October 07, 2010

Chennai’s Moral Police


IN CHENNAI, the term “moral police” is too often a literal one.

Two relatively high-profile recent incidents cast the city’s police force in a frightening light, as enforcers of a deeply misogynistic worldview who go as far as to violate the law in order to uphold their principles.

In the first case, a married woman who was with a male friend at the Kotturpuram railway station was apprehended by a police officer, who then physically assaulted the friend in question and cast aspersions as to why the duo were together. When told that her husband was fully aware of this friendship, the officer threatened to make bystanders testify against her.

In the second instance, a 21-year old lesbian who had left home and subsequently been reported as a missing person by her parents voluntarily went to the Thiru-Vi-Ka police station to declare herself an adult operating under her own autonomy. She was detained for a day, and released only into the custody of a relative. Activists from the gay rights group Sangama, who were supporting her, were harassed.

The moral universe occupied by too many members of Chennai’s police force is a murky one, bolstered by a flawed understanding of “Tamil culture”, unchecked sexism, and an abiding disrespect for the law itself.

But these are hardly isolated incidents. If anything, they have only served to reinforce what every woman in this city already knows: the police are more likely to harm than help. As journalist Chithira V put it to me, the security-heavy Gopalapuram neighbourhood – where the state’s CM resides – is a dangerous area, not in spite of but because of the presence of the police. Even the 20 all-women police stations in the greater Chennai area cannot effectively address the daily threats and aggravation that take place in public spaces, by members of the force itself.

Chennai is a city of fear and loathing, and the deep distrust in its sanctioned protectors is not a phantasm of urban legend. The city’s profound conservatism is in conflict with the needs of a modernizing population, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the manner in which its police relegate law and ethics in favour of their private concepts of morality.

The misogyny of the police force finds an accomplice in the unresponsiveness of Chennai’s ordinary citizenry. These instances are too omnipresent to enumerate, but one in particular, also shared by Chithira V, illustrates this pervasive attitude to chilling accuracy: some weeks ago, three women were attacked by a man with a knife on Besant Nagar beach. When they scattered, screaming, the man calmly walked away unperturbed. None of the families or couples sitting near these women paid any attention to the skirmish. The women called the police; an officer arrived, rounded up two random men, and insisted that they were the attackers. The real attacker not only went unpunished, but surely orchestrated the attack expecting this. Even in a group of three, the women were – in the city’s understanding of this word – “alone”.

So deeply embedded is the belief that one must be vigilant of the vigilantes that many women go to lengths to avoid interactions with the police, even at their own peril. A friend who was being followed by an ex-boyfriend felt she could not approach the police if the stalking became more invasive, because her former relationship with him would surely be held against her, and render her a target for humiliation and harassment. I personally leave home well before dark whenever I have planned a night out; having been questioned twice by a policeman on a bike right in front of my apartment, I changed my schedule. This is only an inconvenience, but the sinister underpinnings behind why I had to do it are hard to ignore. When my parents enquired about what the policeman was doing, they were told that a brothel was allegedly operating near the premises. There is no brothel here, as far as I know, but there is a women’s hostel.

An edited version originally appeared in The Sunday Guardian, New Delhi, on September 26 2010.

56 comments to Chennai’s Moral Police

  • I remember some time back, there was this crackdown on lovers on the beach.

    Sharanya: Are these Chennai incidents at least being documented somewhere?

  • Sharanya Manivannan

    Subir – Not that I am aware of (aside from the very few incidents that make it to the press).

  • Sometimes it feels like India is in a state of low-level civil war. Part of the problem, I think, is that the state has abdicated its responsibility to uphold the constitution and the law, so aggressive, law-breaking, self-righteous people are simply forcing their own views on the country.

    The police don’t uphold the rule of law – indeed, in cases like the ones cited here, they are the ones breaking the law. The judiciary doesn’t seem to be be doing much better. Witness the recent Ayodhya verdict, which seems to have implicitly accepted the destruction of the masjid in defiance of a Supreme Court order.

    Might, it seems, is right. And the “immoral police” (a much more accurate term, to my mind, than “moral police”) is after all mightier than unarmed individuals and groups.

  • apu

    Excellent post, Sharanya. I read about that incident at the railway station recently and even signed a petition in protest. I wonder if that is going anywhere. It is a huge problem indeed, with police taking their role as policing morality rather than maintaining law. And of course, most such morality is applied selectively only to women.

    I do feel the problem is particularly acute among the Chennai police force, as opposed to those in other metros and perhaps it draws from the (unstated/stated?) support from the general public, movies etc., where it is any man’s “prerogative” to reform the jeans-wearing woman. However, it is not restricted to Chennai and does occur sporadically everywhere. Mingling with the opposite sex is always viewed suspiciously and through the lens of morality.

