<link rel="stylesheet" href="//fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Open+Sans%3A400italic%2C700italic%2C400%2C700">women's rights Archives « Aam JanataSkip to content

3

Rape apologist is a term I have become very familiar with it. Every time there is an outrage on social media with accusations of rape or harassment made against a man, my refusal to join in or my questioning of the e-lynchings is interpreted as supporting crimes against women. Thankfully, I'm not particularly dependent on public approval for my well being, so no harm done. Yet. But this bothers me on another level. There seems something fundamentally wrong in how we see gender conflicts.

What is more important? A gender functional society or proving men wrong?

This is important to identify because the goal will determine the means we use. To prove men wrong (which appears to be the popular preference), not much is needed. You simply condemn them. Over and over. Attack them if they defend themselves, attack anyone who interferes in the process. Rinse, repeat. We have been doing this for a while. So where is the change? Where is the progress toward the goal? It is already established that men are the greater perpetrators of crimes against women than vice versa. What new thing do we prove?

My preference is a gender functional society. I am content to leave the process of fixing blame on the courts and focus my attention on how the problems can be prevented. I see no reason to judge an accused with the information available to me unless there is evidence that the legal process is being subverted. Then social effort is the inferior fallback. That too should eventually lead to the courts. I prefer to see women as individuals of varying capacity - as the feminists insist we should - see them as people. So I have no idea why we infantalize them and lower the bar of their autonomy so low that they basically trip into justice?

Not all women are powerless, truthful or fair

This particularly goes for upper middle class women in situations that are short of physical violence. Women of this class are increasingly actualized and assertive. They are most certainly capable of being the powerful person in the relationship (and thus having the power to abuse). They are certainly capable of lying, just as men are. They are capable of emotional manipulation (actually women who do this tend to be better than men at it, because men have considerably less emotional maturity and thus the skills to manipulate successfully). They can gaslight a partner just as surely as a partner can gaslight them. They are people. In all the dimensions that involves. It is very patronizing to consider them capable of being nothing more than victims, always (though the smarter the woman is, the more she will use this to her advantage).

No, I am not saying women are evil, or inherently manipulative and men are innocent. I am simply pointing out that BOTH are people. With all their flaws and vulnerabilities. If you want one of them to win and you take sides, fair enough, but let us not pretend it is a process of justice then, it is a gangwar between two sides. My preference is to hear both of them and ensure both of them are allowed to speak. To support the woman in following processes to get justice as well as support the man if he is being denied a voice in the name of protecting the woman. Hopefully at some point it resolves or goes to court where better people than me will judge.

Not all abusive men are malicious

Society raises men with some godawful defaults. Men, being on top of this foodchain have little reason to evaluate their privilege unless there is a compelling reason. This is not right. It is not wrong. It is what it is till something changes it. If we mean to change it, how are we planning to? By discarding the inferior specimen or upgrading them? Are they totally useless or do they have insights for us? What happens when a specimen did all the right things and then fucked up? Have you never fucked up witht he opposite gender? I have. I have completely missed all signs of reluctance in an inexperienced man when I was horny. He didn't refuse. I assumed consent. He didn't initiate, I assumed playing safe with a woman. He seemed horny. In reality he was attracted, but not expecting sex at all and he was not even close to feeling ready for it, let alone being ambushed by a much more experienced woman. He'd never had sex. When I realized, I felt like a lecherous pot-bellied uncle pawing at a kid. Thankfully I'm a woman. Also thankfully, I realized it before it went too far and before he was forced to speak up. I apologized. I hear it is a proof of guilt these days. It was still wrong. I did it. I learned what not to do from it. I didn't do it again. But it was completely unintended and I apologized and stopped when I learned. That is the magic word.

If we are to prevent gender violence, we need to engage with men. That needs to be a higher priority than cornering them for a lynching. Does this mean you become a "rape apologist"? No. Does it mean I forgive men if they say sorry? No. It means being aware that while you may enjoy being Jhansi ki Raani, the forgivenesss is neither mine nor yours to give. We are not the people wronged (except when we are, then of course it is our call). We best serve by keeping a dialogue open instead of shutting people up by speaking for them or not letting them speak. By supporting both, but also recognizing that women can be disproportionately more vulnerable to intimidation or violence and being protective observers. In other words, offering the conflict a safe space to play out. This can be as simple as calling an action unacceptable, but not taking sides and imposing our own preferred judgments.

