THE BIG STORY: Kanye West and the problem of toxic exes

Kanye West has been barred from performing at the Grammys due to his ‘concerning online behaviour’. Kanye, who now goes by the name Ye, is up for five Grammy awards.

The incident that led to the rapper’s Grammy disbarment, and 24-hour suspension from Instagram, was a racial slur against Daily Show host Trevor Noah who had expressed concern for West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, after she filed for divorce in February.

West’s online and offline behaviour has been, to be polite, erratic: overkill with a truckload of flowers to Kardashian on Valentine’s Day; posting private correspondence from her current boyfriend Pete Davidson; berating Kardashian for ‘kidnapping’ their daughter Chicago; and leaking private text messages from her. But the commentary around this behaviour has been more in the nature of entertaining sideshow gossip instead of being called out for what is really is: sustained harassment.

Abuse is not just physical

Breakthrough India

Toxic exes are as old as relationships. In their most extreme form, jilted lovers respond with horrific violence through acid attacks that lead to permanent disfigurement—105 cases (or one every three days) in India in 2020 according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

But sometimes a toxic ex is just so miffed at becoming an ex that revenge can take various forms, including says family law specialist Malavika Rajkotia, flat out refusing to give a divorce.

S* met her husband through common friends and dated him for four years before getting married and moving to Shimla. “I was at a point in my life where I was looking to connect with someone,” she says. “I didn’t see the signs.”

The husband would go off on holiday with his friends, leaving her behind for weeks with no money, she says. She got pregnant. He was indifferent. Her father paid for the delivery.

She found a job as a hotel executive. It got worse. He would call her incessantly, especially when she was on night shift. He questioned her interactions with male colleagues. But, she says, “I had to work otherwise my daughter and I would not have survived.” In the end, after six years of trying to make it work, she chucked up her job and her marriage and returned to her parents.

She wanted no money or support from him. But because he was so furious that she had walked out, he refused to give her the one thing she did want: a divorce. At one point, he took their daughter back to Shimla, without her permission or knowledge. She was able to get back but he managed to drag out the legal proceedings for 20 years. Finally, when the divorce came through, it was on the basis of charges of cruelty that he had filed against her. “I didn’t contest it because I was desperate for a divorce, for closure,” S told me.

Early signs

Exes don’t just turn toxic. They are toxic from the start. Obsessive controlling behaviour, incessant phone calls to track a partner’s movement, control over their social media handles (including what they can and cannot post), stalking, gas-lighting and ghosting are all signs of toxic behaviour.

W was only 18 when her older cousin initiated a relationship. “He said he loved me, but was never emotionally available. We’d talk or argue and then he’d just disappear.” After a few months they broke up but then he was back, telling her she was now a ‘better version’ of herself. It didn’t work out.

J was 26 and working at a call centre when she met her boyfriend through social media. At their first meeting he advised her to change her career and her friends. “He questioned all my decisions. He was very possessive and controlling, but I was taken in,” she says.

A was in the 11th grade and going through an emotionally vulnerable period when she met her boyfriend. “I was not doing well mentally and he would use that against me, make me feel small,” she says. When she tried to end the relationship, he sent her on a guilt trip, telling her he had given up everything for her.

Recognising abuse

India’s domestic violence law passed in 2005 recognises the many forms of abuse. This includes not just physical violence but sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse.

But, says therapist Biraj Bose, there is a lack of awareness both of the types of abuse and of the protection offered by the law.

“Very often victims of abuse do not realise they are even being abused,” says another counsellor who asked not to be named. When the person herself does not recognise she is being abused, it becomes difficult to seek any sort of redress.

Mediation is often the family, and society’s, instinctive response. Daughters are brought up, by and large, to be pliant and maintain family ‘honour’ at all costs. A victim of abuse typically suffers from low self-esteem and it becomes difficult for her to set boundaries. “The earlier it is accepted, the better it is,” says the counsellor.

Emotional and other forms of abuse often manifest in physical ailments: inability to sleep, anxiety, hypertension and diabetes. When patients show up with physical problems, doctors are not trained to spot that the root cause might lie elsewhere.

One in three women in India have experienced some form of domestic abuse. And while civil society activists and government are working on the ground to stamp out physical violence, less is being said about the other forms of abuse.

It’s time to start talking.

*Names concealed.


S Phangnon Konyak of the BJP who was been named her party’s nominee for its lone Rajya Sabha seat from Nagaland. If elected on March 31, she will become the first woman from the state to enter the Upper House, and first Naga woman member of Parliament since 1977.


“In our society, victims of sexual offence are, more often than not, treated as the abettor, if not perpetrator of the crime, even though the victim may be absolutely innocent.”

While delivering a judgment on a matter concerning a sexual offence of a minor child, Justice Indira Banerjee of the Supreme Court added that instead of empathising with the victim, people start finding fault and the victim is “ridiculed, defamed, gossiped about, and even ostracised.