    To mention an incident last year, at a writers meet in a public park operated by the traffic police in Bangalore, the security tried to shoo us away, and his logic was “aap log saath saath nahin baith sakte”, never mind that each of us, male or female, was seated a good 1 ft away from each other, and had our work/papers in hand, indicating that we were clearly not there for a group orgy. Blah. When we asked him to show us the rules which stated that, he slunk away, but I can imagine that if there had been a cop and not just a security guard, the incident could have ended differently.

  • sunitadee

    Thanks for this excellent article. I think it’s really important to outline the connections between police unaccountability/brutality and patriarchy (including heterosexism in the case of the woman who was reported missing by her parents after leaving what was probably not a very supportive atmosphere of her sexual identity). Documentation of these abuses IS really important – I think this post is an excellent document in itself. I hope it is widely circulated and to see more like it here.

  • Dhanrajan

    I reside on 5th Avenue adjacent to Eliot’s beach; you should see the ruckus the beach revelers (so blighted software nerds)create on weekend. I feel the cops should be more firm; the loud music, wine, and necking is too offensive for residents. Spare a thought

  • Byjunath

    Indian laws are cleraly defined and every kind of offence and their penalties are written down. When the lawkeepers go above or under to enforce rules,according to their concieved authority, problems arise. Sometimes joining with the public they try to enforce something which is not in the book. Democracy always need not to be liberty and independence to live ones life without harming others.

  • […] Manivannan at Ultra Violet shares some experiences involving Chennai's police who exercise moral policing on […]

  • cybertoast

    As a Chennai-ite I find that there’s a moral ethic in the city that’s completely messed up. I don’t really understand where this comes from, but it’s what I believe is the underlying problem – it’s not about the cops but about this pervasive, suffocating tam-[bram?] f’edupness that’s just all-encompassing sometimes.
    The sad part is that i feel like there’s a progressiveness to the city when i see kids at the movies and as soon as they’re a few blocks away this craziness sets back in.
    As far as I can remember this has always been the case. There’s a different vibe to b’lore and i’m curious about what it is that makes for the difference in morality between the two cities even tho’ their not that culturally different (perhaps the more steeped army/hill-station history of b’lore?).

    In any case i’ve experienced some pretty ridiculous situations being with a white woman traveling around Chennai (and pretty much everywhere in India). Generally I’ve found that it’s an ignorance issue – there’s a lack of training with cops, and this is just a layer atop the underlying Chennai morality.

    I wonder what could be done by the general public to change this since common attitude is really what will fix the problem, not chastising cops.

  • I think the only way to stop these things happening again and again is to get involved with getting reforms going. This means both deliberate efforts at public education, protest, and engagement with the police. The police need reforming there is no doubt. There is so much wrong that it is hard to get over being overwhelmed, the sense of helplessness or know where to begin. The only thing is to get over the stasis and try. There are many within the top police brass in Tamil Nadu who would listen to the complaints about the situation and take action to curb things. Getting involved means: maybe, forming a group of volunteers so that there is solidarity; then focussing down on a couple of local police stations or themes in policing and attacking that behaviour; checking out whether you can join with other local groups already working on these issues or with corporates who would welcome such interventions to make the city safer for women working with them; engaging with the police leadership to know if there is adequate oversight of local police and training includes – and of what quality – gender sensitivity. I’ve just been to a conference of women police and at least some of them are deeply concerned about their own organisations response to women so it might be worth going off in a group and chatting with the Commissioner at Chennai and their immediate political bosses.Since bad behaviour, criminality and corruption are so entrenched inevitably things do take time but not doing anything ensures that nothing gets done about it. Check out CHRI on the website to know more about police reforms.

  • Balaji

    I completely believe that morality can never be regulated or enforced by law. The police action, if true, are condemnable and must be investigated by the Human Rights organisation. I also wish people come forward to give evidence pertaining to the same.
    The generalisation arrived at with the help of few incidents is deplorable. Portraying the whole of Chennai City police as “enforcers of a deeply misogynistic worldview”, “flawed understanding of “Tamil culture”, unchecked sexism, and an abiding disrespect for the law itself” based on a small sample of evidence is plainly absurd! There is a thin line that separates morality and legality and if police officers cross that line, they can always be checked by the law or other agencies. They need not condemned to hell.
    Chennai is a city of fear and loathing, and the deep distrust in its sanctioned protectors is not a phantasm of urban legend. The city’s profound conservatism is in conflict with the needs of a modernizing population, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the manner in which its police relegate law and ethics in favour of their private concepts of morality.
    What exactly are you talking about? How many years have you been in Chennai to make such expansive statements? I know a lot of north-indian based media loves to hate Chennai and constantly publish these nonsense. (No wonder your article found its way to a news paper in Delhi).
    I still don’t find the connection between the first two incidents and the attack on three women. If there is an attack on women and not addressed properly, it does not mean any ‘Moral policing’. It is just incompetence!

