Who are we to be horrified 

It scares me that we are worried about attacks on minorities in the U.S.A, when we overlook, or quickly forget attacks on our own dalits and Muslims. Because the life of one Rohith Vemulla is nothing compared to the lives of hundreds of soldiers isn’t it?
That we are worried about the loss of press freedom in that country, when we allow our politicians to choose their own sycophantic journalists as interviewers, or when we allow them not to speak about issues that are uncomfortable to them.
That we are worried about women’s rights in the U.S.A when we pick and choose the female victims to feel pity for, based on their caste, their dress, their profession.

 

And that we are so outraged about an authoritarian anti-establishment Islamophobe, when we let the same happen to us more than two years ago. That we are so horrified whom Americans chose to vote for, when many of us didn’t even bother voting. Because politicians are all the same, aren’t they?

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You should have taken up science, Kanhaiya Kumar

It’s been more than a month since the JNU debate. And the left/right, black/white, hot/cold, new/old, rational/national debate has no end in sight.

What was essentially a student rally was seen as a dangerous attack on the nation’s safety (because that’s what extremists do: hold rallies and express their opinions). Kanhaiya Kumar was presented as Satan himself as he was arrested, and Arnab Goswami shrieked awake every nationalistic conscience with back-up vocals by banshee Nupur Sharma.

This event was a revelation in many ways. It showed that the nation will not tolerate any comments on its intolerance; the nation does not want to know what the dissidents think.

 

But most importantly, the nation revealed that it is not going to forgive a humanities student for not taking up science.

 

A 28-year-old PhD student in African studies who happens to be male is incomprehensible to the mainstream middle class sentiment. And if he’s studying in an institute which solely produces MNC executives (or the occasional terrible writer), our precious tax rupees are not worth it. Yes, all three of the Indian citizens who pay taxes felt this way. Twenty-eight is not an odd age for a PhD student. In fact, there’s no odd age for a PhD student. But then if it’s not the kind of doctor whose financial prowess is inevitable, and whom you can pester about that strange growth on your side, it means nothing.

 

Several people were infuriated that a 28-year-old man is still studying when his family earns Rs.3000 a month. Yes, if a boy coming from such austere conditions and a moral obligation to become financially successful doesn’t fall into the rat race to a comfortable lifestyle that supports capitalism, it surely must be infuriating.

 

Kanhaiya was even compared to Sundar Pichai in a post, which systematically proved how a privileged NRI who works for the biggest big brother finds it easier to love India than a financially dependent free-thinker.

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Even so, the highlight of this discussion was when Modi awkwardly touched it, as if it were a world leader. Well-meaning patriots wanted to know why a PM who never takes holidays from travelling, and who has constantly worked to make our 70% agrarian nation an industrialist paradise could be criticized. It’s almost as if his bizarre pop culture references in the U.S.A, brushing aside Zuckerberg for a photo-op, and back-hugging Hollande were in vain. A 15-year-old girl challenged Kanhaiya to an open debate. This confused bhakts, who did not understand the concept of arguing without death threats.

 

The nationalism argument extended to the army as well. Under normal conditions, admission to the Indian Army is tough. But due to numerous requests by the public whose last contact with the army was the movie ‘Border’, they’re now considering letting Kanhaiya Kumar in. As requested, he’s going to “go to border n fyt, den tok”.

 

He was arrested, detained and attacked. But, like a true politician, he used it to advance his persona and make a powerful (albeit logical) speech. This made his opponents start a wonderful social media trend hashtag: #MeAt28, where they celebrated their privilege and conformity.

 

Some say that people like Kanhaiya Kumar shouldn’t be given the freedom to say that there’s no space for dissent. I truly believe that he should have taken up science. He would never have had the chance to develop an eloquent stream of thought if he was crumbling under college, coaching classes, job-chasing and other virtues of our education system. So if you have an opinion that bursts the happy privileged bubble of the taxpayers, be prepared to be told by the nation how you are a terrorist who is also a liability (much like babies). Because you didn’t pay for your place in the world. Your opinion has already been paid for.

Men’s Rights in a Country like India

Men's Day4
Image Courtesy: MRA

Mahesh Shinde is an engineer from Pune, India, who works for a manufacturing company. He’s also the President of the Men’s Rights Association (M.R.A), a registered NGO working solely to protect the honour and dignity of men. This is just one of the many organisations worldwide that have taken up this particular cause. On International Men’s Day, (November 19), Let’s take a look into what Men’s Rights actually mean to these organisations. Here’s an interview with Mr. Shinde about the organisation, its goals and philosophy.

  • Tell me a little about Men’s Rights Association. How did you get involved with the NGO? How often does the group meet?

Men’s Rights Association (MRA) is an organization whose sole purpose is to fight for the elusive Men’s Rights. MRA is very revolutionary in its concepts.It has been listed in the Top 100 social organizations of Maharashtra.

We believe that men should not be made to suffer so that women can enjoy. Society should not be divided on the basis of gender. Men often tend to carry a lot of baggage due to societal pressure. They are thrust into the role of ‘provider and protector’.

