A Foetus is not a Person by Caroline Lund

Abortion in India is legal only up to twenty weeks of pregnancy under specific conditions and situations which are broadly defined as:

  • the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury of physical or mental health, or
  • there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

(via Wikipedia)

Recently, the Supreme Court permitted a rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy at 24 weeks, which is beyond the permissible 20 weeks limit prescribed under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

Abortion is a topic that is not as hot a debate in India, as it has been in the US. The basic difference being that in the US, the fight for abortion rights is at the point of consent of a woman of not having a baby. While in India, the legalities in abortion are focused on severe health risks for the woman or the baby, and that if the woman is a rape survivor where abortion is legally permissible before 15 weeks. There are obvious risks in the process of abortion due to sex-determination. But the point of consent of a woman is always missing.  Continue reading “A Foetus is not a Person by Caroline Lund”

Tell Me Your Dreams, Girl

In my experience of interviewing freshers, I struggle to take out important information like ‘what are some of your goals’. They just don’t know. Our education system doesn’t motivate us to ‘think’. Here in India, we are just taught to believe in what is being told. While interviewing girls, most of the times, their goals are defined in the next few years (before marriage). We have an increasing breed of girls, who do a post-graduation only to postpone marriage.

“What do you want to do in life?” is a daunting question for most. Having that answer is a luxury, they just hope they get a family which ‘lets them work’.

“The guy is very ambitious” is generally a compliment. It means that the guy is focused towards career and wants to grow. Ironically, “The girl is very ambitious” means she is rude, selfish and family is not her priority. To prove that she is not selfish, she will quit her job for her brother/sister’s wedding preparations/quit her job before marriage/quit her job to “settle and plan for a baby”/quit her job after she’s had a baby. And a lot of people are too petty to link it with money. “We have money so she need not work.” If a person from marketing background comes for an HR interview, we ask them an obvious question, ‘Why this sudden change of field?’ We don’t ask the same question to our daughters. Why does she want to quit everything and be a homemaker? Even though it reflects heavily on our societal culture, there is nothing wrong in wanting to be a homemaker. It is everyone’s personal choice.

But we must genuinely ask her, “‪What are your dreams?” to be sure, we are not walking on the debris of someone’s dreams.


This piece was first published in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad. It was translated in Gujarati. I keep writing things on Gender, Social Issues, Travel..and sometimes Poetry too. If you like my writing, FOLLOW my blog so you can get it on mail every time I post!

Poem | Kesa Mehsoos Hota Hai | How It Feels to be Molested

I had first written this poem in English and then translated it for a poetry recital at Conflictorium, Ahmedabad. I also got a chance to recite it at a panel discussion at Gujarat Literature Festival and at a research exhibition event conducted by Centre for Urban Equity, CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Here’s the Hindi Version of the poem.

Kesa Mehsoos Hota Hai

Hindi Version (English version available below this one)

Esa nahi hai ki mene koshish nahi ki
Koshish karna zaroori hota hai
Mene bi ki hai koshish
Koshish surakshit rehne ki
Jab ghar se bahar niklu
Kyu ki Ghar bethe toh guzara nahi hota!

Ese toh surakshit rehne ka brahmgyan muje hai
Kaafi suna hua hai
Esa karo, esa na karo

Atit ki almaari mein se
kuch kisse nikal rakhe mez par.
Kya pehna tha mene uss roz?
Sleeveless t-shirt aur Shorts
Hmmmm
Theek hai, iss baar
Kuch poora pehena jaaye
Continue reading “Poem | Kesa Mehsoos Hota Hai | How It Feels to be Molested”

Stuff You Don’t Say About A Molestation Case

I remember talking about TVF to one of my older friends just yesterday. I was talking about Permanent Roommates (an online fiction series about a quirky couple in a live-in) and how it struck the right cord in the right places- it was gender sensitive, even feministic at a lot of places. There are several other concepts by TVF like tripling which is either gender neutral or very sensitive. And then I opened twitter, only to discover there was a huge controversy going on. Early morning yesterday, there was an anonymous post on Medium alleging TVF’s founder of molestation.

