The Gender Beat: Handwara Girl Meets Lawyers; Rapists Leave Scars on Women’s “Chastity,” says Court

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

Credit: PTI

Women in Handwara protesting against the detention of the minor girl and her family. Credit: PTI

Will fight for justice once out of detention, Handwara girl tells lawyers

On April 21, the minor student who was allegedly molested in Handwara met with her legal counsel in Zachaldara, according to a report in the Hindustan Times. It came a day after the high court ordered the superintendent of police to facilitate a meeting.

Khurram Parvez, a  spokesperson for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), the organisation whose legal team is representing the girl and her family, said that the meeting lasted for two hours, with two policemen stationed outside of the room. Parvez said in a statement that the girl intends to fight for justice when she is out of police detention, adding that she intends to “expose the lies of the State.”

Parvez added “The family confirmed that they were being held in police custody against their will, and seek urgent relief from the high court to have them released from the custody and be allowed to reside at a place of their choice where they can continue their legal struggle.” Government officials are saying that the family, including the girl, are at a relative’s house, “without any restrictions.” However, the JKCCS maintains that the family is under constant and intense police surveillance and has restrictions imposed on their movements.

Senior police officials summoned over inaction on cases of sexual violence against Dalit women

After two Dalit women approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes over police inaction on cases they filed against their rapists, the body asked two senior police officers to appear before it, says a report in The Times of India. The Bathinda zone inspector general of police and the Muktsar senior superintendent of police have to appear before the commission on May 3, with a report on the action they’ve taken on the two complaints.

So far, nobody has been arrested by the police, despite both victims having identified the people they accuse of raping them. One of the victims even has CCTV evidence, but no action has been taken by the police beyond the filing of FIRs and ordering medical examinations to be conducted.

Rapists leave scars on women’s “chastity”: court

A New Delhi court charged a man with seven years of rigorous imprisonment after he was found guilty of rape.

It said: “It is a serious blow to her supreme honour and offends her self-esteem and dignity. It degrades and humiliates the victim and leaves behind a traumatic experience. A rapist not only causes physical injuries but more indelibly leaves a scar on the most cherished possession of a woman i.e. her dignity, honour, reputation and not the least her chastity,” according to The Times of India.

Women’s rights activists in India have long campaigned for sexual violence to not be connected with the notion of a woman’s “honour”.

In a piece published in The New York Times in 2013, Sohaila Abdoulali wrote, “Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonoured. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.

If we take honour out of the equation, rape will still be horrible, but it will be a personal, and not a societal, horror. We will be able to give women who have been assaulted what they truly need: not a load of rubbish about how they should feel guilty or ashamed, but empathy for going through a terrible trauma.”

Separate akhada for kinnar communities at the 2016 Kumbh Mela

For a first time in history, a separate akhada has been created for kinnar communities at the Simhastha-Kumbha Mela in the Ujjain district of Madhya Pradesh, according to reports. Transgender people from around the world are meant to take part, the religious leader Rishi Ajaydas told PTI.

The Kinnar Akhada is the 14th akhada at an event that has traditionally had 13 akhadas.

Menstruation and women astronauts

The Atlantic has published a piece on the challenges and pitfalls of menstruating in space. The writer, Julie Beck, reports on a new paper which “reviews the possible options for period suppression in space, and while training to go to space.” She quotes one of the researchers involved in the study, Varsha Jain, who recommends that astronauts use long-acting reversible contraception, including IUDs, to suppress menstruation. However, the study emphasises: “Full amenities are available should astronauts choose to menstruate.”

India makes “significant improvement” in number of women represented in boardrooms: study

A study released on April 19 finds that women’s representation in boardrooms listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange shot up from 5.8% in 2012 to 12% in 2015. It was 7.3% in 2013 and 8.6% in 2014.

The study, titled Building Diversity in Asia Pacific Boardrooms, attributed the improvement to government initiatives. Two other countries who show an improvement are Malaysia and Australia.

The telecommunications industry has the highest number of women board members, followed by information technology and finance.

Actors who played female Jatra roles honoured

Janardan Nandi and Chapal Bhaduri, well-known actors who have played female roles, were recently honoured at the ICCR, says a report in The Times of India. The two actors are popularly known as Janardan Rani and Chapal Rani, and are among the last actors to play female roles in the Bengali folk theatre form of Jatra.

The event was conceptualised by Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee and Kamalika Banerjee.

Chatterjee spoke about the importance of recognising gender fluidity and queer arts.