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7

What really gets my goat these days is the bull in china shop approach to women's rights, which has a male dominated state and society trying to fix everything (sexual assault) - for women. I am a woman and I agree that there is vast gender inequality in India. I believe that women need to be empowered. I don't see our methods as useful. I have started calling the gender ghetto.

There are two lobbies in conflict determining women's rights that result in actions somewhere in between - usually what is acceptable to both. The "feminist" lobby - which seeks to create sensitivity and ease of justice for women - particularly for rapes. The "patriarchy" which would prefer to control women. Most of the women of India fall into neither of these two influential groups.

The feminist lobby (as per my observation in INDIA) looks to show humanity the right path - regardless of whether change results or is immediately useful for women. In less polite words, it is an upper middle class hijack of the female gender that appreciates itself and interprets "victories" against patriarchy as empowerment of women (which isn't necessarily true).

Patriarchy is on more comfortable ground. They have control and it is about managing so that no women actually get into bastions of power. The best way is to create luxurious ghettos for women, sold to feminists as special attention to women's rights.

As a result, there is an abundance of measures taken specially for women that do very little to change the ground situation. There isn't a single place where women can claim to feel safer after all the agitation, in spite of a steady stream of laws, schemes, special facilities, forces... Unfortunately, this doesn't cause the women's rights activists to pause and wonder if more of the same would be useful either. On the other hand, the special provisions cannot be made for all women - too resource intensive. So you create nice ghettos of women's rights where the loudest voices are - and keep peddling the idea that "something is being done". Unfortunately, Indian feminists ARE gullible enough to fall for it as long as their egos are stroked well.

Human rights as a special grant for women

Safety is a fundamental right. It isn't something that is a favor granted to women. Women only banks, women's credit cards, women police forces (more on that later)... You create a new breed of men who "know how to treat women". You have morally upright people criticizing social media abuse of women "Is this how you speak with women?", as though abusing men is fine... in the ghetto. I'd call it bubble, except it is really a psychological ghetto. Not merely isolation, but marginalization peddled as women's rights, confining women to "safe" spaces with "better" rights that "appreciate" them.

So, your pub going woman getting molested is an outrage, because that space is supposed to be safe for women - indeed, less "inhibited" women are part of the appeal - besides, don't the passes say "couples entry"? On the other hand, the woman getting molested in a seedy country liquor bar should have known better than to be there. Because, the pub is an official gender ghetto. Women are supposed to be in that space. On the other hand, the seedy bar is the "real world", where no concessions will be made to women, and they must know "men will be men" while walking in.

Put your hand on your heart and tell me this is not so. That this is not how your perception works too, even though you'd like to respect "all" women?

The problem is the same. Drunk louts harassing women or worse.

Any woman who has asked a husband, male partner or male friend to escort her to a dance bar (if you're around Mumbai) or red light area will attest to reason for refusal - or at least serious caution - being "it isn't safe for women". In spite of the dancers and prostitutes being girls themselves. Think about why one kind of woman wouldn't be safe in a place where women are the star attraction otherwise.

In essence, this is a class phenomenon, mostly limited to the upper middle class. Very rich people can do what they like to women and get away with it through money power or connections. Lower middle classes hover on fringes, knowing that this protection is very unreliable if the perpetrator is from an upper class. Lower classes get routinely harmed and no one gives a damn beyond stray newspaper reports or the occasional case that has enough TRP value to elevate the victim to a more deserving category of human.

The ghetto can also be layered and existing in the same place as the "real world". In other words, your pub goer getting raped will be news. A pub employee getting raped may be news depending on job (no sweepers, please), but if the woman security guard in the mall the pub is in gets raped by patrons of the pub? Forget it. Brief mention somewhere if at all. News item, not women's rights issue. You don't want unnecessary restrictions on the patrons of the pub over a nobody. It is the same reason that in spite of alcohol being a factor in many crimes and routinely in rapes, you will never find the elites bringing this up. You do not want to create an aura of shame around alcohol if you drink yourself - as a vast majority of public figures do.

Identifying a risk factor in rape is not as important as retaining elite freedoms. Not even as a minor caution point like - "Avoid being alone with one or more men you can smell alcohol on, as alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions. Particularly if there has been the slightest unwelcome flirting or sexually crude behavior or short temper." This gender ghetto is selective about risks it protects from. Only some are to be prevented. Others can be condemned in hindsight, as preventing will be inconvenient.

It is also an age phenomenon, where this insistence on safety is largely relevant to young women, but kids get harmed routinely with little protest, as do older women. So it is basically a phenomenon of nationwide statistics of enormous inequality against women used to give select women a carte blanche - which is also an illusion. It is given only as long as it doesn't inconvenience any of those with power. Rape convictions are overwhelmingly more from lower classes. No one has a problem with the nameless louts being taken out of the equation.

