As an Indian, I feel absolutely elated that Indian Film superstars such as yourselves not only enjoy the adulation and demigod status with a humongous fan-following in our country but also across a country like China which seems so alien to our culture and ethos. But it just proves that talent can transcend all borders and language does not pose any kind of barrier.
It is but natural with your popularity growing exponentially across the globe; the large corporate and marketing gurus see great potential in investing in you as brand ambassadors, so that your charisma and popularity can rub off on their brands and boost the sales of their products.
I would like to bring to your attention certain facts behind Chinese products which celebrities endorse. A word of caution, you will find the facts revolting.
Did you know China’s economic power is the result of sending innocent people who have committed no crimes but do not follow the Party’s ideologies, to forced labour camps to serve as a large scale force of free slave labour? It is estimated that more than one crore people work in thousands of forced labour camps across China. This includes a big majority of 'political' prisoners. China tops the world with more than 2,300 executions per year. Remember, every time you buy a product 'Made in China,' you are funding and empowering a brutal regime.
A lot of Chinese goods available in the Indian market are made by prisoners under appalling conditions in what the Chinese call ‘laogai’ or labour camps. They are deprived of sleep and have to slog away without food or breaks with their hands bleeding. The shocker is that they are killed on demand for their organs that are matched and sold to the highest bidder. It is a billion dollar industry supported by the state government. The victims are mostly Falun Dafa practitioners who practice an exercise and meditation practice that promotes good health with an emphasis on improving one’s moral character
Last year during Diwali there was a public service campaign calling for Boycotting Chinese goods. It is ironical that a popular Chinese mobile phone maker sold a record one million smart phones in India in 18 days during the Diwali festive season, despite calls for boycott of Chinese goods in the country.
We all know that in today’s world since a mobile phone is an extension of oneself, one is totally handicapped without a phone. But ignoring the sordid details of what goes on behind the making of the Made in China product would be as Gandhiji said “An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her soul.”
70 million people practicing Falun Dafa, a peaceful spiritual practice with exercise and meditation became the soft target and are being killed on demand to supply an ongoing illegal organ transplant industry. The Chinese government ex-chief Jiang Zemin not being able to come to terms with the popularity of Falun Dafa introduced by Master Li Hongzhi in 1992 with 70 million Chinese people practicing it banned it on 20 July 1999. Since then for 18 years Falun Dafa practitioners are systematically imprisoned, tortured and killed for their organs. Their bodies are often cremated so that there is no evidence left. (Read more at www.faluninfo.net)
Chinese doctors and hospital workers admitted in recorded phone calls from undercover investigators that they have live organs from healthy Falun Dafa practitioners in prisons, available for sale.
When all over the world, patients have to wait for years for organ transplants, in China you can get it in a week’s time. Hospital web sites in China till recently advertised short waiting times for organ transplants. Due to the increase of available organs for sale in China, many foreigners travel there for transplantation. 10,000 organs are transplanted in China every year, even though China has no effective national organ donation system.
I would least like to put you in a dilemma where you can’t renege on your contracts which would cast a slur on your professionalism and integrity and neither can the Company summarily terminate the contract and suffer huge losses. What I think could be a benevolent solution is for you to make amends by making more people aware of these crimes against humanity. You can also at an opportune moment talk to the corporate decision makers or people who matter in the Chinese government to put an end to the persecution. Please do not misconstrue this as getting political. It is a moral issue- a human rights issue.
I respect your integrity and your exemplary sense of ethics, at the core of your being and it is demonstrated often when you have stood up for social causes and exposed many of society’s ills. A case in point is Aamir Khan’s ‘Satyamev Jayate’ TV serial.
For your kind information Falun Dafa was introduced in India in the year 2000. It was officially registered in 2004 and since then the exercise and meditation practice has been introduced in schools and colleges across the length and breadth of India. Falun Dafa was well received by the Police academies in Delhi and Hyderabad. Falun Dafa adherents were invited by several large organizations to introduce it to their senior executives and interestingly Jail superintends too have requested to introduce the exercise and meditation practice to inmates.
It will be of special interest to you that in the Mumbai film industry there are many ‘behind the scene’ artistes such as hair stylists, make-up artists, Talent search agencies, photographers who have found strength in Falun Dafa to overcome the stress of the glitz and glamour world.
Thank you for your patience and I look forward to some positive action from you.
We are ashamed of ourselves - damn right, we should be
We will never forget - until the next time it happens again
And we fail, we feel ashamed and we forget
How about we try something different? How about we really show our elected govts how concerned we are and how desperate we are to address these concerns?
How about we stage a #NationalWalkout on April 23rd, Monday @ 10:00am?
What is a #NationalWalkout?
Simple answer is no matter where we are, who we are and what we are, we can just decide to walk as an individual or as a group, leaving aside whatever work we may be doing at that point in time
Walk to where?
