Violence. When one thinks of violence, it appears in all forms and in almost everywhere. Ranging from the obvious effects of the countless rounds of war we witnessed on earth, to violence done to women, to children, to animals, to the environment, to a different race or religion, and to people of a minority culture. As much as there is visible physical violence, there is also a kind of violence we rarely observe: the emotional violence we could inflict to each other and to the self in our daily life. Violence covers a wide spectrum and it needs our utmost attention and efforts to make all our lives a better one.
When I read the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) brochure on its coverage on the Decade of Violence, there appears one very contemplative statement: Who/what are the perpetrators (of violence)? For most human beings, it has often become a habit to shift the blame to others, to focus on the people who are the visible and apparent perpetrators, and to ally ourselves to people who are working in the process of alleviating violence, peace building and conflict reconciliation. While this is one aspect of human beings’ efforts to overcome violence, another important aspect is to honestly ask ourselves are we in any manner, contributors to one form of violence or another? Although most of us do not inflict physical injury to others or declare wars out of no reason, could we be called an accomplice when we fail to be sensitive to the environment in our daily practices? Or when we overlook the patriarchal system that has effected a subtle (or even obvious) violence to women, or perpetuating the sense of superiority over others (leading to racism, discrimination and inequality)? And importantly, are we neglecting to be kind to others?
Violence starts from the self. It starts when we neglect the spirituality in ourselves that comes in the form of kindness, love, compassion and peace. It starts when we became unkind, insecure, negligent, and heavily obsessed with our own beliefs of what should be correct and right. Before we cultivate peace and alleviate violence in all other pressing issues, we have to first address the cultivation of our own spirituality in relating to another living being and to the environment. To understand our own spirituality is an arduous task, but we have to since as Christians and as human beings, it is unmistakably, just what we have to do.
This issue of Praxis carries messages of anti-violence. We have an article as well as a poem on Violence Against The Dalits by Elizabeth Joy, another on Media Violence Against Women, and one on Violence Against Women—An Issue of Human Rights. There is also a solidarity message on the Anti-Japanese School Textbook which could be deliberately shunning the responsibilities of War Violence. We hope these articles would inspire some contemplation on making life more peaceful and beautiful for every human being. Have a good read!Wong, Yock Leng
Violence Against Dalits and India’s Official Stand
by Elizabeth Joy
General Secretary of SCM India
Violence Against Dalits: A Few Cases Highlighted
In October 2000, six Dalits near Lucknow were brutally attacked with acid by the local Thakurs (high-caste Hindus) because they failed to procure a tender for fishing rights in a nearby pond.
A Dalit woman carrying an empty pot was stripped naked and beaten to death for crossing the path of two upper caste Dalit men.
In Bihar, 21 Dalits were shot dead, some of them in their sleep, by the outlawed Ranbir Sena, a private militia of landlords, in January 1999.
In Gujrat, a group of Dalit youth and women were beaten up for coming to collect water from the only source of water in that village.
June 30, 2001, marked the fourth anniversary of the murder of seven Dalits in Melavalavu. The only crime that was committed was that Murugesan, one of the seven, refused to opt out of election for the post of Panchayat Presidentship. On his victory, he was not allowed to enter the Panchayat office, located within the high caste area.
In Orissa, a Dalit bank officer was fined Rs. 100,000 but was subsequently reduced to Rs. 10,000, for visiting a temple.
The first Dalit girl who passed her Higher Secondary Education two years ago, in a village in Karnataka was attacked with acid that disfigured her face completely.
The barbers in many villages of India do not extend their service to Dalits even though they are considered to be just a little above the Dalits.
On January 23, 2001, the Police Deputy Commissioner in Madurai ordered charges against more than a thousand Dalit students who protested against the irregular pattern of Government loan scholarship for Dalit/Tribal students.
The Dalits were denied of earthquake relief in Gujarat discriminating them even after the dreadful experience of losing everything to continue their livelihood.
The census of India—2001, denied the opportunity for Dalit Christians to even confess what their religion was as it would deprive them of all the benefits given to Dalits of other religions like Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. They were given the option to either declare themselves as Christians or scheduled castes.
Even as this paper is written, the shocking tragic news is of Phoolan Devi, the Member of Parliament of our nation being shot dead in broad daylight within the vicinity of the Parliament House and her residence.