    @apu – I do feel the problem is particularly acute among the Chennai police force, as opposed to those in other metros and perhaps it draws from the (unstated/stated?) support from the general public, movies etc., where it is any man’s “prerogative” to reform the jeans-wearing woman. However, it is not restricted to Chennai and does occur sporadically everywhere. Do you mean to say that moral policing in present ‘only’ in Chennai or do you mean to say that it is high in Chennai? If you are making comparative statements, please justify. Also, if there are 10 murders on an average in Chennai and 9 elsewhere, it would be ridiculous to suggest that Chennai is dangerous based on that stat!
    On a separate note, has any group ever threatened action against people celebrating Valentine’s day in Chennai?
    I appreciate serious views on women’s issues. But, that does not entail one to present a negative image of a city or society without any substantiate evidence.

  • Pamposh – I agree, it’s symptomatic of a larger problem in the nation itself, where the law is a flexible and relative thing.

    Apu – Absolutely, this kind of thing happens in many places, and is definitely tied to support from the general public. But this also includes women, who in many quarters are no less rabid about “morality” than men.

    Sunitadee – Thank you. I hope this post does help with documenting the problem, too.

    Dhanrajan – Noise pollution is hardly the same thing. I don’t see how it relates to moral policing.

    Byjunath – “Democracy always need not to be liberty and independence to live ones life without harming others.” I don’t understand? You feel that in a democratic society, one should not have the right to live one’s life without causing others’ harm?

    Cybertoast – Agreed. If the pervasive attitude among the general public changes, the institutions, including the police force, will also change. How can we do this? I think as people with a more egalitarian mindset, we should 1. lead by example, and 2. examine our own thinking – have we internalized any attitudes that are in line with moral policing ourselves?

    Maju – Thanks for this – could you give us more links, phone numbers, etc. If there are police reforms ongoing, I am sure that those of us who are concerned would love to be involved.

    Balaji –There are severe problems in this city, among which is moral policing towards women, and all you can think about is how North Indian media “hates” Chennai? There is no thin line between morality and legality: there is an enormous divide. Legality allows a woman to buy her own house; morality demands that she not live alone. The purpose of this article is not to condemn anybody to hell, but to shed light on the hellish nature of negotiating this city as a woman – something which, as a woman living here, I confront on a daily basis (along with millions of others) – as a means of beginning to address it and how we as citizens can change it. How long have YOU, Sir, experienced this city as a woman to know otherwise? Your denial is absolutely in line with what I was saying about the greater problem that persists in public attitudes. As for the connection between the two incidents and the attack on the three women? In a city in which women are respected, would others on the beach have watched uncaringly, would the police have let the attacker off scot-free?

  • Balaji

    @Sharanya – “morality demands that she not live alone” – that isn’t morality. Its insanity! I think you need get your definitions right here.

    “shed light on the hellish nature of negotiating this city as a woman” – It is not the city but a few elements that causing the ‘Hellish nature’ and they are present in cities all over the world! Check this blog http://www.101wankers.com/ written by a woman facing harassment in London for cycling!

    “How long have YOU, Sir, experienced this city as a woman to know otherwise?” – It is not a question of who knows the city more and who knows it less. But, if you make a statement about the “City’s profound conservatism” substantiated with poor evidences, it only demonstrates immaturity. Moreover, there are differences between barbarism and conservatism. The incidents mentioned above are inhuman and not a symbol of conservatism. To say that ‘Chennai City’ supports the above incident is completely incorrect.
    I am not in a position to comment on the last incident as I was not an eye witness to the same. How do you say that the rest watched it ‘uncaringly’?

    • Anita S

      Balaji, I live in London where I cycle everyday. I’ve never been harassed because I’m a woman.
      I’ve lived in Chennai for 22 years. I’ve been harassed daily, and even masturbated upon in the bus, because I’m a woman.

  • Balaji — “morality demands that she not live alone” – that isn’t morality. Its insanity! I think you need get your definitions right here.

    Umm, no. You need to get your definitions straight. Clearly you have no idea what kind of insanity, as you put it (and as I wholeheartedly agree) passes for morality in this city.

    “shed light on the hellish nature of negotiating this city as a woman” – It is not the city but a few elements that causing the ‘Hellish nature’ and they are present in cities all over the world! Check this blog http://www.101wankers.com/ written by a woman facing harassment in London for cycling!

    Harassment exists all over the world, but some cities are more hellish than others. This is a fact. Exactly what do you mean when you say it’s not the city but a few elements that cause it? You mean it’s not buildings and streets that cause it? Is that your definition of a city? Are the many many civilians, police officers, politicians who treat women disrespectfully not part of the city?

    “How long have YOU, Sir, experienced this city as a woman to know otherwise?” – It is not a question of who knows the city more and who knows it less. But, if you make a statement about the “City’s profound conservatism” substantiated with poor evidences, it only demonstrates immaturity. Moreover, there are differences between barbarism and conservatism. The incidents mentioned above are inhuman and not a symbol of conservatism. To say that ‘Chennai City’ supports the above incident is completely incorrect.

