Posts Tagged ‘community’


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.


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

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 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/


Paloma Sharma is a  student, social activist and active blogger at Going Bananas. At a tender age of 18, she is more aware about social issues than most people. Following is an article on bride trafficking in India, a little known, less talked about topic.

 

According to the nation-wide census held in 2011, there are 940 females for every 1000 males in India. While the figures at a national level are disturbing, the State of Rajasthan accounts for an even lower sex ratio of 926 females for every 1000 males. The difference between 926 and 1000 seems small at first. However, Rajasthan has a population of 68,621,012 out of which 35,620,086 persons are male and 33,000,926 are female. With the natural human sex ratio being approximately 1:1, it is found that 2,619,160 females are ‘missing’ from the population of Rajasthan.

In 2012 Rajasthan had 308 cases filed under the Pre-Conception, Pre-Natal and Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act 1994 against sex-selection abortion, which was the highest in the country. However, according to unofficial estimates, 2,500 baby girls fall prey to female foeticide or infanticide every single day in Rajasthan. Though the grand old patriarchs of clans practicing femicide continue to pride themselves over producing only sons, their systematic, mass-scale  and merciless murders of their daughters are not only gross violations of a human being’s basic human right to life but they also present a predicament to the position of their precious sons in society. In a culture where marriage is seen as a universal and inevitable eventuality, the genocide of females leaves a significant number of men without partners; and so, the buying and selling of women as ‘brides’ prospers.

Bride trafficking is forced sale, purchase and resale of girls and women in the name of marriage. Girls and women are kidnapped or lured into bride trafficking and sold, raped and/or married off without their consent only to end up as a slaves and bonded labourers at the mercy of the men and their families, who have ‘bought’ them.

Bride trafficking is also commonly called bride buying – a strange term because despite their sale, these ‘brides’ are no commodities. They are real, living females who are victims of trafficking. They are just as human as any of us. How can anyone truly buy another living being?

According to Global Voices approximately 90% of the 200,000 humans trafficked in India every year are victims of inter-state trafficking and are sold within the country. The states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan are major destinations of trafficked ‘brides’. It is hardly surprising that these states also account for the most skewed sex ratios in the country. Although the buying and selling of brides was a well documented historic practice in undivided India, lives of today’s trafficked girls and women are cloaked in secrecy because neither do they have a voice, nor do they have the social-mobility or resources to acquire one and raise it.

According to a 6 year long analysis conducted by Empower People, 23% of girls from West Bengal are trafficked. Bihar is next at 17% followed by Assam (13%), Andhra Pradesh (11%), Orissa (8%) and Kerala (6%).

Trafficked brides are known as Paro (outsider), Molki (one who as been bought) or Jugaad (adjustment). Majority of trafficked brides belong to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes or lower economic classes. Some of them are kidnapped, some tricked and some sold into flesh trade by their own parents or other trusted family members/neighbors.

Another way of selling women has recently come to light due to the ‘Baby Falak case’. Pimps and traffickers pose as grooms, marry women with less or no dowries and then sell them off to other men. Isolated from their natal communities, in an alien land with no rights of their own, these cross-state trafficked brides are easy for their ‘grooms’ and in-laws to control and exploit.

Sold into a deeply oppressive patriarchal society where defiance of the caste and gender hierarchy is met only with bloodshed and death, these trafficked brides are seen as a ‘dishonour’ to the family because their origins, (i.e., castes) are not known. According to ‘Tied in a Knot — cross-region marriages in Haryana and Rajasthan, Implications for Gender Rights and Gender Relations,’ a study funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, trafficked brides are isolated and humiliated both publicly and privately due to their castes and duskier complexions. Children born to these mothers are not accepted in the community and are taunted by peers. In what seems like an unending cycle, boys born out of such unions are likely to buy brides just as their fathers did before them. The fate of girl children, if any, remains unknown.

Although a trafficked bride is technically married to only one man in the family, the man’s brothers or other male relatives see her as a property to be shared. The Eastern Post reports that 70% of trafficked brides are gang-raped repeatedly on a regular basis by their husbands and other male members of the family. Sexual promiscuity among boys and men goes unchecked and is almost celebrated in such social environments where using protection is not the norm. Hence, trafficked brides who are sexually abused by their husbands or other men are at a higher risk of contracting HIV, as are any children born to them.

Trafficked brides are used as agricultural and domestic slaves by day and sex slaves by night. Their sole purposes seem to be that of managing the household, working in the fields and bearing a male heir for the family. If they fail in any of these tasks and their ‘owners’ are dissatisfied with them, they are resold; if they cannot be resold, they are kicked out of the house and forced into prostitution.

According to The Eastern Post 56% of trafficked brides have been sold twice, 21% have been sold thrice and 6% of them have been sold four or more times. However, according to Global Voices, the re-selling rate on an average is as high as 4 to 10 times for every trafficked bride and 83% of girls have been sold more than twice. Also, in 89% of the cases, the trafficked bride is the second, third, fourth etc. wife of her buyer. It is clear from these statistics that purchasing women in the name of marriage is not a traditional practice of lower-class communities (although they are starting to practice it.)