She is a Dalit woman from a poor family who was married at 11, gang raped by Thakurs, that made her a rough and tough person. She became a murderer at the age of 18 killing 20 of the Thakurs, and surrendered to the police after two years. She was in prison for 11 years after which the Samajwadi Party recognized her not as a Bandit Queen but a victim of the caste structure. Her life is a story of caste and poverty, threat and humiliation, politics and a premature death at the age of 38 years old. However, the media portrayed her death as “MP Phoolan Devi dies a bandit’s death”. We still do not know, whether it is the political conspiracy, revenge by her enemies from outside or within the family—patriarchal dominant structures.
Between 1994 and 1996, out of the 98,349 cases registered as crimes and atrocities against scheduled castes (Dalits), 38, 483 were registered under Atrocities Act. This Act is supposed to prevent abuses and punish those who are responsible for retaliating or customarily degrading Dalits in the following manner: forcing Dalits/Tribals to eat any inedible or obnoxious substances, dumping wastes, excretion, carcasses etc. in their premises/neighbourhood, stripping them, parading them naked, or interfering with their rights to land, compelling them for forced bonded labour, child labour, poisoning their water resources, denying their rights to enter public places etc.
The others include 1660 murder cases, 2814 rape cases and 13, 671 injury cases. These show only the tip of the iceberg as Dalits are both reluctant to register all incidences and are unable to do so often as the people in position or power in the Parliament, Executive and Judiciary are totally indifferent to Dalits. The violence against Dalits is ever on the increase.
Whenever Dalits organise themselves or assert their rights for higher wages, land, political rights, social rights or change of village customs, the retaliatory violence against them has manifested in mass murders, gang rapes, looting, burning of their huts and possessions, arson and acid attacks.
A majority of the bonded labourers, child labourers, landless labourers, sex workers in the religiously sanctioned Devadasi system are all Dalits. According to government statistics, an estimated one million Dalits are scavengers whose main duty and occupation is to clean human faces from public and private latrines and dispose the dead animals. The unofficial estimates are of course much higher.
The Indian Government which has played an active role in the United Nations (UN) against Racism is least willing to admit that caste discrimination in India is equally bad if not worse than racism. Despite all of the inhuman discriminations that lead to exploitation, dehumanization and violation of human rights, India is still striving to oppose all attempts of putting racial and caste discrimination in the same bracket.
It is in this context that the Dalit liberation Movements are bent on presenting this issue of Caste Discrimination in India as a hidden form of Apartheid. Our attempt to pressurize the UN to include caste discrimination in the Agenda of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) is indeed genuine and a deep cry for justice. How does it matter for a human being male or female, Indian or African, whether he/she is discriminated on the basis of his/her colour, sex, which are more prominent and obvious or the so-called human made hierarchical caste system? All discriminations on the basis of one’s birth, caste, colour, sex and race lead to dehumanization and violation of human rights to the core.
The Indian government is all out to see that caste will not be discussed and deliberated as an issue in the UN conference. The first two articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed in 1948 clearly state that all human beings without distinction are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Therefore, the very basis of caste discrimination based on the birth of a person is violation of Human Rights and need to be brought to central focus in all forums for strong condemnation and total destruction.
The attempt of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to review the constitution itself is an attempt to reconcile the constitution with Manu dharma to have green signal for all their hidden agendas of promoting the caste discrimination and saffronization of the Nation. The need to overcome violence against Dalits is grave and intense. This can be achieved only if they are reinstated as whole human beings in this world, in this life, in this generation with all honor, dignity and respect.
In the name of religion (Hinduism) and in the name of God (Brahma), untouchability has been practiced in the Indian society for about 3,500 years and it is now affecting 250 million people in India, nearly 25% of the total population. This has promoted inequality and inhuman subjugation of a considerable section of the Indian society by a dominant minority group based on the false notions of “Purity and Pollution”. It is a well known fact that though the government through its census in 1991 very reluctantly outs the percentage of Dalits at 16.2, the real percentage is much above this as not all Dalits are counted under this category. Even after 53 years of independence, there is a lack of concern for the development of Dalits. Funds allocated for their development were either diverted or insufficiently distributed. However, the atrocities and crimes against Dalits are ever on the rise!