    Conservatism is exactly how the above incidents are justified. By saying, for example, that whatever these women did is against ‘Tamil culture’. If it’s not a question of who knows the city more, why did you call my knowing it at all into question? It’s your prerogative to say that the incidents I have cited are poor evidence. I wonder what it will take for you to concede that the city is a hostile environment for women – mass public rapes perhaps? Daily humiliations, violence, harassment and so on are just not enough?

    I am not in a position to comment on the last incident as I was not an eye witness to the same. How do you say that the rest watched it ‘uncaringly’?

    Because this is what was related to me by one of the people who underwent the experience. I have no reason to disbelieve her. If you prefer to think that women lie about their experiences in Chennai, enjoy your delusions.

  • Balaji

    @Sharanya – No one is living in delusions here. Everybody is aware of the harassment and violence against women. And these happens even in the most ‘modern’ of the ‘modernised’ worlds. It has nothing to do with Chennai city being apparently ‘Conservative’. Also, I wonder how you claim that such crimes are justified by the society!
    Crime committed by a handful of policemen does not become a crime by the entire police force. Tamil Culture is not a trivial topic that any joker has a say in it. The misrepresentation of Tamil culture as a male chauvinistic, opponents of blue jeans etc., is a stereotype enforced by handful of lazy journos.
    I wonder what exactly you achieve by reinforcing the same stereotypes (sans evidences) and bashing Chennai City! (Yeah, one article in Delhi-based media!). Does that solve any problem? Does that help people in developing any sensitivity towards fellow human beings (men/women alike!).?

  • Balaji – You persist in proving my case. So, everybody is aware of harassment and violence against women, but talking about it is wrong? How perfectly chauvinistic. Exactly the kind of attitude that encourages this type of treatment to continue.

    Every police person represents the force and the law and the state by which they are employed. Their actions while in uniform cannot be taken as done in their individual capacities, particularly when they use the power vested in them by these institutions to abuse. And actually, I don’t think Tamil culture is chauvinistic or “opposes blue jeans”. The distorted version of Tamil culture, as widely propagated today, presents itself this way.

    Will this article change the way police officers treat women in Chennai? Probably not. But there is value in documentation, particularly to pave the way for opening discussions on reforms. Not talking about a problem will not make it go away. Denying it exists at all, and heaping vitriol on those who do discuss it, helps even less. What will truly solve the problem in the end is when misogynists like you open their eyes.

  • Balaji

    @Sharanya – Thanks for branding me as a ‘Misogynist’ – Not sure if ‘modern society’ is all about free-for-all personal attacks in which case most would prefer to go back to the much civilised
    Keeping that aside, the issue is not about the existence of the problem. It is about the manner of solving it. If your leg gets fractured, one can always commit suicide instead of getting it treated. That would save the person plenty of money! Blaming the entire system and developing a hostility towards it is one such way of solving a problem in system. taking constructive steps to solve is another way.
    Write about the problem, blame that section that causes the problem and if possible, try to get into the root of the problem. In truth, the problems could more than plain chauvinism or misogyny.

  • Balaji – Totally contradictory, once again. “Write about the problem, blame that section that causes the problem and if possible, try to get into the root of the problem.” Basically what this article tries to do, except for one thing: I name, not blame. You claim to support solving the problem but cannot accept when the fault has been pinpointed to a source. Something other than misogyny is to blame? Really? What? Make an attempt at answering that instead of getting upset with people who actually do.

  • Balaji

    @Sharanya – Which article are you referring to? I presume you were referring to the blog which was nothing more than a rant against the city of chennai (no idea why you hate it so much).

  • Balaji – Once again, it is very constructive of you to reduce everything to “this person/this part of the country/this media instrument hates Chennai”. I’ve encountered many of your fellow members from what I call the League of Rabid Chennai Defenders (Online Division) and I feel sorry for all of you. Anyone whose hackles are raised at the very first suggestion that something is wrong with or in the city is operating out of a deep sense of shame in it. Such a person is hardly a citizen who truly contributes or engages. A person who lives with a city seeing and naming its flaws and trying to make a difference, like I do, does.

  • Balaji

    Sharanya – There is a whole lot of difference between ‘Ghodse Killed Gandhiji’ and ‘Gandhiji was killed by Ghodse’. Similarly, there is a lot of difference in saying that ‘There are lot of crimes committed against women in Chennai. Hence, I hate the city’ and ‘I hate Chennai because there are crimes committed against women’. It is obvious that you are using the above incidents for your convenience for the ‘I hate Chennai because men in Chennai don’t like women wearing blue jeans!’ statements! If you would like to say the former, you must be hating every city/town/village in India and may be even the world!. Can you tell me which city is safe for women anyway?
    In Bangalore, a BPO employee was raped and murdered by a cab driver. Would you blame the entire city for that? Sadly, our media and legal system did not even hold even her employers responsible for the incident. Here, you are accusing the whole city!

