(En)countering Sexual Violence in the South Asian City – University of Copenhagen

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Copenhagen ADI Conference 2017
9th annual international ADI conference
Asian Dynamics Initiative
University of Copenhagen 26-28 June 2017 

(En)countering Sexual Violence in the South Asian City

Conveners:
Atreyee Sen, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen;
Raminder Kaur, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Sussex;
Emilija Zabiliute, NIAS, University of Copenhagen

This panel invites papers that address the theme of encountering and countering rising sexual violence (broadly defined) in cities in South Asia, and analyse such phenomena through the lens of urban social transformations in the region. There has been substantial literature which explores sexual violence in rural South Asia and its relationship with honour, class, caste, politics and religious violence. The bodies of women, especially those from marginalised village communities, have been historically desecrated, hanged, stoned and severed, often to return women to their lower social and gendered strata. Over the past few decades, incidents of rape, sexual discrimination, honour killing, acid attacks and sex-related murders have rapidly increased in urban centres. Media representations, celebrity support and the use of social media to express both outrage and endorsement of violence against women, have impacted how ordinary citizens view women’s right to the city. In the context of India, these anxieties came to a head during what became known as ‘the India rape crisis’: the brutal rape and subsequent death of a young student in Delhi that led to anti-rape demonstrations in many cities (Dec 2012). As more women enter urban labour economies and educational institutions, and exercise choice in terms of marriage, modernity, consumption, sexuality, dress and employment, questions of women’s mobility become largely reconfigured to accommodate debates about new sexual vulnerabilities in the city. The latter include concerns about religio-political protection groups, which supress sexual freedom. How are notions of femininities and masculinities articulated with regards to class, caste, poverty and ethnicity in the urban context? Are the choices of women and queer communities creating new forms of urban violence? What are the structural constraints faced by ordinary women workers while negotiating hostile urban landscapes? What urban resources are accessed to contest sexual vulnerabilities? How are gendered vulnerabilities reported and represented in the media? How do urban transformations of past years impact experiences and discourses of gendered violence in South Asian cities? These are only some of the questions that the panel is keen to explore.

For information about the panel please contact Atreyee SenRaminder Kaur and
Emilija Zabiliute.

Programme (subject to change):

PANEL: (En)countering Sexual Violence in the South Asian City

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Panel session 1 – Masculinities and Honour

 

 

9:00-11:00

 

 


Radhika Govinda
, University of Edinburgh
‘That is why, my friend, in Delhi, beware of girls’ bossiness (dādāgirī)!’ Masculinity, marginality and the rape crisis in India’s capital city


P. K. Yasser Arafath
, University of Delhi
Mappila Rape: Sexual Violence in the Indian Ocean and the ‘Age of Disorder’


Shakthi Ramani
,
University of Cambridge
‘Otherwise at the Drop of a Hat, They Would Be Making a Complaint’: Responses to Workplace Sexual Harassment in Chennai’s Information Technology Industry


Rashmi Gopi
, University of Delhi
Molestation and Masculinity: A study of Indian Experience

11:00-11:15

Break

Plenary Session – Auditorium 35.01.06

 

11:15-12:15

 

Keynote lecture by:
Professor Nora Annesley Taylor
, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Southeast Asian Artists' Global Networks

12:15-13:15

Lunch

Panel session 2 – Space and Movement

 

13:15-15:15

 


Madhavi Desai
, CEPT University
Gender and the City of Ahmedabad, India: Re-envisioning Design and Planning in Urban Public Spaces


Paridhi Gupta
, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Art(s) of Protest: An Analysis of Creative Ways by Women to Mark their Presence in the City Space


Shweta Goswami
, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Sexual violence as control over urban landscapes: A study of gendered experiences and perceptions of sexual violence in Northern India


Aastha Tyagi, University of Delhi
Chhed-chhad & Love Jehad: Young women navigate the Hindu right wing and the urban mobility

15:15-15:30

Break

Panel session 3 – Community and intersection

 

15:30-17:30


Parul Bhandari
, University of Cambridge
Pre-marital Relationships and Violence. Narratives of young middle class women in Delhi


