The Gender Beat: Minor Girl in Police Custody in Handwara; Ted Cruz Defends Anti-LGBT Law

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

Relatives mourn after the death of civilians in firing by security forces in Handwara. Credit: PTI

Relatives mourn after the death of civilians in firing by security forces in Handwara. Credit: PTI

Handwara: minor girl who was allegedly molested taken into police custody

Reports say the minor school student who was allegedly molested by an army officer in the Handwara region of Kashmir has been taken into custody along with her father. The incident has triggered a wave of protests in Handwara, during which five people have been killed so far. A video is being circulated, reportedly showing the young girl exonerating the army of the charges.

The handling of this case has been strongly criticised by commentators. A report in The Ladies Finger reads, “In the midst of all this tragedy what happened to the young girl who reported assault, you may wonder. Several mind-numbingly cruel things. (…) A 16-year-old schoolgirl attacked by a man in uniform forced to see her town go up in flames when she spoke of the violence, is made by men in uniform to make a video saying that they didn’t do anything to her and that it was ‘local boys’ instead.”

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Ravinder Raina has blamed the whole thing on “Pakistani agents” trying to “disgrace the Indian army and the state government.”

Army officer who verbally abused subordinate woman officer let off with reprimand

An army officer who had twelve charges of sexual harassment against him was acquitted of most of them by a general court martial (GCM).

The only charge he was found guilty of was of verbally abusing a woman officer. Despite being let off by the GCM, the officer was issued a termination letter by the army’s confirming authority, according to reports. However, this was quashed by the Armed Forces Tribunal.

When additional solicitor general Maninder Singh told the Supreme Court the officer had not been punished for his offence, the court held that a reprimand was punishment enough.

Commentators have criticised what they have called the deliberate silencing of accusations of sexual harassment within the armed forces.

Ted Cruz defends anti-LGBT North Carolina law

Ted Cruz, who is hoping to become the next president of the US, has called a North Carolina law, which bars transgender people from using bathrooms in line with their gender identities, “perfectly reasonable.”

Cruz’s comments reveal that he does not accept that transwomen are “real” women – he says that he would not want “men being able to go alone into a bathroom” with his daughters.

There have been massive protests against the law and advocates for transgender rights are forcefully contesting the kind of argument that Cruz is making – that transwomen are actually predatory men, too dangerous to be allowed into women-only spaces. Transgender, gender-variant and non-binary people have spoken out extensively about the struggles that they face while navigating a world that still largely recognises the gender binary and denies their existence.

A shelter from domestic violence in New York that welcomes pets

Researchers on domestic violence have long been saying that the perpetrator can use threats and violence not just against the victim, but also people and animals that the victim cares about. This includes pets, who often have to be left behind when the victim escapes the abusive situation. However, according to a report in The New York Times, a shelter in New York is giving victims the opportunity to flee with their pets, by providing them with alternative living arrangements that also welcome their pets.

Four queer activists freed in Bangladesh

Yesterday, we reported that four queer activists were arrested during a Bengali New Year celebration in Bangladesh. They were accused of trying to hold a rainbow pride event despite it having been cancelled and were taken into police custody. New reports say that they have now been released.

If allowed, the event would have been a repeat of similar events that have been organised in the country for the last two years. However, instead of ensuring adequate police protection for participants, the authorities chose to cancel the event. It is unclear whether any of those who made the death threats have been apprehended.

Two book lists for children: one on sex-ed, one on transgender and gender non-conforming issues

Agents of Ishq has a round-up of six Indian sex-education books meant for children, including ones published by feminist publishers Zubaan Books and organisation TARSHI.

The Huffington Post list has twenty-one books “that deal with transgender and intersex issues, gender non-conformity and sexual orientation as it relates to trans people.”

Saudi Arabia’s religious police stripped of power to arrest

Saudi Arabia’s religious police, which has hounded and assaulted the country’s women for not meeting arbitrary standards of conduct, has been stripped of its authority, according to reports. Now, “agents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice can no longer chase, harass or arrest civilians,” says a Global Citizen report. Now, the moral police can only report what they deem ‘transgressions’ to the police force.