This post is a part of our weekly roundup series. Every week, we will take a look-back at sexual harassment, gender violence and related incidents in India and beyond. Readers can submit their suggestions, comments and opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The last week had many ups and down in the space of gender. Okay, mostly downs. But allow us to start with a bit of good news.
Kerala, one of the forefront states in practising affirmative action for the transgender community, felicitated 21 trans people for rejoining school and finishing class 10 and 12. Kudos to Kerala’s education minister Prof C Ravindranath and Kerala Saksharath mission, which did a phenomenal job of creating incentives for trans people. Under this mission, every trans person was provided with free classes, conveniently scheduled on weekends so that they can continue to work through the week. Alongside, they were also provided with free books and a monthly stipend of Rs 1000.
This Friday, we received the news that the infamous ‘Triple Talaq’ Bill was due for consideration, yet again. Honestly, the practice of triple talaq is horrible, no doubt about it. But would banning it uplift the status of Muslim women immediately and by itself? When debating The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in the parliament, Asaduddin Owaisi and Shashi Tharoor pointed out some flaws in the bill that any layperson might overlook, especially for the sake of the ‘larger cause’. Firstly, a man deserting his wife, who happens to be financially dependant on him, is wrong regardless of the community they belong to. This bill proposes that convicted Muslim men must be jailed for three years when non-Muslim men receive only one year for the same crime. We see no other way other than believing that the ruling party is not really pushing this bill for the cause of women, but more so for legalising Islamophobia. That day in the parliament, Owaisi also questioned the government’s denial of the fundamental rights of women in Sabarimala issue. It seems that the ruling party invokes the cause of women only when it does not disturb the status quo of Hindu patriarchs, or only as an excuse for Islamophobia.
While we are dealing with the disgusting attack on our collective intellect through the movie Kabir Singh, we noticed another example of subtle rape culture in mainstream media. Taking a cue from their phoren-counterparts, the Indian mainstream media loves to point out in their headlines that the rapist, alleged, of course, was drunk. We saw two examples of this within the week itself.
A 9-year-old baby was raped and murdered, but the headline of that news piece pointed out that the perpetrator, alleged, of course, was drunk. Indiatoday did the same in another article of a man shooting his daughter in the head after she resisted a rape attempt. Drunk is the first letter of their headline. Ugh.
Any decent journalism student can tell you that being drunk was a part of the case, not the entire case in itself. Or perhaps that’s the way these reporters saw it. Poor man, drunk and out of his wits, must have accidentally just tipped over and just happened to rape those young children. We blame the editor as well. A writer writes and editor edits. ‘Drunk’ remained in headlines after edits. Since they chose to put it in the headlines, it shows that they think it is vital that people know the perpetrator was a drunk man. Alcohol assumes importance when the drunken man is the perpetrator or when the drunk woman is the victim. Interesting how alcohol only works in favour of the criminal, regardless of who drank it. Don’t you think?
Also, this week, we had another hurtful reminder of why women choose not to speak out against sexual harassment, including sexual harassment in the workplace — fear of retaliation.
This fear is not irrational. Nor it is far-fetched. 56 women, yes, FIFTY-SIX women of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Hyderabad, lost their jobs on a technical loophole AFTER they raised voices against their long-term abuser, allegedly, of course, D Srinivas Reddy, an officer in the admin department. Imagine if any MNC had sacked 56 women, on a “technical loophole’, every media would be covering this horrible series of events. No points for guessing that these 56 women were from the housekeeping staff. How dare they go against an upper caste man. They should have known better, isn’t it?
Speaking of sexual harassment in the workplace, did you know that 30% of women still hesitate to file a complaint internally, despite when 80% are aware of the policies and measures against sexual harassment? Pink Ladder, a career enhancement ecosystem for women professionals, released the findings of “Reach and Impact of Sexual Harassment Policies in India” carried out across 200 women from 80 organisations across Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi. Other notable findings include:
56% believe the sexual harassment has increased over the years
53% have experienced sexual harassment
more than 50% would not or are not sure about continuing to work in the same place where the incident of sexual harassment case occurred.
Victims have a legitimate reason to worry about filing a complaint. News stories on this topic don’t give us much hope and actively discourage women who may not want the ‘burden’ of going through another round of harassment to receive justice on the first one.
The state of UP and it’s the police department, already under the Twitterati heat for filing a sedition case against a British citizen of Indian origin, drove a gangrape victim to suicide. Just like these UP police officers overthought on the sedition clause, they seem to have missed out on the concept of ‘zero FIR’. Bottom line, no officer can refuse to file your case. If the crime did not happen in that police station’s area of operation, they have to file an FIR without the registration number on it. They are supposed to send it to the concerned police station, where they receive and register it as a case under their station. Zero represents the temporary lack of registration number on the FIR Copy.
In this specific case, the victim was tricked and kidnapped on May 15 in Secunderabad by her relatives and gang-raped. After her escape, she approached the Dataganj police station in Badaun, UP on June 15 where the SHO Amrit Lal did not file the FIR citing the reason that the rape occurred in Secunderabad. She approached the ADG of Bareilly zone, but with no action taken, she took her life by hanging.
Critics of the Metoo movement love to point out that publicly calling out sexual abusers on social media is not due process. Did the due process work for this gangrape victim or the 56 victims of Srinivas? No.
Anyway, in other news and in what is still commonplace, a man masturbated, flashed and hurled abuses on a woman on June 14 on the escalator which leads out of the HUDA City Centre Metro station. Scared of the consequences of formally complaining, she chose to contact police on social media.
Also, Smriti Irani called out the guy who bullied her daughter on Instagram for her ‘looks’. While this was absolutely commendable, it remains to be seen if she would ever notice or call out rampant rape threats, slut-shaming and harassment women have to face from those who have Chowkidar in their name, all for voicing dissent.
This week’s exhibit of Brahminical patriarchy: men of upper caste tried to stop Scheduled caste women from entering a temple in Sihash village of Rewari district in Haryana.
We were also supposed to write about how a gangrape victim’s father was asked to serve a non-veg feast to purify the village. The logic here is so dense that we gave up. Read up more on this link.
Amidst all this misery this week, a silver lining is the rise of men calling out Kabir Singh movie’s toxic masculinity and rape culture. Some relief. Phew.