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Atrocities Of The ‘Free World’ On Modern Day Women, And The Way Forward

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By Arati Nair:

As children, we’ve all heard tales of birds once trapped in a cage, set free to fly high, and the underlying moral of the glorious significance of freedom for all. Sadly, freeing birds everywhere would be too hard a task, and someplace else another group remains trapped within the miserable confines of another cage.

One billion rising

This bizarre analogy uncannily resembles one that is playing out in real life, a macabre recreation of a long forgotten fable. Over the last couple of years, when the expected apocalypse of 2012 failed to befall humanity, an insanity of the most violent order instead took root in our psyche. The burgeoning cases of crimes against women attest to this fact. Apparently, pitching vacation tents in Mars is a much easier task than addressing the blatant disregard for half of the world’s teeming population. While indignation has steadfastly grown, the practical aspects of legislation that can bring about accountability in such cases remain low.

Women, though a neglected race, have always been the driving forces of any developed country. Development and empowerment are twin peas in a pod. The spate of killings and abductions in Abuja, Nigeria, the attack on Malala Yousafzai, the ancient Kunan-Poshpora incident brushed under the rug, and more recently the rape and lynching of two cousins in Uttar Pradesh, followed by similar horrifying incidents in different parts of the state and the country point not only to the callous insensitivity that has pervaded the worldly law and order system, but put our own self-proclaimed morals and tradition to shame.

The social media is flooded with analyses, debates and even theses on the causes and effects of such human-made tragedies, of how women are ill-treated and their voices muffled. These incidents are deliberately overlooked as commonplace in a society segregated by a zillion castes or as manifestations of the perverse cleansing ritual undertaken by the preservers of a religious order. While the obtuse explanations continue, it is high time we realized that social discord against one particular gender clearly portrays the glaring disparities present between the sexes. I sympathize with the advocates of equality for women; bridging the gulf is no small task, it is nearly impossible in today’s society.

Worldwide, rapes and other crimes against women are banished from mainstream discussions after an initial upsurge of sympathy and moral affront. The conviction rate for rape in India was a mere 24.2% in 2012, which indicates that more than three-fourth of the cases are either not reported or the perpetrators not convicted. Though conditions with regard to registering cases have improved over the last decade, this is in no way a panacea to the problem.

The initiative for a conducive environment that does not immediately dismiss rape statistics as unreliable, criminalises marital rape and openly discusses problems faced by women will come about only through strong legislation. However, an awareness among men to educate them of the forgotten role of women and the benevolence expected from members of the same species could be the breeze that turns the tide. Of course, sex education at the school level can be pivotal, but equally pertinent is the role of upbringing of boys at home. Women should be respected for being themselves, not idolised for the sacrifices that their part as mother or wife or sister entails or lusted after for their salacious portrayal in various entertainment media

In light of the Badaun incident, improved sanitation facilities are to be ensured in all villages and places of remote access in India. A commendable first step – one that came too late. Framing laws relevant to the socio-politico-economic circumstances should be introduced well before disasters of such mammoth proportions come to be. The legislative and administrative machinery must have the political wherewithal to draft unyielding laws when crimes of human rights violation are involved. A stringent judiciary for speedy redressal of cases concerning the same must work in tandem to slow down, if not halt, the swelling growth of such violent crimes.

These proclamations may sound in tune with the wild musings of a rabid feminist. The hollow promises of vote-seekers, the contemptible use of women empowerment as a tool to reap greater political dividends, empathy and sympathy showered in heaps over victims of abominable crimes and a quick amnesia when it comes to deliverance and accountability, spell out the writing on the wall. The only solution can be a quiet introspection to gauge the magnitude of the havoc wreaked. Let us hope that the gilded cage of even the modern and empowered woman holds strong against the atrocities of a free world. Freedom for them might be sweet, but that is how all forbidden fruits seem.

