The Gender Beat: Temple Allows Women In, At Last; Kanhaiya Vs. Shekhar Gupta on Rapes by Soldiers

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality

C Devi. Courtesy: The News Minute.

C Devi. Tamil Nadu’s first transgender candidate for the legislative assembly elections. Courtesy: The News Minute.

Shani Shingnapur temple allows women inside inner sanctum

The Shani Shingnapur temple has finally let women into its sanctum sanctorum, breaking a 400-year-old ban. In November 2015, women activists of the Bhumata Brigade, led by Trupti Desai, started campaigning to be let in.

Last week, the Bombay high court passed an order upholding women’s right to enter the inner sanctum. After days of defying the court, first by continuing to keep the women out, and then by banning everyone regardless of gender, the temple authorities gave in today.

So far, there are no reports of the skies falling or other signs of heavenly displeasure.

Judging Kanhaiya v. Shekhar Gupta on rapes by soldiers

In a Caravan Magazine piece, two co-authors of the book Do You Remember Kunan-Poshpora? (the other co-authors are Samreen Mushtaq, Ifrah Butt, and Munaza Rashid) address comments made by senior journalist Shekhar Gupta in response to Kanhaiya Kumar’s statements about sexual violence committed by the armed forces.

The writers, Essar Batool and Natasha Rather, argue that Gupta’s dismissal of Kumar’s statements reflects a larger problem of the Indian intelligentsia, who make it difficult to question any actions committed by members of the armed forces, no matter how heinous. Using various pieces of reportage, including the case of Major Rahman, who was found guilty of raping a woman and her child, the writers demonstrate how the acceptance of rampant sexual violence and the tendency to stereotype any questioning or dissent, adds to the impunity by members of the armed forces who commit sexual violence.

“The crimes committed by the army personnel are lost in the din of the respect they receive for their service. Even if what Gupta seemed to suggest in his tweet – that army personnel do not commit rapes in Kashmir any longer – were true, that does not mean that this is not a matter of great concern. Such statements are doubly harmful in a culture in which rape is stigmatised and reporting of such crimes, discouraged,” say the writers.

Colombia’s highest court paves way for marriage equality in surprise ruling

Magistrates at Colombia’s highest court defeated a proposed ruling that said marriage is only between a man and a woman. The proposed ruling also said that congress, and not the court, should make a decision on same-sex marriage.

Alberto Rojas, one of the magistrates who voted against the proposed ruling, said:“All human beings … have the fundamental right to be married with no discrimination.”

This ruling clears the ambiguity created by a vague court ruling on marriage equality passed in 2011.

Maharashtra government may rope in women’s commission to regulate dance bars

As part of a new series of proposed norms to regulate Maharashtra’s dance bars, the state women’s commission and members of women’s rights organisations may be asked to inspect dance bars.

Although the state government cannot go against the Supreme Court ruling which said an outright ban on dance bars is unconstitutional, it is going to place a draft bill before the legislative council to impose a set of stringent rules that bars have to comply with.

These include the ambiguous business of bar owners needing to ensure that the dance is not ‘obscene’ in any way. The role of the women’s commission may not necessarily be progressive either, considering comments made by members of the commission in the past. It is not clear whether any dancers’ unions have been consulted as part of this process.

Although some of the guidelines may be helpful, critics – who argue the state’s campaign against dance bars has done more harm than good – are likely to say the whole the exercise is a way of indirectly flouting the Supreme Court’s orders.

TN’s first transgender candidate is standing against Jayalalithaa

A transgender woman from Salem, who has worked for the rights of transgender persons, sex workers, and homeless people, is standing for the upcoming assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. C Devi, who is 33 years old, is the first transgender election candidate that the state has ever had.

An article in The News Minute quotes her as saying, “I’m going to focus on the upliftment of the poor, on providing clean drinking water and on better employment for the people in the constituency.”  Devi is contesting on behalf of the political party Naam Tamilar Katchi.

Global literary award for realistic portrayals of women characters

A global literary award, which comes with a US$ 50,000 cash prize, has been constituted for writers of short fiction, novels, and screenplays in English. Submissions are being sought across genres, and must portray at least one well-rounded woman protagonist. The award has been constituted by Half the World Holdings.

Students protest after NLSIU professor shames student for wearing shorts

When a third-year law student wore shorts to class at the National Law School of India University, she was asked by a professor to “dress properly.” In addition, the professor reportedly made disparaging remarks about the student’s ‘character.’ In protest, the entire third-year class showed up wearing shorts.

Students are now asking for an independent fact-finding committee to investigate the incident.

Why the Panama Papers are a feminist issue

Chiara Capraro and Francesca Rhodes argue in a piece on Open Democracy that “financial secrecy and tax avoidance are feminist issues.” They write that tax evasion by the wealthy in the Global North has a direct impact on the health and welfare of the poorest people in the world, and this impact is disproportionately felt by women.

“Our ambition is not, of course, to get to a point where there are as many female as male billionaires able to dodge taxes. Instead, we must fight for a fairer economy and a better politics in which both extreme poverty and extreme wealth are consigned to the history books,” say the writers.

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