India’s Daughter & Rape Culture

[Two articles below about India’s Daughter film of 2012 rape in India]

India’s Daughter review – this film does what the politicians should be doing

By Sonia Faleiro, author of 13 Men The Guardian, March 5, 2015

gbviolprotest India’s Daughter is director Leslee Udwin’s stirring documentation of a crime that triggered what she has described as “an Arab Spring for gender equality” in India.

The December 2012 Delhi bus gang rape resulted in the death of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh at the hands of six men. The men threw Singh and her male friend out of the bus before gleefully divvying up the pair’s belongings.

One rapist got a pair of shoes, another scored a jacket. There was, however, an item that Singh had left behind which the men didn’t want. So they wrapped the innards they had wrenched out of her in their frenzy of violence in a piece of cloth, and pitched it through the window. “They had no fear,” Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus and one of four men to be convicted for Jyoti’s rape and murder, tells Udwin.

The interview with Mukesh Singh, whose death sentence is currently in appeal, is a coup for Udwin, who is the first journalist ever allowed to talk to him, or any of the men. She will likely be the last. Yesterday the authorities banned the film in India after claiming that Udwin had failed to get the requisite permissions. Shortly afterwards the parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu described the film as “an international conspiracy”.

Naidu’s allegation is bewildering, given that the film reveals little that is new either about the crime, or the mindset of the man convicted of it.

Journalists have reported on the rape in detail. And surely it comes as no surprise that someone who participated in a gang-rape and is now on death row will place blame just about anywhere it might stick in the hope of a reprieve – the grinding poverty that he was born into, the overbearing nature of his older brother, who is believed to have masterminded the assault, even his victim.

A whining Singh comes off as genuinely unconvinced that he should be in jail. “She should just be silent and allow the rape,” says Singh, implying that if Jyoti had only done the right thing and let the men take from her what was theirs – her body – she would still be alive today.

In fact audiences, in India at least, are unlikely to flinch at anything Udwin has to show them. If she thinks that she is holding up a mirror, she should know that Indians have been looking into it for some time now and are as eager for reform as those outside India demanding it on their behalf.

Even the statements of the two lawyers for the men, in which they describe women in terms as disparate as diamonds, food, and flowers – objects all, of course – before finally admitting that “in our culture there is no place for women” will sound familiar.

But it is the dismaying familiarity of the views expressed by Singh and his lawyers – which are now mainstream in India, echoed by everyone from politicians to high school students – that makes this essential viewing. Some will argue that the unapologetic misogyny revealed in these interviews is a skewed representation of the Indian male mindset. But it is, in fact, widespread.

Delhi protest

‘No rape’ message during a demonstration in New Delhi. Photo Mahesh Kumar/AP

 Singh’s interview also confirms that Indian jails restrain; they do not rehabilitate. It is obvious, given the views he expresses to Udwin, that were he to be released today he would walk the streets of Delhi still convinced of the lopsided inevitability of relationships between men and women: what men want, women must promptly give, even at the pain of death.

Udwin has opted for a tight focus, but some viewers may wish that she had embraced a broader view of the rape crisis in India. The country’s history of anti-rape agitation, for example.

The protests that followed the death of Jyoti Singh may have been the largest against rape, but they were certainly not the first. Earlier high-profile crimes such as the 1972 Mathura custodial rape case also led to legal reform, and laid the groundwork for the development of the protest constituency that filled Delhi’s political corridor from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate that December, in what ultimately turned into a war zone of tear gas, lathi strikes, and police violence.

But Udwin, like any good field reporter, doggedly pursues this one case from start to present, unable to tear herself away even for a minute. Her intimate focus allows for a more affecting narrative.

Jyoti Singh’s parents emerge as superheroes, radiating courage and strength. Her father Badri Singh, then an airport loader, comes across as exactly the sort of modern, forward-thinking, male feminist that India would be so lucky to have many millions more of. And her mother, Asha, who says of Jyoti’s birth “we celebrated like she was a boy”, was surely the propeller that allowed her daughter’s soaring ambitions to take flight.

