Rules to save girls from effects of hormonal outbursts

 Maneka Gandhi is the Indian cabinet minister in charge of the ministry of women and child welfare. When she was asked about hostel curfews which forces girl students to be in their rooms by around 6pm in government run college hostels, she had this to say.

At 16 or 17 you are hormonally very challenged. So to protect you from your own hormonal outbursts, perhaps a lakshman rekha (a line that should not be crossed) is drawn. It really is for your own safety,’

Now can there be any better example of victim blaming than this ????

Image credit : NDTV

Image credit : NDTV

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Custom Cuts – Explaining and exploring feminism

One evening, illustrator and graphic designer Pia Alize Hazarika got into an argument with a  woman. “She called me a bad feminist. It was because I didn’t align my views with hers. It sat a bit weirdly with me,” recalls Hazarika, founder of Delhi’s Pig Studio.

Instead of ranting about it online, she decided to channel her rage creatively, doing what she does best: draw a comic. “It would
show where I stand and what my beliefs are, and serve as a tool to show people that there’s a spectrum under which their views can fall; not everything is black and white,” she says.

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Moral policing by pink police

Last year the Police department in Kerala state of India started a “Pink Beat Patrol” for enhancing the safety for women and children in public places. The Pink Beat included  specially trained women police personnel. These police personnel was supposed to patrol on Govt run bus services and private stage carriers and was to be present at bus stops, schools, colleges and other public places. They were supposed to assist women, children and senior citizens travelling on buses. They were supposed to prevent street sexual harassment. These patrol vehicle was led by a women police officer and had two other women police personnel.

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Unfortunately this laudable attempt to prevent infringement of human rights of women is having the opposite effect. Several reports had come out which point towards moral policing by the Pink Police.

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New study throws light on female genital cutting in India

Female genital cutting (FGC) or mutilation is a regressive cultural practice found mostly among Muslims living in Africa and Arab countries and also in Indonesia. Though Indian subcontinent has a huge Muslim population it is believed that  FGC is very rare  among Muslims in South Asia.

Still one sect of Muslims were known to be following this, the Dawoodi Boharas.

The Dawoodi Bohras are a sub-sect of Ismaili Shia Islam, who trace their roots back to the Fatimid dynasty of Yemen in the 11th century. The Dawoodi Bohras believe that the religious or spiritual leader of the community is the Da’i al-Mutlaq, referred to with the title of ‘Syedna’. The post originated in Yemen but moved to Gujarat, India, in the 1500s. Today, the Dawoodi Bohras are predominantly a Gujarati-speaking business community with their own distinct culture and a population estimated to be between one and two million. The majority of Dawoodi Bohras reside in India and Pakistan, but over the last few decades there has been a significant migration of Dawoodi Bohras to the Middle East, East Africa, Europe, North America, Australia, and other parts of Asia. The administrative headquarters of the Dawoodi Bohras as well as the office of the current (53rd) Da’i are in Mumbai, India.

Dawoodi Bohras are the most well-known Muslim community in India to practice FGC, known as ‘khatna’ or ‘khafd’ in the community – a ritual that many Islamic scholars around the world do not endorse. In most instances, the process involves the removal of a pinch of skin from the clitoral hood at the age of seven, or between the ages of six and twelve. While the Quran, Islam’s holy book, does not sanction FGC, the Daim al-Islam, a religious text followed by this community, does endorses the practice. It is likely that the practice came down to the Dawoodi Bohras from Yemen, where Dawoodi Bohras trace their roots and where FGC is widely practiced in several provinces.

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Azadi for only few ?

She is the new sensation in Indian film industry. Her debut film was a grand success. She played a major role in Hindi film Dangal as a young wrestler. The film was an adaptation of real life story of two sisters who won laurels for the nation in international competitions and that of their father, the coach.

But instead of praises and bouquets Zaira Wasim is receiving abuse from many in her own state. This is because she comes from Kashmir and the misogynist Islamist mindset prevalent in many there cannot tolerate a girl acting in films and becoming a star. More over for the Islamist freedom fighters colluding with Indian film Industry is like becoming a traitor. Her meeting with the Chief minister made it worse for her.

Credit : Disney films

Credit : Disney films

Zaira Wasim, the girl who portrays the now famous character of younger Geeta Phogat in the wrestling bioipic ‘Dangal’, is now embroiled in the controversy for meeting Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) chief minster (CM) Mehbooba Mufti.

Despite the warm exchange of greetings, the 16-year old Kashmiri’s meeting the CM has attracted the attention of trolls all over social media. This has forced the 16-year-old to apologise on social media, with a clarification that she did not want “anyone to follow in my foot steps or even consider me as a role model”.