If we are in the city, closer to the parliament or the state assembly hall, walk to that place
If we are not, we can walk to the nearest court or the nearest district headquarters or the nearest police station or nearest any office dealing with public welfare.
Why a NationalWalkout?
This is a problem concerning not just a village or a town or a city or a state or a child or an adult but a problem concerning an entire country and the entire humanity, because what we are witnessing is a rape of our consciousness.
Why April 23rd, Monday at 10:00am?
Its the following Monday giving us a weeks time to prepare and organize.10:00am because its the time when its not too early and not too late, but just about the right time to cause inconvenience to us and to send the message to our elected govts
What do we demand?
No more victimization of the victims and the guilty should be punished
Nirbhaya Law should be implemented in spirit
What after the Walkout?
We can chose to continue the fight and keep the pressure on the elected govt and may be even the rest of the political parties. Let this be the beginning of the end of our inaction and indifference.
What kind of preparation is required?
Prepare placards, banners, invite ministers, press, media, organize events around these themes and basically try and do everything to rally people and create pressure.
One week may be a bit aggressive for a #NationalWalkout, but may be it isn't after all - it may be a bit late.
Would it be worth it?
Remember the last time this happened, the result was the Nirbhaya act. Yes its another issue that the act itself is yet to be implemented, but without the public pressure, the law makers would not have done what they were forced to do. So yeah its totally worth trying, but one thing is for sure, if we don't do anything other trending on twitter or sharing on facebook, we are just fooling ourselves.
If this still doesn't convince you, I will let the data do the talking
520 kids all below 6 years of age were survivors of rape i.e. Five Hundred and Twenty. I repeat Five Hundred and Twenty. And if we include all the kids below 18 years, this number rises to 16863 i.e. Sixteen thousand eight hundred and sixty three.
16863 children will carry these scars for the rest of their lives
16863 children may never get justice and may never get a closure
16863 children may never get a chance to heal their wounds
16863 children and their loved one’s may forever try to move on, only to dragged into with every single incident that makes it to the news headline
16863 children may never know what a normal childhood feels like, what growing up feels like
16863 children may be living in constant fear for the rest of their lives
22,205 women i.e. Twenty two thousand two hundred and five women. As these horrific numbers prove, rape crimes are beyond any age groups, beyond any cultural divides, beyond the norms of society – yes beyond the norms of society, since
94.6% of the offenders are known to the rape survivors i.e. Ninety Four percent of the offenders are known to the rape survivors. Some of the offenders are family members who include grand fathers, fathers, brothers, sons, relatives and neighbors. Not implying everyone is an offender here, but what the data is proving, yet again, year after year, that the offenders are amongst us. They could be from our family, from our neighborhood, not some random person on the street and not some random person in a desolated place.
So what is the police doing? Well, what can the police do? What can the police do when most of the cases don’t even get reported and even when they are reported, there are so many backlogs, the police can’t possibly afford to investigate the cases.
And what about the courts? Well, its no secret, the courts have been buried with cases pending from several years, in fact, several decades now.
During my time away, a story that fascinated me — in a train-wreck kind of way, and as a cautionary tale of the danger of the media disseminating half-baked news — relates to the murder of one Paresh Mesta. The India Today channel and its consulting editor Shiv Aroor played a lead role in propagating the story; social media backlash then prompted Aroor to write an extended defense of his actions. Here it is, and it is worth reading in full as an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the media in general, and TV news in particular.
The first four paras are an extended ‘woe is me’ pity-party aiming to paint himself as the victim, and an attempt to stake out the high moral ground. Skip lightly over those, and consider the real story, which begins with paragraph five and the tweet that started it all:
SP under #SiddaramaiahRule has declared this as 'Samaanya Saavu' Hindu boy 21 yr old Paresh Mesta goes missing.when he was found, he was mutilated,castrated.burnt by boiling oil poured over his head & his head split dastardly with a weapon. pic.twitter.com/tmxkK6r2GS
This, says Aroor, was deemed a “story” worth following up because it was tweeted by an elected representative. And so, he says, the IT reporter in the area filed a follow up “quoting sources”. Here is the report he cites; read it carefullyand see if you can find a single source being quoted. Also note, vide this report, how quickly a Union minister latched on to the incident and gave it a political coloration.
But most importantly, note this: In the follow-up report that Aroor presents as exhibit A in defense of his brand of journalism, the reporter has not spoken to anyone from police/law enforcement to find out what actually did happen. What follows is a startling abdication of every single journalistic norm (Emphasis mine):
Deciding that this would be our top story at 5pm, we invited both the police and BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje to join us on our show. Given logistical constraints on the ground, the option was provided to pre-record with both or either. While Shobha Karandlaje took our questions, the police did not join us on the show.
A tweet promoting the show carried the gruesome allegations of the BJP MP and sources on the ground – a tweet that I personally composed. Unlike my earlier tweet, this one didn’t carry quotes indicating that it was an allegation.