To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @Arati_Nair

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  1. Babar

    From this blog it seems like either men don’t exist in India, or that they don’t have problems at all. Last year, excluding West Bengal, approximately 40,000 women and 80,000 men committed suicide. That is twice as many men as women. A man in India commits suicide approximately every 6 minutes, which is depressing and alarming to say the least. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-saw-135445-suicides-last-year/article4849710.ece We have these so called reports about how India is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to live in (by people who fail to look in their own backyard), but no one ever laments how India is, in reality, one of the most dangerous countries in the world for men to live in.

    Economic pressure is probably the main reason for suicides among men in India as they know the only option for them is to study, get a job, and earn money. Along with that, the draconian Indian laws have led to an increase in the suicide rate among men, where a woman simply has to accuse a man of abusing her, physically or sexually, with little evidence, if any, and land him behind bars. False cases of rape, dowry, and domestic violence take the lead, which never seem to be a subject of discussion among people. What’s worse is that there is no punishment for women who falsely accuse innocent men of crimes they have not committed. Also, it is a fact that men are also victims of rape and face domestic violence at the hands of women. A woman’s portrayal as the ‘abla nari’ has not helped, for women’s cruelty can be seen in the violence they perpetrate on their domestic help and daughters-in-law, and of course, their husbands.

    Do we even care about the number of innocent men rotting in Indian jails at the hands of cruel and greedy women?

    1. Arati Nair

      You’ll notice how I’ve mentioned that all crimes of ‘human’ violation need to be punished, irrespective of gender. This article is not an attempt to trivialize the problems faced by men, but to highlight the plight of women. As for being falsely accused, it is a situation faced by both men and women. You’ll agree that the many women locked up in jails everywhere are not all criminal masterminds. A few of them too, are wrongly implicated. I agree that the legislators in our country have devised laws in favour of women to a certain extent. However, this is merely the reflection of the magnitude of discrimination being faced by them.

      In many cases of sexual violence against men or women, the perpetrators are usually men.

      Do men face the hassle of being eve-teased, objectified or even openly groped while making use of public transport? Do they face the impending threat of an acid attack for having spurned the advances of a man? Do they have to be extra careful in public changing rooms and frantically carry out mirror tests and check for CCTV cameras? Do they carry around pepper sprays while commuting not just at night, but also in broad daylight? Do they face the curse of being killed just for being born? Do they get special seats (just like handicapped/disabled) reserved for them because of their shining ‘abala’ status? Do they face the threat of being killed/burnt alive/mutilated (not just falsely implicated in a case) for bringing in less dowry? The list will go on.

      I’ve written this article merely to bring to light some problems faced by my gender. I can relate to a few of those mentioned here. Many more cases of women being harassed/violated are being registered, because it is only now that they’ve gathered the courage to come forward and have their voices heard. I wouldn’t be able to empathise enough to write about the difficulties of men in a similar vein. I urge you to do so, which could really serve as an eye-opener, not just for me but also for many others.

    2. Babar

      > I sympathize with the advocates of equality for women; bridging the gulf is no small task, it is nearly impossible in today’s society.What do you think?

      Men were the ones who were victims of slavery and racism, and those being killed in war. Even today, men protect the borders of our country so that we can sleep in peace, and I believe that ‘we’ includes women.

      When the Titanic was sinking, it was men who said ” women and children first.” Why didn’t women then say that there should be equality and refuse to go first? Men did this knowing they will be dead and could have chosen to leave. On buses, airports, and other public places, why is it that if there is one seat available, it is the woman who is seated by her husband/boyfriend/brother. Why is that that men are asked to be ‘gentlemen’ and leave their seat for women in public places?

      Seats are reserved everywhere for women, from the bus to companies in the corporate world and then they cry gender bias. The arts and humanities faculty is filled with women, and then they talk about lack of job opportunities competing with men who have toiled for years for their Ph.D. Women who are good looking are often hired over men who are better qualified.

