#Indian Whispers on #Rape, #Racism and Corporate Funding


by Rita Banerji

Why would Indian women’s groups who’ve been stridently vocal in their support for one of India’s worst gang rape/sex-trafficking cases, remain mute when an American women’s organization had a key accused in the case, speak at their 2013 global conference?

More specifically —— why would the angry whisperings about this event, among Indian feminists, not be openly expressed?

suryanelli case high courtThe Suryanelli gang rape case is one of the longest running, high profile rape cases in India, perhaps more so than even the Delhi gang rape case [click here to read about the case].  This is not only because of its brutality, but also because for the Indian women’s movement this case has come to symbolize the patriarchal power structure—of government, police and judiciary—that facilitates rape.  Rape is allowed as a privilege of power.

This however is not a new revelation! For indeed, it is what…

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What Happens When #Women’s #Rights Groups Trample on #Rape Victims?

In May 2013, the U.S. based women’s organization, Women Deliver,   had invited Indian politician J. S. Kurien, a man implicated in of the one highest profile gang-rape / sex trafficking cases (the Suryanelli case) of a teenage girl in India, to speak at their 2013 conference on women’s reproductive empowerment!

A 16-year-old school girl in the town of  Suryanelli was kidnapped, held hostage for 40 days, during which she was raped by the 42 men she had been ‘sold’ to.  When she was finally found, she was so battered and had lost so much blood the doctors said a few more days and she’d be dead! To read the full story click here.

Other speakers at this conference were Melinda Gates Babatunde Osotimehin (head of the U.N. Population Fund),Helen Clark (head of the U.N. Development Fund), Chelsea Clinton! 

When women’s groups in India who have been fighting for justice in this case for years, objected, Women Deliver delivered  this statement. “We were unaware that Indian Parliamentarian PJ Kurien is facing allegations of rape. While we cannot comment on the specific allegations, had we known of the controversy, we would not have permitted PJ Kurian to speak at the side event. Addressing violence against women is central to our mission as an organization and one of the focus areas of this global conference.

The statement was casual and dismissive.  It made no apologies to the victim for the pain and humiliation they caused her. They offered no support and showed no empathy for the victim for the trauma she has been through or the trauma she continues to face from various sections as she continues to fight for justice.

Is this a statement of support for the victim and the women’s movement in India?

Is this a statement of apology to the victim?

If this victim was American/ western would “Women Deliver” deliver this kind of  statement?

Would a statement like this be acceptable to western feminist groups had this been a victim in their country?

If this the way a global women’s group treats a rape victim, what hope is there for legal and social change?

Doesn’t Women Deliver owe the Suryanelli victim a direct apology?





The question that led to the writing of my book Sex and Power was, why is India with its erotic history, so neurotic about sex today?  See “India Uptight over Erotica in Hinduism?

Yet, there are two other factors I observed over the course of my research.  Firstly, there continues to be an underlying sexuality to the practice of Hinduism, which Indians seems bizarrely blind to, and in denial of even as they practice it!

Secondly, modern India has the most extreme form of cultural tolerance for various types of sexually deviant social behavior – like sex-trafficking in the form of marriage!  As I tried to understand why this was so, a theory from Freud explained it quite clearly, and also made a projection.  As I searched further, I realized that Freud was right!  The biggest shocker for me was making the connection that the female genocide…

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India Uptight over Erotica in Hinduism?

This week in Delhi an exhibition on nudity in art was forcibly shut down by Hindu fundamentalist groups who took offense! Paintings in another gallery in Bangalore were also forcibly removed because the same groups found the nude portrayals of goddesses objectionable!

It is exactly this sort of public response to nudity, sex and sexuality in India today that I question in my book Sex and Power.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction of my book.

Languorously sensual and of exquisite form, men and women in stone on ancient khajuraho1Indian temple walls engage in explicit and imaginative love-making, in an array of intriguing poses…A man caresses his delighted lover’s naked breasts with a lotus bud…[Another] kneels before his lover and performs cunnilingus…One couple prefers intercourse in the standing position…[while] another couple in coitus understandably requires assistance…the man below…balanced on his head, the woman…on top held in position by two supporting female[s]…

khajuraho2However shocking the use of such explicit erotica in temples may…it would still be a mistake to regards these temples as Read the full post »

What Was Buddha’s Issue with Sex and Women?

So naked, young women are shameful and go to Hell?