Starting at the top: On what basis did Aroor decide this was the lead story? At this point, 24 hours after the body was discovered, all he had was the intemperate allegation of a politician with a long history of fomenting communal trouble. Note that as soon as the body was discovered, Karandlaje began to talk of ‘jihadi forces’ and of the ‘targeted killing of Hindu activists’. Note also that even as she was busy using the killing of a young boy to further her party’s political ends, she latched onto another incident to light further fires:
Jihadis tried to rape and murder a girl studying in 9th std near honnavar.Why is the govt silent about this incident?Arrest those who molested and injured this girl. Where are you CM @siddaramaiah?
In actual fact, however, the girl in question was attempting to escape the attentions of a stalker, Ganesh Eashwar Naik.
This, then, is the person on whose unsupported word Aroor based an editorial decision on. Note, further, that his focus is on “getting police on the show” — not first checking with the police to find out what the story really is. And he compounds his criminal error when he, in his own words, “personally composed” a tweet carrying the allegations — without quotes, or other indications to suggest they were merely allegations. In other words Aroor, who starts off with a verbose defense of his journalistic integrity, took an allegation and converted it into a personal attestation.
Much is then made of how Aroor in a subsequent broadcast asked Karandlaje if she had any specific proof to back up her allegations. Which begs the question: Isn’t that what you ask first, before you decide if the allegation deserves air time? Giving a fact-free allegation considerable air time, giving it your imprimatur by airing it as fact sans the telltale quote marks, and then asking if there is any proof is so far removed from basic journalism that it constitutes a sackable offense were it a tyro; when the “consulting editor” of a major channel does this, it is way beyond the pale. And then there is this:
Later that evening, the police, which had sparked its own controversy by declaring that the death was a “samanya saavu”, released a Q&A report with a forensics doctor, a document that appeared to fully contradict the BJP’s explosive charges. I happened to be among the first to tweet this out:
Wait, what?! How did the police “spark its own controversy”? The meaning of the police statement is clear — or would be, if you weren’t determined to see it through a predetermined lens: the police is saying, merely, that this is not a communal incident. Apparently Aroor believes he fully fulfilled his responsibility as a senior journalist by suggesting — some 48 hours after he decided to run a full fledged story based on an unconscionable tweet — that the BJP should now explain the basis of its charges:
Onus now on @BJP4Karnataka & @ShobhaBJP to explain their very specific charges of 'jihadi torture' in the Paresh Mesta case? They've called for an NIA probe -- will they claim cover-up now? What next? Major divergence in claims on both sides.
The following day, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah tweeted that the death of Paresh Mesta was “unfortunate” – a curious choice of word. Just as the BJP was certain this was a gruesome murder, was he certain this wasn’t murder at all? Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”? Was he simply alleging that this wasn’t murder, but a natural death, much like the Karnataka Police had done the previous day?
Seriously, is this guy compos mentis? “Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”?”, he asks. Sorry, but what the actual fuck does that even mean? And then he goes on to parse the CM’s statement, and in the process put words in the mouth of the police — note that the police did not say it was a natural death; that is not what “saamanya saavu” meant.
And then there is this (emphasis mine):
The following morning, putting the spotlight on the political war that had broken out, we planned a morning face-offbetween the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP on the issue. While the BJP joined us, the Congress apparently declined, forcing us to plan a face-off between the BJP and a member of the CPI (considering the allegations were of a political killing). Here’s that full broadcast:
“…forcing us to plan a face-off…”?!!!! Really? By then, four days had passed; communal tensions had been created by an unsubstantiated allegation — and Aroor admits that the allegations are unsubstantiated — and yet this consulting editor is still riding the fake news for all it is worth. His focus is on the next sensational talk fest, the next “show”, the next spin.
I’ve been branded a communal hatemonger, a rabble-rouser and a plainly bad journalist who deliberately picked up the Paresh Mesta story with the specific intention of, among other things, “scoring TRPs”, “fanning communal tensions before the Karnataka elections”, “currying favour with the BJP”. Calls have gone out from several quarters for my sacking, arrest or both. I stand accused by some of these sites of peddling fake news.
Net net, by his own admitted actions, Aroor has amplified an unsubstantiated allegation, which gave it oxygen, which led to communal tension; his journalistic choices have been irresponsible throughout. As for the allegation that this “story” has to do with the Karnataka elections, consider what is happening on the ground:
#1. Karandlaje in short order propagated a fake story of jihadi rape. #2. Even two weeks after the original incident, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde was openly threatening violence in the state. Read that again, slowly: A Union Minister, sworn to uphold the rule of law, threatening violence and bloodshed. #3. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh continues to beat the drum of “justice” at a rally in Karnataka. Again — this is the central minister for Home — the man in charge of law and order in the country. #4. Tensions flare in Belagavi and every time some semblance of peace is restored, there is a fresh outbreak.
