Prajnya Gender Talks, June 2022 || Pandemic, Policy and Patriarchy: Process of Gender De-equalisation by Prof. Ritu Dewan


June 2022

Rapporteur: Suhasini Udayakumar

About the Speaker

Dr Ritu Dewan is the Vice President of the Indian Society of Labour Economics, Vice President of the Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, Visiting Professor at the Institute of Human Development, Co-Founder-Co-convenor of the Feminist Policy Collective, Trustee of The India Forum, Director of The Leaflet, President of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (2014-17). She was the first-ever woman Director of the Department of Economics, University of Mumbai, and the founder-member of the first Centre for Gender Economics in Asia.

Locating Pandemic Policy

Dr Dewan dives into the first part of her presentation “Locating Pandemic Policy” to highlight the degree to which previously existing inequalities were exacerbated during the pandemic due to the state’s conscious callousness. 

The pandemic began at a time when growth was already decreasing significantly in the country, especially at the low capacity utilisation levels. The development indicators of MSMEs had gone through demonetisation and the introduction of a convoluted GST, which was both anti-people and anti-women. At a time when MSMEs were battling to stay alive, they had to deal with rigid and highly bureaucratic procedures. India’s famous income inequality had been modestly improving before the pandemic. During the pandemic, this trend reversed: for the first time in 42 years, the percentage of people below the BPL increased. 

India’s work participation rates are one of the lowest in South Asia, but post-pandemic they became one of the lowest in the world, both for rural and urban areas, of which marginalities and vulnerable sections were of course worst affected. The gender wage gap increased for the first time and India witnessed the lowest minimum wage ever. There were also of course fewer salaried jobs due to the unpredictability of the pandemic. Reserve Bank reports have shed light on how people could not afford basic resources after demonetisation and even more so after the pandemic.

GDP was recorded to have fallen by 23% during the pandemic but if the informal sector were to be included, it fell by 50%. People around the country closed their PF accounts and the greatest driver of growth – household savings – also took a huge hit.  Every single global indicator fell during COVID, with even the health spending shockingly declining. India registered lower ranks of the hunger index and the democracy index. It also had the highest proportion of stunted children, as evidenced by both international and NFHS reports. Even at this time of global disaster, religion and caste were reinforced strongly, with women with these markers one of the biggest segments affected. Dr Dewan predicts that the damage on these marginalities is irreversible unless huge structural and systemic change is undertaken.

Gendered Impacts on Livelihood

Dr Dewan consciously uses the term “livelihoods” since “work” doesn’t cover unpaid work. Demonetisation hit the construction industry terribly affecting construction workers both before and after the pandemic. Handlooms, which had provided one of the largest revenues to the government for decades, were shut down during the pandemic – on Handloom Day.

Job losses were high all across but gender played a role here too, with 3/4th of men but 4/5th of women losing their jobs (it is to be noted that there is no macro data available so these conclusions are dependent on micro studies). Domestic workers are considered “regularly salaried,” and part of the only increasing area of employment for women since 2012 across India; but 85% of the domestic workers in India lost their jobs during the pandemic. They had to sell their clothes, jewellery, and utensils, and finally became indebted through consumption loans from informal banking, which will act as severe liabilities to future work due to predictable low repayment rates.

The monthly wage, which had already been the lowest in South Asia. fell even more, particularly during the brutal lockdowns. People did not receive wages even for work they had already done or if they did, they got paid in old notes which they had to sell at half-price. In Gujarat and Bihar, women worked 10 hours a day for 15 INR and sex workers charged 7-10 INR for each encounter. Sex workers have always been socially distanced but since physical distancing became the norm, their work suffered. NGOs and individual volunteers could not fill the vacuum left by state callousness at migration camps. The relief work they performed was willfully denied to transgender people by other religious relief groups. Migrants were without shelter and merely wanted to be with their families during the crisis, thus deciding to go back home despite all odds. But this natural human tendency was criticised by elites and the government. The migrants were to depend on MGNREGA for work and many begged for any work even if it was underpaid; only 23% of the demand was met and although MGNREGA had committed to 100 days of work for each labourer, it delivered on a measly 25 days. 

MSMEs are the biggest contributor to employment in the country. The country is touted to have a large women participation rate in MSMEs but we must note that women constitute a significant percentage only at the micro level, with only 5% of medium and 2% of small enterprises led by women. Despite the harrowing circumstances of the pandemic, the state provided no allowances or leniency to MSMEs. It did not reduce the GST or postpone taxes or arrear payments. Demand fell and the value-supply chain was disrupted. The conflict with China occurred and all Chinese imports – particularly the cheap ones – were banned. Since these were a mainstay for MSMEs, they went through a production shock. A credit link scheme had been announced in the previous budget but 85% of the MSMEs could not access it due to deterrant regulations and rules. On the other hand, many startups deemed themselves as MSMEs and accessed the credit. Thus, Dr Dewan states that data shouldn’t be taken at face value but examined for hidden meaning.  

The desperation levels of poverty rates hit the roof. People in extreme poverty live on 12-14 INR a day, and these is absolutely no data about gendered differences of this kind of poverty. Since frontlike workers like nurses and medical workers tend to primarily be women, 72% of the medical workers who died during the pandemic were women. Anganwadi workers were not paid and nurses were appointed on contractual level, without PF or pension. Jan Dhan accounts were created but remained in zero balance since people had no money to put in them. Sex wokers and sexual minorities had neither ration cards or shelters.

Gender-Specific Impacts: Women, Sexual Minorities, Sex Workers

The pandemic brought on a transition to digital education, causing massive dropouts from schools. However, even prior to the pandemic, the dropout rate for girls was at 40% which increased even further since only 11% of school-going girls own mobile phones due to social restraints. At a time when the state should have done all that was possible to make education reach even the farthest sections of society, it decided to stop scholarships for SC and ST students; this was in fact one of its first actions when the pandemic started. 