The ownership of land or the productive assets by Dalits are very marginal and negligible. Though there exists reservation in the education and employment sectors for Dalits, the naked truth is that about 83% of the Dalits are illiterate. Enrolment of Dalits in Primary education is 11% while it reduces to 8% in Middle School and much less in High School and Colleges. The percentage of literacy with respect to Dalit girls/women is far below. This explains why more number of Dalits are employed as sweepers, peons, clerks in the government sectors, while very few are employed in teaching and other professions. A major chunk of the Dalits especially women are employed in the unorganised sectors such as landless labourers and construction workers. It is a stark reality that 57.5% Dalit children under 4 years of age were undernourished in 1992 (UNDP Country Report 1995). The infant mortality rate amongst Dalits was 91 per 1000 live births in 1992-3, which are 22 to 45% more than the national average (UNDP Country Report 1007). These are all the direct impact of exploitation and denial of opportunities, resources and access for education, employment and empowerment.
Education gives self worth, dignity and certain standing in society empowering people to ascertain their rights. If the opportunities for education are deprived and denied to Dalits for various reasons for generations, then how can this section of the Indian society ever breathe the air of freedom especially from the demonic clutches of caste that enslaves and dehumanises them? Therefore, the empowerment of Dalits begins with education, a tool for their liberation. Moreover, the need to rewrite histories with truths about the Dalits, which hardly appear in written forms, is important. We strongly believe that caste which was created in history needs to be destroyed and be filled with truths. We also firmly believe that the liberation for Dalits will be more effective if they could enroll in full leadership roles and participation.
SCM-India is happy and grateful that the World Council of Churches (WCC) has come forward to give partial assistance to Dalit Empowerment for Transformation With Acts of Justice (DETWAJ), where we will be educating the children of our Maintenance Staff of whom more than 95% are Dalits. We have started this only in July 2001. SCMI will most appreciate to receive help from other SCMs towards providing education to a wider circle of Dalit students.
by Leti Boniol
(this article first appeared in “Women in Action? No.1, 1998)
It is a never-ending story, like a refrain that is played again and again. Through the decades, in so many survey reports, conference proceedings, books and newspaper articles, both in developed and developing countries, feminists have documented and decried commercial media’s treatment of women and stories that have perpetrated violence against them. It seems that their battles have not yet been won.
Two Canadian women said, “very calculated decisions are made at every stage of construction of media violence.” Shari Graydon and Elizabeth Verrall, president of Media Watch in Canada and Canadian English teacher, respectively, in a curriculum kit released by the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario, wrote, “violence is made to seem appealing, often linking it with power and pleasure. In the electronic media, violence is a quick way to resolve conflict within a given time-slot.? They said that violence through the media can be verbal, physical, psychological, and/or sexual. Aid violence against women, subtle or overt, is often portrayed in the media. Take a look at how Asian media practitioners and experts see the violence against women perpetrated in the media. Reports collated from papers presented at the Regional Conference on Gender and Communication Policy held in the Philippines in July 1997 give the following sampling.
Similar litanies can be gleaned from reports from the Philippines and other Asia-Pacific countries.
But while the litanies may be long, there have also been positive developments.
Sylvia Spring, a feminist connected with Media Watch-Canada, said during the Asian Regional Conference on Gender and Communication Policy that gender and media-related issues have not changed. What is changing is how the issues are being played out. There is more subtlety. While there may be no more naked women in the media, the stereotypical portrayal of women remains “insulting”?
In the Philippines, a feminist journalist says that Philippines media’s coverage of women has improved in the 1990s with more journalists conscious of their handling of sexual harassment and rape cases. However, at least eight tabloids churn out hundreds of thousands of copies daily with semi-naked women splashed on their front and inside pages and lewd stories. And more are joining the pack.
“The media does not just reflect reality, it operates at a far more fundamental level to legitimize existing social relations, indeed, to create a reality,” Allison Gillwald, lecturer at a South African university, in a 1994 article, “Women, Democracy and Media in South Africa” (Media Development, 2/94).
There may be media policies but these are unclear, inconsistent, or lacking in gender-specific provisions. They are also largely ignored.
“The women-media relationship can only be analyzed, and successful strategies for changing it can only be developed, if we can take into account the entire cultural, political and ideological spectrum and study the economic context in which this particular relation (media-women) is created and takes shape”. Gillwald said.
Meena Shivadas of the Asia-Pacific Development Center says that “While it is important to strategize and pressure for changes to the women and media situation with our reading and understanding of portrayal and representation, it is equally important to understand the implications of global processes of deregulation and developments in new technology. This is in order for us to locate the strategies within the framework of globalisation and new technology which have given new dimensions to freedom of expression.”
With all the media experts and practitioners doing their share, will change be far behind?