Nowadays, there’s a trend to denounce men for all the problems of humanity. Indian media continuously portrays all men as the perpetrators of crime, and women as the perpetual victim. Such biased propaganda will have serious repercussions, some of which has already been seen.

In India, the suicide rate of men is much higher than that of women. (According to a report by the World Health Organization, 258,075 people committed suicide in India in 2012, with 99,977 women and 158,098 men taking their own lives). But society is apathetic to the suicides of men, whereas women’s suicides have received a lot of attention

Just because a few (less than 1%) men have power doesn’t means that we are a male-dominated society. What happens to the remaining 99%? And it is an open truth that most of these so-called Alpha males are hen-pecked, and end up dominating other men. It is stupid to call this as male dominance.

Below is some of the important work done by MRA

  • Provide free legal help and counseling to men in distress.
  • Create awareness about anti-male laws and attitude
  • Remove negativity against the male gender, and spread positive thoughts
  • Work towards reducing suicides of male.
  • Sensitize law making bodies about men’s issues.
  • Reduce violence against men.

MRA works in all spheres of life.

 

  • What do you think are the main reasons that the high rate of suicides among men goes ignored?

The suicides are ignored because society treats Men as disposable. Since society doesn’t consider Men as human beings, their suicides aren’t a serious matter for society.

 

  • What are your major demands?

We are fighting for gender equality. Our main demands are:

  • That both genders should be treated equally
  • There should be no prejudice against men
  • Treat men as humans

 

  • What kind of activities/events do you organize?

Our activities are divided into two major parts. One is helping men in distress. The other is to spread awareness, through various actions like writing campaign letters to higher authorities, RTI (Right to Information) application, police station visits to generate awareness of the law process, various awareness campaign and protests, celebrating Father’s Day, Men’s Day, etc. For the past one year we have been doing collective projects with other NGOs as well.

 

  • India has been ranked as the worst country amongst the G20 nations to be a woman. How do men’s rights figure into the scenario?

This is a canard which is used to subjugate men, and impose more inhuman conditions on men. This is a totally baseless and extremely flawed ranking. We dare those who publish such nonsense to come and have an open debate with us. We will tear their arguments to shreds.

 

  • Do you receive flak any flak regarding MRA?

Since our society is so biased against men, we are the subject of several jokes. If anyone fights for women’s rights, they are glorified, while those fighting for men’s rights are ridiculed.

 

  • Do you believe in equal treatment of both the genders?

Absolutely… And this is NOT happening, which is our main grouse.

 

  • What are your feelings about reservation for women in the parliament and other spheres?

They talk about equal rights, and then ask for reservation. This is robbery. Those asking for reservation for women, imply that women are incompetent.

 

  • What according to you are the major issues faced by men in India?

There are several. Men are trained to work hard, and what do they get in return? A man’s entire life goes in doing things for others. He has to work to provide for his wife, children, sisters. Society expects men to work for others.

 

  • Sexual abuse laws in India are often framed with terminology like ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’. Does the MRA deal with male victims of abuse? How can these laws be framed to be more inclusive regarding men?

Of course we do. In fact, in the last two years, we have seen an increase in such male victims of abuse. One of our demand is to make these laws gender neutral. Currently, male victims aren’t even considered by law.

 

  •  One of your demands is to eliminate false rape, dowry and other cases. Have you received many complaints about this? What are viable solutions to this problem? How does one differentiate between the legitimate cases and the fake ones?

Yes, we continuously receive complaints about false dowry, rape, etc. The viable solution to this problem is to modify these laws, to prevent misuse. In their present form, these laws are downright idiotic. No rational person can justify these wicked laws. If anyone reads the complaint itself, it is very clear, that it is false. And yet, complaints are being lodged because of biased laws, and the anti-male legal system.

 

  •  What might be the reasons that women lodge false rape and dowry complaints?

A primary reason is extortion. The complaints are filed to extract money from men. Otherwise, it may be to harass the husband/concerned man, harass his parents, siblings and other dear ones, humiliate him and destroy his mental peace; to push him towards suicide, or harm himself.

 

  • Can you provide some examples of the kind of complaints you receive?

With regards to dowry harassment, wives harassing their husbands for not listening to her absurd demands is quite a common complaint. The husband’s life becomes a living nightmare. The wife has a whole array of laws which she can misuse against the husband. The woman simply has to go to any police station/court and lodge complaint against her husband, and she has the upper hand. Even in cases where no complaints are lodged, mere threatening is good enough to harrass the husband. Many men take the extreme step of committing suicide because of the daily torture they face from their unscrupulous wives.
With regards to sexual harassment at workplaces, some women employees harass their male colleagues. Some women at senior posts want the men working under them to be their play-things. If the man resists, he faces further harrassment. Even with colleagues, men have faced harassment. In another case, a junior female employee filed harassment complaint against her boss, because she was asked to be more professional by him.

 

  • Do you think the new Modi government will bring about any changes for men’s rights?

No, we do not think so. However, we would like to have a dialogue with the government. We have petitioned previous governments, which didn’t pay heed to our demands. When we show factual data to the officials, all they do is accept that our demands are legitimate, but they do not have the courage and the political will power to act on it.