But I don't believe that mass condemnations fulfill any useful purpose. An actual creep just adds to his bogus victim narrative and a genuinely regretful person cannot afford to hold the right stand because it will make him a target. At the same time, if the victim needs assistance and asks for it, we must extend it. If we believe she needs assistance and she hasn't asked for it, we may offer it. Beyond that, this business of targeting people is little more than a Khap Panchayat conducted on social media. Where random tinpot dictators carry out punishments on whim.

Not all wrongs are crimes

Divorce rates are rising rapidly. Relationships are breaking all the time. Almost each one of them will come to a bitter end before splitting. That is a lot of bitterness. And each one will have their own version of the story. People lie to their partners, they cheat on them, they say ugly, hurtful things, they fight, they are unfair to each other, they rewrite memories of time together through various interpretations in hindsight.... it is all human behavior. Men make passes at women, women can be so paranoid of misbehavior that they may see it in an ignorant action.

To me, a big part of what is right and wrong is intent. Whether the person intends hate or harm or whether it is an entitled idiot. Idiots can be educated. Malice is deliberate. It is in the interest of both men and women that there be education for the idiots and the punishments be reserved for malice. And I am saying this as a person who has been on the receiving end of serious wrongs at the hands of men. Some I will never forgive, others hurt more, but I knew it was an idiot, not a villain.

There is a legitimate space for counselling, for social dialogue, mediation, that is rapidly being lost in the lust to come down hard on "what we cannot accept" - it has become an exhibition of our own ethics more than a quest for functional solutions. When you see an idiot, there is no point saying his mother should have raised him better, it is better if you engage with him and help him evolve his thinking. I do that. Which is how I know a lot of people learn.

A lot of men learn the opposite too from the lynch mob culture

In recent years, I have seen men who would normally identify as "feminists" and lecture me about my sneering at feminists come to very very serious trouble over their actions with intimate partners. Actions they most certainly regret and don't defend at all. Actions they did not realize till too late were wrong. They have lost jobs, they have lost friends, they have been completely uprooted from life as they knew it. All three have sworn off intimate relationships for life. They are decent people. I have also heard a real creep say that if he's been branded as a rapist, he might as well rape. In none of the cases was the impact what one would hope for, for a functional society.

One could argue that the world is better off with them being single. Forever. It is a matter of perspective. I think people who tend to do wrong need intimacy even more than most, and they would be better off learning how to be functional with it. Who is to decide what is better? My view is that it should be the person wronged. But a truly authentic judgment by them too cannot be possible if we have a mob baying for blood and making any forgiveness look like a crime against women immemorial. Letting the side down and all, letting a man walk free, etc.

There is absolutely nothing preventing legal justice for the woman and indeed our presence should ensure that. But is it our place to push her toward one or the other? I believe not. I don't see a "virtue" in punishing men. I see a virtue in adequate amends being made, to the satisfaction of the injured party (no, I'm not talking about negotiating marriages by bullying her).

When confronted, it is invariably the decent ones who would admit and apologize if they even believe they were in the least at fault, because their ethics don't stand for harming women - and they do not like that they did it. But if any admission or apology is proof of guilt, then it is very fast education for men that even if you fuck up, don't admit. It is what the powerful do and get away with. This is counterproductive to gender relations.

Patronizing women does not empower them

Women are assumed to be the weaker gender for historical and actual reasons. Men, traditionally being the custodians of power, are assumed to be deliberately malicious in their actions against the woman. If they apologize, it is proof, if they deny, they are victim blaming. There is no right answer once the accusation is public. But there is no option that says they did not realize the gravity of their actions till too late. This would not bother me in the least if the guilt of the man were indisputable - for example crowds thrashing molesters brings me unholy glee. I definitely believe that social rejection of crimes against women is a superior answer to solving them than judicial punishments that happen out of sight. Because social rejection is deterrence as well. Gang rapes happen because some find it entertaining and others mind their business. Growing gang rapes is the opposite of this social rejection/

Even better if the man publicly admits his mistake. Still better if the woman forces him to do it and wins and gets him acknowledged publicly as the one in the wrong with his actions. Unless there is injury or other complications in the case, I actually believe this to be the superior solution to cases dragging on for years punishing the victim further - best case, years of inconvenience, worse case, reliving trauma over and over, lack of closure. At the end of it, the perpetrator gets punished - maybe. I definitely think an immediate and public demand for accountability, getting it and punishment or apology as the case may be is better.

