Over at Asia Times, I write about the contours of speech in India which is 'governed by an amalgamation of legal mandate, social norm, and often-florid rhetoric largely propounded by those who are privileged and those who echo the privileged'.
Extracts from the article:
Failing to support calls for consequence-free speech in all contexts is not automatically a failure to support free speech. Given the harm that speech can potentially cause both at the individual and societal level, it is hard to make the case for absolute free speech.
Public discourse in relation to free speech is, however, a curious creature which has all too often refused to recognize the legitimacy of restricting speech especially in contexts where upper class men tend to wax eloquent.
There are a number of valid concerns at stake such as why defamation should be a criminal offence and not just a civil wrong, or why sedition should be an offence at all. However, where public discourse deals with specific issues, the choice of issues has tended to be guided by patriarchal philanthro-capitalism that is kindest to those who do not impede business interests or thwart patriarchy.
It is in relation to violence against women that fissures in free speech discourse which ostensibly promotes egalitarianism are most clearly visible.
It is expectations sown by patriarchy which fuel public discourse and ultimately inform the law. They magnify certain voices, suppress others, and create what are often unconscionable and stark disparities in how people are treated depending on their being arbiters of power in a patriarchal set up or, at least, having conformed to patriarchal mandates. Ultimately, having a voice that is heard is still little beyond a mark of privilege.