Last week, Himanshu Kumar (a friend and an activist of both Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi) informed us about Mamta Sharma’s absurd reaction to Soni Sori’s case. Mamta Sharma is the chief of the National Commission for Women (NCW) — a government body entrusted to “represent the rights of women in India and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns.”
सोनी सोरी के मामले को लेकर महिला संगठन की कार्यकर्ताएं राष्ट्रीय महिला आयोग मे गयीं तो महिला आयोग की अध्यक्ष ममता शर्मा ने महिला आयोग की एक एक महिला सदस्य को पूरा मामला देखने के लिये कहा ! उस सदस्या ने सोनी का सारा मामला पढ़ने के बाद कहा कि ” इस मामले मे यौन शोषण कहाँ हुआ ? तो मात्र पुलिस प्रतारणा का मामला है !” मतलब किसी महिला को निवस्त्र करना और उसके गुप्तांगों मे पत्थर डालना यौन शोषण नही है !
After seeing all documents of Soni Sori case she said “but where is sexual abuse? this is merely police torture”. So according to the National Women’s Commission ‘undressing a woman by men with force and shoving stones in her private parts’ is not sexual abuse.
— Himanshu Kumar
It’s difficult to imagine how anyone can look at Soni Sori’s court-ordered medical reports and conclude that there was no evidence for sexual abuse. It’s difficult to conclude from this, when exactly a woman could be sexually abused in the strained, empty recesses of Mamta Sharma’s brain.
It is worth noting that Sharma’s misogynist disregard for Soni Sori’s violence has been met with near total silence from politicians and “women’s groups”, while her bizarre stances on the word, “sexy” has created a storm.
There have been odd attempts to partially re-frame Mamta Sharma’s comments as sex-positive. Umm, no.
Mamta Sharma was not discussing pleasure or loving endearments between two consenting adults. If she was, then we have a reason to applaud progressive politics. In the video above, Sharma describes a scenario in which 4 to 5 men call out the word, “sexy” to a lone woman walking by. The problem here, as Sharma sees it, is that the woman misunderstands the meaning of the word, “sexy” — creating all manner of needless problems. Women are too sensitive about rape and the threat of rape and need to stop being such prudes.
Mamta Sharma is rejecting the idea that women might have any agency or thoughts over her own sexual representation. Sex-positive politics is not misogynist and does not include dismissing women’s experiences with sexual violence.
But Mamta Sharma (while an appalling representative for women’s rights) joins an army of Indian politicians and their open hostility to women’s rights. A Bangalore High Court Judge recently lamented over the ways in which “women’s empowerment is spoiling society” during a marriage dispute trial.
Last year, Andhra Pradesh Police chief, Dinesh Reddy, stated that women who wear fashionable clothes provoke men, leading to increase in rape cases.
Not to be outdone, the Karnataka’s Women and Child Welfare Minister C C Patil responded to the police chief by declaring that “women should know how much skin to cover” and that “he doesn’t favour women wearing provocative clothes.” That turned out to be untrue.
C.C.Patil (one of three ministers) was forced to resign a few weeks later after famously and scandalously being caught watching pornography during a legislative session.
When questioned, the three caught ministers hotly denied watching pornography. They were “watching the rape and murder of a woman” — which is offered as a more acceptable alternative. Women having consensual, pleasurable sex is clearly much worse.
The un-seriousness of the language around violence and women’s sexuality should be offensive to anyone. While politicians shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of their sexuality, they should be shamed for their misogyny.
The narrative makes no move towards denouncing patriarchy and misogyny — in fact it works hard to cement that foundation. Within this scenario, it is men who have no agency — who cannot be held responsible for anything that they perpetuate, so therefore should not be expected to do so.
Concern for women’s sexuality rights masks a frenzied interest in the details of her sexual violation or her body. An interest in which she remains a voiceless, powerless, victimized symbol. A rape culture in which the stones that were used to assault Soni Sori is being given more media attention than her impassioned and prolific letters from jail.