      Men work in the army, men work as construction workers, men work as coal miners, and throughout history men have worked dangerous jobs to feed and support women, often losing their limbs and their lives. If a woman so much as makes coffee for a husband, she is suppressed and oppressed. Women can make coffee in coffee shops for men, they can work as waitresses in restaurants and serve men, they can work as air hostesses in planes and serve men, but it is a heinous crime according to feminists if a woman is asked to serve her husband with a glass of water.

      If a woman is asked to cook food she is oppressed, but if a man rots in jail for years in a false rape case, there is not a single article to talk about the issue. If feminism is really about equality, then feminists should be talking about men’s rights in the same proportion that they talk about women’s rights, otherwise there is no equality.

      It is a fact that many women prefer to stay at home and become homemakers, because they enjoy the comfort and security of their homes. They get an education but without the intention of working in a professional job. And there are those who don’t want to study at all, who know that they will get married anyway and will have a husband to earn for them. Compare this with a man who knows that he has no option but to get an education and earn, so the statistics of men and women in the workforce are never going to show the reality. Of course, there are going to be more men in the workforce.

      In many families, where poor people have two children, one boy and one girl, they only have enough to educate one child, thus the reason why many girls are unable to get an education is because of financial restraints, not because of discrimination. Also, in many poor families, it is the boys who have to work as child labourers to support their parents, which means that hundreds of thousands of boys are also deprived of an education.

      Almost all inventions and scientific and medical discoveries that we benefit from today are a result of the hard work of men.

      I still have not been told why the 59 Nigerian boys who were slaughtered were not a subject of discussion on blogs or in the media. And if a man in India commits suicide every six minutes, then we really should be talking about their plight as well.

      http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-saw-135445-suicides-last-year/article4849710.ece

      Thank you.

    3. Arati

      I have nothing against men. Most men I’ve met are good people and everyone has quirks that may be good or bad (irrespective of gender). This is in no way a write-up about the character flaws of either sex or an analysis of the distribution of household chores.
      I’m appalled that you are seriously under the delusion that women are weak-willed, meek creatures who only fill the role of damsels in distress. Your assumptions that men work in the army and go to war, work as labourers, were victims of slavery and racism etc. are myopic, hollow and unreasonable. Since I’m constrained on the time front, I’ll rather satiate your curiosity in much the same way as you’ve done so far. I hope these will wake you up to the reality.

      http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW2.htm

      http://www.nationalww2museum.org/learn/education/for-students/ww2-history/at-a-glance/women-in-ww2.html

      http://www.economist.com/node/17900482

      And also, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/a-history-of-wrongs-against-women/article6108348.ece?utm_source=Most%20Popular&utm_medium=Opinion&utm_campaign=Widget%20Promo

      Since you’ve brought up Titanic http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/07/forget-titanic-women-and-children-rarely-first-off-sinking-ships/

      And, http://blogs.denverpost.com/titanic/2012/04/13/heroism-men-board-titanic-barb-womens-suffrage-movement/

      Instead of spewing vitriol about the cunning women who hoodwink gullible men, it’s time you spared a thought or two for the other side as well. As for the boys killed in Nigeria-who killed them really? Is the brain behind the extremist group secretly a woman?

      I rest my case.

    4. Monistaf

      Just because the perpetrators of the violence are men, does it, in your view, justify the lack of compassion or sympathy for crimes committed against men. You claim that you are “just” highlighting the plight of women. There in lies the problem of modern journalism that as a morbid obsession on violence against women, as if, violence against men is somehow more acceptable just because the perpetrators happen to be men, in most cases. Why is it so hard to write an article to campaign against ALL violence, regardless of the gender that perpetrates it or the gender that is victimized. There are definitely a lot more men who are victims of violence than women. When it comes to domestic violence and preservation of traditional gender roles, a good percentage of it is instigated and perpetrated by women as well.