Consumption of staples like rice and wheat fell by 50% and dhal by 63%. The state also stopped school children’s midday meals. There is no financial transparency about what it did with the money that would have been pumped into these meals. ICDS was closed and immunisation stopped. These are fundamental needs especially at this time of hysteria. There was an increase in infant and child mortality rates, and due to natal services being limited from physical distancing, an increase in maternal mortality rates as well. 

Unsafe abortions rose to an all-time high of 60 million just between 2019-2020 and unplanned pregnancies to 26 million. One of the collateral results and biggest fallouts from any form of displacement, especially disaster, is the rise of child marriages. 30-40K child marriages occurred in Maharashtra (and we must keep in mind that child marriage is not just marriage but a transfer of labour from one house to another).

Domestic violence rose by such a large extent that it began to be referred to as the shadow pandemic. But even at this time, the government did not spend Nirbhaya funds; in fact three-fourth of the funds were transferred from the Ministry of Women and Children’s Development to the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

The increase in violence against women was unprecedented at a record 171%. This is not a surprise what with the state’s refusal to criticise violence and lynching, and the increasing internalisation of violence. Convicted prisoners began to be released to prevent overcrowding during the pandemic. But the first to be released were convicted rapists such as from the Hathra case. On the other hand, political prisoners are still in prison. 

When we speak about unpaid work, we need to particularly focus on women and single male migrants. Due to the Work From Home culture that arose, the number of hours women worked at home increased. The state increased cooking fuel and cylinder prices (the somewhat beneficial Ujwala scheme was stopped), adding to the burden on women from lower-middle class households. 

How can one conclude pain, Dr Dewan asks. So, in lieu of a conclusion, she talks about the Ordinance of Farm Acts, which clamped down on agriculturists, the only sector to have shown an increase in growth at 3%. This led to the most prolonged and historical agitation in the history of the world. 

Labour codes were modified, removing definitions of work, worker, and workplace; and taking away social security and the right to unionise. The circus of Atmanirbhar took away foreign-direct investments and public assets were sold at hugely discounted rates. In contrast, the reduction in corporate taxes were extended to 2025, where they pay a reduced 15% tax instead of 30%. 

The GST share of states was withheld from states that don’t adhere to the centre. With the state having to spend on COVID management, funding was taken out of development initiatives, causing development indicators to decline further. 

To sum up, all those who were not a part of the patriarchal slot were taken out of the relief equation. The state has become an anti-enabler and anti-equaliser, and is rooted in patriarchal structures and rigidities.

Prajnya Gender Talks, October 2021 || Gender, Climate Change and Securitisation by Asha Hans


October 2021

Rapporteur: Suhasini Udayakumar

About the speaker

Dr Asha Hans is the founder of Sansristi and the Executive Vice President of the Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre. She has had a long and illustrious academic career at Utkal University and published prolifically on international relations and South Asian politics. She has been a long-standing and active member of the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy. Dr Hans’ most recent publication is Engendering Climate Change: Lessons from South Asia (Routledge 2021) co-edited with Nitya Rao, Anjal Prakash and Amrita Patel.


Across the planet, climate change is altering risk patterns and several factors interact to increasingly expose people to natural hazards. Even as researchers unpack women’s vulnerability to climate change, the emerging “securitisation” of climate is being perceived as a potential cause for global instability and conflict. Feminists need to explore and formulate a response to this new climate-“securitisation.”

Climate Change within the Gender Discourse

Dr Hans states that climate change is missing from the gender discourse despite being one of the world’s most pressing issues. In fact, climate change has given rise to a new kind of colonialism and a strengthening of militarization. Over the course of the Gender Talk, Dr Hans hopes to discuss why and how has this happened.

Frameworks for Climate Change

Dr Hans lays out the frameworks for climate change that currently exist in the world. The first is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which acts as a space for negotiation for all member states. The UNFCCC has been active since 1994 but only in 2014 did it recognise gender as an important aspect of climate change. 

Dr Hans reflects that ground realities, issues, and activism aren’t reflected in these conventions. Although women bear the brunt of climate change, the gender component is missed out from the discourse because there are barely any women present at the conventions to discuss it.  For example, the rapid creation of the Mahanadi delta in India has displaced indigenous people, many of them women, to new territories. But international relations prefer that no migration occur, ignoring the fact that climate change leaves people with no choice. 

The second framework for climate change is Resolution 2242, which is part of the UN Security Council 1325 for Women, Peace and Security (WPS). 1325, celebrated for its sturdy pillars, did not include climate change on its agenda until 2015 and is yet to be mainstreamed, having but one paragraph to its name in the framework.

How do women suffer due to climate change?

Climate change has led to a new kind of colonialism in critically affected areas. The melting of the Arctic, for example, has led to world powers descending on the area for resources. The Arctic is divided among many countries such as the US, China, Russia, Norway, and Canada, which have all hastened to extract valuable resources such as minerals. The indigenous women in the Arctic suffer from the consequent extraction politics and imperialism. 

Around 2007, countries around the world announced that climate change was affecting their defence bases. This developed a new agenda, which led to large sums of money being pumped in to protect these bases. Forgotten was the fact that continued militarization devastates women in conflict areas through war crimes such as rape, abduction, and more. 

How do we move forward?

Dr Hans talks about CEDAW recommendations on WPS and climate change, which are supposed to be mandatory but are hardly followed by member states. These world conventions highlight issues but are not committed to changing mindsets, without which change is simply not possible. The importance of the UN has decreased over time and it is not a good sign that member states do not take its values and opinions seriously. 

Dr Hans shares the words of Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados at a UN General Assembly meeting: one of the greatest barriers in WPS is the lack of belief and trust in the UN’s vision. Without that, where does one go from here? 100 billion USD dedicated to climate finance is not all that is required. What is of utmost urgency is global moral strategic leadership. How many more disasters is the world to witness? How many more women of colour are to be attacked? World leaders and organisations offer kind words but do not demonstrate the goodwill to distribute the surplus resources harboured by the one per cent. The vulnerable and the marginal pay the price for this greed. 

