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Midterm Assignment Course name: Feminisms Course Instructor: Prof. Sherin B.S. Submitted by: Amrita Chatterjee Roll Number: H-1238 Semester- IV Topic: A Review of the Responses to the Delhi Rape Case

Introduction: On 16th December 2012, a young woman was gang-raped and beaten up in a bus in Delhi and her male companion was also subjected to extremely brutal physical violence after which both of them were stripped and thrown out of the bus on a bridge. By next afternoon the news of this incident went viral on print and electronic media, including social networking websites and every Indian with access to a television set or a newspaper or the internet knew about it. The initial representation of this incident in the media was not over-sensationalised and just the facts were presented. News of rape and murder and otherwise physical violence have by this time become so common (or commonly published), people are rarely surprised by it. And yet everybody was shocked when they first came to know of this incident. The shock was mainly due to the audacity of the assaulters that they dared to do such a thing in a public space, in the capital city of the country. The implication was that this would have been okay if it happened in some obscure village or some North-Eastern Indian city or UPBihar. It would have been somewhat normalized even if this happened it Delhi itself, but not in a bus; maybe in a dark alley or inside a well-lit house. Initially it was not clear whether

Chatterjee 2 there were any other passengers in the bus because if that was so, the focus would have been divided between the audacity of the assaulters and the banality and indifference of the onlookers. [Here I use the word assaulter instead of the word rapist because I consciously want to include the offense rape in the cohort of physical violence.] The storm of commentary on rape and the protests that this incident fuelled has not yet died down after almost two months have passed. This is definitely a positive sign, but it is also exceptional. The upper and middle class urban public shook off their inertia of indifference and took to the streets to protest for days, engaged in debates and discussions and demanded retribution. A few days later, the assaulted woman succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital while her friend helped identify the attackers. Six people were convicted and chargesheets have been filed long back but any decision is yet to be reached by the Court. The good thing is that the protests and the commentary have not died down and while that is very commendable and encouraging, one cannot help but be a little suspicious about it. The following pages of this paper will be devoted to a review of some of the representative pieces of response that the Delhi incident has brought out. Are Capitalism and Consumer Culture to be blamed for Increased Sexual Violence? As renowned author and social activist Arundhati Roy put it in an interview, this is an exceptional response to an unexceptional incident. Immediately after this video was published, Roy was accused of trying to trivialize the gruesome incident. What Roy implied is that the rapes that are regularly perpetrated on the lower caste and Dalit women in India not only go largely unpublished, but also as a consequence, not talked about. The use of rape as a tool of power to establish domination of the Indian Army and Indian upper caste males over certain areas of India or certain types of women has never been a part of popular discourse or protest. Now when an upper-middle class paramedical student was raped by lower class men,

Chatterjee 3 the upper and middle class, upper caste Indian society suddenly shows awareness and spirit and outrage. This outrage is strictly selective and there lies the problem. Sreenanti Banerjee wrote a very well-worded essay in Kafila and the starting-point of her diligent article is Roys much-criticised interview. The main points of Roys interview can be summarised as follows: 1. This is an exceptional response to an unexceptional incident. 2. This upheaval of protest is because this incident supports the idea of a criminal poor against the middle class woman. 3. Rape as dominance used by the State and the Army remain unpunished. 4. The protests will maybe bring about a change in law or increased surveillance, but these again will protect only middle class women. 5. Feudal India has a long history of disrespect against women but now there is a kind of psychotic rage due to the widening and obvious gap between the rich and the poor. I will start from the attitude of the host of this interview and then go on to review Banerjees critique of Roys opinion and the general publics opinions excited by this incident. The interview was aired on the British production house, Channel 4, and the hosts Orientalist views are obviously problematic. He oversimplifies and equates Modernity with womens emancipation and hence expresses surprise that such incidents are going on even in MODERN India. He seems to think that the Modern India represented by the Bollywood and IT sector must then be a false image and India most probably has not yet grown out of its medieval barbarity. Here one feels obliged to draw attention to an article published in a London newspaper which statistically proves that even in the modern, civilised Western world, rapes happen as often as in the backward, third world countries of the East. Roy, maybe in her eagerness to address more important issues doesnt say anything to dispel her hosts misconceptions. As Banerjee has pointed out in her article, Western media think rapes are happening as the result of Indian men not being able to cope with the rapid process of

