India: Modi’s BJP a ‘grave danger’ to women and minorities

Interview with Kavita Krishnan, published on, by Mila Gisbert, May 8, 2014.

… It is now over a year since the Delhi case ignited people’s anger and led them to protest. What do you consider has been the main achievement of that movement?

  • I would say the main achievement has been actually a shift in the way that rape is talked about. To me, the most significant thing about the protest was that there were slogans being raised against victim blaming, rape culture, and this was happening for the very first time, and to introduce the idea that the women should not be subjected to restrictions in the name of “chastity”. This was something new that was happening in India for the first time with this case.
  • But I think that the changes we want to see are clearly yet to happen and not all of the changes were positive.      
  • For instance, we wanted marital rape to be recognised as rape but that did not happen. We wanted the impunity enjoyed by the armed forces and personnel who are accused of sexual violence in conflict areas removed but that has not happened. There are also two significant changes that have been introduced that we opposed: one was the raising of the age of consent, from 16 to 18, and the other the introduction of death penalty for rape. Both these changes have very dire consequences for women, and yet these changes were made in the name of protecting women … //

… How much impact have media and films in Indian popular culture, and is the women’s rights movement helped by any new ideas or are film stereotypes (both Indian and Western) only perpetuating the current culture?

  • It is not so much the Western model that is the problem. Of course there are exceptions but much of the popular culture and media, advertising, still help enforce the old of stereotypes about women. So I don’t think this in the dividing line. Both Western and Indian models Indian popular culture loves to make this distinction between the Indian girl and the Western girl, and between the Indian type of woman and the Western type of woman.
  • But this keeps reinforcing certain kinds of oppressive values in the name of tradition.
  • Clearly India has a lot of traditions to choose from. It isn’t that there are only oppressive kind of traditions at hand, but in painting this kind of picture they try to reinforce those oppressive values.
  • Even when they introduce the so-called Western model, or Western mores, there will end up with a moral lesson at the end of it, to say that the Indian mores are the correct ones. The point of what they are doing, is that they are selling a culture of consumerism. Even when they try to sell this culture of consumerism as “freedom” it is utterly disturbing, because it is not as if the imposition of fashion, or dressing, the pressure to do make up, is “freedom” either. It is a very superficial definition of modernity. It does not represent modernity at all.
  • There are some exceptions. There are some popular films that are beginning to open up the discussion, it has been happening for some years now.
  • There is a recent film which I am interested to see – but I haven’t seen yet because of the work with the elections – an Hindi movie called Queen. It talks about social expectations and social pressures, how hard can these be on a woman in India. It is not so much about being Western or Indian, but it is about a young girl that visits Europe and finds out about the difference in expectations on how she should behave and live, and it is about how being away from India changes her. I am not recommending it myself because I haven’t seen it yet, but I am told that it talks about these issues without having to frame them within the backdrop of a violent incident.
  • It is not just about rape, or horror against women, we need be talking about our lives, about how they are constraint and how those constraints ought to be questioned and challenged.

You have described sexual violence as “disciplinary action” to preserve patriarchal rules and dominance over women, and disconnected it from the concept of sexual attraction. Can you explain this in relation to Indian society, and why then neo-liberalism is not the key to Indian women’s freedom?