Udwin skilfully contrasts the light in Singh’s young life with the darkness that engulfed the lives of her rapists.

The Singhs were poor, but they cared for their children fiercely. Jyoti, their only daughter, grew up well-adjusted and focused, but also deeply empathetic. One of her friends recalls that after the police picked up a street urchin for snatching her purse, Singh, rather than berating the boy, took him aside and asked him what made him do it. Because I want what you have, he said – shoes, jeans, a hamburger. Singh, recalled her friend, promptly took the boy shopping and bought him everything on his wish list. Her only stipulation was that he not steal again.

The word “happy” repeatedly comes up in reference to Jyoti. She was happy, said Asha Singh. She had only six months of her internship left, recalled Badri Singh. “Happiness was a few steps ahead.”

In contrast, the six men who would take Singh’s life appear never to have encountered happiness. The juvenile left his home in a village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh when he was just 11 years old and didn’t return. His mother thought him dead. The others were familiar with poverty and violence. In turn, they were violent towards others. “There is nothing good about him,” Singh says of one his co-conspirators. Of another he admits: “He was capable of anything.”

A psychiatrist in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where Singh is lodged, tells Udwin that he knows of rapists who have committed as many as 200 rapes before they are ever caught. Two hundred rapes that they remember, that is.

Given Singh’s own statements it isn’t a stretch to say that had the men got away with raping and killing Jyoti, they would have raped and killed again. Or, that neither Singh’s mindset nor even the manner of the rape, during which an iron rod was inserted into Jyoti, was, as the court declared in its judgment, truly “the rarest of the rare”. As recently as February this year, a woman was gang-raped by nine men in Rohtak, Haryana for over three hours. The men violated her with bricks and asbestos sheets. Sticks, stones and condoms were found stuffed in her private parts.

India’s Daughter doesn’t malign India, but Naidu’s statement about a “conspiracy” does demonstrate, with an acute lack of self-awareness, what lies at the heart of the nation’s rape crisis.

Naidu isn’t implying that rape is shameful; but that talking about rape is shameful because it draws attention to the fact that it happens at all. This fear is exactly what prevents rape victims from filing police complaints, and, as a result, emboldens rapists to strike again and again. In fact, Udwin has done what India’s politicians should rightfully be doing: investigating rape cases thoroughly and discussing them openly.

While eloquently expressing his love for his daughter, Badri Singh tells Udwin: “I wish that whatever darkness there is in the world should be dispelled by this light.”

The Indian government has thwarted his wishes. By banning this documentary it has deprived the Singhs of the opportunity to share the story of their daughter widely within India. In attempting to push a conversation about rape back into the closet, it has stigmatised the subject further. It has done more damage to India’s reputation, and, far worse, the fight against rape, than any film ever could.

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Why India gang-rape film row is extraordinary

By Soutik Biswas  BBC Delhi correspondent  03.05.15

A documentary by a British film-maker on the 2012 gang rape and murder of a female student in Delhi has kicked up a storm in India.

The courts have issued an injunction stopping it from being shown in India, and the home minister has promised an inquiry into the making of the documentary.

The film and the row it has generated are extraordinary for four main reasons.

Incredible access

British producer Leslee Udwin gained some of the most extraordinary and rare access that any film-maker has ever had inside an Indian prison.

She interviewed convicted rapist Mukesh Singh for 16 hours over three days. She says the crew was given permission by the jail authorities and the ministry of home affairs.

Activist Kavita Krishnan wondered how Udwin was allowed access to convicts inside jail when authorities “prevent most human rights campaigners in India from speaking to, let alone filming, prisoners”.

The hour-long film also includes extensive interviews of the victim’s parents, families of the convicts and their lawyers, interspersed with reconstruction of the incident.

Remorseless rapist

Mukesh Singh, who is facing the death penalty along with three others, expressed no remorse and blamed the victim for fighting back.

Times Now news channel promptly took the lead in whipping up a campaign against the film, which it has described as “voyeuristic” and against “all norms of journalism”.

Some media analysts believe this has more to do with the channel’s rivalry with NDTV, which had the rights to broadcast the film.

