Guest post by Pam Johnson, a lawyer who specializes in cases that deal with the unfair treatment of women. She obtained her degree from one of the Top Criminal Justice Degree Programs.

Women have made so many great advances in the past century or so, and they are continuing to find new ways to achieve a status in society equal to that of men. All across the country and the world, feminists are hoping to make a brighter future for women. The question then remains, “Is education alone enough for women empowerment?” Well, you really need a few other components to make it happen.

Understanding Female Empowerment
Part of the problem is thus: Some women believe that feminism is over, and they do not feel that women are denied basic rights anymore. Simply educating them might turn them more into their own opinions. Therefore, getting women to understand that these struggles are real is crucial. Yes, certainly education is a part of this battle, but it has to go to a deeper level.

Connections Between Women
Bringing women together is a major part of empowering them. Individuals who are interested in these types of rights need to make efforts to form and join groups. When women are able to share their struggles together, then greater understanding starts to happen. Of course, one person can certainly make a difference in the world, but the real power and force comes when a group of women are acting together for a major cause and hoping to pave a better way for others.

Platform for Empowerment
Even if the females in a particular community or group are well-versed in what needs to be done, it does not always mean that the rest of the area will support them. When females want to be empowered and to have their goals accomplished, they absolutely must have a platform for doing so. For example, a particular city might have a board composed entirely of women. At the most basic level, groups of women also need to realize that they must present their cases and plans just as anyone else does. Understanding on both sides really goes a long way here.

Acceptance from Outside
A community might allow a group to protest or to speak, but this does not mean that the community as a whole is accepting this group. Better efforts need to be made to inform individuals outside of the feminism realm as to what is really happening inside. Again, education does play a major role here. However, this type of education does not only have to come in the form of lectures and traditional classroom-like presentations. Instead, other people need to understand that the cause is real. They need to understand that while women have gained some rights and equality, they are still not considered to be equals by so many people out there in society.

As you can see, education does play a huge part in female empowerment, and without it, the feminism movement might cease to exist. Still though, education alone is not enough to solve a problem. People on all sides of the equation need to come together to realize a problem exists in the first place.

Is it A Crime to Menstruate?

Posted: May 25, 2013 by sakshikumarindia in Uncategorized

sakshikumarindia:

Is menstruating a sin? A crime? Or a divine punishment in traditional countries?

Originally posted on THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE:

photo credit: Ramendra Singh Bhadauria ©. Goddess Kamakya of Assam in Eastern India, during her menstrual time

In December 2010, Indian actress, Jayamala was investigated by the Crimes Branch of the police, on order of the Kerala state government in India, and then officially charged with violating Indian law.

Her crime, it seems, is to belong to a gender that menstruates!

She was charged under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code for “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feeling of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

What was Jayamala’s “deliberate and malicious” act?

Her crime was she visited a certain temple, about 23 years ago, when she  18 years old, because she  wanted to worship there.

And why did this simple act of devotion “outrage” some people? Why was it so “insulting” to them?

Because this particular temple, like many others in India has…

View original 873 more words


Didi aapki skin bahaut dull ho gayi hai. Aap paani zyada piya karo.” (sister, your skin is looking very dull, you should drink more water. I wouldn’t have imagined that an ordinary interaction with a midwife would take the turn that it did.

Mujhe toh bahaut pyaas lagi hai, lekin main paani nahi peeti. Poora din idhar se udhar massage ke liye jaati hoon. Bathroom aa gaya toh kahan jaoongi?” (I get thirsty a lot but I don’t drink much water. All day long I visit different homes for my massage appointments. Where will I go to relieve myself if need be?)

On further enquiry, I found out that even though she visits over 8 houses a day, nobody lets her use their washroom. She reminisces about the day she had to urgently use the washroom and the woman she was massaging told her to go to the back alley of her house.

This happened in capital city of India, a booming economy. One can only imagine the bleak conditions in small towns and cities.

