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The Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia research project (coordinated by Zubaan and supported by the International Development Research Centre) brings together, for the first time in the region, a vast body of knowledge on this important – yet silenced – subject. Six country volumes (one each on Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and two on India) comprising over fifty research papers and two book-length studies detail the histories of sexual violence and look at the systemic, institutional, societal, individual and community structures that work together to perpetuate impunity for perpetrators.
This volume focuses on Bangladesh, a nation born in 1971, in a birth that was as marked by bloodshed as it was by sexual violence. The history of widespread sexual violence, and incidents of sexual slavery, as well as the absence of accountability for the perpetrators, is by now well known. The essays here address the structural dynamics of impunity at the individual and societal levels, looking not only at the conditions that go into its creation, but also the elements that fuel it. They ask what helps it to become so embedded and point to its human, global and national costs. Together they explore the ways in which the women’s movement and feminist practice have worked to demand accountability and recognition for the victims and survivors of sexual violence, challenging the impunities embedded in the patriarchal structures of Bangladeshi society. In doing so, they bear witness to the continuing efforts of women’s groups in Bangladesh to give this crucial issue the attention that it deserves, for without that, justice for victims and survivors, will remain elusive.
The Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia research project (coordinated by Zubaan and supported by the International Development Research Centre) brings together, for the first time in the region, a vast body of knowledge on this important – yet silenced – subject. Six country volumes (one each on Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and two on India, as well as two standalone volumes) comprising over fifty research papers and two book-length studies, detail the histories of sexual violence and look at the systemic, institutional, societal, individual and community structures that work together to perpetuate impunity for perpetrators.
In this remarkable and wide-ranging study, activist and historian V. Geetha unpacks the meanings of impunity in relation to sexual violence in the context of South Asia. The State’s misuse of its own laws against its citizens is only one aspect of the edifice of impunity; its less-understood resilience comes from its consistent denial of the recognition of suffering on the part of victims, and its refusal to allow them the dignity of pain, grief and loss.
Time and again, in South Asia, the State has worked to mediate public memory, to manipulate forgetting, particularly in relation to its own acts of commission. It has done this by refusing to take responsibility, not only for its acts but also for the pain such acts have caused. It has done this by denying suffering the eloquence, the words, the expression that it deserves and papering over the hurt of people with routine government procedures.
The author argues that the State and its citizens must work together to accord social recognition to the suffering of victims and survivors of sexual violence, and thereby join in what she calls ‘a shared humanity’. While this may or may not produce legal victories, the acknowledgment that the suffering of our fellow citizens is our collective responsibility is an essential first step towards securing justice. It is this, that in a fundamental sense, challenges and illuminates the contours and details of State impunity and positions impunity as not merely a legal or political conundrum, but as resolute refusal on the part of State personnel to be part of a shared humanity.
This book links caste and gender to the social production of motherhood. Dandekar argues that in contradiction to the assumption about motherhood being primarily a female-centred and positive domain, subaltern agency produces it as malign, dangerous, malevolent and marginal.
Highlighting the manner in which the experience and expression of motherhood is constructed as androgynous and nonthreatening to patriarchal hegemony, the author emphasizes the consolidation of ‘lower’ caste positive identity through valorization processes and endorses high caste and class ownership and power by producing the birth and survival of a male child as its ideological validaton.
Little has been written about the experiences of motherhood in India, outside of the debates around public health statistics. Here, the author reinvents and deconstructs existing notions of maternity by interrogating the very systemic and patriarchal nature of its language that depoliticizes oppression.
In Queer Activism in India, Naisargi N. Dave examines the formation of lesbian communities in India from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Based on ethnographic research conducted with activist organizations in Delhi, a body of letters written by lesbian women, and research with lesbian communities and queer activist groups across the country, Dave studies the everyday practices that constitute queer activism in India.
Dave argues that activism is an ethical practice comprising critique, inven- tion, and relational practice. She investigates the relationship between the ethics of activism and the existing social norms and conditions from which activism emerges. Through her analysis of different networks and institutions, Dave documents how activism oscillates between the potential for new social arrangements and the questions that arise once the activists’ goals have been achieved. Queer Activism in India addresses a relevant and timely phenomenon and makes an important contribution to the anthropology of queer communi- ties, social movements, affect, and ethics.
“The exciting aspect of this book is how Dave draws on the everyday practices of queer activism, in particular lesbian activism in India, to expose the deeply considered and ethical positions that they take. . . . Dave’s book marks a significant contribution to the archive of queer scholarship generally, but more importantly to making visible a postcolonial perspective in this scholarship.” — Ratna Kapur, Journal of Anthropological Research
“A beautifully written ethnography, offering a passionately detailed ethnographic perspective on queer politics, feminism, and social movements in India.” — Kamala Visweswaran, author of Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference
“Dave’s book, with its anecdotes, observations, and rich endnotes, will no doubt add to our understanding of urban lesbian activism while compelling us to reflect about methods and ethics in the age of “affect.”” — Shohini Ghosh, Journal of Asian Studies
In The Sexual Life of English, Shefali Chandra examines how English became an Indian language. She rejects the idea that English was fully formed before its life in India or that it was imposed from without. Rather, by drawing attention to sexuality and power, Chandra argues that the English language was produced through conflicts over caste, religion, and class. Sentiments and experiences of desire, respectability, conjugality, status, consumption and fashion, came together to create the Indian history of English. The language was shaped by the sexual experiences of Indians and by native attempts to discipline the normative sexual subject. Focusing on the years between 1850 and 1930, Chandra scrutinizes the English-education project as Indians gained the power to direct it themselves. She delves into the history of schools, the composition of the student bodies, and disagreements about curricula, the way that English-educated subjects wrote about English and debates in English and Marathi popular culture. Chandra shows how concerns over linguistic change were popularly voiced in a sexual idiom, how English and the vernacular were separated through the vocabulary of sexual difference, and how the demand for matrimony naturalized the social location of the English language.