Bride trafficking is more prevalent in rich, land-owning communities. As seen in the census of 2011, the top 20% of the population have the worst sex ratio. Wealthy families see baby girls (and the dowries that go with them) as a threat to their wealth. This is why girl children are either eliminated as foetuses or as infants and the absence of eligible girls is made up for by purchasing trafficked brides. It is an unending cycle that neither society nor the government seems to be interested in breaking.

On the legal front too, hope for justice seems almost non-existent for trafficked brides. The ITPA (Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act) deals especially with prostitution but does not cover all forms of trafficking. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 does not cover this form of trafficking and slavery either. More over, sexual violence faced by trafficked brides amounts to marital rape which, despite the Justice Verma Committee’s suggestions and vehement protests by various women’s rights organizations, is not a criminal act in India. Although IPC sec. 366 seems like an effective way to tackle this mass abuse and rape of women and girls, it does not have a provision for rehabilitating victims of trafficking. Despite all this, the ultimate barrier is that trafficked brides are either illiterate or only slightly educated and have little to no knowledge of their own rights.

Trafficked brides are often child brides or very young women who are sold to older men. A majority of trafficked brides are between the ages of 13-23 years. A trafficked bride can be bought for as little as Rs. 1,200. They are confined to the four walls of the houses of the men who have bought them and have almost no social interaction with anyone else, even in their own homes. Neighbours often don’t know who the bride is, where she has come from or if she even exists. The state of anonymity that these women live in is not only disturbing but a cause for great concern.

If we do not know how many women are there, how will we know how many women are missing?

In the Mewat region alone, there are 20,000 cross-border brides. But that number is an unofficial estimate, just the tip of the ice berg and the ship that India society is floating on seems to be heading straight for it.

While urban citizens in general seem to be blissfully ignorant of the trafficking and slavery of women in the name of marriage, the government chooses to turn a blind eye. It would dare not defy the Samaj Panchayats and Khap Panchayats who, while worried about the ‘purity’ of their bloodlines, see trafficked brides as a necessity because for them anything is better than having a daughter.

It is these very Panchayats who hold the fate of politicians in their hands. Every time election comes around, these Panchayats declare the name of a candidate and the entire community votes for him/her. For the government, it would be disastrous to act against bride trafficking and lose a vote bank. After all, why is it important to uphold the human rights and dignity of these nameless, faceless women? Who are they? Do they comprise a vote bank?

No, they don’t.

A vote bank seems to be the only solution to this problem. If a vote bank is what it takes for the authorities to turn a blind eye to bride trafficking and simply shrug and say that marriage is a familial issue when confronted with realities, then a vote bank should be organized. Right-minded citizens who know their rights and care about the rights of others must come together and put gender equality and women’s rights on the agenda for 2014.

Bride trafficking is not just a woman rights issue but a human rights issue. Bride trafficking is not marriage, It is a lethal combination of the darkest forms of domestic slavery, bonded labour and sexual slavery. Bride trafficking is the ultimate dehumanization of a woman; hidden under colourful veils and disgusting excuses of men’s needs, a community’s honour and a family’s necessity. It is an inhumane custom of believing that someone can put a price on another human being’s life. This custom exists because we, as a society, allow it to. But we don’t have to let this go on anymore. Unlike the women who are stripped of their humanity and sold into a sick perversion of marriage, we do have a voice.

But the question remains: are we brave enough to raise it?


Guest post by Samar Esapzai, a visual artist and PhD student in International Rural Development and Gender Studies.

In an enlightening class I took last semester, my professor said something that stuck with me long after the class/semester ended, for it held so much raw truth. She said:

“The woman’s body is the battleground upon which cultural and religious wars are fought.”

Being a woman in any given society, whether it may be within South/Central Asia or in the West, there are often triggers of distress and tension, and the constant battle with one’s image and appearance that plays over and over again in a woman’s head like a broken record. We live in a world where, right from the time we are born up until we die, we are told that our body defines us; that our sexuality should be proscribed – protected; and that we should do everything in our power to guard our bodies – our honour – from the enemy: men. And, if we don’t, then the blame falls solely upon us.

While there are some who manage to break free from this never-ending cycle of staring, leering, gawking, examining, judging, etc., most women will, however, be forever stuck in this rut for the majority of their adult lives. The worst part is that some women have even accepted it – accepted that they, their bodies, are the reason behind every incident of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence that have been, and will be, inflicted upon them. It has almost become like an unspoken sort of awareness, where a woman suddenly realizes how dangerous her body is to her safety. And if she slips – even once – she will have no choice but to suffer the dire consequences that accompany it.

Furthermore, when we look back at history, especially in the context of war and conflict, women’s bodies have often been treated as territories to be conquered, claimed and marked by the contender. This is why violence, especially sexual violence, against women was and still is quite common during communal/ethnic conflicts. Women would not only be raped but their bodies would be marked in such a way so as to remind the opposing enemy that their women – who are supposed to be “pure” and a representative of the community’s/nation’s “honour” – are stained.