Dr Hans concludes that we need to transfigure the concept of securitisation into that of human security. We must become more intersectional in the gender and climate change discourse, paying special attention to women with disabilities and transwomen, who suffer even more disproportionately due to climate change. 

#Beijing25 ||ROADMAP: women and peace


Shohini Banerjee’s depiction of the inclusion of women in peace processes was the winner of Roadmap, an infographic contest to celebrate 25 years of the Beijing Platform for Action.


  1. Council on Foreign Relations. Women’s Roles in Peace Processes: Explore the Data. Retrieved August 15, 2020, from
  2. Gender Peacekeeping. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from
  3. Hedström, J., & Senarathna, T. (Eds.). (2015). Women in Conflict and Peace (Rep.). International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. from
  4. Khullar, A. (2020, January 16). A Lukewarm Commitment: India and Gender Equality in Security Affairs. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from
  5. Landmark resolution on Women, Peace and Security (Security Council resolution 1325). (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from
  6. O’Reilly, M. (2015). Why Women? Inclusive Security and Peaceful Societies (Rep.). Inclusive Security. from
  7. Press Trust India. (2019, October 22). Urgent need to institutionalise involvement of women in conflict prevention: India. Retrieved August 15, 2020, from
  8. Samad, K. (2011). Gender, Conflict and Peace-building: On the Margins of Development
    (Rep.). Paris: UNESCO. doi: BFC/PCPD/2011/PI/1/REV.2

Shohini Banerjee is a Gender and Development Consultant.



Excerpts from an article by Asiya Islam, Junior Research Fellow at Newnham College, University of Cambridge.

A message with email signoffs adapted for use during the coronavirus pandemic has been doing the rounds, one of the many memes that this crisis has generated. The usual ‘Best’, ‘Sent from my iPhone’, and ‘Take care’ have been replaced by ‘Best (but could be better), ‘Sent from my living room’, and ‘Take Care – no but really’. It seems that, perhaps for the first time, people actually want to know the answer to ‘How are you?’ and that it is acceptable to venture past the cursory ‘I’m fine, thanks, and you?’ 

This change in the way we communicate with each other may have been prompted by a sense of unity in feeling lonely, anxious, and insecure. But perhaps this change is also a realisation, on a collective level, of what is absolutely essential to the survival and sustenance of society – care.

Ethic of care
When the things that distract us every day – the emails that need to be sent, the profits that need to be calculated, the booking that needs to be made at the new restaurant – are stripped back to make space to deal with a crisis, we may arrive at an awkward realisation. That as urgent as we may believe our everyday activities in times of ‘normalcy’ to be, they are indeed (quite literally) not matters of life and death. At this moment, people are thinking much more closely about provision of healthcare, neighbourhood support groups, manufacture of ventilators and masks, sanitation, food production, and delivery services. Is this what a society premised on the ethic of care look like?

Read the full article here

Asiya Islam, ‘TAKE CARE – NO BUT REALLY’: GENDER, LABOUR, AND CARE IN TIMES OF CRISIS, Discover Society, April 1, 2020

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch – Himachal Pradesh Elections 2017 – Where are the women candidates?


This 3-part article is written for as part of the Gender Election Watch Project on Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections

Earlier this week, I and Dr. Swarna Rajagopalan from Prajnya began to investigate gender statistics on the forthcoming Himachal elections that are due to take place on the 9 November 2017. Subdivided into 12 districts and 68 Assembly Constituencies (ACs), the state will witness a single phase election. Electoral battles are often a face-off between two key national parties – the Indian National Congress (currently led by the incumbent state Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (led by Prem Kumar Dhumal). With little space for a third alternative, voting remains largely restricted between these two parties; both parties assembled a total vote share of 81 percent in the State Assembly elections in 2012 which the Congress won.


File photo from India News.

An unforgiving observation, however, is the disproportionate gender imbalance in the electoral mechanics. So far, our research has identified merely 15 women candidates from three major parties contesting in the polls – 4 from the Congress, 8 from the BJP and 3 from BSP vis-a-vis a total number of 400-odd male candidates. Although the list expands to 20 when we include independent women candidates, yet the ratio of men to women contestants have remained disproportionate .

No Name of the Party Number of Candidates contesting
1 Bahujan Samaj Party 32
2 Bharatiya Janata Party 68
3 Indian National Congress 68
4 CPI/CPI (M) 30
5 All India Trinamool Congress Data not available
6 Nationalist Congress Party Data not available
Total Number 198*
Total Number of Women candidates 20*

*Based on nomination data from the Chief Electoral Officer, Himachal Pradesh

In the Himachal state elections since the turn of the century, the number of contesting women candidates contesting have remained roughly around 8 percent. In other words, for every 100 people contesting in an election, there are merely 8 women candidates. Elected women candidates average roughly around 6 percent of the total 68 elected representatives in the Himachal State Legislative Assembly. Interestingly, the figure was the lowest in 2012, when only 3 women candidates were elected alongside 65 male representatives.

This statistic is further intriguing considering how female voting numbers have been traditionally higher over the last three assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. In 2003, 2007 and in 2012, the percentage of female voters was nearly 75 percent vis-à-vis male voters who were nearly 70-71 percent. Why are parties not fielding more women candidates? The state is yet to see a women Chief Minister.

