Friday, November 26, 2021

Day 1: The GVR 2021 Launch

It is a delight to launch the 2021 Prajnya Gender Violence in India report, on the first day of the 2021 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence. The report hopes to articulate the many ways in which gender violence manifests in our society, the laws that address specific types of violence, and a compilation of cases and statistics. 

As rightly said by Dr. S. Shakthi, who moderated the session, "each iteration of the report [since 2009] has built on those that came before it, and the 2021 report carries with it, in some sense, the history of Prajnya itself." We are also glad to mention that the 2021 report, by our author-curator (for the second time in a row!) Kausumi Saha, includes a new chapter on 'Gender-Based Violence against Dalit and Adivasi Communities'.

an image of the speakers, attendees and organisers taken on Zoom [a video conferencing application].

Along with Kausumi, we also had with us, as our special guest and commentator. Dr. Rukmini Sen, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University, Delhi, who was kind enough to offer her valuable insights on the report. You can watch a saved copy of the recording here.

An image of Kausumi Saha, author-curator of the GRV 2021.
Kausumi Saha opened the session with her experience on curating the report, and on the importance of adopting an intersectional lens while looking into gender-based violence.

  • "Recently, the draft population policy in Uttar Pradesh, [a policy] which is highly punitive in nature, bars people who have more than two children from applying to government jobs and getting government subsidies. This has been criticized widely because it will, for sure, lead to higher instances of female foeticide and unsafe abortion, but also, it targets certain communities and takes away agency and control from women over their own bodies and reproductive lives."
  • "The Government of India has recently created a task force which recommends an increase in legal age of marriage of girls to 21 which faces criticisms from feminists and CSOs. This is because having the legal age of marriage as 18 has not stopped child, early, and forced marriages from happening. This is unless there is a complete overhaul of structural change in how we see girls and marriage."
  • "Human trafficking has been steadily on the rise during COVID-19 and lockdown, due to increased vulnerability and migration which has not been trackable. To add is the issue of slowing down of rescue units as anti-women trafficking movements have not been functioning during lockdown and pandemic."
  • "Workplace sexual harassment in the pandemic has found new places and more and more ways of expressing itself. There are instances of cyber-based violence in online classrooms and online workplaces, using emails and social media...During the second wave, when hospital beds and oxygen support was not available, and more and more women had to share their contact details online, their numbers were circulated widely without their consent and they have faced various kinds of harassment like - unwanted phone calls, images, and messages."
  • "Over the last few years, due to changes in increased fundamentalist forces in India, we have had a new wave of so-called 'love jihad cases and crimes related to that which is another form honor-related crimes, having its roots in both casteism and patriarchy, but also in islamophobia."
  • "We keep in mind that gender violence cannot be read independently of the intersecting identities of caste, tribes, economic class, abilities, sexual orientation, and so on. Power dynamics really lie at the center of gender-based violence. The various kinds of marginalizations that Dalit and Adivasi women face because of their social, cultural, and economic identities means that they are much more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence."
  • "What puzzles me is the language that continues to be used in the legal system- a language which is highly patriarchal, highly infantilizing towards women, and of course, there is barely any mention of gender minorities and queer is while writing this report that I actively look over cases and data, and I am continually shocked and surprised that we still have this kind of a language. We still look at women primarily as victims and our rape laws and our sexual assault laws are still very gender-blind. The pandemic has been such an eye-opener; We knew gender violence existed but the pandemic really brought into light the nuances and the various ways in which gender violence manifests." 

Prof. Rukmini Sen, during her comments on the report, shared with us the different theories that have shaped feminist spaces, and that it is imperative for us to (re)imagine feminist politics. She also highlighted that violence against persons with disabilities, and transgender persons continue to remain invisible in conversations centering around gender-based violence, and it is critical to create spaces for such dialogues.

  • "Remembering state impunity of any form of resistance and especially being threatened by any form of resilient solidarity, I would like us to salute the fighting spirits of all women and people of multiple genders encountering, negotiating, and surviving violence in their homes, workplaces, streets or caught in the crossfires of conflicts. It is equally important to foreground the importance of care and support that is needed as we engage with violence."
  • "There are 16 categories of gender-based violence that are discussed in the report following a consistent pattern that it takes - 
    • 1) What is the nature of the violence in question
    • 2) The manner in which international human rights conventions and protocols define this violence
    • 3) The data available on the violence from government sources, international agencies, and Indian human rights finding reports
    • 4) The mention of existing laws in the Indian Penal Code that seeks to address this specific gender-based violence in question
    • 5) The recent newspaper-based reporting or NGO-based reporting on that specific violence
    • 6) The ways of accessing the criminal justice system when a specific incident of gender-based violence happens
    • 7) A brief discussion on decisions coming in judicial pronouncements around violence when it reaches the court."
  • "While doing a course on Violence: Feminist Resistance and Critiques with the Gender Studies students in 2018 at Ambedkar University, Delhi, [we discussed] the ordinariness of violence; not the event-driven ones but the everyday ones; not the ones which only make national headlines, but also the ones that are projected as politicized or political; invariably the instances where the intersectionalities of the violence are evident - a case in point, Hathras, and Unnao. An exercise on 'walking the city' was conducted where a group of people, identifying themselves through multiple genders, in the evening, in an area which is historically significant in Delhi. Yet, this site is not explored for feminist classrooms.....walking is to knowing, and knowing is the first step towards overcoming fear of public spaces, which is a step towards developing feminist consciousness. In this assignment, a student reflected, and I quote - this took the form of an experiential walk because it not only assured us that public spaces are in reality supposed to be public, but each one of us who shared the experience now holds the narrative that affirms faith in solidarity."
  • "The inclusion of emotional abuse under the right to live with dignity is definitely a significant move and it brings me to argue that it is necessary to talk care, support, friendship together with discussing violence. In my EPW Essay Stay Home, Stay Safe: Interrogating Violence in the Domestic Sphere (2020), I suggest that we need to push the contours of discussion to reconceptualize both home as well as domesticity. We need to initiate talking about various kinds of shared residences, not only the ones that are formed through heterosexual homogamous marriages but foreground the political importance of affordable, abuse-free community housing for women, cutting across private-public discourses of violence as well as domestic violence."
  • "Care in its affective sense, in the sense in which it will create solidarity is silenced. One can not imagine the law to do it, but one can, of course, imagine feminist spaces to talk about it. I propose that it is needed to articulate that ethics of care, taking into account the exploits of care economy but also propagating a feminist politics of interdependence and care, alongside articulating multiple expressions of violence for a sustainable and just future."
Read the full-text of Dr. Sen's talk here.

You can access the Gender Violence in India report 2021 here

The programme video is also available on our YouTube channel here.

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