Ruhi Khan
, London School of Economics & Political Science
The SMART story of a rape in the nighttime: Media framing of rape in India


Atreyee Sen
, University of Copenhagen
Loose girls, bad boys and safe neighbourhoods: Analysing women's  security anxieties and the logics of militant moral policing in urban India


Emilija Zabiliute, NIAS, University of Copenhagen
Unsafe city, gendered movements: contested urban mobility among social health activists in Delhi

17:30-

Reception

Conveners: Atreyee Sen, University of Copenhagen, Raminder Kaur, University of Sussex and Emilija Zabiliute, NIAS, University of Copenhagen

Session guidelines:
Presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes. The panels will be organised along the lines of 2x20 mins presentation, and then 20 minutes Q&A for both speakers.

Abstracts

Session 1

1.
Radhika Govinda,
Sociology, University of Edinburgh
‘That is why, my friend, in Delhi, beware of girls’ bossiness (dādāgirī)!’ Masculinity, marginality and the rape crisis in India’s capital city
The Delhi Rape Case and other instances of sexual violence against women have meant that Delhi has acquired the dubious distinction of being called the ‘rape capital’ of India. This has been accompanied by a public outcry for guaranteeing ‘women’s safety’ in the city. Feminists have observed that the growing incidence of sexual violence against women in urban India, more generally, points to a crisis of masculinity, where the confidence shown by women entering higher education, the work place and the public arena seems to trigger a sense of insecurity among men who otherwise are used to being in charge. Political leaders and the media have repeatedly portrayed low income male migrants as the ‘footloose’, ‘unfriendly bodies’ responsible for such violence. These developments compel us to examine how working class migrant men perceive middle- and working-class women and their right to the city, how they participate in sexualisation and marginalisation of public spaces, and how these, in turn, affect their own sense of belonging and subjectivity. With this aim in mind, this article explores, from a gendered lens, the narratives of twelve working class migrant men, all of whom are associated with a taxi stand in South Delhi. The narratives, themselves, are based on in-depth interviews and group discussions conducted in 2013 as part of a qualitative study on understanding change from the urban margins in Delhi.
 

2.
P.K.Yasser Arafath,
Assistant Professor Department of History, University of Delhi
Mappila Rape: Sexual Violence in the Indian Ocean and the ‘Age of Disorder’
 

3.
Shakthi Ramani, PhD Candidate, Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge
‘Otherwise at the Drop of a Hat, They Would Be Making a Complaint’: Responses to Workplace Sexual Harassment in Chennai’s Information Technology Industry
Perhaps no other industry is as emblematic of the modern Indian city as the Information Technology/Information Technology-Enabled Services (IT) sector. The expansion of India’s IT industry since the early 1990s has contributed significantly to the country’s rapid economic growth, with the generation of millions of jobs presenting, for college-educated women in particular, new opportunities to engage in paid employment; 35-38 per cent of the workforce, or over 1 million employees, are women. This prevalence of women in an industry characterised by flexible working hours, long commutes and working in mixed gender teams has created new opportunities to reframe entrenched social norms regarding gendered access to urban spaces.

However, the Indian IT industry has been plagued by reports of widespread workplace sexual harassment, disrupting the narrative of empowerment disseminated by an industry that projects itself as a pioneer in the area of workplace diversity and gender equality. This has been further complicated by the passage of legislation in 2013 mandating companies to form internal committees that will address complaints of workplace sexual harassment. This paper, which has emerged out of my broader doctoral research on the IT industry in the south Indian city of Chennai, utilises ethnographic data collected during nine months of fieldwork in 2015-16 to analyse responses to workplace sexual harassment from employees, managers, executives, diversity consultants, union leaders and bureaucrats. In this paper, I will unpack the corporate agenda surrounding the 2013 law through an exploration of its implementation by IT companies, thereby demonstrating that there is often a discrepancy between following the letter of the law and internalising its spirit. Further, in interrogating the depiction of male and female employees as embodying particular kinds of masculinities and femininities that contrast with the portrayal of companies as modern entities influenced by transnational flows (Appadurai 1996), I will explore the tension that gender-based violence generates between corporate responsibility and companies’ public image in the urban Indian landscape.

