Posts Tagged ‘independence’


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.

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Guest post by Monica Sarkar, freelance journalist:

‘Eve teasing’. It’s such a cute, endearing term, isn’t it? Almost sounds like a child’s game, like ‘Hyde and Seek’ or ‘Kiss Chase’.

Well, it’s not. It’s a sugar-coated expression commonly used in India for the sexual harassment of women; invading their personal space as they walk down the street; and heckling, amongst other less pleasing but truthful terms.

Since the horrific Delhi gang-rape and murder of a 23-year old woman, many Indian women have come forward with their stories of the perils of being a woman in India. As a British-born Indian woman who has visited India many times, I can also share the same tales.

Men aggressively – or subtly – brushing past me or following me, even though I was in the company of elders. I was once getting off the metro in Kolkata in broad daylight and a crowd of men who were stood either side of the train doors suddenly moved in front so I would be forced to barge past them as I disembarked the train.

During New Year’s Eve in Goa a few years ago, similar occurrences happened whilst I was in the company of male and female friends in a crowded area of the North. It got so bad that I threateningly raised a water bottle to hit anyone who dared to come close, under the blind eyes of patrolling police officers. That’s the worst thing – not really knowing who you can turn to.

Even during the recent mass protests following the gang-rape attack, the BBC reported that men still tried to grope women in the crowd.

Can we talk?

But where does this frustration come from, to the point where a man will get his kicks from brushing past a strange woman? And why can it transform itself into a monstrous desire to abuse, or even kill?

Walk of life doesn’t matter either, as three politicians – governors of the country – resigned after being caught watching porn on their mobile phones in parliament. One was even a women’s affair minister.

Most importantly, if these men, or people close to them, feel they have a problem, where can they go and who can they talk to in order to solve it? There lies a real problem: Indians don’t talk enough about sex. Having spent extensive amounts of time in Indian society, talking about it is seen as embarrassing, or even dirty.

Even topics such as homosexuality or a physical or mental disability can be seen as shameful and hampering the chances of marriage.

The gang-rape victim’s friend recently revealed the hesitancy of passers-by and even the police to help them as they were left badly injured at the side of the road by the attackers. When asked why Indians do not discuss such issues, he reportedly told Zee News:

“In our society, we try to hide such things. If something bad has happened with us, then we try to hide thinking what will the other person say. Also because our friends and relatives talk behind our back about such incidents, that we try to prevent them from becoming public.”

Shame is on the woman

In fact, sexual assault or rape is commonly seen as humiliating for the victim. Attacks are so common that many Indian media outlets reuse the same images to illustrate stories of such attacks, usually depicted as a “shamed woman”.

In addition to these perceptions, there is a complete lack of trust in India’s justice and policing system to give people the confidence to come forward. In fact, Indians often joke about the carelessness of their police officers. But now is the time to stop laughing and start talking about the issues which are suppressed and subsequently not dealt with.

Official figures show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year in India were against women. It is thought that the real figure is much higher because of the many cases that are left unreported to the police.

India is a country of contrasts indeed. On the one hand, you have the peaceful haven of temples and ashrams and vibrant celebrations. On the other, you have a deeply rooted, dark culture of female oppression that lurks beneath a colourful surface.

However, with the mass outcry and demands for change, India has reacted brilliantly. Let’s not forget other countries in the shadow of this tragedy that have the same problems; I’ve been heckled and received sexual advancements in places like Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and even here in London too.

In India, the message is loud and clear – Indians have had enough. But along with protesting to governors of this country, Indians need to communicate more openly and freely with one another as well, in order to break taboos and cultivate understanding.

Firstly, though, let’s stop using a pretty name like ‘eve-teasing’, shall we? It’s called sexual harassment, or gender violence at its extreme. Let’s be very clear about that.


