On Tuesday, print and television news called me for a ‘gender perspective’. Chandresh Sharma story, Sat Maharaj statements, how is this hitting the government, violence against women as an issue.
I declined to comment on Sharma’s mess. I didn’t know all the facts. Men having multiple women is well accepted. It’s practically a male rite of public life. However, if our political parties and country had sexual harassment policies, regardless of how the situation began or ended, it would have been less likely. Men would face more rules regarding mixing sex with politics and leadership.
That’s why if I was Prime Minister, one election promise would be a National Sexual Harassment Policy, particularly to protect young women from men who have more institutional, ideological, economic, political and physical power. We have to challenge older, predatory males’ sexual license in our culture.
Glen Ramadharsingh was out of control and out of order, but I don’t think he planned to sexually assault. Still, a woman felt disrespected and threatened enough to file a complaint. Rightly so, she had to protect herself and her job from a more powerful male.
Beyond the violation of marriage, Sat Maharaj should have sided against any violence against women, domestic or not. I declined to comment because I think his sexist opinions get too much media attention.
I recommended both reporters talk to the Hindu Women’s Organisation. For years, they have been attempting anti-domestic violence work through their temples. Their campaign didn’t resoundingly spread because of pundits’ resistance. The organisation’s strategy may have prevented these kinds of incidents from happening by already shifting the social environment for Indian men’s relations with women. Press can help them.
It’s all hitting Campaign 2015 hard. The PM must be damned vex. Whatever your criticisms of her, she’s not worse than any of those men. She has risen among them, and now they are cutting her down, left, right and centre. Just handling them and their egos, entrenched public sector corruption, and gender and sexual inequality is more than anyone else in our history has ever done. As Sunity Maharaj also says, our systems need transformation or all individual leaders will inevitably fail. Whatever the PM’s shortcomings, I think she’s more competent than people say. Nonetheless, expect mistakes.
At any rate, individual politicians are not news. Dead fish by the thousands is our front page. When they start to die, how long do you think before we start too? Fish resources and ocean health are amongst our best economic resources for the future, and the poorest among us need to most rise up in defense of their descendants. It is the wealthiest who can pause their charity to influence protective legislation.
The struggle of the Highway Re-route Movement is also more important. I was surprised at a newspaper editorial chastising them for being a nuisance. That’s the point. Development is about democracy and transparent decision-making, not just big buildings. The HRM is rightly resisting that unaccountable vision. And without justice, why should there be peace?
On reflection, my one comment should have been support for Sacha Singh whose private photos became revenge-porn on the internet. There’s nothing wrong with sending sexy photos to your man. Women shouldn’t be punished for that. What’s shameful is publicizing them. It’s dutty and a form of mass-mediated sexual violence. On this count, Sacha has my absolute solidarity.
My failures to comment are often misrepresented as feminist silence about ‘Kamla’, a shallow cliché, but it was midnight when I finished work and finalized my thoughts, too late, though now I knew what I’d say.