My Choice

22 04 2015

It’s My Choice. The video that went viral recently invoked a lot of passionate response – both for and against. Maybe mostly against. Truth be told, I too cringed a few times watching it. It is a bit extreme. But I guess the intended message is this:

It’s all about not judging based on gender. No double standards. Right and wrong apply exactly the same way to both men and women. No need to feel the burden of expectations and standards set by others on a particular gender.

But why be extreme? I guess the intention is to get attention and they sure got it. Getting noticed is critically important if you are trying to make a point.  But I think that the real message is hidden underneath everything sensational and doesn’t reach the audience effectively.

This reminds me of the ‘Slutwalk‘ movement. The actual point they want to make is lost on many amid all the shock the extremism invoked.

Gender discrimination is a very sensitive issue and from my own experience learned that it’s not easy to make others see your point. Some issues are very subtle and some lines are so thin, it’s difficult to explain and make distinctions within the context of pre-conceived notions.

I just hope that there is a more effective and direct way to convey a message – without eliciting a lot of unwarranted controversy.

This video seemed like a response to that documentary – India’s Daughter. I didn’t dare to watch it. I sensed by the outburst of others, that it is full of too much nonsense that I can’t endure to listen to. The documentary itself has good intentions I guess – to bring out the truth.  What was India trying to tell the world by banning it? That it’s not true or that it’s true but we can’t own up to it? Even while I was appalled when it’s banned, I wasn’t really surprised I guess. It’s no news that many people in power, those who rule the country and maintain law and order, have similar regressive opinions. When the leadership itself is so pathetic, what can we expect! Will there ever be laws and enforcers that will really make a difference?   No one wants to talk about rape. It’s as if an accepted part of life. The harrowing Delhi incident, which left almost everyone shocked, made a lot of people start talking about rape, which is a good thing. I’m sure there are plenty other incidents which are comparably horrific that never came to light. This particular thought makes me feel utterly sad, helpless, and scared.

It’s as if morality applies only to women. It’s beyond pathetic that some people actually believe that crap. I believe that the belief that “woman is the epitome of culture and moral conduct, blah blah” – is a form of oppression in plain sight!. All I say is morality applies to one and all, equally.

*****************************************************************************************

Yay! This blog turned 6 today. ūüôā





Effect of male stereotypes on women

18 04 2013

Everytime I think about the stereotypes that burden women, I also wonder about male stereotypes and how they would feel trapped by them unconsciously. But due to lack of any more insights into the male psyche, I would often leave that train of thought at that. In the following video, Tony Porter talks about just that and points out that¬†trying to fit into the¬†“manbox” (the bundle of male stereotypes) is what makes men act violently against women. This reinforces the fact that “violence against women” is a soceital issue, not just concerned with the isolated perpetrators.

(Credits: I¬†came across this¬†video on Amit varma’s India Uncut)

Another thoughtful post on the same theme by a parent of a 2-year old boy is here.

It’s heartening to see that many parents of boys are realizing this root cause and are acting and raising their voices to change the status quo.





Law on ‘dress’ and ‘rape’

11 04 2013

Was pleased to read this in March 24th issue of The Week magazine, as part of Section 376 series.

K.V. Dhananjay, a Supreme court advocate is quoted in the article saying:

“The law goes by the dictum that every man should take responsibility for what he does with his sexual prowess. Provocation by dress, thereby, is absolutely ‘no legal defence’ in rape cases.”

“If provocative dressing can be an excuse for rape, then the accused could as well offer the mother of all excuses – that the victim being a woman was in itself a provocation.”

I applaud!





Rant

22 02 2013

Besides triggering a lot of appropriate reaction Рhorror, shock, empathy -, the Delhi-rape incident  has made people to ask important questions regarding the gender issues. That aside, the more significant impact has been on the way women in general conduct their day-today lives: they are now more apprehensive of boarding an empty or near empty bus, auto or cab and extremely suspicious of talking to and dealing with unacquainted men. Simple things which they have always done before without much thought.

I and my friend, for example, feel very cautious and threatened to even do our usual stuff these days like – be out during the dusk, go out and meet people to get things done etc. The event essentially has served as a rude awakening to the fact that we are living in the midst of such insane and pervert people who are very well capable of and don’t think too much about carrying out such brutal acts. Who can ever imagine the mindset of a person who messes with a woman’s internal organs with his hand and even seek sadistic pleasure out of it. I’m not sure, which one of the 6 accused has done it, but I feel that all of them are equally responsible for the act. And I fervently condemn one of them getting off the severe punishment on the grounds of being a juvenile. Oh, I almost forgot! Who can say when the case will end and the final verdict is out!