Do you need to be told that the next major state election is in Karnataka? Here, a clip from a story cited earlier (Again, emphasis mine):
Even after the state government handed over the investigation into Mesta’s death to the Central Bureau of Investigation on December 13, the BJP refuses to scale down its protests. For the coming week, it has announced a “jail bharo andolan”, calling upon people across Karnataka to court arrest to protest the Congress government’s policy of favouring Muslims. Chief minister Siddaramaiah has accused BJP of using Mesta’s death to create trouble for political gains.
The communal tensions come at a time when political parties are preparing the ground for Karnataka assembly elections to be held in the first half of 2018. In 2012, BJP had won in just one of the six constituencies in Uttara Kannada district and one of the eight constituencies in neighbouring Dakshina Kannada district. The 14 seats in coastal Karnataka will prove crucial in deciding the winner of next year’s election.
Connect the dots: Karnataka is Congress-ruled. Elections are due. The BJP, consistent with its win-at-all-costs methodology, has in rapid succession used two fake stories to stoke communal tension, and already begun to propagate its time-tested “favoring Muslims” allegation — the party’s go-to trope in every single election, in every single state. And all this is happening in the one region where the BJP is most anxious to gain a foothold.
Here is the part that should scare you: The dates for the Karnataka elections have not even been announced yet. And already, a former state-level minister, and two Union ministers, have done their damndest to light fires. Who knows what else is in store as the campaign actually gets under way?
All of which is why the “journalism” of the likes of Aroor — thoughtless, if I am being charitable; unprincipled, if I am being honest — is so dangerous; it is the oxygen that feeds the flames of bigotry, of hatred.
#1. BJP MP Kirron Kher joins the long line of politicians using fake photos to stoke faux patriotism
#2. A “fringe” outfit (I’ll have more to say on these fringes in a later post) in Karnataka is outraged that Sunny Leone, gasp!, is scheduled to perform at a New Year’s event in Bangalore. What will she wear?! Will she wear anything at all?!! Shock, horror!! And so the police — whose duty is to maintain law and order, not cater to every damn bunch of lunatics threatening the peace, decides to cancel the event. That is who we are today — a nation captive to every ragtag outfit that can say it with stones.
#3. Proving yet again that politics is the last refuge of the certifiably insane, a BJP MLA says that Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma chosing to get married in Italy is an unpatriotic act. The bit that should worry you?: “The crowd that had gathered there was seen applauding as the MLA was speaking.”
#4. The Hindu Jagran Manch — yet another of our ‘fringe’ groups, of which more here — threatened violence if Christian-run schools in Uttar Pradesh celebrated Christmas. Which is par for the course with the HJM. What should make you sit up and take notice is this: A Union minister saying, in support of the HJM threat, that schools are not religious places and people should celebrate only in their homes.
#5. A CAG report, which names Ramdev’s Patanjali in a list of polluters, provides a grim view of the Clean Ganga project.
Now, as per the CAG report, the river in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi happens to be along one of the most polluted stretches. In six cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal oxygen levels in the water have plummetted from the level it were in 2012-2013. Total coliform bacteria levels in all cities of UP, WB and Bihar was very high. The water quality in these cities was not even fit for bathing.
During grilling, Shambhul told police that labourer Mohammed Afrazul, a resident of West Bengal’s Malda, was not his target.
“He wanted to kill one Ajju Sheikh because he was in contact with a girl whom Shambhu regarded as his sister. But we suspect Shambhu had an affair with her,” said Rajendra Singh Rao, police circle officer of Rajsamand.
This hero on whose behalf people are raising funds and attacking cops brutally killed a man while meaning to kill another man he believed had eyes on ac”sister” he was having an affair with. Now what? Can the 700 idiots who “contributed to the cause” ask for their money back?
Tailpiece: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to TimesNow which, these days, is on a batshit hashtag trip, is engaged in Mission Sab Ka Saath. Per which Modi, on December 19, met fisherfolk in Kerala who were affected by Cyclone Ockhi and told them this:
“This is not the time for a lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you and that’s why I myself have come. We are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas round the corner, we wish all the missing return back,” he said in his brief remarks on the occasion.
But even that is nothing compared to what he said next:
“The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman). The whole country is with you in your grief,” he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.
“…claps from the grief-stricken families”? Where is that facepalm emoji when I need one?
The Hadiya case has quickly turned into a war of political interests between Hindutva and Islamists. Prima facie, the issue is simple. A woman choses to convert to another religion and marry a man of her choice from that religion. Enter evil parents. The marriage is anulled. Hadiya is becomes a prisoner. Clamour grows with the Hindutva pride seeing exploitation, while the anti-Hindutva prejudice seeing nothing but a matter of choice. I don't see the issue as that simple, and for once, I agree with all parties. I definitely applaud the courage of Hadiya in sticking to her choice and taking it all the way. While I restricted myself to stating this, all was well. The problem arose when I also understand the perspective of the father as well as the courts. In my view, this is a complex issue with several factors that need considering. The high voltage drama around the issue has ensured it is largely reduced to accusations of love jihad and scoffing at the accusations with complete inability of both extreme stands to actually understand the issue beyond the lens they are habituated to.
