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Use of women as weapons of assault in a conflict

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Women-related issues

 

Source: IE

Context: A video of two Kuki women being paraded naked by a mob during the ongoing clashes in Manipur is circulating on social media.

The larger question: Women’s bodies have become sites of male violence, especially during communally charged conflicts.

 

Reasons behind this grim reality: India’s social contract [an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection] seems to be melting.

 

Two aspects of this meltdown:

  • The systems of violence in and around Manipur.
  • The structures of silence around it.

 

The systems of violence in and around Manipur:

  • The state is witnessing civil strife.
  • Social cleavages between Meitei and Zo-Kuki communities have turned into a partition with well over a hundred dead, and thousands displaced.
  • Even the state administration stands partitioned. Meitei police officers don’t operate in the hills, and Kuki-Zo officers don’t operate in the Valley.
  • Essentially, India is witnessing fresh partitions and associated armed ethnic mobilisation in Northeast India.

 

Such systems of violence are a by-product of Competing desires for regional hegemony – demands for access to resources and power within the Union and vote-bank politics.

 

The structures of silence:

  • It relates to what feminist scholars called systemic violence against women in Manipur.
  • It took a leaked video and associated public shock for Manipur police to order an investigation.

 

The issue of gender-based violence in conflicts:

  • Unfortunately, the issue has not received adequate attention in the discourse on gender equality and sustainable development.
  • Sexual violence in conflict zones has often been regarded as an inevitable by-product of civil strife/ war and the perpetrators of violence have seldom been punished.

 

What needs to be done?

  • Addressing the deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes of the administration (say, police) to improve reporting and conviction rates.
  • Bridging the gap between gender-based violence laws.
  • SDG 5 calls for ending violence against women and girls in public and private spheres. As India is committed to the achievement of SDGs, the governments need to take a tough stance against the perpetrators of violence (in scenarios like Manipur).

 

Conclusion:

  • India’s social contract seems to be weakening because wrongdoers in power aren’t being held accountable.
  • Whether it is Manipur or Delhi, where India’s wrestling champions have been fighting for justice against sexual harassment by those in power, the only way to deliver justice is to ensure accountability.

 

Insta Links:

Violence/crime against Women

 

Mains Links:

What are the continued challenges for women in India against time and space? (UPSC 2019)