What began was a thread of responses from comedians at AIB, other comedians and inconsequential people like me. But what’s more shocking is that even other girls from random places came out to say that they had gone through molestation by Anurabh Kumar on varying levels. The Quint has done a compiling piece on the other allegations by different women.

Anurabh Kumar, TVF CEO and Founder

We don’t know if any of these women have filed a police complaint yet and investigations will happen. But I could compile some of the disgusting responses that people/mostly men gave in response to what happened. I even got into arguments with a few of them.  Continue reading “Stuff You Don’t Say About A Molestation Case”

The Nagaland Story: The Most Absurd Thing For Which Some Men are Rioting

 

I didn’t want to put up those instigating images of riots but in case you don’t know, there are riots going on in Nagaland since today morning (3rd Feb 2017). According to Quint, “Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang on 2 February rejected the demand for his government’s resignation following the death of two persons in anti-ULB poll agitation in Dimapur and appealed to the people to stop violence and not fall prey to rumour mongers.”

The Problem and the Demand

The protestors are demanding a removal of 33% reservation for women in the ULB (Urban Local Bodies), a body of governance for the state. These protestors include the traditionalist tribal groups such as the Central Naga Tribal Group. Just a month back, the President of the Tribal Group had categorically explained to Firstpost, their problem with the reservation (hold your breath for this),
“In Naga society, a woman is not considered to be equal to men. She is not even allowed to speak in Panchayat until and unless she is summoned by it. Providing 33% reservation to women amounts to giving her the same status as men and it gives men inferiority complex.”
So no sugar-coating, no pseudo talks about how ‘opportunities should be equal for all. Women must not be given added importance’. Point blank answer. In your face.  Maintaining that his organisation has no other problem with the Municipal Act passed by the government of Nagaland except the provision of 33% reservation for women. “In India, men are considered to be superior to women as per customs and that has to be taken very seriously,” he added to the people at FirstPost. Another Tribal Group that is supporting the protest says the law also infringes
 
Generally when riots happen in the mainland and other sensitive areas of the country like Kashmir, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam (Also Nagaland), etc, we try and shut our eyes to it wondering it is a tricky situation that has no solution. In some instances, the Naxalites and the stone pelters seem to be right, and in other instances, the policemen/army men seem to be right. But this one is not one of those cases. This is very much black and white.

What Do Naga Women Say

In effect, Nagaland State Assembly does not have a single woman as its member. The Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) asserts that having an opportunity of an equal say in governance cannot be ‘against the Naga Customary Law’. And this reservation is essential to promote gender equity in the customary law. NMA says that over the years, ‘only men spoke and only men heard’.
It is 2017 and we are still debating whether women need reservations in politics or not. I am not sure if these people are looking at women around them or how are they judging the lack of requirement. In most cases, the point of ‘merit’ is brought out. Like any other reservation, the problem with this idea of ‘merit’ is that the other person needs to be well placed to ‘compete you’. It is years of discrimination and patriarchy such as mentioned above (by the Naga Tribe Men), that a woman will have to break, to even file a nomination.
Everyone opposing reservations should first ensure a discrimination free society. The purpose of law is not equality. It is equity. When two genders are not treated equally, there is no point of equality, in this case, we need equity.
You must have looked at this illustration before. This clearly explains the case of Equality vs Equity.
equality-vs-equity

 

Use a Privilege Calculator Today

This question reminds me of a recent session I attended at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Mrs Mrinal Pande, a television personality, journalist and author, who was awarded a Padma Shri in 2006 said,

“When I go to some of the events on gender equality, I witness this royal divide. There are women who are supremely articulated in English, speaking about women empowerment, women issues and then there are rural women there too. In one of the instances I asked a rural woman, do you know what’s happening here? She said, “It seems like they are talking about us but we don’t know what. “The only difference between them and us is that they smoke cigarettes and we smoke beedis.”

In another session about the Mainland of North East, Teresa Rehman, author and activist, pointed out that,
“Disputes and the political discourse in the North-East have always been too masculine. Women had no voices.”
As far as feminism is concerned, we’ll all have to check our privilege before we talk. Feminism is not just about upper caste, urban women. We will have to look across our troubled states and cities and help women over there too. The worst affected women could be called the Tribal women. Feminism cannot be just about writing their stories and speaking about them. They will have to be given the mic, pen and paper. Their words will have to be translated and brought out.

