9 Degrees of Justice (New Perspective on Violence against Women)

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Item Code: NAG434
Author: Bishakha Datta
Publisher: Zubaan Publications
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 978818988505
Pages: 364
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 490 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


From An Early Focus On Rape, dowry and sati, feminist struggle against violence on women in India have traversed a wide terrain to include issues that were invisible in the 1980s. In Nine Degrees of Justice, second and third generation feminists share their perceptions on violence against women through a series of thought-provoking essays that establish that justice for women has not even reached double digit figures (hence nine degrees).


Has using the law led to justice for women who face violence? What does 'justice' mean for an individual survivor? How can we address violence in public spaces and cyber spave without demonizing either? How do women in armed conflict move from being victims to actors? How can we start to speak about lesbian suiceides and violence among women loving women? How do we ensure that women have a right to choice' when love is seen as a crime? Is prostitution a form of violence against women? What is the violence of stigma? And who is a 'women' deserving representation from the women's movement?


About the Author


Bishakha Datta is a non-fiction writer and documentary filmmaker. She is also the executive director of Point of view, a Mumbai based non-profit that promotes the points of view of women through media, art nad culture.




If I could rename this book, I would call it Trespassing in the Nude; nude because the word instantly evokes images of the body, and much of the violence described in these pages is etched on the body. So much of it is corporeal, or directly related to the body; the physical, material body. And so much of it is related to the body in a larger sense, emanating from society's desire or intention to control women's bodies and sexualities.


In her book Beyond the Veil (1987), author and sociologist Fatima Mernissi outlines how traditional Moroccan thinking views the street as male space. A woman who is on the streets is trespassing; she is in male spaces; spaces in which she has no right to be. 'If she enters them, she is upsetting the male's order and peace of mind. She is actually committing an act of aggression against him merely by being present where she should not be. Women are supposed to be veiled: the Moroccan word for 'unveiled' is aryana or nude. Thus an unveiled woman on the street is doubly aggravating the situation: she is nude and a trespasser.


The eleven essays and single poem in this selection are also about 'trespassing in the nude', but in a different sense. Every woman in India may not be expected to veil her body, but we are expected to veil our minds, particularly so with respect to our bodies. Yes, we are permitted to make some decisions around bodily functions, such as when we want to go to the toilet. But we are not expected to make any larger decisions about our bodies: from routine everyday ones of how to clothe or feed them to larger ones of how to nourish, cherish, work, entertain, pleasure, sex, protect or control them.


Simply put, we are not supposed to decide how we want to inhabit our own bodies, which at least in a material sense, form the basis of our lives. No, this domain of control, over bodies and lives, is reserved for family, community, society. Any incursion into this territory, any attempt to make our own decisions around our bodies, is viewed as trespass: a 'crime' that must be punished by any means, including violence. In other words, keep her in her 'place'. Any attempt to question this punishment - individually, collectively, through action, resistance or protest - is seen as yet another trespass; a double trespass, almost like trespassing in the nude.


I love books. This book grew out of another book... and another. In the early 1990s, as I began getting involved in the women's movement, I read The Struggle Against Violence (1993). Edited by a feminist academic and written by activists, the slim black-and-white volume lovingly explored three campaigns that had taken place in Maharashtra in the 1980s against sex-determination, rape, and the desertion of rural women. What stayed with me long after putting it down was the narrative power of resisting violence, rather than the horror of different forms of violence. Power over horror. The same feeling lingered as I read Ilina Sen's edited volume, A Space Within The Struggle (1990), which explored how different social movements looked at the 'women's question'.


Continuing this tradition, Nine Degrees of Justice focuses on struggles against violence on women, rather than on violence itself. Violence emerged as a core issue for the fledgling Indian women's movement in the early 1980s with campaigns against custodial rape. Many women who fought for justice then are household names for us now; their struggles an integral part and parcel of feminist lore. Forms of violence that became visible then - rape, dowry deaths, desertion, domestic violence, and sati - still abound.


