The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities. For example, New England settlers appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans (National Constable Association, 1995), the St. Louis police were founded to protect residents from Native Americans in that frontier city, and many southern police departments began as slave patrols. In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation’s first slave patrol. Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property. Continue reading
India’s crime bureau chief said, last week, “If you can’t prevent rape, enjoy it.” His comment inflamed an already tense atmosphere at a time when horrific rape incidents are making more and more headlines. This is not to say that rape is all of a sudden more common in India or that the media is suddenly doing a good job of covering the larger context of the problem. In fact, most of the news coverage concerns only middle and upper class and upper caste women, celebrities or white visitors. Even when there is coverage of Dalit women like the Gulabi Gang, important factors (social, economic and historical conditions, as well as the incident frequency for minority women) are erased from the narrative entirely. This, in no way, is to dismiss the real experiences of the women who did speak out and inspire public outcry that caught the attention of the world. These women face repression also and we realize that it is often traumatizing and re-triggering to speak about assault and rape.
However, very huge communities of women who experience rape and sexual harassment on a daily basis, and have no conventional tools of redress, have been forgotten by the public, the media, and even by many activists–both in India and abroad.
A contributor for Bay Area Intifada visited India this month and spoke with a local activist about the extreme conditions of Dalit (untouchable), Adivasi (indigenous), and Muslim women and what these women are doing to survive. Due to extreme repression against any form of activism in these communities, we will refer to the activist as “Maryam.” We have also omitted the region where she works and all other details about her life.
Warning: Some of the images and descriptions below are very graphic.
BAI: In the English media, we’ve been reading about domestic and/or sexual violence in India. What I’ve been hearing about since the beginning of my visit, is that the uncovered stories of Dalit (untouchable) women in India, especially in northern states like Uttar Pradesh, are pretty horrific. But these stories don’t seem to be circulating so much in the international narratives. Can you tell me a little bit about what’s going on? Continue reading