Critics of the film have variously accused it of glorifying the rapist by giving him a platform, encouraging copycat crimes, or prejudicing the appeals of the rapists and spurring demands to fast-track their executions.

Others have been outraged that Indian audiences have been “exposed to the remarks of such a brutal man” on prime-time news. Although, it has to be said, Indians are accustomed to some pretty shocking stuff on prime-time news.

Official outrage

A Delhi court has blocked the film “until further orders” after police said Mukesh Singh’s “offensive and derogatory remarks” were “creating an atmosphere of fear and tension with the possibility of public outcry and law and order situation”.

A cynical friend suggests most of this outcry and potential danger to the law and order situation is confined to the TV studios and social media.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has promised an inquiry into how the prison authorities gave permission to the film-maker and said he was “deeply shocked” by the interview.

Some say India has sadly become a country of bans – films, books, and in a recent case, even beef.

It is not clear though whether the film’s ban was provoked by a touchy Indian government led by the image-conscious Prime Minister Narendra Modi or because the home ministry was embarrassed.

Free speech

Many believe that the ban on the film hurts India’s reputation most.

When Mr Modi is trying hard to spruce up India’s global image as a favoured destination to invest and visit, such ham-fisted and impulsive reactions cannot really help.

“It is patronising to control what people see about their own country,” an American artist said on my Twitter timeline.

“Nobody sensible is suggesting banning the film,” says writer Salil Tripathi. “That is wrong”.

But the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Senior minister Venkaiah Naidu talks about a “conspiracy to defame India” and says the “country will be harmed if Ms Udwin’s documentary is broadcast outside India”.

Many believe India’s image will be harmed because India’s government is not seen to be supportive of free speech, and not because of Mukesh Singh’s odious remarks.

Why don’t they let Indians watch the film and make up their minds about it? Why can’t the state be less paternalistic?

‘We Make Us Better’ Against Domestic Violence

What are men doing to challenge and stop gender violence?

By Victoria Law  From Waging Nonviolence November 5, 2014

A group of men in Bedford-Stuyvesant called We Make Us Better formed in 2010 to re–establish a positive male influence in the community. (Facebook / We Make Us Better)

A group of men in Bedford-Stuyvesant called We Make Us Better to re–establish a positive male influence in the community. (Facebook / We Make Us Better)

I’ve been writing a lot about domestic violence this fall, both in the wake of the publicity surrounding Ray Rice’s beating of his then-fiancée Janay Palmer and because October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As I’ve rifled through my files to dig out examples of community organizing against gender violence, I’ve realized that most of the examples concentrate on women organizing against gender violence. This made be wonder: What are men doing to challenge gender violence, both individually in their daily lives and collectively as part of their political organizing? So I began asking that question on Twitter. I have a bunch of followers who are male-identified, so I figured they’d all chime in and we’d have a mini-discussion, right?

Wrong. Instead, I started noticing that people were unfollowing me. To be fair, not all of them may have done so because of my constant variation of the question: “MEN (cis and trans): What are you doing to challenge #DV (individually or collectively)?” appearing in their stream every other day. But the near-silence that met my question every time I sent it out was more than a little unnerving. While I don’t personally know all my followers, I do know some of them, including men who identify as feminist or say that they don’t put up with violence against women. I figured that, at the very least, they would speak up, right?

Wrong again. No one I know responded. (I did get two responses from people I don’t know. I’m very thankful that they responded.)

Around this time, I was asked to write a piece for Jacobin critiquing carceral feminism, which is the kind of feminism that sees an increased police response, prosecution and harsher prison sentences as the solution to gender violence. While writing the piece, I started becoming annoyed that, when we (radicals, anarchists, communists, socialists, what-have-you types of leftists) talk about domestic violence and problematic ways of addressing it, we tend to direct our anger towards carceral feminists, pointing out all the ways in which policing and increased criminalized responses have placed marginalized women at increased risk of state violence.

