Saturday, 29 December 2012

A comment on Indian culture

One day earlier this month, I found a stream of visitors landing on my blog. This was surprising for I had been neglecting my blog, had not posted for weeks and was used to seeing only one or two visitors stop by. Feedjit and Flagcounter informed that they were from Denmark.

The next day, I had an unusual friend request. It was from a young man from Denmark, a student in a business school. I discovered that my blog was part of a curriculum designed to teach the young students about culture. A creative teacher had based a set of questions on my blog.

My blog is titled the india of today for I meant to post about things that bothered and amazed me about this land. But posts that are unfavourable far exceed the positive ones. And my first reaction was – Oh! what a negative image of India I must be giving out. My blog was all about sexual harassment, the violence women face, about rape, the horrendously stupid judgments given by our judges, men in authority who made idiotic pronouncements about women, while this land I called home had much more to offer... its rich arts, its spiritual heritage, its cuisine, its freedom to speak out, which we the people so zealously guarded. Was my blog, a comment on Indian culture?

My blog is a long rant against the system and the way it affects me as a woman in today's India. Had I been living as a brown skin woman in Europe, it might have been about race. For on my very first trip there, the few hours that I spent in Amsterdam, I was made very conscious of the colour of my skin by a shop assistant at a food kiosk, who despite repeated requests did not attend to me.

My earliest recollection of something not being right in being a girl in India was when I found my aunt crying at the birth of my sister. A third daughter? How unfortunate! was the refrain from relatives and neighbours. Why were daughters unfortunate? It was something I would learn as I grew in a middle class north Indian family. As a growing girl who travelled by public bus to get a college education, as a young woman who went out to work using public transport, as someone who had to work late at the job I chose to do, I was wary of sexual harassment every waking moment I was out on Delhi’s streets. I could not let my guard down. As a mother, I have tried to raise my daughters to be conscious of this daily violence, be aware of its dangers and to be safe. As a mother, much of my effort went in training them to survive the city, the system.

This is what concerns me today as an Indian woman. The mindset of our politicians, our police and our judges horrifies me no end. For it curbs my movement, it stifles me, it prevents me from being free. The way female foetuses get aborted here, the manner in which the girl child is treated by the family, the control Indian men feel they should exercise on women, the commodification of the woman as a sex object in our films, in the raunchy item numbers, the moral police that go around slapping women for being in a bar or enjoying an evening out with a friend, where children even babies are raped. Was this contemporary Indian culture? And as I debated….

Another horrific gangrape happened. A 23-year-old medical student was brutally raped while her friend was beaten up by six men in a bus. They felt they had the right to question the couple as to why they were out! And then they were thrown out of the bus and left to die. It is amazing that not one of the six men felt that they should not be behaving in this fashion. Not one of them made an effort to stop others from commiting the crime. After their heinous act, we are told they went about their normal routine, showing no guilt, no remorse.

But this time something snapped in Delhi. Its young girls had had enough and were not prepared to take it anymore. And they came out to voice their protest, to demand justice for the medical student, to demand that our politicians, the police and the judicial system acts… With these young school and college girls were middle aged women. Even a 70 plus I know braved the cold winter to register her protest at India Gate. And there were a large number of men, who are fed up of this crass apathy towards dealing with one of the most serious problems of our times - verbal and physical violence on women.

And yes, it is sad but true that this violence, this ill treatment of girls and women personifies contemporary Indian culture.

But the new Indian woman, the middle class, the educated, is not prepared to take it any longer. She is forcing society to act. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Are we going to see more of this?

Is this how girls would have to protect themselves when they are sexually harassed? A girl in Delhi decided to take on a man who harassed her. It was heartening to see one man join her in thrashing the culprit. But others in the crowd just watched...

