Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 4/Media, Sexism, VAW & Blog Coverage Justice For Nadine

On this day, we look the media & sexism in its mixed coverage of rape, dowry, and domestic violence. Media coverage can be complicated in countries such as Bangladesh with little reliable data on VAW and where legal and advocacy organizations must rely on news stories to count incidents and severity. In Bangladesh, most data on sexual assault and domestic violence come from newspaper story compiled by NGOs and human rights organizations such as Odikhar, Mahila Parishad, and Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association. These counts depend on the willingness of media reporters to write the stories and of the survivors to talk with reporters and/or people outside of the family. Some reporters can provide reliable reports and understanding of the power-gender dynamics, while others write stories with a sensational nature, victim-blame or as entertainment. Often coverage of any one case ends after the initial article and readers have no sense of the legal resolutions of cases as happened in the case of tortured-murder Rahela, a garment worker in 2004 among others.

An ongoing case that exemplifies these issues is the media and less than critical blogosphere coverage of a domestic violence-rape case filed in New York City in September against a Bangladeshi graduate student, Sajid, who allegedly beat and raped his wife, Nadine. He failed to show up for his court hearing in NYC in beginning of November and is a fugitive, who has continued to blog under his and a variety of fake names. Rather than to deny the charge, in his trail of blog posts-emails, he has described-justified his behaviors, which originally resulted in his arrest by NYC police. In turn, he has made a series of allegations about Nadine, none of which would stand as a defense against his abuse and rape charges in USA courts.

Concerned about the brutality and events in this case, others set up a Facebook page, Justice for Nadine, which provided support & information & post-abuse photos about her case and has responded to Sajid's et al ongoing postings. Soon they refused to get into point-counterpoint discussions and ceased responding to an onslaught of emails and pseudonym posts by Sajid et al. Missing from most of these blogs--any understanding of issues surrounding marital rape, domestic violence, and the gender power dynamics. Instead, many of the posts read like adda or gossip.

After an initial flurry of posts in October, most bloggers had ended their coverage until the middle of November when, Abdul Kargo wrote an excellent post, "What Is a Woman’s Worth Measured Against? Blogger Kargo has thoughtfully and deftly dealt with the variety of comments-issues generated by his readers and the reappearance of Sajid et al, who closed down his blog about the time Kargo wrote his post. During this month, some of the comments by Sajid et al have become repetitive intellectual excuses for his criminal behaviors and insulting language directed toward Nadine and those who seek an end to VAW. Others have challenged such comments, discussed the dynamics of VAW and responses when women speak up. They called for a change in in the nature of the comments posts and more community action to combat VAW. Today, I posted this comment #99, which expresses my sentiments on this case and the thread:

"Last night I wanted to say bash/shesh–enough, stop. Allowing fugitive sajid et al another forum to repeat their bogus pomo excuses over and over again creates ‘revictimization’, esp for survivors of abuse who may be reading. This also gives others the cautionary tale of what might happen to them if she speaks up, files charges, etc. or if their abuser-rapist is still at large b/c he did not show up for his court hearing. Dec 3 is his next opportunity.

From 25 Nov-10 Dec is the International 16 Days Campaign to Eliminate Violence against Women. Today—day four—asks people to look at their media (blogosphere) for coverage of violence against women and to note sensationalistic coverage & posts. As we’ve seen in this ongoing thread and other blog coverage, these ‘discussions’ ignore that most rapists & abusers know their victims; in such posts, abusers and some bloggers reduce the case to titillating & entertaining details, and ignore the unequal power relationships in rapes and domestic abuse that result in lingering physical, socio-emotional injuries and even death.

As reflected in others’ comments, I also encourage people to educate themselves more about these issues and get in involved community discussion and action such as recently initiated by Adhunika and Sakhi in NYC.

****Check out a new resource from January 2008: New Blogsite OUT AGAINST ABUSE to educate and organize the South Asian Community about domestic violence-gender abuse--please read, comment, and discuss this resource!****

For more info about the 16 days campaign:

and to use ICT-blogs to end violence against women:"

Finally, I reiterate the points that I made in comment #5 in early November:

1. Sajid is a fugitive, who skipped his court hearing over charges filed in USA (they will not be transferred to Bangladesh!). Next hearing date: 3 December.
2. None of his posts-rationalizations about his USA felony charges will work in any USA court defense.
3. Any people who have been hiding him from police and the court can be subject to charges of obstruction of justice.
4. If Sajid is on a student visa at Colombia University and has not been attending classes because he is in hiding, then he is violating the terms of his student visa and subject to deportation. Immigration and SEVIS are probably very interested in finding him, too.

No comments: