Wednesday, October 22, 2014

[NSI Statement] For Women's Right to Choice and a Gender-Just Delhi University!

In a bid to make Delhi University a gender-just space we hail the right of women and men to love freely, choose their partners with freedom, irrespective of caste, class, region, religion or ethnicity, and the right to choose their sexuality. We celebrate love as an emotion that allows people to relate to other human beings in a way which enriches us by associating with others on the basis of equality. However, women's right to make choices about their own bodies and lives have been resisted ever since these ideas were first articulated. Instead, it is something that has been earned by the struggles and toils of the women's movement in India and across the world. The Delhi University administration along with the Delhi police and several right wing student organisations have frequently invoked the issue of women's safety and security as a smokescreen to monitor and control the freedom, mobility and sexuality of youth, particularly women. Instead of undertaking the urgent task of making the Delhi University and its surrounding areas safe for women at every hour of the day and night, these authorities and organisations lay the onus of the safety of women, on women themselves. Early hostel curfews for womens' hostels are the starkest example of this. 

We are committed to creating a university campus free of sexual harassment. We urge everyone to work towards ensuring a safe and secure Delhi University, by educating men and boys who objectify and disrepect women and other genders. We urge university authorities, police officials, student organisations and all individuals to work towards educating individuals against misogyny and training in gender sensitivity. We urge all to take up the issue of the recent dismantling of Ordinance XV(D) that had been put in place after much struggle in order to create mechanisms to prevent and deal with cases of sexual harassment in DU. Education of youth must include awareness about an individuals' constitutional rights, including the right to choose a partner and marry anyone of any caste or religion, and awareness about the Special Marriages Act. 

Instead of focusing on substantive issues that contribute to creating a safe and secure Delhi University, a campaign has recently been launched by a right wing student organisation to ensure "women's safety and security" in Delhi University by emphasizing two issues. They intend, as has been reported in the media, to educate (Hindu) women so as to prevent them from being 'lured' into marriage by Muslim men followed by forced conversion, and from the "menace of live-in relationships" that run counter to "Indian culture". The frenzied rhetoric of Love Jihad, the phrase coined by the Sangh Parivar to point to marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men, has gained ground since the election of the BJP to power in the Center. All of this is being pursued in the Delhi University too, all in the name of ensuring safety and security for women. "Indian cultural values" are invoked to curb women's right to freely choose their partner. 

It is in the name these same "Indian cultural values" that the Indian State continues to deny the existence of marital rape arguing that sex between a husband and wife can never be coercive. This is based on the higher status given to a man's conjugal rights than to a woman's right to choice, to say no to sex and to take decisions about her body. The simple denial of marital rape is the biggest example of the crass patriarchal nature of "Indian cultural values". It is in the name of these same values that women are morally policed, and the onus of sexual harassment and violence is placed squarely on women, blaming them for the clothes they wear, the time of night or day they move around, and the company they keep. From the outrageous suggestions such as calling your rapist "bhaiya", blaming foods like chowmin for creating heat, somehow only in men's bodies, for their uncontrollable sexual urges, blaming education for rising sexual crimes against women, or suggesting sexual violence only takes place in urban India and not in rural Bharat, the Sangh Parivar along with other regressive institutions such as Khap Panchayats have repeatedly and in no uncertain terms attempted to hold women and their choices responsible for sexual violence against them. These are the same forces which kill couples for choosing partners of their own choice, often from different castes. These are the same forces which beat up couples on Valentine’s Day claiming it goes against "Indian culture". There is little space in this scenario for individuals to make their own choices about their own lives, particularly women, and instead a set of non-negotiable rules are imposed with violence and aggression. 

The act of "raising awareness amongst women about the menace of live-in relationships" smacks of a patronising attitude that treats women as though they know little about the world. If we are truly to make the Delhi University a safe and secure space for women and other genders, we must stand first and foremost for women's right to choice and respect women as thinking individuals who are capable of making decisions about their own lives.


Delhi University Chapter
New Socialist Initiative (NSI)


Shailaja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Post a Comment