In an FB post, Zaira publicly apologized to all those who were offended by her meeting with the CM. She takes an emotional tone saying, “I hope people still remember that I’m a just a 16-year-old girl and I hope you treat me accordingly.”

The abuse began a few months ago, soon after images began to appear on Facebook of 16-year-old Kashmiri actor Zaira Wasim with her hair trimmed, as she prepared for a role as a young wrestler in the Aamir Khan starrer Dangal. Internet trolls in the conservative Kashmir valley, where Islamic militants in the early 1990s forced cinema halls to shut, questioned the teenager’s moral character for acting in a hit film.

The trolling grew stronger on late Saturday evening, after pictures were released of the teenaged actress meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who described her as a “Kashmiri role model”.

“Cursed girl”, declared one Instagram user from the Valley. Added another, “Payi se trath” – may you get hit by lightning.

Hoping to calm down the abusers, Wasim on Monday posted a public “confession/apology”, as she described it, on Facebook, copying a screenshot to Instagram. “…I want everyone, especially the young, to know that there are real role models out there whether they be in this time or history.” she wrote. “To even consider me as a role model would be disgracing them and their disgrace would be our disgrace.”

However, this only fuelled the controversy, as her message was picked up by news websites and television channels.

Within hours, Wasim deleted her post and issued another message asking the media not to “blow this out of proportion”. She wrote: “Regarding my last post, I have no idea why this has become such a big issue. I just wanted to make sure that I did not hurt anyone’s feelings and all of a sudden it has been turned into national news.” Shortly after, this message was deleted, too.

To many young Kashmiris, the abuse heaped upon Wasim is a reminder of the campaign in 2013 against a girl band named Pragash. The three Class 10 students – vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid – had to disband their group after a string of online abuse and eventually a fatwa issued against them by the state’s grand mufti. While the girls apologised, no action was taken against their abusers.

Credit : NDTV

Credit : NDTV

Arshia Malik , the Kashmir based writer  remember her younger days in Kashmir and illustrates how infusion of Islamist ideology strengthened patriachal beliefs.

I was privileged enough to belong to what would be termed a fairly liberal family in the sense that they believed in the education of daughters and promoted studiousness and personal libraries. But yes, there were lines drawn on certain habits and lifestyles even though 1990 was far away yet. I must have disturbed my cousins a lot. My tomboyish manners and fearless attitude, what I call my ” Dilliwajaen’ (belonging to Delhi) view must have been a pain in their neck and in hindsight I amusingly see their Kashmiri ”kaekgi” (sarcasm) as pathetic attempts to break me knowing I lived life on my own terms.
So wearing skirts as a sports uniform for my school basketball team, prancing around in jeans/trousers, hobknobbing with boy cousins flying kites, and playing cricket and later discussing everything political and religious was at best tolerated with seething lips, gnashing teeth and clenched fists by the elders. But come 1990 and the burqa diktat by militant organizations enforced through acid attacks, my extended family got a license to further subdue my spirit they had not been able to break.

Hence the narratives that my generation grew up with – that Pakistan was the land of the pure, that Arabia was the epitome of ethics and human rights, that Muslims did not live dignified lives in India, that the Ummah has always been a peaceful, tolerant one and had spread through the benevolent Kings, the Sufi mystics and the power of reasoning, so on and so forth, are shattering on a daily basis now. Hence the ” Oppression Olympics” of Muslims that closet Islamists in the guise of scholars, academicians, media spokespersons of upright citizens of the community like to peddle do not hold water, and incidents like the Pragash controversy, the Zubin Mehta concert fiasco, the Literary Festival cancellation, and the recent Zaira Wasim trolling lay bare the actual extent of the damage that Kashmir’s psyche has undergone in 27 years.
It may seem like harmless trolling to many apologists but they can never imagine how real trolling on the streets of Srinagar and other districts can seem like and what exactly women undergo if they wear pants/trousers, ride a scooty, walk alone with uncovered hair, without escorts or even dream of joining the fashion and entertainment industry. Though because of awareness and an improvement in police-public relations and the stigma attached to a harassed woman, physical violence is minimal – a far cry from the acid attacks and knee-cappings of the 1990s, yet the verbal abuse, the harassment in workplaces and families once a woman becomes prominent should give a visual of why Zaira felt the need to put up those deleted posts in the first place.

