How Violent Economic 'Reforms' Contribute to Violence Against Women
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I have repeatedly stressed that the rape of the Earth and rape of women are intimately linked, both metaphorically in shaping worldviews and materially in shaping women's everyday lives. The deepening economic vulnerability of women makes them more vulnerable to all forms of violence, including sexual assault, as we found out during a series of public hearings on the impact of economic reforms on women organised by the National Commission on Women and the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
Subversion of democracy
Thirdly, economic reforms lead to the subversion of democracy and privatisation of government. Economic systems influence political systems. The government talks of economic reforms as if they have nothing to do with politics and power. They talk of keeping politics out of economics, even while they impose an economic model shaped by the politics of a particular gender and class. Neoliberal reforms work against democracy. We have seen this recently in the government pushing through "reforms" to bring in Walmart through FDI in retail. Corporate-driven reforms create a convergence or economic and political power, deepening of inequalities and a growing separation of the political class from the will of the people they are supposed to represent. This is at the root of disconnect between politicians and the public which we experienced during the protests that have grown since the Delhi gang rape.
Worse, an alienated political class is afraid of its own citizens. This is what explains the increasing use of police to crush non-violent citizen protests as we have witnessed in New Delhi. Or in the torture of Soni Sori in Bastar. Or in the arrest of Dayamani Barla in Jharkhand. Or the thousands of cases against the communities struggling against the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam. A privatised corporate state must rapidly become a police state.
This is why politicians must surround themselves with ever increasing VIP security, diverting the police from their important duties to protect women and ordinary citizens.
Fourthly, the economic model shaped by capitalist patriarchy is based on the commodification of everything, including women. When we stopped the WTO Ministerial in Seattle, our slogan was "Our world is not for Sale".
An economics of deregulation of commerce, of privatisation and commodification of seeds and food, land and water, women and children unleashed by economic liberalisation, degrades social values, deepens patriarchy and intensifies violence against women.
Economic systems influence culture and social values. An economics of commodification creates a culture of commodification, where everything has a price and nothing has value.
The growing culture of rape is a social externality of economic reforms. We need to institutionalise social audits of the neo-liberal policies which are a central instrument of patriarchy in our times. If there was a social audit of corporatising our seed sector, 270,000 farmers would not have been pushed to suicide in India since the new economic policies were introduced. If there was a social audit of the corporatisation of our food and agriculture, we would not have every fourth Indian going hungry, every third woman malnourished and every second child wasted and stunted due to severe malnutrition. India today would not be Republic of Hunger that Dr Utsa Patnaik has written about.
The victim of the Delhi gang rape has triggered a social revolution. We must sustain it, deepen it, expand it. We must demand and get speedy and effective justice for women. We must call for fast track courts to convict those responsible for crimes against women. We must make sure laws are changed so justice is not elusive for victims of sexual violence. We must continue the demand for blacklisting of politicians with criminal records.