Feminism in India is not into hard wars. It prefers moral elegance and the high road. Patriarchy is not going to give up controlling women and treating them as primarily existing to serve the male will. Their interests do not converge on issues like domestic violence and marital rape. So we have some talk about it, but no serious challenge. The gender ghetto is that golden area where feminism and patriarchy agree and create a special safe zone where those who belong can expect safety to be their right.

Patriarchy prefers handouts to sharing power.

Patriarchy sees power as a male domain. It may be allowed to others - within limits. Misogyny actively seeks to exclude women from power. For the misogynist mind, it is better to give women a gilded harem than let them sit among the men as equals. Creating these gender ghettos works very well for them. Political parties having women wings with duties to support but very little control on party policies. Women only banks - even if they are not economically viable. Women's credit cards - why give them male ones when we can tailor features and cashbacks to define their identity with shopping, groceries and so on?

And of course, women to provide security for women, women only police stations... pitting women police against men who are highly likely to be threats to women, rather than create an overall gender sensitive police force. Risks to women were never the problem. The problem was complaints about it. This looks like a grand gesture. See! We gave women power to bring men to justice! Now vote for us please. Yet, do women only forces find it easier to deal with criminals? Why would bringing criminals to book be a gender issue? What are male cops supposed to do if they get a complaint of crimes against women? The same thing as the women cops. Yet, rather than increase the representation of women among the police force at large, it is more misogyny compatible to give them their corner to occupy.

Laws that "protect" women.

While women are overwhelmingly more harmed by men than vice versa, creating laws that institutionalize a bias against men does not help anyone. It is the legal ghetto. That sanctuary for women where they only have to name the justice they need. Of course, there is the "real world" where cops refuse to file cases - or worse to make them go away rather than exercise their rights. This successfully fudges the idea of justice for women, turning it into something that is specially granted for them in a very dramatic and unreserved manner, whereas the reality is different. Nor is creating a special issue out of the right of women to seek justice as generous as it sounds. It is the fundamental right of anyone harmed by another to seek justice.

In our grandstanding that wants to make sure we leave no space for any crime against women to slip through (regardless of applicability in real world), we make laws so unreal, that it is easy to show how a man accused of rape cannot be innocent short of an act of God - effectively turning a rape accusation into something women do that men have no defense against - when it is not true.

Consider a woman filing a complaint that she was raped a week ago by someone when they were alone in the office. Give me any possible way the man could prove his innocence short of proving he wasn't in the place at all. The man is presumed guilty - unless he can prove his innocence - yet, how does one prove an absence? It is a logical fallacy we have enshrined through reckless law making that only aims to deal out grand punishments without a view on the larger picture.

There is a strong motive to do this. To enshrine dramatic punishments as an exhibition of "doing something" to "fight rape". What is essentially a social problem - the inability of men to court women or take no for an answer - gets dumped on the legal system where it can reside happily, out of sight of a misogynist society, which is not required to face how it treats women. Naturally, for this, the law has to sound like it really knows what it is doing. Even if what it is doing is creating the provision to amputate a decade out of a man's life and reputation on the basis of an accusation he has no real way to disprove. A provision - which like India's thousand grey areas will usually be ignored and conviction rates will remain low at the discretion of judges - who must face their varying levels of conscience on sentencing a man for ten years on the basis of the crime described. Some misogynists will let all kinds of rapists go, others will let only a select few go, but the law if implemented to the letter will let no one go unless there is evidence of innocence. This is the legal system basically reduced to the level of a service for women to do anyone in. Non gender ghetto women won't be able to pull it off, because cops will simply laugh them out of the police station.

But surely it helps women? Even if it is an unfair service that caters to a few women, at least those women get empowered, right?

In my view, it doesn't. Judges who are often notoriously misogynistic will protect rapists for "small mistakes" when 10 year sentences seem to be disproportionate for an act that leaves no trace. Number of rapes on record will go high, but conviction rates will drop so dramatically that filing an FIR for rape will be rendered a joke. This will additionally provide fodder for misogynists to trivialize the act of filing a rape complaint itself, and it will be very difficult to debunk, because they will use the impossibility of proving innocence as their argument, even though lack of convictions will prove that "impossibility" false in practical application. All in all, a whole avalanche of controversial rapes will crop up, giving great boost to the feminist industry, but will lead to increased perceptions of danger limiting women, as well as increasing hostility from men once they start looking at cases. It will do a grave wrong to women whose PROVABLE rapes will now be further competing with scarce legal resources for justice.

***********

It seems we identify an ideal that should be, and start acting like it is fact and simply ignore what doesn't fit. We want uncompromising punishments and we also want every single wrong to be punished and we would rather a few innocents get punished than a few victims fail to nail their abusers.

