[INDOLOGY] [Spam:******] Re: Gender, Power, and Rape when Conducting Research

Tieken, H.J.H. H.J.H.Tieken at hum.leidenuniv.nl
Sat Apr 28 19:21:07 UTC 2018

Dear List Members
I have somehow missed the previous messages on the topic of rape. There are several references to rape in the Kāmasūtra (3, 5, 25 ff). For instance to plying a young girl with liquor and rob her of her virginity (dūṣayitvā) when she is unconscious (25). The verb dūṣayitvā is also used in the following sūtra, (26). In 27 he "merely" abducts the girl (apaharet). Mind you, the KS says that the fact that a certain course of action is mentioned in a text should not be a reason to bring it into practice.

Herman Tieken
Stationsweg 58
2515 BP Den Haag
The Netherlands
00 31 (0)70 2208127
website: hermantieken.com<http://hermantieken.com/>
Van: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] namens Robert Goldman via INDOLOGY [indology at list.indology.info]
Verzonden: zaterdag 28 april 2018 20:33
Aan: Herman Tull; slaje at kabelmail.de
CC: Indology; sal
Onderwerp: [Spam:******] Re: [INDOLOGY] Gender, Power, and Rape when Conducting Research

Dear Colleagues,

Regarding Professor Slaje’s  comments concerning conceptions of what constitutes rape in premodern India and in the legal codes of most modern countries,  it is of course true that different cultures have different notions of what constitutes consent and what the consequences of  forcible and other forms of non-consensual sex should be.

Nonetheless, Manusmṛti and other such texts aside there is, indeed,  unambiguous evidence that ancient India was fully aware of the concept of  forcible rape  as a crime deserving of punishment. In substantiation of this I would refer you to three quite unambiguous cases of rape narrated in the Uttarakāṇḍa of the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa (critical edition). These are  found in sargas 26, 30, and 71—72 respectively.

In the first,  the rākṣasa king Rāvaṇa, after being rebuffed in his effort to seduce the apsaras Rambhā,  seizes her violently and rapes her (pratigṛhya balāt . . .  maithunāyopacakrame). In her disheveled and terrified state she reports the rape to her lover, Nalakūvara, telling him explicitly that she had been violently sexually assaulted (balāt . . . dharṣitā). After confirming the truth of her allegation through meditation (!) Nalakūvara curses Rāvaṇa in a rage, so that he would die should he ever again have sex with a woman against her will. It is this curse that robs the rākṣasa of his desire for non consensual sex and, more importantly, serves to spare Sītā from being raped by him when he has her in captivity.

The second case is particularly interesting as it purports to provide an origin myth for the phenomenon of rape itself.  This is the poem’s second  account of the sexual encounter between Indra and Ahalyā, the wife of the sage Gautama. Unlike the first account in the Bālakāṇḍa, where Indra impersonates Gautama to seduce the apparently not unwilling Ahalyā, the Uttarakāṇḍa’s version involves an unambiguous rape. Angered that Ahalyā, the first truly beautiful woman created by Prajāpati, has been given by the Creator to the sage, the god goes to Gautama’s ashram and rapes Ahalyā.  She is twice described in the chapter as dharṣitā, raped. As punishment for this grievous crime (adharmaḥ subalavān) the sage curses Indra to suffer three consequences. The first is that he will be captured by his enemies (Indrajit). The second is that he will lose, in effect, tenure as permanent king of the gods.  The third is that, as Indra has, according to this account, actually established the phenomenon of rape among men and unleashed it upon the world, he will, from that time forward, suffer one half of the guilt of ever rape committed, the other half going to the perpetrator.   This version, like the one in the Bālakāṇḍa also includes an example ofthe familiar practice of blaming the victim as the innocent Ahalyā, regarded as unfaithful by her husband,  is cursed to remain invisible in her husband’s ashram (as in Bāla) and also to lose her status as the world’s only beautiful person.

The third and final case of rape reported in the Uttara, is that of the virgin Arajā, daughter of the sage Uśanas Kāvya. She is raped by the idiot king Daṇḍa, a disciple of her father. When he attempts to seduce he, she urges him to duly request her hand from Uśanas. Despite the girl’s warnings of the dire consequences, he seizes her and violently rapes her (maithunāyopacakrame) despite her efforts to resist (visphurantīm). When the sage returns and learns what has happened, he curses the king for committing such a heinous crime (pāpam īdṛśaṃ ghoradarśanam). Daṇḍa's punishment is far more severe than that suffered by Rāvaṇa and Indra, Uśanas’ retribution is a form of collective punishment, destroying not only the perpetrator of the crime but his entire kingdom, which is reduced  by a mighty dust storm to a desolate wasteland. It becomes, in fact, the eponymous Daṇḍakāraṇya  and the small, habitable area of the Janasthāna which figure so prominently in the Rāmāyana’s narrative.  In this story, as in that of Ahalyā, the rape victim, too, is punished. She is similarly  confined to the ashram to engage in meditation.

None of these episodes is written off as a normal seduction or sexual encounter and, particularly in the  case of the rape of the unmarried  Arajā, show no tendency to subject the victim to a marriage with their rapist.

All three of these epilogic narratives serve to explain features of the earlier epic narrative, but they also demonstrate quite clearly, that the author or authors of the Uttarakāṇḍa, were fully aware of the phenomenon of forcible rape as a severe violation in much the way that we, in modernity, understand it. The Indra-Ahalyā episode, in fact, addresses rape as a  continuing social problem and as a crime that incurs guilt both for the rapist and the originator of the phenomenon.

