Friday, December 28, 2012

Where have you been all this while?

Rahul Roy, What do men have to do with it?,, December 28, 2012.

I agree with so much of what he writes. As I posted this on FB, I found myself expressing some part of the anger and resentment that have been brewing inside me for the last two weeks. I didn't post those words there, but am doing so here.

As I've watched people write and speak about protecting 'our women'; as the voices and words of male op-ed writers initially drowned out those who have been working on these issues for decades; I have wondered resentfully: does the 'mohur' of male opinion make this an important Indian issue? Are women too waiting for 'their men' to signal the importance of an issue before they will take or express an interest? Does it constitute 'permission'? Does male approval make women's rights a serious issue as opposed to a 'ladies' issue'?

I longed to hear voices from the women's movement everywhere on this issue, but it took one week for them to start showing up in newspaper columns. It infuriated me that decades of reports and learning and activism were overlooked when journalists asked here and there: who are the experts? If they had been listening all along, they would not have needed to ask.

Opposing violence against women has been on the Indian women's movement agenda all along, and the agitation against the Mathura judgment marks an important turning point in its history. That was 32 years ago. At least since then, if not earlier, women's organizations--including Prajnya--have worked on some dimension of this issue--providing support and services to survivors; lobbying the government on legal and police reform; training police and other government offices on gender issues; reaching out to the public with awareness programmes; writing and speaking everywhere possible. But who was listening?

We want society--men, women, transgendered persons, everyone--to speak out against violence--in all forms, all contexts. (That's why Prajnya made these videos.) But on equal terms, not the same old ones.

I want to tell you that this resentful post is a very subdued articulation of how furious I really am. I am really trying to be polite and diplomatic here. My cousin assures me that even when this moment passes, this time there will be some collective memory that once we were angry together about this issue. And that a few more people will join this journey after this. I hope she is right.

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