Violence against women is the most pervasive form of human rights abuse in the world today. It includes assault, battery, rape, sexual slavery, mutilation and murder. It is not a new phenomenon. It is not tied to poverty or economic upheaval. It is not related to the social displacement of peoples. Instead, it cuts across social and economic situations and is deeply embedded in cultures around the world—so much so that millions of women consider it a way of life.
Over the past decade, national and international groups have turned a spotlight on the hidden brutality of violence against women. They have called on the international community to value a woman’s right to be free from violence as a human right. This focus on violence against women has spurred the development of strategies and programs to address the problem. Still, efforts to eradicate violence remain in their infancy and most societies continue to consider violence against women a private, so-called “family” matter.
The highest percentage of violence against women occurs at home. A recent World Bank analysis indicates that one-quarter to one-half of all the world’s women have been battered by an intimate partner. Regional studies confirm the level of violence. Statistics from Latin America show that between 26 and 60 percent of adult women have been beaten at least once in their lives. In Asia, 60 percent of all women have been assaulted. In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 422 percent of women report being battered regularly by an intimate partner.
Data on rape provides another chilling picture: one out of five women worldwide is a victim of rape. Most know their attackers. Young girls are the most frequent targets. 40 to 60 percent of all known sexual assaults are committed against girls aged 15 years and younger. And although rape as a weapon of war has been internationally condemned since the Nuremberg trials following the World War II, armies continue to use it in conflicts around the world. In 1992, as many as 20,000 women were raped in the first month of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Rwanda, between 2000 and 5000 rape-related pregnancies were reported in 1994. Over the past 10 years, mass rape has been documented in Peru, Myanmar, Liberia, Cambodia, Somalia and Uganda.
Female infanticide and sex-selective abortions are also forms of violence against women. Demographers estimated that 60 million women are “missing” from the populations of South and West Asia, China, and North Africa, as a result. In India, particularly the northern regions and in China and the Republic of Korea, genetic testing for sex has grown into a booming business. A recent study of amniocentesis procedures in a Bombay hospital that 95.5 percent of aborted fetuses are female. UNICEF reports anecdotal evidence of the practice of female infanticide in some Asian communities.
Another fatal practice, “dowry killing” occurs in India. There, women are killed because they cannot meet the dowry demands of husbands’ families. More than a dozen women are reported killed each day in dowry-related incidents—higher than 5,000 per year.
Female genital mutilation, practiced in at least 28 countries, mainly in Africa, is another form of violence against women. Considered a rite of passage for young girls, an estimated 130 million women and girls alive today have undergone the operation, which is not only painful but also often results in a life-time health-related problems.
The international community has a role to play in reducing the violence against women. The 1979 approval by the United Nations of the Convention on the Elimination of Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) marked a significant beginning in addressing the problem. Today, 160 countries have ratified the convention. Although it is a milestone in international efforts to reduce violence against women, nearly one-third of the signatory countries have declared that they will not be subject to several CEDAW provisions. These include equal rights to nationality and citizenship, equal ownership of family property, and an equal role in marriage and family life.
At the national level, many countries have constitutions and laws intended to protect women against violence. Constitutions include bans on violence against human beings and the right to the integrity of the body and the right to life. Most prohibit discrimination against citizens.
Brazil’s new constitution requires the state to combat violence against women. Colombia declares violence in the family destructive and provides for penalties by law. Equality under the law is written into most constitutions. Some refer specifically to women, like the constitutions of China, Greece, and Poland. These types of provisions are important because in the absence of other laws or regulations, they can be used to protect women from violence.
National laws that protect against violence are usually part of the penal code. However, only 44 countries worldwide have laws that specifically protect women against domestic violence. Of these, some have expanded the law to cover cultural practices. For example, 12 countries have now criminalized the practice of female genital mutilation.
Most countries have laws against sexual assault and rape. The problem lies, however, in the level of protection guaranteed by the law. Efforts to reform rape law have been ongoing for decades and have centered on determining what constitutes rape to be a criminal offence. Twelve Latin American countries still allow a rapist to escape prosecution if he marries his victim.
Nationalism, which attempts to justify past war atrocities and colonialist rule, is on the rise in Japan. The influence aims to make Japan into a nation which can go to war. Those who are deeply concerned about this grave situation as well as concerned about the history and civics textbooks published for this purpose, by the Society for New History Textbook (Tsukurukai), held “The Asian Solidarity Conference on Textbook Issues in Japan.—No! to the Distorted History Textbook.” on June 10th and 11th 2001, in Tokyo. Included were the total of 250 participants from ROK (South Korea), DPRK (North Korea: due to the refusal of entry into Japan, participated by submitting their papers), China, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan (including Ainu, Okinawa, and Koreans in Japan).