But this too must be a woman led process. You cannot simply corner a man and bombard him with condemnation. There is a need for victims too to learn to find their voice and us LISTENING to them, instead of barging in with our recommendations is a good start. What does she want? Does she simply want to shame him? Does she WANT him to be cornered and forced to flee or apologize? Does she want to confront him and demand answers? Does she want a public acknowledgment of the harm he did to her? You will never know, if you already know what must be done with "men like him". Nor is the woman empowered in being thought of as too stupid to lie or too dumb to strategize how to confront someone who wronged her.

The more robustly and fairly you can hold the space for the process to play out, the more dignity you afford her. Or... if she was trying to frame someone, that comes out too. Help enough women - actually help through a situation, not just comment and forget and you'll run into it. And you don't get used and end up having to bear guilt. Have you ever thought what happened in the conscience of those "well meaning" souls who went on national TV condemning Khurshid Anwar for his rape that he was denying shortly before he committed suicide? I have thought of it often. He may well have been guilty or innocent. But what happened still wasn't justice. I don't believe having an ideological obligation to support women quite covers my willingness to risk irreparable harm to men for my conscience. I don't have a side in this war. I want evolution to coexistence. There is much to learn. For men, for (gasp) women, and for us, in relatively better off situations, trying to help others.

Nor does it do women any respect to blindly go with everything they say as though it is too much to expect a woman to have her words scrutinized like an actual person. Protect them from harm, definitely. Act on everything they say? Let's skip the Pavlov for a bit. Try this. Your mom is a woman too. It is very unlikely you wish her ill. Would you believe everything she said and act on her behalf immediately if she accused someonein your family or your father ? But then you know her. You see her as a real person. Worthy of you applying your mind to her situation and offering her your highest analysis instead of blind nods. You know what she can be counted on to narrate factually and where she is likely to be overwhelmed by her perspective. Unlike your trophies of messiah showcasing. You'd give her the respect of not being blind and responding on autopilot but being the eyes examining her blind spots. You would question, ask for details, want a fuller picture before jumping in with a high stakes decision. And you would back her interest all the way, and would be her fiercest champion if she were wronged but not necessarily based on the first emotional, incoherent and one sided narration! This isn't shaming her. It is support. It is support that cares to invest deeper thinking and want genuinely beneficial solutions. Women and men on the internet are real people too. Not just props for your exhibition of rapid ethics.

Unlike the people who call me names for raining on their exhibition, I actually make an effort to engage with the victim, offer support beyond social media and even my home in cases that need an exit. I have got in the face of raging men and stood in their way with flat out refusals for access to women. I don't need to talk pretty, because I solidly act in their interest and have done it enough to know that the tongue waggers are irrelevant to what needs to be done and short of physical violence, it almost never is immediate action. Takes longer than the life cycle of a trend.

Anyway, this is another partial ramble on the subject of gender relations (I'm planning to write a book, because too many things and nuances to consider).

Moral of the story is, you believe women are historically wronged and therefore every single man to harm a woman must pay for the sins of his fathers, so to say instead of having the luxury of being someone who didn't know better in the here and now. And this is assuming the accusation is truthful, I believe that if a man or woman can be educated to be more effective with the opposite gender, it is a value addition to a society. If they cannot, there still is a need for a space for calm dialogue, developing a larger picture and a person led process toward resolving - whether with understanding or legal process. Therefore, your responses and mine, to cases brought into social media courts differ because we differ in what role we believe society should play. It is ok. You have your view, I have mine. I have no idea which is better. I am choosing based on what I know at the moment. But I have the right to hold my view, as you do yours. Disagreement with you does not amount to malintent.

Some days I fear I'm going to end up as an ideological sanctuary for dysfunctional men in transit into gender sensitivity. Not because I won't put them six feet under and dance on their metaphorical graves (I have one hell of a ruthless streak) if called for. I totally would and I don't think anyone has any illusions about that. I think it will be because I won't, till called for, no matter what a mob thinks.

Because I'd rather society works, than finding someone to blame for it not working and having zero tolerance for any learning curve. I would rather have a presence that brings awareness and insist that the right thing be done, than simply discard people one after the other as they are found imperfect. Will be a pretty empty world then.

4

On an internet where a woman with opinions attracts a flock of men advising her on the opinions she should have, women who refuse to listen often become targets of those who decry them as feminists. And sometimes end up applying the label wrongly. As in my case. I am not a feminist. I think feminism is too focused on men, too focused on the face off with power than results, and has tepid goals.

