Ramblings of a pseudo-feminist – Syed Aziz Farhan JSIA

1123-Womens-Rights-Group-Still-Hate-Chris-Brown-1Yes, the word sounded so good. I would call myself a feminist henceforth. Maybe the chicks would dig it. Chicks- yeah that’s what it is- funny way to call women. Oh! But am I not a feminist now so no more of that. But women don’t mind being called chicks or do they? How do you think they’d scream at us, “You are men, you would never understand how it is being a woman” Now being one who claims to understand or empathizes with women, I must at least try. It is common for men to bleat about not understanding women, but is this because they have simply never tried, or because society has trained them to never look at life through the eyes of a woman?

So like I said let’s keep myself in their shoes and see the world.

What do or should they see around? And at that moment a realization struck. Everything around seemed weird:  the ads on newspapers and on television. How I wonder that a car, a bike, a soda, a slipper in that matter of fact helps a guy in finding a mate, a woman. Every advertisement features a woman with a thing, which she is not even remotely related to. Advertising a random sofa? Put a girl on it. A bed sheet? Ditto. Are they commodities? Then why the random linkage?  Is it because this twisted society wants to tell us that women are objects, not subjects?  Why are the rap songs that degrade and insult and call women by an animal’s name without a second thought so popular? “I did it for the hood, cars, jewelry and women” all in the same breath. No thought given. Even the pop songs are starting to join the same league.

Coming closer to home. When an attack on a woman happens, we all raise our voices and ask for it to stop. Who is to blame? Do we in our lives and actions respect women? Are we really bothered how everything is being sexualized? Why do your alcohol ads always feature masculinity or getting a woman? What have we done in our part in respecting women? How is that such incidents in the newspaper are reported nearly every day and we don’t give a blink unless and until it’s near our homes. Where are we heading?

Most guys would say ‘yeah look at her legs (or back or whatever)’. Brothers! She is a human, a living person. Not a piece of mutton to look at in pieces. Respect. It’s easy for us guys to stare at any girl. It’s harder to keep your eyes down and show some modesty. Don’t ogle as if it’s a new bike or a car. Getting attention is way different from being stared at. She a person not a thing, they have emotions. What are we becoming? We were born in a particular manner- the head, the heart, the digestive organs and the genitalia. Our lives must also be directed in such a manner. Utmost importance to gaining knowledge, thinking and using the brains, then loving your people and other good emotions, eating and enjoying your food and then lust. But what has happened now? Look around, everyone is only bothered about getting some action, dressing up, working out -everything for the opposite sex: as if the most important thing is to mate, then gluttony, emotions then may or may not play a major part in this society; do we have the heart for the poor, the indignant, the ones in need and finally brains-thinking and original thought- those are long forgotten. Reconfigure your lives.

No! We must realize it needs to stop. But in this complex society one wouldn’t and couldn’t expect a sudden sea of change. But thoughtful drops could fill an ocean. The assaults against women wouldn’t stop by better policing but by change in attitude. A willful and conscious effort to understand and behave could be for the better.

But where do I really stand. I came to this thought through an experimental stumble. The intentions that led me here were themselves misguided. I tell other men to imagine her as “somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, or somebody’s sister,” it never occurring to me that maybe, just maybe, a woman is also just a “somebody”.

Under such a fake façade, am I, in a patriarchal society, worthy of being a feminist? Not anymore.

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Sold Off In Marriage – Joanna Barretto and Radhika Goel BA LLB 2012

Child-Rights-ActThe room was hot and stuffy. I could hear the noises of vehicles as they whizzed past the dingy office. I could hear men talk in loud voices, as I waited for someone to attend to my need. Sitting there, my mind began to wander, and I thought of my days at home. Those wonderful memories seemed to be from a past I barely recognized now. I was soon forced to set my thoughts aside when I heard a thud on the table. Seeing a burly policeman sitting in front of me, fear griped me. I proceeded nonetheless to recount my recent horrors, in the hope that this would soon end.

Life had taken a turn for the worse when my father passed away, forcing me to drop out of school and work instead. My mother felt that working as a domestic help would be a good option since I was only thirteen and also because it ensured a regular income. Hence, my mother signed me up at a recruiting agency, in the hope that I would soon be employed. My mother’s prayers were answered in a week when I was informed of the household that I would be working for on a 24X7 basis. On the appointed day, I was taken to the house, to begin my work. However, in a few days, I was sent to another house, and that is when the real nightmare began.

