statistics are part of a study released on November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It finds that 58% of the 87,000 women killed around the world in 2017 died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member. Every hour, somewhere in the world, six women are killed by people they know.
There’s the 16-year-old, legally a child, in rural Bangalore district, who rejects the amorous advances of a 28-year-old relative who’s been stalking her. On the day she confronts him near her school, he takes out a sickle and slashes her throat.
Continue reading “Home is the most dangerous place for many women”
In Hindustan Times: Frankly, I find this business of ranking ‘worst’ countries to be tedious. To be bad is bad enough; better or worse is an academic argument.
That report, the one that damns India as the worst country in the world for women, came out in a week when one of the country’s most powerful women, our external affairs minister, was being trolled for transferring a passport official who had allegedly exceeded his brief over an interfaith marriage.
Of course, we’d like to believe that our women and girls are completely in charge of their lives — in charge of who to love, where (and whether) to study, what career to pursue and, even, to be born. Right?
So forgive me if I’m not joining the chest-beating mob howling in outrage over the Thomson Reuters Foundation perception survey that places India below Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia.
Continue reading “Worst, second worst or 5th worst doesn’t matter. India is bad for women.”
In IndiaSpend: Anti-trafficking activist Sunitha Krishnan, one of three finalists for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity spoke to me on sex slavery, rehabilitating victims of sex trafficking and death for raping children.
New Delhi: She’s dodged an acid attack, had a fatwa issued against her and survived 17 separate physical assaults. But Sunitha Krishnan, 46, doesn’t seem to be the sort of person to be easily disheartened. The founder of Prajwala, an organisation that describes itself as a “pioneering anti-trafficking organisation working on the issue of sex trafficking and sex crime”, has just been chosen as one of three finalists for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, a global humanitarian award established to recognize modern day heroes. The prize-winner gets $100,000 (Rs 66.3 lakh) and an additional $1,000,000 (Rs 6.63 crore) to distribute to organisations doing humanitarian work.
Continue reading “Children don’t seem to be a priority in this country”
In response to public outrage against a spate of reported rapes of children, the government has now brought in an ordinance that imposes death to anyone convicted of raping a girl below 11. Why I think this ordinance won’t work, and what I think will.
The remarkable fact about recent Indian law-making, particularly when it comes to crimes against women, is that it seems to be based entirely on public emotion.
Public anger against the gang-rape of a physiotherapy student in December 2012 led to tough new amendments to the law against sexual violence.
It was public anger again – media folklore had it that the juvenile rapist in that crime was the ‘most violent’ — that led to the lowering of the age of delinquency from 18 to 16. What if the rapist is aged 14, asked one MP, Anu Agha. Notwithstanding that objection, Parliament voted to reduce the age in line with public opinion.
Continue reading “Laws by public emotion”
In Hindustan Times: Recent gang-rapes and our reaction to them tell us how far we’ve descended in six years after Nirbhaya.
When we allowed our anger to spill over into the streets following the December 2012 gang-rape of a physiotherapy student, we didn’t ask about her religion. We didn’t put labels on our fellow protesters’ ideology. And we certainly didn’t entertain any of the usual questions about what she was wearing and why she was out after dark.
Our collective anger resulted in a new law and while we believed that mindset change would take longer, we trusted that it would inevitably follow.
Yet, how far we’ve descended in six years became clear as news of the premeditated gang-rape, torture and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua began to gain traction. Continue reading “No country for women”
There’s a sickness infecting some of our boys caused by a toxic combination of over-indulgent parents, schools obsessed with ‘brand image’ and the normalising of sex and violence by mass media.
On Instagram, the seventh-grader threatens to have his teacher and her daughter raped. The eighth-grader emails two of his ‘very hot’ teachers and invites them to a ‘candle light date’ since “I feel like f***ing you right now.”
These kids are respectively 12 and 13 years old. They study in a posh Gurugram school and it is tempting to see them as aberrations, silly boys with raging hormones.
Yet, how do we continue to ignore a rising graph — all involving young male perpetrators — that includes at its most extreme, the murder of a seven-year-old student in another school allegedly by a senior student of the same school because he wanted the exams postponed? Or a 17-year-old who is allowed to drive his family Mercedes and ends up killing another man? Or the two teenagers who shoot to death an Uber driver? Continue reading “Over-indulgent parents and brand-conscious schools are failing our kids”