But we rarely seem to look in our own circles and ask, “Well, what are we doing to create alternatives to relying on the state to stop domestic violence?” Why is this only a discussion among feminists (and feminist women at that)? Where is the rest of our so-called movement in these discussions and in these actions? Why isn’t challenging domestic violence, abuse and other forms of gender violence incorporated into our social justice organizing and into the beliefs that we’re espousing?

I’m not trying to say that no one is doing work on this front. After all, I did get three responses to my repeated Twitter question over the course of a month, and there are a couple of recent examples of men addressing gendered violence.

In 2010, after a rash of muggings and robberies in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, men in the neighborhood decided they needed to take action. They formed a group called We Make Us Better and began escorting people home from the subway station, making it less likely that people would be targeted. But they didn’t stop there. The group also sponsored a neighborhood outreach walk, stopping to talk to young men hanging out on corners and encouraging them to become involved in their community. The following year, the group provided prom tuxedos for the 30 graduating senior men at the local high school. To get a tuxedo, the young men had to attend a course on etiquette before the prom. While the idea of an etiquette course may conjure up images of great-aunt Millie telling you which fork to use or the proper way to eat shellfish, that wasn’t this course.

“We want to re-establish a positive male influence in our community,” Titus Mitchell, a co-founder of We Make Us Better, told NBC New York. “A lot of these kids don’t know how to open the door for a young lady or tie a tie. If they don’t have any male figures around, how will they ever learn?”

I’m not sure if the group is still active. Both their Twitter and Facebook pages show no activity since 2012. In the face of the neighborhood’s rapid gentrification, it’s possible that some got priced out, others moved away and overall momentum for the group faded. But what we can take away from this group’s example is that, for over a year, men in the neighborhood acted to not only prevent the immediate threats of violence that targeted women, but also begin to address underlying assumptions about masculinity and acceptable male behavior in their own communities.

Last year, utilizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Emotional Justice Unplugged, the Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Women, and Free Marissa Now launched a month-long letter writing campaign called #31forMARISSA. The campaign urged men to write letters of support to Marissa Alexander, a Florida mother who was arrested after firing a warning shot to keep her abusive husband from continuing to attack her. Although her conviction had been overturned in September 2013, she was still in prison the following month. Eventually, she was released on bail; the prosecutor has vowed to seek a 60-year sentence against her when they go to trial in December 2014.

The campaign #31forMARISSA urged men to share stories of violence experienced by the women in their own circles, donate funds for her trial fees and become engaged as active allies in the domestic violence movement. Their letters were posted on a Tumblr while paper copies were printed and mailed to Alexander each week. Over 100 people responded to the call.

This year’s campaign is entitled #31forRay and asks men to write about childhood experiences witnessing domestic violence, its impact, and the actions of men in their family and community to stop the violence. Interestingly, this particular call seems to have garnered much less participation. There were two letters when I checked. Hopefully, by the time this column is published, there will be many more.

Addressing domestic violence and other forms of gender violence need to be seen not just as a women’s issue. We can continue to be angry at carceral feminists’ reliance on policing and imprisonment as the solution to gender violence, but until everyone in our communities takes steps to create and implement alternative responses, people will continue to see that as the default solution.

So let me throw down the gauntlet and challenge all men to take concrete actions towards ending gender violence, both in their individual lives and in their political organizing work. It’s not going to be a short and sweet task, but if we truly are committed to transforming our world, then we need to make those commitments.

Victoria Law is a freelance writer, analog photographer and parent. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women and co-editor of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements & Communities.

Creatively Confronting Rape Culture-Carry That Weight

Students get creative to confront rape culture with Carry That Weight

By Kate Aronoff    From Waging Nonviolence   November 1, 2014

Students at Penn State University participate in a “collective carry” in solidarity with sexual assault survivors. (Facebook / Carrying the Weight Together)

Students at Penn State University participate in a “collective carry” in solidarity with sexual assault survivors. (Facebook / Carrying the Weight Together)

Ever thought of creative non-sleeping uses for a vinyl-covered, extra-long twin mattress? Students at 130 colleges across five countries did just that on Wednesday, when they used their university-issued bedding to participate in Carry That Weight Together, an international day of action to confront sexual assault.