4.
Rashmi Gopi,
Assistant Professor, Miranda House, University of Delhi
Molestation and Masculinity: A study of Indian
This paper explores the discourses around molestation in India since 1990s. Sexual assault has various acts included in it and the extreme case of rape gets maximum public attention. There is a hidden understanding that other acts of sexual assault such as molestation can be forgiven and forgotten as minor deviations of behaviour. The difficulty in proving the charge of molestation acts as one of the chief obstacles in addressing this issue. Predominantly the offenders of molestation are men. This work highlights how particular notions of masculinity perpetuate molestation in the context of India. Why men molest? Which men molest? What is men’s understanding of molestation? These are certain questions touched upon here. It unpacks the politics of language in addressing and acknowledging the act of molestation.

This work is based on systematic study of changing legal language on molestation and its approach to punishment. In the process it closely scrutinizes two cases. First is the individual case of  Ruchika Girhotra (1990 to 2016) and second is the Bengaluru New Year mass molestation 2016. The methodology adopted is qualitative in nature wherein lived experience of girls/women is captured through personal interviews and target group interactions. It has also interviewed boys/men to know what they think about molestation. The discourses around molestation have been traced through newspaper coverage of above mentioned molestation cases.

Session 2

5.
Madhavi Desai,
Adjunct faculty at the Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University
Gender and the City of Ahmedabad, India: Re-envisioning Design and Planning in Urban Public Spaces
In the contemporary discourses and strategies of rapidly urbanizing India, the  subject of gender differences and women's marginality has remained largely unaddressed. Due to their roots in the modernist tradition, planners and designers have sought a universalizing approach towards peoples' needs. The act of planning, mostly in the hands of the government, lack creative interpretation of guidelines and norms regarding the close inter-relationship of women and public spaces. In reality; men and women's daily engagement and the issue of safety are greatly influenced by various aspects of urban planning and design such as location, accessibility, amenities, legibility, signage, eyes-on-the streets, etc. Patriarchal ideologies result in an ‘othering’ and resistance of women's concerns in the design of public spaces including the popular smart city agenda. Unused mill lands, defunct railway tracks, negative edges, underside of bridges and flyovers, badly located public toilets, etc. are common sites of sexual violence and abuse against women. On the other hand, adaptive reuse and introduction of good lighting, hard and soft landscape features, footpaths and street furniture would bring in transformative and encouraging changes to the urban-scape. Including the issue of safety, this paper,  through  primary and secondary sources, looks into the impact of globalization/privatization  of public spaces in malls and multiplexes, the increasing masculinity of the city due  to migration, design of neighbourhoods and public transport with gender sensitivity, the short comings of planning processes, etc. using the case study of Ahmedabad, the 7th largest metropolis in India, that has been hailed for contemporary urban development.

6.
Paridhi Gupta,
Research Scholar, Centre for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Art(s) of Protest: An Analysis of Creative Ways by Women to Mark their Presence in the City Space
“Days are ours, ours are the nights, the roads are ours and ours the lanes” is a slogan from a movement that started in Delhi in September 2015, called Pinjra Tod (Break the cage). The movement spread throughout the country where women articulated an equal right to the university and the city space. The sexual violence women face in the city affects the way that women view and navigate the space around them. This navigation is often informed by fear of the city, spatio-temporally and leads to an anxiety about accessing certain spaces at certain times, which leads to a differential use of space by PGFAB and PGMAB. This is almost a vicious cycle, where a masculine space produced due to such differential use intensifies women’s fear of using their city space. In Delhi women have responded and tried to break this cycle through various ways, one of which is the use of street art.

