New York Times Op-ed: India’s Feudal Rapists

WHEN a distressed father is reporting his daughter’s disappearance to a policeman in India, there are some questions he doesn’t want to hear. “What is your caste?” is one of them. Yet, the father, Sohan Lal, said this was the first thing the police asked him last Tuesday, when he begged them for help. After revealing his low-caste background as a Shakya, Mr. Lal said the officers mocked him and refused to lift a finger.

Hours later, Mr. Lal’s daughter, 12, and a female cousin, 14, were found hanging by their scarves from a mango tree in Katra Saadatganj, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. They had been raped. His daughter had last been seen with a group of brothers from the Yadav caste, which is the dominant caste in the village.

Our understanding of their deaths will be incomplete until we recognize the role of the caste system in India’s rape crisis.


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Daily Beast: Marital Rape Ruling Highlights India’s Problem With Consent

A Delhi court’s ruling that forced marital intercourse is not considered rape spotlights India’s many blind spots when it comes to consent.

The most common form of rape in India bears little resemblance to the Delhi gang-rape of 2012, which has become a symbol of violence against the country’s women. The 23-year-old student, who was brutally attacked in a bus by six men wielding iron rods, and who later died as a result of horrific internal injuries, was attacked by strangers outside of the home. Most rapes, however, are perpetrated by acquiantances—often husbands—and take place within the confines of the home.

Despite this, in March Indian parliamentarians rejected proposals to criminalize marital rape. The proposals were initially made by the Verma Committee, a three-member panel appointed in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape to propose stronger laws to punish heinous acts of sexual violence. In a report delivered to the parliament in March, a panel of lawmakers said the proposed marital rape law “has the potential of destroying the institution of marriage,” adding that “if marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress.” The protection granted to sexually violent husbands was further solidified this month when a Delhi court ruled that intercourse between a husband and wife “even if forcible, is not rape.”


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Foreign Policy: Misreading Modi

The controversial front-runner is campaigning against rape, but he may be disastrous for India’s women. 

April 15 2014

On a balmy December day on the outskirts of New Delhi, thousands of people poured into a dusty field to hear Narendra Modi speak. The combative 63-year-old politician, sporting a neatly trimmed silver beard, frameless glasses, and light beige tunic, took the stage one year after a brutal December 2012 gang rape in India’s capital sparked nationwide protests. Tens of thousands of rapes are reported in India each year, yet few are brought to trial and even fewer are successfully prosecuted. Of the 706 rape cases filed in 2012, only one has resulted in a conviction. “Remember Nirbhaya!” Modi bellowed to the crowd. The politician invoked the name — meaning “fearless one,” which the public gave to the gang-rape victim — to push a message for the parliamentary election, taking place in April and May, which Modi’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to win by a wide margin, earning him the prime minister’s seat. Delhi, he said at the rally, has “earned a bad name as the rape capital. When you vote, do not forget this.”


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The Daily Beast: Roma Children Face Segregation in EU schools

Roma schoolchildren in the EU are more likely to be mislabeled as ‘special-needs’ and funneled into schools that handicap their futures.
by Amana Fontanella-Khan March 8, 2014.

In Europe today, walls are going up everywhere to keep the Roma, also known as ‘gypsies’, firmly shut out. Some of these are made of bricks and mortar, like the so-called ‘Anti-Roma Wall’ in Košice, the European City of Culture of 2013, which made headlines last year for separating Roma settlements from neighboring ‘white’ communities. Others, like attempts to construct barriers limiting free movement of labor within the EU, are less tangible but equally worrying, especially in a continent where 1,500,000 Roma are estimated to have been murdered during the Holocaust.


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AL-JAZEERA: For many Roma in Western Europe, no option to ‘go home’

by Amana Fontanella-Khan

November 16 2013, Brussels

The order for their eviction came on the 31st of October. The children, dressed in makeshift Halloween costumes — one boy’s ghost outfit consisted of a tea cloth with two holes in it — played amid graffiti-sprayed walls as anxious parents in the Roma-dominated squat discussed the news. A heavily pregnant resident in a dressing gown paced up and down the neon-lit corridor, looking distressed. She asked if anyone knew what would happen next. No one did.

After five nights, the police arrived at 6 a.m. on Nov. 4. “The urgency of the situation has forced local authorities to stop infringements of safety, security and public tranquility,” said Emir Kir, the mayor of the St. Josse borough of Brussels, in a statement defending his decision to evict the estimated 200 squatters living in the deconsecrated church and monastery called Gesu. The building, he said, had become a den of “criminality related to drugs and prostitution.” According to local newspaper Le Soir, 200 officers in riot gear removed the residents, 38 of whom were children.

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New York Times.Com Op-Ed: Freedom For Midnight’s Daughters

Independence came to India at the stroke of midnight, that hour of darkness and, often, danger. The appointed time on August 15, 1947, for India’s “tryst with destiny” was chosen by astrologers, who deemed it auspicious for the country’s birth. Since then the midnight hour has become synonymous with freedom. Is that the case for women, though?

It is worth interpreting that question literally for just a moment, as others have done. “Just because India achieved freedom at midnight does not mean that women can venture out after dark,” Botsa Satyanarayana, a Congress Party politician, said in a statement following the Delhi gang rape last December. Referring to the young student who later died as a result of her injuries, he added, “The woman should have thought twice before boarding the suspicious private bus that night. Though the incident was condemnable, she should also have behaved keeping in mind the situation.”


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REVIEW: “Fontanella-Khan, who writes regularly on women’s issues, paints a nuanced, humanizing portrait of a teenage-mother-turned-social-crusader who is loud, boastful and blessed with a wicked sense of humor.” – San Francsico Chronicle

REVIEW: “A maze of political intrigue, personal melodrama, and feminist activism unfolds in this account of the Pink Gang…Fontanella-Khan brings a novelist’s pacing to a timely page-turner….” –Publisher’s Weekly

Financial Times Reviews Pink Sari Revolution

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Ms Magazine Reviews Pink Sari Revolution

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