The driving forces behind the day of action were Columbia University student groups Carry That Weight Together and No Red Tape, founded this past year by Allie Rickard and Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, respectively, along with other students. No Red Tape’s Facebook page states that it seeks “to end sexual violence and rape culture at Columbia University, and [fight] for transformative, sustainable, survivor-centered solutions.” The group’s name refers to the administrative hurdles survivors go through when attempting to report their assaults to the university. No Red Tape, formed in January, pushes for university-level policy changes with actions like the ones this week, while also providing direct services related to sexual violence: a survivor support group, bystander training for staff at local bars, and consent education workshops to name just a few.

While there has been work around sexual assault on Columbia’s campus for decades, the most recent wave began last winter when Anna Bahr, then a senior at Barnard College, published a two-part expose in a campus magazine revealing — from the perspective of those assaulted — the gaps between college policy, the law and survivors’ needs.

“We are organizing at Columbia because this is where we are and this is what we know,” said Michela Weihl, a sophomore at Columbia who started working with No Red Tape when it began in January. “But this is not only about Columbia having a rape problem. It’s about living in a world where rape culture pervades everything. That’s something people experience every day.”

Carry That Weight — also known by the more literal name“Mattress Performance” — began in early September as a project by Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz for her senior thesis. Drawing comparisons to the aesthetics of Jesus Christ, Hester Prynne and Marina Abramovic, the ongoing “endurance performance art piece” comes with its own publicly posted “Rules of Engagement.” Sulkowicz must carry the mattress around at all times while on Columbia’s campus, and leave it in a secure location before she leaves university property. While onlookers can volunteer to help carry the mattress, the rules stipulate that Sulkowicz cannot solicit assistance. She intends to carry on the piece until her alleged assaulter is expelled, or until they both graduate next spring.

Since the project began, survivors and their allies at Columbia and around the country have organized “collective carries” in solidarity with Sulkowicz. Rickard, another Columbia art student, told Think Progress about how quickly the concept caught on: “Pretty much every day I’ve been finding new pictures of students, faculty and staff doing their own versions of the project — carrying mattresses around, holding rallies, doing speakouts.” This week, a group from the Central European University in Budapest posted photos from a #CarryThatWeight action in Hungary.

Mattresses carry considerable symbolic weight for Sulkowicz, who has been one of many survivors to share her story with the media. She went public only after unsuccessfully reporting her rape to university administrators, who, after a seventh-month long process, found her alleged assaulter “not responsible.” She told the Columbia Spectator in September, “I was raped in my own dorm bed and since then, that space has become fraught for me. I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there since then.” The piece adds a collective and highly public element to an issue that’s so often considered a private matter.

Columbia students presented the administration with a list of 10 demands on Wednesday, calling for greater administrative transparency and a comprehensive policy review process that would incorporate feedback from survivors. One demand was to re-open Sulkowicz’s case. Weihl said, “I hope that she doesn’t have to carry that mattress on stage with her when she graduates.”

Columbia students, however, are by no means the first to expose universities’ mistreatment of survivors. Wednesday’s actions are the latest spike in a national, multi-year effort to change the way colleges deal with sexual assault. Organizers — working as individual campus groups and with national networks like Know Your IX and Ending Rape on Campus — have kicked off federal investigations at over 55 colleges and universities, according to a list released by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights last May. The schools represented on the list speak to the widespread nature of the problem — from Ivy League universities like Dartmouth and Princeton, to elite liberal arts colleges, to massive state institutions like Penn State University and Ohio State University. Since May, the number of schools being investigated has jumped from 55 to 79.

Six months ago, Sulkowicz and Ridolfi-Starr were among 28 students to file a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against Columbia for violations of Titles II and IX, as well as the Clery Act — all of which relate to gender-based misconduct in education. As of October 9, they had yet to hear back from the Department of Education as to whether the Office for Civil Rights will pursue a formal investigation. Similar complaints have been filed at Swarthmore, UCLA, Kansas State University and Harvard, among others. While 76 schools are currently undergoing investigation, some administrations chose to initiate federal review processes without having received a complaint.