The paper relies on interviews of various artists who have produced street art in Delhi, as well as women from Pinjra Tod movement who produced graffiti in various parts of the Delhi as part of their movement. The use of graffiti is a direct defiance of the authoritarian structures of the city space, and is often seen as vandalism, while the wall art may not be a direct resistance, but in allowing women to express themselves, it is a form of indirect resistance. Both these are a response to women’s exclusion from the urban city space, and the violence they face when they do. An enquiry into such forms allow us to look at alternate forms of producing gender inclusive urban spaces as opposed to increased surveillance and tightening of a security regime.

7.
Shweta Goswami,
Jawaharlal Nehru University
Sexual violence as control over urban landscapes: A study of gendered experiences and perceptions of sexual violence in Northern India
The paper is based on a qualitative study conducted to map the understanding of people, and their response to sexual violence in urban cities of Northern India. One city in the each four states were the scope of the study, 1. Gaya in Bihar 2. Ajmer in Rajasthan 3. New  Delhi 4. Faridabad in Haryana (15th June-30th July 2016). The states were chosen according to the availability of the surveyors who belong to these cities and know their place and people well enough to establish the trust with the respondents. The respondent households were identified based on random sample.

A total 30 households were interviewed from the each state, 28 female-male households and non-binary households- Hijra/kothi. The purpose of interviewing a household was to trace the difference in perspective and lived experience of two individuals belonging to different gender who share common living space.A conversational, semi-structured personal interview were conducted by the interviewer through a semi-structured questionnaire. The respondents from  each household were interviewed separately. The questionnaire had mixed questions - dichotomous questions, contingency questions and open-ended ones.

The paper highlights the gap that exists in the ways different genders experience/understand the spectrum of sexual violence. It discusses the ways in which the fear of sexual violence functions as tool of control, and barrier in mobility. It also discusses the way people deal with sexual violence when it is confronted as news in the media, or news from a friend/relative/community member, or when one happens to be a victim/closely related to the victim.

8.
Aastha Tyagi, MPhil Candidate, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
Chhed-chhad & Love Jehad: Young women navigate the Hindu right wing and the urban mobility
During the month of September in 2013, around 14,000 people left their homes- clutching their loved ones and meager belongings for safer places. Hate was in the air and poor people from the Muslim and Jat communities, wary of each other, were being made scapegoats of a larger political plan that had been in action for a long time- the plan to manufacture a riot. The immediate cause of the Muzaffarnagar riots was made out to be a fight between three boys (two Jat brothers and a Muslim boy). According to inflammatory news reports, this was a classic case of ‘Love Jehad’. The Muslim boy had molested the minor sister of the aforementioned Jat boys. In a ‘provoked’ reaction, the Jat boys had killed the Muslim boy, resulting in the congregation of the Muslims of the village, who in- turn, brutally beat the two Jat boys. In the days that followed the riots, people were killed, displaced, sexually violated and property was looted and destroyed. People from both communities-Jat and Muslim, were victims and the State administration’s lax response only added to the casualties. In a camp three months earlier, in a city barely 35 kilometers away, girls, as young as eight were being told about the threat of ‘Love Jehad’- when a Muslim man, young and attractive, ties a ‘kalava’ (sacred red thread tied on the wrist among Hindus) and wears a ‘teeka’ (vermillion on the forehead), buys Hindu girls expensive gifts and tells her that he does not believe in caste or class. He then traps her in his love and marries her, only to exploit her. In some cases, he does not even bother marrying her. He then sells her to an old, Muslim man for a huge sum of money. Some nodded their heads vigorously in acknowledgement, for there were many girls who already knew about this. Others looked at each other, in disbelief.

Based on participant observation in a summer camp organised by Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the parallel women’s wing to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), this paper uses the pedagogic narratives used by the Samiti authorities to create the aura of threat rooted in the city and the body of the ‘other’ (male, Muslim). The paper argues that by collapsing and combining the threat of sexual violence into the space embodied by the ‘other’ and vice-versa, the Samiti creates a cautionary ideology against mobility and choice. Additionally, by using the data from interviews with young women attending the camp, the attempt would also be to understand how young women respond to such narratives and navigate the everyday of the public sphere.

