On 8th November, 2015, the third Mumbai Feminists meet up took place at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) Gardens (with a gorgeous sea view) in Navy Nagar, Colaba courtesy Himadri Burman. The meet up was attended by Adiyta Prabhakar, Japleen Pasricha, Himadri burman, Paras Sharma, Rashi Vidyasagar and Riddhima Sharma. (Also like to point out that for the first time we had an equal number of men and women attend the meet up. YAY!). Once we were settled in comfortably on the grass, we began the meeting with a quick round of introductions and talking about why we identify as feminists. Aditya shared specific instances from his life that led him to identify as feminist.
Since the results of the Bihar Assembly elections were out on the day of the meet up, we had a short discussion on the results, the possible causes for the outcome and defeat of the BJP and Paras highlighted the short and long term impact of these results on the State and National politics of India.
We then moved on to discuss the ongoing protests in Delhi, #PinjraTod and #OccupyUGC. The state of affairs with respect to scholarships offered to NET-JRF and no- NET students by the UGC were discussed, with Japleen, Paras and Rashi sharing personal anecdotes. This discussion clarified several doubts we had about the protests against UGC.
Then the causes that culminated into the Pinjra Tod (Break the Hostel Locks) movement were described by Japleen. We then discussed how the movement spread across the country to become a nationwide movement against gender discrimination on campuses. We also discussed why there were no major protests in Mumbai, which was mainly because we did not have many campuses and residential colleges in the city.
The discussion on Pinjra Tod flowed into another discussion where we talked about the issues that women face in colleges. An example of IIT Bombay was given by Paras where he spoke about his experience taking some sessions at IIT-B and saw that out of 900 students he interacted with, only about 8-9 were girls.
Aditya then took up the question of why there weren’t many girls in STEM fields. Himadri, Paras and Riddhima offered opinions on why the situation was such and the problem of internalisation of patriarchal beliefs came out as a strong cause.
We then spoke about classroom behaviour with respect to the participation levels of boys and girls. Riddhima shared stories from her classroom while teaching a class of 40 where 30 were boys and 10 girls and how the boys never let the girls respond to questions. She spoke about a pattern of behaviour in class where boys were always asking about false cases by women while discussion sexual violence and laws around it in India.
Rashi then pointed out that she faced something similar while talking to people and the most often section of law that was debated was Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code which penalises acts of cruelty by the husband.
Rashi and Riddhima then pointed out why there was a misconception with respect to the number of “false cases” reported in the media as well as in official statistics. They offered various examples of situations where women had been forced to take back their cases under pressure which led to the FIRs being marked as “false cases”, that contributes to a statistic which is looking to discredit this provision of the law by citing the “misuse” of it by women.
Then we spoke about the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 and the reasons why there were also many “false” cases of rape filed under this law. We discussed the age of consent under this law, possible things that can be changed to make it more favourable for consenting parties who may be below 18 but over 15 years of age.
After this discussion, we decided that Rashi and Riddhima would write articles explaining the law and the misconception around its misuse which would be posted on the Feminism in India blog and be used as a resource by all of us in all future discussion within or outside the group. Lastly, a short discussion on intersectionality, feminism and justice was done over dinner where Japleen explained these concepts broadly.
We would like to thank Himadri for hosting this meetup at the gorgeous TIFR Gardens! (We all hope to go back there again before Himadri leaves his job)