Guest blog by Prashanth Kagali:
Rape means, “the crime, typically committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will.”
I am a positive person and would love to inspire people and get inspired from them. But I have no idea how to inspire a girl who is raped. I feel shame even to approach considering the resentment she would be having against men, which is perfectly right on her part.
When fathers are raping their own daughters, there is no way a girl can trust any man. Even animals would not do this kind of heinous act. As the above definition goes, rape is something that is forced onto another person, against their will. Being a guy if someone forces me to do a simple thing as eating something, which is against my will, I reject it in the strongest of terms. I may never understand what a girl goes through and how it feels for her when someone rapes her, but forcing someone against their will even for smallest of things is just not respecting that person what he or she is.
What needs to be done?
Enough is written about the Rape incidents and its good people are talking and writing more about it. We always have to address the root cause of any problem. Here is where the education comes into picture. Education means not only what is taught at school but also at home. Parents have to teach their male children how to respect girls and how to treat them.
If only these Rape incidents have to end, then every parent should handover their son, a rapist, to the police and ensure strict action is taken. Tell me, how many parents or sisters or brothers would treat their sons or brothers with the same anger as they treat with any other rapist? It’s all about taking a stand.
We cannot live peacefully in a world if one tries to dominate the other. It’s all about giving respect to the other sex. Men need to be educated about the pain that girls goes through when they are raped. No matter what law is passed and what punishment is granted, rape can never be eliminated unless rapists exercise self-control.
I don’t get the idea of movies showing rape scenes. According to me it doesn’t make any sense. Rape scenes should be banned in movies. These rape scenes clearly show that men can exercise control over women. May be this is also in some way helping the rapists. Passing a single law or legislation or holding committees or giving death sentences can never eliminate rape. As we all know how death sentences are given in India. If the amount of time and money spent on deciding whether to give death sentence to Kasab is any indication then you can imagine what would be the case in these rape incidents.
Women deserve respect and it’s a shame that they have to fight for it even today.

Franklin Joseph, women safety empowerment specialist and Krav Maga trainer.

There is a lack of awareness about self-defense among women in India. We asked some questions to Franklin Joseph, our workshop organizer in Bangalore, and this is what we learnt out of it.

1. What is self-defense?

Franklin: Self Defense: Concept is Still Stuck in Stone Era. To most people, Self Defense still means Martial Arts or tricks taught in Martial Arts. Some crime against women is reported and few women join free self-defense classes. After a while everyone forgets and life is back to ‘normal’. Sadly, everyone actually believes that by ignoring this issue, it would never happen to me.

2. Why is Self Defense important?

FJ: National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, India has reported around 24,206 rape cases in past year and it itself has increased 826% percent since 1971. But nobody worries about 99,135 reported crime, ‘Cruelty by husbands and relatives’, 42,968 molestation cases, 35,565 Kidnapping and Abductions cases etc. 92% of time these crimes against women are committed by men they already know.

Can a 6 years girl raped by her step-father punch and kick her way out of the her nightmares?

Can a wife being raped by her husband do a round kick to escape her marriage?

Can an 85 years old lady wearing a sari throw his young more powerful rapist off her fragile body?

Can a 16-year-old college girl do a fist-fight with a group of men eve-teasing her without the fear of being a acid-victim tomorrow?

Punches and Kicks DO NOT solve real life problems. We are so in-tuned to movie magic that we think the good guy would walk away with the girl after having a fist fight with the bad guys, that we start believing it to be real.

3. What is your opinion on women being known as the “weaker sex?”

FJ: Most of the men I have talked to are amazed that some or most women do not, could not or would not fist-fight with the bad guy if there is a threat. Naturally, they said they associated lack of violence in women directly to the lack of physical strength and so-called them the ‘weaker sex’.

Sadly, most women also considered themselves as weaker than men especially when it comes to size, strength, fitness, flexibility etc.