This is part II of my contribution to the Jaipur Literary Festival this year which focuses on Buddhism. You can read part I here.  It’s another excerpt from the Buddhist period  in my book  Sex and Power (Sect II, pp.67-110).  The central argument of my book is that the concepts of sexuality and sexual morality in any society keep changing over time.  And it is the dominant forces–social, political, economic or religious–in any period of time that determine how that society views women, sex and sexual morality.

In the Buddhist period which stretches from about 500B.C. to 100A.D. Buddhism was one of the most powerful institutions, and the teachings of the Buddha impacted on social thinking at many levels.  In the first excerpt from my book I talk about how it revolutionized the concept of class and caste based equality and social justice.  But by the same token, I discovered that  it also had a huge negative impact on social perceptions of gender, women and sex.  To me Buddha’s unreserved misogyny and prejudice towards women Read the full post »

Why Women Politicians in India Grow Penises!

Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi with Indian women supporters

I was watching Eve Ensler, author of ‘Vagina Monlogues’ on an Indian T.V. channel around the time of the December 2012 Delhi Gang Rape uprisings, and she was asked what she thought might help stop violence against women in India.  One of her suggestions was what most western feminists advocate  often, “Get more women in.”  Into government, police – positions of power and decision making.

But the fact is that in India we’ve had women in positions of power for long — and this theory of women in power as a means of betterment of women just DOES NOT WORK IN INDIA!  After all we’ve had a female head of state, Indira Gandhi.  Her daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, is the biggest political force in India, bigger than even the Prime Minister, India’s head-of-state, who she hand-picked for the position, and who she strings along like a puppet.  Indeed, she’s been voted the 6th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine, more powerful even than Michelle Obama!

But this is what is strange.  Read the full post »

India’s Rejection of Homosexuality has no Cultural Basis!

Proud Grand Mother

photo by Ramesh Lalwani

There has been a furious public response on the net over the law in Uganda that intends to impose the “death penalty” (death by stoning!) for homosexuality.  Uganda  probably won’t  implement the death penalty, at least not openly, given that western countries like the U.S. have threatened to withdraw millions of dollars in aid.

However there are at least 7 countries in the world which have the death penalty for homosexuality, and these include  Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Nigeria, Mauritania.   Now these nations haven’t faced the same threats from the western countries because — well some of them are sitting on large reserves of oil that literally runs the wheels of many western economies, and there may be other more important political interests than protecting the gay communities from the hideous destiny of being stoned to death.

And besides these countries, there are many more countries where homosexuality is still a criminal offense.  In India this law (Sect 377 of the Indian Penal Code) was struck down by the Delhi Court in 2009, and later in 2012, the Supreme Court of India observed that traditionally homosexuality was not an offense (legal or social) in India before the British rulers decided to impose a new law in India in 1860 criminalizing it.

Indeed while researching for my book Sex and Power, I was amazed at the normalcy with which both homosexuality and homosexual acts between individuals (regardless of their sexuality), was treated in ancient India.  It is depicted Read the full post »

How Can a Five Year Old Die of “Oral Sex?”

On October 1st, I opened the morning paper, and my eyes immediately fell on a line at the bottom of the front page. It read, “5-year-old may have choked to death during oral sex.”

The report was about a 5-year-old girl who had been adopted by a child-less couple in the city of Indore in India, and who had been subjected to sexual abuse by the adopted father for some time.  Read the full post »

Can a Woman Really Own Her Husband’s Sperm?

A British woman is fighting for the legal right of ownership of her husband’s sperm, who in the past donated his sperm to clinics, without informing her.  The wife says his sperm is joint “marital asset” (like the house, car and CD collection), and that he can’t go distributing it around the countryside without her consent.

But why does this idea of a woman having legal ownership of her husband’s sperm sound ridiculous to most people?  Because the opposite case — that is the husband’s ownership of a woman’s womb, vagina and eggs, has historically been taken for granted in all countries and cultures!

Don’t get me wrong here! As far as I’m concerned the “my body, my choice” motto applies just as much to men as to women.  But what I’m trying to say, is Read the full post »

Could India’s Women Ever go on A Sex Strike?

Sometime ago, I was sent a link to an article — a sort of a suggestion, that I was told Indian women could use to stop the female gendercide in India!

I took one look at the article  and burst out laughing!! Was this a joke?

The article was about how the women of Liberia had banded together and gone on a “sex strike.”  They had refused to have sex with their husbands till such time the violence and civil war was stopped and the average Liberian could at least try to live in peace!!

The reason I thought it was funny was because, this person, a westerner, who handed this lovely idea to me, obviously had no idea Read the full post »

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