Tag Archive for 'Sexual harassment'

Our bodies, our selves

Nilanjana S. Roy in The Hindu:

The man who was my abuser was a fine host, a good husband, a caring father, a respected elder whose generosity and kindness were as genuine as the fact of the abuse. These qualities were important, because they helped him conceal the abuse he carried out over a period of four years.

As a much-loved older relative, a close friend of my parents, he had unrestricted access to our house, and we visited him often. It was only at 12 that I began to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know the term “child sexual abuse,” and had no words with which to describe my discomfort with the “games” he played — but I sensed there was something wrong about the silence that he demanded. When I was 13, I left Delhi for Calcutta, to study in that city, and left my abuser behind. But he didn’t forget, and when I came back to Delhi as a 17-year-old, he was there.

At 17, I knew now that he had no right to do this to me. When he sent poems, said that despite the four decades that separated us, we were supposed to “be together,” I broke my own silence — but only partly. I told my mother and my sister, and they formed a fierce, protective barrier between me and my abuser.

But the man who had started his abuse when I was nine was still invited to my wedding, because we were all keeping secrets, trying to protect one family member or another. (He was married, with grown children of his own.) More:

Social media magnification

“Domestic violence and the victimisation of women is not new in our male-directed societies, what is new is the degree to which its magnification through social media can spread solidarity, and potentially trigger policy change.” Kunda Dixit in Nepali Times:

The street demonstrations in Kathmandu against recent rapes and murders of women would probably not have made it to the #2 news on BBC World on Saturday morning if it hadn’t been tagged to the anti-rape protests in Delhi. And that story wouldn’t have been the #1 item if the protests in India hadn’t snowballed due to outraged citizens on social media leading the charge. As the protests grew and continued in India, it fuelled print and TV coverage, and the chain reaction attained critical mass.

In Nepal, protests over the robbery and rape of a 20-year-old woman by immigration and police broke into the public consciousness last month because of the role of journalists and cyber-savvy activists. Left to the traditional media, the story would probably have died quietly like many other rape stories before. It was a tipping point because the crime involved immigration officials who looted the young woman and a policeman who, instead of protecting her, turned predator. Pending murders and disappearances of women in Kathmandu, and the cases of two young women who were burnt alive by family members in Banke and Bara at about the same time, added fuel to the fire. The protests in Kathmandu would possibly have happened anyway, but saturation coverage in the Indian media about the Delhi rape also helped sustain the public’s interest in Nepal.

These were not isolated crimes. Rape has always been endemic in Nepal, it’s just that women press charges more often now and the media reports it. It is also a cross-border phenomenon because we share similar patriarchal value-systems with northern India. At the time this story was breaking in Nepal, a piece by Satrudhan Shah and commissioned by the Centre for Investigative Journalism detailed many cases in the eastern Tarai of victims forced to marry their rapists by the community, police and even gender rights activists. The story was published in Annapurna Post in Nepali, and as ‘Rape for Ransom’ in English in Nepali Times. More:

A ‘Rape Map’ of India


Aditi Malhotra and Saptarishi Dutta at India Realtime / WSJ:

Delhi has long been considered one of the most unsafe big cities for women in India. And north India is often referred to as more violent, more patriarchal, and more crime-ridden than the south.

To add some perspective to this debate, here is a look at statistics on reported rapes around the country.

These data carry the caveat that there may be higher reporting rates in different areas and reporting is not necessarily indicative of the prevalence of the crime. Victims may be reluctant to report rape because of fears their case will not be taken seriously and police may be reluctant to register complaints.

In 2011, a total of 24,206 rape cases were registered in India, according to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau. More:

The unspeakable truth about rape in India

Sonia Faleiro in NYT:

I lived for 24 years in New Delhi, a city where sexual harassment is as regular as mealtime. Every day, somewhere in the city, it crosses the line into rape.

As a teenager, I learned to protect myself. I never stood alone if I could help it, and I walked quickly, crossing my arms over my chest, refusing to make eye contact or smile. I cleaved through crowds shoulder-first, and avoided leaving the house after dark except in a private car. At an age when young women elsewhere were experimenting with daring new looks, I wore clothes that were two sizes too large. I still cannot dress attractively without feeling that I am endangering myself.

Things didn’t change when I became an adult. Pepper spray wasn’t available, and my friends, all of them middle- or upper-middle-class like me, carried safety pins or other makeshift weapons to and from their universities and jobs. One carried a knife, and insisted I do the same. I refused; some days I was so full of anger I would have used it — or, worse, had it used on me. More:

When local politics gets more women

Despite so many women role models in politics, business and cinema, why is crime against women rising in India, asks Rupa Subramanya Dehejia in WSJ

It is often asked why in India, with so many powerful women role models, be they mythological, political, business or cinematic, continues to experience so much violence against women. Why doesn’t the fact that the most powerful politician is a woman, and that there are women ministers and chief ministers, translate into greater safety for women at ground level?