We men planted these thoughts in women’s mind the day we as fathers tell them they have to be good daughters and take care of the family’s ‘shobha.’ We taught them to doubt their size and strength when we as brothers we were allowed to do anything while our vulnerable sisters were told to stay protected inside the house. We as parents never encouraged physical training in girls as it would make them less feminine or turn their skin dark making them un-eligible for marriage and so forth.

So interesting in one area, we as men tell them you cannot, you should not or you would not do it due to the limitations of your age, size, strength, fitness and flexibility. We as a society plant these insecurities in them and on other hand, we expect women to fight back the attacker who might be bigger and stronger than them.

And if she does not, oh means she gave consent. Let’s blame the victim! Easy!

4. Is physical fitness important to learn self-defense? If so, why?

FJ: Now, understand fist-fighting with someone means you need strength, size, fitness, stamina, flexibility & skill-set to emerge a winner every-time. That is why Tony Jaa, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan do not have pot belly or weight issues. They have invested more than a decade training in their respective martial arts.

What will a 6 years old girl do against a grown up man?

Or a 20 years old against a group of men?

Does a 40-year-old mother survive against a robber?

Or an 85-year-old lady against a younger attacker?

I have met so many women in my ‘Power to Women Workshops’ who said they have slapped the eve-teaser and that solution worked for them and they would slap again as they want to teach them a lesson because they do not want these guys to repeat the same with other women. I fully agree. You must retaliate, but my worry is that retaliation must not turn into violent provocation. Most of these Eve-Teasers, molesters and rapists are Juvenile delinquents / Criminals who have no respect for the system, law or women and they won’t hesitate to get violent. So the question comes, what will you do if the situation goes out of control where he turns violent? If you can handle that, then by all means do what you do best.

I know I am not giving too much to hope till now, but trust me, if women self-defense was just few tricks of martial arts, the crime rate against women should have decreased by now. Sadly, like other things in life – love, marriage, jobs etc, crime is also a complicated living entity that is ever-evolving.

5. How can you ensure safety of women?

FJ: That is why I created Franklin Joseph’s Power to Women Workshops, to help educate the real side of life regarding Women Safety Awareness, Women Self Defence and Women Psychological Empowerment against Crime, Violence and Sexual Abuse. Before explaining on this, let’s handle one more issue when it comes to self-defense.

6. How can your workshops help women?

FJ: Power to Women.in : Women Safety Awareness, Israeli Krav Maga Women Self Defence and Women Psychological Empowerment against Crime, Violence and Sexual Abuse

I am not just a martial artist who has a diploma authorising me to teach Self Defense. Because by just being a trainer, I am basically teaching women how to do what a man should do under threat – use his strength, size, fitness, age, flexibility and skill-set to teach the bad guy a lesson without worrying about the consequence.

In one of the videos I watched on the net, the tactic shown was the victim must search the attacker for weapons pretending to faint or having a epilepsy attack and while the victim is held by the attacker, he/she should use his/her hands to search his pockets or waist for hidden knives and use his/her legs to search for knives hidden under his socks. Then the victim should grab him by his clothes and do a judo throw over-coming his/her threat. Brilliant, Search for weapons and over-throw your threat.

Only issue is if the attacker is a man and the victim is a women and the threat is molestation… imagine the women fainting into his arms while she is groping his waist and pockets rubbing her legs against his legs. God, what a slut, molesting the molester! Oops! I am sure someone would take a fatwa against me now!

7. Tell us something about your history with self-defense.

FJ: Jokes apart, its time to re-evaluate the problem of crime, violence and sexual abuse against women and how Self Defense is taught and understood by women in India. My history with self defense is briefly listed below:

  • Born in slums of New Delhi, I gained in-sight of crime modus operandi and criminal mindset along with life-time real-life street combat experience
  • After 11 years after working as a IT-Creative Director, I turned into a Social Entrepreneur & Motivational Speaker to listen and share what I learned in my life.
  • From 1986, started researched and educated myself on Safety Empowerment to help me heal and elevate myself from my own sexual abuse and violent past.
  • From 1995 onwards, I worked, researched and designing module on Women Safety Empowerment by living or researching with women with abusive past or trauma.
  • From 2003, as a Krav Maga Israeli Self Defense instructor I gained vast experience in corporate workshops and tactical training with military, police & special forces.
  • From 2008 onward, started conducting & specialising on ‘PowertoWomen.in’ and ‘PowertoKids.in’ workshops focusing on women empowerment from within.

