India’s Supreme Court chief justice has promised to direct courts to translate legal advice booklets for rape survivors into local vernacular languages. Amid declining rates of conviction and a dismissive atmosphere, survivors are turning away from the system.
The AAP, formed in Delhi in 2011, won headlines for picketing the city’s police in 2013.
India is in the swing of its elections, and gender-based violence is on everyone’s platform. But what exactly are they promising?
Domestic violence tops women’s woes at ‘adalat’
KOCHI: A panchayat president (name withheld) filed a petition with the Women’s Commission at their ‘adalat’ held on Wednesday, seeking investigation and action against those who insulted her in public by pasting obscene images on the walls of the panchayat office.
In another case, a woman complained against her father, alleging that he was “showing partiality” while dividing their ancestral…
When it comes to domestic violence, our denial and shame run deep, and conveniently, it seems, media attention focuses elsewhere.
Because it is a chronically under-reported crime, it’s hard to know exactly how common domestic violence is. However, what we do know is alarming. Here’s a sampling of available statistics:
One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
Every year, an estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner.
Only about 20 percent of the victims of domestic violence obtain protection orders against their abusers, and about 50 percent of these protection orders are violated.
Shakti Dassi’s Story
Shakti Dasi is a Widow Mother aged 65. She lives in Vrindavan, a holy city where large numbers of Indian widows take refuge if life with their family becomes unbearable.
Shakti was abused and beaten up by her son and daughter in law after husband’s death. “Once my son broke my legs and I decided, I didn’t want to live with my family any more.”
Like many of the widows in Vrindavan, who are mostly from poor, rural backgrounds, she had little to lose by leaving home. The life she’d taken decades to create had already been taken from her.
Now she lives in a small brick shack, impoverished and alone.
Since 2010, Maitri has engaged with more than 500 Widow Mothers living in Vrindavan including Shakti Dassi. Maitri provides them with Nutrition, Health Care, Education on their Rights, and access to Citizenship Rights. Now, Maitri is building an old age home to shelter abandoned widow mothers so that they may have a safe place to stay - one they may consider a home away from home.
For more information please visit http://www.maitriindia.org/?p=3264
The reel depiction of rape
By Soofia Says
Advertisements coax us to buy products we don’t need, porn is used to elicit certain instinctive responses, stories on screen make us laugh or cry and extreme violence on the tube desensitises our children from bloodshed. Such is the power of audio-visual imagery.
Reel life and real life have a closely interconnected relationship in which movies depict real life while possibilities and perceptions in turn impact our reality. The representation of women in films has changed over time, as their status continues to evolve in real life. The woman of today is considered more confident, with her strength and intelligence relatively more acceptable in our largely male dominated society. But somehow the female characters in films, by and large, have remained short of fully embracing that change.
The film industry seems hell bent on portraying men as predators and women as bait, if not the victim. Audience seem as eager to not just accept but enjoy this portrayal. ‘It’s like the movies are trying to convince us to deny any revolutionary change in the real status of women.’
Rape her, she deserves it; grope her, she wants it; gape at her, she desires it. These are the key messages being communicated, accepted and at some level implemented for real.
Hollywood saw a rising trend of rape-revenge movies in the 70s. The rape survivor, who in most cases was a woman, went on to avenge the crime against her. Examples of movies based on this theme include I Spit on your Grave, Irreversible (French) and Lipstick.
While rape sequences in these movies were shown in disturbing detail, the moral of the story strongly remained that rape is a horrific experience and a barbaric crime.
However, despite this powerful message the narratives depict women as easy targets for sexual assault. What is particularly troubling is how rape in these movies is related to the independence of women — either encouraging it or punishing it. Such logic is also commonly used by rape apologists in real life, its no wonder then where they get the idea from.
Overtime, the trend of rape-revenge films in Hollywood faded. Despite this shift, women being sexually assaulted remained an element of the story even if it was not the central plot. Some recent examples include Kill Bill and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
An informal survey conducted in 2009 showed the number Hollywood movies in which women are sexually assaulted or threatened with sexual assault is 179, whereas the number in which men are targeted is 15.
It is true that Scarlet O Hara has been replaced with Lara Croft in an effort to depict the empowerment of women, but is the new-age, sex-oozing female hero really empowered in her figure-hugging costume?
Bollywood and Lollywood in the past have depicted rape as shameful for victims. A woman raped will always have a ripped sleeve, smeared lipstick and she would say or imply the expression, ‘ab mein kisi ko muh dikhaane ke layak nahi rahi!’ [I am a shame to society]. Consequently she would either commit suicide and/or one of the male characters would avenge the loss of her izzat (honour).
Speaking of Lollywood, during the reign of Sultan Rahi, the trend changed to the hero saving many a women on the brink of rape to eventually make them either his sisters or his wife.
Dynamics have changed though across industries. Direct representation of rape of women is no longer the dominant theme. It is now the era of ‘item numbers’ in which a voluptuous female sings a crass song while heaving her chest and jiggling her bare midriff for the benefit of drooling men. Whether it’s Priyanka Chopra dancing to words like ‘neeyat ayaash hay, na bann shareef tu, babli badmaash hay’’ [Intention is lustful, don’t act pious, I am very naughty] or our very own Mathira reviving Pakistani cinema by singing ‘youn na simat rey, aag lagi hay [Don’t shy away, I am on fire] , the audio-visual stimulation for the public screams ‘I am asking for it’. Even the songs with men are meant to harass women; ‘Achee batein karlein bohat, ab karun ga teray saath, gandee baat’ [Enough of good talk, now I will talk dirty with you].
Many Bollywood stories revolve around male heroes harassing women, justified later by marrying them [Dabangg] . Popular comedy on the other hand tends to revolve around men lusting over sexy women [Dostaana] . It is pertinent to mention here that I am so far only discussing the A-list non-exploitative movies.
It is important to bring rape in the discourse as a means to creating awareness against it, and films are the most accessible medium for that. But when the imagery starts to portray the crime glamorously, it becomes abusive of our voyeuristic tendencies.
COVER PHOTO AND ILLUSTRATIONS: Soofia Says