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Indian Press (06 Nov 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Feminism’s discontents: The ways to justice: New Age Islam’s Selection 06-11-2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Nov 6, 2017

What’s acceptable and what is not

Abbas Nasir

Reformation… 500 years after

By Tarun Kumar

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/indian-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/feminism’s-discontents--the-ways-to-justice--new-age-islam’s-selection-06-11-2017/d/113129



Feminism’s discontents: The ways to justice

By Flavia Agnes

Nov 6, 2017

Feminism has not progressed in a linear mould and there are multiple ways of protest which victims may choose.

It has been a season of feminist churnings. The whisperings and anecdotal stories which used to travel through the grapevines of academic institutions, corporate offices, court corridors and NGO networks suddenly acquired a name — “Hall of Shame”. It had a ready reference — “the list” — with the who’s who of the academic world held up in full public view as sexual predators in the social media.

Reports in newspapers and debates within e-groups ensured that it reached even those who are not active on the social media, as in my case. But then, one misses all the excitement as issues unfold and go viral at lightning speed. So even before I became aware of “the list”, the anxious statement endorsed by a dozen-odd Delhi-based feminists urging that it be taken down as “due process” had not been followed went viral.

Their concern was that unsubstantiated allegations may delegitimise the struggle against sexual harassment and weaken the feminist movement. The statement seemed to suggest that “due process” is the only path of securing justice.

With this, the floodgates were thrown open. What ought to have been an issue framed within the binaries of powerful upper caste male professors and young vulnerable students was turned on its head as new binaries emerged — young versus old, dalit versus savarna and established feminists versus upstarts.

As the pent-up anger and frustration of the younger lot led to a “no holds barred” barrage of accusations, the signatories to the statement were unable to fathom what hit them. As one subsequently commented: “I never perceived myself as a powerful person holding a privileged position”. The notion of “feminist collectives” has helped many to camouflage the power each of us hold due to our individual class, caste, social status, institutional affiliations or the titles we hold.

As women from various other fields joined the global trend of #Metoo outpourings centred around their victimhood and the debate spread beyond the narrow confines of the academic world; a wish for similar lists in other fields was expressed — lawyers’ list, human rights activists’ list, journalists’ list, NGO functionaries’ list and so on, since sexual harassment is not confined within the power structures of the academic world. In many of these institutions, the “due process” mechanisms have not been set up and even where they are, they have lost credibility. It is here that a cautionary list would be most welcome by the young entrants.

Will it create a problem for those who are named? Those who helped in compiling the list seemed confident that no such danger exists. This will not lower their reputation nor result in the loss of job as the abusers are too well-entrenched within the academic world. It is due to the power they wield over the internal complaints’ committees that due process mechanism has failed and those approaching these committees are re-victimised.

The concern of feminists who urged that the list be taken down appears to be more in defence of feminism than with shielding their own mentors, colleagues and friends named in the list as they have been accused of. In the wake of the backlash of allegations that women file false cases of rape and dowry harassment, the “naming and shaming” strategy might bring further disrepute to feminism. But this logic has been rejected by several feminists across the generational divide.

The instant and sporadic public protests of yesteryears against wife murderers and rapists or the blackening of faces of abusers in villages did not follow any “due process”. There have been many instances where victims had declined to name their abusers, but despite this, the issue was highlighted in the media, seeking the resignation of the person concerned.

Feminism has not progressed in a linear mould and there are multiple ways of protest which victims may choose. The legal avenue of “seeking justice” is just one way, but it is not the best option as many have experienced it the hard way. In 1992, Bhanwari Devi, a lower caste woman, was gangraped in a village in Rajasthan, but the court acquitted the accused on the grounds that higher caste men will not touch an untouchable, let alone rape her! Though Bhanwari Devi didn’t get justice, her case led to framing of the “Vishaka guidelines” in 1997, ushering in the concept of protection of women from sexual harassment at the workplace.