Yet, is all this hand holding resulting in more assured women? More confident, more safe, more purposeful? Or merely more reckless? What is it that we are achieving, and how long is this supposed to continue and at whose cost? Why is it that we are choosing a hyperbole laden decision making process rather than something more scientific, measured and balanced?

Who will it hurt if women stop getting special favors and instead get their rights?

 

Logged in to Twitter this morning to see a flood of wishes for a happy women's day. I replied "Thank you. For today and every day." which people found witty. Actually it wasn't so much witty, as it was a statement of intent.

Awareness for women's rights - at least in public is growing by leaps and bounds and I think it is time for the women of India to move to the next step. To leave the narratives of victimhood for addressing specific wrongs, and write a new narrative where it is NORMAL for a woman to exercise her rights freely, and any obstruction to it is what is abnormal. This is how it should be. Enough headlines of "brave girl" confronts her molester. If there is a molester that got away with it, it must be treated as the exception.

Is this entirely true? Not really. But then it is about as true as the narratives of victimhood. There are women getting devastated for women, and there are women who wouldn't dream of limiting themselves to being equal with men.

Here is a quick exercise. Look around you. Notice how many green things are there. Remember the smallest detail. Now name three blue things with eyes closed. We notice what we are paying attention to. And the more we notice the helplessness of women, the more we trap women in a perception of overwhelming lack of choice.

Something odd I found over the last year... which is also when I started distancing myself from mainstream media narratives of women's empowerment is that women who read news faced far more severe sexual harassment on the street, while women without access to much news usually responded with domestic restrictions, inflation and an overburden of responsibilities being the worst thing about being a woman in India - this was nearly every woman I spoke with in real life - strangely, across classes. Some had added issues like domestic abuse and alcoholic husbands. This was odd. How many were really bothered by the burning issue on women's rights in media? None liked it, but it wasn't on the top of anyone's pet hates about being a woman in India. So where was this priority for the media coming from? More importantly, what was it doing to the perceptions of those exposed to it?

I saw dangerous dependence building on male approval for the rights of women. Be it a male controlled media, or petitions for a male dominated government to provide a 33% reservation for women. So it isn't even as though we are demanding equality. The state of knee jerk "protection" of women by condemning any and all criticism in my view started working as yet another protective and patronizing cage around them. "Don't worry little girl, we won't let them say bad words to you." ... "Even if you earned them". In another words, still an isolation without women engaging as equals on their own steam.

This is a far cry from women taking out marches protesting lack of water in which many of our mothers participated. Openly, on the street. Furious with rolling pins and buckets in hand. Today, women marching for water would probably be seen as a sexist thing, with intellectuals going "Is it only women who need water?" and ignoring the reality that regardless of ideal conditions, fact remains that women do suffer the worst of water shortages, because their responsibilities require them to use a lot of water as well as be the ones having to reply to someone needing water that there isn't any. It is as though we have adopted some ideals as reality and lost touch with what is actually happening around us. Worse, we are telling men that they must make those ideals come true and in effect, declaring a lack of trust in the ability of women to LIVE on their own steam.

This is beyond absurd. While women still face horrendous treatment, conditions for them have never been better. Look at the population of the world and understand that women have managed to thrive in far more adverse histories without any special favors. Today, when they can, why is the easy war being handed over to men to win on their behalf or grant to them in an orgasm of benevolence?

It is important that evils be confronted, but it is also important that the confronting not happen at the cost of possibilities available to women. If our idea of women empowerment were working our generation would not be expressing insecurity so bad. We cannot adopt everyone. The need is to let women CLAIM their space - to what extent they think they need or can sustain. We can support. We cannot gift it to them, or all we see is a lack of value for it.

Today, if we look at media, the loudest voices decrying the conditions of women are women who never had to face the kind of adversity the women of India at large face. They are men who haven't had to face anything women face (d'uh). What access do we have to actual issues?

Rape? Our system has failed on rape. Nor can it succeed. It is impossible to do court cases faster than rape. A ten minute rape takes a decade of court time. And there is a complaint of rape every seven minutes, not counting systematic exploitation of disadvantaged communities, widows, economic misgovernance pushing women into the flesh trade,cases not filed, cases refused and more. Yet we are so addicted to "strong punishment" as justice, we fail to call a spade a spade and keep pushing one victim after another into the limelight and taking some kind of morbid satisfaction in retelling their tale and demanding justice for "this" one. Then we pat our halos, and satisfied we are saving the world, sleep peacefully.

Yet the fact is, violence against women is going to need a solution that will eventually look remarkably like the Khap Panchayats. Where a crime happens, it is taken to a group of people responsible for the community and gets instant verdict based on known facts and the victim is free to LIVE again, leaving the bare minimum of complex cases for the courts to dispose off as fast as possible. But our Khaps as they stand would be more likely to lynch the woman than get her justice and we have no plans for engaging with them and improving social thinking beyond banning Khaps, which are informal gatherings and as such impossible to stop. At best the name Khap will stop being used.