Misogyny has no borders in South Asia. It would be dishonest to say that Afghanistan is the most dangerous place for women, or that Pakistan is now cracking down on Taliban forces who shoot school going girls in the head, or that New Delhi / Bangalore is becoming safer for women. But the first step is acknowledging the deep rot which has set in our society since extremist forces took over and long before when it was taboo to question regressiveness in a particular community or culture. Women in the movies or as singers and dancers especially from Muslim backgrounds were always looked down upon and frowned on as ” nautch-girls”. It hasn’t been that long ago when one of India’s talented actor Shabana Azmi was termed as a ” naachne-gaanewali” by the so-called well-wishes of the Indian Muslims – the mullahs.
If the UN proclaimed adage that countries will progress only if their women are empowered is to be taken seriously then we need to take a stand against this mindset that women should not be seen or heard. Do not let the token Liberalism of apologists or two-faced, dishonest community leaders who work for interfaith harmony with the unwritten rule of ”you-do-not-point-at-regressive-practices-in-my-religion-and-I-will-leave-yours-alone” rule fool you. Women need to be upheld according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not against some divine text, or centuries old, unconfirmed and heard sayings.
This is not just about women but men too. Patriarchy hurts men too and if future mothers are to bring up well-balanced, stable and respectful sons, then the mullah-politician-military nexus needs to be called out as well as the hypocrisy of the Right wing morality brigade and Left-wing postmodern moral relativism.

It seems those who are demanding Azadi (freedom) in Kashmir is not ready to allow azadi to women in their own society.

 

Savitribai Phule – a pioneer Social Reformer

January 3 is the birth anniversary of the great 19th century Indian social reformer Savitribai Phule. She was born in 1831.

She is considered to be a pioneer in the field of education, especially education of women and oppressed castes/classes.

Belonging to a backward caste herself she was educated at her home by her husband, Jotirao Phule,  who himself was a great social reformer.

Image credit - Dalit Vision

Image credit – Dalit Vision

In the social and educational history of India, Mahatma Jotirao Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule stand out as an extraordinary couple. They were engaged in a passionate struggle to build a movement for equality between men and women and for social justice. Recognising that knowledge is power and that the progress of women and Dalit-Bahujans was impossible without it, they dedicated their entire life to spreading education. The distinction of starting the first school for girls and the Native Library in the country goes to them. They started the Literacy Mission in India in 1854-55. In 1863, they started a home for the prevention of infanticide in their own house, for the safety of pregnant, exploited Brahman widows and to nurture these children. By establishing the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society for Truth Seeking), they initiated the practice of the Satyashodhak marriage ñ a marriage without dowry or a wedding at minimum cost. By throwing open the well in his house for ëuntouchablesí, Jotirao directly initiated a programme to oppose the caste system. Both Jotirao and Savitribai did not just stop at opposing child marriage; they also organised widow remarriages. They had no children of their own but they adopted a child of a Brahman widow, gave him medical education and arranged an inter-caste marriage for him. This couple did the historical work of building a holistic and integrated revolutionary cultural, social and educational movement of women-shudra and-atishudras of the country.

Here are few images from a graphic novel on Savitribai Phule called “Journey of a trail blazer”.

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Many Indians are unaware of this great reformer. Only recently she has appeared in history textbooks in schools. So it was pleasantly surprising to see Google producing a doodle today for her in India.

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I will end this post with a poem written by Savitribai.

The Plight of the Shudras

Haunted by ‘The Gods on Earth’,

For two thousand years,

The perpetual service of the Brahmins,

Became the plight of the Shudras.

Looking at their condition,

The heart screams its protest,

The mind blanks out,

Struggling to find a way out.

Education is the path,

For the Shudras to walk,

For education grants humanity

freeing one from an animal-like existence

 

 

Menstrual taboo claims another victim

This happened in Nepal. 

 Roshani Tiruwa, 15, of Gajra – died on Saturday night in Chhaupadi goth (isolated shed) where women and girls are kept during menstruation. Her family members found her body lying in the shed on Saturday morning. This is the second incident of Chhaupadi death in Achham within a month. On November 19, Dambara Upadhyay, 21, was found dead in Chhaupadi shed.

According to SP Badri Prasad Dhakal, Roshani must have died due to suffocation as she had lit a small fire in the shed to warm herself. “Lack of air might have claimed her life. She lit the fire inside,” said SP.

Kin of deceased Roshani Tiruwa mourning her death.

Kin of deceased Roshani Tiruwa mourning her death.

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Less patients die if the physician treating is female

Does the gender of your physician play any role in the outcome of your illness ?

I know many patients who are not so confident in getting treated by a female physician. They feel women are not up to the mark in solving complex issues in medicine though they are very comfortable to be under the care of a female nurse. Such misconceptions based on gender is prevalent widely and is probably one of the reason why female physicians in USA gets on an average 20000 dollars less than male colleagues in a year. 

But what does scientific data say ?

A new study published online in JAMA has some interesting results. As per the study female internists give better results than their male counterparts.

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