    P.S – Would prefer a more ‘professional’ discussion. The discussion is not about who – you or I – contributes more to the society. Please keep your replies only to the content and not to the person.

  • Yes, I too would prefer a better discussion. Sadly, I have to engage with discussions like this one because it’s people with your mentality who arrest progress, and until this same group opens their eyes, little can be done to change the situation. Please tell me exactly where I have said, “I hate Chennai because men in Chennai don’t like women wearing blue jeans!”. All of this is what you have inferred.

    If you want to proceed with this discussion at all, answer this question: if misogyny is not responsible for the pronouncedly unsafe atmosphere towards women in Chennai, what is?

  • Balaji

    My point is that you cannot take a couple of instances and make a general statement like “unsafe atmosphere towards women in Chennai”. Deal with the individual case as such. These incidents aren’t something that’s happening for the first time and unfortunately, neither the last in Chennai or elsewhere. Take up the incident and try to investigate every possible angle towards the that incident. Take the first incident, Have you bothered to find out who the police officer was? Did you check with the higher authorities about his behaviour? Did you check with legal authorities if any action can be taken? Did you ask the affected victims if they co-operated well with the police during their questioning?
    Also, not every police investigation is need to seen in a hostile way. Many times, Police stop motor cyclists in the night and check for drink-driving. It is sensible for anyone to extend co-operation to the police force in those instances. If you turn hostile, it is natural that the police becomes more suspicious. You have written about police questioning you twice (was it the same policeman?). What’s wrong in being questioned by police? If they suspect that there is a brothel in the area where you live, it is a legal issue and the police is entitled to do their investigation.
    When you are given an opportunity to write about the problem, it makes sense to take time and investigate the issue completely. I don’t see any investigation in the blog except that ‘I heard this’ and ‘I heard that’. Hence, Chennai is unsafe for woman, full of chauvinists, misogynists etc., etc.,

    P.S. “I hate Chennai because men in Chennai don’t like women wearing blue jeans!” was just a satirical take. Amongst the many reasons that i hear from people who hate Chennai, this is one though I cannot fathom any reasoning or logic behind it!

  • Balaji – On the first instance, feel free to search for the detailed petition that is circulating on the matter. There are only so many incidents that can be referenced in a short piece, and one chooses ones that best exemplify the situation. It can’t be helped if you insist on living in denial. First you denied the presence of misogyny, now you deny the reality of these incidents altogether. There is really no more to discuss here. If you aren’t able to engage in a discussion properly because you refuse to accept that the problem exists in the first place, then you cannot possibly be part of the solution.

  • Balaji

    I am willing to be part of the solution only if the problem is explained well. When there is hardly any willingness to explore the problem in detail from the other end, similar to the countless timepass breaking news in 24/7 news channel, one obviously prefer to ignore it that take it any seriously.
    There are better issues that I can address more seriously!

  • A problem cannot be explained well to a person who refuses to accept its existence in the first place. Best of luck with your “better” issues.

  • Anita S

    Balaji, I live in London where I cycle everyday. I’ve never been harassed because I’m a woman.
    I’ve lived in Chennai for 22 years. I’ve been harassed daily, and even masturbated upon in the bus, because I’m a woman.

    Sharanya, I applaud you for staying and fighting, and not running away from the country like me. I hope to one day grow a penis and return.

  • Thank you Anita. Balaji, I assure you that there are places where women can actually roam the streets at any time of day or night without fear of harassment by either the average man or the police (who she can actually count on to protect her in the rare case that she is harassed). I live in such a place.

  • Anita – Thank you for sharing your experiences as well; I was hoping to hear more from women who had felt firsthand the kind of daily, pervasive misogyny I spoke of. Staying or leaving are not always choices, but fighting certainly is.

    The Bride – I think Balaji did a wonderful job of providing an example of how deep-rooted the problem is, to the extent of seeing it but not acknowledging its existence. And I wonder, rereading my own comments, if I could have done a better job of trying to help him open his eyes, since I honestly believe that only public and social reform can be at the core of the solution. Thanks for your comment – reinforcing the fact that better ways of life do exist, and can evolve even here, is sure to help.

  • Balaji

    @Anita – http://www.101wankers.com/ may not agree with your ‘safety’ claim on London! Regret to hear your bad experiences in Chennai!
    @Bride – Nice to know of such places! Even I have been in one such place – The Himalayas!
    @Sharanya – I never denied the existence the problem. If you expect to open the eyes of people with the help of a lazy effortless article from an air conditioned room, I can assure you that the eyes will be closed soon!

  • @Sharanya – Firstly the issue you have raised and the manner in which you have chosen not to mince words is commendable. Secondly, the fact that you’ve doggedly stuck to your guns, instead of ‘blocking’ like several high-profile journos do when a question is raised, is all the more praiseworthy.

