The Gender Beat: Still No CBI Probe for Dalit Student; Mother of Handwara Victim Speaks Out

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

Activists of Kashmir Tahreek Khawateen protest in Handwara. Credit: PTI

Activists of Kashmir Tahreek Khawateen protest in Handwara. Credit: PTI

Still no CBI probe for 17-year-old Dalit student found dead in Nokha

The rape and death of a 17-year-old Dalit student in Nokha, Rajasthan, has prompted a war of words between political groups within the state. The leader of the opposition in the state, Rameshwar Dudi, has said Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is being pressured by the RSS not to allow a CBI probe into the matter. Prior to this, Raje and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had a heated public debate on the matter, attacking each other’s parties during various public appearances.

The CBI probe, which the student’s father has been asking for, is yet to be initiated.

There is no word on whether action will be taken against the police personnel who failed to follow due process when the student was discovered dead in a water tank at her college.

Handwara: girl’s mother demands independent probe, says statement forced

The mother of the minor school student in Handwara, who has been taken into police custody along with her father, says that the girl was forced to give a false statement, according to reports. The student was allegedly sexually harassed by an army officer, triggering a spate of protests in the course of which five people have lost their lives so far.

The armed forces are denying the allegations of sexual harassment. They have released a video, reportedly of the girl, apparently exonerating the army of harassment charges.

Commentators are raising questions over the handling of the case, and asking why the underage student and her father have been taken into custody. Lawyers associated with the right group Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society approached the high court on behalf of the girl’s mother, asking for her release, after which she was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate.

Police officers are saying that the girl has reiterated what she said on the video statement: that it was two boys, and not army officers, who attacked her. The girl’s mother has demanded an independent probe into the matter.

Private screening held for blocked film depicting LGBTQ issues

The Wire reported on April 16 that a film depicting LGBTQ and women’s rights issues, Ka Bodyscapes, has been denied clearance by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

A private screening of the film was organised in New Delhi on the same day and was attended by members of Delhi’s queer communities and their supporters. Speaking to The Wire, filmmaker Jayan Cherian said: “As a filmmaker, and I think of film as a fine art. It is my primary medium of expression. A state body doing an editorial intervention on a piece of art is absurd, and it is not acceptable in a democracy. The idea of curtailing the basic rights of artists in this manner is bizarre. We are still following a colonial law (the Cinematography Act), and the state is consistently holding up the colonial idea that the natives are too inept to watch what they want to watch. I went through the same thing for my last film, and as an artist, I’m never going to cut any frame from my film.”

UN peacekeepers: fresh allegations of sexual abuse

Fresh allegations of sexual violence have emerged against UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The world body reported 99 allegations of sexual abuse against its staff members in the last year.

Anders Kompass, the whistleblower responsible for bringing sexual abuse perpetrated by peacekeepers to light, has been cleared of charges of wrongdoing after an internal investigation.

Last week, US senators threatened to withhold funding from the UN as well as bilateral aid from countries that fail to hold their armed forces accountable.

A new online campaign by Samantha Asumadu and Guilaine Kinouani targeted at Ban ki-Moon reads: “These latest revelations about soldiers stationed by the UN are evidence that it is untenable for French troops to continue to be based in Africa. It is clear that they have stepped far out of the bounds of their mission and of the law.”

An opinion piece by Maya Goodfellow argues that UN forces have been abusing their supposed beneficiaries for much longer, citing reports that go as far back as the late 1990s to the mid 2000s.

Pointing out that the abuse is a structural problem, she writes: “But the problem isn’t a couple of bad apples; it’s the whole system. Missions are imagined in a way that lets peacekeepers get away with what they want. The narrative is this: people living in these “war torn” societies don’t have the same moral values as the troops who come, often but not always from Western countries, to protect them.”

An interview with Monica Lewinsky on surviving shame

The Guardian has an interview with Monica Lewinsky, who broke years of silence in 2014 with her Vanity Fair piece entitled Shame and Survival.

The piece takes an in-depth look at how the intense public scrutiny and shaming following the discovery of Lewinsky’s affair with Bill Clinton continues to impact her life, including a harrowing account of the years immediately following the incident.

It explores the gendered nature of the shaming and insults directed at Lewinsky, and demonstrates the resilience with which she has moved forward.

It also charts her eventual professional success despite the fact that her career was initially completely derailed because of the public way in which she was targeted.

Barkha Dutt speaks out on surviving childhood sexual abuse

Barkha Dutt, one of India’s most prominent broadcast journalists, has spoken out about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the seventh annual Women in the World summit in New York. A Women in the World report quotes her: “I cannot with any honesty write about feminism, call myself a feminist, or talk about the need to lift the veil of silence and the conspiracy of silence around sexual violence and abuse, if I’m not ready to break the silence in my own life.”

Dutt, who, like many other women public figures in the country, is regularly subjected to viciously sexist online harassment, has been the subject of a barrage of social media posts mocking and insulting her following the panel.

Government figures reveal that more than half of India’s children face sexual abuse.

MP Sakshi Maharaj comments on Muslim women

Hindu leader and BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj has said that Muslim women are treated ‘like slaves’, according to reports. He added that Hindu women are allowed to freely worship in temples, but that Muslim women are barred from offering prayers in mosques.

These comments come days after Trupti Desai, leader of the Bhumata Brigade, which has been campaigning for women’s right to worship, was roughed up because she attempted to enter the Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur. Groups of women activists – Hindu and Muslim – in India are leading ongoing campaigns to gain entry into places of worship.

North Carolina faces heat over anti-LGBTQ law

US state North Carolina has passed a widely denounced legislation blocking transgender people from using bathrooms in line with their gender identity. In response, a number of public figures and institutions have cancelled appearances, performances, and further financial engagement with the state.

Music artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr have cancelled performances in the state, as has the performance troupe Cirque du Soleil. The city of Los Angeles has also announced a boycott of the state. Companies such as Paypal and Deutsche Bank have stalled expansion plans in the state.

Cyndi Lauper has announced that she will contribute proceeds from her concert in the state to an LGBTQ rights organisation.