In a recent interview, the researcher who filed a complaint against her former boss and head of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri),

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, in February 2015, shared her ordeal, depression and anxiety that she went through after filing her case. In an article by Namita Bhandare, “Culture of Silence Makes It Difficult for Women to Speak up Against Predatory Behaviour by Men”, published in The Wire, the Teri researcher urges all the victims to speak up. She states that the price of speaking up against sexual harassment is very high. Based on her experience, she offers a few tips: “Start saving money and before you speak up, get yourself a lawyer. Make yourself aware of all the options so that you can take informed decisions. Start planning on alternative job options…” Many victims shared similar harrowing experiences of lodging formal complaints. The support they need is long drawn and unflinching, and may span over several years.

The concern of established feminists stems from four decades of over-investment in law. In fact, every single campaign flagged by the women’s movement revolved around demands for stringent punishment as though this would usher in social transformation and serve to dislodge patriarchal structures. We know that patriarchal power is augmented with other power structures and hence, the “due process” does not provide a level-playing field. The few instances where victims have succeeded are when they have been pitted against men/boys from the weaker sections of society. The only instance where the stringent provision of the revised rape law was applied was in the Shakti Mills gangrape case, where two men, aged 19 and 22, from the marginalised sections, were awarded the death penalty.

The doubts expressed by articulate young feminists, about the efficacy of legal structures to bring respite to victims, are refreshing. But even while we acknowledge the failure of “due process” in selective spaces within carefully crafted structure, we continue to express faith that it works for ordinary women out there — the poor, the illiterate and the marginalised, obliterating their scepticism about the efficacy of legal redress. We have seen it in the well-intentioned Domestic Violence Act.

Yet the demands for more stringent legal provisions continue. These include declaring sexual contact with a minor as rape, bringing marital rape into the statute book, and so on. The latest in this trend is the demand for the judicial overreach of all divorces, negating community-based structures of dalits, tribals, lower castes and minorities which women find far easier to access.

It is not that as a lawyer I will negate “due process” or advise women to take the law in their own hands. But over-investment in transforming statutory law while disregarding the process of accessing justice on the ground has cost us dear. It is here that we need to invest and strengthen the mechanisms of accessing justice to induce faith in the “due process”. Until such time, we lack the moral authority to state the “only” or “correct” path to bring redressal. It’s not that in every case closure comes only when the accused gets the most stringent punishment.



What’s acceptable and what is not

Abbas Nasir

November 6, 2017

In an interview, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has talked of the girls’ education projects she is supporting in Pakistan but she declined to identify them lest they also face a security threat.

A little over 20, Malala may be everyone’s darling. Wherever she travels from her UK base — from the Middle East, to Africa to Latin America to different European destinations — she is showered with affection and adored.

But at home, at least measured by social media reactions, opinion is split between those who admire her and respect her work to raise awareness for, and give support to, girls’ education and those who seem to have a pathological dislike of her.

Hatred is too strong a word to use but may have been more accurate as what the latter category spews is nothing but venom — from denying that the assassination attempt ever took place, despite the lifelong mark that it has left on her, to calling her a Western agent.

This category of critic has also often lambasted her for using her Malala Fund for supporting girls in other parts of the world but allegedly ignoring her own country. Given how much animosity the young woman can evoke, she is wise beyond her years by not making public the projects she funds and supports in Pakistan.

One can almost visualise every brand of hater from the fanatics who tried to kill her to the ones whose inexplicable anger on social media knows no bounds considering any such project fair game to be targeted, damaged and even destroyed.

A lot has been written about what drives those who unleash attacks on her on social media but having sifted through reams of such material, no clear reason has emerged to me (perhaps a panel of psychiatrists, psychologists/profilers would do better) — unless one attributes this solely to misogyny.

This week I had a depressing conversation with a journalist friend who spent a day in Mardan with Mashal Khan’s family. The family continues to try and come to terms with their loss some seven months after their beloved Mashal Khan was lynched on the local university campus. My friend tells me that Mashal’s father is a learned man, a poet of very modest means who continues to dream of a better Pakistan where innocent people like his son are not falsely accused of blasphemy and killed by mobs.