For me, this is not a religious issue in the sense of Islam or Hinduism or whatever, but it is similar to countless instances of women (and men too) being infatuated with a belief system to the point of cutting off their previous life. It isn't a matter of choice of religion or choice of husband, but a matter of a series of choices that literally amount to abdicating her entire family, name, identity, residence, marital status and more. It is a series of extreme and life changing decisions in rapid succession. This is where the case is a cause for concern. She is literally abdicating the person she used to be in order to embrace a completely new way of life. It is clear that she is convinced about this. It is equally clear that those cheering for her are convinced that it is the right thing. But if you take off the lens of specific religions, where have we seen similar behavior?
Well, we have seen women leave their families and join the Sanatan Sanstha (a Hindu extremist organization). When their concerned parents tried legal means to get them back, the girls informed them that they had joined the Sanatan Sanstha by choice. They accused their parents of abuse. A more recent example would be when the parents of two sisters in Bombay filed a complaint against Sunil Kulkarni who ran an "organization" called Shifu Sankriti for entraping their daughters who.... found his cult and left their parental home. They accused Sunil Kulkarni of entraping their daughters, giving them drugs, sexual exploitation and what not. The daughters rubbished their claims in court and accused the parents of domestic violence. Other parents too have made similar complaints, but those who followed him have not spoken against him. Sunil Kulkarni is not Muslim, none of those accusations were proved. He was arrested anywayand is still being denied bail. The girls of the college in Dera Sacha Sauda had released videos endorsing Ram Rahim and angry with the state over his arrest. I'd post a link, but that is one sad video I wish I could unsee.
While it is tempting to see this as an issue of religious choice or prejudice against minorities or love jihad, the fact is that there are patterns to people suddenly immersing themselves in a new faith they find. And sometimes the patterns are suspicious enough to raise serious questions on whether the person is acting of their own will. This is not limited to any specific religion or cult. However, it usually happens when there is some kind of fundamentalism or cult going on. Merely being interested in and following religion does not lead to an abdication of family and loved ones, home and routine life and a complete immersion in the new lifestyle. Hadiya didn't just embrace Islam, she changed her name, her dress, her educational goals, she got involved in an Islamist organization, and she quit her family, stayed with several new acquaintances in quick succession. When legally challenged, with the assistance of her new associates, she came up with another Islamist to marry! A parent who wouldn't be alarmed by something like this is hard to find. This is not merely a change of faith or interreligious marriage. For something like this to happen, the mind is completely captivated by the promise of the new faith and completely disinterested in existing life and loved ones to the point of losing all realistic view. In that sense, the NIA is not altogether wrong when it speaks of indoctrination subverting consent. The bigger problem is that the NIA seeing it as happening only as the pet bogey of love jihad, when, in fact it happens across religions, cults, politics and even love marriages with gullible minds absorbing visions of utopia and giving up anythign that would deter from chasing that infatuation. Anything that drastically changes life while looking at limited aspects of a situation based on information promoted is suspect.
For that matter, even if an atheist were to suddenly turn hostile with family over suddenly discoverign that there is no God, it would still be a suspect state of mind during which they probably should not take life altering decisions. One of the wisest pieces of relationship advice comes from the polyamory community, to enjoy a new relationship, but to not make any life altering decisions while under the influence of NRE (New Relationship Energy). Something like this applied to matters of changes in beliefs - whether political or religious would mean to learn more, engage, enjoy more, but not burn bridges with existing life in rapid succession to rely solely on new choice for all matters - even those unrelated to it.
That said, what should be done about such subversion of free choice is anyone's guess. Many people indoctrinated continue to live what is to them a normal life. Many times indoctrination can be inadvertent rather than deliberate (happens in most homes where kids learn to think in black and white prejudice). While being indoctrinated may be unfortunate, there is no objective way to assess it and thus acting on such an evaluation always runs the risk of violating rights. Even if it is a mistake, it is that person's mistake to make, after a point. Also given how highly charged these kind of situations can be, there is great potential to both frame people as well as get away with indoctrination if it is the "right" kind of indoctrination.
But I am glad this case hit the courts. Hadiya must indeed have the right to choose her way - even if it is wrong (which in my belief it is - drowning in religion/religious politics, in my view is always suspect). But I am glad that the process kept the space open for her to pause for breath and think things through very seriously. At the end of the day, it is her life, her choice.
It would, however be useful if people who claim to endorse human rights contributed to creating a larger picture instead of abdicating all responsibility to prevent exploitation (that is what brainwashing is, fundamentally) in their eagerness to present an unambiguous and ringing endorsement of whatever the cause they are showing off. Whether minorities or women's right to choose or opposing Hindutva propaganda, or whatever. Because at the center of such situations are very vulnerable people living in a virtual reality. It may be their right to live in that reality, but well wishers watching their six wouldn't hurt.