Last week’s Slut Walk in Delhi, renamed Besharmi Morcha, or Shameless Protest, drew attention to the persistence of rape, sexual harassment and other forms of violence against Indian women. News reports of these crimes abound daily in the Indian press, and there’s certainly a perception amongst women that they’re not as safe as they should or could be.

Let’s look at some basic statistics. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2009, 203,804 incidents of crimes against women were reported nationwide, an increase of 4.1% from 2008 and a 31% increase from 2005.  The crime rate, defined as the percentage of total crime directed against women, has risen from 17% in 2008 to 17.4% during 2009. Overall, looking at long-term trends, there’s a sharp increase in both the reported incidence of violence against women and the crime rate.

The female factor: Fighting for safe passage on Indian streets

Nilanjana S. Roy in the International Herald Tribune:

New Delhi: On blogs, Facebook and Twitter last month, hundreds of women across India shared their experiences as “Action Heroes” — facing up to sexual harassment on this country’s sometimes terrifying streets. The event organized by Blank Noise, a community art project that fights the abuse of women in public spaces, focused fresh attention on “eve teasing” — the common euphemism for the hostility and violence women experience on the streets in large parts of India, especially in the more patriarchal north.

In 2006, the then-fledgling Blank Noise, run by Jasmeen Patheja, a young artist, had invited Indian women to emulate the Take Back the Night marches women have staged in other parts of the world to assert their right to walk in public areas without fear. A Reclaim the Night march had been held in 1978 in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in protest of the rape of a woman on the street, but not repeated. And so, 28 years later, here in the Indian capital, a small group of women went out for a walk at 10 p.m.

Two police vans stood by to ensure their safety, for this was not a “normal” thing to do. In northern India, women don’t step out of their homes for a stroll once it gets dark. It’s not safe. It could get one harassed or molested or raped. More:

The house of dimming halos

Once he was the poster boy of Indian publishing, the man who launched a thousand literary careers and went on to taking the world as head of Penguin Canada. Today, David Davidar’s reputation lies in tatters, faced with a sexual harassment lawsuit, forced to issue statements by his lawyer and the subject of television chat shows. Can Davidar bounce back? Will he? In Open, Pallavi Pollanki answers some questions.

No one could’ve imagined that one of the world’s brightest publishing careers could end this way. David Davidar, the Penguin man who practically turned ‘Indian writing in English’ into the rage it has become, and till last week CEO of Penguin International and President of Penguin Canada, was forced to resign on charges of sexual harassment. The accusation was levelled by Lisa Rundle, former director of the firm’s digital publishing and foreign rights department. more

The story that started it all, sexual harassment suit rocks Penguin Canada, former CEO, published in Toronto’s Globe and Mail is here.

David Davidar’s full statement can be read here, excerpts from Lisa Rundle’s statements are here.

The writer as a young man: In this 2002 piece in The Hindu, Dom Moraes on David Davidar:

But at about that time I became the consultant to a literary magazine in Bombay. I appointed two young men as associate editors. They turned out to be quite other than constant reminders of my mortality. In fact, since they both treated me as though I were their own age, in the early twenties, they acted as my defences against death. They were brilliant, cheerful boys. One of them, Dhiren Bhagat, was killed in a traffic accident in Delhi, with most of his great promise unfulfilled. He was driving his own car, since his driver hadn’t turned up on time.

This was a great waste of a valuable person. But David Davidar remained alive. He was a tall, coltish, bespectacled young man, curiously lovable. While Dhiren had abstained from most of the pleasures of the world, David was — at least then — very susceptible to them. He drank a lot and liked to fall in love. He was paradoxically a devout Christian. At that time he lived in the YMCA in Colaba, not far from me. He would often drop in for Sunday lunch. I discovered that he usually stopped at church before this, to attend the morning service. [Click here for the full piece]

And, previously on AW

A career page-turner

Politics and sex in India

From Outlook:

Andhra Pradesh governor N D Tiwari, 85, resigned after allegations about his involvement in a sex romp with three women in Raj Bhawan.

An IAS officer once received a phone call from a junior minister asking for assistance in choosing a gift for his aunt. “Since he wanted me to accompany him to a government-run textile outlet,” recalls the woman officer, “it sounded almost official. I went, helped him select a sari, and I thought that was that.” A week later, he called again—now, with a request to help him pick some music for a nephew. Cornered, she went again but, now, her antennae were up. And predictably, this time, the shopping trip concluded with the minister suggesting a drive, as it was a Saturday. Prepared, the officer told him she was due to meet her boss. “But he’s on tour,” replied the minister. Thinking on her feet, she quickly named an official standing in for her boss while he was away.

Shortly afterwards, the incident found its way to the ears of the state’s chief minister, a supremely powerful politician who, in exemplary fashion, sacked the offending minister. Instant justice? Almost, but for one disturbing little detail. While dismissing him, the CM told his very junior ministerial colleague, “What possessed you to raise your eyes and look at an IAS officer? Stick to the ANMs (auxiliary nursing midwives).”

