Posts Tagged ‘justice for women’


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 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?


Lying on the roadside …near the garbage heap,

Covered in your mother’s blood …

Your barely formed head…covered with sparse hair….wet…

Your eyes are clenched closed ……and pointed chin touches your barely moving chest…

Fists closed …arms crossed across your unformed breasts…

Your knees are drawn up tightly across your tiny caved in stomach…

The placenta torn and sneaking through them and lying …like a withered snake …unsure…

Your thin legs are crossed at the tiny delicate ankles…pink toes speckled with blood…

I see you my daughter…

 

 I see you my daughter…

Lying on the roadside …near the garbage heap,

Covered in your own blood …

Your head covered with sticky mottled hair …lying bedraggled across your bare shoulders…

Your eyes are clenched closed ……and pointed chin touches your barely moving chest…

Fists closed …arms crossed across your beautiful bare breasts with burn marks …

Your knees are drawn up tightly across your curved stomach…

The womanhood torn and sneaking through them and lying …like a withered snake …unsure…

Your bare long legs are crossed at the ankles…red coloured toes speckled with blood…

I see you my daughter…

 A journey of a million smiles ….a million blessings…so many tiny dancing steps…so many birthday gifts…a zillion words…so many classes and teachers… beautiful dreams …a journey of a million tears…

…to end from your mother’s blood in your own …from death to death …

 © Dr. Anita Hada Sangwan


Navratri, a combination of 2 words, ‘Nav’ meaning 9 and ‘Ratri’ night is a 9-day Indian festival wherein 9 avatars (incarnations) of Goddess Durga are worshipped.

Durga is a Hindu Goddess of power/energy/force. She is divine warrior and has the combined energies of all gods. Goddess Durga was created to annihilate a powerful demon called Mahishasur who was awarded with the power that made him invulnerable to defeat from any male.

The festival of Navratri is celebrated with vigor all over India, mainly in North and West regions as well as in some Eastern states. For the first 3 days, avatars of Goddess Durga are worshipped, followed by worship of Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) and finally worship of Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of wisdom).

On the 8th day of Navratri, a kanya pujan (girl-child worship) takes place wherein pre-pubescent girls are worshipped by washing their feet and traditionally, offering rice grains and new clothes. These girls are worshipped according to the philosophy of ‘Mahamaya’ i.e. the Ultimate Goddess, Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of power). Another reason for worshipping young girls is because they are said to be the purest and most innocent. Feminine gender is at the core of universal creation which is what these girls represent.

In most families, this Kanya pujan is observed on Ram Navmi i.e. the 9th and final day of Navratri. This tradition is still prevalent throughout the Navratri-celebrating population and hordes of girls are ‘worshipped’ by each family in order to complete the Navratri pooja.

Let us now take a look at this celebration of womanhood throughout the country over the last 9 days i.e. from 11th to 19th April, 2013.

 

11th April, 2013 (West Bengal) – http://www.tibetsun.com/news/2013/04/11/monks-among-those-arrested-for-gang-rape-in-kalimpong

12th April, 2013 (Punjab) – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1821724/report-man-rapes-ninety-year-old-woman-in-punjab

13th April, 2013 (Karnataka) – http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/teenager-held-on-charge-of-raping-4yearold-girl/article4631013.ece

14th April, 2013 (Bihar) – http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-04-14/patna/38528481_1_complaint-class-vii-student-ssp

15th April, 2013 (New Delhi) – http://www.ibtimes.co.in/articles/457069/20130415/11-year-old-raped-inside-bus-delhi.htm?cid=5

16th April, 2013 (Maharashtra) – http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/maharashtra/Woman-beaten-up-foetus-dies/Article1-1045222.aspx

17th April, 2013 (Goa) – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1823530/report-school-going-girl-gang-raped-in-goa-five-youths-held

18th April, 2013 (New Delhi) [Kanya Pujan]- http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/woman-allegedly-gang-raped-in-delhi-thrown-semi-naked-onto-road-355746

19th April, 2013 (New Delhi) [Kanya Pujan]- http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Candle-bottle-forced-into-minor-rape-victim-Doctors/Article1-1046989.aspx

9 days of Devi poojan or 9 days of devil worship.


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?