I recall an incident 30 years ago when as a young reporter I waited for a bus on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg at 8 pm. A man just walked into me. Straight into me as if he could not see. There were four to five men standing at the bus stop. No one said anything to him. I found after banging into me he was walking away as if nothing had happened. I hit him hard on his back and he was surprised by my action. "Why are you hitting me?" he asked before he melted into the darkness when I shouted at him. Then one man from the crowd said, "It is a good thing you hit him." I had to say this to him and the others who stood listening - "I wish you all had said something to him."

Thirty years down the road some things have changed, while some remain the same. Delhi, in fact, most north Indian cities, are hard on women. There are many more women out now -- on the road, in offices, in restaurants, in buses...And it is good to see the girls are not prepared to take this nonsense from men anymore.  Decades ago I used to see women refrain from saying anything to the men who would bother them as they did not want to create a spectacle. Crowds in India love to watch and pass comments usually on the woman. But now,  the girls are not  going to take this behaviour anymore. If society or the police are not going to come to their help, they will take on their tomentors. And how!

Now see a girl in Allahabad set the bike of a neighbour on fire. He is said to have tormented her with lewd comments and she could take it no more. She acted the only way she could.

Such cases are bound to increase as girls get educated and find the police and society do not speak up on their behalf or act.
Notice how the crowd stands and watches.

Our boys and men need to learn how to behave with women.

The long lonely battle

For the raped and their families, it is always a lonely long battle, often with no closure in sight. Any wonder then why girls and families do not come out to file rape cases.
Click here to read the plight of a young girl who was raped at the age of eight, and now eight years later, still awaits justice. She has had to drop out of school because of the taunts. She has no friends and she faces a lonely bleak future. Her father was accused by the rapist of filing the rape charge to get a paltry amount of Rs 1200. And in its order, the Bombay High Court has observed that it was possible that a father had accused a relative of rape to extract a petty amount in the range of Rs 1200! 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Haryana police should first learn how to deal with women before it begins its school campaign

The following news item in today's Times of India caught my attention. I could not help but think of Ruchika and what one of Haryana's top cops did to a young girl.

And also how Haryana policemen are among the most gender insensitive of men I have encountered.  And now, they are going to reach out to school girls! Hope the police force has been sensitised enough before being allowed access to the girls, especially those who are being sexually harassed and molested.

Read the newsitem

Haryana police reach out to girls, place drop boxes in schools for complaints

ROHTAK: Haryana police have decided to reach out to girls in every school in the state to get their feedback and complaints about incidents of sexual abuse and harassment with them. The police, in association with the education department, will launch a special drive to interact with the girls. They also plan to place feedback boxes in each school for girls to drop their complaints into them. The feedback from girls of six government schools in Rewari has stirred the police into action. During a special campaign undertaken earlier this ....

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A three-year-old this time

New Delhi: A three-year-old girl was drugged and raped by the husband of a playschool owner in Delhi, police said Thursday. The accused has been arrested. Click here to read further.

The depravity never stops. Another case, this time a three year old raped in Delhi. What is wrong with these men? Have they lost all control over themselves?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Delhi gangrape and mindset of the rapists

In continuation of my earlier post...
Another gangrape in Delhi, how will we act?

"...The men on the bus taunted the woman for being out at night with a man".  When he tried to protect her, they attacked him with an iron rod.  The medical student tried to help him, but was beaten and then gang-raped. 

- as reported by NDTV.

These men could not tolerate the mere presence of a woman with a man of her choice. They felt that they should attack her, and the man who was with her. For in the society they come from, women are denied personal freedoms and the freedom to move around. Fathers, brothers, uncles think they have the right to use violence over women to get them to do what they want. Domestic and sexual violence is the norm.

But it is okay for them to drink, to take joy rides in a bus, which was supposed to be off the road at that time, rape and maim. They see nothing wrong with that!

What does this say about the mindset of such men? How do we change it?

Monday, 17 December 2012

Another gangrape in Delhi, how will we act?