Chatterjee 4 globalisation and is thus raping the modern, civilised other (the women). But actually the case is very different. Here, attention must be drawn to the brilliant essay by Susie Tharu and T. Niranjana (Problems for a Contemporary Theory of Gender), where they show how in India only upper and middle-class women are perceived as women and consequently the lower castes are other-ized as males. So this is not simply a male/female binary. To go back to what Roy said in the interview, she in effect stated that capitalism and commodification lead to increased sexual violence (women have to pay the price for it). Banerjee has differed in opinion in this matter. And while what Banerjee says about misogyny predating capitalism is absolutely true, I couldnt agree wholly with her argument. She seems to say that Roys opinion essentially echo that of Abhijit Mukherjee (the protests are a passing whim of the painted and dented ladies who will go pub-hopping in the night) or Mohan Bhagwat (women should abide the laxmanrekha and rapes happen in India, not Bharat) or Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar (the Park Street incident is not a rape case but a haggleturned-ugly between a prostitute and her clients). But this I cannot agree with. Roy is trying to make a completely different point here. She is not saying that rape is a direct result of globalisation or westernisation. She merely points out that rapes in India are usually expressed in two ways: a) The Army using rape to dominate women and exercise power in several Indian states. b) The ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor giving rise to a psychotic rage leading to the rape of especially lower-caste and also middle-class women. Banerjee accuses this second point of trying to validate rape and of being a part of our rapeculture. Rape-culture is indeed a well-oiled machine whose tendrils reach everywhere, but after all if we are to prevent rape, we have to look for the root cause behind it, which is what Roy tries to do. Though Roys articulation might be problematic, I dont think she tries to

Chatterjee 5 justify the bechara (poor) Indian rapist who is unable to control his psychotic ange r. She in fact makes the same point as Ratna Kapur did in her column for the Hindu. In this article named Rape and the Crisis of Indian Masculinity, Kapur argues that maybe a sense of displacement is being felt by the traditional Indian male as women are asserting their identity and entering his bastions of power. As women independently enter the capitalist and consumerist market on a day-to-day basis, the Indian male figure who has been born and bred with a sense of privilege over women (who are looked upon as burdens, especially economically and physically) are reacting to this with violence as that is the easiest tool available to them. Banerjee herself has been unable to clearly say that capitalism and commodification CANNOT be in any way held guilty for spurring further the alreadyexisting rape culture. Banerjee, at one point in her article says that the inauthentic artificial woman, who chooses to objectify and commodify herself... This choice, in my mind, needs to be respected, rather than dubbing it as mere false consciousness (just like we have learnt to respect the choice of non-secular women adopting the headscarf, the hijab or the veil, by now a well-recognized aspect of postcolonial interrogation of Western Feminists ethnocentric spree to Save the Other). this choice needs to be respectedindeed it does. But isnt it a little bit like saying that bikinis and contraceptive pills are the two biggest pillars of womens empowerment? When women are objectified mostly in bed as sex-objects, how can we seek to undo it there? non-secular women adopting the hijab and women seeking to assert control over their sexuality by objectifying themselves are two very different and separate issues which cannot be equated under any circumstances. In a slight digression, dissent should be expressed about the sacrosanct assumption that secular women cannot wear hijab. Dont secular Hindu women wear sindoor?