Frankly, I know of no person who’d be this stoic, even optimistic about the future, after having suffered what he has. Even then, this isn’t half of Mohammad Iqbal Khan’s tragedy. Now his two daughters who were pursuing a pharmacy degree and matriculation cannot go to their institutions.

My journalist friend says this is because of safety fears as they live fairly isolated lives in their community and have to hear daily taunts and threats and are at a loss as to who to trust. They have no means to relocate to someplace safe, far from Mardan.

Policemen guard the family but given the murmuring they have heard, they are unsure of whether they can safely go to their educational institutions such is the hostility created by some people associated with different political parties whose sympathisers have been charged with the lynching.

Doesn’t your heart bleed at their predicament? Forget the government, forget any institutional support. I suspect our top three to four political parties have enough billionaires in their ranks to assist this family, to ensure that the girls can continue their studies elsewhere. They are sharp, intelligent students as their academic record will testify. But will they?

I am filled with doubt, given the attitudes towards women in society. Let me elaborate. A man who read my views in a column on sexual harassment a couple of weeks back and on Twitter after that accused me of saying what I did to “become popular with women or you won’t spread these lies”.

Lies? Well, here is another. By now you may have read thousands of words triggered by a recent ‘controversy’ on whether it is appropriate/ ethical for a doctor to send a Facebook friend request to a patient they have treated/are treating. US, UK and many others have clear-cut guidelines, apparently we don’t.

How to tackle this in the absence of proper guidelines or till they are developed? I was discussing this question with a woman friend who currently lives in the US and this is what she said and has given consent for her words to be used. The purpose isn’t to join one outraged camp or the other. It is simply to understand what happens in Emergency Room (ER) or Casualty or Accident & Emergency.

I know how vulnerable one is in the ER. In fact, I hadn’t counted before but the incident made me think back. And I’ve been to the ER six times in the last 11 years, three times in Pakistan and three tims here, and each time was a miserable experience, usually in the middle of the night, when seeing a regular doctor was not an option and pain was too intense to not do something.

“The first thing ER doctors do is ask your medical history and for women that’s also reproductive and sexual history, how many pregnancies? How many live births? How many miscarriages? How many abortions? Are you on birth control? Can you be pregnant? The whole lot is personal and invasive. If an ER doctor sent me a friend request after that, I would feel incredibly violated.”

The whole idea of sharing this was to offer an insight into how a woman patient might feel. If the reaction such a sentiment triggers is couched in appropriate words or words that are open to misinterpretation it cannot be the subject of endless debate.



Reformation… 500 years after

By Tarun Kumar

November 6, 2017

The beginning of Protestant Reformation, one of the major revisions effected to Christianity, began on the eve of 31 October 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg Germany.

The sale of “indulgences” by the church in Rome was the tipping-point. Luther’s reaction was triggered by the visit of a Dominican who had tried to sell Indulgences (salvation) to some of his acquaintances. Officially, the Church had cautioned that an Indulgence, at whatever price, would not by itself avert damnation or guarantee salvation, but the sales representatives then, as now, were not always so scrupulous. This particular individual had made bizarre promises that neither he nor anybody else ~ so Luther thought ~ could ever deliver.

All Saints’ Church slowcased valuable relics, each of them involving Indulgences, which were revealed on All Saints’ Day on 1 November. Hence a large crowd was able see the “theses”, which were to implicit challenges to the papal authority. Moreover, Luther took advantage of the new printing technology and had the theses printed in advance for circulation.

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany, in 1483. Despite his father’s wish that he become a lawyer, he joined the religious order and became an Augustinian monk. His erudition in theology was soon recognized, and he became professor of theology in 1510 at the University of Wittenberg. That same year he travelled to Rome on church duties and was a bit distressed when he saw Pope Julius II trying to decorate the church with the help of Michelangelo and Raphael. Luther felt he was expending his energy on plans to renew the ancient splendour of the Eternal City rather than deliberate on the texts.