Finally, Hadiya's father is not a Hindutva activist but an atheist. The court gave her into his custody with guard and restrictions. Nor was his case against Hadiya's husband - he really doesn't have the power to order NIA investigations. It may be worth looking at what actions are being attributed to him just because he dared question the holy cow of free choice. He can approach the courts, but the judges do have minds of their own and are not obliged to obey.
A man who imposes sexual activity on a woman without any indication that she is attracted to him, in the face of blunt refusals or knowing that she definitely does not like him, is a rapist. But without this explicit clarity, there are a lot of grey areas where men and women can communicate very differently and a lack of consent is not very clear. It isn't as simple as saying a no is a no.
While we are willing to accept a victim coming in with an accusation of rape much after an incident she reluctantly consented to in has happened, we are less tolerant about the ability of the man who must judge in the heat of the moment to determine whether the refusal is something that will resolve with persuasion or violate. And the sensitivity of men differs wildly, much of it determined by individual life experiences - we do little to help men learn.
It is an age old debate - how much no is no when it comes to sex. There is a side that thinks all "No" is a dead end. There is another that pretty much refuses to recognize any form of "No" as being an actual refusal. Neither are practical. As always, the more adamant force is applied to a process, the less there is sensitivity to nuance. It isn't enough to simply dump responsibility for changing a status quo on one side of a difference. Particularly when that side is less vulnerable to the problem to begin with.
There are many shades of "No". To me, for someone to be called a "rapist" an important condition is that the alleged rapist must know that the other person does not want them - particularly in cases where consent has been implied till that point.
Consent is a grey area traditionally
Asking for anything is culturally stigmatized. Someone asks you if you want tea, you are conditioned to refuse. This is a relatively minor thing. But you are taught that politeness means you don't outright accept something you desire. The more intimate and high stakes your desire, the closer you play your cards to your chest.
For many "traditional" people, by the time a relationship is ready for sex, the moment for consent has long passed, because any physical touch already is consent in a society not given to casual physical touch between genders.
When a woman says No, she doesn't always mean it
Now consider the conditioning women go through all their lives, where a woman who is eager for sex is seen as someone less respectable. There are few women or even men who would outright agree to sex, even while they are giving all kinds of green signals otherwise. Remaining available, participating in increasing contact, "accidental" contact, remaining accessible for sexual contact - and even pretending to be surprised if it happens, till the elephant of increasingly intimate contact cannot be looked around - are all normal happenings in courtship.
People pretend accidental contact that they can back off from if the other person doesn't seem receptive rather than outright ask for sex. Rather than come across as forward or risk a refusal, they simply initiate and see where it goes. Because here is the thing, we also see asking for sex as inappropriate if it gets refused. Men become creeps, women become sluts.
And this is culturally accepted and immortalized. "Jaane do na. Paas aao na" is a sexy song that gave many men sleepless nights when the film Sagar released.
The whole duet is spent with Rishi Kapoor asking Dimple Kapadia to come closer and her refusing all the way. She refuses. Says don't touch me. I can't do these things, etc. It is actually a romantic song where both of them are attracted and in fact gave men an education on what an aroused woman looks like before the age of the internet! The film Sagar would be vastly different if Dimple Kapadia later realized Rishi Kapoor was a lousy lover and remembered that she'd been second thoughts all through and in fact, refusing. It would take an exceptionally sex-illiterate person to conclude a lack of consent from that song. And if Rishi Kapoor took those refusals at face value and didn't proceed, that would be one hot, frustrated woman there and Kamal Haasan would be one happy man. Never really understood what she saw in Rishi Kapoor with super sexy Kamal Haasan there for her.
This song is actually quite realistic among the masses, where there is a lot of intimacy that goes on under the cover of normalcy or even expressed disinterest without actual prevention till the relationship reaches a point of inevitability. It is vulnerability in a judgmental world. It is hard to talk about budding feelings in the bright light of day. Not many can do it. I doubt if even among the feminists there would be very many who can claim to have explicitly spoken of attraction and a desire to initiate a sexual relationship before intimacy.
Is it wrong? Only if you think communication is strictly verbal. But there are fifty kinds of non-verbal signals that are freely given. Spending more time exclusively with someone, standing closer to them than others, casual affectionate physical touch not shared with others... it all communicates consent in a language beyond words and paves the way for more.
But there are far more mundane reasons for blurred consent. Refusals that have nothing to do with sexual willingness, but are related to other factors - for example, tired - which often change with seduction. Or a risk of discovery - which can change a refusal into flat out excitement for some, depending on how aroused they are. They can also be deeply distressing, even with a regular and beloved partner if a woman does not find the risk of discovery exciting.
