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  • Who is the Sleaziest of Them All?

    Shilpa Phadke, Anjali Monteiro and K P Jayasankar ask why the reportage of the recent sexual assault of a young woman plumbs new depths in insensitive, unethical and sleazy journalism.

    The print media has, on many occasions, been a good friend to the women’s movement. By giving space to gender issues, specifically those related to violence against women, it has played a role in the popularizing of a feminist politics. Many sections of the media continue to be at least liberal and sympathetic to the cause of gender equality. What then permits the kind of sensationalist reporting that not just undermines all those progressive values but actually violates, in spirit if not in letter, the law? Does the logic of the market and the imperative to titillate override all ethical and professional norms?

    The Mumbai Mirror has been particularly reprehensible and unethical in making public the contents of the entire FIR in the case of the rape of an international student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai this month violating her right to anonymity and dignity. Such reportage is clearly counterproductive and sends a strong negative message to the survivors of sexual assault. In the future, many would hesitate to come out and complain, for fear of being torn to shreds by the media and in some ways facing a second assault at the hands of the sensation seeking media. Nor despite demands from women’s groups has The Mumbai Mirror adequately apologized for their irresponsible journalism. Apart from a token and wholly inadequate apology for offending their readers’ sentiments, the paper has failed to even acknowledge that it has erred terribly.

    Nor have most other papers been very careful in whom they quote or the facts they print without verification. The Times of India, on the first day, chose to put in its headlines, on page 1, “US student raped by batchmates in Mumbai”, despite the fact that later in its report it mentions the police said that they were Tata Institute of Social Sciences students but this was denied by TISS. Interestingly, none of the other English language papers seem to have had access to this police source, as all of them reported that they were students of other colleges. While the TOI corrected its statement the next day, many people still believe that the criminals were students of TISS. This irresponsible, if not malicious reporting has attempted to tarnish the reputation of not just an institution, but also of hundreds of students who study there.

    The press has not balked at giving prominent space to the comments made by the accused who seek to slander the survivor or to the parents of the accused who can only moan that their ‘golden boys’ can do no wrong. Oddly enough one of the first comments made by the papers about the accused were that they were all from “good families”, whatever that means, demonstrating not just a lack of ethics but also a lack of journalistic accuracy. The mud slinging has begun and the press shows no signs of exercising restraint in their printing of slanderous comments by the accused questioning the morality of the young woman. ‘Blaming the victim’ is a common social response to violence against women, and the media on its part is doing little to prevent this from happening. If the media continues to report in this vein it could well bias the trial against the young woman seeking justice.

    Meanwhile women’s hostels in the city are seeking to tighten rules for their residents and restrict them further. The International Students Hostel, where many of the accused resided, has closed their mess to women without offering any explanations. Some hostels have informed women students that they will have to leave immediately after exams. These repercussions of assault then are already being felt by women whose access to the city is further restricted. Yet one has not seen a single journalistic piece of reporting that focuses on this. In their reportage thus far the media have shown not just a lack of responsibility but also a lack of insight.

    What we need now is a reportage that will focus on the larger picture, one that will be able to contextualise this one woman’s quest for justice within the larger question of women’s right to have fun with being constantly threatened with violence and then blamed for it.

    Protests and debates on the issue:

    Women’s groups and students have protested and demonstrated outside the Mumbai Mirror offices.

    Only one newspaper, The Hindu, saw fit to cover this. There has also been some comment generated on the subject and a debate on the loss of ethics of the media is ongoing.

    And a blog has been started to debate the issue.

    ***

    Shilpa Phadke is a sociologist, researcher and pedagogue. Anjali Monteiro and KP Jayasankar are documentary film makers and academics; they teach and research in the area of media and cultural studies.

    Poster Colours

    Anindita SenguptaSOME OF YOU have asked how you can help in the campaign against the attacks on women in Mangalore and Bangalore. Running a poster campaign in your neighborhood, college or office is a quick and easy way.  Here are some posters I’ve received from different organizations. Click on the download link to get a large-size version which you can print out. Make copies and put them up wherever you can. Continue reading

    Weekend Protest Details

    Saturday, 7th March 2009, 3.30 pm – 4.30 pm
    Meet Director General of Police for Karnataka, Ajay Kumar Singh: A crowd will gather outside the DGP’s office while a delegation goes to in to present him with a memorandum. More details at Bangalore Aware.

    Sunday, 8th March 2009, 6 pm onwards
    Take Back the Night Walk: The main event will bring people together in different locations across the city between 6 pm and 9 pm. All groups will meet at Majestic at 9 pm where there will be a small performance and much boisterousness. More details at Blank Noise Project.

    Responding to the Bangalore Attacks

    By Maraa

    Seven attacks in the last ten days! In response to the recent attacks against women in the city of Bangalore, many individuals and organisations have come together to form FEARLESS KARNATAKA or Nirbhaya Karnataka to reclaim public spaces and promote safety for all.

    In the wake of a series of attacks in Mangalore (the latest one was reported on February 24, 2009), women have been targeted in the name of morality, culture and “public decency”. In Bangalore, the reasons for the attacks have been on similar lines — during the attacks, the girls were insulted for wearing jeans, sleeveless shirts and speaking English. We believe that the attacks in Bangalore then are a continuation of those that took place in Mangalore and coastal Karnataka regions even though the identity of the attackers (and the organizations they belong to) could have differed. Continue reading

    What Lies Beneath?