The final verdict

This article was published in Kvinner Sammen Magazine. It can be found here: 

The highly publicised Delhi gang rape case came to an end with five of the six perpetrators receiving capital punishment. The decision has been opposed by many feminists in the country. Instead of being a step forward for women’s rights, the decision brought to light the defective legal system in India, they claim.

 

On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old Jyoti Singh was brutally gangraped in Delhi, India. She died from the injuries thirteen days later. The crime enraged the masses. Discussions about crimes against women and women’s lack of freedom and safety ensued. A long overdue matter of women’s rights had been brought into the realm of public discussion. 

Prior to succumbing to injuries, Jyoti made a statement calling for death penalty. The Indian media portrayed her as «Nirbhaya,» or «fearless,» and a «daughter of the nation». Popular opinion leaned towards capital punishment.

By the time the Delhi police captured the six perpetrators, the capital and other urban areas of India were witnessing protests demanding death for the rapists and greater safety for women.  A judiciary notorious for its sluggishness promised a speedy trial by setting up a fast-track court. All eyes were on the case.

 

Feminism and capital punishment

 

The Supreme Court of India reserves capital punishment for the ‘rarest of rare cases’, under a rule made in 1983. In his acceptance of guilt, one of the accused in the Delhi case, Pawan Gupta, said that he deserved to die. Another one, Mukesh Singh, had to be kept under solitary confinement to prevent attacks by other inmates. Yet another one, Ram Singh, was found hanging in his prison cell.

 

However, many of the voices of feminism in the nation opposed the idea of capital punishment. Renowned feminists like Sampat Pal, leader of the Gulabi Gang and legal scholar Flavia Agnes too, spoke up against the death penalty.

 

 «Radical Feminists  believe in death penalty as form of punishment to offenders of brutal abuse. For them, rape is  the  highest form of gender-based cruelty and sexual crime. This form of feminism advocates drastic measures as a solution to control such atrocities indicating social abhorrence and masculine chaos. The Liberal feminist viewpoint gives priority to social reformation and  does not address  issues of men’s criminality hazarding women’s security,» says Dr Anita Dash, Professor of Sociology at Ravenshaw University in Odisha, India. She opines that even though death penalty is an extreme form of punishment, it will deter such cases of extreme violence and rape.

 

The decision by an inconsistent judiciary cannot deter rapists by being selective about the perpetrators it chooses to punish. Many critics believed that the death penalty was a decision made to calm the public fury. Feminist poet and writer Meena Kandasamy says, «In the case of rape, I think the law manages to target and punish only a few criminals. If the rape is conducted by the Indian Army in say Kashmir or Manipur, or by the paramilitary forces of India in Central India, or by upper caste Hindus in any of the tens of millions of Indian villages, the rapists are rarely brought to book, seldom punished. So, lopsided punishment is also problematic, because elite sections and the armed forces think they can get away with rape, whereas others cannot. »

In 2012 alone, 24923 cases of rape were registered throughout India. Yet only 4821 of the suspected offenders were convicted.

 

The social impact

The Delhi gangrape case was not just another gangrape. It was also a cruel and brutal attempt to murder. The fact that the victim was accompanied by a male companion and not dressed ‘provocatively’ made it more acceptable in the mind of society to demand severe retribution.

Even so, the defendant’s lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma, attacked the victim’s character in defence of his clients. Asaram Bapu, a spiritual leader and public personality made a statement placing the blame on the girl, saying the perpetrators would have spared her if she had called them ‘bhaiya‘ (meaning ‘brother’ in Hindi), and begged them to stop. Such twisted justifications of the crime naturally received flak from the media and general public. Consequently, the case became a landmark one, as it now encompassed the fight against abuse and repressive social attitudes faced by women in India.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, filmmaker Nishtha Jain known for producing the documentary Gulabi Gang, expressed, «the judgement in the Delhi rape case was the cathartic ending that the masses wanted to this sordid saga. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t the perfect ending because of the mild sentence given to the juvenile offender. But for now the media and public will rest till the next high profile rape case. Meanwhile gender violence continues unabated. We lost a good opportunity to start the real discussion around gender violence. »

 

The aftermath

The court decision made after the nine-month long trial not only serves justice to Nirbhaya’s family, but sets a precedent for future cases as well. Despite the fact that the convicts plan to appeal to a higher court, the sentence was portrayed as a victory for the uprising that took place in support of women’s rights.

According to the Supreme Court of India, approximately 90 percent of reported rape cases end in acquittal. Among the lower castes or classes, very few rapes are ever reported, as victims who do file a report often have to face ill treatment by the police and they risk being shunned by the society or village.

A 15-year-old dalit schoolgirl who was gangraped in August 2013 filed a complaint with the police. Subsequently, she was pressured to withdraw the complaint and leave her village. The Delhi case verdict may give the illusion of a stern action against rape, but its repercussions might not be felt in rural India, where nearly 70 percent of the population resides.

As Kandasamy explains, «for such a patriarchal, narrow-minded judiciary to come up with something so radical is one thing. But at the same time, we must not cheer for the death penalty like medieval barbarians. We must also understand that it is the intense media scrutiny that ensured justice in the Delhi rape case. »