Concrete Actions Against Street Sexual Violence in India (?)

Following up on ‘The Larger Impact of Blank Noise,’ I was curious to see what concrete actions and legal actions have been taken concerning sexual harassment of women in public.  As previously mentioned, various lawyers groups have taken up the street sexual violence charge, including the National Commission for Women, India, which has compiled a number of reports concerning eve-teasing, and proposed new legislation regarding Sections 294 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code that address eve-teasing concerning the definition of eve-teasing, appropriate punishments, etc.  Although most recently eve-teasing has become a non-bailable offense (as previously mentioned) which will definitely help to deter eve-teasers, unfortunately I have not been able to find a recent amendment to the Indian law regarding the new legislation that the NCW has proposed, and as such the current laws demonize the victim.

As a way to guard women against such attacks, “Ladies Special” trains and buses have been established in India that are intended to “spare women travellers the unwanted attention of leery males and their wandering hands.”  But I wonder if this is really the type of solution that the Blank Noise campaign has been striving for.  It seems to me that this is a quick fix – a band aid covering up rather than addressing the core problem.  Shouldn’t Indian women be able to ride in public transportation freely without fear of molestation?  Altering societal perceptions about personal boundaries should allow for just that.

Posted by The Chandigarh Tribune


Spotlight on the “I Never Ask For It” project

The “I Never Ask For It” project began in 2006 and is apparently still ongoing.  It utilizes a combination of ICTs, public participation of “action heroes,” and art in its efforts to collect testimonials of when women experienced eve-teasing; to address blame, shame, and guilt surrounding eve-teasing; to “challenge the notion that women ask for it” because of the garments they choose to wear; and more broadly, to change society’s acceptance of the eve-teasing practice.

The elements of the I Never Ask For It project:

  • The Blank Noise blog where women are encouraged to post a photo of a garment warn during eve-teasing; vote on what constitutes various elements of eve-teasing such as “looking;” design a street sign designating an eve-teasing area; add to the compilation of “eve-teasing vocabulary,” or terms directed at women in public; etc
  • The Blank Noise twitter, using the #ineveraskedforit trending topic
  • A traveling art exhibit of garments worn during eve-teasing, such as at the “Mind The Gap” exhibit in April 2007 at the Max Mueller Bhavan/ Goethe Institute

Blank Noise Exhibitions

Blank Noise has held many exhibits featuring collections of short videos, films, posters, street performances, weapons for defense against street violence, clothing worn by women during incidents of eve-teasing, etc. that raise awareness about the issue of street violence in society, address the notion of blame during such attacks, and seek to define what street violence really is.  In the campaign, art in various forms is serving as a platform for engaging society on an issue that affects all members of society, sparking dialogue, changing perceptions, and slowly changing society itself.  Click here for a complete list of the Blank Noise projects – past, present and upcoming.

For example, in April 2007 the Blank Noise production, “Mind The Gap” was featured at the Max Mueller Bhavan/ Goethe Institute in Bangalore, India.  It featured an “audio installation based on interviews with men on street sexual harassment, Hot News Taaza Samachar (video performance address passive news consumerism), Mad Women ( photo projection loop), I NEVER ASK FOR IT garments,” and a street performance.

“Is This News For You?”

Check out this powerful video by Blank Noise.  I think it is demonstrating that women are not taken seriously, that society allows men to treat women in any demeaning way they wish, and that women are forced to accept this.  However, I find the repetition of the news stories, the increased volume, and the demanding of one’s attention by the end of the film suggests to me that women are not to give up and to persevere in demanding society’s attention in order to change it.  What are your thoughts?

posted by blanknoisevideo

The History of Blank Noise and its Participants

The Blank Noise project, which is defined as “a volunteer led community arts collective that builds public discourse towards the issue of street sexual harassment – eve teasing,” began with an exercise in which 60 girls made a map of “public space.”  This map illustrated “fear, strangers, discomfort, anonymity, groping, stalking, whistling, crowd, hands, staring, vulnerable, hide,” which prompted workshops for nine urban Indian women concerning public and private identities.  From there, the project expanded to include male and female volunteers, Blank Noise chapters in seven Indian cities, and throughout the globe.

So who does Blank Noise engage?  Well, everyone – spectators, survivors, and men as potential perpetrators.  Using the internet as a medium, these three populations actively participate in the following blogs and discuss their understandings and perceptions of what street sexual harassment really is:

CSW 55: Access to Education in Science and Technology

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a branch of the UN Economic and Social Council that functions as the global policy-making body that is dedicated to the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  It is composed of 45 UN member states that convene yearly to evaluate progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  NGO participation is a key element of the CSW for shaping the global policy agenda and holding states and international organizations accountable for their commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action.  The outcome of the CSW is an annual report is submitted to ECOSOC for adoption, and consists of conclusions concerning the theme, an assessment of progress made, the existing gaps and challenges, and concrete recommendations for the various stakeholders for implementation.

This year, NGO Consultation Day was held on February 21, 2011 and addressed the CSW 55 theme of “Access to Education in Science and Technology.”  The outcome report can be accessed here.

The following is an excerpt of Michelle Bachelet‘s keynote address as the Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General for UNWomen:

Posted by WomenNC

The CSW is also characterized by a plethora of parallel events where NGOs host panels, roundtable discussions, and workshops for the purpose of providing a forum for global civil society to highlight the various issues related to the CSW theme.  For example, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) hosted an event, “Technology & Peacebuilding: Bridging the Israel-Palestine Divide,” during which they demonstrated that “gender inclusive media can enhance women’s participation in the peace movement.”

Spotlight on GRACE (and its affiliates)

GRACE, Gender Research in Africa into ICTs for Empowerment, is a nonprofit research coalition of 14 independent research sites in 12 countries throughout Africa and the Middle East that focus on researching the capacity for ICTs to enable women’s empowerment.  Their primary foci seems to be using “information politics” to:

  • Raise awareness about the various disconnects between women and ICTs
  • Build the capacity of women concerning ICT usage
  • Increase the participation of women in ICT fields

The GRACE coalitions raise awareness about using technology as a platform for publicizing violence against women in public spaces, as the Blank Noise campaign does.

GRACE also acts as a network hub in that they facilitate the flow of information among the various research sites and also build the capacity of the group through training sessions.

In terms of larger impact, it is not apparent that GRACE itself uses “leverage politics” or “accountability politics” to call upon more powerful actors to affect change.  However, GRACE is funded by organizations that do, namely the Association for Progressive Communication (APC), and the International Development Research Center (IDRC).  GRACE network members are also funded by and work with organizations that utilize “leverage” and “accountability” politics, for example, the Gender and Media Progress Study Southern Africa which was published by Gender Links; and Liberia Women Democracy Radio which is “sponsored by the United Nations Democracy Fund, facilitated by UN Women, and implemented by the Liberia Women Media Action Committee and the Young Women’s Christian Association.”

As such, I would say that GRACE largely accomplishes its goals, as its network members appear to be making strides in the women’s empowerment and ICT arena.  Salome Awuor Omamo serves as an example, and explains the various ways in which her GRACE training has empowered her, as well as enabled her to empower others.