Of course, the danger has always been there. But I guess this incident has shown irrevocably how beastly some men can behave and how vulnerable a woman’s life is. (I know I’m repeating myself a lot on this topic here in this blog but I feel compelled to do so. Kindly bear with me.)

How many women carried pepper sprays with them before? The recent incident of attempt to kidnap (with clear intention of raping the woman, needless to say) provides another dose of terror and horror. It’s a service auto and finding the woman alone after other passengers got off, the driver along with his friend planned the thing. Their explanation or rather¬†defense¬†is that they were intoxicated. As if that justifies their evil intentions. It seems like women are living among some men who are on the constant prowl – seizing their prey when found alone (or in unsubstantial company). Do they feel that it’s their right? I’m genuinely perplexed. How can someone attempt a crime without much thought? To everyone’s relief, the lady made a brave escape with minor injuries.

Well, I think this goes on and on and on….!

And what about these terrorist bomb attacks in Hyderabad…! The mankind is sick! Sick in the mind. That’s all I can say. Many innocent people died and lot others lost their limbs and got injured. What a horrible way to die! I don’t understand what to make of people who think “killing innocent people” makes them realize their goals (I wonder what they are in the first place and how sensible they are). And doing all this from behind. This is no war. I don’t understand the political and power dynamics of the world well, but I condemn every and any such act. (I know you all do too! )

Terror is everywhere. Terror is for everyone. Alas!!!

Nonviolence doesn’t always work – but violence never does.¬† ~Madge Micheels-Cyrus





Last note of 2012

31 12 2012

This new year eve does not fill me with the usual anticipation, hope, and excitement as always. It makes me much more retrospective and reflective on serious issues and life in general. It makes me feel vulnerable and helpless.¬†The Delhi rape incident has affected me deeply as is the case with the rest of the country. I can’t gather up my courage to read through the victim’s narration of the ghastly incident. My heart goes out to the girl as I try to take a look at her picture circulated around on social networks. I can’t bear to see it for more than a few seconds. An enormous amount of sadness overtakes me. Tears well up in my eyes whenever I recall what the girl had to go through.

I’m glad about the nation’s (as in “public”, not as in “government”) fury and also about the fact that people have finally acknowledged the degree of dangerous and unsafe surroundings our women are living in. It’s commendable that people are mulling over what needs to be done to amend the scenario, to bring about a sustainable change. It’s truly laudable that in addition to demands for quick and severe punishment for the perpetrators, people seem to realize that the real problem lies in the cornerstones of our culture and society. Awareness and sensitization is the key. I’ve also observed that ever since the event and the resultant uproar, more and more of crimes against women are being reported in the media. Of course, there had never been a day without at least one news item about sexual violence on women and minors, but now they are being given more space and limelight. And people are taking note without brushing them off as stray incidents. With grim, shocked, and terrified faces.

All these and more thoughts have been whirling around my mind for days and a particular thought stuck me: What if I had a daughter! I would be more than paranoid. I would be terrified for her safety. I realized with a rude jolt that more than the cultural factors which ¬†make many prefer boys to girls, this utterly unsafe world for girls/women would be the lone reason for my uneasiness (if any) to have a girl child. Of course, I appreciate the fact that being the mother of a son, I have greater responsibility on me – to shape him into a person who will treat a woman as a “person”: with respect and dignity.





Praveen Swami on rape and sexual violence

28 12 2012

Praveen Swami has put the whole thing very¬†succinctly¬†in his article titled “The danger to women lurks within us” in yesterday’s “The Hindu”. He opines that policing is a small part of the problem and hence can only be a small part of the solution. He mentions several statistics of US and Europe to drive home the point. Only 3 of every 1000 rapists ever see inside of a prison cell in US , while only 6 of every 100 women who report an offence will see the perpetrator convicted in UK.

He says, “The decline in rape in the US has mainly come not because policing has become god-like in its deterrent value, but because of hard political and cultural battles to teach men that when a woman says no, she means no.”

Startling facts were revealed by a study done by two scholars Diana Scully and Joseph Marolla, which indicate that rape is a learned behavior. The men made no effort to hide the fact that they saw hurting women as entertainment.

Praveen Swami rightly pointed out that misogyny is a part of our culture, which views large-scale violence against women as entirely legitimate.