Whether to persuade and get a phenomenally hot sexual experience or to respect an area of discomfort? This needs education on sensitivity and communication that cannot be plastered over with "no is no".
Traditional and biological sexual factors add confusion
Then there is a further complication. Sexually, men often enjoy the "chase" and women often enjoy being overruled on consent - when they feel safe. That men enjoy the chase shouldn't be that hard to infer from the very troublesome manifestation of sexual harassment. It is predatory behavior. The harassment is where women are clearly not on the same page - because women do require to establish trust and a catcall or grope isn't exactly it. There are a few women who feel flattered by catcalls even if they would not admit it openly. The feeling of being publicly desirable. They often are also those who place high value on male approval overall. While they may not openly enjoy it, you can get that insight in indirect ways - for example when they speak of disparage women as someone who wouldn't turn heads or wouldn't be harassed or molested or raped because they aren't attractive, etc. Where they clearly see unsolicited approaches as a mark of desirability, even though respectability demands that they cannot be known to enjoy it.
I once knew a girl nicknamed Sexy in our friends circle and while she acted all protesting about a nickname that sounded like a sleazy catcall, she would be the one to tell people who didn't know what her nickname was!
There is also a fundamental difference in how men and women interpret intimate conversations that create misunderstandings. Men generally do not speak of intimate physical experiences with the ease women do. Just look at the number of open discussions about menstruation or female sexuality on social media and compare them with how many times you have seen men talk about their penises at all. Men reserve personal talk to extremely confidential relationships - if they talk about intimate issues at all. An intimate subject being discussed conveys extreme trust to men, while women happily talk about intimate subjects even on public forums.
Very often a woman's candid talk can imply an intimacy she does not mean to men, particularly men who are not very familiar with casual interaction with women and don't know that this is normal for women. Something I always advise inexperienced young women is to not share one on one conversations involving features of your/his body with men you aren't interested in. It doesn't mean the same thing to them as it does to you. Of course, there will be individual exceptions, but the norm is broad enough to be useful insight.
A verbal refusal or protest can come from anywhere from an actual refusal to hesitation to commit to stating desire. And there can often be contradictory messages in behavior, with the non-verbal message often being the more accurate of the two.
Some women fantasize about being overpowered
One of the strongest endorsements of consent comes from BDSM, which allows for a safe word to call a halt to the sexual activity - ironically, often criticized for "cruelty". And the safe word actually can allow for erotic sexual play that involves refusing sex and the refusal being overruled if the safe word is not used. How could enslavement, pain being inflicted be desired? Obviously, the consent being explicitly moved to the safe word ensures that this isn't rape, but it definitely is rape fantasy if the play explores areas of consent being overruled.
Increase of women viewers of porn and a lot of outspokenness about porn and terms like feminist porn coming up have not led to any discernable change in standard porn content. So the increased number of women appear to be fine watching erotic content that is criticized from a feminist perspective for being disrespectful about women? For objectifying them, for not holding consent in higher esteem? Women too watch that and get off on it?
Actual research done in this area (led by a woman) shows startling results: 52% of the women had fantasies about forced sex by a man: 32% had fantasies about being raped by a man: 28% - forced oral sex by a man: 16% - forced anal sex: 24% - incapacitated: 17% - forced sex by a woman: 9% - raped by a woman: 9% - forced oral sex by a woman. Overall, 62% reported having had at least one of these fantasies.
Does a woman's response to a dominating man convey mixed messages? Is it possible that men either instinctively or from experience experiment with overruling consent as a part of sexual play? It certainly seems possible if one were to look at such data. There is plenty more research on rape fantasies, for the interested. No point derailing into all that. Particularly since fantasies are not consent for reality.
The man must be made aware of an unambiguous refusal
In my view, because of all these reasons, it is not enough to say "no" and pretend sexual interest did not happen, there is a need to ensure that the "No" is communicated. A man must be made aware of an unambiguous "no" and women must be educated about conveying it. Being willing to a point and then refusing, only to capitulate with some persuasion makes it very difficult to differentiate between a refusal that is momentary and overcome with persuasion and an actual refusal with further sex happening against the consent of the woman.
A common reason to capitulate is because the woman values the presence of the man in her life even though she doesn't want sex. She doesn't want him to turn to someone else. Sad though it may be, it is a hard choice, but a choice must be made with responsibility. Agreeing to sex but holding it against him is not ethical. It is also important to understand that once the genie of sex is out of the bottle, your relationship is not going to return to the comfort zone easily - if at all ever.
Not so hard to understand if men and women are BOTH people
Let us reverse the roles for a bit to make it easier to understand. If men seem more eager than women to seek sex, women can want sex for far longer than men, because biology. Women do pressurize no-longer-interested men into sex. Is a man who grumbles about it after being seduced into participating again a rape victim? Technically, yes. If we are talking of consent as a moment by moment thing where changing your mind on sexual interest is a right, a man who rolls over and falls asleep should be protected from the still horny woman.