Where are the women contesting from:

No Party Name of Women Candidates Place they are contesting from
1 INC Asha Kumari Dalhousie
2 INC Viplov Thakur Dehra
3 INC Champa Thakur Mandi-Sadar
4 INC Anjna Devi Una
5 BJP Reeta Devi Indora (SC)
6 BJP Sarveen Shahpur
7 BJP Indu Bala Palampur
8 BJP Kamlesh Kumari Bhoranj (SC)
9 BJP Vijay Jyoti Sain Kasumpti
10 BJP Shashi Bala Rohru (SC)
11 BJP Neelam Nayyar Chamba
12 BJP Vinod Kumari Chandel Doon
13 BSP Pinki Devi Nagrota
14 BSP Saroti Devi Barsar
15 BSP Manjana Devi Jawali
16 Indpndt Nirmala Chauhan Karsog
17 Rashtriya Azad Manch Renuka Dogra Kullu
18 Indpndt Roshani Sharma Mandi
19 Lok Gathbandan Party Paro Devi Sarkaghat
20 Indpndt Kumari Vandna Sullah

Does the system discourage women from participating? What seem to be the barriers to entry? We find that reservation for women candidates can encourage more women to contest and win in elections. The results of the Panchayat and Zila Parishad elections – where reservations apply – illustrate this clearly, as a 2015 State report highlighted:

“In Himachal Pradesh there are 3243 Gram Panchayats, out of which 1639(50.54 per cent) seats have been occupied by women in the 2011 Panchayat elections. Out of total seats occupied by women, 987 (60.21 per cent) occupied by general women, 421,(25.68 per cent) scheduled caste women, 104 (6.34 per cent) scheduled tribes women and 127 (7.74 per cent) occupied by OBC women. Similarly, out to total 77 Chairman Panchayat Simities seats, 42 seats (54, 55 percent) of the seats in this category have been occupied by women. Among total seats occupied by women in Chairman Panchayat Simities category, 20 (48 per cent) occupied by general women, 13(31 per cent) by scheduled caste women, 4 (9 per cent) by scheduled tribes women and 5 (12 per cent) occupied by OBC women. Out of the total 12 seats chairpersons of Zila Parisad seats, 6 (50 per cent) of the seats have been occupied by women in 2011 elections.”

End of Part 1. Part 2 will track media coverage of these women candidates, and Part 3 is a post election piece.

Stats calculated based on public available data on candidates, and from previous Election Commission Reports.  

Everyday Endeavours: The Simple Act of Eating-Drinking


Everyday Endeavours is a new column by Mamta (aka @silverlightgal) about the things women do everyday and how they are different or experienced differently because women do them.

One of the first urban culture shocks, I experienced on migrating to a city a few years ago, was seeing women eat alone at a restaurant. Growing up in a small Indian town with a middle-class upbringing, life had been quite different from that in urban cities. In my town, women and even young girls rarely ventured out alone. They often went out together in twos or threes, whether it was for shopping or watching a movie or just a simple walk. The town’s few restaurants often saw families and on several occasions, lone men trickling in for snacks or dinners. But we never ever saw a woman eating alone. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that a woman could actually eat out alone.

In the city, I discovered that this was not just possible but happening around me. Though it still wasn’t common and did attract curious glances, at least it wasn’t an impossibility anymore.

The men, on the other hand, often ate out alone without attracting any attention or curiosity. No one around them speculated as to why the man might be eating out alone.

There could be various reasons why you would choose to eat alone. You could be short of time and in too much of a hurry to round up the company to eat with; you could be short of money and want to eat a simple meal by yourself, without having to split a huge bill with others. Or you could just want to savour the pleasure of a delicious meal all by yourself, without any distractions.

Even the waiters and maitre’d behave differently if you are a woman eating out alone. The first thing they will want to know is if someone would be joining you at the table.  It’s only after you reassure them a couple of times (or more) that you are indeed going to be dining alone and perfectly happy to be doing so (as in, not stood up by a date), that they leave you in peace.

This is the scenario in urban metro cities. In many small towns even today, it’s considered either ‘too forward’ or ‘embarassing’ for a woman to be seen eating out alone. Some men on seeing a woman alone at a table think it an open invitation to go and hit on her.

The arrival of Internet-and-mobile based food delivery apps are perhaps a blessing in some way, but what if a girl didn’t want to eat out of a box and craved to eat out by herself and experience the ambience of premises other than her own? Wouldn’t it be nice if regardless of whether a small town or a big city, a girl could go about doing this without raising any eyebrows or worrying about some random man hitting on her or fearing judgement from others?

Alright, let’s move on to the chai tapris now. Who doesn’t like a hot cuppa every now and then, especially in the monsoons or winter? And not everyone can afford Starbucks or a Café Coffee Day everyday. The streetside tea stalls with their masala teas are far lighter on the wallet. Quite often it’s just a matter of convenience and budget to prefer streetside stalls over the coffee/tea outlets.

But how often do you see women or girls sipping their cuppa alone in a streetside tea stall? I haven’t seen even one, to be honest. If a girl does manage to gather courage and stand waiting for her tea, there may be curious/leering glances thrown at her now and then.

And this is only about tea, we are not even talking about pubs or bars yet.

Why is it so hard for our society to create and encourage a space where women could eat/drink their choice of food/beverage by themselves without any hindrance? It’s not illegal to want this; it’s not immoral to want this. It’s just a simple need. A need that men take for granted.

Here’s how you as a reader can help. The next time you see a girl or woman eating or drinking alone, just let her be. Don’t judge, don’t keep staring in curiosity, and most importantly, don’t hit on her. Just let her be.

#NoMoreImpunity || Blog Symposium || Annotated Bibliography on Gender, Torture and Transitional Justice


Annotated Bibliography on
Gender, Torture and Transitional Justice

Prepared by Mangalam Sridhar


  1. Gender  and  Torture  Conference  Report.  REDRESS  and  Amnesty International. October 2011. Accessed on 5/5/2016 at 1420 IST.

#Gender #Torture

The  report  is  a study  from  a  two-day  conference that   brought  in  people  from  different  dimensions like, representatives  from  Non – Governmental  Organisations  and  academics. The  report  focuses  on  the  definition  of  torture  as  per  the  international  law,  the  reasons  why  torture  is  considered  to  be  one  of  the most  serious  crimes  and  the  effects  of  the  different  forms  of  torture. It  looks  into  gender-based  violence  used  as  a  form  of  torture  by  state  actors  in  counter-terrorism  policies and  how  it  is  the  responsibility  of  the  state  when  torture  is  committed  by  the  non-state  actors. It  also  looks  at  the  international  legal  framework  implementing  the  prohibition  of  torture. They  discussed  on  the  role  that  legal  framework  on  torture  has  and  how  it  can  help  in  achieving  justice  for  women  and  those  from  marginalized  groups. It  also  considered  successes  in  advocacy  and  litigation  under  the  legal  framework  on  torture: it  recognised  the  forms  of  harms  by  state  and  non-state  actors  like,  female  genital  mutilation,  rape, etc. And  the  effects  this  recognition  has had.  It  also  focuses  on  the  responsibility  for  harms  by  non-state  actors.