Under the law, adoptive mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave, but only if the child is under three months of age.

Biological mothers get 26 weeks of paid leave under the same law.

Source: Behanbox.


In her heyday, it is rumoured that she carried a prize of Rs 10,000 on her head for participating in the Telangana armed struggle from 1945-48. She had studied only until the fifth grade but began her political life at the age of 11, campaigning against bonded labour. During the 1983 assembly polls, a political rival threatened to shoot her and she responded: “Are you going to shoot me? Then shoot me.”

On March 19, Mallu Swarajyam, the 91-year-old fiery feminist died of a lung infection.


Male violence against women and girls begins with words. This video released on March 14 by the London mayor’s office is a call to action to men to step in and speak up.

Watch here, and please share.


‘Rape is rape’

At a time when the issue of marital rape has landed in the courts, the Karnataka High Court has said that ‘rape is rape’ and has refused to drop rape charges against a man accused of sexual assault by his wife. “If it is punishable to a man, it should be punishable to a man albeit, the man being a husband,” Justice M Nagaprasanna ruled.

Tamil Nadu suicide case

Examining an appeal against a CBI probe into the death by suicide of a 17-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu on January 19, the Supreme Court has allowed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to submit a ‘wealth of evidence’ in a sealed cover in support of the allegation that the girl had been forced to convert by a Christian institution where she was studying. Read Abraham Thomas’s report here.

No re-exam for hijab protestors

The department of pre university education has said that the hijab protestors who did not sit for the exams, including those who were not allowed to because of their insistence on wearing a head scarf, will not be allowed to sit for a practicals re-examination.

Haryana passes love jihad law

Amid demands from the Opposition for further discussion, the BJP-ruled state has passed the controversial bill that seeks to prevent religious conversions through misrepresentation and force and is now commonly known as the anti-love jihad law in states like Uttar Pradesh where it is already in force.


Joe Biden nominated the first black woman as a Supreme Court judge. This is how her confirmation hearings are going

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has held her own against a barrage of questions from Republican senators who comprise a 22-member judiciary committee. These questions have ranged from the bizarre (a known white supremacist asked whether she is prejudiced against white people in the south) to the blatantly untrue (she’s soft on child porn offenders).

A recap.

On whether she’s an ‘activist’ judge? “I am very acutely aware of the limitations on the exercise of my judicial power.”

On providing ‘free legal services to help get terrorists out’. As a public defender, it was her job to represent accused, including Guantanamo detainees. “When you are an attorney and you have clients who come to you, whether they pay or not, you represent their positions before the court.”

On whether she’s soft on crime. Both her brother and uncle are in the police. Law enforcement is not an ‘abstract concept’, she said.

On whether she goes easy on child porn offenders. “As a mother, these cases involving sex crimes, crimes against children are harrowing…I take them very seriously, just as I did all of the crimes but especially crimes against children.”

On her views on critical race theory. “I’ve never used it. It doesn’t come up in my work as a judge.”

On her definition of a ‘woman’: “I am not a biologist.”

For more, see herehere and here.

Shut out of school

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have gone back on their promise and decided against the reopening of schools to girls above the sixth grade, reports Associated Press. The reversal was so sudden that even the education ministry was caught off guard as schools reopened on March 23. Some girls in higher grades turned up for class, only to be told to go home.

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That’s it for this week. If you have a tip or information on gender-related developments that you would like to share write to me at:

THE BIG STORY: The hijab row, decoded

The Karnataka High Court has upheld the state government’s ban on the wearing of hijab (head-scarf) by students in school. The three-judge bench pronounced judgment on a petition filed by some Muslim girl students seeking protection of their right to wear a head scarf in educational institutes. The girls have now approached the Supreme Court to challenge the high court decision.

What the judgement says

“Wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith. The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction…”

“Prescription of school dress code to the exclusion of hijab, bhagwa, or any other apparel symbolic of religion can be a step forward in the direction of emancipation and more particularly, to the access to education.”

“A person who seeks refuge under the…Constitution has to demonstrate not only essential religious practice but also its engagement with the constitutional values.”

“Merely stating that wearing hijab is an overt act of conscience and therefore, asking them to remove hijab would offend conscience, would not be sufficient for treating it as a ground for granting relief.

How it all began

In December, six girls in a school in Udupi were turned out of class for wearing a hijab over their prescribed uniform. The girls say they had been wearing the hijab earlier and senior students too who had worn it did not seem to have caused any trouble with the school administration. They say they have a fundamental right to both education and to practice their religion.

With the girls denied access to their classrooms, the issue snowballed with other girls in other institutions taking to the hijab, and being denied entrance.

Meanwhile, some students began wearing saffron scarves. Students in hijab were heckled and the state government in February issued a ban on the wearing of any overt religious garments, hijab or saffron scarves. The girls filed a petition against this order in the state high court.