I believe that every person on the planet should have the freedom to pursue his or her goals without interference as long as they don't harm anyone. Women face far more interference in the pursuit of their goals than men do. Often in the form of artificially imposed limits on what they should or shouldn't do, or preemptive demoralization about what they won't be able to do. Also I am a woman. So I take particular interest that women find ways over, under around or through unfair blocks to their pursuit of their choices.

Unlike feminism, I'm not bothered about men with regard to women's rights. In a country like India, where rights of everyone are trampled to some or other degree, wanting equal rights as men would practically amount to committing to limit yourself. If I'm fighting unjust limitations, why in the world would I commit to fighting them only to the degree men are able to? Besides, who died and made men the gold standard anyway? Society today is structured to suit men. Getting an equal stake in it will still not make it suit women unless women go ahead and create what fits their needs. And they are capable and they are doing it. And when blocked, they deserve the support to get past those blocks. Asking a male dominated society or government to grant women rights is totally not my game. I don't acknowledge the ownership of the male gender over rights of the female gender to grant or otherwise.

I don't care for the constant face offs with patriarchy that feminism gets into. Sure, they are necessary sometimes. But most times, it is just giving too much importance to what should be undermined, not persuaded. I prefer to get women past blocks by hook or crook and leaving misogyny to deal with it. In a magnanimous mood, I may even offer sympathy for their loss of power over women and provide some tips on surviving in a changing world. I prefer sneaky ways that avoid confrontations and spend the energy on results for women than teaching reluctant men lessons they don't want to learn.

I also find that feminism focuses on very few and specific problems women face - which usually aren't the biggest in normal pursuit of self actualization. While fighting injustice is important, the excessive focus often borders on surreal and can be very counter productive for women. And a lot of guerilla tactics women use to succeed in day to day life in real life, which I heartily endorse because they get results, would go against the ethics of feminism. Particularly under conditions of extreme repression. For example, compromising with patriarchy and wearing a 4 foot ghunghat, but using the "virtue" goodwill and negotiating the right to hold an indepeendent bank account - an area far more important that "tradition" doesn't have much "guidelines" for.

To give the bottom line, I'm interested in knowing what is the priority for the woman in question and using every trick, clean or dirty to help her achieve it, before moving to next priority. Picking battles. Sneaking in goals instead of face offs against a far more powerful and dangerous entity.

Feminism today works on TV. The ground reality in India is vastly different. A girl who falls for the propaganda to believe she has the right to wear what she wants WILL end up catering to the male gaze in the name of her "right", often sacrificing hard authority for acceptance and approval. Because what is "fashionable" caters to the male gaze. In the process, if her boobs get taken more seriously than her marksheet or if a rapist who is fully wrong ends up wrecking her life, it doesn't really matter who is wrong, because she will foot the bill regardless. Where are the voices explaining what women who wield power know from hard experience? That like you can dress to convey authority and professionalism, you can also dress to convey sexual permissiveness - which is what a lot of fashion does? Where are all the feminists who insist "I never ask for it" explaining how they dress strategically to present themselves advantageously in situations? Even to the point of conveying aloofness to imply authority? Merely stating the extremes of what is allowed is not empowerment. Knowledge is power.Having a competent strategy for situations that may put women at a disadvantage is power. Yep, you can totally flaunt your body if you want. Here is how and when to do it, so you get the results you want, instead of having to dodge gropers or having your brother arrested for your murder. THAT is empowerment.

We have a lot of theory - which is good. But there is little tying it to hard practical life experiences. Most of the conversations are in the stratosphere in a country where a woman can tell her friend "last night was fantastic. He totally raped me" - implying vigorous sex and not a rape at all. Where are the initial conversations that set definitions and ground rules on consent before the esoteric stuff on what the slightest rape is?

So no, I'm not a feminist. I'm a whatever worksist. Including falling in with patriarchy to mitigate risks for the more important stuff that must not fail. My idea of winning strategies is those that succeed before people wanting to block them even realize the move was made. And if they do realize, I'll choose my attacks, not meet them on their turf. The goal is success, the blocks are a waste of time and to fully be avoided as far as possible.

If you think women should know their place, I'm not a feminist, playing by the rules of a male dominated society. I'm much, much worse.

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.

It was alarming to hear the calls for hanging the rapists in the Delhi Gang Rape, even as it was heartening to hear violence against women take center stage for once. A year later, the alarm remains, while the hope is increasingly jaded.