  1. Torture  Research  Bibliography- Chris  Einolf, Assistant  Professor, DePaul University’s  School  of  Public  Service on 6/5/2016 at 1930 IST


This  research  bibliography  is  a  web  page  that  provides  academic  scholars, researchers  and  other  commoners  an  understanding  of  what  torture  is  and how  it  can  be  prevented.  It  provides  various  definitions  of  torture  including  the legal  definitions,  scholarly  definitions,  etc. It  also  provides  a  clear  study  on  the history  of  torture  in  the  different  eras. They  also  focus  on  the  micro  level  causes  that  facilitate  torture  like  military  training,  etc.  and  the  macro  level  causes. The  focus  on  gender is  given  in  the  study  about Rape  and  sexual  assault. And  they  have  finally  concluded  with  the  preventive  measures.

  1. Gender and Torture: Does it matter? Published by Centre for Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Johannesburg, South Africa – Link for the PDF of the report. Accessed on 7/5/2016 at 1435 IST

#Gender #Torture

This  report  looks  at  the  different  ways  in  which  Gender  influences  the  impact  of  torture. It  aimed  at  developing  the  African  Torture  Rehabilitation  Model-  a  contextually – informed,  evidence – based  psychosocial  model  for  the  rehabilitation  of  victims  of  torture. They  looked  at  the  likelihood  of  Torture  Victimization, Impact  of  sexual  violence/ torture. The  study  had  three methodologies. It  also  looked  at  the  impacts  separately  for  men  and  women. And  then  a  consensus  was  built  and  interventions  were  proposed.  The  interventions  were  given  based  on  the  real-life  experiences  of  individuals.

  1. Gender  differences  in  Victims  of  War  Torture: Types  of  torture  and  psychological  consequences Accessed on 7/5/2016 at 1545 IST

#Gender #Torture

The  study  focused  on  torture  for  political  reasons  on  men  and  women  and  the  various  psychological  impacts  faces  by  them. They  also  looked  at  the  types  of  torture  that  men  and  women  faced  and  found  that  there  were  28  types  of  tortures  frequently  faced  by  men  and  5  among  women. Torture  types  also  revealed  three factors- Common  torture, sadistic  torture  and  sexual  torture. They  concluded  with  a  study  on  torture  faced  by  women  and  men  in  wars.


5.  Accountability  for  Past  Abuse- Juan  E.  Mendez, September 1996. Accessed on  8/5/2016  at  0015  IST


It  looks  into  the  massive  human  rights  violations  and  abuse  in  the  past  and  attempts  to  restore  truth  and  justice  to  the  legacy  of  abuse  in  the  recent  past. It  also  looks  at  various  dimensions  of  the  problem-  legal, political  and  ethical  dimensions. It  focuses  on  ways  to  look  into  these  problems  and  how  to  tackle  them.  It  also  mentions  the  different  measures  taken  by  various  countries  to  curb  these  problems,  and  looks  at  the  international  law. It  looks  for  ways  to  avoid  false  dilemmas  and  looks  for  moral  justifications  for  prosecutions  for  all  kinds  of  violations  committed  or  faced. Lastly,  it  looks  at  universal  principles  and  the  differences  between  countries  while  trying  to  find  solutions  for  the  violations  and  crimes.


  1. Gender  and  Transitional  Justice  in  Africa:  Progress  and  Prospects- Helen  Scanlon  and  Kelli  Muddell Accessed  on  8/5/2016  at  1200 IST

#Africa #Gender #TransitionalJustice

This  study  looks  at  the  needs  to  address  the  gender-based  violations  and  the  needs  to  address  the  kinds  of  violations  that women  face.  It  also  looks  at  negative  impacts  that  follow  when  gender – based  violations  are  neglected. It  focuses  on  the  legal  mechanisms  and  the  international  law- its  importance  and  contributions. Then,  it  looks  at  providing  amends  or  reparations,  security  sector  reform (SSR), mechanisms, emerging  concerns  and  the  challenges  for  Gender  and Transitional  Justice.


  1. Convention  Against  Torture: A  viable  alternative  legal  remedy  for  domestic  violence  victims- Barbara  Cochrane  Alexander Accessed on 8/5/2016 at 1415 IST

#Gender #Torture

The  study  first  looks  at  torture – conventions  and  prohibitions, both  international  and  domestic. Then,  focuses  on  domestic  violence.  It  compares  Asylum  with  convention  against  torture(CAT)  relief  where, it  focuses  on  the  benefits  the  asylum provides  for  domestic  violence  victims, looks  at  the  requirements  for  the  survivor  of  domestic  violence  to  receive  CAT  reliefs  as  an  alternative  remedy.  There  is   a  detailed  study  on  domestic  violence, it  looks  into  case  studies  and  how  domestic  violence  is  a  form  of  torture.


  1. Gender  Inequality  and  its  effects  in  female  torture  survivors- Scientific  Research Accessed  on  8/5/2016  at  1420  IST

#Gender #Torture

It  gives  an  introduction  about  gender  inequality  and  torture  from  a  feminist  perspective, looks  at  gender  discrimination  as  a  form  of  trauma  that  has  adverse  effects  on  the  individual-  among  the  types  of  traumas,  this  focuses  on  type  III  trauma  which  is  one  of  the  most  serious  kinds. It  also  looks  at  the  different  dynamics  and  dimensions  of  gender  discrimination. And  there  is  study  conducted  on  gender  discrimination  for  females  and  males  in  different  areas.