In first part of a 2-part write-up,  I am going to talk about the civic amenities (or lack thereof) provided to the citizens of the country. Stay tuned for my next part on class/caste discrimination with focus on women.

According to the reports of 10 out of 12 zones by Municipal Corporation of Delhi, there are 3,712 public toilets for men and only 269 for women. And yet we spot more men defiling the nooks and crannies and even roadsides in the city than women (who travel long routes to find isolated areas to answer nature’s call).

Who can blame these men? Even the existing public toilets in the country are poorly located and in such bad state that one must be extremely shy of public nudity to think of using one. The health of a civic society is strongly dependent on its sanitary condition which is directly linked to public toilets. Over 15 million urban households in the country do not have toilets.

Devinder Sehrawat of Delhi Gramin Samaj states, “while the Corporations may rattle out any number of figures, they do not reflect the reality of rural areas on the ground. Out of the total 1,483 sq.km area of Delhi, over 500 sq.km with a population of over 30 lakh and covering 360 villages is thus bereft of such facilities.” In South Delhi Municipal Corporation, there are about 500 toilets but most of them are concentrated in commercial areas. Entire rural belt of Delhi stretching from Badarpur border in South-East to Narela in the north does not have even a single public toilet.

Sanitation facilities for women in other states are equally bad; Sanitation is a matter of health and dignity for women. Existence of public and personal toilets affect women’s ability to work, their mobility and their safety. Even Mahatma Gandhi said that sanitation is more important than independence.

Inadequate sanitation facilities render women in both urban and rural areas vulnerable to sexual violence who then have to squat in open areas, inviting sexual assault, harassment and murders. Lack of toilets as well as low maintenance of those existing create health hazards for women. In many instances, it also leads to larger number of girl drop-out rate in schools.

  • Lack of access to toilets causes girls aged 12 to 18 to miss around five days of school per month, or around 50 school days per year, according to the 2011 Annual Status of Education Report released by minister of human resource development.
  • A national survey conducted by AC Nielsen and NGO Plan India in 2012 found that 23% girls drop out of school after reaching puberty.
  • In Bihar, 872 cases of rape were reported till November 2012. “Roughly 40% to 45% of the incidents took place with the women when they went out of their homes to defecate in the open,” states Arwind Pandey, Bihar police’s IG for weaker sections.
  • An RTI filed in July 2012 revealed that the BMC has not set up a single separate toilet for women in Mumbai, while  there are 2,849 toilets for men.
  • A 2012 study on drinking water and sanitation by the WHO and UNICEF reveals that 626 million people in India do not have a closed toilet. It’s the world’s highest number, far ahead of Indonesia, which ranks second at just 63 million.

For a clearer picture, refer to this table from Baseline Survey 2012: All India Abstract Report:

BSL-Survey-All-India-Report

However, lately there is an increased awareness for need for better water, health and sanitation facilities in the country. Many initiatives, programmes and policies have been launched to ensure more urban and rural households install personal toilets for benefit of both men and women.

A PIL was filed by advocate Ashok Aggarwal highlighting the shortage of toilets for women in Delhi. The High Court has sought the presence of  member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board on August 6 and has even asked NDMC and Delhi Cantonment Board to file status report. [http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-05-16/delhi/39309334_1_public-toilets-status-report-division-bench]

Four years ago, the Haryana government started its ‘No Toilet, No Bride’ campaign, painting walls across the state with the slogan: “I won’t allow my daughter to marry into a home without toilets.” In just one year (2011), 330 gram panchayats have been turned into ‘nirmal gram’ or clean villages. [http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/a-slogan-boosts-sanitation-in-haryana/article3364896.ece]

The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation has earmarked Rs 3 crore for setting up new public toilets to make Pune ‘open-defecation free’. [http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pcmc-to-upgrade-public-toilet-facility/1082365/]