    IT’S BEEN AMUSING to see the uproar around the Pink Chaddi Campaign over the last few days, with some of the ‘finest journalistic minds in the country’ pitching in with their opinions. This piece, ironically called ‘What Lies Beneath’, by Sagarika Ghose in Hindustan Times was particularly baffling, shallow as a frying pan and about as full of noise. I wish one could ignore such vapidity, but the piece was also disturbing at many levels. Some of us sent a rejoinder to HT. Unsurprisingly, they neither acknowledged it, nor responded.  Continue reading

    Understanding and Responding to the Mangalore Assaults

    By Sumi Krishna

    How should we in the women’s movement understand and respond to the cluster of assaults by the Rama Sene, Bajrang Dal and other fundamentalists; the targeting of minorities and their places of worship; the harassment and molestation of women of all classes in the name of nation, culture and religion; the fear and anger spreading through villages and towns in southern-coastal Karnataka?

    As Sandhya Gokhale of the Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai, says in The Hindu, on one level the horrific abuse of young women in a pub is ‘a morality issue’, but it is also about the space and decision making power for which women have fought for years. Arvind Narrain of the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore, writing in the Indian Express, sees the abuse of religious and sexual minorities as the ‘saffron’ challenge to ‘the legacy of the women’s movement in India’ and ‘the thin end of the wedge’ in re-establishing male dominance. Continue reading

    Fri and Sat: Protests in Delhi

    AISA and AIPWA organised protest on Valentine’s day in Delhi.
    Say NO to the ‘Morality Police’!

    On February 13, on the eve of
    VALENTINE’S DAY Continue reading

    The Power of Pink Chaddis

    IT’S COOL. It’s cheeky. It’s clever. I’m talking about the Pink Chaddi Campaign. Women all over the country are gathering pink chaddis and sending them to Muthalik as a Valentine’s Day present. The plan is to strike disgust in the teensy little non-heart of our chief moral guardian — and to loudly assert the fact that the bogeymen of morality, dignity, chastity etc cannot be used to take our freedom away. Gifting panties may seem like a softer option than dung bombing his house but it makes a strong statement on our collective lack of ‘shame’, the one quality he’s trying so desperately to instill in us. Continue reading

    Protest against Mangalore incident in Delhi

    Protest against Assault on Women in Mangalore Pub and State Inaction

    We condemn the brutal assault by members of the Sri Ram Sene on young women in a pub in Mangalore, Karnataka, on Saturday, 24 January 2009. We are shocked by the response of the State administration, police, and political leadership, some of whom have dismissed this as a ‘minor incident’, while others have blatantly justified the violence. We believe that such threats to the democratic freedom and human rights of citizens, cannot be treated as ‘minor’. This incident, and the unabashed justifications of it are part of a larger trend to curb the freedoms of women in the name of a regressive and distorted notion of Indian culture and tradition.

    To strongly condemn the disturbing trend of violence against women and ‘moral policing’ as a means to enforce a particularly regressive interpretation of culture, there will be a protest on Tuesday 3rd February, outside Karnatak Bhavan, Chanakyapuri (near Samrat hotel), Delhi, at 3 pm.

    Jagori, Nirantar, Saheli, Sama

    An Open Letter to the State Government from the Women of Karnataka

    We fear for lives of women in this state… is the Government listening? Is there a Government in this State at all? Or is it only a political party whose highest priority is its own regressive right wing agenda, which violates the responsibility of governance?

    In one of its latest acts of bigotry and intolerance, members of the Sri Rama Sene and the Bajrang Dal barged into a lounge bar on Balmatta road in Mangalore and viciously attacked the girls who were present there. Their crime: Firstly they were indecently dressed and second, despite being Hindu, they were daring to socialise with Muslim boys. Prasad Attavar, State Deputy Convener of the Sri Ram Sene said that it was “a spontaneous reaction against women, who flouted traditional Indian norms of decency.”

    And what was the spontaneous response from the government to this absolutely uncultured act of violence against young girls in the name of culture? Not surprisingly a studied silence from the powers that be and total inaction and apathy from the subservient police force in South Canara. Continue reading

    On Marriage

    Unmana DattaHELLO UV READERS! I’m excited to be writing my first post here. And going by the old feminist slogan, “the personal is political”, my first post is about something that is intensely personal: marriage. My views on marriage have always been ambivalent. Even as a child, I recognized that most marriages I saw around me were unsatisfactory and, almost always, unfair on the woman. But it seemed like the default option. Once you grew up, you got married. Usually by the time you were 25 if you were female. You had a few more years if you were male. Continue reading

    Same-Sex Love: In Conversation with Dr Ruth Vanita

    Meena KandasamyDR RUTH VANITA (b.1955), is a renowned academic and author specializing in lesbian and gay studies. Some of her acclaimed books include Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society (2002), Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West (2005), and Gandhi’s Tiger and Sita’s Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Culture (2005).

    In this interview she answers questions about the representation of LGBT issues in the English media, mainstream cinema, Indian literature and the women’s movement. Continue reading

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