Once again: Why 33% Reservation for Women is Essential

 Before you say that ‘Women don’t need reservations’, who are these women you are talking about? Are you talking about yourself or your friends? What do you know about the tribals and the other rural and urban poor women who do not come with a silver spoon? We will have to ask some uncomfortable questions to ourselves before we make a judgment.
At times, I find debates on cultures pointless. A debate where the only answer to injustice to a particular gender or community’s human rights is ‘our culture’ is deemed to be pointless.
The Naga Tribal heads can say, ‘women are not equal to men in our culture’ but that just means we need to question that supposed culture now. We need to agree that whether or not a culture/past actions/mythology consider women as equal or not; today we need to move forward.

 

It is 2017 already. When you use statements like ‘women don’t reach that position because they are not capable enough’ as a defence; you are indeed questioning your own system. Women across the world are getting/taking equal representations at various parliaments and political boards. You are saying that your women aren’t good enough. Who’s at fault in that case? Is it something to be proud of?

 

This is obviously not a point of rivalry because of years of seeing men at the forefront. Men who are not patriarchal and who don’t see women as inferior have no worry whatsoever. The problem with all-men panels, committees and boards is that no single gender is adequate enough to address problems, concerns and issues of all genders. We will need adequate representation of all genders to make decision-making bodies that are capable to do good for all. And this in no way can be ‘harmful for the future’.

સમલૈંગિકતા: સમજણ ઓછી અને વિરોધ વધુ Homosexuality, Lack of Understanding and the Agitation

મુંબઇમાં ગયા બુધવારે બે મહિલાઓએ આત્મહત્યા કરવાનો પ્રયાસ કર્યો. આ બે મહિલાઓ વચ્ચે પ્રેમ સંબંધ હતો અને મરીન ડ્રાઇવ પર તેમાંથી એકના પિતા તેમને જોઇ ગયા. પરિણામે તેમને એકબીજાને જોવાથી પણ વંચિત કરી દેવામાં આવ્યા. તેમાંની એક મહિલા મૃત્યુ પામી, જ્યારે બીજીને તત્કાળ હોસ્પિટલ પહોંચાડાતાં તે બચી ગઈ.

ભારતમાં પારીવારીક અને સામાજીક દબાણ દ્વારા મહિલાઓનું શરીર, લૈંગિકતા અને તેમના જીવનની પસંદગીના અધિકારને એકદમ દાબમાં રાખવામાં આવે છે. એમાંયે કોઈ લેસ્બિયન હોય, તો મુસીબત બમણી થઇ જાય: એક તો મહિલા અને ઉપરથી સમલૈંગિક! આઇ.પી.સી.ની કલમ ૩૭૭ મુજબ સમલૈંગિકતા ગુનો બને છે. જેથી છેડતી, પોલીસ દ્વારા શારીરિક શોષણ, શાળા-દવાખાનાઓમાં ભેદભાવ, ગુંડા-બદમાશો દ્વારા ગેરવર્તણૂંક, વગેરે બાબતો સામાન્ય છે. આવા લોકોના મા-બાપ આ બાબતને પોતાના સંસ્કાર પરના કાળા ડાઘ તરીકે જુએ. પછી પેદા થાય છે ડર: “સમાજ શું કહેશે?” ઘણા મા-બાપ, તેમને મનોચિકિત્સકો પાસે લઇ જઇને ડ્રગઝ કે શોક ટ્રીટમેન્ટ દ્વારા તેમનો ‘ઉપચાર’ કરવાના પ્રયત્નો કરવામાં આવે છે, જે સ્પષ્ટરૂપે નિષ્ફળ જાય છે.

