She was 34. Born the year that I was. I knew what it meant to be that age, for a woman living in a city and pursuing a career and vibrant social life. One juggled deadlines at work and invitations to wine and cheese soirees, the struggle with self doubts and body image was giving way to a strange but unsettling peace and irreverence, making me wonder if it was the signs of menopause. But I couldn't possible imagine or know what Manorama's life was like. And yet, the news of her passing and the manner in which she was brutally murdered by security forces set me thinking and reading into the life and times of women caught in the web of militarism and violence.
The year was 2004. Thangjam Manorama had been found dead in a field, her body ridden with six bullets including one in the genitals. The forensic report found semen stains on her skirt, suggesting that she may have been raped before she died. She was pronounced a separatist leader who specialised in improvised explosive devices and security forces claimed that she was responsible for several bomb blasts by the People's Liberation Army of Manipur, a revolutionary group that was trained by some of India's neighbours and was fighting for an independent socialist state of Manipur. Her family claimed that she was a peaceful activist, though many journalists privately agreed that she did belong to an underground outfit. She was picked up from her home, without an arrest warrant and was tortured and brutalised before being killed in cold blood. Even if Manorama was guilty, she deserved a process of interrogation, court proceedings and then a jail term. Not a brutal death at the hands of uncouth men in uniform. Her death remains shrouded in controversy even today, with security forces refusing to adhere to norms, refusing to attend court hearings and taking cover under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which insulates them from the mandate of ordinary law.
In order to delve into the area of masculinities and son preference deeper, ICRW in partnership with UNFPA have conducted a study on men’s attitudes around son preference in seven states of India. The study looks at men’s attitudes and practices around gender inequality, son preference, and gender based violence. The objective is to understand predictors of masculinities and how varying forms of masculinity aﬀ ect men’s desire for sons and their perpetration of violence against their intimate partners.
It all started with chicken curry, a delicacy her daughter loved. One fateful day 11 years ago, when Farhana Parveen carefully picked out small pieces from the chicken curry for her daughter, her husband was offended. Pregnant with her third child, Farhana had cooked a lavish meal for her in-laws and family. “I made five kilos of chicken curry along with biryani and some ten other items. But when my husband saw me feeding my daughter, he asked me why I had not given it to his mother instead. I was accused of being partial to my children,” says Farhana. The next morning, Salim left the house with his mother after uttering that dreaded word three times: “Talaq Talaq Talaq”.
Mumtaz Sheikh, 34, lives in Mumbra, a Muslim pocket situated around 30 kilometres from Mumbai. She was divorced by her husband about nine years ago but she does not receive a paisa in terms of maintenance from her former spouse although she supports their two children.
The recent brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in Delhi, India, resulted in expressions of outrage and anger everywhere in the country. The weeks after the rape saw an unprecedented focus on sexual assault—in formal and informal conversations, protests, television debates, drawing rooms, social media, and official statements. These protests were unique because they brought everyone to the streets. It is heart warming that many of the conversations spurred by this response are affirmative—they discuss women’s right to wear what they want, to walk the streets after dark, and other such issues. And, they take on political and spiritual leaders who blame women for rape in direct and indirect ways.
Last month's brutal gang rape of a young woman in the Indian capital, Delhi, has caught public attention and caused worldwide outrage. But here, the BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi recalls other prominent cases which made the headlines, then faded from public memory.