35 NGOs in Mumbai launched The “Right to Pee” campaign in 2012 to collect as many signatures as possible to demand better public bathroom facilities for women and then present their case to the city’s civic authority, 50 percent of which is made up of women. Supriya from CORO, an organization under Right to Pee says, “we have surveyed 129 toilet blocks , did signature campaigns on 16 railway stations , organized workshops , met experts to understand the issue in depth, and submitted 50,000 signatures and analytic survey report to BMC.” She also reiterates about their experience in dealing with the authorities at BMC who claim that they have to charge women for using public toilets since they are not sure if women actually use the toilets for ‘urination or something else’.  Their campaign is actively working to improve situation of women.  [http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/right-to-pee-campaign-launches-women-restrooms-india]

One remarkable success story in recent times is that of a strong-willed woman in Odisha whose efforts resulted in 98% toilet coverage in a small village of Sagada in Puri. [http://www.indiasanitationportal.org/16817]

It must be a priority of the government and civic authorities to provide for better sanitary conditions to the people. Public toilets are as important as road, transport and communication infrastructure for growth and development of a State.

We could learn a lot from linfen, a Chinese city which only till a few years back was stated as one of the worst places in the world to live in. The local government began a ‘Toilet Revolution’ back in 2008 and built 200 public toilets in and around the city, increasing living condition, health and sanitation of its people. So much so that Linfen was awarded with UN-Habitat’s International Best Practice Award for the Asia and Pacific region.

Adequate sanitation is vital for social development as it boosts good health resulting in lower drop-out rates in girls studying in schools. Therefore it is a good investment as for ‘every 10% increase in female literacy, a country’s economy can grow by 0.3 percent. Educated girls are more likely to raise healthy, well-nourished, educated children, to protect themselves from exploitation and AIDS and to develop skills to contribute to their societies.’ – UNICEF

More toilets, coupled with better policing can control incidents of crime against women, specially in rural areas. We should start urging civic authorities in our areas to construct more easily accessible public toilets for both men and women for a cleaner, healthier and happier environment.


Guest post by Harleen Vij, a trendy plus-sized activist in the process of launching her first book:

Read a post last night about Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jefferies’, reason for not catering to plus sized women and was urged to write down this post.

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either”

                                                                             -Mike Jefferies

Sanjeev Mohanty, MD, Benetton India too had something similar to say.

“An overweight person wearing a sexy dress will not look good. That imagery will dilute the brand value.”

Such comments coming from clothing brands can sabotage women’s confidence forever. It gets difficult to deal with such comments in real life. I myself have been through this and thought of sharing my story to motivate other women like me.

I am a 25-year-old, confident and bold 21st century woman but I wasn’t like this always. The world is filled with people like Jefferies & Mohanty and from time to time, I have had to encounter such narrow-minded people.

Being a fat girl, in India, wasn’t easy; I used to believe this until I read this post. I’ve come to realize now that a fat woman isn’t acceptable anywhere around the globe. People fail to understand the plight; the mental trauma people like me go through. I used to be the laughing stalk amongst my peers. Whether it was school or junior college, I was teased for being fat on every damn chance they found. I went through this trauma even within my family. My cousins and relatives too used to make fun of the way I looked. To top it all, I had a dark complexion, which was another reason for being teased and bullied.

Wherever I passed by, people especially boys; used to pass lewd comments and I couldn’t reply back. I was an innocent, under confident, self-conscious girl. People and their behavior towards me made had me like this. I had lost all confidence. I used to feel shy and hence remained in seclusion always. My peers used to feel ashamed of having me in their group or calling me their friend.

I was good at academics up to grade 6th, after that my grades dropped. My mother could never find a reason to this. She only thought that I am careless and not interested in studies anymore. But this bullying was the reason that affected my grades and me. Despite being fat I was physically fit and into sports. I was a good runner, swimmer and badminton player. I had participated in various other sports during my school days. I still play badminton and go for swimming.