  1. Transitional  Justice  in   Sri  Lanka  and  ways  forward- Centre  for  policy  alternatives- July  2005. Accessed  on  8/5/2016  at  1600  IST\

#SriLanka #TransitionalJustice

The  report  focuses  on  4  main  aspects  or  areas  for  study. They  are: Recruitment  and  conscription  of  Child  Soldiers,  Disappearances, Sexual  Violence  and  Displacement. Under  the  Recruitment  and  conscription  of  Child  Soldiers, they  look  at  the  definition  of  a  child  soldier,  use  of  child  soldiers, look  into  a  case  study  and  look  at  implementing  methods  to  stop  this  kind  of  a  violation  with the  involvement  of  the  truth  and  reconciliation  commission. Under  Disappearances, they  look  at  the  definition  of  enforced  disappearance,  the  issue  in  Sri  Lanka  and  look  into  a  case  study  where  they  focus  on  various  aspects  like, transition  of  leadership,  involvement  of  the  commission  of  inquiry,etc.  and  suggest  necessary  methods  to  avoid  these  problems. Under  Sexual  Violence, they  only  do  a  brief  study  on  Sexual  Violence  in  Sri  Lanka  and  look  into  a  case  study. Under  Internal  Displacement,  there  is  a  study  on the  issues  in  Sri  Lanka, how  it  has  affected  individuals  and  then  there  is  a  case  study  which  involves  the  National  Recovery  Strategy. Then,  the  importance  of  the  state’s  involvement  and  IDPs  involvement  is  looked  into.


  1.  Transitional  Justice  in  Sexual  and  Gender-based  Violence- Makau Mutua Accessed  on  8/5/2016  at  1930 IST

#TransitionalJustice #Gender

It  looks  at  the  need  and  the  importance  of  transitional  justice  to  solve  gender-based  problems. Looks  at  the  problems  women  face  due  to  patriarchy  and  male  centeredness. Focuses  on  early  stage  of  life, learning  and  socialisation  that  plays  an  important  role.  Looks  at  Sexual  and  gender  based  violence- women  and  girls  being  the  main  targets. And  then, legal  and  political  responses  are  looked  into.


  1. Gender  Justice-ICTJ Accessed on 8/5/2016  at  2300

#TransitionalJustice #Gender

Looks  at  the  prevalence  of  gender- based  violence  as  a  major  concern  and  looks  at  the  role  of  the  transitional  justice- its  mechanisms. They  also  mention  the  role  of  the  ICTJ like, how  they  support  local  women’s  groups, bring  activists  together,  etc.


  1. The  Gender  dimension  of  Transitional  Justice  Mechanisms: Laura.C.Turano Accessed  on  9/5/2016  at  0700  IST

#TransitionalJustice #Gender

Looks  at  the  war  crimes, violence  committed  against  women  during  armed  conflicts, etc. It  focuses  on  the  historical  treatment  of  crimes  committed  against  women  during  armed  conflict  where  we  can  see  that, rape  is  the  least  condemned  war  crime. And  it  also  looks  at  characterizing  the  crimes committed against  women  and  there  is  a  detailed  study, investigation  and  looking  at  ways  to  respect  and  respond  properly  to  the  victims.


  1. Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and degrading treatment of Women: Psychological Consequences- Libby Tata Arcel Accessed  on  11/05/2016  at  1000  IST

#Torture #Gender

This  report  starts  with  an  introduction  on  Torture  and  gender-specific  forms  of  torture. They  look  at  the  important  reason  for  focusing  general  societal  violence  against  women  and  it  looks  at  the  branch  of  human  rights  law. They focus  on  the  World  Conference  on  Human  Rights. Then, they  look  at  the  definition  of  gender-based  violence  and  how  this  definition  is  connected  to  the  definition  of  torture.  They  focus  on  sexual  torture  and  Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading, Treatment  and  Punishment (CIDTP) of  women  by  State  Agents-  This  looks  at  the  definitions  and  forms  of  Sexual  Assault.  It  also  focuses  on   specific  contexts  of  Sexual  Torture  and  CIDTP  like,  Armed  Conflict,  detention  for  various  reasons, etc. Then, they  focus  on  impunity  for  sexual  torturers, recognition  of  rape  as  a  sexual  torture  and  finally  looks  at  the  experience   of  sexual  torture.


  1.   Report  on  Gender  Perspectives  on  Torture  and  other  cruel,  inhuman  and degrading  treatment:  Juan.E.Mendez Accessed  on  15/05/2016  at  1530 IST

#Gender #Torture

Firstly, it  talks  about  the  gender  perspectives  on  torture and  other  cruel  or  inhuman  treatment. The  rapporteur  stresses  on  the  applicability  of  the  prohibition  of  torture  and  other  inhuman  treatment  in  international  law  to  the  experiences  of  women, men, transgenders, lesbian, etc. It  focuses  on  the  legal  framework  for  the  need  to  apply  the  convention  against  torture  and  other  inhuman  treatment. They  also  look  at  how  violence, discrimination, etc.  is  not  just  faced  by  women  but  also  by  men,  looks  at  the  purpose  of  the  definition  of  torture  and  how  it  is  fulfilled. Then, it  separately  focuses  on  the  torture  and  other  kinds  of  ill-treatment  faced  by  women, transgenders, lesbian, etc. in detention, health  care  settings, looks  at  the  different kinds  of  abuse  or  violence  like  Rape, Domestic  violence, etc.  and  looks  at  the  various  measures  like,  health  care  and  sanitation, security, etc. It  also  focuses  on  the  different  harmful  practices  like  female genital mutilation, honour- based  violence,  etc. and  the  access  for  women, transgenders, etc  to  justice.


#NoMoreImpunity || Blog Symposium || Gender, Torture & Political Reconciliation



Colleen Murphy

June 26 marks United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.[1] I offer below my reflections on some of the gendered aspects of torture, and the implications of torture for both reconciliation and transitional justice.  I focus specifically on torture committed in conflict and repression, for it is in transitions from such periods that the moral aims of political reconciliation and transitional justice are often invoked.