Chatterjee 6 Is Banerjee saying that frequenting pubs and going to pubs and wearing skimpy dresses are equivalent to objectifying oneself? It seems so from the way she keeps saying that when somebody says capitalism, consumerism, loss of identity, objectification and alienation are to be blamed for increased sexual violence, they are saying the same things as Mohan Bhagwat or Abhijit Mukherjee or Mamata Banerjee who have all in effect said that skimpily-dressed or pub-going women are asking to be raped, or deserve to be raped. These are two mutually exclusive things. Honour and shame in the Indian Rape Culture: The one, very important point that I felt Banerjee missed is that rape is not about sex or sexual pleasure at all. It is all about asserting dominance. Rape should not be treated as a separate category from otherwise physical violence because that is where all the honour and shame rhetoric generate. One feels compelled to ask whether there would have been such a huge public outcry if the Delhi woman was not raped and only beaten up? Her intestine would still have been in shreds and the incident would have been equally outrageous. Her friend who survived was also violated physically but there is not much talk about that. There is no such hue and cry over the daily acid attacks and knife-slashing of women that we read about. The loss of a womans virginity is all that we take away from an incident of rape. Rape is supposed to be so mean a crime because it means the woman has lost her purity. That is why BJP MP Sushma Swaraj said that even if the woman had survived it would have been as a zinda laash. As if it is better that she died, as if the life of a raped woman is not worth saving because virginity is all there is to a woman. As Flavia Agnes points out in her brilliant piece Rape and Death in the Kashmir Times, What is the message being sent out to thousands of rape survivors and their families and friends who have stood by them in their quest for justice, who would be watching the news channels when our women leaders, film personalities and the general public proclaim this? Does such a

Chatterjee 7 statement induce future victims to come forward and seek justice or will it drive them further into the shell so that they are not branded as zinda laash and cope with their post -rape trauma on their own terms, in private? So it is of prime importance that the tags of shame and honour are disengaged from an act of rape. Banerjee has tried to deal with this problem in the following way- Thus, conceiving capitalist exclusion as a cause of rapes in the cities creates an ambience of shaming the slut by claiming that such pomp-exuding looseness furthers capitalisms brutality of alienating the urban youth (which also strenghtens the implied logic that she deserved it). Thus, unless we put a vehement period to this perceived cause and effect chain of consumption habits of the rich and its resultant repercussion of poor optionless anxious migrants raping, we shall never be able to remove shame out of rape, especially when the rape is that of an upper -middle class woman. But the problem here is that she is asking us to let go of a valid cause of increased rape culture because it is not suiting her cause. When someone insists that increased consumption culture and consumerism is in fact a reason for increasing incidents of rape, it does not mean they are saying that those justify rape and these over-consuming women deserved it. Exclusion of the Lower Caste, Lower class, Non-North Indian, Non-Urban Woman from the Delhi Protests: Another question that came to mind after reading Banerjees article is that- Does all of it ultimately come down to an impassioned defence of the Pink Chaddi Campaign? While movements of that order are very encouraging and the point they try to make is that there is nothing in the way a woman dresses or behaves that can justify rape, the point that must be kept in mind is that these kind of movements are strictly for upper class, urban (at the most suburban) women. The whole of Banerjees diligent essay is built from the perspective of the urban, westernised, privileged woman. There is no representation of the Dalit woman in this essay, as if she does not exist. There is no mention of Thangjam Manorama of Guwahati or

Chatterjee 8 Nilofer Jaan and Asiya Jaan of Kashmir. This is because North-Eastern India and Kashmir are not even considered to be a part of India. In the village of Kuman-Poshpura in Kashmir valley, about 100 women were mass raped by the Indian Army in a single night of 23 rd Feb 1991. Hundreds of Muslim women were gang raped by security forces during the antiMuslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, as the Chief Minister Narendra Modi just watched. Thousands of miles away from the glittering neon lights of New Delhi, the plight of Dalit and Adivasi women is much more miserable in the mineral-rich states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand in central and eastern India. The Indian government has deployed there more than 75,000 paramilitary forces. The paramilitary forces are raiding villages, burning homes and crops, raping women and killing villagers in the name of military operations. The most recent incident is the well known Bijapur Massacre that took place in Kotteguda village of Chhattisgarh on 28th June 2012. This is seen as a continuation of the statesponsored infamous Salwa Judum, during which villages were burnt and women were gang raped before having their breasts sliced and got killed for demanding their rights over their ancestral lands. Hundreds of women, arrested on fabricated charges are still languishing in jails for years, facing torture and rape. Nowhere does Banerjee try to analyse our rape culture from the standpoint of any of these women. She is too defensive of the privileged, middle-class, urban womans right to protest. While of course nobody is denying them that, the only problem is that this outrage is strictly selective. Judicial reform and its perils: This outrage has brought about some action from the government, though. In view of the gruesome incident a three-member committee was set up by the government to review the existing laws on sexual crime. It was headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice J S Verma and it submitted a set of recommendations, which can be summarised as follows:

Chatterjee 9 Whoever commits the offence of rape shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but may extend to imprisonment for life. Punishment for causing death or a persistent vegetative state shall be given rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years but may be for life also, which shall mean the rest of the person's life. Gangrape will entail a punishment of not less than 20 years, but which also may extend to life. Gangrape followed by death shall be punished with life imprisonment. Voyeurism will be punished with up to seven years. Stalking or attempts to contact a person repeatedly through any means shall be liable to get a term of up to three years. Acid attacks would be punished by up to seven years. A separate Bill of Rights for women that entitles a woman a life of dignity and security. Review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Trafficking will be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, but which may also extend to 10 years. A separate Bill of Rights for women which will ensure that a woman shall have the right to have complete sexual autonomy including with respect to her relationships. A special procedure for protecting persons with disabilities from rape and requisite procedures for access to justice for such persons. In the past few years, the Supreme Court of India has passed some very commendable judgements and I would like to see this set of recommendations as a worthy successor of that line. The attempt to look at rape as structural violence and the proposed review of the AFSPA

Chatterjee 10 are both very encouraging. Before these recommendations were out, Pratiksha Baxi wrote an article in Kafila called We Must Resist the Cunning of Judicial Reform. As is apparent from the title, the author of the article sounds a caution against empty judicial reforms made to distract the public from the actual scenario. She makes a timely allusion to the orders passed by Justice Savita Rao in the Tis Hazari court, where Justice Rao notes the establishment of fast-track courts and goes on to slam the attempts of the prosecutors to withdraw a case (a different rape case) by saying that Every day while we wake up and read the newspaper, we find the same flooded with reports of rape having been committed upon the women in Delhi. So much so, that Delhi has been declared rape capital of the country only because of the reason of schizophrenic attitude of those who do not give imposrtance to the human values and the human rights of the females in the society. In the instant case, the court is yet to examine the truthfulness of the case of complainant or the pleas of defence, whereas this application has been moved in utter disregard of the sacrosanct duty towards the society that no injustice is done. This is a perfect critique of the judicial reforms that fast track courts attempt to make without addressing the procedural horror stories. Starting with filing the complaint against rapists to the time till the court reaches a decision: rape survivors feel the horror of the procedure at each step. They are asked to compromise against threats of further physical damage to themselves or their families, the hearings go on for ages and in most of the cases, the convicts walk free or serve a minimal term in prison. In rape cases, it is of prime importance that punishments are meted out as soon as possible and fast track courts have been established to meet that end but it is not really working. Even with this unprecedented outrage that we witnessed in the wake of the Delhi rape case, the convicts have not yet been sentenced.

Debates concerning death penalty:

Chatterjee 11 Almost everybody is screaming for their blood but that again would be a backward step to take. Columnist Shuddhabrata Sengupta wrote ...some of you asked for capital punishment for the rapists, a demand that I cannot agree to, but am willing to argue with you about, in friendship and in solidarity. This debate is necessary. Even putting aside the general arguments against capital punishment that one is tempted to make, there are several very practical reasons why death penalty is not the ideal answer to deter rape incidents. Some of these were pointed out in the article by Baxi and also in another Kafila article, headed Statement by womens and progressive groups and individuals condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty. This second article was very sensitive towards the whole situation and came across as a voice of sanity amidst all the bloodthirsty calls for death sentences. Some of the reasons why capital punishment cannot really be an answer to acts of rape are as follows: 1. Every human being has a right to life. Public rage cannot give way to new cycles of violence. Death penalty will give the State the right to take life in its citizens names. 2. There is less than very little certainty that death penalty acts as a deterrent to rape. Statistics shows that rate of conviction is low in rape cases and there is a strong possibility that the death penalty would lower this conviction rate even further. 3. If the punishment for both rape and murder is the same, rapists will try to kill the target after they have been raped, in an attempt to destroy evidence of the rape. 4. As seen in countries like the US, men from minority communities make up a disproportionate number of death row inmates. In the context of India, a review of crimes that warrant capital punishment reveals the discriminatory way in which such laws are selectively and arbitrarily applied to disadvantaged communities, religious and ethnic minorities.

