The Gender Beat: Mass Sexual Assault a Reality in Bastar, Says NCST; Gogu Shyamala Interview

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

Gogu Shyamala. Courtesy: The News Minute.

Gogu Shyamala. Courtesy: The News Minute.

Safe houses for women in two Delhi neighbourhoods

100 shops and houses each in Mangolpuri and Madanpur Khadar have been converted into safe houses for women facing sexual harassment, reports The Hindu.

These safe houses have been created by the organisation Plan India, in collaboration with the AV Baliga memorial trust in Mangolpuri and another organisation in Madanpur Khadar.

The houses can be identified by the neon logos emblazoned on their walls. Women who are facing harassment can knock on the doors of any safe house, and receive support from people who have been trained on how to respond: members of the safe house gather supportive bystanders, and one of them calls the police.

Rajendra Pachauri files suit against Vrinda Grover

R.K. Pachauri has filed a civil lawsuit against lawyer Vrinda Grover, reports Huffington Post India.

Pachauri is claiming that Grover is trying to influence the ongoing case of sexual harassment against him by making public the statements of two women who have come forward with complaints of sexual harassment against Pachauri.

Although neither of the women have filed criminal complaints, Grover says that they have repeatedly tried to get the police to take down their statements, which the police have not done. The two women have said that they are willing to come forward as character witnesses in the case against Pachauri, filed by a former employee of TERI.

Mass sexual assault present reality in Bastar, says NCST

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) Chairperson Rameshwar Oraon has said that there is ample evidence – including depositions and medical reports – of mass sexual assault in Bastar, reports the News Minute.

The commission investigated allegations of sexual violence during its visit to Bijapur district, following which Oraon said that prima facie evidence of mass sexual violence exists, and that the police are not properly investigating it.

The commission has recommended to the Chhattisgarh government that the state CID open its own investigation. It has also recommended other measures, such as the inclusion of women police officers during patrolling. A full report by the commission is awaited.

The News Minute interviews dalit women writers for Dalit History Month

The News Minute is publishing interviews with dalit women writers as part of its Dalit History Month series. The first of these interviews is with Gogu Shyamala, who writes in Telugu. In the interview, Shyamala speaks about her transition from a Leftist to an Ambedkarite activist, about how dalit characters are portrayed in fiction as either heroes or victims and how her own work shifts away from this binary. She also speaks about Rohith Vemula, and being a dalit feminist. Read the interview here.

The woman who hunts the witch hunters

The BBC has published a profile of Birubala Rabha, who has been campaigning against witch-hunting for over 15 years, as part of its Unsung Indians series. “Women are often branded witches to help relatives and neighbours grab their land and property, to settle personal grudges, or for denying sexual favours,” says the article. Rabha was awarded a doctorate last year for her work.

Dalit girl who set herself on fire after rape dies

A 16-year-old dalit girl, who set herself on fire in Bamheta village after she was raped late last month, succumbed to her injuries on April 7. Her family continues to be harassed by members of the Yadav community, who are pressuring them to withdraw their police complaint against the two Yadav men accused of raping her. The dalit community held a meeting on April 9, and have said that they will convert to Buddhism if the caste atrocities against them continue.

Shashi Tharoor on Section 377: “Overcoming India’s Official Homophobia”

Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor – whose recent bid to introduce a private member’s bill in parliament, seeking to amend the colonial-era Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was defeated – is nonetheless continuing his public advocacy against homophobia.

In a recent opinion piece, he writes, “Like many Indians, I found the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling antithetical to India’s commitment to pluralism and democracy, which provides for the embrace of a multitude of identities, including those based on sexual orientation.

Tharoor calls out the BJP for voting against the bill, and for the heckling he endured when he attempted to introduce it.  “A vocal section of homophobes in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) voted overwhelmingly against the bill’s introduction, so that no pragmatic debate on the bill’s merits could take place. The same thing happened when I tried again in March. Sneering comments were made about my alleged personal interest in the bill, to which I responded that one does not need to be a cow to defend the rights of animals.”

However, he does not address his own party’s failure to band together with him, and vote en masse in order to push the bill forward. As The Wire has reported, there is a lack of political will among all of India’s major political parties to act on this issue, whatever their stated position on Section 377.