Gender influences the nature of the harm inflicted and the consequences of torture, as well as access to justice in the aftermath of torture.[2]  One form of torture is gender-based sexual violence, including but not limited to rape. Girls and women as well as men and boys are subject to such torture.[3]  The consequences of being a victim of such torture are gendered, influenced by background structural inequality and entrenched gender roles. For women and girls, the consequences of rape can include ostracism from family and community, social stigma, forced marriage to their rapists, pregnancy, infertility, and increased poverty as economic opportunities are foreclosed as a result of stigma and ostracism. For men and boys, consequences include physical problems with urination or sexual problems, a perception of being weak (and as such “emasculated”), stigmatization, and ostracism.[4]  Attention to the gendered dimensions of the consequences of torture is important to get an accurate and complete characterization of the harm experienced by those tortured.

Appeal to reconciliation is common following extended periods of conflict and repression.  Reconciliation is the repair or bettering of a relationship among parties previously in conflict.[5] I focus here specifically on societal reconciliation, improving the relationships among citizens and between citizens and officials. [6]  Conflict and repression significantly damage such relationships, and processes of reconciliation and transitional justice typically aim to repair this damage.  Stated in very broad terms, political relationships suffer because of an erosion of the conditions of respect for agency and reciprocity. Conflict and repression specifically undermine (1) the rule of law (for example, declared legal rules do not govern the conduct of officials and citizens in practice), (2) the reasonableness of minimal trust in the competence and lack of ill-will of citizens or officials, and (3) the genuine opportunities of some or all citizens to be respected, recognized as a member of a political community, participate as equals in economic and political processes, and avoid poverty.

Torture contributes to these forms of relational damage.  It is characteristically not sanctioned by declared legal rules, and so its sanctioning or commission by officials itself constitutes a violation of the rule of law.  Torture, when widespread, creates an environment of uncertainty, where citizens cannot turn to declared legal rules as the basis for their expectations of the treatment they are likely to receive by other citizens or officials.  This in turn is one important source of distrust.  The political purposes or functions of torture are paradigmatically to erode agency by creating an incentive for individuals to refrain from political engagement or interaction and to accept the status quo no matter how unequal that might be.

The immediate subject matter of processes of transitional justice (such as reparations, criminal trials, and truth commissions) is particular violations of human rights.  However, such processes typically aim at broader objectives like reconciliation as well.  There are recurring worries and objections voiced about the treatment of the victims whose violation are the subject of such transitional justice processes.  Underlying such worries is a concern that victims not be treated instrumentally, that is, as important only insofar as their testimony contributes to the achievement of broader societal aims.

Such worries point to the importance of two distinct, but interrelated, dimensions of transitional justice.  Transitional justice, as I argue in my forthcoming book, is at its core about the just pursuit of societal transformation.[7]  Societal transformation entails relational transformation or political reconciliation of the kind described above.  The “just pursuit” of transformation requires respect for the independent moral claims that victims of torture have, which processes must aim to satisfy.  It is important to keep both aspects in mind when evaluating processes of transitional justice.  Such processes can fail to be just in one of two ways: by failing to contribute to societal transformation or by failing to satisfy the claims of victims or demands vis-à-vis perpetrators.  This duality is familiar from other contexts, including theorizing about war.  As many versions of just war theory recognize, wars can fail to be justified in two ways: by failing to be initiated in a way that satisfies the requirements of jus ad bellum or by failing to satisfy the moral constraints for conduct in war required by jus in bello.

The moral aims associated with responding to victims include acknowledgement of the wrong done, recognition of the status of victims as moral agents who are rights bearers, recognition of their status as members of a political community, and reparation.  Promoting these aims requires attention to the gendered dimensions of violations. Acknowledgement of wrongdoing must acknowledge the specificity of the wrong done and its subsequent consequences.  Similarly, appropriate reparation of harm depends on an accurate characterization of the harm suffered.

Though distinct, the two dimensions of transitional justice are often interrelated in practice.  Failure to appropriately and fittingly respond to victims can negatively impact prospects for the recognition of members of a marginalized group from which the victim comes as rights bearers and members of a political community.  Conversely, the failure to pursue broader relational reform can impact the ability of a specific transitional justice process to meet the victim oriented demands. When the source of the denial of membership is not just individual acts of torture but also institutional rules and norms, including but not limited to gender norms, recognition of stigmatized rape victims as rights bearers and equal members of a political community becomes tied to changing norms.  One implication of these interdependencies is that transitional justice processes should be designed, implemented, and evaluated not in isolation, but rather holistically, taking into account the range of response(s) to wrongdoing that are (or are not) being pursued in a given context.

Colleen Murphy is Professor of Law, Philosophy & Politics, and Director of Women & Gender in Global Perspectives (WGGP) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

[1] The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as

[2] Juan Mendez, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, January 5, 2016,

[3] Heleen Touquet and Ellen Gorris, “Out of the shadows? The inclusion of men and boys in conceptualisations of wartime sexual violence,” Reproductive Health Matters DOI:

[4] I am grateful to Heleen Touquet for very helpful comments on this section.

[5] Linda Radzik and Colleen Murphy, “Reconciliation,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

[6] The view of reconciliation outlined here is described in detail in Colleen Murphy, A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[7] Colleen Murphy, The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice (New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

#NoMoreImpunity || A Blog Symposium on Gender, Torture and Transitional Justice



Swarna Rajagopalan

Today, June 26, is United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. As Prajnya’s observance of this date, we have curated a small blog symposium on ‘Gender, Torture and Transitional Justice.’

Where we sit, in southern India, these sometimes seem like distant, irrelevant topics–a view made possible by our unflagging commitment to denial. Across the Palk Strait, denial is not an option. Sri Lanka is in the process of charting a transition out of war. Where that transition will lead depends largely on the outcome of the lively discussions underway there about issues of transitional justice.

This is one reason we partnered with the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka to put together these blogposts on gender, torture and transitional justice. NPC has been working with grassroots communities to promote dialogue for over two decades and in recent years, has used this network to promote a discussion about transitional justice and the shape and form of the peace that is being built in Sri Lanka.