આપણે સમલૈંગિકતાને પ્રતિબંધિત કરતી વખતે સંમતિ-અસંમતિના ખ્યાલને ભૂલી જ જઇએ છીએ. બે પુખ્ત વયની સંમત મહિલાઓની જૈવીક ઇચ્છાઅો પર આપણે સવાલ શી રીતે ઉઠાવી શકીએ? શું પ્રકૃતિની બનાવટ અપ્રાકૃતિક હોઈ શકે? આપણા પ્રાચીન શાસ્ત્રોમાં અને હેરિટેજ સાઇટ્સ પર સમલૈંગિકતા અને જાતીય પ્રવાહિતાના પ્રમાણ-પુરાવા જોવા મળે જ છે. ૧૯૩૦માં ઝવેરચંદ મેઘાણીએ આ વિષય પર આધારિત ‘નિરંજન’ નામની એક નવલકથા લખી હતી. છેલ્લા કેટલાક વર્ષોમાં બોલીવૂડના અનેક કલાકારોએ પણ સમલૈંગિક પાત્રો ભજવ્યા છે. રાજનીતિક પાર્ટીઓ અને કટ્ટર ધાર્મિક સંગઠનો તેને ‘પશ્ચિમી પ્રભાવના લક્ષણ’ જણાવીને પ્રતિબંધિત કરવા યોગ્ય ગણી લે છે.

પણ માતા-પિતા અને પરિવાર? તેઓ જાગૃતિના અભાવ અને સમાજના વધુ પડતા પ્રભાવ તેમજ ડરને કારણે આ વિશે બોલતાં કે સ્વીકારતાં સંકોચ અનુભવે છે, આ સમજાય એવું છે. કશુંક વિચારી કે સમજી ન શકવું એ કંઇ ગુનો નથી. પણ જે સમજી ન શકીએ, એનો આવો કઠોરતાથી વિરોધ કરવો એ અન્યાય છે.

 

City Bhaskar Aarti Nair

Homosexuality, Lack of Understanding and the Agitation

Last Wednesday, two women in Mumbai, who were said to be in a relationship and attempted suicide after they were spotted on Marine Drive by the girl’s father and were forbidden from seeing each other. While one of them died, the other survived after she was rushed to the hospital.

India is a land where women’s bodies, sexuality and life choices are tightly reined in by familial and social pressures. If you’re a lesbian, it is a double trouble: You are a woman and you are homosexual. Section 377 of IPC criminalises homosexuality and hence cases of extortion, physical abuse by the police, discrimination in schools, hospitals, mistreatment by goons in public, in general, is not uncommon. Indian parents see it as a question on their sanskara. And then comes fear: What will the society think? They take them to psychiatrists who would prescribe electric shock treatments and drugs to cure them.

When we reject homosexuality, we forget the angle of consent. How can we question biological desires of two consenting adults? Our mythology and heritage sites depict evident homosexuality and gender fluidity. In the 1930s, Jhaverchand Meghani had written ‘Niranjan’ a full-fledged novel on the subject. Bollywood actors have sportingly played homosexual roles. Political parties and religious extremist groups rejoice while calling it simply a ‘western’ influence that needs to be abolished.

But parents and family? It is rather understandable that Indian Parents find it awkward to talk about this or accept it, especially with the lack of awareness and the overbearing influence of the society. It is okay to not be able to imagine or understand something. It is a different thing to stand against what you don’t understand.

 

(What do you think about this? Would love to know. Comment here or mail it to at rtnair91@gmail.com. If you like what I write, make sure you FOLLOW the blog.)

No offence but What the Sindoor?

Sindoor, Mangal Sutra, Red Bindi, Huge Green/Red Bangles and Ring in the middle finger- are some of the societal customs that signify that a woman is married. This is not a feminist rant. But two valid questions to think about:

1. Why exactly do we need anything that signifies a married person?
2. And if we really do, why exactly don’t we have such things for men?

23.png
Bangles and Sindoor: Just for reference

 

And if you don’t find a valid answer, please- Think. These customs were perhaps made according to some thoughts by the people in the previous generation. I could call them mysoginists, and we could debate meaninglessly over that. But there’s no point (apart from historical analysis) in trying to find logic in that. But in today’s day and age, there’s no logic why these systems should exist today. We generally put marks and symbols on what we own, like our house or our cows, dogs, other cattle and pets. For a fact, a man does not own his wife so evidently there need not be any symbol representing a married woman.  Continue reading “No offence but What the Sindoor?”