Measures like more police officers (especially women) and harsher police action on street, and even simple ones like better lighting in public places may deter sexual¬†harassment¬†and decline rape rates. Also, legal reform backed by investigative and prosecutional capacity will help. But the real battle is one that women’s organizations have fought to address for decades – to change the ways in which men relate to women; to create a culture of¬†masculinity¬†that does not involve subjugation, he concludes.

Note: The entire content of this post is drawn from the above mentioned article. I found it so profound that I felt compelled to share its key points here.

 





Rape culture

27 12 2012

Almost everyone in the country is perhaps brainstorming now about what should be done to deter rape and violence on women and help create a safer country for them. In the process, they are forced to reflect on the society as a whole. Even as people are demanding stricter laws and more policing to curb the crimes, many recognized the problem as having deeper roots concerning the prevailing norms and attitudes of the society. Debates are going on about where does the key lie. They say it’s an outcome of patriarchy. The ingrained¬† preference for boys to girls is the sure way to instill the dominance of men over women in the minds of the people. One obvious suggestion, which works in long-term, is that parents should bring up their children more responsibly. I’m sure those who don’t entertain such base opinions owe it to their superior upbringing.¬† But how is it possible on a large scale when one is surrounded by¬† media/literature that voluntarily or involuntarily brandishes chauvinistic content?¬† It probably is like chicken and egg question. Should change in society lead to change in media or should media try to change and lead society?

Another logical deduction is that people should be educated. Indian Homemaker has put it in the most unambiguous, and straight-forward manner here (this is a must-read). The need itself proves the point that we , as a society, are in a pathetic state. Does anyone need to be educated that murder is a crime? Why isn’t there a commandment that rape is a sin? Wikiislam says:

There is no equivalent term for ‚Äėrape‚Äô in the¬†Qur’an. Likewise, there is not a single verse in the Qur’an which even remotely discourages forced sex. In contrast, there are several verses in this book which give the green light to rape and other sexual crimes against¬†women.

And there is no evidence that Hinduism forbids rape. In fact, it makes allowances for it.

The¬†BrhadńĀrankyaka Upanishad, for instance, condones rape:

Surely, a woman who has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period is the most auspicious of women. When she has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period, therefore, one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her. If she still refuses, he should beat her with a stick or with his fists and overpower her, saying: ‚ÄúI take away the splendor from you with my virility and splendor‚ÄĚ (6.4.9,21).

Source: Apologetics Press

Disgusting, I know. But that’s how it is. All the scriptures were written by men and so may be one can’t expect anything different. ūüėź¬†It’s not that religion alone can curb the evil but it sure has the potential. But of course, like everything else, even it is biased. Alas!

It’s unfortunate and appalling that at least a sizeable portion of the population opines that “women” ask for it by getting dressed and/or behaving in a certain way. The prevailing notion is that “it’s ok to rape”. It’s not treated as severe a crime as it actually is, at least by the perpetrators.¬† The past incidents/cases mentioned on Indian Homemaker’s blog only make one to gape in horror. Acquitting a rapist just because there were no injuries on his penis, while the girl is bruised all over her body?? Hats off to the judge and hats off to our law.

The way the blame is usually put on the victim (people, including those in authority, scrutinize for any indication of violation of “code of conduct” that everyone decides for a woman in India), and more and more guidelines are framed upon the occurrence of each shocking incident¬†for how a woman should conduct herself,¬† makes it appear as if women are not dealing with normal human beings but with a monster at large, with whom of course one cannot reason and one cannot expect for it to behave in any humane way. But the only problem is that this monster has innumerable manifestations, which makes its appearance at countless places at the same time.

I feel that one reason why the Delhi case has gained so much uproar is the associated brutality involved. And the fact that the girl didn’t seem to invite it. (I’m so glad none is mulling over what the girl could possibly have done to “drive” the men to the ghastly act.) There are countless such incidents happening everywhere and I believe they all need as much outrage. No matter whether the details are gory or not, rape is an abominable crime.

I don’t have any solutions to offer as of now but I agree with the opinion that the issue needs no quick fix but an elaborate long-term approach addressing the roots of our culture and society.