What may have changed, broadened, or deepened during the last twenty years is our own understanding of violence. We now view patriarchy as cutting across larger forces - poverty, class, caste, religion, conflict, sexuality, ability - and resulting in a range of forms of violence on women. Just think of the past decade: growing economic inequality; drought in Orissa; starvation in Bihar; farmers' suicides in Maharashtra; displacement in West Bengal; communal genocide in Gujarat; conflict in the Northeast and Kashmir; the rise of a state- sponsored militia in Chattisgarh; casteism in Tamil Nadu; fundamentalism in Karnataka; land struggles in Kerala ... Women face violence in all of these contexts, so much so that names like Nandigram, Kandhmal, Khairlanji, and Salwa Judum, are now shorthand for particular forms of violence.


If 'violence against women' is now a multi-headed hydra, the acts that underlie this label are systemic and routine, everyday and sporadic. Women experience violence across a wide continuum: in private, public, and virtual domains; from strangers, familiars, and intimates; on streets, in workplaces, homes, war zones, and in the media. Women in India continue to face violence not just because they are 'women', but because they are Muslim women, Dalit women, women of a particular tribe or ethnicity, women who are poor, or women caught in the crossfire between revolution and the state.


However, as violence has morphed into various forms, so has resistance to it. Struggles against violence now range from the non-violent Gandhian to the digitally networked. Again, let's look at the last decade. In November 2000, Irom Sharmila began her fast-to-death in Manipur demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Her hunger strike, which continues, began after the Indian army, with a long history of killings in the Northeast, killed ten young Meitei men in Malom. Groups like the 'mothers' of Manipur, the Meira Paibi, have gone on relay fasts in solidarity and support.


In February 2009, the Pink Chaddi campaign exhorted people to send pink underwear to the head of the Hindu right-wing group, Sri Ram Sene, as a reaction to its members assaulting and molesting two women in a Mangalore pub. During its short-lived six-month lifespan till it was virtually killed by its opponents, it mobilized over 60,000 supporters online, on the Facebook group known as The Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose, and Forward Women. Over 3,000 pink panties were sent to the Ram Sene chief in a shaming action. Reports by women's rights groups showed the growing and systematic communalization of Karnataka, a phenomenon underlying a series of attacks on women.


In between these two landmark struggles, a host of others continue across India. Nine Degrees of Justice seeks to explore some of these.


Nine Degrees of Justice is not an encyclopedia. It does not aim to be comprehensive. It does not catalogue every form of violence that exists, or every struggle against this. Rather, it explores a selection of struggles against violence on women over the past four decades.


As a second- or third-generation feminist, I see the world both similarly and differently from feminists of earlier (or later) generations. I was born into an analogue world in the early 1960s. The only computers then in use were 'mainframes' that filled entire rooms; they were as large as elephants and only specialists knew how to use them, among them my father. My childhood conversations were on large black instruments that are now called landlines. My pen friends in foreign lands sent me airmail letters with colourful stamps from exotic countries that seemed light years away. My Indian passport said, 'Valid for travel everywhere except South Africa'.







This Thing Called Justice


Engaging with Laws on Violence against Women in India


An Intimate Dilemma


Anti-Domestic Violence Activism among Indians in the United States of America


If Women Could Risk Pleasure


Reinterpreting Violence in Public Space


Untangling the Web


The Internet and Violence against Women


Invisible Yet Entrapping


Confronting Sexual Harassment at the Workplace


From Roop Kanwar to Ramkunwari


The Agitation against Widow Immolation


Anatomy of a Suicide



Criminalizing Love, Punishing Desire



'Performing Sexuality'


Cultural Transgressions and the Violence of Stigma in the Glamour Economy


Her Body, Your Gaze


Prostitution, Violence, and Ways of Seeing


River Song



What Poetry Means to Ernestina in Peril


Notes on Contributors



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