I supposed I was to work in this new house instead of the previous one. How erroneous my belief tuned out to be, when instead of working for him, I was made to marry him. I was thirteen and he was thirty-two. Life as I knew had changed drastically within the span of one week. I knew no one, nor what was expected of me. I was all alone in a strange new place. With no one to turn to for help or advice, I silently did as I was told. If my days were bad, my nights were far worse. He usually came home angry and frustrated with his work, and would vent out his anger on me. I thought it was all part of my job, and bore it silently, believing that I would be paid at the end of the month as I had been told. However, it had been four months, and I had not received any money.

I wondered if it was because my mother was given the money instead. Sometimes I wondered if she knew where I was. With so much work to do during the day and the abuse I received during the night, I never had much time to ponder on these questions. The only time I had left to myself was when he fell asleep after hours of violence. The physical violence often left my body numb. I could not cry since crying would only make the bruises on my face burn, and I could not bear any more pain. With each passing night, my only prayer was to have the strength to face another day. I wondered if there would ever be a way out.

My body had soon reached its limit and I knew I could take no more of this pain. The only way to beat this solitude was by leaving the house. The risk was high since running away meant I would never receive the income I had been promised. However, I knew if I did stay on longer, I would only be put through more pain. That was when I decided I would leave the house while he was out on work during the day. What started as a thought soon culminated into action when one afternoon he left the house, forgetting to lock the door after him. Seizing this opportunity, I ran in the hope of being rescued.

My head felt lighter as I sighed. I was still terrified, but the look on the policeman’s face was reassuring. He had noted down almost everything I said, and promised to not only take me home, but also punish the man who had put me through so much pain. He asked where my house was. I then remembered what my father once said- “home is where someone is thinking of you.” My mind was soon filled with the memories of my family, and I felt at ease, believing I would soon be going home. I was then accompanied by two women to a room where I was asked to rest. Knowing that my mother was waiting for me, I did something I hadn’t been able to do in a long time- I smiled.

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SHOULD JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT BE AMENDED? – Rakshita Poddar and Rahat Dhawan BA LLB 2012

images (4)Meting out “exemplary punishment” to juveniles (those below 18 years of age) involved in heinous crimes, such as rape and murder, by amending the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

The petition, filed by an advocate Salil Bali, pleaded that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, needs amendment, as it does not talk about the physical or mental maturity of a juvenile.

It gives license to all matured, cruel type of persons under the age of 18 years to live with full impunity and commit any crime of any level and walk scot free only on the basis of their age being less than 18 years and being covered under the Act, Bali said in his petition. He submitted that the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and Rules, fixing the age of juvenile at 18 years, violated Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.

The protest comes in the wake of an order passed by the Juvenile Justice Board in New Delhi on August 31 directing a 17-year-old convict in the gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student to undergo three years, the maximum tenure prescribed under the JJ Act, in a correctional home.

Therefore, The protestors called for more stringent punishment to the offender.

T. Hilda Mary, State Committee member of AIMSS, told The Hindu that it was unfair to order a juvenile to be lodged in a correctional home for petty crimes such as theft as well as heinous crimes such as rape and murder. “Ordering a rape convict to spend just three years in a correctional home is not going to deter others from committing crimes against women, “Case in support: – In July, 2010, a 26-year-old youth, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Tirunelveli sessions court as well as the High Court in a triple murder case, was ordered to be released by the High Court Bench after it was proved through a habeas corpus petition that he was only 17 years, 7 months and 8 days old on March 3, 2001, the day when he murdered three people.

In my opinion, the scenario is changing day by day. So, the law should keep up with the changing times. Children nowadays are exposed to crime and violence via media. The entertainment industry projects women as objects of pleasure. Children imitate what they see. In films, a hero comes and rescues the damsel in distress. In real life, they know there are no heroes, and hence they think they can get away easily. What is required is speedy justice for the victims and not just candle marches. The amendment should be specific and it should not be left at the discretion of the judge to take a decision based on circumstances and gravity of individual offences.

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre and Delhi government on a PIL seeking amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act to make an exception for non-applicability of the Act for minor accused if they are involved in grave offences.