    5. Arati Nair

      Violence of any kind ought to be condemned and stringent action taken against the perpetrators (irrespective of gender). I’m with you on this. However, that doesn’t necessarily put both sexes on an equal footing. Traditional gender roles notwithstanding, women are more vulnerable and susceptible to physical and sexual violence because they are not as physically strong as their male counterparts. This biological difference is, at times exploited. No matter the context of dispute, women are easily wielded as tools to settle a score between families/castes etc. This increasing trend of violence needs to be curbed. There have been numerous steps to ensure women empowerment, gender sensitization etc. and they’ve totally focused on ‘women’. But what results do we see? Until and unless BOTH genders understand the significance of each other and rise above petty ideologies that are meant to be divisive, no progress is possible.

      Also, my previous comment was a retaliation to the one above it, going on incessantly about how men have always looked out for women while the latter have conveniently overlooked their sacrifices and tortured them. When I say that men are the culprits behind MOST (not all) SEXUAL crimes, I’m referring specifically to only those perpetrators, not the entire male populace. Nowhere have I mentioned that men suffering under duress is okay. I write about women because violence against women by men is more widespread and a festering crisis that has failed to end – even with a hefty armour of myriad steps undertaken by governments all over the world. This does not trivialize the issues faced by men. They are relatively less constrained by societal norms to stand up for themselves. Millions of women continue to suffer the world over because of the shackles of morality, honour and sheer helplessness bind them. I can scream myself hoarse against an injustice done to me. How many women are actually able to do that? (Please think of the entire population, including the rural, the conservative, the orthodox and the hegemonial households/societies). Women are at a disadvantage. This isn’t morbid fascination. Just a fact, stated plainly with no ill intent. No offense of any sort was directed to anyone.

    6. Rotor63

      None of the articles shared above address the concerns that were brought forward here. I suggest you read the arguments first then try to counter it with RELEVANT data.
      “Your assumptions that men work in the army and go to war, work as labourers, were victims of slavery and racism etc. are myopic, hollow and unreasonable.”
      How is it unreasonable? None of the articles on women challenge the real concerns or even attempt to compare the effects of patriarchy on men as opposed to that. Rather interestingly, one of the pieces you shared talks about how women ” gave their sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers to the war effort “- as if men are neccessary sacrifices that you offer in the interest of a noble cause. None of the articles pertaining to shipwrecks actually compare the survival rate of women as opposed to that of men; in the case of titanic itself, the percentage of women who survived were 85% as opposed to the 18% of the men. Instead one of them goes off tangent and brings class politics into it by glossing over the obvious gender divide. Let’s forget the overused stereotypes of “female victim” and “male perpetrator” and talk numbers. The latest Canadian Association for Equality statistics prove this: men are 5 times more likely to commit suicide as opposed to women , he serves 60% more time in the prison for the same crime, he is just as likely to experience abuse- but doesn’t report it because the society tells him to be strong, he is more likely to be incarcerated than his female abuser, 9 times more likely to be killed on the jobs, more likely to experience violence yet receive significantly less support as a victim, 4 times more likely to be homeless and unsheltered, 25% more likely to graduate college. Why isn’t traditional gender studies scholars talking about this? Because, media has made it so convenient to ignore how men have been acted upon by other men and women and has invested all of its energy in creating oversimplified notions of the “weak female victim” and the “strong male perpetrator”.

    7. Arati

      In one of my earlier comments, I said : “Do men face the hassle of being eve-teased, objectified or even openly groped while making use of public transport? Do they face the impending threat of an acid attack for having spurned the advances of a man? Do they have to be extra careful in public changing rooms and frantically carry out mirror tests and check for CCTV cameras? Do they carry around pepper sprays while commuting not just at night, but also in broad daylight? Do they face the curse of being killed just for being born? Do they get special seats (just like handicapped/disabled) reserved for them because of their shining ‘abala’ status? Do they face the threat of being killed/burnt alive/mutilated (not just falsely implicated in a case) for bringing in less dowry? The list will go on.”