Such markings would include stripping a woman naked and serenading her in shame in public; physical mutilation and disfigurement, i.e. cutting off a woman’s private parts, or other parts of her body, such as her nose, ears, hair, etc.; tattooing and branding a woman on her private parts, i.e. her breasts and/or genitals, with hate slogans against the enemy; and other forms of debasements to emphasize conquest and suppression.

Thus, the violation of women’s bodies equates the same political territories upon which the men from the rioting communities would inscribe their markings on. It’s like an uncanny sort of relinquishment – a victory, where it becomes blatant that in order to defeat a nation, you must violate their women. Such atrocious violations against women hence create a sense of helplessness in communities where a woman’s honour is more important than her life. And in order to revive this honour, members of the community (usually male) have no choice but to kill off every single female who was either raped or physically/sexually violated in any way. For it is known that a woman’s dishonour is the dishonour of the ethnic race, the community, and the nation as a whole.

Consequently, the targeting of women’s bodies is both an effect and a cause of the acceptability of sexual violence against women. It serves to subjugate women further, and creates an environment where violence becomes habitual and is committed with impunity. And while there is no denying that the blame often falls upon the woman for failing to guard her body from being violated, even if it is against her own volition, an equal burden falls upon the shoulders of men who deeply value their women’s honour.

I personally believe that as long as such societies conventionalize the woman as a symbol of honour and continue to instrumentalize her in such an ignominious way, gender-based violence in these societies will persist, making any iota of progress seem bleak.

Even so, not all societies associate women with honour, despite the fact that rape and other forms of violence against women still occurs. There are societies, particularly within the South and Central Asian region, where a woman’s dignity equates her entire existence as well as the existence of those around her. And though it is clear that men, too, are targets and victims of violence, it is the gendered nature of violence that marks women’s experiences as wholly unique.


Guest post by Veena Venugopal, a Delhi based journalist and author of the book ‘Would You Like Some Bread With That Book’. She is a contributing writer for Mint and Quartz:

 

To me, the most memorable scene in ‘Dev D‘ is the one where Paro takes a mattress from home and ties it to her cycle. When she reaches the edge of the field, she abandons the cycle, lifts the mattress on her shoulder and marches to the clearing where she lays it down and waits for her lover. There are no words spoken and the camera holds her face close. Her expression is one of intense seriousness. You can see her desire is a field force of intensity that fuels every step. She is determined to see it through, to let that desire take over herself completely; not surrender to it but to let it explode out of her. You know that when she meets Dev, the sex would be passionate and powerful.  And yet, in the south Delhi multiplex where I was watching the film, most of the audience burst into rapacious laughter. The women smiled embarrassedly at each other. Which made me wonder, why is female desire a laughing matter?

I thought back to the movie and that scene because even now, in the last seven weeks that we have talked about sex, sexuality, power, passion and crime, we are still, yet to talk about female desire. In the conversations about rape that we have had, there have been infinite references to provocation. That if women dress a certain way, they are “asking for it.” To my mind, what this means is that men don’t know when we are really asking for it. Because if I was “asking for it”, it would be a lot more than showing cleavage, or leg. If I am asking for it, dude, you will know it.

When did desire become a male privilege? There is so little conversation about a woman’s desire for sex that a lot of people simply assume it doesn’t exist. A Times of India article last month starts with this surprising headline, Women too have high sex drive. Did you not know that?  To my mind, understanding that there is such a thing as female desire is essential to knowing how we behave. There has, rightly, been a call for the Indian film industry, especially Bollywood, to introspect how it depicts its women. The whole “chhed-chhad” business, the near stalker-ish behavior that hindi film heroes indulge in does influence how men on the streets behave. That it gives that boorishness credibility. And eventually, the girl succumbs. What is important to the girl, it suggests, is acceptance. She does not desire. She does not chase. She does not acknowledge, even to herself, that she wants this man. She gives in, relents, submits.

Truth is, female desire is as much a brute force as male desire. Sometimes it takes us by surprise, often we relent to it. Some of us take risks to indulge in our desire. Some of us fight it, telling ourselves why this particular one is not good for us. It occurs to us just as randomly as it does to men. When we watch a movie, read a book, walk down the street, see someone hot, at the pub drinking, at the temple praying. Sometimes we fabricate it, filling our head with fantasies. Sometimes we deny it. Sometimes we fake it. Sometimes it’s a coiled spring. Sometimes it’s a warm breeze. But what is important for you to know is that we feel it. We know what it is.

In an early episode of Girls, one of the characters reads from a dating manual. “Sex from behind is degrading. He should want to look at your beautiful face,” she reads. To which the other asks, “what if I want something different? What if I want to feel like I have udders?” Because, you know, sometimes we do. In Saudi Arabia, where laughably a lot of people seem to think there are no rapes because women are “properly attired”, the intense segregation of the sexes makes us turn our desires to other women. Don’t believe me? Read Seba Al-Herz’s book, The Others. Because no matter what you believe, you can’t put a burqa on a thought or wrap a hijab around a feeling.

We probably don’t talk about what we desire enough. But we certainly think about it. So this will probably come as a surprise to you. When you proposition us, on the road, in the bus, or at a movie theatre, and we say no, we are not saying that we don’t feel any desire. We are simply saying that it’s not you who we desire.