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Journalist Kalpana Sharma Raises Questions That Remain Unresolved By #MeToo Movement

  • IWB Post
  •  December 9, 2019

If you run a quick search on rape statistics in India, the first result reads, ‘Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India.’ The popular headlines and the number of articles that follow it is deeply disturbing – 2,34,00,000 results in 0.48 seconds.

While our timelines are filled with news of brutal rape cases, women protests and men smirking or worse passing outrageous rape comments, the concerned authories’ devil-may-care attitude on the issue is sickening. History shows that India was once a country who was unafraid of waging wars in order to protect a woman’s honour. How did we come down to the sorry state of affairs today where women are abducted, raped and killed mercilessly? Are the archaic and regressive patriarchal practices alone responsible? Or are there other factors such as economical and political policies that have played a role in aggravating violence against women?

Kalpana Sharma, in her new book ‘The Silence and the Storm’, aims to answer some of these questions on the increasing acts of violence against women. The book uncovers the deep-rooted mindsets that impact the perception of a woman directly affecting her place in the society – and her safety along with it. Backed by concrete research from Kalpana’s journalistic experience spanning more than 25 years, the book argues how the laws have failed to reform the societal structures – justifying the violence carried out against women. The book elucidates the direct impact poor developmental and environmental policies have on women’s lives, how women end up paying an unbearable price in a currency – ‘violence.’

“These ‘deep roots’ are the unmoving structures of patriarchy. We have dented some, but not dismantled them. As a result, women continue to be questioned and victimized,” says Kalpana on prevailing perceptions about sexual violence in a Twitter chat with IWB.

To understand violence against women in the larger context of politics and economics, IWB hosted a live chat with Kalpana Sharma on 25th November, 2019, as a part of #16DaysOfActivism:


On intersection of caste politics and violence against women

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 As I have mentioned in the book, caste is that invisible thread that runs through the narratives of violence against women. Our failure to acknowledge it means who do not understand what happens to Dalit women, because they are Dalit, and women. 1/2

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 2/2 Take the case of Priyanka Bhotmange in Maharashtra in 2006. How many remember the brutal rape and death of this young girl when her family was attacked because they are Dalits? The media barely covered it.

On media’s response to caste and gender violence

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 At many levels. Mainstream media picks up the crimes that resonate with its audience. Inevitably that means metro-based and ‘people like us’. That focus leaves out the majority of crimes against women, including those against poor, marginalised castes 1/2

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 2/2 And even if some stories are picked up, the additional factor of caste, that makes women targets of these crimes, is overlooked, partly because journalists are not trained to understand how caste mediates events in our society.

On the central argument in ‘The Silence and the Storm’ is that violence is not just sexual assault but it includes the impact of developmental and environmental policies on women

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 The best example is sanitation. For decades it got little attention because women bear the burden of the lack of sanitation, men make the policies. Even when plans are put in place, as now, women are not always consulted. 1/2

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 2/2 In the rush to build toilets and meet targets, the basic problems, such as design, location, water etc are given short shirft. Just today we learn that the govt’s data on the ‘success’ of its sanitation program is overstated.

On reformative ways of dealing with violence against women

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 I have argued, as have most feminists, that retributive justice, such as demanding the death penalty for rape, does not deter rapists. Crimes against women have continued to escalate, with 3,59,849 recorded in 2017 1/2

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 2/2 I would use the term restorative justice. It is complicated, I acknowledge.Much easier to demand capital punishment. But a civilised society has to address the root causes of these crimes. And the criminal justice system must be seen to work for everyone.

On ‘the questions that remain unresolved in the context of sexual harassment’

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 The first is whether the strategy of ‘naming and shaming’ is adequate. It started the conversation on sexual harassment, something that was badly needed. But how do we move forward? 1/3

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 2/3 Secondly, how do we ensure that the ‘me’ in #MeToo is expanded to ‘we’ and includes all women, those in low-paying exploitative jobs whose stories we never hear.

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 3/3 We also have to find the institutional mechanisms that ensure that there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment at the workplace. Not all women have the confidence or social capital to speak up. These mechanisms must work for them.

On important attributes that are missing from the current dialogue with men

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 If we accept that not all men are sexist and misogynist, then surely there is room for a conversation with men about how we work towards a society that treats women and men equally, that deals with the roots of male entitlement 1/2

Kalpana Sharma on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @AlephBookCo @OurYoungVoices1 2/2 That erases these binaries of masculine/feminine. I’m sure many men will feel liberated if this were to happen! Then perhaps they will understand when we say women want to be liberated from oppressive patriarchal norms.

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