    I certainly don’t understand what Balaji is trying to prove by saying that violence against women/ eve teasing happens in other places too. Yes, it does. It happens in Bombay too, where I come from. And here too, my female friends have been misbehaved with not only by the cops, but fellow passengers on buses and trains.

    The idea here is not to say that X city is anti-women, and Y city is not. The idea is that wherever women are mistreated in this manner, what other explanation can you offer besides the fact that there exists a deeply misogynist view in society?

    Whether its saffron politicians beating up couples who celebrate Valentine’s Day here, or the Police who have questioned Sharanya outside her apartment, the problem exists and is deep-rooted in the system.

    While Balaji is aware that moral-policing puts women at a disadvantage, he fails to see that as a man in the city he enjoys the privilege of not being persecuted the way women are.

    I’ve never mistreated a woman be it in a train or any other public place; nor have any of my male friends. Can I then say that ‘some elements in the city behave badly with women?’

    If indeed the section of men who treat women well were the majority would Sharanya have to write a post like this?

    • Balaji

      @Paras – I was only trying to explain that it is wrong to generalise the behaviour of everyone in a city using a handful of examples. And if you do so, it applies to every city in the world.
      Police questioning Sharanya outside her apartment – What’s wrong in police questioning anyone? I have been questioned by police at least half-a-dozen times during my morning runs at unearthly time between 4-5 AM and I never felt anything wrong in that! you can have a separate debate for the existence of police as such. But, given that you have one, you have to accept their questioning too!

      • The Police questioning you for jogging at an ‘unearthly’ hour is a different thing from the Police questioning a woman after sundown. Are you saying Sharanya’s behavior warranted an interrogation from the cops?

        The problem here is that you’ve once again side-stepped the real issue here once again. A ‘small section’ of society may do the act itself, but the fact that it doesn’t cause an outrage amongst the larger section shows that a major part of society (which, let’s face it is patriarchal) silently agrees with these ideas, or as seems to be the case with you, doesn’t seem to believe that it warrants the level of outrage that has been expressed by Sharanya in this column.

        My question to you really is how many more ‘examples’ do you need before you actually sit up and take notice of the situation that’s staring you in the face?

        But then again, I’m not surprised. If there are people who can deny the holocaust itself, what’s a few raped, molested and assaulted women, right?

        If you feel that you don’t fit the description of the kind of men Sharanya has written against, good for you. But stop kidding yourself and accept that most people treat women well.

    • I meant accept that most people DONT treat women well, sorry

      • Balaji

        Not every police enquiry needs to be termed as ‘interrogation’. Even if it is, what is wrong in being questioned by Police as long as it is well within their powers and limits. I think the anti-police stance is plain non-sense. I am not here to judge anyone’s behaviour.

  • Timebomb

    Even in a group of three, the women were – in the city’s understanding of this word – “alone”.I have heard this so many times :-((. True.

    All your examples of the authorities misogyny were fine except for this one.

    … an accomplice in the unresponsiveness of Chennai’s ordinary citizenry. These instances are too omnipresent to enumerate, but one in particular, also shared by Chithira V, illustrates this pervasive attitude to chilling accuracy: some weeks ago, three women were attacked by a man with a knife on Besant Nagar beach. When they scattered, screaming, the man calmly walked away unperturbed. None of the families or couples sitting near these women paid any attention to the skirmish. The women called the police; an officer arrived, rounded up two random men, and insisted that they were the attackers. The real attacker not only went unpunished, but surely orchestrated the attack expecting this. Even in a group of three, the women were – in the city’s understanding of this word – “alone”.

  • Anita S

    Tangenting off from Timebomb’s example (which is rather the norm if you don’t bribe the cops),
    My own boyfriend once turned violent and dragged me off kicking and screaming from an open air festival, and hundreds of people including friends, college seniors and juniors stood and watched like we were in a movie screen. He dragged me off to a spot under a tree right outside a police station and ‘questioned’ me for an hour while holding my hands down, and not one policeman came out to ask what was going on.

  • JJ

    This one’s for Anita. Did she go complain to the police, considering that it was right outside their station she was being ‘questioned’? Agreed, the police guys were acting callous by looking the other way, but weren’t you giving them all the more reason to do so?

  • Anita S

    JJ, dude! I thought I mentioned I was being held down involuntarily. An average man is 1.5 times heavier than the average woman, I reckon, if not bigger. And please don’t start with, ‘But surely you could have gotten away if you really wanted to?’
    It’s never that simple. Read up on domestic abuse. Nine times out of ten, the women voluntarily stay with the abusive partner; it’s like the stockholme syndrome.

  • Kunal

    Sharanya, I know exactly what you mean. We run sexuality education workshops all over India and as a routine procedure, we file an RTI application with the Police Commissioner of almost every major city where our seminar will be held. The only thing we ask in our RTI application is this (between dotted lines below):

    —————-
    I am a certified Sex Educator. I want to know the answer to the following question.
    Is it illegal to provide sex education to adult men (over the age of 21)? If you say it is illegal, then under what sections of the IPC is it illegal? Provide complete text of the relevant sections.
    —————-

    We received positive responses (giving us permission) from New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Pune, Kolkata. But not from Chennai. First they did not respond at all. When we sent a second letter, they wrote to us asking us to go to the “concerned department” without mentioning what that “concerned department” was.

