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John Passant

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January 2013



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

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Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
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Me on Razor Sharp this morning
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Protests against rape and oppression in India

These two articles on the protests against rape in India are re-posted from Socialist Worker UK of 31 December 2012.

The first called Hope amid the horror with protests at Delhi rape case is by Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. The second, by Jaskiran Chohan, is called Protests in India take on rape and repression


Hope amid the horror with protests at Delhi rape case

In the middle of the unspeakable horror of the rape and murder in Delhi is a spark of hope writes  Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

The horror is clear. A young woman boarded a bus with a male friend. A group of men taunted her for being out at night with a man.

She and her friend didn’t take the taunts lying down, so the men decided to “teach her a lesson”. They beat her friend senseless. And they gang raped her, leaving her intestines torn.

The hope lies in the huge numbers of people who came out to protest. Even better was the willingness to direct that anger against the society and culture that justifies rape and sexual violence.

One woman who saw a video of one of our demonstrations wrote to say, “Girls have been writing to me, absolutely distressed, because their parents are using the Delhi gang rape case as an example of what happens when you ‘stray’. Watching your protest gave me so much hope and a sense of solidarity.”

Sexual violence is often used as a way of imposing discipline on women. But “protection” from sexual violence most commonly takes the form of restrictions imposed on women—curfews, dress codes, restrictions on mobility.

The last Delhi police commissioner BK Gupta told a press conference in 2011, “If women go out alone at 2am, they should not complain of being unsafe. Take your brother or a driver along.”

These statements were greeted with a chorus of protest. Many people pointed out that women who work have no choice but to be out late at night.

But the idea remains that women ought not to be out at night and they ought to dress in ways that are not “provocative”. In other words, women have to acquit themselves of the charge of having “invited” rape.


The outrage over the events in Delhi is welcome. The struggle for justice should also include those raped by the police or raped because of their caste or religion.

In 2004, Thangjam Manorama Chanu of Manipur was raped and murdered by personnel of the Assam Rifles army unit. To date, the perpetrators have not been punished. In fact the Indian government is protecting them, claiming that army personnel cannot be subjected to a criminal trial.

Two young women, Neelofer and Aasiya, were raped and killed by army personnel in Shopian, Kashmir, in 2009. The entire state machinery has engaged in a massive cover-up. The perpetrators are free.

Countless women from Dalit backgrounds are raped all over the country by men of the upper castes. Mobs from the BJP and RSS parties gang raped Muslim women during the Gujarat genocide of 2002.

The Delhi police and chief minister, beleaguered by the popular outrage, are taking the familiar route of projecting an “external enemy”—the migrant worker. And others are trying to channel the anger against sexual violence into class hatred for the migrant poor.

It is all too easy to forget that rapists in more than 90 percent cases are fathers, brothers, uncles, neighbours. They are people the victim has known, trusted, and been expected to respect and obey.

If the Delhi rape has awakened people to the crime of sexual violence, we must ensure that the voices of Manorama, Neelofer, Asiya and countless others calling for justice are heard.


Protests in India take on rape and repression

Demonstrations reveal deep anger with politicians in India, writes Jaskiran Chohan

The brutal rape of a 23 year old female medical student on a public bus in Delhi on 16 December has caught India by storm.

The woman was raped by seven men and violated with iron bars. She died later from her injuries. The attack has sparked a wave of protests that are continuing across India.

It has received unprecedented coverage, possibly because the victim was seen as urban middle class. Yet many rapes in rural villages and poorer areas are ignored or covered up.

One such case was that of a 17 year old from Patiala, Punjab. Her original complaint of rape took 14 days to be registered by the police, who then harassed her. She later took her own life.

Sexual harassment, violence against women and rape are common in India. They have strong roots in the country’s institutions and the state.

The army and police use rape to try and destroy movements that threaten the Indian state, such as those of the Naxalite peasants and nationalists in Kashmir.

Officers often blame women for rape—focusing on things like how they were dressed or whether they were drinking alcohol.

The police have used water cannon, batons and tear gas against demonstrators to try and quell the new protest movement.

But the protests continue—more than two weeks after the attack. They have become highly political as many demonstrators don’t trust the politicians to bring real change for women.


Rape is only one aspect of women’s oppression in India. The practice of “son preference” has led to high levels of infanticide. Eight million female foetuses have been terminated in the last decade alone.

There is rampant sexualisation of women through Bollywood film and other culture. This isn’t a symbol of progress—it’s another factor that encourages the objectification of women.

Some people want to see the death penalty brought in as punishment for rape. But this won’t solve the problem. And it is highly unlikely that it would be meted out to police, politicians and other elites.

The dire situation women face in India has led some Western pundits to described the country as the worst place in the world for women.

But the problems aren’t confined to India’s borders. Many countries, including Britain, have shockingly low conviction rates for rape. And attitudes that blame women for rape and sexual violence aren’t confined to India.

“Slutwalk” protests erupted around the world after a Toronto police officer told women to change their dress to avoid rape in 2011.

The latest attack in India shows the urgent need for a change in the treatment of women and in responses to rape. And the mass protests that followed it show that many people are prepared to fight for that change.


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