Our own rape culture

How yuh jammin so?
Like yuh feelin hot or what?
Mr, why grinin so
You come out to jump or not
Every time yuh swing yuh hand
Yuh bounce mih tot tot or mih butt
You behaving just like if you want to eat me
Right here on the spot

How Yuh Jammin so, Mighty Sparrow

The roar of anguish coming from the women of India echoes and ripples around the world. It took the death of a 23-year-old for some members of Indian society to sit up and begin to confront a situation that is tacitly accepted around the world, even by those of us who think we are all modern and progressive and cool about sex.

It is a double-edged sword that the filmi fantasies of the purity of love between Indian men and women that some of us in the West hold have been shattered by the savagery of the five rapists’ act. But it doesn’t mean that we are any closer to confronting the fact that rape culture is as pervasive as capitalism.

We will happily sign a petition demanding that they do something about rape in India. Meanwhile the broadcasting of the sexual abuse of an Ohio girl is not as much of a news item as Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy. It’s time for us to put away another myth about Indian women: that of the submissive, shrinking violet who accepts her fate meekly and quietly.

I see the images of women raising sticks against the police trying to stop their peaceful protests. I read the stories of Phoolan Devi the Bandit Queen. About the Pink Sari gang defending the environment. About the hundreds of women of Koondakoolam who have stood up to the Government and international corporations trying to build a nuclear reactor in their backyards and I don’t need any more convincing that Indian women are anything but passive.

The women who have taken to the streets are demanding not just justice for the late Damini but also a change in the perception of what it is to be a woman. The extreme positions of goddess or whore. Because women are not supposed to either enjoy sex or choose who they want their sexual partners to be or, heaven forbid, defy the demands of the man to whom she “belongs.”

To those of us who watch on from the West, all smug in our post-modern liberation, what are we going to do about rape culture in our own backyards? How have we sought to question the way that our own bodies are treated?

Who wants to have a conversation about dismantling patriarchy? Who wants to confront the fact that whether or not you think the Prime Minister is good at her job or not, the criticism of her is always bordering on disturbingly sexist and overbearingly sexual? Who wants to talk to their young people about sex? Who wants to change the warning issued by generations of parents: “when ah leggo mih cock yuh better tie up yuh hen”?

Who wants to take on the thinking behind the bizarre comments of the Deputy Commissioner of Police blaming teenage girls for the increase in sexual offences. I’m no longer willing to accept that rape culture is part of the burden women have to bear and surely somebody with a little bit of sense needs to tell Mervyn Richardson that the way to address sexual offences is not to start by blaming girls for filing reports.

I thought we’d come a long way from denying that young people are being abused. I thought we would be at the point where we would be trying to deconstruct the psychology of why young women are only able to value their sexuality as a commodity that they can trade to get the material possessions that this society says they need to have to matter.

Every Carnival we get a slew of advertisements and articles admonishing women about what to do to avoid being raped or attacked on the streets. Don’t go off by yourself, they say. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Women are always expected to take responsibility for their actions. Where are the campaigns addressed to the men?

Where are the campaigns challenging backward notions of masculinity? Where are the boofs for men to man up and stop raping women? Why are we raising women to be victims and men to be aggressors? The idea of ownership of your body is perhaps one of the most radical ideas that a woman could ever have. And I don’t mean choosing to wear a wire bra to play mas.

Maybe one day we’ll stop seeing rape culture as somebody else’s problem. Maybe one day we too will take to the streets for all the Daminis in our communities who are too terrified to report their own sexual offences for the fear of being blamed by a society that is still to scared to talk honestly about sex.

The Whole World is Watching! Vedanta AGM Protests in London

We chanted the name of Anil Agarwal, record breaking polluter, champion of environmental injustice and murder. We called on them to answer for their crimes against the people of Orissa, Zambia, Goa, Sri Lanka, Liberia. We called on them to clean up their mess. It seems like the stock exchange answered

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Protests against Vedanta in London, India and Zambia

On Tuesday 28 August, protesters from Foil Vedanta, South Asia Solidarity Group, Save Goa Campaign and other organizations will be picketing the AGM of controversial FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta at the Lincoln Centre, London. In Goa, Tamil Nadu and Orissa in India, and Chingola in Zambia parallel demonstrations involving hundreds of people affected by the company’s activities will take place.