My prayers are with the 23-year-old physiotherapist who was gang raped in a moving bus, beaten with a blunt object, stripped and pushed out of the vehicle and left to die on the road in Delhi on December 16. Her friend, who was accompanying her, was also beaten up and thrown out of the bus. The young woman is battling for her life. I hope she recovers to see justice done to her.

Such cases have become the norm in the city. They are just happening so often. And it is spreading to other parts of the country. In this blog a lot has been said about this societal illness that grips Indian society today.

On the television show, Newshour, last night, Arnab Goswami repeatedly asked if women in Delhi feel safe. He wanted women to call in. There was just one woman caller from Delhi. What can the women in Delhi say? It has been said just so often - Delhi is extremely unsafe and unfriendly to women. As a woman who has grown up and lives in this city, I say - A woman always feels insecure in Delhi. Never mind the fact that we have a woman for a chief minister, and many women occupying important and high posts as ministers and in the bureaucracy.

For the rot is in the minds of the society. (Check out this story) It is the whole way in which  women are viewed that translates into their inhuman treatment. Killed by parents in the womb when they discover that the foetus is female; neglected as a girl child (the best the family can afford goes to the boy and it is the leftovers for the girl); made to feel like an object, whose sole purpose in life is to be a good wife and daughter-in-law;  treated shabbily by the law-enforcing agencies, so badly that she is scared to enter a police station to even complaint. And if she does, the custodians of law may misbehave with her. Lax laws and judgements that make a mockery of her plight.

Delhi, overrun by men from areas where the khap panchayats rule, by classes that have no value for a female life, it is no wonder that India's capital can be called The Rape Capital. A couple of rape cases are reported everyday. Many, many must be going unreported.

What should be the punishment for the rapists? I will not say "Let the law take its course", for justice in India like its law enforcers have shown scant respect for women. Cases take years to be tried and then the accused cannot be brought to book as the police often fails to properly record the case and collect evidence. And even when they do, the judge may take a warped view and let the acused off. So the message society gets - It is okay to misbehave with a woman! That is how we show our manhood!

So what should be done? The women of the city and concerned citizens have to step in. Shame the rapists. Picket in front of their houses. Let everyone know who they are. Demand that they be thrown out of their jobs, ensure that if they are unmarried, no one ever marries their daughter to them, ever. A convicted rapist should be debarred from a government job for the rest of his life. And private organisations pressurised not to employ them ever. This can be ensured by women's groups and neighbours. The punishment meted out by the society should be a deterrent in itself. The way things are in India today, only the society can act. Only it can ensure that the rapists never live in peace.

Some earlier posts on the issue in this blog -
Justice dispensers - Who will make them see sense?
Rape fastest growing crime in India

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Loved this ad!

 FOR the SPUNK, the SPIRIT, and the STEEL!
And I like the way Asha Hansda stands. Cheers!
The ad has great copy.
The matter under the first two lines is-

Because, unskilled women employees like Asha Hansda are trained to operate heavy vehicles and machinery under Tata Steel's Tejaswini programme.
Because we believe gender should never be a reason not to be.
Because, for us, it doesn't matter where she comes from, but where she can reach.
Because she is one of our own.
Because we can't fly if she crawls.
Because we started thinking of ways to better her life over a hundred years ago.
Because it's not just a company policy, it's an unwavering belief.
Because, each time she confidently smiles, our belief finds strength.
Because however strong our steel may be, our values remain stronger.

Wish we get to see more meaningful ads like this!
I must however say that I love the sari. But it is a dress that can be highly impractical depending on the task. 

Some sensitive rules to enable sexually abused children to get justice

Finally, we are going to see some change in the way child rape victims are treated by the state and their cases tried. It is indeed, harrowing for children who have been abused to testify in court and come face to face with the abuser. A child sensitve set of rules has been put in place.
But have the lawyers and judges been sensitised? And the cops who will be handling such cases?
Let us see how things go from here, and the punishment that will be given to child abusers.
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