Chatterjee 12 5. The logic of awarding death penalty to rapists is based on the belief that rape is a fate worse than death. Patriarchal notions of honour lead us to believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. There is a need to strongly challenge this stereotype of the destroyed woman who loses her honour and who has no place in society after shes been sexually assaulted. 6. An overwhelming number of women are sexually assaulted by people known to them, including near or distant family, friends and partners. Who will be able to face the psychological and social trauma of having reported against their own relatives? Would marital rape (currently not recognised by law), even conceptually, ever be looked at through the same retributive prism? 7. The State often reserves for itself the right to kill through the armed forces, the paramilitary and the police. We cannot forget the torture, rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by the Assam Rifles in Manipur in 2004 or the abduction, gang rape and murder of Neelofar and Aasiya of Shopian (Kashmir) in 2009.Giving more powers to the State, whether arming the police and giving them the right to shoot at sight or awarding capital punishment, is not a viable solution to lessen the incidence of crime. 8. Furthermore, with death penalty at stake, the guardians of the law will make sure that no complaints against them get registered and they will go to any length to make sure that justice does not see the light of day. The ordeal of Soni Sori, who had been tortured in police custody last year, still continues her fight from inside a prison in Chattisgarh, in spite of widespread publicity around her torture. 9. As we know, in cases of sexual assault where the perpetrator is in a position of power (such as in cases of custodial rape or caste and communal violence), conviction is

Chatterjee 13 notoriously difficult. The death penalty, for reasons that have already been mentioned, would make conviction next to impossible.

Homosexual Rapes and Rapes perpetrated by Women: In the Statement by womens and progressive groups and individuals condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty, they have also proposed some changes in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012, before it is passed. One of their demands though is very problematic. They demand that The formulation of the crime of sexual assault as gender neutral makes the identity of the perpetrator/accused also gender neutral. We demand that the definition of perpetrator be gender-specific and limited to men. Sexual violence also targets transgender people and legal reform must address this. The assumption inherent in this suggestion is that basically rape is non-consensual, penovaginal sex which can only be perpetrated by men. In one sweeping statement, this negates the very existence of homosexual (especially lesbian) rape and rape on men by women. By disregarding any form of sex other than penovaginal sex, we would be re-asserting men in the position of dominance and power. Both marital rape (by a man of a woman or vice-versa) and homosexual rape must be legally recognised. In this matter one is reminded of the Pinki Pramanik case where the pivotal point became whether Pinki is a man or a woman because the assumption is, if she is a woman she cannot possibly have raped another woman. In this context, Shuddhabrata Sengupta must be mentioned. Sengupta has become a very familiar name especially in the aftermath of the Delhi incident. He wrote several insightful and brilliant articles in Kafila about it. I will, however, start with a one that I thought did not match his otherwise high standards. In the piece titled To the Young Women and Men of Delhi: Thinking about Rape from India Gate, his words are emotionally charged and overwhelmingly passionate. At one point, he says- As a man, I have looked at myself in the

