Posts Tagged ‘guest post’


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.

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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/


Guest post by Monica Sarkar, a freelance journalist and writer. Original post at http://missinterpreting.com:

The tragic case of the Delhi gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman last year forced India to take a long, hard look at itself in the mirror and decide how to change.

Or rather, the citizens looked at the government and judiciary system and made it reconsider how it deals with the abuse of its women.

But let’s not forget one thing: violence against women is a crime the world over. Alongside the stories emanating from India, there have also been reports of gang rapes in Mexico, Brazil andSouth Africa.

In war torn countries such as Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war – even after a ceasefire is declared.

And it isn’t restricted to the developing world; in the UK, approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year.

Society’s fabric drapes mens’ shoulders

Patriarchal beliefs, sometimes subtle and other times misogynic, are woven into the fabric of many societies that hold down women and drape the shoulders of men.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states: “…violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”

Perhaps there has been more noise about the incidents in India because, out of sheer frustration and anger, its citizens have taken to the streets and are shouting about them too.

So when you hear or read of such tragic tales from India, I hope you don’t just point your finger, shake your head and think this is India’s problem. Because violence against women is likely to be happening on your soil, but your attention is on another land.

But we need to be aware; a link has even been suggested between the abuse of women and international violence. The study, entitled “Heart of the Matter,” in the Harvard-published journalInternational Security, concluded that the best predictor of societies’ peacefulness is how well they safeguard the interests of women. Therefore, mistreat women and you mistreat the world.

Yes, India’s rape problem is alarming. But look at your own country, look at your people, look at yourself: how do you treat your women and how do you need to change?


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?


 Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles. She has worked with Oltarsh & Associates for several years and has an extensive understanding of issues faced by immigrants (specifically women) today.

Women that immigrate to the United States do so looking for opportunities to live healthier, happier lives for themselves-and oftentimes for their families, too. But a transition into a new life and country isn’t always easy.

In 2011, more than half of all the people receiving a green card were women. These women immigrants in the US have suffered abuse at home and in the workplace, been victims of sex trade and have been denied health care, and the use of federal Medicaid.

Some have even been denied the right to work at all.

Through my association with an immigration lawyer in New York, I learned a lot about the struggles female immigrants face that I had never even heard of before, in particular the H-4 visa. The facts that I found out about these immigrants in interaction with the lawyer are mentioned below in the article.

What Is The H-4 Visa?

The H-4 visa is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to the immediate family (spouses and children) of non-resident immigrant workers. People holding H-4 visas are not given social security numbers and are ineligible for employment, which is usually a surprise to them.

This means they cannot legally work in the United States. No matter how educated, skilled, and deserving these women are, no company can hire them for employment.

This can leave tension in an immigrant household. With no employment, many H-4 holding women are beaten by their highly skilled spouses and because divorce is still a kind of taboo, most of these women do not speak out against their abusive partner.

H-4 visa holders are allowed to study, but most women immigrating to the U.S. have already studied in their country and would like to seek full-time employment.  Some resort to reinvesting in their education when they arrive in the United States. However, H-4 visa holders are not allowed to take any student loans, which then leaves their spouses responsible for massive personal loans.

The immigrants coming to the United States are usually skilled workers eager to work and/or start their own business. At least 25% of tech start-ups in the United States in recent years have been founded by immigrants. Unfortunately, H-4 prohibits immigrants from owning their own business, yet again leaving a family in financial turmoil.

The Effects of an H-4 Visa

In most cases, Indian women are issued an H-4 visa when they come to the United States to meet their husbands, generally as part of an arranged marriage. Some are united with husbands they met through online websites, found by their parents.

These marriages are arranged with complete strangers, and it isn’t until they arrive that they realize the H-4 visa they are holding makes them unqualified to work once they are living in the United States. They are in a new country, starting on a new family, and this leaves many women stuck “fulfilling” their duties of playing the conventional female role in the marital relationship.

This is the cause of confusion, depression and in rare cases even suicide.

In response to this problem, Indian women all over the U.S. have created tight-knit communities for themselves where they take up hobbies together like shopping, cooking and working out. These groups create a sort of safe haven for these women, harnessing the abilities of the individuals since they are unable join the U.S. workforce.

Unfortunately not all Indian women are fortunate enough to locate these groups or have one in close proximity to their geographical location. But with the new wave of technology and social media, it is becoming easier for women to unite and take action.

On Facebook there is a group called “H-4 Visa, A Curse”, with over 2,300 members and counting. They share stories, advice and political tactics, in an effort to change H-4 visas to something more useful like the L-2 visa, which gives the spouse a right to employment.

Purpose of this article is to raise awareness on the issue of immigration in the United States, specially for Indian women so they know what they are stepping into, before they decide to move to the country. An informed decision can make that much more difference to your life.