Mary E John: Re-Thinking Violence Against Women

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“Re-Thinking Violence Against Women” discusses how there can be no doubt that violence against women, especially sexual violence and rape, has gone well beyond being headline news. Something extraordinary happened in the wake of the Delhi gang rape of December 2012, whether at the level of the scale of the protests, or the range of institutional responses both negative and positive. Contestations through speaking and writing have also been prominent. This lecture seeks to contribute to this moment by opening up to further analysis of the following. First, the commonsense experience regarding rape as the most heinous of crimes. Second, the construction of normal and ‘aggravated’ sexual assault by the law. And third, new feminist thinking on rape culture and impunity. It will be suggested that the universal framing of violence must go beyond gender and patriarchy and take the risks of including those structures – both everyday and institutional – that divide both women and men.