Chatterjee 14 mirror, each of the past days, and thought about whether, ever, under any circumstances, in any condition of sobriety or intoxication, I have ever entertained even the thought of compelling a woman, a man, a boy or a girl a lover, a friend, an acquaintance, a colleague, a neighbor, a relative, a stranger to act against her (or his) consent. I think every man should look at himself and think hard. All of us men have to think because only men rape. Only men entertain the thought of rape. They (we) rape mostly women, and girls, but they (we) also rape other men, and boys, and those of indeterminate gender. This again refuses to take into account anything but penovaginal penetration as rape. Here I will risk slight digression to mention that a new rhetoric has now become very visible in various media: Real men dont rape. What the qualifier real means here, is a thing to wonder about. From the sensitive, feminist Indian man to the revolutionary singer-songwriter Kabir Suman, an alarming number of people seem to believe in this strange new category called real men. The unreal men, by simple deductive logic, must then be people belonging to the third gender. Kabir Suman, singer-songwriter-MLA, mentions this in no uncertain terms in his song condemning the Delhi rape. He uses the word napunsak (eunuch/ neutered/ castrated/ impotent) to describe rapists. This sentiment is unfortunate and condemnable.

Other Responses: Esha Shah, in a probing article called Delhi Gang Rape- Understanding the Structure of Violence, has examined in detail the exact ways in which force and cruelty are employed consciously to achieve a certain end. The way iron rods were driven into the womans vagina to injure her intestines was not in fact senseless villainy. Shahs article and the allusions she makes to Elaine Scarrys path breaking work The Body in Pain: the Making and Unmaking of the World are extremely insightful.

Chatterjee 15 Pratiksha Baxi, in another thought-provoking article named Rape Cultures in India, talks about how rape inside moving buses are now perceived as a pornographic sport. This opinion might sound horrifying but it is true. This sentiment stems from the projection of women along with cars as objects of adventure and sports. Baxis article is very practical and real, as opposed to most of the other articles which are either too emotional or too academic. Whereas theoretic discussions must be engaged in, practical solutions are needed to deal with the present situation of panic on Indian roads. Baxis timely article points out how the administrators and city planners enable rapists to execute a rape schedule. Streetlights do not work. Pavements and hoarding obstruct flight. Techniques of surveillance and policing target womens behaviour, movement, and clothing, rather than policing what men do. The city belongs to heterosexist men after all. It is apparent from the article how rape is trivialized as a collateral damage or a necessary technique to suppress womens autonomy. The representative case sighted in this context is when Surekha Bhotmange and her daughter were stripped, paraded, raped and killed in Khairlanji for expressing and asserting their autonomy. The men who assaulted and murdered them were not tried for rape. Conclusion: While these conversations and empty rhetoric and intellectual engagement still goes on, it did not help the assaulted Delhi student to survive. Nor has it helped Manorama or Nilofer or Irom Sharmila Chanu who now continues her fasting even after a decade has passed with no curbing of the AFSPA. As long as rape is continued to be addressed as a womans issue, nothing is going to change. The positive responses that this ghastly incident has brought out is, despite of its lateness, encouraging nonetheless. But no particular caste or class or region or religion or gender or sexuality should be locked out from the mass protests, or else they will be an immense failure.

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REFERENCES: 1. Arundhati Roys Interview on Channel 4, retrieved from the following link on 13th February, 2013: 2. Sexual Violence, Consumer Culture and Feminist Politics Rethinking the Critique of Commodification : Sreenanti Banerjee, February 3, 2013. 3. To the Young Women and Men of Delhi: Thinking about Rape from India Gate, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, December 23, 2012. 4. We must resist the cunning of judicial reform: Pratiksha Baxi, DECEMBER 29, 2012. 5. Delhi Gang Rape Understanding the Structure of Violence: Esha Shah. 6. Armed Forces Special Powers Act provides impunity for rape: Warisha Farasat, December 26, 2012. 7. Rape Cultures in India: Pratiksha Baxi. 8. Rape and the crisis of Indian masculinity, Ratna Kapur, Published in The Hindu. 9. Flavia Agnes: Rape and Death, Kashmir Times. 10. Statement by womens and progressive groups and individuals condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty: Nivedita Menon, DECEMBER 24, 2012. 11. Dear Abhijit babu The Society of Painted and Dented Ladies responds: Nivedita Menon, December 28, 2012.