Session 3

9.
Parul Bhandari, Researcher, Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge
Pre-marital Relationships and Violence. Narratives of young middle class women in Delhi
An aspect of urban social transformation, in the postliberalization era of India, as my research revealed, is the increased public embrace of premarital relationships, romance, and intimacy. As much as these intimacies are markers of being ‘modern’ for the young middle class, they also create new vulnerabilities in their lived urban reality. In this paper, I reveal the dark side of these relationships, as they are marked by violence - physical and emotional. I trace the narratives of those women who enter various kinds of romantic encounters – short and long-term, with a hope to find freedom, equality, and love, and in due course are subject to humiliation and violence. Partly, in a bid to keep-up the façade of being ‘modern’ and partly due to being unrecognized by the family, violence in pre- marital romantic encounters remains unnoted. Scholarship too has not yet adequately captured this form of violence against unmarried women. The proposed paper addresses this gap, as it reveals this rather specific kind of violence against women in the  framework of a relationship that is neither adequately regulated by family nor law. Based on my doctoral research, which was an ethnographic study on middle class of Delhi, this paper brings together the themes of aspiration, freedom, and violence in the romantic lives of young middle class women.

10.
Ruhi Khan,
London School of Economics & Political Science
The SMART story of a rape in the nighttime: Media framing of rape in India
In December 2012, the gang-rape and murder of a young collegian Nirbhaya in a bus in New Delhi created the biggest anti-rape revolution India has ever seen, the story splashed on the front pages of every newspaper across the country, the protests culminating in changing the laws of the land. Yet in January 2016, a young Dalit girl Dika was brutally raped and murdered at a residential school in a village in Bihar but her story hardly made it on national news, the protests soon meeting a silent death.

Even with greater awareness and a more open discourse on rape in India now, I argue that media is still greatly influenced by the patriarchal forms of representation and almost subservient to the political economy. Class and caste structures exert great influence and so does the cosmopolitisation of the mediascape. Through textual and discourse analysis I analyse the factors that influence media’s decision to frame a story and argue that rape cases that don’t fit, what I call, SMART frames will be left to fizzle away. While there is nothing smart about rape; a SMART rape incident that can be simplified and has a mass appeal with attention grabbing elements that can be response generating and is timely, can make headlines and create national campaigns. And this I argue, is the difference between Nirbhaya and Dika that determined their fate in newsprint.

11.
Atreyee Sen,
Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen
Loose girls, bad boys and safe neighbourhoods: Analysing women's  security anxieties and the logics of militant moral policing in urban India
This paper will explore the cooperative participation of women and the local police in routine surveillance over women’s dress, conduct and public display of love in urban India. My ethnographic landscape is mainly Mumbai, where ‘respectable women’, ranging from right wing activists to old ladies groups, collaborate with the neighbourhood police in cleansing public spaces of ‘free girls’. I will also analyse select incidents of ordinary citizens, across social and economic stratifications, being involved in stripping, beating, shaming and harassment of allegedly deviant women in other cities in India. The latter incidents were also supported by area police squads, which either overlooked or overtly took part in these confrontations. The emergence of brutal and excessive urban moral policing is conventionally related to cultural discourses -- on the  loss of normative feminine behaviour due to the impact of education, modernity and women’s labour. This paper however shows that this form of militant scrutiny of urban women is also intimately related to quotidian security  anxieties in rapidly modernizing cities. For example, several female residents of  a neighbourhood in suburban Mumbai use sticks to chase away young girls using a community park for romantic interludes. The local police and security guards from surrounding housing quarters also take part in these patrols. All parties contend that they collectively guard the park from ‘bad boys’ (potential paedophiles, kidnappers and child-traffickers acting as lovers), and ensure that the park is sheltered as a children’s playground in a city faced with shrinking green spaces. I eventually argue that this informal contract between ‘the state’ and ‘the citizen’ in controlling urban women’s exertion of freedom is interrelated with concerns about women’s honour and community dignity, and is also a byproduct of growing global apprehensions about diminishing public safety in commercial cities.

12.
Emilija Zabiliute,
postdoc, NIAS – Nordic Institute for Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen
Unsafe city, gendered movements: contested urban mobility among social health activists in Delhi
This paper examines the gendered modes of urban poor women’s mobility in the city of Delhi, and how the anxieties regarding such mobility contrast to men’s accounts on pleasures of wandering in the city. The paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi’s urban poor area and takes social health activists (ASHA workers) of the neighbourhood as a case-point to explore how their work, requiring their movement across the city, generates anxieties about women’s safety and subjection to sexual violence. While originally designed for rural India, in the cities ASHA programme largely focuses on urban poor areas and informal settlements, a result of which is a difference between rural and urban modes of ASHA work. Differently from their rural counterparts, In the urban setting ASHA workers are required to walk not only around their neighborhood, but also to visit health institutions and training sessions in other parts of the city.  

Being governmental health agents who carry messages about women’s wellbeing, ASHAs often reflect on their work as empowering and providing them legitimacy in their communities. However, they are ambivalent about the tasks that require traveling to distant parts of the city. Many ASHAs reflect on these tasks as endangering and inciting anxieties about their safety. Furthermore, their activities in the community, concerned with reproductive health and contraception, often become subject to ridicule and harassment by young men in the neighbourhoods. These anxieties and reluctance associated with women’s mobility across the city here stand in sharp contrast with urban poor men’s common accounts on adventurous wandering in the city of Delhi.
The concerns about women’s movement in the public space of the cities are often associated to gendered restrictions, women’s securitization, familial and community notions of honor. By placing the analysis in the context of the infamous Delhi gang-rape case, and the subsequent protests regarding violence against women, which took part during the conducted fieldwork, this paper shows how ASHA’s reservations regarding the movement in the city are mostly related to increasing public anxieties about the women’s safety in the city, and concerns about ‘misbehaving’ and ‘loitering’ men.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Panel session 1 – Masculinities and Honour

 

 

9:00-11:00

 

 


Radhika Govinda
, University of Edinburgh
‘That is why, my friend, in Delhi, beware of girls’ bossiness (dādāgirī)!’ Masculinity, marginality and the rape crisis in India’s capital city


P. K. Yasser Arafath
, University of Delhi
Mappila Rape: Sexual Violence in the Indian Ocean and the ‘Age of Disorder’


Aastha Tyagi,
University of Delhi
Chhed-chhad & Love Jehad: Young women navigate the Hindu right wing and the urban mobility


Rashmi Gopi
, University of Delhi
Molestation and Masculinity: A study of Indian Experience

11:00-11:15

Break

Plenary Session – Auditorium 35.01.06

 

11:15-12:15

 


Keynote lecture by:
Professor Nora Annesley Taylor
, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Southeast Asian Artists' Global Networks

12:15-13:15

Lunch

Panel session 2 – Space and Movement

 

13:15-15:15

 


Madhavi Desai
, CEPT University
Gender and the City of Ahmedabad, India: Re-envisioning Design and Planning in Urban Public Spaces


Paridhi Gupta, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Art(s) of Protest: An Analysis of Creative Ways by Women to Mark their Presence in the City Space


Shweta Goswami, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Sexual violence as control over urban landscapes: A study of gendered experiences and perceptions of sexual violence in Northern India


Shakthi Ramani
, University of Cambridge
‘Otherwise at the Drop of a Hat, They Would Be Making a Complaint’: Responses to Workplace Sexual Harassment in Chennai’s Information Technology Industry

15:15-15:30

Break

Panel session 3 – Community and intersection

 

15:30-17:30


Parul Bhandari
, University of Cambridge
Pre-marital Relationships and Violence. Narratives of young middle class women in Delhi


Ruhi Khan
, London School of Economics & Political Science
The SMART story of a rape in the nighttime: Media framing of rape in India


Atreyee Sen
, University of Copenhagen
Loose girls, bad boys and safe neighbourhoods: Analysing women's  security anxieties and the logics of militant moral policing in urban India


Emilija Zabiliute
, NIAS, University of Copenhagen
Unsafe city, gendered movements: contested urban mobility among social health activists in Delhi

17:30-

Reception