This experience made Luther’s “inward callings” more compelling, as he now wrestled more and more with questions about what St. Paul had called the Righteousness of God. How could he love such a stern and merciless being, Luther asked himself. During the first six years of his Professorship he worked out the foundational idea of Reformation ~ the doctrine of Justification of Faith~ indeed, the belief that corrupted human nature is incapable of personally attaining salvation except through God’s grace which is freely given to those who believe in Christ. The substance of religion for Luther lay in the inner experience which was essentially mystical, while its external manifestations were merely intended to assist. In the present context, they were creating impediments, however. He believed the justice of God was a complete concept for man, specifically in the gift of faith. Man was, therefore, justified by faith, and faith alone. Thus, there was less need for the vast infrastructure of the Church, which seemed to him to be an obstacle, rather than an avenue, between man and God.

Luther’s philosophy retained certain important political elements. His writings of 1520 provide impressive evidence that he clearly recognized the issue to be one involving the power of an ecclesiastical polity. In the first place, the vocabulary was sprinkled with phrases and imagery rich in political connotations. The sacramental practices of priesthood were attacked as “oppressive” (tyrannicum), in that they denied the believer’s “right” (ius) to full participation. The papacy was denounced as the “tyranny of Rome” (Romanam tyrannidem), a “Roman dictatorship” (Romana tyrannis), to which Christians ought to “refuse consent” (nec consentiamus). The demand was then raised for the restoration of “our noble Christian liberty.” ~ “Each man should be allowed his free choice in seeking and using the sacrament. The tyrant exercises his despotism and compels us to accept one king only.”

In the immediate context, the atmosphere was charged by the Renaissance challenge to the Church in the form of Luther’s theological lectures. His theses raise several questions. How shall a man be save ? By the intervention of priests and bishops, as the Church had always suggested, or by his own, private, individual faith? If faith was private and individual, then it was hard not to agree with Luther’s position, and demand both national independence from Rome and individual independence from religious establishments.

Reform became both an end in itself and a rationale for others too. Henry VIII proclaimed that he wanted to reform the clergy, but he also sought a divorce and the riches stored in Catholic monasteries throughout England. The German princes who backed Luther desired reform, but they also wanted independence from Rome and a larger share of the taxes that church establishments collected within their dominions.

Martin Luther was not a systematic theologian; he never really produced a comprehensive exposition of ideas unlike Calvin’s writings in his work, Institutes. It comes as no surprise that Professor R.H Taney in a rare instance of inspired frustration likened Luther’s utterances to occasional explosions with a rare flash of light and generating more heat and dust.

Luther insisted that he had never meant to go that far, and churches survived, even if they were not Roman Catholic shrines. Luther even went to his grave insisting on the efficacy of the Eucharist, saying that if the Lord asked him to eat crab apples and manure he would do so, and therefore why should he not believe in the sanctity of the body and blood of Christ, since the Lord told him to do so.

The Lutherian effort did lead to a new set-up ~ the Lutherian state church ~ with its focus on inner mysticism and communion spiritually, but leading to aggregation of political forces and their domination therein. The dissipation of the Universal church removed the strongest checks upon the secular power that existed in the medieval era. Religion perhaps gained spiritually but the State gained in power.

The submissiveness of Lutherian churches with gravitation towards mysticism stands sharply in contrast to the type of religion that developed in the Calvinist set-up where worldly activity and even perhaps worldly success figured as Christian duty.

The Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on the individual need for grace, confirmed the answer. Everyone now had to read the Bible so that he could determine its meaning for himself. The invention of printing made that practical; the translations of the Bible into all the European languages made it easier. Everyone was now his own theologian, and God had entered the heart of every Christian. The new self-centeredness had other effects, as modern historians have shown. The connection between Protestantism and the rise of capitalism seemed to German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) and English historian RH Tawney (1880-1962) to be especially close. The discipline that a man must exert once he has cast himself adrift from the support of an international church may be akin to the selfreliance needed for success in a capitalist economy in the modern world.


URL: http://newageislam.com/indian-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/feminism’s-discontents--the-ways-to-justice--new-age-islam’s-selection-06-11-2017/d/113129


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