We are not able to create a society where domestic abuse gets condemned by the neighbours before it festers into a life spent in abuse. What is worse, we are barely trying for it. We want the courts to micro-judge all we do. And only for women, because they are specially powerless. That is what we are saying, because we make the woman about the vagina when we demand huge punishments and hangings. We are not able to see a sexual assault as an assault because we are not ready to let go of judgments that say women touched by men other than their husbands (and now boyfriends) are somehow rendered less. So if it was non-consensual, we look at it as destroying the spirit of that person forever.

We talk of divorce settlements where only the husband pays alimony to the wife so she can afford to live. What about her parents? They washed their hands off her when she married? Why are they not legally expected to help support her to live independently as well? This still sees the woman as a property that got transferred from parent to husband and is now attempting to be self-owned (which will be seen as "society" - read opportunistic exploiters - as public property, because women owning anything is so absurd).

This women's day, I am hoping for power for women. Where a rape victim is able to dust herself off and get on with life just like the victim of a mugging. Perhaps more jittery in dark alleys, but most certainly not imagining judging eyes stalking her through life. Where the punishment of a rape is about the crime and damage done more than outraged modesty.

I am hoping for a world where more and more women openly do things previously off limits so that another woman at risk of being refused for her gender can point to commonly seen examples and say "of course women do these things".

I am hoping for a world when we can empower women with knowledge for her safety instead of a cottonwool cocoon that says, "Don't worry, baby, this business suit will make you look professional to all, but a strapless dress invites only those you intend" and leave it to the woman to discover the hard way, when we go "But this isn't supposed to happen!"

When we care about the women we claim to lead into new thought more than the ideals we are trying to peddle, so that we teach them that while the freedom is their right, it is a right currently under dispute by idiots who do not wish to give up exploiting and it is a good idea to play safe and have back up, but push boundaries as much as they can anyway.

I wish that empowered women can engage with younger girls getting their first taste of freedom to be the mentors that are missing in the earlier generation, that speak of freedoms, but not only from patriarchy at home, but also an exploitative patriarchy outside that would enjoy exploiting "free" women for entertainment without the least interest in their freedom. To prevent many women walking into traps we navigated without a guide.

To recognize that denying that women often attract the attention of men - even random men - is not doing millions of vulnerable girls any favors when they get exploited for their HEALTHY INTEREST IN SEXUALITY THAT WE DENY. The knee jerk defense of virtue of women leaves behind those most at risk. The hundreds of thousands of young girls who flirt because they are just learning the intoxication of male attention and have no idea how much promise or threat is really there. We were that woman too, once. We went through those giddy behaviors too, once. And we aren't bad people, are we?

I hope we can become secure in seeing women as people where we can restore their right to make mistakes and be burned for them without needing to prove their "innocence", as though guilty women should be burned. So, she was slutty and unwise and she got raped. She was foolish, but the rapist is a criminal. You don't have to deny her right to make a mistake to call a criminal a criminal.

It is high time the idea of women empowerment put WOMEN first. Regardless of whether their conditions are ideal or not. In recognizing that the conditions of each are unique, as are their needs, and the fight must be for keeping possibilities open for all regardless of culture, character, broad/narrow mind or whatever.

Here is to hoping for an India and a world where women are only limited by their abilities, and there are always ways around adverse conditions. We throw the world open and walk into it as is our right. Halos and warts and all.

2

From: Shoma Chaudhury <shoma@tehelka.com>
Date: 27 November 2013 8:13:35 pm IST
To: ******
Cc: Editors <editors@tehelka.com>
Subject: RE: Resignation with immediate effect

Dear ******,

It is unfortunate that your resignation from Tehelka comes under these circumstances. As you have said, we have stood together for women’s rights, and today for me to be seen in opposition to you is a real travesty by any account.

In the absence of an existing official grievance redressal mechanism in office, along Vishaka guidelines, when this crisis hit, I acted on instant outrage and solidarity for you as a woman and a colleague. My responses may not have reflected the correct formal procedures but the intent cannot be doubted.

To feel a sense closure, you had asked for a written apology from Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal; an acknowledgement of this apology to be sent to office; and the setting up of an anti-sexual harassment cell in Tehelka.

Within one day of your complaint, you had the written apology. Tarun stepped down the next day. After this, the process of setting up the anti-sexual harassment committee was begun. I asked you to suggest names as well. You are yet to give names of your nominees.

There were only two days to act on your complaint before the story broke in the press. I believe the taken actions strongly count as my standing by you. Post this, things have been misconstrued and have snowballed exponentially in the media, based on half-facts and selective leaks.

In your initial conversations with me, you had wanted redressal from within the institution in a way that would acknowledge the gravity of your complaint, yet protect your privacy. I proceeded with this in mind. You, above all others, in the clamour surrounding us today, know the truth of my actions in support of you.