This is not to say these issues are not important in India. Torture, and gender-based violence as torture, are not unknown in India. And whether or not we consider ourselves conflict-torn or post-conflict, the values of truth, accountability and justice, apply to our political discourse and practice just as well. For Prajnya, that is why it was important to create and curate this resource.

What is a blog symposium and why do we bother with it? A blog symposium is nothing but an invited collection of blogposts on different aspects of a particular topic or issue. The writers have different backgrounds, different expertise and quite likely, different points of view. Our only filter was that the posts had to address the broader symposium rubric. We are not concerned with presenting a single consensus “correct” view.

Rather, Prajnya’s purpose is to offer information and a range of views so readers, especially those reading about the issue for the first time, can start to find their way through the debates. This is intended to be, not the last word, but the first set of resources you access on a topic.

The last post in this blog symposium is an Annotated Bibliography that we hope will be useful to you for further reading.

Blogposts in this symposium (links will be added when they are all published):

  4. WOMEN AND MISSING PERSONSNational Peace Council of Sri Lanka Team
  8. Annotated Bibliography on Gender, Torture and Transitional Justice, prepared by Mangalam Sridhar 

Posts 1, 2, 5, 7 and the Annotated Bibliography were commissioned by Prajnya. Posts 3, 4 and 6 were commissioned or authored by the National Peace Council.

Prajnya would like to thank the National Peace Council team for its openness and cooperation.

Campaigning Like it’s 1969: Thoughts on the American Election Season


A few months ago, I was at a bookstore and a conversation started between myself and another woman who was probably in her 60s.  Discussion turned to the already divisive political scene, especially with regard to women’s issues.  “I marched for the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] and there were a lot of people who did not agree with me, but I have never felt as under-attack as a women as I do right now.”

Listening to politicians discuss rape, abortion, and equal pay in the months since that conversation has given me sad insight to what it must have been like for women over forty years ago.    An all too real joke has been going around this weekend with our time change: “Remember on Sunday to set your clocks back one hour.  On Tuesday, be careful you don’t set the country back 50 years.”

Locally, I have been doing my part for the past three months giving much of my free time campaigning for a female Democrat candidate for State Representative here in Michigan.  She is running on Campaign Reform- so no special interest or PAC money helping her out.  In other words, she is a long shot.  What saddens me even more than seeing a principled female fighting so hard for every vote is knowing her opponent has not been held accountable for his chauvinistic behavior.

In Michigan, where the Legislative branch and Governor are Republican, a lot of legislation has been fast tracked with little or no debate.  Back in June, the House was doing just that with a set of bills which would have made it virtually impossible for any abortion clinic in the state to stay open.   Democrats in the House spoke up and forced a debate on the issue.  At one point during discussion on the floor, Brown commented, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.”

Representative Lisa Brown and her colleague, Representative  Barb Byrum, were censured and told they would not be recognized on the House floor the next day for throwing “a temper tantrum”.

When asked about the incident on a radio show that week, Representative Wayne Schmidt said, on more than one occasion, “It’s like giving a kid a timeout for a day.”  That’s right, my Representative in the Michigan House referred to his two female colleagues as one would refer to children.

Of course, anyone following the U.S. elections even passively has surely heard one of any number of candidates’ rants about women and rape.  Todd Akin opened up this absurd and completely unscientific dialogue when he claimed abortion was not really an issue because victims of “legitimate rape” rarely became pregnant.  A week ago, Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock said he does not support abortion for victims of rape because the resulting pregnancies are “something God intended.”  Just this week, Washington Republican candidate John Koster was quoted as referring the the criminal act as “the rape thing”.  When asked whether he would support abortion for rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life, he replied allowances should be made for a mother’s life, but “…on the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?”

The truth is Akin, Mourdock, and Koster are not nearly as frightening to me as the other Republican candidates running for national office who believe in the same no exceptions rules for rape.  The three in the press sound absurd, these others are not even being scrutinized for their extreme views.

Yet, it really comes as no surprise considering the example being set at the national level.  Governor Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Many Americans have either forgotten or never knew Paul Ryan supported a bill in the US House that would redefine rape as “forcible” or not.  In other words, if a woman wanted an abortion, she would have to prove the rape was forced.  An unconscious woman, for whatever reason, would not qualify as a rape victim under the proposed new rules.  The bill failed, but Ryan’s belief rape is only acceptable if the mother’s life is in danger lives on.

There is also a movement in some states here–Arizona and Colorado so far– to allow employers to deny women birth control coverage if said employer does not believe a woman should take The Pill.  Women would have to present their case for birth control to their employer, not their doctor, reversing forty years of medical practice. Politicians are putting themselves between women and their doctors in the most personal decisions a woman can make.  At the same time, many politicians are propose to trim budgets by de-funding Planned Parenthood, an organization which provides birth control, STD testing, and cancer screenings (among other medical care) for the poor and uninsured.  More and more women are feeling cornered when it comes to their health care in some of these areas.

But it is not just about reproductive rights. Much has also been made of Mitt Romney’s “binders of women”.  Romney’s response to a question during the second Presidential debate about whether he supports equal pay prompted his story about wanting to hire a woman for an open position and calling for his staff (presumably men) to bring him viable women candidates.  They brought him binders of qualified women and he selected one.

The reality is, women are the majority of breadwinners in America now.  If we are not paid fairly, this entire nation now suffers.  President Obama answered this question by pointing to the fact he signed into law the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (a bill which allowed women to sue for discrepancy in wages when it was discovered, not in a limited time period as before) and his attempts to get the Fair Pay Act passed in Congress.  Governor Romney’s response to the question of equal pay was to say he hired a couple women while in office and he wants to create more jobs in America, some of which will go to women.  While the binders of women comment has become a punchline in many circles, the harsh reality of his answer has become lost.

I am in my early 30s and have been politically active (though on different sides of the aisle at times) since a fairly young age, but I find myself thinking more about my gender over the past couple years than I ever have before.  In my life, women have been able to march forward towards equality.  As I write this, we are hours away from our elections here in the U.S.  I hope my nation is with me and we continue to go forward.