8. Could you give us a brief on your workshops?

FJ: Main highlight of Power to Women Workshops are:

  • Workshops are designed with inputs from a Woman Psychologist as well as victims of trauma and workshop participants.
  • Use of Krav Maga, Israeli Self Defense neuromuscular Re-Education Tactics to help Prevention, Avoidance and Escape of Threats.
  • Incorporates neuroscience Positive Emotions and Intervention tactics to stabilize and raise one’s level of DHEA-a “I-have-the-power” hormone.
  • Re-designs Psychological Resilience response which enhances an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity.
  • Self-realization of your own physical power – you are ready to survive irrespective of your size, strength or fitness level.
  • Awareness of latest crimes and Understanding a predator’s game plan and how to defeat it
  • Recognize Pre-Conflict Indicators and be Aware of Post-Conflict Dangers
  • Pre-Assault Situation Awareness and Conflict Prevention from being chosen a victim via attitude, body posture etc.
  • Survival Mindset – How to diffuse fear and bring in courage
  • Stress Management – performing effectively under pressure where personal danger is very real
  • Risk reduction – Verbal Confrontational and Diffusing Exercises against Eve-teasing, Office Sexual harassment etc.
  • Risk avoidance – against domestic violence, kidnapping and sexual abuse

9. Which forms of Self Defense are useful for women and where to learn it from?

FJ: Women must force the So-called women self-defense experts to think like women: They should advise women what to do, only if they have understood the root-cause from women’s point of view and the solution would treat her like a living breathing person who has to live with her choice and the consequence of her choice rather than a client who will just pays the fees.

Women who wish to get trained by just anyone who claims and throws some names around, remember he is just teaching you a male dominant view-point forced on women trauma. So you should….

  1. Train with any martial arts, Train with any self-defense, but do not train blindly gulping whatever half-cooked knowledge he throws at you.
  2. Ask questions, use your common sense and give a realistic problem for him/her to solve. Force him to think about your welfare instead of just thinking about his next fees. Give him real life limitation like what if the victim is 6-year-old, or 87-year-old, then can she do the same tricks / tactics?
  3. Research on the information you learn, question yourself, try that in a more realistic scenario where you are in pain or in fear of your life and see if it still works and will it take care of the any future consequences of your choice to fight. If not, find an alternative method.

10. What has been your experience training with women so far?

FJ: I have conducted many Power to Women Workshops and I have always been amazed by the inner strength of the women – her size, her determination, her level of fitness, her will to protect her loved ones, her wisdom and her flexibility to be a confident professional, housewife and a family member. My aim in my workshops is just to show her that she does not need any tricks to realise that she is a tigress instead of a rabbit and never-not even by the remotest degree – a weaker sex.

———

P.S. Justice For Women has organized free-of-cost self-defense workshop in collaboration with Franklin Joseph in Bangalore on 17-18 November, 2012. For more information, contact us on mail@justiceforwomen.org


Guest post by Zena Costa, independent mgmt sports prof & writer. 

Rage and chauvinism in Venus versus Mars can never benefit humanity as much as acceptance and understanding can. That gentlemen, is the truth.

After decades of liberation how many women can truly sing the freedom song? Where do we really stand? We are either worshipped or demeaned, placed on pedestals or shown the door. Everyday in homes where Namaz, Holy rosary or Puja are norms, a daughter is abused; a daughter in law burnt to death.