    Obviously, they were playing it safe. Essentially, they did not want to give us permission.

    @Balaji If there is an attack on women and not addressed properly, it does not mean any ‘Moral policing’. It is just incompetence!

    Balaji, you’re wrong. It is not “incompetence”. It is in fact, competence. COMPETENT MORAL POLICING. And that’s more dangerous than incompetence.

    What’s unfortunate is that instead admitting that there is scope for improvement in his city, Balaji spends his energy rabidly defending the status quo, worried more about his ego than about the larger cause.

    Btw, did you know that the play ‘Vagina Monologues’ was not allowed to be staged in Chennai? Reason? Because of the word ‘Vagina’ in the title. Prompting its creator Eve Ensler to quip, “Apparently there are no vaginas in Chennai, just arseholes”

    And Balaji, it’s plain as the light of day, that you are one of those arseholes.

  • Kunal

    @Anita S JJ, dude! I thought I mentioned I was being held down involuntarily. An average man is 1.5 times heavier than the average woman, I reckon, if not bigger. And please don’t start with, ‘But surely you could have gotten away if you really wanted to?’
    It’s never that simple. Read up on domestic abuse. Nine times out of ten, the women voluntarily stay with the abusive partner; it’s like the stockholme syndrome.

    Anita, I’m sorry to say that it’s women like you who allow jerks to believe they can get away with abuse. Granted that you could not force yourself free because he was “1.5 times heavier” than you. But did you at least cry for help? Even a simple “Bachao, bachao”? You didn’t. Besides, what about later, when he did let you go free, after 1 hour? Did you at least THEN go to the police and lodge a complaint? You didn’t.

    And you’re still with the same guy!

    So quit whining now.

    p.s. And please don’t blame the stockholm syndrome for this. This is more a case of ‘LOW SELF-ESTEEM syndrome’.

  • Anita S

    Kunal, so smug, so prim. How on earth did you figure out ‘truths’ like I stay with the same guy still? Surely you must have a direct line into the minds of women.
    And I haven’t given the entire context of the incident, so don’t assume a context, and don’t dole out brilliant advice like ‘quit whining’. I’m amazed that so much anger is directed at me from men about this. ‘Quit whining’ and ‘low self-esteem’ are favourite words for misogynists.
    And ‘women like you’.
    And you are obviously one “Sex Educator” who doesn’t know his own mouth from his arse.

  • Kunal

    @Anita S I like that! 🙂 Now if only you had shown some of that anger while your boyfriend was holding you down “involuntarily”. 😉

    Involuntarily, my tight ass!! My girlfriend loves it when I do the caveman on her. Women in general love a little domination, don’t we know it. And therein lies the problem, Anita. People around did not KNOW that you were NOT liking it. You did NOTHING to signal that you didn’t like it, so how could the people (or the cops) around know that you were not merely having a lovers’ tiff. Heck, you did nothing even AFTER the incident. Now if that doesn’t scream DOORMAT, what does!

    Tip : Next time try crying for Help!

    Unless of course you’re enjoying the cave-manning. 😉

    In which case give the whining a pass (and us a break).

    • Wow dude, you’ve just gone absolutely downhill from your first comment. So not being able to stop the abuse is the victim’s fault now, great!

      If your girlfriend is submissive, that really does NOT mean that women like being dominated.

      Even in Bombay we’ve seen girls being slapped and abused by their boyfriends on beaches and what not and the same Police who very efficiently come and shoo away a cuddling couple almost always miss such incidents.

      Now before people like you and Balaji say the police are acting within their power, I’d like to ask whether the police are all about power and not at all about responsibility?

      And for that matter Balaji, the Police have not done their image any favors , so this anti-police attitude which you call nonsense is in fact the most nonsensical thing that has been said here. Clearly you and Kunal have not heard of incidents where the Police refuse to file FIRs in matters related to domestic abuse calling it a ‘family matter’.

      I hope the women who attend Kunal’s sex-ed classes hear that he ‘likes do a caveman on his girlfriend’, and believes that women in general like being dominated.

      Pathetic!

      • Balaji

        @Paras – You are missing the point. I only argued against generalisations. As much as you have heard police refusing to file FIR’s, we have heard people make a turn-around in their stance when it comes to ‘family issues’ – so, no point in making anyone villian here. Also, questioning a ‘suspect’ is an act of responsibility and skepticism is a must for any police even if they get it wrong 99 out of 100 times.

