Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Gender Based Violence

Today is International Women's Day and it would be appropriate to devote a post to Gender Based Violence which is quite a problem for Bhil women also. Violence against women is an ancient and universal problem occurring in every culture and social group. It originally began with property accumulation and inheritance which necessitated the strict delineation of the line of descent through male descendants and so led to control of female sexuality and the gender division of labour with men doing external work and women restricted to do home and care work. This gave rise to the institution of patriarchy or men's control of women's work and sexuality through the threat of violence (Lerner, G (1986). The Creation of Patriarchy: Women and History, Oxford University Press, New York.). Ever since then inequalities in status between women and men and a masculine culture of competition for resource and power accumulation are the major sources of this violence.
A major legal support for the elimination of this violence was provided by The United Nations General Assembly adopting the Declaration of Elimination of Violence Against Women in December 1993. Article I of that declaration stated that violence against women means - any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.
By referring to violence as "gender-based", this definition highlights the need to understand violence within the context of women's and girl's subordinate status in society. Many cultures have beliefs, norms and social institutions that legitimise and therefore perpetuate violence against women. Such violence cannot be understood, therefore, in isolation from the norms and social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence women's vulnerability to violence. Violence can be physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or economic. Such violence does not only occur in the family and in the community but is also perpetuated by the State through its policies and the actions of the agents of the State like the police and the administrators.
Moreover, instead of just focusing on each case of violence or on individual men’s acts of violence against women, the entire culture that creates current male roles and identities – defined as ‘masculinity’ has to be understood. Masculinity – or masculinities, as there are different forms of masculinity that are manifest in various ways – is a complex phenomenon. Masculinity is often associated with characteristics such as aggressiveness, competitiveness, dominance, strength, courage and control. These characteristics result from a combination of biological, cultural and social influences, and constitute power relations in society as a whole. Thus men are also victims of masculinity even though women are more so. Consequently it is necessary to critique the quest for power in society as opposed to the redistribution of power if violence is to be rooted out in general and gender based violence is to be targeted in particular.


Anonymous said...

come 8th March and yes, some dedication to women's rights. well, you have been writing on women on and off so you cannot be accused of being tokesnistic.... All the same a few clarifications that I thought might be useful. While the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was adopted in 1967 by the UN. CEDAW came into force in 1980, which means that the Declaration represented a moral and political intent, while the Convention in the form of a treaty, that came into force in 1980 becomes legally binding on the State Parties.

Another important addition since you are discussing international legal regime, CEDAW is the only instrument that talks of reproductive rights and also challenges the notion of cultural rights and family as an institution. Of importance to note here is that India when it signed CEDAW in 1993 held declarations on two articles (5(a)and 16(1); Article 5(a)requires state parties to 'modify social and cultural patterns' such that prejudices and customary practices based on gender based discrimination and stereotyping of the roles of men and women are eliminated - to this the GoI held that it will abide by its policy of non-interference in personal affairs of any community without its initiative or consent'! Article 16 requires state parties to compulsorily register marriages - to this GoI expressed its difficulty to achieve this in a vast country like ours.

So when the Bhili women continue to suffer under patriarchy in their community as family laws are governed by personal laws, women of this community too doubly suffer when the State decides to look the other way in abiding by its 'principle of non-interference' It is indeed fearsome when tribal activists insist on immunity vis-a-vis cultural rights. One would certainly want indigenous groups to safeguard their knowledge, their culture, their spirit, but when these remove justice from their women folk in the name of culture, then it is scary. Often in the name of culture, women's rights go for a toss.

Rahul Banerjee said...

this has been a big problem with the bhils. overcoming their cultural prejudices which are inimical to women. there are many other instances of horrific oppression of bhil women and i will relate one more in my next post