The episode stuck in the young officer’s head. And so, when later posted as a district magistrate, she acted at once when she heard that a local ANM was being preyed upon by the zilla panchayat chairman. Full of zeal, she summoned the ANM and offered to transfer her out to escape the “harassment”. “No, thanks,” said the ANM matter-of-factly. “Here, I only have to sleep with Saheb, who protects me from the others because he is so powerful. In a new district, god knows how many men I would have to please to keep my job—and I am the mainstay of my family.” More:

Also in Outlook:

Where holding back is a virtue by Jyotirmaya Sharma:

The sight of a man in his 80s lying in bed with three young girls ostensibly trying to pleasure him isn’t news—at least not in India. Not even if the recipient of these unusual erotic ministrations happens to be a public figure holding high constitutional office. Elsewhere, he would have either been the object of endless gossip and ridicule or seen as the very embodiment of machismo and interminable virility. But here, rather than causing great outrage or shock, the N.D. Tiwari saga only generated serious misgivings about the ability of a man in his late 80s to ‘do anything’ at that stage of decrepitude and visible physical infirmity. “He can hardly walk,” said a friend, “so what could he have possibly done?” It is then futile to argue that all sex manuals locate sexual activity between two ears and not between two legs!

Madam Pompadour’s chessboard by Sheela Reddy:

Ramnika’s “initiation” into politics began with the late K.B. Sahay, when he was chief minister of Bihar. Wanting some government land for a women’s training centre, she approached Sahay at a public meeting. He asked her to meet him at his office at 4 am. Young and handsome, she probably knew what that meant. When the office door closed behind her, Sahay stood up and said, “Here is the chief minister standing before you. Ask for whatever you want.” Ramnika says Sahay embraced and kissed her, but she didn’t mind because he immediately signed the paper she held out for sanctioning the land. “I was also flattered by his attention,” she recalls. “I was thrilled to have a man as powerful as him kissing me; it felt as if some of his power was transferred to me.”

No cheerleaders, please. We’re Indians

[Updated on May 2]

Namita Bhandare in Mint

Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that the moral grandstanding on the Indian Premier League, or IPL, cheerleader controversy has the elements of a pre-written script with the dramatis personae mouthing predictable lines? First, the cast of characters: Siddharam Mehetre is Maharashtra’s minister of state for home. He finds cheerleaders and their performance “absolutely obscene” and out of place in a country where “womanhood is worshipped”.


Maharashtra’s moral police wants to ban cheereaders from IPL matches played in the state for their ‘vulgar’ and ‘obscene’ performance. Some conservative politicians would not like these girls to perform at the Indian Premier League’s upcoming matches in the state’s capital city, Bombay (Mumbai).

Many IPL franchisees have brought in foreign cheerleaders to add a bit of US-style glitz to the popular game. While cricket fans are not complaining, these politicians are not amused. They say that in a country where “womanhood is worshipped,” cheerleaders are “an affront” to Indian culture. And they ask: “How can anything obscene like this be allowed?”

Result? The state government gives in to the moral police. The franchisees will have to apply for permits before cheerleaders can be allowed to perform in Mumbai. If the cheerleaders “indulge in obscenity,” the franchisees will be fined.

However, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, who owns the IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders, does not find anything vulgar about cheerleaders. “I am also a family person, I do not see anything negative in it,” he said

National Commission for Women Girija Vyas said “we should promote our culture by bringing folk dancers and musicians in these matches.”

More here, here, here and here

And as for the cheerleaders themselves, they have some harrowing stories: “It’s been horrendous,” Tabitha, a cheerleader from Uzbekistan, told the Hindustan Times. “Wherever we go we do expect people to pass lewd, snide remarks but I’m shocked by the nature and magnitude of the comments people pass here.” Another cheerleader, Christy, told The Telegraph, Calcutta, “If they want us to be fully clad, we don’t mind.”

More here:

Body politics: bahu okay, others bawdy

From The Telegraph, Calcutta:

From the Indian Politician’s Dictionary, edited by Amar Singh, Amitabh Bachchan’s “younger brother”:

Single standards: If Mumbai bar girls are banned, so should be the Indian Premier League’s pom-pom girls.

Obscene: What the Washington Redskins wear, but not what “bahu” Aishwarya Rai wore in Dhoom:2

[Photos: Left, a cheerleader at an IPL match in Bangalore; right, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the movie Dhoom:2]


In Afghanistan, a young girl braves abuse to follow Olympic dream

Nick Meo from Kabul in The Times, UK:

Many of the athletes at Beijing will have had to overcome obstacles to get there but only one Olympian is likely to have had her training schedule dogged by a sexist hate campaign.

As if the Olympic team of Afghanistan does not have enough trouble with run-down facilities and a woeful shortage of funds, its sole woman competitor has had to prepare herself mentally for the biggest challenge of her life while dealing with sinister midnight telephone calls, the open derision of her neighbours and even police harassment.

The attitude of the officers who tried to arrest her this week was nothing new for Mehboba Andyar, 19, who lives in a slum in Kabul.