  • Vinayak

    hahaha, well put, Anita!
    IT is interesting how many men are weighing in with their opinion, who are neither the commiters of violence against women, and are not women either. (including myself). So why are they having such strong opinions on the matter? surely, whatever they know about it is only second hand?
    this Kunal, he proclaims himself as a ‘Sex educator’ and a supporter of ‘Vagina monolouges’ and yet he rushes in to condemn a woman who is a victim of male violence, passes judgement on her, calling her ‘whining’ and having ‘low esteem’.
    Interestingly, this guy hasn’t even read the incident properly, and assumes
    1) that the local population speak Hindi
    2) she is still with the same fellow
    3) she never once shouted for help
    4) she never lodged a police complaint ever
    By assuming that she didn’t even have the wits to cry for help, that she has low-self-esteem, with one stroke he is letting the police off the hook, letting the violent boyfriend off the hook and blaming the victim for the incident.
    it reminds me of the movie The Accused where the rape victim is held morally responsible for the rape done to her.
    Ironically, this guy Kunal abuses another guy Balaji for expressing an opinion. When you point a finger at someone, don’t forget that there are three fingers pointing at urself

  • Vinayak

    Kunal, clearly you are a caveman. Congratulations.
    “Women in general love a little domination”. A man writes this on a feminist website!!!!!
    hahahahah. What a turd.

  • Vinayak

    Anita clearly says she was dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ by the boyfriend, and this guy doesn’t even read properly.
    Kunal equates it to his own ‘caveman’ behaviour on his girlfriend. interesting how he volunteers this information. So this Kunal’s girlfriend hasn’t cried for help or gone and lodged a police complaint. does that mean she has low self esteem and probably whines a lot? that she is a doormat? One thing it does mean is that Kunal is, in his own words, an arsehole

  • Rekha

    @Kunal
    If people like Kunal are supposed to be the enlightened and pro-feminist, then we really have a long long way to go. Cavemen belong in display cases in museums.

  • Kunal

    @Vinayak Kunal, clearly you are a caveman. Congratulations. “Women in general love a little domination”. A man writes this on a feminist website!!!!! hahahahah.

    You think feminists don’t enjoy being pinned down and f**ked hard? 😉 Or, like most clueless guys, did you think feminists are actually females with a penis?

    @Paras I hope the women who attend Kunal’s sex-ed classes hear that he …believes that women in general like being dominated.

    Read carefully. I said women in general love a ‘little’ domination. And btw, it’s MEN that I teach, it’s men who are more in need of sex education, more than our brutally suppressed women.

    @Paras So not being able to stop the abuse is the victim’s fault now, great!

    Wtf are you talking about? Never suggested that. Dude, if there were a ‘minimum IQ’ requirement to be able to post on this forum you’d never be able to. Read posts carefully before commenting. Or I’ll kick your butt. 😉

    I don’t want to make the usual PC noises about how I don’t condone abuse blah, blah. Of course I don’t, and any dodo who thinks I do just doesn’t get it. 🙂

    • @Kunal So you teach men that women in general like a ‘little bit’ of domination? Is that sex-ed or SavitaBhabhi storyline?

      You clearly suggested that Anita should have been able to prevent being dragged against her will, and the fact that the Police or no one else intervened was her fault. If that’s not blaming the victim, then what is?

      If you do as you claim oppose abuse, exactly what point were you trying to make to Anita?

  • Kunal

    @Paras So you teach men that women in general like a ‘little bit’ of domination? Is that sex-ed or SavitaBhabhi storyline?

    Haven’t seen Savita Bhabi except for its coverage in the media. I hear it’s soft-porn and if so, my sex ed material is probably the opposite of what’s shown in SB. Most porn (except the ones created by women film makers like Candida Royalle) is created to fulfill male fantasy without factoring in the erotic requirements of women. That’s why men who try to mimic porn’s genitally-focussed techniques in the bedroom are usually left disappointed and their lovers, frustrated. What is almost never shown in porn and what women ACTUALLY desire is WHOLE BODY lovemaking on every square inch of her body to get truly aroused. Women want their toes sucked, their breasts fondled, earlobes nibbled & sucked, neck mooched, navel licked inside, scalp massaged, back covered with soft kisses, back of their neck nibbled, arms caressed, fingers sucked (each one of them, one by one), inner thighs kissed, licked and nibbled, their butt gently chewed up, their arm pits licked, their nipples nibbled up, and more, much more…before you can even think of touching between her legs. Most porn does not show all this. Why? Because their customers are TYPICAL MEN. And TYPICAL MEN want to get right down to the ACTION without wasting any time, and then roll over and go to sleep.

    ——–

    @Paras You clearly suggested that Anita should have been able to prevent being dragged against her will…

    I did not. But since you are so clear that I suggested it, please quote the relevant sentence(s) from any of my posts and I will answer your question. Waiting.

  • Trees

    If only this Balaji grew breasts and a vagina, he would know what women are talking about…whether Chennai or any other place in India.

  • This is so shocking and so disgusting!!! The society supports this attitude that is why they get away such blatant misogyny.

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