You have accused me of many things in your resignation letter. This is not the time to enter into a detailed point-counter point exercise with you. There are, however, a few things that must be set straight, particularly given that I am being publicly accused of a ‘cover-up.’

Firstly, the written apology was forwarded to your three journalist confidantes. This cannot be read as an attempt to hush-up things.

On 19 November, I called you to check whether you an acknowledgement of Tarun’s apology should now be sent to the Tehelka staff. I also strongly urged you to continue working in Tehelka, if you wanted to. You said you needed a week to think it through and asked me to hold-off the acknowledgment till then. This is the only reason an acknowledgement of the apology was not sent to the staff and bureau immediately.

Regarding your assertion in your resignation letter that I am only “now” attempting to establish that Tarun has “another version”: this is factually untrue. It was recorded in my first email that he said he had ‘misread the situation’. This ‘other version’ is also on record on 19 November in the personal email from Tarun to you, which you copied to the three journalists and me in your reply. Subsequently, this version was also discussed on the phone between you and me.

Questions have been asked about why I did not go to the police. In our conversation, you had mentioned that you had considered this option but did not want to go that route. I thought I should respect that and had no reason to disbelieve this, as you had already spoken to journalists about your sexual assault, and both they, and you, could have gone to the police in the ten days that transpired before you brought your complaint to me. Once the enquiry committee took the matter into its hands, its recommendations would have been followed and the course of law would have taken over.

In so far as the issues you have raised over Tarun’s recusal letter, and my use of the words “untoward incident” or “satisfied”, I have already been on national television both accepting and explaining how and why the vocabulary of this was inadequate. You also have emails from me, copied to the three journalists, on Thursday, 20 November, explaining this.

I accept that you may have found expressions I used, verbal or written, inappropriate. I am sorry about this, and only say that notwithstanding the mildness perceived in my language, I took strong steps to ensure that there could be no possible silencing of the issue.

Regarding your objections to the wording of Tarun’s written apology, you received this email on Tuesday afternoon, 19 November. You mailed wanting phrases changed on 21 November, after the press storm triggered by the leak. By then, events were too fast-paced, to address your concerns.

After Wednesday night, 20 November, we haven’t spoken or communicated in any way, other than through emails. The suggestion that I am involved in any attempt to intimidate you or your family is absolutely untrue and uncalled for. The same goes for your claims that I have indulged in character assassination or slander against you.

From the moment I received your complaint, my actions, were driven by outrage on your behalf, urgent concern for you, and a desire to assuage your sense of injury. In this, contrary to assertions in the media, I was, in fact, demonstrably driven to honour your word above any other. To this extent, I, rightly or wrongly, did not even cross-check your account with the other journalists you had confided in, until you had been given the official apology you sought.

At the end, you have accused not just Mr.Tejpal, but Tehelka of failing “women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively”. This accusation unduly extrapolates the events of the last week with an institution whose journalists, staff and body of work have nothing to do with it.

Today, despite my immediate and assertive actions in support of you, I stand wrongly defaced and accused of having abandoned the public values I uphold in my work. This leaves me inexpressibly dismayed.

I wish you well in the future.

Shoma

http://tehelka.com/author/shoma-chaudhury/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shoma-Chaudhury/147949388590130

==========================================================

From: ******
Sent: Monday, November 25, 2013 1:29 PM
To: Shoma Chaudhury
Cc: Editors
Subject: Resignation with immediate effect
Importance: High

Ms. Chaudhury,

I am resigning from my position as ****** at Tehelka magazine, with immediate effect, because Tehelka's Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal sexually molested me on two occasions in November this year.

I am deeply traumatized by the lack of support offered by the organization.

In such circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to work for this organization.

At this moment, I would like to present the following facts to support my claim:

1. I was sexually molested by Tarun Tejpal on two ocassions, the 7th and 8th of November 2013 at the annual Think festival in Goa this year. In the emails of apology that followed my complaint to you about Mr Tejpal’s grievous sexual misconduct, he admitted to the fact, and apologized unconditionally.

2. I requested, at the very least, for Mr Tejpal to acknowledge this apology publicly to the staff and bureau of Tehelka. While I did not want this acknowledgement to have graphic details, I asked that the words “sexual misconduct” be included. In a phone conversation with me, you asked that he be recused from doing so because he had already admitted to sexual molestation in his emails, and because we needed to “protect the institution”. In this conversation, I said, “I trust you to do the right thing”.

3. In the public acknowledgement sent to the bureau, Mr Tejpal and you referred to his act of sexual violation as “an untoward incident” — this was not an attempt to “protect the institution” but in fact, an attempt to cover up what had really occurred — the act of sexual molestation, an admission of the facts that Mr Tejpal had “attempted sexual liaison” with me (to quote his email) on two occasions despite my “reluctance to receive such attention”. Further, in conversations with my colleagues, you admitted to them that you did not see the need to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per the Vishakha guidelines, because you did not contest my version of what had occurred on the nights of 7th and 8th of November.