During the two-day conference, valuable testimonies were shared from the stand point of the “comfort women” who were forced to become sex slaves of the Japanese military, survivors of village massacres who experienced unimaginable suffering during the war with Japan, Ainu people, Okinawan and Koreans in Japan. We exchanged our ideas and opinions on how we can take joint action to prevent the adoption of the Tsukurukai textbooks and to establish new visions of history education for the future. We declare that we strengthen solidarity among Asian people in order to achieve these two aims.
The criticism has been on the rise about the Tsukurukai textbook in Japan and more than 300 nationwide meetings on the textbook issue have been held this year. The Korean and Chinese Governments have already made demands to the Japanese Government to make corrections on the Tsukurukai textbook that passed official screening. In addition a member of the Korean Parliament, and former “comfort women” did a sit-in in front of the Diet building to protest against the Japanese Government. And there have been other protests voiced from various countries around Asia. This simply and clearly implies that how dangerous the Tsukurukai textbooks are for people in Asia.
The first problem with the Tsukurukai history textbook is its attempts to justify Japan’s aggression and invasion as a war of liberation, liberating Asia from Western colonialist rule. It legitimates its own colonialist rule by pointing out that other Asian countries benefited by their rule. Second, it is written by Emperor’s historical view (kokokushikan); instead of pursuing the responsibility of the emperor for the war, it in fact glorifies the emperor. Third, it questions the actuality of the Massacre of Nanjing, and erases from its records any mention of the Japanese military sexual slavery system, which was one of the largest war violence in the 20th century (the Comfort Women System), (the editor stated that writing about the “comfort Women” was like writing about the history of the toilet—adding insult to insult). Fourth, the subject of history is portrayed as the nation-state and the people and minorities are absent and not represented. Fifth, it defends the family system, and emphasizes the “good wife, wise mother” mold of traditional gender role-based division of labor, thereby revealing a discriminatory attitude towards women. In other words, it is a self-race centered, nation state centered, power politics centered, male chauvinistic view of history that pervades its pages.
Such a view of history can also be seen in the Tsukurukai civics textbook. First it unabashedly calls for the need to build a nation that can go to war, by revising the constitution, glorifying the Self-Defense Force, encouraging overseas dispatchment of forces, insisting on the right to “collective self-defense” emphasizing the threat of DPRK (North Korea) and China, teaching respect for the national anthem and flag and national interest and national order, insisting on the obligation to protect one’s own nation from outside aggression, and affirmation of the need for nuclear armament. Second, in order to create a militaristic nation, it plays down the rights and freedoms of individual citizens, lifting up the priorities of public welfare. It sees family unity as more important than the individual. It discriminates and looks down on foreigners and minorities. And it takes a hostile position toward citizen’s movements, placing national interest over human rights. They proclaim a nation centered, anti-foreign, and racist philosophy. Third, there is no sensitivity to the violence done toward women, or honoring human rights and male-female equality education, thereby revealing its discrimination toward women.
These history and civics textbooks need to be understood together. An understanding of history based on the legitimization of past war aggressions in the history textbooks, leads to the affirmation of war in the civic textbooks. These textbooks also are contrary to the spirits of UN Human Rights Law such as UN Covenant on Human Rights and other UN Recommendations. We cannot estimate what could be the impact of these distorted textbooks upon children.
Therefore, we strongly protest to the Japanese government for allowing the Tsukurukai textbook to pass the screening process. And we hold the Japanese government accountable for passing these textbooks which clearly contradict the recent official Japanese government policies reflected in speech done by Chief Cabinet Secretary, Miyazawa and “the provision concerning neighboring countries” (1982), the 1995 speech by former Prime Minister Murayama, the 1998 Japan-Korea Joint Declaration and the Japan-China Joint Declaration of the same year. And we strongly demand that the Japanese government sincerely consider and comply with the demands for corrections presented by the ROK (South Korea) and China.
Second, we are committed to a joint action in Japan and in other Asian countries, to oppose the adoption of Tsukurukai textbooks by any local Committee of Education for use in the classrooms.
Third, we strongly desire that we work together toward creating an Asia of peace and human rights for all, on the basis of trust and reconciliation. And we commit ourselves to creating the kind of history textbooks that will help to nurture children who will be able to take on such a role in the future. Toward this end we commit ourselves to work together.
For more information, please contact the National Council of Churches - Japan (NCCJ) at: tynccj[at]aol.com