Though commonplace today as a technological quick fix for infertility, assisted reproduction is a complex phenomenon, located at the intersection of patriarchy, medicalization and commerce, These technologies create both challenges and opportunities, and responses to them have sought to balance questions of ethics, rights and politics. The essays in this volume map the journey of ARTs in different countries, examining the global industry and the challenges it poses in the context of markets, and look at regulatory frameworks in diverse settings.Together they bring a feminist lens to the examination of the now-established ART industry.
Sama's long-standing work provides a special focus on India: the spread and features of the industry, the gendered nature of the burden and treatment of infertility, the destabilisation of the family as we know it, and feminist debated around surrogacy that reassess ideas of agency and commodification.
“It is …a commendable job done by the editor Dr. Mohan Rao to have put together this very readable anthology of rare media writings about the real health issues that plague women’s lives. To which he has also contributed a very lucid and well argued preface that adds to the value of the volume.” -- Mrinal Pande, The Book Review
The contributing journalists are winners of the Panos Reproductive Health Media Fellowship.
Mohan Rao teaches at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His publications include From Population Control to Reproductive Health: Malthusian Arithmetic and Disinvesting in Health: The World Bank’s Prescriptions for Health.
This book focuses on feminist research methodology, exploring and analysing its constituting methods, theory, ontology, epistemology and ethics and politics, as well as the significance of the subjectivity of the researcher in research issues relating to women, gender and feminism in Sri Lanka. The book examines ways of meaning-making for political, ideological and social change, and constructs an example of feminist research praxis.
Using this South Asian country as a case study, the author looks at the means by which researchers in this field inhabit, engage with and represent the multiple realities of women and society in Sri Lanka. In analysing what constitutes feminist research methodology in a transitional country, the book links local research practices with Western feminist approaches, taking into account the commonalities, distinctions and specificities of working in a South Asian context.
With an emphasis on general issues and debates in global feminist theory and methodology, the book explores the issues of reflexivity, standpoint, gender, women’s agency, empiricism, and the feminist politics of Marxism and democracy, positivism, induction, deduction, post-modernism and postcolonialism.
Engaging with and re-conceptualising three traditionally different types of research — women’s studies, gender studies and feminist studies — Feminist Research Methodology provides a framework for researching feminist issues. Applicable at both local and global levels, this original methodological framework will be of value to researchers working in any context.
A fascinating, multi-disciplinary exploration of water, wells and women’s spaces in Gujarat.
Centuries ago, in the arid landscape of Gujarat, where water is scarce and rains scanty, stepwells sustained life and enabled crops to flourish. Women played a major role in the construction and patronage of many of these stepwells, which were unique structures that linked three worlds: the subterranean, the earthly and the celestial. Women also frequently served as inspiration for their construction — these were often built to honour a virtuous wife or benevolent mother, a local goddess or a beloved mistress. As a gathering place for women, the stepwells also became a favourite subject in folklore. Every stepwell yields tales of love and betrayal, courage and sacrifice. Through a historical analysis and visual documentation of these distinctly female spaces, Purnima Bhatt sheds light on the relationship between women, water, architecture and religion. Examining the artistic and aesthetic aspects of these structures, the author describes the art of the stepwells as looking beyond the patriarchal gods of classical Hinduism and celebrating the feminine principle. She also explores the idea of these wells acting as indicators of women’s changing social and economic status and challenging the stereotypes of the passivity of women. Her focus on ‘the woman factor’ aims to give voice to countless women who are forgotten and neglected by history, thereby making the invisible, visible.
Why does the world’s largest democracy turn a blind eye to systematic violations of human rights in its periphery?
Drawing on the findings of a comparative research project, this volume tackles a set of intricate questions about the workings of impunity in India. How do victims of abuse and survivors of sexual violence end up being denied justice? What do those on the margins—those with the wrong sex, wrong identity markers, wrong political leanings— tell us about violence by state and non-state actors?
Bringing together senior academics, civil society leaders and fresh voices from across India, the volume offers analysis—contextual, structural and gendered—and breaks new conceptual ground on the underbelly of India Shining. The volume contains testimonies that were collected during fieldwork in four states.
Contributors include: Sanjay Barbora, Shahana Basavapatna, Anjuman Ara Begum, Uma Chakravarti, Warisha Farasat, Satish K. Jain, Ram Narayan Kumar, Harsh Mander, Bhagat Oinam
Patriarchy asserts men are superior to women
Feminism clarifies women and men are equal
Queerness questions what constitutes male and female
Queerness isn’t only modern, Western or sexual, says mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik. Take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over two thousand years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver a devotee’s child; Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend, and many more . . .
Playful and touching—and sometimes disturbing—these stories, when compared with their Mesopotamian, Greek, Chinese and Biblical counterparts, reveal the unique Indian way of making sense of queerness.
Winner of the 2005 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize
Even childbirth is affected by globalization—and in India, as elsewhere, the trend is away from home births assisted by midwives toward hospital births that increasingly rely on new technologies. And yet, as this work of critical feminist ethnography clearly demonstrates, as biomedical models of childbirth spread throughout the globe, they fuse with local practices to create distinctive forms of modern birth.
Through vivid description and animated dialogue, this book conveys the birth stories of the women of Tamil Nadu in their own voices. Cecilia Van Hollen uses these stories to explore larger questions about how the structures of colonialism and postcolonial international and national development have helped to shape the form and meaning of birth for Indian women today.
Cecilia Van Hollen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University.
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