4. In your appearances on national news channels, you first attempted to establish that I was “satisfied” with Tehelka’s actions, when only one of my immediate demands from the organization had been met — namely, that Mr Tejpal had unconditionally apologized for sexually molesting me in private emails to you and I. His public acknowledgement of the apology did not include any reference to his grievous sexual misconduct, and you had still failed to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per Vishakha guidelines. This could, in no way, have left me “satisfied”. Further, I had responded to both of Mr Tejpal’s emails (cc'd to you and the three colleagues I had confided everything to since the 7th of November) clarifying:

A) that his behaviour could not be described as “sexual liaison”, and that was in fact an act of sexual molestation and a violation of bodily integrity and trust, since it occurred (by his own admission) despite my refusal.

B) A sexual act carried out without consent cannot be justified on any basis.

C) That after Mr Tejpal (by his own admission) had referred to his position of power over me in the organization, he did not withdraw this statement as his emails allege.

You continued to ignore my rebuttals to these emails, while insisting, in public, that I was satisfied.

5. You are now attempting to establish that Mr Tejpal has “another version” of events (as surely, any sexual predator does), and that the “encounter” may have been consensual or non-consensual. Meanwhile, on the night of the 22nd of November, an immediate member of Mr Tejpal’s family went to my mother’s house to ask her the details of my legal counsel, and what I “wanted” as a result of my complaint about being sexually molested by Mr Tejpal. In emails and text messages sent to his friends, read out on national news channels, Mr Tejpal is now claiming that what occurred was a “fleeting, consensual encounter”; and that he wrote his apologies to me because of your “adamantine feminist principles”.

Over the past years, we have collectively defended the rights of women, written about custodial rape, sexual molestation at the workplace, spoken out harshly against the culture of victim blame and the tactical emotional intimidation and character assassination of those who dare to speak out against sexual violence.

At a time when I find myself victim to such a crime, I am shattered to find the Editor in Chief of Tehelka, and you – in your capacity as Managing Editor – resorting to precisely these tactics of intimidation, character assassination and slander.

Given the sequence of events since the 7th of November, it is not just Mr Tejpal who has failed me as an employer — but Tehelka that has failed women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively. Please consider my resignation effective immediately.

******

t is no news that people in power couldn’t care less about the problems you face. At the same time, if they are to continue exploiting your votes for fun and profit, they must at least pretend to be doing something, so that they can later claim they tried and failed.

Seeing as how most of these people are chauvinistic pigs, it is no surprise that it is to their advantage that women get no real protection from rapists. After all, what would they do themselves, if raping became too difficult? Such people, with as much humanity as rabid dogs are increasingly caging women in, limiting their scope as humans, as professionals – which is something that they grudge anyway – in a pretense of protection.

The recent gangrape of a woman who worked in a pub has provided the Gurgaon administration with the opportunity to take state state sanctioned misogyny to a whole new low without actually doing anything at all to address the problem. ANYTHING AT ALL.

Here is how:

  1. The administration has told all malls, commercial establishments and pub owners that they cannot have women employees working beyond 8pm. Are only women employees getting raped? No. But this effectively means that women will earn less, be less likely to get a job if they cannot work for the full duration ANY place in Gurgaon that is open at night works. This will be a big blow to not just women’s earnings and work opportunities, but will have an impact on countless households where working women spend their entire salaries on running the home and caring for children. [Update: Don't just think of this as bar girls and restaurant waitresses. What happens to a woman executive's job if she can't work late on projects in emergencies without "permission from Labour Department"?] What will this achieve that is worth this kind of damage inflicted on these women? ZERO. Women patrons of pubs, bars, cinemas, will still be there late night. Only they will be an even more extreme minority and more likely to be targeted.
  2. Gurgaon deputy commissioner P C Meena said permission from the labour department would be required for a woman employee to work beyond the stipulated time in these establishments. What is the track record of the Labour Department in addressing the concerns of anyone at all? Apart from a new outlet to bribe, what will this Labour Department do about permissions requested? How can they be verified? How can faking information be prevented? Will women who get permission be allocated security by the Labour Department? No. So what will be achieved other than a hindrance to normal functioning? Again, ZERO.
  3. For staffers permitted to work after 8pm, the employer would have to provide transportation for them to go home, he said. In case P C Meena hasn’t read the news, the woman who got gangraped WAS in transportation AND accompanied by her brother. Did the kidnappers abduct her because she was using a taxi and not a company car? What dies this guideline achieve? ZERO.
  4. He directed employers to maintain a log book to record details of vehicles used to transport women employees, their time of departure, name of driver, etc. But tracking her transport was not a problem at all. The taxi driver had in fact approached the Gurgaon Cops for help along with her brother. He is cooperating with the police, he is speaking freely with news media. While this is a good idea anyway – and most people do it, it actually does ZERO to address the problem or PREVENT rapes, because drivers on payroll may not be the ones raping women. In fact, this is a subtle and baseless accusation on drivers.
  5. Any information about women employees working after 8pm should be sent in advance to the labour department. During inspection, the permission received from the labour department for deploying women beyond the permitted time will have to be produced when asked for by district administration officials,” said Meena. Meena seems to  either be unfamilar with pubs or hasn’t bothered to read the case. The woman who got gangraped was not an employee of the pub, but someone who offered to partner men to gain entry into the pub. She was a kind of “freelance” companion on hire. For the purposes of any inspection this moron is planning, she was a client of the pub. What could something like this have done to save her?ZERO.
  6. Meena directed officials to conduct surprise checks to ensure the order is being implemented. Looking busy is important. Implementing useless orders achieves ZERO. Other than helping the police economy by opening another avenue for bribes.
  7. Owners of malls, pubs and commercial establishments have been asked to install CCTV cameras at pick-up points near buildings. This has already been asked many times. What is new? ZERO. Did the woman get abducted from near any such potential camera location? Nope. Did this recommendation for CCTV get enforced? Obviously not, or he’d not be telling this again.
  8. Expressing concern over incidents of eve-teasing, molestation and assault, Meena said it shall be the responsibility of pub and malls owners to ensure that these places are shut within the closing time indicated in their licences. It is perfectly legal to be out on the street all nights. What does closing pubs on time do to prevent rapes? ZERO. If anything, the more people are around, the less likely rapes would be?
  9. Pub operators have also been asked to maintain records of visitors. They should keep a photocopy of the customers’ identity cards and show these to the area SHO once every 15 days. Are you fucking kidding me? Why the fuck should I be treated as a criminal by default? Do I or do I not have a right to privacy? In any case, what does this do to prevent rapes? ZERO. It only gives the cops a whole new bunch of people to hassle for money.
  10. Malls have been directed to disconnect electricity connections of pubs that stay open after closing time. What does that achieve to protect women? ZERO. Wait, minus several. Who protects the women patrons from being groped in the dark by assorted drunks?

In other words, none of the actions actually address the problem, though they seem to have been issued as a solution. Not one. Women also get raped in the day. Women get raped or abducted in cars. How about banning cars?

The police are shirking their responsibility by vaguely making it about drivers, about the character of women. For example, Firstpost, challenging the cops breaking law by revealing identities and maligning victims quotes:

Take, for instance, Noida superintendent of police Anant Dev who told reporters that the victim “willingly went” with the accused “because she wanted an alcohol party from the boys,” helpfully adding, “She even mentioned she wanted vodka. She was involved in a physical relationship with more than one of the accused.”

In my view, what is happening here has nothing to do with preventing rape, and everything to do with disclaiming responsibility for maintaining law and order and punishing women for being raped and exposing their lack of law and order.

Why is there no comment on the inability of the police to track down the Maruti 800 used to abduct her in spite of being given its registration number? Why is there not the least apology that the Police van her brother and the taxi driver approached to request for assistance did not pursue the escaping kidnappers?

When Keenan and Reuben were stabbed on the street and onlookers didn’t do anything to help them, there was this hue and cry and massive guilt. There was very clear blame on the onlookers for not helping. When cops are PAID to prevent such crimes and are given the licence number of the car of the criminals and requested for help, and they allow the criminals to escape, in my eyes, the cops are accessories to the crime. It could not be possible without their active acting in contradiction to their duties.

In my eyes, the real guidelines here need to be issued to the police, not citizens. And I think P C Meena should resign, and any pension or money due to him should be distributed to people he is asking to do his job for him. In other words, pay for CCTVs in public places with his salary, for example.

Gurgaon should have a massive Occupy The Night Movement – where women remain out on the street all night, every night as protest – even if they end up simply sleeping on the street, before the police take away the city from them and hand it over to criminals to enjoy.

6

I wrote this post quite a few times, totally different each time, and finally decided to scrap it all to simply state my bottom line.

There is a lot of gender inequality in the world. Women are often victimized for being women. There is high and increasing incidence of violent crimes like rapes, murders, acid attacks, brutal beatings, forced marriages, dowry demands, dowry deaths, threats of harm, honor killings, molestations... the list goes on and on.

Every time I have written on the subject, I have had a few people pestering me insisting that I talk about harm done to men. Yet, every time I have asked them to bring up enough content to protest for men's rights, none have returned. Some examples provided by such activists for men's rights have ranged from "wife forcing me to watch stupid TV shows" to "economic terrorism", in the sense of asking to give money at home. None of these petty examples have included those with any physical harm or loss of life.