I must agree with Professor Slaje that the phenomenon of rape in early India deserves further investigation. For those interested in this I would suggest reading the recent introduction, translation and annotation of the Uttarakāṇḍa by my colleague, Dr. Sally Sutherland Goldman and myself (Princeton University Press 2017) and Dr. Sutherland Goldman’s  article now  in press:

"Against Their Will : Sexual Assault in the Uttarakāṇḍa” Studies in History 34(2) 1–18 © 2018 Jawaharlal Nehru University. Delhi: SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0257643018772405

Best wishes to you all.

Dr. R. P.  Goldman
Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies
Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies MC # 2540
The University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-2540
Tel: 510-642-4089
Fax: 510-642-2409

On Apr 27, 2018, at 10:23 AM, Herman Tull via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

Speaking for myself, I was grateful for Audrey Truschke's link. Teaching at a small liberal arts college, I have many students ask about study and travel in India. Articles such as this are far more useful than the reflections I can offer on my own student experiences, as a male, 40 years ago in South India.

Audrey's note suggested this was not sent for discussion, but simply as a point of reference.

Herman Tull

On Fri, Apr 27, 2018, 12:50 PM Camillo Formigatti via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:
Dear colleagues,

If I may put my two cents in, although I am personally very interested in politics and latest news, I thought that this is a scholarly forum, not political or of social critique, so I do not see the point in discussing this terrible event here. I do understand that issues of power and gender influence the entirety of our lives, we experience them every day at home, at work, basically everywhere. I have my own personal opinion about gender inequality as well as many other political and social topics (including the case discussed in this thread), as I’m sure all of us have.

Please forgive me if I sound a bit naïve or maybe not engaged enough. I am well aware that academia too is political, yet I really think that this is not the right forum to discuss this kind of topic.

Best wishes,



Dr Camillo A. Formigatti
John Clay Sanskrit Librarian

Bodleian Libraries
The Weston Library
Broad Street, Oxford

Email: camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk<mailto:camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk>
Tel. (office): 01865 (2)77208

in Oxford University’s
Gardens, Libraries and Museums

From: Walter Slaje [mailto:slaje at kabelmail.de<mailto:slaje at kabelmail.de>]
Sent: 27 April 2018 08:33
To: indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Gender, Power, and Rape when Conducting Research

There is also this:
And this:
The Mahātmā moreover stated:
„I have always held that it is physically impossible to violate a woman against her will. [ . . . ] If she cannot meet the assailant's physical might, her purity will give her the strength to die before he succeeds in violating her. [ . . . ] I know that women are capable of throwing away their lives for a much lesser purpose. Only a few days ago a young girl of twenty burnt herself to death as she felt she was being persecuted for refusing to go in for ordinary studies. And she perished with such cool courage and determination. She ignited her sari with an ordinary oil-light and did not so much as raise a cry, so that the people in the neighbouring room were unaware of the happening until all was over.” Harijan, 25-8-1940 and 1-9-1940.
(Quoted from M. K. GANDHI, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Electronic Book). 98 volumes. New Delhi: Publications Division Government of India 1999. [http://www<http://www/>.gandhiserve.org/ cwmg/<http://gandhiserve.org/cwmg/> cwmg.html] 79, Nr. 130: 126 f).

Modern American and traditional Indian notions of rape, honour, consent and “sexual interaction” (e.g., the exchange of kisses can count as such) seem to differ widely.

It is well known that “secret intercourse with a woman who is asleep, drunk, or mentally deranged” is categorized as a form of “marriage” in ancient Indian law books.
Manu (3.34) uses “upa-gam” – inire feminam (pw) / to approach a woman sexually (MW) – for the consummation of “marriage”. upa-gam is a common verb for “having sex” in a general sense.

In the given context, recent English translations use however “to rape” as an equivalent (see Olivelle 2005, p. 110). Interpretations follow suit: “Tantamount to rape” (Jamison in Olivelle & Davis (ed.), Hindu Law 2017, p. 130).

Unless supported by unambiguous evidence, such readings should be treated as notionally anachronistic interpretations reflexively projected onto ancient India. What appears to be “rape”, or to be “tantamount to rape”, in the eyes of 21st century Western Indologists, does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of a (pre)modern Indian society.

With regard to its connotation, Doniger (1991: 46) and Michaels (2010: 49) offer neutral and therefore more faithful translations of upa-gam: “to have sex with” and “Beischlaf”.

Actually, we are in dire need of a substantial investigation into the history of the notions of “rape” as they prevailed in premodern India. This will help to understand and assess their (dis)continuation also in the thinking of today.


Prof. Dr. Walter Slaje
Hermann-Löns-Str. 1
D-99425 Weimar

2018-04-26 15:27 GMT+02:00 Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>:
Dear Colleagues,

I would like to share this insightful, brave piece written by a PhD student at Columbia University about her experience pursuing a rape charge against Mahmood Farooqui in the Indian judicial system. I think it is relevant for Indologists, especially for sending students to conduct research abroad, dealing with our own instances of sexual misconduct in the field, and thinking about gender and power dynamics.



Audrey Truschke
Assistant Professor
Department of History
Rutgers University-Newark

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