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Him She Couldn’t Beat. – Krishal Morjaria BA LLB 2012

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The girl boarded the crowded bus,

She walked, Head down, among-st the fuss,
She sat on the “ladies” seat, lowered her sight,
But her chin was up, posture upright.

For having the ‘Reserved’ seat so lucky she felt,
Just then her keys dropped, she knelt,
On getting up, she saw a man staring at her
But she kept quiet, as she’ll have to, forever.

She kept quiet, didn’t speak
Because HIM, she couldn’t beat..

She alighted from the bus, went into the house,
There she saw her god, her boss, her spouse.
She lowered her sight again, started with the dusting,
Just then the cloth hit the vase, dropping it, shattering!

She froze. Her muscles didn’t even flex.

Her body was still, her soul shivering,
Because she knew what was next.

Then it started, the slapping, beating, violating

She was covered in blood, but she didn’t speak

Cause HIM, she couldn’t beat..

The husband was drunk, she had to flee,

She was far away, but not free,
She knew the solace was temporary,
Just then, she entered an alien street.
A man stood there, by all means, shady,

He looked at his feast for the day, the pretty lady,

He called his friends, they tore her clothes off,
They violated her, but she kept herself steady.

They raped her, over and over, but she didn’t speak
Because HIM, she couldn’t beat..

She couldn’t even prove the gruesome crime,
The court asks for “four male witnesses” present during the time,
A background check will be done on her, (not on the men!)
And then in the courtroom, with questions, she’ll be raped again.

She lay on the ground, beaten and defeated,
Her body was covered in blood.
Her desire to live vanished, she gave up,
Now, at last, she’s free as a bird!

She remained silent to her grave, didn’t speak
Because THEM, she couldn’t beat..

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Human Trafficking – Anvi Sood BA LLB 2012

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All over the world people are trapped in human trafficking – a violation of their human rights. Unaccompanied children, migrants and the economically disadvantaged are most at risk. None of the countries are free of its practice, today. In the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (adopted by United Nation in Palermo, Italy in 2000), Article 3 paragraph (a) defines “Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”1 In the definition, there are three stages explained. First, The Act (what is done); includes recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons. Second, The Means (How is it done); includes the threat and use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power of vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to the one in control of the victim. The third and the last is The Purpose (why is it done); for the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.

The step that these practices result to take is the criminalization of trafficking. It is imperative that different spheres shall be recognized and the act be criminalized accordingly. It is because in certain cases there is either no direct involvement of one or there have been mere attempts to bring forward the deed for personal benefits. Further, domestic legislations and even the Protocol cited are required to be included. Also, the National legislation must consider the above-mentioned issue, as trafficking is prevalent since ages across countries or borders, which makes the situation even worse as it is nearly impossible to affect the main roots in any way.

There have been a number of well renowned organizations like United Nations, Polaris Project, etc. are established to eradicate the practice, help the survivors or the victims, provide care to them, help them revive and relive. The term ‘Modern Day Slaves’ is what the ‘preys’ to the crime are termed in today’ time. Many girls at the young ages of twelve, thirteen or even less are forced to become prostitutes. A very small village, Natpurwa in Uttar Pradesh is an apt example here. This village has a tradition of prostitution of 5000 people for 400 years. The daughters of the families are supposed to work as sex workers as their family expects it from them. Mentally the girls have been trapped to choose any other profession. Girls from here are sent to Dubai and Mumbai often. One of the women, who had the courage to reject the old-practiced tradition and decided to marry, Chandralekha said, “The men are used to eating off the women, they will not let their source of income dry out.”2 This also shows how people in the world behave selfish for survival. There are no family ties that could stop any female of the family to every time drop in the well.

Here it can be felt that there is a desperate need to make proper legislations and implementation of them as the problem is prevailing in most of the parts of the world. An awakening is required and people need to realize that by making women indulge in the activities by force, does not show courage. It is ruing humanity. Further, positive education is required to be provided to each one so that such a mindless practices are abolished, forever, to make the environment a completely healthy place to live in.