There is a strange kind of feminism in the air. One that picks specific victims to hurtle into a media spotlight and hunts down those they accuse recklessly and with scant respect for women's rights as a whole. Glaring inconsistencies in our response, in my view do more harm than good. The practice of isolating women for justice is anti-feminist in my view, even if the leading culprits in India happen to be feminists.

The need is for rights to improve for all women, not just one or few we find grabbing our attention. Nor is the problem with women's rights merely sexual. I dare say that in India, domestic violence and economic exploitation are among the key areas of enslavement of women. This narrow vision and hyperbole laden public discourse is doing more harm than good by cherry picking cases with already easy access to media or enough dramatic value, while ignoring the more dreary and difficult to defeat realities.

It hardy takes a brain to say that a gang rape is evil. It does not take too much intelligence to whip up a "campaign" by forcing people to answer a question of which there really is only one answer other than claiming complete inhumanity. And the anger takes on a life of its own.

My vocal objections to media's role in the Tehelka Rape Case was born of alarm that elite feminism (and I'm using the term really loosely) seems to bypass courts of law altogether. While many criticized me for their imagined belief that I was defending Tarun Tejpal, my posts can be refered to even now. My problem was with media abandoning even a pretense of neutrality. Before the Tejpal case got heard by courts, we had Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhary - among those targeted - resigned. We had the victim, her witnesses and several other journalists resigning in protest. We had about 34 staff members fired. And the case had not even been heard in a court of law, let alone judged.

The question no longer remains one of "do you think taking advantage of a girl is right?", it becomes one of "What is a suitable punishment for what degree of crime, and who determines this after determining if the crime happened?".

The case of Khursheed Anwar highlights this question even more. Accused of drugging and brutally raping and sodomizing a woman activist he invited to stay overnight, he became another overnight social media villain. Unable to bear the humiliation (presumably) he committed suicide before his reputation could even grow into full blown villain potential.

As though his suicide somehow was proof of his innocence (or perhaps the scale of social media justice meter showed "overcompensation" forcing the return of some humiliation or something), several people immediately proceeded to accuse Madhu Kishwar of provoking his suicide (she had videotaped the testimony of the rape victim - with disclosure and consent - but not released it). Some outraged people went as far to accuse her of trying to provoke the suicides of two other women whose names had been withheld by revealing their identities, while a few articles went ahead to make allegations forcing her to issue a clarification that while she was approached for help and she recorded the victim's narrative, she did nothing with it, including taking further action or discussing with colleagues, and she named more people who circulated the footage (a copy was provided to victim).

In other news, Nitish Rane has been desperately trying to utilize this high potential formula by taunting Nikhil Wagle with allegations of his misconduct with another woman, an ex-employee at IBN Lokmat. Nikhil Wagle (and the rest of the world) have ignored these allegations - for now. I suspect the lack of media interest may also be related with the main ingredient of these TRP festivals missing - a helpless woman supported by more women talking about the helplessness of this woman or women at large and so on. Perhaps he will get it right. Perhaps we will find someone else to lynch.

The main thing here is that in all these three incidents, the victim herself has not filed a police complaint, and the method of seeking justice appears to be disclosure of ordeal in social media, making it viral, counting on insecure authorities to blink first in the face of all the noise and take notice, while the publicity machine delivers its own brutal "tabadtob insaaf". At best, it is forcing the government to take sides in a case that will be tried in a court of law through sheer media manipulation, thus rendering the person to lose the media war completely delegitimized with the government itself opposing them.

This is worrisome. Not just because of the possibility that guilt or innocence cannot be decided by who can raise the loudest mob, but also because of its impact on the rights of women outside the spotlight.

More importantly it is worrisome because the courts seem to have been bypassed almost entirely as a method of justice and have been converted into a kind of additional, official punishment, that could result in another bonus punishment in jail. The primary punishment happens in destroyed careers the minute you convince media that justice must be in your favor.

And this, as we see is a game of perceptions. For example, our diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who spoke up for women's rights, but went through considerable effort to pay her babysitter a fraction of the legal minimum wage that she undertook in writing to pay. Media currently sees her as the victim, and the maid who got paid at best a third of a due, and possibly even less than that, if her working hours were more is actually seen as the person harming this innocent diplomat who has won the perception war.

If social media manipulations to influence opinions for political reasons are big business now, I guarantee that within a year or two, high profile lawyers will be engaging social media teams to get their cases tried outside courts.