Vedanta have been named the ‘world’s most hated company’ by the Independent newspaper for their long list of environmental and human rights crimes for which they are being opposed all over the world1. Most famously Vedanta’s plan to mine a mountain sacred to the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa, India, has led to mass protests and the Bank of England among others pulling out investments.

Protesters in London next week will coordinate with activists at four of Vedanta’s most damaging projects to highlight some of the other major scandals surrounding the company:

  • In Goa villagers affected by Vedanta subsidiary Sesa Goa’s pig iron plant in Amona will stage a large demonstration on 27th August. Houses in the area were swamped with black powder from the plant just last weekend2. Sesa Goa have also caused toxic mine waste floods and are accused of large scale fraud (1). The Goa Foundation will coordinate the demonstration. Their Director Claude Alvares comments;

Vedanta is committed to turning Goa into a graveyard in which it will bury not just the Goans but their environment as well. Almost every mining lease Vedanta is operating violates some environment or mining law, from mining in excess of environment limits to overloading its trucks to distress ordinary folk on Goa’s roads in the mining belt. The company violates its environment clearance conditions with impunity.“(2)

 

  • In Tamil Nadu activists will draw attention to the major violations of the Tuticorin copper smelter where 16 workers died between 2007 and 2011. The plant has been shut down by the state courts twice for having no permission to operate and for major pollution incidents.

  • In Orissa demonstrations of Dongria Kondh people alongside farmers and villagers will oppose mining of the Niyamgiri hills for the Lanjigarh alumina refinery. They have fought a seven year battle which has so far prevented the mine, leading this week to a major lack of bauxite for Vedanta, who are now being pressured to close the plant in view of their huge losses3.

  • In Zambia residents of Chingola will protest the ongoing contamination of their water supply by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines who were already fined $2 million in 2011 for turning the Kafue river green with copper pollution.Edward Lange of Southern Africa Resource Watch comments:

“The Kafue river in Chingola on many occasions has been heavily polluted by Konkola copper mines (KCM). Today the river has virtually no form of life in  its waters. The boreholes are rarely used by the local Shimulala community because they contain Copper, Iron, Acid and other dangerous minerals. 

Protesters in London will confront Vedanta’s shareholders and its CEO Anil Agarwal with a 30 foot long banner proclaiming ‘Vedanta: Olympic Champion in Murder, Environmental Crime and Corruption’, and placards with slogans such as ‘Anil Agarwal Wanted for Murders and Environmental Crimes!’. They will also draw attention to recent news including:

  • Vedanta’s involvement in a major coal scam currently rocking the Indian government (3).

  • Accusations in the British parliament that Vedanta has given the FTSE 100 a bad name.(4)

  • British Government’s ongoing support for Vedanta through DfID, and even David Cameron, who were recently revealed to have forced through a deal to buy out energy company Cairn India by pressuring the Indian Government4.

  • Resignation of the whole of Cairn India’s senior management since Vedanta’s takeover.5

  • Vedanta’s ten billion dollar debt crisis.(5)

  • Vedanta’s continued donations to India’s two main political parties, the ruling Congress and the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP6. Under the name Anil Agarwal foundation, it also supports projects such the Krishna Avanti school in London run by the I foundation which has close links to the Hindu supremacist groups.

Amrit Wilson (South Asia Solidarity Group and Foil Vedanta) says:

This year the list of Vedanta’s atrocities is longer than ever before and there are massive popular struggles against it in India and Zambia. Like the notorious Lonmin in South Africa, Vedanta is bringing shame on the London Stock Exchange. Isn’t it time they were deleted from it? We call on the British government to stop backing this lawless and murderous corporate.”