  • I think it is an imposition for women across the world, not just in India, that happens because women start having sense of themselves, and also have to start disciplining themselves, even if little, even if we say to ourselves all the time we would not circumscribe our freedom in the name of our safety, but in a way we do.
  • The threat of sexual violence is something that shapes our lives, that shapes our choices, that shapes what we do, how we feel in public spaces or private spaces, how we feel around men and so on.
  • What I had in mind was, if you look at the kind of behaviours that woman are asked to live by, across the world, how is this achieved? How do they achieve telling women that, for instance, taking care of children, that motherhood is their job? One way is by building a paradigm of “good women” and “bad women”. That is partly in a sexual sense, but it goes beyond sexual control alone.
  • What I also had in mind was that other forms of control over women actually enable sexual violence. I have been thinking about this lately, when I talk about sexual violence in India and I start telling people to think that it is not about sex, it is not sexual attraction, that enables that violence.
  • What enables a man to think that he has the right to do something to a woman that she does not want? Then we start talking about the sense of entitlement that a man feels over women in general, and how he learns to feel that entitlement by the entitlement that society bestows on him, and allows him to feel, over the women in his own life, over his sister, daughter, even over his mother. That also leads to sexual violence within families.
  • Undoubtedly, it is a culture of entitlement and control which teaches him that is alright to perpetrate forms of violence against women. It is very difficult to make this connection here in India because, generally, any campaign against sexual violence, by the state or certain agencies, would tend to say to men” “Learn to treat women like you treat your mother and sisters”. The point is that he is treating women like his mother and sisters. He has control over his mother and sisters, he gets to decide how they live their lives, he has control and entitlement over them, and he expands and extends that entitlement to other women in society, to exercise that control over them.
  • That was what I was trying to say.
  • The other point I made was why neo-liberalism is not the answer. Neo-liberalism also benefits from maintaining the structure of discipline over women, of control over women. One example (let’s not look at India for a minute), in advanced capitalist societies, the state is taking away welfare measures that they were forced to adopt earlier. For instance, they are taking away child support, but they are forced to perpetuate an ideology where they say that if a woman has to take child support she is a “bad mother”, she has failed in her mothering duties, she will get the support but not without being told that it is not what all women are entitled to or that they all do.
  • So you have the “good mother” and the “bad mother”, then you have the “good worker” and the “bad worker”. A “good” woman worker is not be someone who is asking for her rights. Clearly it serves a wider purpose for the capitalist system to maintain all notions of “good women” and “bad women”.
  • In the Indian context, what neo-liberal policies have done to Indian women? The government will try to tell us that they are empowering women. Yes, women are coming out and working, but the point is the kind of work that they do, what enables that?
  • Looking at the textile factories in South India, largely young girls from oppressed castes background are doing that type of work. What enables the subservience on those workplaces is caste and gender division and subordination. Neo-liberal policies would not get cheap labour from that section of society were not for gender and caste inequality there. So they clearly benefit from it.
  • There are also big foreign multinational companies coming here to take the land. Large corporations are land grabbers and people from indigenous societies have resisted their land grabbing very strongly. Women have been a very, very important part of these movements. They have been subjected to violence, including sexual violence, by state and non-state agencies, in order to break their movements. So neo-liberal policies have not helped to empower them. In fact the opposite, neo-liberalism has benefited from the perpetuating the existing inequalities and restrictions.

In your opinion, should we be focusing on global campaigns to put a stop to violence against women since the struggle for women’s rights and freedom is an international issue?

  • We need solidarity among countries, but a single global campaign probably would not be very effective, you would need to look at the local specific details of many different countries.
  • But what is important is that we cannot look at sexual violence as a problem specific to one part of the world. For example, I would look at the international media coverage of the Indian protests, and it was actually very problematic because they tried to look at sexual violence in India as some kind of problem specific to India, and to do with India only.
  • I met some foreign students soon after that movement, and I realised that their thinking – influenced by what they have learned from the media – it had not helped them to reflect upon the violence against women in their societies. They found it all too easy to think that the violence only happens in India or Afghanistan or Pakistan. They were able to distance themselves from the violence around them, the violence and discrimination that would take place against women in their own countries and in their own society.
  • What I try to tell them in our discussions is that the only useful kind of movement that looks at sexual violence is one that makes you uncomfortable, not one that makes you comfortable by locating the problem far away from you. So, women in Afghanistan are fighting their violence their own way, women in India are fighting, and women in Pakistan are fighting, but we should not be locating the problem far away from us and then refusing to reflect upon the implications of that problem close to home.

(full long interview text).


Cancer: le remède oublié, dans Gesundheits-Blog (avant dans Santé Nature Innovation), par Jean-Marc Dupuis, le 9 mai 2014;

UK: How legal aid cuts will hit politicians locally, on Left Foot Forward, by Christopher Sykes, May 9, 2014;

Economic Solutions: Major Economic Concerns Facing the United States, on Economy in Crisis, by Patrick Kellen, May 09, 2014;

Coffee “rust” is spoiling the global market, on global envision, by Emily Wanderer, May 7, 2014: Coffee rust, a dreaded fungus known as “la roya” in the coffee growing regions of Southern Mexico and Central America, is shriveling coffee plants, as well as regional and global supply chains …;

Sparkasse prophezeit Zusammenbruch des Geldsystems: Alles wird gut. Diese Auffassung verbreiten Politik und Medien. Eine Sparkasse sieht das ganz anders und warnt ihre Kunden jetzt vor dem Crash des Geldsystems, im KOPP-Verlag, von der Redaktion, 7. Mai 2014.
Voller Text auf KOPP-exklusiv;
Mein Kommentar: das Kabaret in der Ukraine ist eine phantastische Ablenkung;

Demnächst in Ihrem Schmierentheater: Neue False-Flag-Aktion gegen Russland? im KOPP-Verlag, von Gerhard Wisnewski, 7. Mai 2014;

Why cash nourishes faster than food in Kathmandu, on global envision, by Emily Wanderer, April 29, 2014;

How You Can Successfully Treat TB Without Drugs, on, by Dr. Mercola with his comments, March 18, 2014; or as a link on Gesundheits-Blog, April 11, 2014;

Extremely Rare Historical Photos (40 photos), on klyker, by blog owner, nor dated;

UTOPvideo, Blog.

Comments are closed.