This is a tiring and petty attitude. It is immature and abusive to even compare loss of life with being forced to watch a TV show, yet I am flooded with these inane comments every time I speak up for a cause.

However, these comments serve an important purpose. They serve to demonstrate the massive sense of entitlement most men have, where it doesn't even seem irrational to present such examples as a part of a serious objection to raising awareness of women's rights. It is this utter disregard for what a woman goes through that has remained the hallmark of a culture that sanctions and turns a blind eye toward abuse. Where the male in his prime years is held in such high esteem that his inconvenience or irritation holds more weight than countless deaths scrolling through our newspapers on a daily basis.

Such men usually hate me, but prefer to call me a man hater instead. They do not like the attention not being on them. They do not like not being the ones receiving attention. They do not like to own any accountability for any harm from callous attitudes as they demonstrate. Their largest problem with me is that they are not able to prevent me from speaking up, they are not able to distract me from speaking up, they are not able to prove me wrong. I hold the attention firmly on the cause and do not allow it to be derailed. So, I am "insensitive to the rights of men".

It is ugly, but it is as innocent as a child's tantrum, for the simple reason that they have not reached a point in their learning where they are able to appreciate people. If I hated them, I would be doing an injustice, because ignorance may be irritating, but it is not a crime, and it is never deliberate. No one aspires to be insensitive.

Sadly, such men are also the vast majority. Which is also the problem with creating a safer society with women. Half the population sees no need for making any such effort. Crime statistics mean nothing to them, and pointing those statistics out irritates them, because they don't think it should take up too much attention.

Others claim to support women, but there is this patronizing cage. They support women "to a certain extent". They allow women some rights, as long as they don't do it "too much". So, these people look like support, but they are not, and that hurts more, because till that point, there is this illusion of that person actually caring.

And, in the midst of this mediocre, unenlightened sea of humanity, are some men who genuinely see women as people. They don't believe they have any rights to impose limits on another. They see injustices and raise their voice. They recognize that women often get suppressed and have no problem in accepting and supporting this as something that needs fixed on an urgent basis. These are men the world needs more of.

Not so surprisingly, these are also the men who are sensitive to the rights of men. Not the TV torture types, but real harm being done to men, that chauvinists don't notice just like they don't notice harm to women, because they are simply not tuned in to others. They grudge women more, because women suffer injustice more. It isn't like they are capable of understanding men either. A person sensitive to another has no insecurity with a cause taking up all the space it needs to.

It is the sign of a mature person. A confident person, who is not diminished by others being nurtured.

A friend had married last year. We hated the guy and had refused to attend the wedding. Her parents had reluctantly agreed. The man was a peacock. He was so full of his own importance that he simply didn't care about anyone else and as this led to irresponsibility and conflicts. A year after their marriage, she was back at her parents place with a black eye. Two days after she left, the boy came to her father's house to "convince her to not destroy her life and come home". Her father refused to let him in the house, told him to go away and conduct any further communications through a divorce lawyer and threatened to call the cops if he didn't leave at once.

This takes a man. A man who sees his daughter as a human being being wronged and doesn't consider idle chatter of a spiteful world enough reason to make her suffer more. Sure, she got a lecture about her irresponsible actions and refusal to listen to any of us, but that did not mean that she would have to pay for it by suffering.

There are men who think for themselves, and expect that a woman has as much right to live and be happy as a man. Men who do not force women to comply to imposed rules. They are also free in a sense most men are not able to understand. They are free from having to always be in the right and proving superior that victimizes many men.

A tantrum throwing man who has a problem with another person getting too much attention is juvenile. It is the opposite of sexy like a headache is the opposite of aroused. There is no sense of ease, of freedom, of enough relaxation for attraction to bloom. It is a jumpy game of power, where everything is seen through a rigid, defensive lens of approval and disapproval.

On the other hand, a man who enjoys seeing a woman being herself, who is able to see a difference as a healthy thing and doesn't make a monument out of winning every tiny issue is sexy because there is a sense of being real. A trust in being able to understand the relationship by things making sense, rather than comply out of some vague sense of hierarchy and how a relationship should be.

In my eyes, a man worthy of respect is one I can safely disagree with without suffering for it. I don't have to dumb myself down and pretend stupid or risk hurting their ego. These men are attractive, and I am not speaking of "sexual attraction" here. I am speaking of charismatic, magnetic personalities you can be yourself with. Men rooted firmly in their values rather than rules. Like being with a superstar as an equal. Very fun. No matter what the age.

These are also the men who happen to say NO to the rubbish hangovers of an oppressive past. These are the men who are truly free to evolve.

 

This Blog is part of the Men Say No Blogathon, encouraging men to take up action against the violence faced by women. 
More entries to the Blogathon can be read at www.mustbol.in/blogathon. Join further conversation on facebook.com/delhiyouth & twitter.com/mustbol