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UNREALISTIC AND STEREOTYPED PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN INDIAN CINEMA – SAGUN SINGH BA LLB 2012

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Cinema in India has always been greatly influential over society. Movies sway the Indian society in different ways, and impact individuals’ personal lives. Be it the clothes they wear, the way in which they speak, their social behavior, is all affected by commercial Bollywood films directly or indirectly. As India is a country abundant with diverse cultures, it has its share of regional film industries like the Big Bollywood (north Indian cinema, mainly), Tollywood (Telugu Cinema), Kollywood (Tamil cinema), etc. All the movies that these film industries produce are revered to the point of idol worship in some cases (the venerable Rajnikanth). There is no ambiguity as to the entertainment such films provide, but it is often at the cost of women’s intelligence and dignity.

A factor common to all regional industries and Bollywood is the unrealistic and stereotyped portrayal of women. It can be argued that women are portrayed in much the same way in all Indian media. That this portrayal is entirely sexist is abundantly clear.

Female characters in Bollywood are more often than not stereotyped as dumb, mindless creatures with only sexual gratification to offer. Objectification of women, as sexual objects is very common in commercial Indian movies. There are countless examples of such stereotypes. The most common stereotype is the Love interest. The main actress or ‘heroine’ is almost always portrayed as the Hero’s love interest and has little else to do in the movie except please the hero with her beauty and romance. This stereotype is so common that it is not questioned. The heroine is never portrayed as an individual with intellect, her ideas and thoughts pertaining to anything other than romance or family are not portrayed.

Another characteristic of this stereotype is virginity. The heroine’s virginity is placed on a pedestal and her chastity is considered to be a requisite to respecting a woman. The unchaste and brazen women, who are shown to be sexually active, are generally characterized as negative characters, a degradation to women’s sexuality.

This degradation of women is escalated by the infamous ‘Item Songs’ of Bollywood, which is another very common women’s stereotype. Characterization of women as Sexual objects of desire is the objective in these songs: Munni badnaam hui, Sheila ki jawani, chikni chameli. Skimpily clad actresses dancing to the tune of vulgar and anti-feminist lyrics seems to be the norm in any popular Bollywood movie. Some believe in the argument that item songs celebrate the sexuality of a woman. But this is certainly not the case. Celebrating a woman’s sexuality would be portraying her sexual freedom: the main lead heroine would be portrayed to be a non-virgin or a sexually active individual, who society accepts. Another terrible disrespect women suffer is that they are labeled as ‘item girls’, as the term ‘item’ is a disrespectful slang referring to a vulgar woman. Perhaps the most worrying aspect to this objectification of women by the Indian film industry is that women are playing a major role in degrading their own feminine spirit, by agreeing to be classified as ‘item girls’ and consciously playing such roles in movies which require them to act as mere objects of sexual desire and not as intellectual individuals.

It is true that Indian cinema has produced various mainstream women centric films that have featured women’s social issues and their social and sexual abuse. Fashion, Heroine, PAGE 3, Corporate or Dirty Picture have been very successful commercially and feature women as the main protagonists in the movie. However, a common theme runs throughout these movies which show successful women: women are almost always portrayed to be prone to failure and fall prey to social evils like alcohol, drugs, when they earn success in life. It can be inferred that such movies portray women as weak characters who get ruined by the freedom that is accompanied by success.

Even in critically acclaimed movies that portray women as victims of social or sexual abuse, like Water, or Damini, women are always portrayed as victims of abuse, who, need assistance from men to escape such conditions. Therefore, even such so-called ‘women-centric’ films are not free from gender stereotypes.

In a deep contrast, movies like Nayak , Deewar , Sholay , Krissh , Lakshya, Singham that have strong male characters as protagonists, celebrate men in the roles of alpha males who triumph over social and political evils, and achieve their goals independently. This stark contrast delivers a message to the society which essentially declares that women can never be equal to men, either socially, or politically.

In films, it is generally seen that some dialogues gain a somewhat landmark status. The dialogues of a movie reflect the popular culture of a society at that period of time. We have all heard the famous ‘Mere pass maa hai’, however, other dialogues such as ‘jaa choodiyan pehen ke beth jaa’ (go wear bangles and sit down, implying that a woman is incapable and useless) are frequently used in films and resonate the message that women are intellectually and socially inferior to men.

Indians subconsciously or consciously believe that movies are a reflection of the Indian society.  Therefore, it can be surmised that stereotyped portrayals of women in movies is contributing to rampant sexism prevailing in India.

