Monday, 16 December 2013

One year on - Statement by Freedom Without Fear Platform

It is one year since the horrific gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi, which was followed by the emergence of an unprecedented mass movement against rape and sexual violence in India. This movement had an enormous impact all over the world and here in Britain inspired us to form the Freedom Without Fear Platform. Today we would like to rededicate ourselves to the aims we started with, while expanding them to take on new challenges.

Here in Britain we are facing a racist and increasingly repressive state, which hypocritically claims concern about violence against women while ruthlessly cutting away what few resources still exist for women's struggles against gender violence, and attempting to destroy the possibilities for women to autonomously and collectively organise against violence. Doing away with preventative measures or escape routes for women facing life -threatening situations, the British state now disempowers women completely, literally silencing them as their cases are handed over to a racist and increasingly privatised criminal justice system run by corporates like G4S and Serco, well-known for their own violence against women from Britain to Palestine. This combination of repression and corporate profits which are at the centre of Britain’s current gender violence policies is inherent in neoliberal capitalism.

In 2014 we will face an attempt to criminalise Forced Marriage in the face of massive opposition from the vast majority of BME women's organisations and feminist groups. 

In continuing to build resistance to these attacks, and to strengthen solidarity with movements like the ongoing anti-rape movement in India, we are also committing ourselves to making visible
  •   the resistance to rape and violence against women in India and elsewhere - against a tide of racist representations which seeks to erase these struggles and portrays women outside the West and women of colour in the West as victims waiting to be saved.
  •   the endemic nature of gender violence in Britain, including that of the state, and the struggles against it - against victim-blaming and demonising of 'culture'.
  •  the historical and ongoing effects of imperialism and global capital accumulation which underpin, reinforce and intensify gendered violence and injustice - against the normalisation of war, occupation, incarceration and neoliberal plunder.

As Kavita Krishnan points out in her reflections a year on from the eruption of the movement in India, 'The only useful movement against sexual violence can be one that brings the problem home, right into the comfort zone, that challenges rather than reassures patriarchy, that exposes the violence found in the ‘normal’ rather than locating violence in the far-away and exotic. For people in the US or Europe, it might be reassuring to imagine that sexual violence and gender discrimination happens ‘out there’ in India, rather than to look around and question the violence embedded in the ‘normal’ around them. The questions to ask would be: how does the politics of ‘protecting’ women, and of propaganda about ‘good and bad women’ play out in advanced capitalist societies? In what ways are countries like the US and UK complicit in the violence and discrimination that women face in India or Bangladesh?'

Saturday, 7 December 2013

India's anti-rape movement - experiences, reflection and strategies for the future

This is a full transcript of the speech Kavita Krishnan (Secretary of the All-India Progressive Women's Association) delivered at our public meeting on Thursday 3 October, 7.00pm at SOAS. 

Amrit Wilson: Kavita has been centrally involved in the anti rape movement in India. Apart from being a feminist she is also a revolutionary left activist. She is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association which organises women workers, rural women agricultural labourers and has a record of fighting both feudal violence as well as state repression. She is also the editor of Liberation which is the magazine of the CPI ML (Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist).

Before I hand you over to Kavita, I’d like to say a few words about Freedom Without Fear Platform. As an organisation we have been associated with AIPWA (All India Progressive Women’s Association) and particularly with Kavita. As many of you know, Delhi witnessed both a horrific gang rape in December last year as well as one of the most prolonged and powerful protests against rape and sexual violence. These led to solidarity actions in London including a packed meeting at the London School of Economics where a number of us who were involved in the Black women’s struggle in this country spoke out about our experiences and we also had Kavita speaking to us on Skype. After that very inspiring meeting we decided to set up the Freedom Without Fear Platform. I would just like to emphasise some of the things which we are highlighting in this country as well as across the world.

Firstly we are highlighting the effects of the government’s spending cuts on services and organisations combating domestic violence and violence against women in this country which is a huge issue. Secondly we are exposing the racism in the media, its coverage and state policies relating to violence against women particularly on issues such as grooming, honour based violence and FGM. We are also protesting against the British government’s promotion of racist population control policies which violate the reproductive rights of women in Asia, Africa, Latin America and also BME women in Britain. Also we are supporting the campaign in India and the diaspora to stop someone who is an avowed fascist, an admirer of Hitler- Narendra Modi, from becoming the next Prime Minister of India and we are demanding justice for the victims and survivors of genocidal rapes and murders of Muslim minority women, children and men, which Modi orchestrated in Gujarat, 2002. We are opposing David Cameron’s re-establishment of diplomatic links with Modi.

Today's event is the third major event which we have organised. Firstly, we had a very successful meeting about grooming, both as an issue of violence against women as well as the racist way in which it has been portrayed. Secondly, we organised a protest against an invitation to Narendra Modi to this country, which also was pretty successful. Narendra Modi decided that he wouldn’t be visiting, partly at least as a result of what we did.
Now let me hand you over to Kavita which is what we are all waiting for, so please welcome Kavita Krishnan.  

Kavita Krishnan: Thank you Amrit, thank you all for being here.
One of the first things I was thinking about when I knew there was a chance to speak about the anti rape movement and to reflect on some of the strategies and experiences and the ways in which we are thinking of taking it forward, is the questions we faced especially from the media from Britain, US, France and so on. There were questions from friends and their parents too who lived in these countries, who would ask with great concern: ‘we are concerned about you because you live in such an unsafe place, how bad is it in India, it must be terrible in Delhi’ etc. When I would tell them that rape culture and the kinds of things we were raising show up in different forms in different countries, then there would be this response, ‘yes but, it’s worse in India isn’t it?, it must be worse there’.