These contradictions co-exist and go almost unnoticed. The whole question of the position of today’s woman is so wonderfully confused that’s it tough to pin point where she stands. She is exploited; she is worshipped. She occupies positions yet she remains powerless. She has a strong identity but is too oft a non entity..And I bet this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

In Indian women as in myself, I sense a gradual unleashing of Shakti; Of Apurva, Sakshi, Zen – a state of mind that allows women from diverse cultures to co-exist ,bond, flourish and fly. The working woman, the working mother, the working Indian single mother today is a special breed – an economic necessity. A reality, as important as the FD and LIC, whilst her independent status has given her sense of self-worth, it does little to change societal attitude.

Despite of all the masala and curry, most Indian men can’t seem to digest independent women.

An independent, creative, free-spirited woman merely exists, if not allowed to be. NO. I’m not suggesting bra burning…but the minute a woman steps off a carefully constructed ‘pedestal’ and asks to treated as an equal the entire ‘system’ is thrown out of gear .

Women who venture beyond get a raw deal. If you happen to be a single mother it’s often a rotten one. Cheap pot shots are taken about ”liberated” women and their ”granted freedom.”

But the truth is (and prevail it shall) that with Education (not just literacy!!) women have thrown off the yoke of Subjugation; She has flown from the golden cage and opted for the long and winding road . If a self-sufficient single woman chooses to marry or have children, it’s because she wants to, and not because she HAS to. Relationships of all nature are viewed similarly.

The trap of total dependency that caged so many can now imprison only the willing. No. It ain’t a cake-walk!!

An independent woman today is like a circus artist. Its takes grit, guts, tears, hard slog. It’s a matter of fine balance , to manage and live up to expectations at home, work and society ; To apply virtues associated with each and blend all into a meaningful whole-a daunting task indeed!

To do something because you believe in it and the self and not because you are conditioned to is a step forward. It’s a positive force that needs our male counterparts’ support to be directed at over all human development. She isn’t aiming at war. She seeks meaningful dialogue, fair terms sans weighted handicaps.

” Justice for Women” is not a voice of naive female optimism. It is one of reason and logic, Its my reality. I was born as free as my brother and it is my birth-right as much as his. No, I’m not a frenzied feminist. I happen to adore men. But I stand for women.

For my grandmother’s generation life without “Pati-Parmeshawar” (husband) meant “SATI” , my mother’s generation fought long and lonely battles for mine. At least in Goa this generation saw daughters as assets and not as dowry burden, and fought tooth and nail to ensure education for both son and daughter.

Mine is the generation that has the freedom of choice, should they dare to make to make one. And dared it has, to ask for the cardinal principle of the democratic set up – Equality of Opportunity.

I have made conscious choices ,so have my ilk. Some brilliant, some disastrous with the knowledge that we have a right to go wrong sometimes, without ignoring that we take responsibility for it- our disasters and our victories.

I have come a long way since that Goa girl applying for clerical post doting over  the British-Raj who was made to under-go medical and fitness tests to gauge whether I could withstand the ”rigor of typing”. Hadn’t they heard of  ”labour?”  YUP! childbirth. I passed with flying colours and I for one hasn’t let my Goa down.

As many other women, I, in the  ‘male-bastion’ of sports writing strive hard if not harder than male counterparts.

Us women have learnt to grit our teeth and endure, and triumph we shall! We don’t ask for gender sensitive special privileges (we don’t get them even if  we did), we ask that we not be type-cast.

All we ask is a field that’s fair. This is where you guys come in. Nothing is as futile as Mars and Venus locked in battle.

Rage and chauvinism can never benefit humanity as much as acceptance and understanding can. Are you guys willing enough to allow us to walk the same road as yourself? If I can drive your car, why can’t you cook in my kitchen?

Nature meant woman to be her masterpiece. We are the wind beneath your wings. If you guys will hold our hands, We can live on this planet and together, reach for the stars whilst waltzing to the music of equality, peace, tolerance and love.