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Shadism. One world. Many colours. – Subhojit Das BA LLB 2013

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Reminiscing childhood, I recalled once a distant relative asking a friend of mine, “How come your sister has such light skin and you’re so dark?”

What exactly is Shadism? It is a form of skin tone bias that identifies groups and individuals on the basis of their skin pigmentation.  It tends to override distinctions of class, gender, religion, and ethnic origin, with members of the society basing skin color as the most important parameter for judging other members of society. It is not only an international phenomenon but also local. It is rather difficult to comprehend as to why people are judged on the basis of their skin since it’s a genetic, racial or geographical phenomenon.

Shadism in India can be termed as colorism. Social scientists have recently coined a term called ‘pigmentocracy’ which encapsulates the basic idea that in some societies, wealth and social status are determined by skin colour. Throughout the numerous pigmentocracies across the world, the lightest-skinned peoples have the highest social status, followed by the brown-skinned, and finally the black-skinned who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy. This form of prejudice often results in reduced opportunities for those who are discriminated against on the basis of skin colour.

The idea that skin colour must define status did not originate in Hindu mythology, contrary to popular belief. In Mahabharata, one of the two great epics of the religion, Lord Krishna is not fair skinned yet considered as an epitome of beauty. His skin is bluish-black in colour and still manages to catch the fancy of the maidens. Similarly, Lord Shiva, considered the Destroyer, has similar physical features which are regarded as ideal for men. However, just like in every other sphere, the perception of beauty differs between gods and goddesses. While Durga was the embodiment of justice and beauty with her fair skin, Kali was shown as the destroyer, her dark skin conveying the nature of her immense anger and destruction. In Ramayana, Ram is the archetype of princely beauty and is fair skinned. Hence, It can be said that certain parameters of beauty were present in ancient Indian societies, though their presence was subtle and their cogency unconvincing.

From the onset of her birth, the life of a woman is destined to be a story of struggle, irrespective of her caste, class (social and economic) or country. While a woman aspires for an identity other than being the daughter, wife or mother of someone in this world, the pattern society sets for her to be followed. Shadism is just one of the numerous discriminations a woman has to face.

In present times, the skin-whitening-cream industry is on a full scale boom due to the average Indian’s perception that whiter skin equals beauty. Any sort of darkness, pigmentation, mark or scar of any kind that prevents a person from having absolutely flawless fair skin is considered an anomaly and is seen as a hindrance by people on their way to success. To counter these ‘problems’, easy ‘solutions’ are provided.

These ‘solutions’ basically come in the form of cheap skin whitening creams whose dermatological effects are highly doubtful, but their tremendous palliative effect on the psychology of the average Indian, on the other hand, is not lost.

The advertisements for such fairness products are grossly misleading. For boys, these creams are touted as keys to the gates of fancy pertaining to the opposite sex and also as a recipe of fame. For girls, fairer whiter skin is assumed to open all sorts of doors- both professional and personal: they are shown to find jobs easily and climb up the social ladder faster with fairer skin than with darker tones and even the dark skinned girl starts getting innumerable marriage proposals when her skin lightens. Fairness is a booming business in India, one with serious psychological ramifications.

It is indeed ironical that even dark skinned actors endorse skin lightening products. For example, Shah Rukh Khan, the baadshah of Bollywood- the Hindi film industry- advertises several skin whitening products even though the skin tone of the actor himself is wheatish. A powerful message is conveyed: ‘a lighter skin tone enhances chances of social and professional successes’. The actresses of the industry of course are mostly white skinned, which is almost always a requisite for women to break into the industry.

At an international level, the recent crowning of Miss America, Nina Davuluri speaks volumes. She, apparently, is too ‘Indian’ to be Miss America or even Miss India for that matter: Davuluri is dark-skinned. In India, where skin colour is a national obsession, it is highly unlikely for one to see someone of her complexion in a pageant, much less winning one. As a dark skinned Indian male, I can speak for myself, but shadism is a very real thing that still exists in this world.

We are in the 50th year of Martin Luther king’s soul stirring speech – ‘I have a dream’ and the world celebrates its significance as we speak. In that age defining speech one particular line still catches our fancy – ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.’

It is indeed sad that fifty years have passed and yet that dream is far from being realised.

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