God, please save the world

20 12 2012

May be it’s a wrong idea to read newspapers. At least, first thing in the morning. It is depressing to an unfathomable level to read about the various heinous crimes on women. I am shocked, terrified and deeply disturbed by reading about the Delhi rape case. I’m not able to envisage how anyone can perform such gruesome acts. What makes them behave in such a violent, perverse manner? She is a human being for god’s sake and not a machine that you could play and prod with as you like. What kind of pleasure and satisfaction do such men derive, I’m unable to comprehend.¬† It’s obvious that desire for sex alone doesn’t drive rape. How do such incidents be different from the mass shootings that happen in USA? There is something seriously wrong with the whole system and culture. Ratna Kapur raised a very valid point when she said that men are not able to accept the progress of women, which is being manifested as deep-rooted frustration and anger in them against women. She suggests that violence against women is a much bigger issue and needs more than stricter laws. It’s more about educating people.

Of course, laws are important and in fact implementation is even more important. Given the ingrained corruption and¬† ineffective judicial system, it’s no wonder that criminals don’t fear punishment as much as required. I’m digressing here a little bit to say a few more words on this issue:¬† I can see no hope for a country which takes 2 years to hang a hard-core terrorist who is responsible for killing¬† so many people. I didn’t quite follow the intricacies of Kasab’s case but I personally believe that India has become a laughing stock by its characteristic relaxed behavior.¬† I feel that “I don’t mess with anyone, but if anyone messes with me, they will pay badly” should¬†be the right attitude. It’s all very lofty when one says – “everyone should have equal rights” and “no matter how many criminals escape, none of the innocents should get convicted”, but I think there are certain cases where the country and law should take a firm stand and give out prompt judgments. And¬†make a clear statement to one and all. ¬†Justice delayed is justice denied.

Even as I am trying hard to come out of the shock and horror of the Delhi rape case, I’m coming across more and more reports of similar incidents in the inner pages of the newspapers¬† – tribal girl students sexually molested by the principal and the teacher, a woman gang-raped and set afire (?? What the ****), a five-year old raped (?? )and in critical condition‚Ķ¬† I’m sure those men are not “human beings” and I believe that they are not fit to live. It’s hard not to be affected by such incidents.

I don’t want to read newspapers. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

Why so much perversion and violence? Lot of literature and media out there, in the name of entertainment and awareness, is dishing out explicit and perverse content and ideas. To get attention. Sure they are getting what they want. But at what cost to society? I don’t mean that everyone who reads or watches such content absorbs them but don’t you agree that it’s causing a lot of strain on the society as a whole? Different people get affected in different ways but there sure is an effect. Real crime shows on TV, extreme violence in movies, explicit and perverse content in literature (I myself am appalled by the gross details in Millennium trilogy [I think the first part] and heard from friends that The Fifty Shades series has unprecedented explicit content.) and of course porn. All these are detrimental to the society. I believe that man’s (man as in human) growing restlessness is making him vulnerable to such exposure. Increasing materialism and individualism perhaps contribute to the rampant savageness.

God, please save the world from itself. If you can’t, then ruin it.¬† Am no longer questioning the doomsday.





SlutWalk

18 04 2012

I’ve been coming across this issue on the Net and newspapers for quite a while now. Lots of discussions and heated arguments are being made on this and as I went through them, the issue seemed more and more intriguing.

As per my understanding, the term ‘Slutwalk’ was coined in Canada last year, where a police officer had commented that women could avoid sexual assaults by not dressing like sluts. Agitated women immediately held protest walks with attention grabbing title ‘slutwalk’ in Canada and then US. Marches in many other countries followed, including India. The issue gained instant popularity and controversy owing to its title and people all over the world indulged in discussing the issue. And incidentally, a similar kind of comment was made in India recently by two prominent people – a DGP and also a state minister. This ensued similar outrage in India.

When I first encountered this issue and read through various articles, I was convinced that slutwalk makes much sense. I even endorsed the need for it and tried to defend it in my arguments with people¬† both offline and online. But as I thought about it more and more and read different perceptions of people, I’m not so sure right now.

Basically, there are two different opinions about it:

  • Those comments make perfect sense and women should be careful about their dressing so as not to invite trouble. People who believe so argue that doing so doesn’t take away the blame from the offender or rapist. It merely advises women to be more careful. Analogies are also brought in, comparing women with revealing or provocative clothes to people exposing Rolex watch and full wallet in a dark alley, both¬† cases drawing unwanted attention resulting in possible crime.
  • Such comments take the onus of responsibility away from the offender and unfairly blames the victims.

I believe that the society (media, people at large, general collective psyche) by blaming the victim for rape is not considering rape as a serious offence unless severe physical injury is done. When the first question in a rape case is about the dress or morals of the victim, the rapist doesn’t feel guilty..

