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Hues of Denial and Mimesis In Constructing Resistance

Pratiksha Baxi

By Kalpana Kannabiran and Ritu Menon
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2007, pp. 201, Rs. 300.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

From Mathura to Manorama invites us to think critically of how feminist projects opposed to violence against women are con- structed. This exciting book shows us how feminist politics against violence has been varied in its forms, strategies and premises. This important book must be read and taught especially since the authors demand reflexivity by re-visiting the inception of the violence against women campaigns. For instance, they mark the elision of the queer lives from feminist analyses of violence against women. They emphasize the ‘complexity of interlocking fields of violence’, i.e., how class, caste, communal, regional, sexual identities impact analyses of violence against women.   Like other accounts, the centrality of the campaigns against rape to the women’s movements in India is remarked upon in this book. In revisiting the painful narratives of custodial rape narrated through Rameeza Bi and Mathura, the authors point out that the critique of custodial rape operated within the ambit of state violence in the civil liberties paradigm in the 1980s. However, custodial rape spans both the domestic and public context by including child sexual abuse as well as contexts of custodial rape during the dark times of mass scale conflict. The documentation of state violence in Gujarat, Manipur and Kashmir highlights therefore how custodial violence against women is normalized during communal violence and armed conflict.   We are told that even though issues of ‘identity, location and domination’ found passing reference in the 1980s, it is only later that these questions become central to the analyses of the criminal legal system. The authors highlight that the symbols of the women’s movements in India are also minor, Muslim and tribal. Hence, it is possible to read Mathura’s story by pointing out that she was a subject of illegal detention in a police station in the first instance since her brother evoked criminal law provisions on rape and kidnapping against her lover. Her status as a minor legal subject who has no legal rights to move out of a domestic space wherein fathers or brothers maintain guardianship rights made her vulnerable to intervention by the police in the first instance. Just like the infamous Suman Rani case, custodial rape is a form of violence that may visit adult or minor women who choose their partners. Re-reading Mathura allows us to locate how rape and kidnapping laws are used efficiently against consenting adults and minors. ...

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