      This is the crux of the entire discussion. When I say that it is ‘unreasonable’ to talk of men going to war, I only mean that it is unreasonable to talk about the sacrifices of men ONLY when women too are equally adept on the warfront. That was in reply to a rant about how men face hardships for securing a better life for women (which was implied). Also, the survival rates of shipwrecks is not the topic of discussion, neither are suicide statistics. If that were the case, I could write pages about the burgeoning crisis of maternal mortality/female foeticide/female genital mutilation or include facts and figures regarding Canadian women, for e.g.

      http://www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence

      Quoting statistics has just become another form of accusation here.

      However, the only reason for going on relentlessly about any problem faced by women, even when we talk of freedom for all, is the current circumstance where even a normal day routine (for women) becomes an ordeal. Compare the average workday of a woman and man. Assuming that they have similar workloads, women are more prone to harassment than their male co-workers (and not just within the confines of the office). This does NOT mean that men don’t suffer or their problems are trivial. When an opportunity is provided to a woman, she is compelled to stand through numerous litmus tests to prove her credibility. I’m not just talking of the urban, empowered women. As a community, basic needs of women need to be looked into and their security concerns addressed so that a day in their lives does not turn into a struggle.

      I think women are capable of taking care of themselves, but a conducive and safe environment to nurture their own self needs to be provided. This can be done only with the participation of both men and women.

      Have I said or implied through any of my remarks here that the plight of men should not be talked about? I wrote this article because I can relate to a few of the issues faced by women, not because I’m ignorant of the hardships faced by men. But as far as personal security is concerned, women ARE more vulnerable. Let’s accept that ground reality first. Before jumping the gun, take a moment to compare your safety with respect to that of a woman. She faces more challenges and is more prone to be exploited, be it as an infant, a toddler, an adolescent or a grown adult simply for being female. That is discrimination of the highest order. Men have issues, but are those derivatives of their gender?

      And ‘perpetrators’ are only ‘strong’ physically, that is their only advantage.

  2. Babar

    >The spate of killings and abductions in Abuja, Nigeria, the attack on Malala Yousafzai, the ancient Kunan-Poshpora incident brushed under the rug, and more recently the rape and lynching of two cousins in Uttar Pradesh, followed by similar horrifying incidents in different parts of the state and the country ….

    More horrifying incidents have taken place with men, which no one talks about. Let me take the Nigerian case, for example. On Feb 25, 2014, which is not so long ago, 59 Nigerian school boys were killed by Boko Haram; some were shot, others had their throats slit, while the remaining were burnt alive, but there was so little international coverage, it was almost as though the incident did not take place. Three months later, when Nigerian girls are kidnapped, the Obama administration, media, and feminists suddenly wake up, and there is an uproar and campaigns and what not. Violence against boys is the same as violence against girls, but those 59 innocent boys were not a subject of discussion because they were boys. Now imagine if the same has happened to 59 Nigerian girls – would we have been so silent? This is the same story with countless incidents in India and abroad. When men are victims of violence, it is almost as the incident has not taken place.

  3. Gaurav

    this article reminds me of a story of a man who did not raise an alarm when there were floods in his city but when the floods reached his bedroom he started frantically calling for help , repeatedly shouting … there is water touching my feet… there is water touching my hands…..what the man failed to understand is that you cannot be selective when dealing with crime….

    1. Arati Nair

      He needs to be first safe himself in order to save others. It is only now that the gag blocking his voice has been removed. Also, the ones who’d bound and gagged him have fled in the face of his obstinate attitude of never giving up.

      I wonder why the others in the city without the gag aren’t calling for help, but waiting for this prone man to come save them or raise an alarm.

      Totally agree that we cannot be selective while dealing with crime. All perpetrators of crimes against men or women should be punished.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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