Some argue that talking about victim’s dressing doesn’t slight the offence. But I feel that that is not so. The prevalent notion is present no where in the spoken or written word, but still one can feel its vibe undercurrent if one cares.

Kalpana Sharma, in her article, states that “The current approach shall only result in giving potential rapists¬†the signal that they are excused from all responsibility¬†since it is for the victims to take care of themselves and ensure that they do not get raped.”

While I agree that not all rapes are done as a consequence of dressing provocatively ( as is evident by rapes of minors, old women, burqa clad women and the like), being the weaker sex (unable to defend oneself at times of sexual assault), women better be on the safer side.

But here comes the question – what does one mean by dressing provocatively? It’s highly subjective and may be the buqra covering from head to toe is the only plausible solution. Not that it would guarantee no rape or sexual assault incidents, but may be in that case, the blame will be shifted from the victims and rightly be placed on the perpetrators. But is it happening that way in the countries which impose burqa on its women?

The fact that rape happens even in cases where no provocation in any manner is involved, isn’t a very reasonable and logical argument for dressing less modestly, in my opinion.¬† But I feel the reason why the proponents of slutwalk make this point is not because they encourage women to be careless and invite trouble but because, all this dressing issue has deeper¬† implications and nuances.

An  interesting and stimulating discussion on Facebook reveals much about the opposing views:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=365319790165185 

In particular, I felt that the following made much sense:

“Rape obviously, is much more violent, and a much greater degree of malice and ill intentions attributed to it. Why does that amount of malice get generated? Why does such an evil intent get formed so easily? It’s because of the psychology of rape, that it is permissible. The psychological causes of robbery and mugging can be easily traced, the cause of sexual assault, not so. It is only something that happens so easily because of the permissiveness attached to the concept of rape. Once men understand that it is NEVER okay to rape, then the issue of precautions does not arise.¬†

¬†“We’re still talking about whether it is right¬†or wrong to look primarily at the people sexually assaulting other people, instead of the people being assaulted. This prevention approach ALWAYS takes focus away from rapists. It has been doing so for years. Which is one of the reasons we need to switch lenses. FIRST look at why that man felt he could/why he wanted to force himself on someone and what you can do to change that. Then look at ways of helping women fight back while everyone works to make this an easier place to live in. Don’t ever say that it was her responsibility to ensure that she wasn’t sexually assaulted, because it isn’t. It is our responsibility as a society to bring kids up not to think that women are objects to penetrate and dominate at will, but people you never touch without consent.¬†You know why I think no one even talks about why men rape? Because its something everyone takes for granted as a regular part of our lives. Women get raped, its a fact of life, so all you can do is prevent it from happening to you. That won’t cut it, sorry. For as long as people’s reaction is “who asked her to get into a dangerous profession/drive her car late at night/wear skimpy clothes/drink at a bar” I have a problem. Call it what you want.”¬†

“What we rebel against is the idea, that women, because they are women, should somehow be expected to be on red alert all the time. Say that, and you are effectively saying that such men, are who they are, live with it. We cannot accept that. More importantly, we cannot allow that excuse for anyone. Maybe, on our own, we can choose to be more careful. But when we say it’s a responsibility, we’re offering a way out for those responsible for enforcing the rules. We’re splitting responsibility, and allowing a host of stupid notions to enter, and that is dangerous. Can we choose to be careful? Yes. Is it our bounden duty to be? No. It’s a fine distinction.

It is also a well known statistic that most sexual assaults happen not from strangers but from men in and around the family or social circle. And almost always, rape is not an impulsive act, it is usually planned well ahead. And in most cases, rape is more about power and domination rather than about sex. Quoting Kalpana Sharma again, “Those who commit such acts do not do it out of any form of compulsion or sudden provocation caused by the victim’s attire, but are in fact, motivated by their own perverse thought process. This thought process is bolstered by societal sanction and acceptance of sexual assault as routine, especially against ‚Äúimmoral‚ÄĚ women.¬†”

Coming to the analogy to mugging, say some valuables are stolen as a result of “provocatively” flashing them. The thief here and the rapist – are they treated the same way by the society in terms of blame put on them ( and not in terms of the seriousness of the offence, of which obviously the one committed by latter is¬† graver)?

But on the face of it, it’s sad and unfortunate that the victim has to prove her innocence (by not having dressed provocatively or not being with loose morals) before the offender can take the blame.

A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.

HENRIK¬†IBSEN,¬†From Ibsen’s Workshop¬†