What next

Through their advocate Anas Tanwir the girls have filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the high court verdict. They say that denying them access to classrooms has no legal basis and that college development committees do not have the power to regulate the wearing of a uniform.

Freedom of conscience forms a part to the right to privacy already upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2017 Puttuswamy judgment that ruled that “the freedom of the belief or faith in any religion is a matter of conscience falling within the zone of purely private thought process and is an aspect of liberty”.

In a separate petition, a 66-year-old woman has also filed an appeal against the high court judgment. “The teenage girls covering themselves modestly while going to receive education pose no threat to public order,” it says.

The Supreme Court has said it will list the pleas after the Holi vacation.


British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed in Iran for six years on unsubstantiated charges of spying while on holiday with her 22-month-old daughter to visit her parents. For six years, her husband Richard Ratcliffe campaigned tirelessly for her release, including going on a hunger strike for 21 days in November 2021.

On March 17, Nazanin, 43, was reunited with her family when her flight touched down at RAF Brize Norton. “Is that mummy?” asked seven-year-old Gabriella before rushing into her arms.

Human Rights Watch has asked Iran to end its “despicable practice of detaining dual nationals as geopolitical bargaining chips” and release all those wrongfully detained.


Women in India are marrying later and 22.1 was the average age of marriage for women in 2019. This is down from 21.2 in 2011. Yet, 37% of all women still marry before they turn 21 with the largest number of before-21 marriages occurring in West Bengal (49.6%), followed by Madhya Pradesh (43.5%) and Bihar (40.2%).

Source: Sample Registration System, office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner. See more here.


The death of Mina Swaminathan at the age of 89 on March 14, leaves a void in the field of early childhood care and development. Swaminathan was the architect of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the most comprehensive child care service in the developing world. She was a tireless activist for women’s equality and involved in setting up such initiatives as the Centre for Women’s Development Studies.



The Kerala high court has ruled that production houses associated with the Malayalam film industry should set up internal complaints committees as mandated by India’s sexual harassment law. The order is a ‘first of its sort’ for the Malayalam film industry and comes in the wake of a public interest litigation filed by the Women in Cinema Collective, reports Ramesh Babu

Mob violence by women

In a horrific incident, a 45-year-old man has been beaten to death by a group of women after he allegedly attempted to rape a five-year-old girl in Tripura’s Dhalai district. The incident took place in the Gandacherra police station area

Holding up half the sky

Britannia Industries has said it aims to improve its diversity ratio to 50% by 2024 by increasing the participation of women in its factory workforce. At present 38% of the fast moving consumer goods company’s factory workforce is women.


Rx prescription: Not looking good

Several studies have focused attention on the gender gap in healthcare, not only in terms of salary and leadership positions but also that female physicians in academic medical centres are also less likely to receive professorships or chair promotions, reports Medical News Today.

A new expert opinion paper now warns that female researchers in academic medicine have been falling behind with being published and receiving grant funding during the pandemic. This puts the women at risk of dropping out from the research workforce altogether unless institutes, foundation and funders take action.

Read the paper published in Nature Medicine here.


It’s 2022 and women are still fighting for abortion rights

Republican state representative Brian Seitz has introduced a restrictive abortion law which, if passed, would outlaw medication given to someone with an ectopic pregnancy where a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus.

Meanwhile, reports Politico, Idaho has joined Texas in banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy and allowing citizens to sue over any violations (though unlike Texas, Idaho will make exceptions for rape and incest). The measure is expected to take effect in April.

Cost of war

Images of a wounded pregnant woman being taken on a stretcher from a maternity hospital in Mariupol after it was bombed by Russia went viral, personifying the horror of the war’s toll on civilians. Associated Press reports that the woman and her baby have both died.

A Sports Bra of our own

Nope, that’s not a typo. “We support women” is the tagline of this soon-to-open bar, or bra, in Portland, USA, that will play only women sports on its screens.


Exactly a week from now, the 94th annual academy awards aka The Oscars will reveal winners and losers. To remember how far the event has come, consider that it took 50 years to even nominate a woman for best director, and another 33 years for one to actually take home a statue. This year, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is a front-runner and while Campion is the only woman to be nominated twice for best director, of the eight best picture nominees, four have female producers.

Will the Oscars break its best cinematographer gender jinx – no one has ever taken home one, though Rachel Morrison got a nomination for Mudbound in 2018?

Tune in and find out.

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On hijab, don’t ignore the ground realities

If a mere headscarf can disrupt public order, then who is responsible: The student who wears it or the law enforcement agencies responsible for maintaining the peace?

A hijab-wearing student walks past a worker painting a wall to conceal a pro-hijab slogan, Hospet, March 16, 2022 (PTI)

Two days before the Karnataka high court (HC) delivered its judgment upholding the hijab ban on students, India’s chief justice was in Hyderabad at the ground-breaking ceremony for a new arbitration center. Photographs of the ceremony with Hindu priests conducting rituals are instructive of the pervasive role of religion in our secular life.