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The Power and Protest of Public Sexuality in India

The Power and Protest of Public Sexuality in India
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Trouble, thy name is woman. India is a country in the throes of a sexual revolution, and young women are firmly planted at the center of the controversy.

  Blind Eyes

The uproar over young women's right to determine their own sense of culture and morality culminated on Valentine’s Day, when the ad-hoc group of women and men across India defiantly went to bars in order to raise a toast to their opposition to how Sri Rama Sene believe “good” Indian women should behave. I relished every drop of that Fosters that night. In addition to indulging in libations, the Consortium organized The Pink Chaddi Campaign by requesting that women and men all over the world send pink underwear (colloquially called chaddis) to Mutalik. The idea was a hit, and the swiftly mobilized grassroots organizing gleaned articles from many Indian publications, as well as the New York Times and the BBC. A dumbstruck Rama Sene vowed to burn all the underwear they received.

The Consortium is not alone. Other groups sent Mutalik romantic cards and drafted statements chastising the government of Karnataka’s lack of response to the Mangalore incident that compared Sri Rama Sene to the Taliban. Addressing concerns that the activism would remain virtual, excluding most of India’s population, the Consortium broadened its focus and joined forces with Nirbhaya Karnataka (or Fearless Karnataka) to create a collective of individuals and organizations whose mission is to combat the ongoing and unprovoked violence and ensure the safety of all people in the state. The new group is dedicated to furthering the exploration and reclamation of Indian culture “from the mobs and the manipulators” through a This is Indian Culture video project.

They also created a public awareness campaign that included posters which ask “Do you enjoy watching women being beaten up?” and demanding bystanders “Don’t turn a blind eye.” Nirbhaya Karnataka are now documenting further attacks on women throughout the state, have sent public letters to government officials, and organized protests and Take Back the Night rallies to insist on women’s right to public safety. Pink Chaddi groups have also been started in Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Chennai.

Even those who are uncomfortable with such in-your-face tactics can appreciate their outcomes. “I may not think the Pink Chaddi Campaign is the way to go, but I definitely credit them for the buzz they have created. Even in close confines of the house you will find middle-aged woman chuckling about it, though they would not want to openly participate,” says university student Saptarshi Chakraborty. “I think the society is slowly opening up to public displays of affection.”

There is a lot of hope and momentum behind this burgeoning movement, a struggle to move past a climate of silence and shame toward a future of liberation. Now when I walk down the street I look past the veneer for the things that are not apparent, and I smile when I catch the ‘accidental’ indiscretions that may well be intentional resistance

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Comments

AWESOME article. Just saw it in the paper version of Sexis and had to look it up online. It is incredibly frustrating to read about the Sri Rama Sene and how the public disregards there acts...or fear it. Its sad but I guess a silver lining that this even t propelled a movement against such ancient sexist views.

Not easy when ancient cultures clash with modern societies....but its got to happen. Power to the strong women of India who will change views in due time.

05/11/2010

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