Laws by public emotion

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.

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Bruce Jenner’s decision to come out as woman gives hope to many

If the ongoing global gender conversation over sexual violence, over gay rights, over stereotypes just got a bit more interesting, then you can thank Caitlyn Jenner for that. Jenner’s decision to come out as a woman may not immediately open doors and dispel discrimination but it gives hope to many like her.

The Kardashian khandaan is not anybody’s idea of a role model. Well, technically the former Bruce Jenner is not a Kardashian, except by marriage. Yet, I find myself moved by his transformation to Caitlyn Jenner.

Forget for now the oozing cynicism: Is she doing it for the money? Is this a marketing prelude to a new reality show that goes on air later this year? Does Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair cover break new ground or does it reinforce stereotypes of feminine beauty?

Valid questions, and yet I’m cheering because an Olympic gold decathlon winner, a macho symbol if there ever was one, has spoken up and emerged as a symbol for transgender rights. For me, for now, that is enough.

America’s response is teetering (and tweetering) between applause and shock. An online petition wants the International Olympic Committee to revoke Jenner’s 1976 gold for competing as a man. A New York Times op-ed called the transition a “commercial spectacle on an enormous scale, revealing some disturbing truths about what we value and admire in women.” Still others pointed out that few transgenders anywhere can afford the surgeries and hormone treatment available to Caitlyn. Continue reading “Bruce Jenner’s decision to come out as woman gives hope to many”

Modi has a chance to change India’s discourse, but for that he must speak

Narendra Modi has a chance to lead, even change, the nation’s discourse. Right now, we are ripe for a thousand unspoken conversations: Secularism, inclusiveness, development, gender, poverty. But instead of a dialogue we have competitive shrillness.

There is a great noise around Narendra Modi’s silence since the 60-odd days that he has been prime minister. Garrulous Candidate Modi of the campaign trail seems to have morphed into politically correct Prime Minister Modi; a travesty of his taciturn predecessor.

Yes, we know from his tweets that Modi is saddened by the loss of lives in a Pune landslide, wants to harness the potential of our fisheries sector, and salutes the brave martyrs of Kargil. Continue reading “Modi has a chance to change India’s discourse, but for that he must speak”