Saturday, November 22, 2008

They know the city ain't what it used to be!

Last night I was getting back home at about 2 a.m. in a cab. From Colaba to Worli, in Mumbai. Am a city girl and I have nothing to worry, right?
Just then a government car passes my cab, slows down and stops. A constable with a notepad in hand, gets off and stops us. He comes towards us and takes my name and number, asks me where I live and makes a note of it.
I asked him what he needed this info for but he didn't answer. I wasn't doing anything wrong so I wasn't nervous one bit, I insisted. Finally he relented and said, "Sir, (an IPS officer) in the car asked him to do so, just wanted to ensure the cabwallah would take me home, safe and sound.
I tried to be polite and thank him but I couldn't help smirking!

Like us, they know the city really ain't what it used to be.
Should we be afraid? Am I being stupid coming home that late by myself?
Reminds me, what's happening to the Sowmya Vishwanathan Case?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I don’t want to go to school today. Taliban might spray me with acid.

Prompted by the spate of acid attacks on women in Noida, in my last post, I wondered what makes acid attacks so common in India. I dug a little deeper and found this piece
Acid attacks, they say here, originated in the neighboring Bangladesh. Indian (and Pakistani) men simply ran with the idea!

While most of the attacks in South Asia have been somewhat personal in nature – a spurned lover, a pissed off ex-boyfriend and so on, Islamic fundamentalism has given acid-throwing a new dimension. As part of their agenda to oppress women, well-planned, brutal, acid attacks on groups of women – outside schools, colleges or local hangouts - in Kashmir, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan have been on the rise.

The recent attack on a group of young innocent Afghan girls is horrific. Their crime? Going to school, trying to rebuild their lives, dreaming of a future free of violence and terror…

Members of Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW) say in an article here:
“We believe that the only way to stop acid attacks is to root out the patriarchy behind them, the culture of silencing women who speak out.”

Rooting out patriarchy and the Taliban might take time, what about little girls who want to go to school during this period…

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Acid attacks, honour killings or mob fury? Take your pick!

As a Fightback member, I have found recent news reports to be quite disheartening.

Acid attacks are back! Most acid attacks on women are by spurned lovers but this is different. In Delhi, a mad man is on a rampage throwing acid on any woman on the street.

Makes me wonder, how can these attacks be so peculiar to India? What is it about our society that makes a man want to disfigure a woman permanently because she rejects his overtures? Reminds me of the much-used dialogue in bollywood films – "Tum meri nahin hosakti, toh mein tumhein kisi aur ki nahin hone dungaa". If art imitates life, I think we should ask ourselves, what is up with us?

It's time for change...

Change reminds me of the Obama win. As a bunch of us at Fightback watched thousands of men and women huddled to watch Obama speak at the Chicago victory rally, somebody said, "Would this be possible in India?"

While some of us discussed politics, the rest of us talked about gender violence. Imagine being a woman in India and joining a mob, a procession or a victory rally like the one at Chicago. Sends a shiver down my spine! I can only imagine the kind of groping that a woman would have to endure.

While I sit in an urban Indian city, sip on my latte and shudder at the thought of being groped, my Indian sisters are being killed for "dishonouring" their families. Two sisters were killed by their cousin for eloping with their boyfriends in Noida. The cousin, a young 20 year-old boy, is said to be "unrepentant".

Most definitely, its time for change!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Predictability of the Kandhamal Rape

Are men “wired” to just rape given an opportunity? I know it sounds absurd but how else can you explain the rape of millions of women across the world in times of crisis.

During the end of the World War II, 2 million German women are said to have been raped by the Soviets and the allied forces. "A Woman in Berlin" is a new movie based on this .

Here’s another feature on the crimes against women in Congo, where a raging civil war is destroying the country:
Recently, Indian Peacekeeping forces deployed in Congo have been accused of sexually abusing the women there.

Rape has been used as a weapon in times of crisis across the world, rape is not just a consequence of violence but is consciously used as a strategy.
Amnesty International has a detailed report on this

Various events in India’s past and present are testimony to this. Women have been raped during the partition era. This is also true of the ongoing caste wars in our villages where “untouchable” Dalit women are raped. This is true of the Godhra Carnage; this is true of the most recent Kandhamal Violence, where a nun was raped by Hindu Fundamentalists. Where a man from the mob screamed "At least a hundred men should rape her" while the police, allegedly, looked the other way.

The Anandita Mishras of India

Post the Pune Rape case where a young single woman, working for a BPO and living by herself, was raped by her colleagues, many single women working in Pune came out with horror stories of how they were considered easy targets by their male colleagues because they were staying alone.

I remember this one woman’s story in the Hindustan Times every time I look at a Maggi Noodle pack! This young woman had tried her best to hide from her small-minded colleagues that she had no family in Pune but a mega, ‘supersaver’ Maggi Noodles pack – a refuge for many singletons with no time to cook - gave her away. And from then on the comments and sleazy remarks from her male colleagues began. “Can I drop you home?”, “Don’t you feel lonely?”.

I have noticed, in Bombay too, the first time you meet a guy he’s aching to know if you stay “alone”. “Are you a PG?” (Bombay parlance for “living by yourself”) is his second question after “What’s your name?”

While it’s too early to comment on the murder of the 31-year-old Reliance Employee, Anandita Mishra, there are whispers that she was an ‘easy’ target because she was a divorcee who lived with an aging mother and a spastic child!

I am reminded of the grim reality – that single working women in India, living away from their homes – are still not given the due respect they deserve. They’re independent, brave and ambitious, and represent the new Indian woman. But there is a very big chunk of this country that’s filled with bigots (both male and female) resistant to change. And in a country of a billion and counting, that’s millions and millions of mindsets to change.

“Fight-Back” has a long road ahead…

"You should not be so adventurous…"

Every member of Fight-Back should strongly oppose the very irresponsible statement made by the Delhi CM in connection with the murder of Soumya Visvanathan. Not only is it a ratification of a stupid cultural stereotype but it also reflects the total apathy of the governing system in our country. Instead of constructive engagement, we are presented with regressive thinking. This is in the same bracket as common cliches like " You deserved to be eve teased, you wore a short skirt.." ...or "You were asking to be raped" ...

It also reinforces Delhi's unholy reputation of being the anti-woman capital of India. Even the most powerful woman in Delhi thinks that Delhi is an unsafe space, the system believes the status quo is overwhelming. We can only guard ourselves against gender violence, we cannot fight it.

It is upto all of us to prove them wrong.

We MUST be adventurous. We must live, we must be free. If we succumb to fear, we will live in fear.

A woman, man or child has the right to travel home at 3 am. The CM is wrong.

Zubin Driver

Founder, FIGHT-BACK.