In reality? It will be quite a few nights like this before a responsible lover learns to get his partner off first before racing for the finish line or the woman learns to insist on it. Without that pressure, he will never learn. In any case, a man can't be raped as per Indian law. He is this mythical creature who always wants sex, so there is no question of lack of consent - and countless relatively inexperienced partners of sexually active women will attest to the fact that they do get pushed beyond their comfort zone. If a woman is under social pressure of the male gender, the man's entire masculinity and existence as a man can be at stake in such moments. A man who can't "perform" on demand is a most embarrassing thing in terms of social conditioning.
A rather headstrong teenager slapped her lover awake when he fell asleep after climaxing while she was still horny and frustrated. Embarrassed at having fallen asleep and intimidated by her fury, he fumbled his way through that night and broke off with her the next morning, by which time she was horrified and embarrassed by her own behavior. "You can't force me" were his exact words, repeated over and over through the conversation.
She kept apologizing and begging him to forgive her. She had thought he had lost interest in her - as in he dumped her after sex. It was rape all the same - technically. A more humane term would be a learning experience for both of them. Neither of them were aware of crucial factors beyond their own experience. The girl didn't have an idea that men can need temporary time out after a climax. The man was not aware that women climax at all.
If a horny and clueless teenager can do this, an adult experienced woman can definitely pressure a man into "performing" beyond his endurance with a lot more expertise and knowing exactly how to do it. Not all men have the sexual resilience or skill to ensure that a woman also finds each sexual encounter satisfying. Till they learn, it can be extremely high pressure to deliver sex long after they have maxed out or more often than they are sexually able. One day it will make them better lovers. Or it may simply lead to a horrible sexual relationship they hopefully escape some day.
If we insist on reluctant agreements under pressure being up for evaluation as rape in hindsight, then we have to begin with the ethical stand that men too can be raped in this manner - are we willing to do that? Is it ethical to consider consent under pressure as rape only for women? Also, is it correct to blame a man for rape if there is consent under pressure even, unless there is an explicit threat or unfair pressure knowingly applied by the man? Can a man know all the factors that will run through a woman's mind before she agrees in order to know that the consent is not freely given?
There has to be some point where we have to take consent/participation at face value and it is the responsibility of each person in an adult interaction to make their peace with their choices. And to give consent with awareness of its implication and refuse it if not okay with it.
Saying NO and making it stick
Both men and women would be served better by widespread awareness of tools like safe words and emphatic "NOs" without mixed messages - where a refusal is a flat out refusal and no persuasion is welcome that leave absolutely no room for misinterpretation. This is important for both responsible adult communication as well as practical safety for women.
To say no, but continue other intimate touching, or remain accessible for further touch or escalate "I really like you, but..." type emotionally laden conversations, sends a mixed message that is very commonly interpreted as yes. If that is your intention, fantastic. I encourage you to attempt an eager "yes", because any responsible lover will wait for you to get there. If you are undecided, it is better to voice that and explicitly state a temporarily refusal or "find out as we go along" type consent so that the man knows to check for your comfort, than give mixed messages that can take the situation outside your comfort zone rapidly or to blindside with a refusal. This is the honest communication - stating your status clearly. Of course, if you've been yes till something turns you off, blindsiding cannot be helped.
The most important thing to educate people on is that they are not responsible for disappointing those interested in them gently at the cost of their own well being. If they are not interested in being intimate with someone, it is best to do a flat out NO. Alternative intimacy will neither satisfy an interested wo/man, nor will it convey a refusal. It will convey that you are interested in them, not yet enough for sex, but you're open to possibilities. Such possibilities will almost inevitably be explored, because such is the nature of horniness - it seeks a climax.Ironically, the chances of getting consensually laid in the future improve vastly in borderline situations if you can disengage and take care of your horny solo without imposing it on anyone before they are ready.
A person coerced into sex against his/her will has been wronged. But it does not follow that the wrong was deliberate unless that is also established. Sometimes bad judgment is just that. Sucks and wrong, but not a crime.
Nothing short of a climax satisfies a horny person. If that is not what you want, the best and kindest thing you can do for all concerned is to flat out refuse and stop all interaction. If you are not able to do this, you need to ask yourself what you are achieving by prolonging the risk.... and address it appropriately rather than slide into compliance. It is appropriate to be hostile instead of placatory when you want to push someone away. The fewer grey areas in such refusals, the fewer the mixed messages.
If there is structural or social power being exploited to take coerce someone, then the process of "NO" must also involve informing the structure of the exploitation of the power granted by it. Whether it is informing an organization about the inappropriate advance or a friend's circle about the camaraderie of a trusted group being misused to prey on someone. This vastly reduces the pressure on the target. It also allows for protective actions by others, like ensuring that the two are not left alone.
This needs to be a part of sex education.
apologies for the long read - it is a rough chapter from a book I'm writing. Was not able to shorten it gracefully.