Plus sized clothes were a huge problem. I used to wear ordinary trousers with kurtis that I got stitched from a tailor. Fashion was not meant for me, I used to think.

With time things began to change. I met my best friend (won’t name for personal reasons) who was fatter than me but had a  fair complexion. She was a beautiful blue-eyed girl with a flawless complexion but fat. She was like normal fat people- bubbly and chirpy. She too had this complex but she had learnt to face it with confidence. She wore stylish clothes and was very trendy.

My complexities were within me. Nobody ever noticed or realized them; Neither my parents nor my friends. My best friend came as a blessing in my life. I learnt a lot from her. Unknowingly she had taught me how to live fully despite being fat. In her company, I gained confidence and learnt about fashion too. My clothes too became quite fashionable and there was an evident change in me. I became confident and smart.

This change started taking place when I was in 10th grade and by the time I started my graduation, I was a super confident smart girl. After that I never looked back at those days. They were a nightmare, without a doubt, but I learnt a lot from those days.

Today, I am a smart and stylish woman all set to make a mark in this world with my first novel. I have left those voices way behind me. I believe in my dreams and myself. Being fat isn’t a curse (physical concerns being a separate thing) you just need to accept yourself the way you are and you need to believe in yourself. If you won’t believe in yourself, no one else will. And if you do, the world will believe in you.

I wear clothes that I want to wear, that I feel good in; irrespective of what people think/say about the way I am dressed. I just make sure to wear confidence with whatever I am wearing. Don’t get bogged down by such comments ever. Styling is meant for us too, after all we do have curves and flesh at the right places to flaunt. If you like a dress or a top in a showroom and didn’t find your size, don’t worry, get the same design stitched from a boutique. And bang there you have that beautiful piece of clothing you always eyed.

People will suppress/overrule you if you’ll allow them to do that. Confidence is the key. Being fat is just a state of mind. Put it behind you, put the discouraging people behind you and walk forward towards a new, confident and happy you.

The article can be read here:

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Explains Why He Hates Fat Chicks

http://elitedaily.com/news/world/abercrombie-fitch-ceo-explains-why-he-hates-fat-chicks/


Last week … I saw a small girl standing near the red light … I tried to talk to her mother and then the Child Welfare department to some how get her to school but was unsuccessful…
some thoughts as I looked into her eyes ….
माँ मुझे गुडिया ले दो …
खड़ी है वो चुप चाप … लालायित आँखों से देखती …
सुबह की हलकी धूप सूखे बालों को सुनहरा करती …
देखती है गुम-सुम सी हँसते बच्चों को स्कूल जाते …
अटकती हैं उसकी नज़रें उनके चमकते जूतों पर …
वापस आती हैं अपने नंगे कटे से पांवों पर …
उस के होठ हिलते हैं जैसे कह रहे हों मन ही मन …
कोई सुनी हुई कविता कोई भूला दो का पहाड़ा …
खड़ी है वो चुप चाप 

कार में बैठी कुछ कुछ अपने ही जैसी लड़की को …
आइस-क्रीम खाती वो लड़की चहक रही है …
देखती है उसको ..उसके बालों में लगे रिबन को …
हाथ उठ जाते हैं खुद के उलझे हुए बालों तक …
जीभ फेरती है अपने सूखे हुए होठों पर …
देखती है खुद को वहां एक पल को …
खड़ी है वो चुप चाप … लालायित आँखों से देखती …

खुद तो संभली नहीं और दूसरे दे दिए गोद में …
बहन और माँ के अंतर को खत्म कर दिया गरीबी ने …
गुड्डे-गुडिया के खेल खेले नहीं …संभाला अपनों को …
घर घर खेलने की उम्र में सेकी असली रोटियाँ …
किस से मांगे वो गुडिया …किस से कहे स्कूल भेज दो …
कौन है अपना …गरीबी में ? 
माँ …मुझे गुडिया ले दो …
© Dr. Anita Hada Sangwan