Columbia made national headlines again last spring when anonymous students posted lists of four perpetrators of sexual assault — Sulkowicz’s alleged assaulter and three others that the university found officially “responsible” — in public places around campus. Such actions show that students’ efforts are changing — or even starting — the conversation about sexual assault on college campuses. As Weihl put it, “That people are talking about it at all is a change.” In no small part thanks to the prestige of the schools where complaints have been filed, the campaign has gained national and international media attention, and forced many universities to undergo lengthy overhauls of their institutional policies.

Responses have also come from the federal level. “It’s Not Us” is a White House initiative to involve more bystanders in the prevention of sexual assault. Affirmative consent laws, like the one passed recently in California, define consent as an active “yes” rather than the absence of a “no,” with jurisdiction specifically bound to the state’s college campuses.

Neither of these efforts are perfect; there remains a long way to go in confronting rape culture on the national and international scale. That said, new regulations and actions like Carry That Weight are emblematic of a broader cultural shift to put survivors’ needs above their schools’ reputations.

Now, taking a short “breather” after weeks of planning to catch up on schoolwork, Weihl explained that “the point of our policy push is to make cultural change happen, and to make it so that the systems in place at the university are constantly working towards that culture rather than relying on a set of passionate students to push for that cultural change. We want it embedded in the school.”

Kate Aronoff is an organizer and freelance journalist based in Philadelphia, PA. While in school, she worked extensively with the fossil fuel divestment movement on the local and national level, co-founding Swarthmore Mountain Justice and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network (DSN). She is currently working to build a student power network across Pennsylvania. Follow her on Twitter @katearonoff

Why the pervasive sexual violence?

Shocking UN Report Reveals 1 in 4 Men Admit to Raping Women for ‘Fun’ and Because of ‘Sexual Entitlement’

Brutality against women in Egypt -one of too many countries

Brutality against women in Egypt -just one of too many countries

As prosecutors fight for death penalty in Delhi fatal rape case, UN study finds disturbing facts about prevalence of sex crimes in Asia.

By Jodie Gummow

September 11, 2013  ~Alternet

A disturbing new report on sexual assault released by the United Nations reveals that one in four men have admitted to raping a woman once in their lives for entertainment, punishment and revenge amongst the top reasons listed, IBT reported.

The study which was published in the British Medical Journal The Lancet and conducted by the World Health Organization in the Asia-pacific region involved interviewing 10,178 men aged between 18 and 49 years old in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea about engaging in non-consensual sex.

Almost 75 percent of those interviewed said they committed rape because of “sexual entitlement,” or as form of punishment because the man was angry:

“They believed they had the right to have sex with the woman regardless of consent. The second most common motivation reported was to rape as a form of entertainment, so for fun or because they were bored. Perhaps surprisingly, the least common motivation was alcohol,” report author Dr. Emma Fulu said.

The study also highlighted, poverty, personal history of violence and victimization as contributing factors that led to rape crimes.

Dr. Michelle Decker of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore said the findings should generate global outrage particularly in light of recent high profile rape cases such as the New Delhi student gang rape case in India:

“More than half of non-partner rape perpetrators first did so as adolescents, which affirms that young people are a crucial target population for prevention of rape. The challenge now is to turn evidence into action, to create a safer future for the next generation of women and girls,” she said in an interview with BBC.

The report comes amidst the news that prosecutors of the four men found guilty of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old in New Delhi, India in December say the men should face the death penalty for the crime that shocked the “collective consciousness,” of the people, BBC News reported.

In an address to Judge Yogesh Khanna, public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said on Tuesday that the “sentence which is appropriate is nothing short of death”.

In December, the female student was tricked into boarding an out-of-service bus by the men before they violently raped and tortured her.  The woman was flown to a Singapore hospital but subsequently died of her internal injuries as a result of the rape.

The incident sparked international outrage and widespread protests across the country calling upon the government to introduce harsher penalties for serious rape cases as well as increasing prison sentences.