An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram

 

We, the undersigned, wish to express our dismay and deep concern about the recent violent events at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, which seem to indicate that the rights of college students, especially women students, are seriously compromised in this venerable institution. As women researchers, academics and teachers of Malayali origin, we are deeply disappointed by the responses of the police, the concerned college authorities, and the teachers there. Continue reading “An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram”

Feminists Condemn Opposition To Women’s Reservation In Nagaland Municipal Councils

We, the undersigned women’s organisations and concerned individuals take serious note of the fierce opposition to women’s reservation of 33% seats in Nagaland Municipal Councils by male dominated tribal bodies in Nagaland in the name of protecting their tradition and customary practices that bar women from participating in decision-making bodies. We strongly condemn this anti-woman position of Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) that has been formed supposedly to “protect” Naga tribal practices. While NTAC quotes Article 371(A) of the Constitution to assert that they are empowered to make their own laws, they choose to ignore Constitutional principle of equality before law, thus denying the Naga women their electoral rights.

Time and again women’s movements in India have confronted issues of community identity vs the rights of women. In almost every instance, communities and their leaders have chosen to sacrifice the rights of women to safeguard patriarchal practices in the name of tradition and custom. In the present imbroglio NTAC has used threats and violence to prevent women from filing their nominations, or even to withdraw their papers. Through all this, the State government has remained silent spectator and tried to wash its hands off on the issue of women’s representation in local bodies by cancelling the elections to local bodies under pressure from these tribal bodies by merely citing law and order concerns. In the process, the State has become complicit in protecting patriarchal traditions to the detriment of principles of gender equality. What is not being asserted is that Urban Local Bodies are not traditional Naga institutions recognised by Article 371(A) of the Constitution but rather, Constitutional bodies under Part IX of the Constitution over which the traditional Naga bodies have no mandate. Continue reading “Feminists Condemn Opposition To Women’s Reservation In Nagaland Municipal Councils”

Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah

Guest post by SAMHITA BAROOAH

During a visit to the Kishori Mandal at Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s Uttari Rampur Centre in Forbesganj I met some lovely girls. They stayed in the community near the red light area. They were eager to learn new things. They asked me my story of life, “Didi aapki kahani sunao? Aapne kaise yaha tak sangharsh kiya?” I was again very surprised to encounter the subversion of queries. I should have been the one to ask those questions to the girls, but they wanted to know more about me. Perceptual understanding is a perspective rooted in feminist standpoint theory which could apply to any context from the onlooker’s context. For the young girls from the Red Light Area in Forbesganj, I was trapped in some realities which connected me to them. That was why she asked me to share my story of struggle. When I said education enabled me to survive the world around me, they laughed and said that was not their story. They said, “For us we have to get married as soon as we are 18 years old but sometimes even earlier. We just want to enjoy our freedom now in this centre till we get married. After that we do not know what holds true for us.” As women whether we are in the Nat community of Bihar or we are in the liberated spaces of North East India, our identities get defined by our marriage, cultural practices and socialisation. Unbound freedom for women seems to be a misnomer which should be forbidden for women as the evolved souls say.

Continue reading “Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah”

Angela Davis appeals to President to repeal AFSPA

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At an exclusive meet-the-press in Mumbai, American black feminist activist and human rights defender, Angela Davis joined feminists in India spearheading a global women’s campaign appealing to the President of India to use his Constitutional powers and repeal the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In doing so, she extends her solidarity to the struggles of women in India against the impunity granted to security forces under the AFSPA and the consequent widespread violation of rights in all areas where this law has been in force. In particular, Ms Davis salutes the historic struggle of Irom Chanu Sharmila whose 16 year long fast against the AFSPA helped foreground the issue both nationally, and internationally, saying “I am utterly inspired by Irom Sharmila’s strength and perseverance.”

There has been a global campaign of feminists seeking an end to AFSPA.

The full list of signatories can be seen here.

Infantilization of Women in Punjab’s Left: Nikita Azad

Guest post by NIKITA AZAD

It would be an understatement to say that apart from sexualization of young girls, society infantilizes women on a regular basis. Whether in domestic sphere where men decide what is best for the family and women, or office where men consider their women counterparts as less intelligent and inferior, such infantilization manifests itself in various forms and at various places. A similar trend can be observed in movies where men are usually portrayed as saviors whereas women are depicted as young ‘girls’ waiting to be saved. American TV serials from I Love Lucy onwards have routinely infantilized women, and contemporary Hindi soap operas too, represent and treat women as children to be taken care of by their families and husbands/lovers. Such an approach towards women not only reduces their value and identity as thinking, rational human beings, but it also provides men and the patriarchal structure an argument to justify their control over women. It strengthens the general belief that women are inferior, not only biologically but also mentally, and thus, it perpetuates male intellectual hegemony.

In recent times, many white-collar women employees and actresses have spoken against wage gap and workplace discrimination prevalent in their respective fields, which is as much a result of infantilization of women as it is that of gender discrimination. The work done by a woman, however good, is considered inferior as compared to that done by a man, based on the ground that women are more sensitive, emotional, and child-like; and are thus, there are more possibilities of their committing mistakes. Women feminists and non-feminists, who opine on social media on gender discrimination, are often seen as ones who are easily offended and are emotionally immature. Their responses are treated with sexism than with any serious arguments; the reactions are usually perceived as ‘angry’. Their Face Book and twitter accounts are filled with sexually abusive messages and their opinions are seen as having zero or less value when compared to their men counterparts. A good example would be a recent experiment done by a couple on Twitter, whereby a man and a woman, working for the same organization, The Washington Post, published two articles on similar issues but the responses they received were shockingly different. While the man’s inbox was crowded with racist comments, the woman’s inbox was filled with sexist and degrading names that the man could not bring himself to repeat on his post on Twitter.

While the consequences of the sexist practice of infantilization of women have been widely discussed in feminist circles, a study of its presence in otherwise democratic and progressive circles remains absent. Continue reading “Infantilization of Women in Punjab’s Left: Nikita Azad”

Memories of a Machine, or the Machine of Memory?

 

Watching the much-debated ten-minute-film ‘Memories of a Machine’, which has been accused of justifying paedophilia, I remembered this woman:

I met her, a young woman professional working at Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram – where else, in these days, but in the queue in front of an ATM . In response to my grumbling, she told me that she had never experienced any kind of power in her whole life.  She had not even been affected by demonetisation much, she insisted. ‘True, I couldn’t pay the dhobi and the ironing-man, but those were minor inconveniences,’ she quipped cheerily, quite convinced, of course, that the predicament of these two people, definitely as much professionals’ as her, was none of her concern. Indeed, her constant effort was to cheer people in the queue with her don’t-worry-be-happy body-language with which she slipped and slid between acting and sounding like a grown woman and chirping and giggling like a teenager or child. She was attracted to the BJP, she said, because she needed some ‘philosophy’ in her life, to balance the heavy workload she carried in her workplace. As far I could see, her life was such that the philosophy-lesson she would find useful could have been obtained from something as commonplace as a treadmill – start slow, peak up, take regular dips, continue for a spell sufficiently long, stretch after the workout. In other words, her life seemed to be just one long workout, with no indication of when it would end or yield result. But just the feeling that she was on her way was enough to make her cheery to the point of being silly. Continue reading “Memories of a Machine, or the Machine of Memory?”

A Pinjra Tod Winter Afternoon In Jamia Millia Islamia, November 17, 2016

Statement by Pinjra Tod on November 19, 2016

A fiery anonymous open letter by a women resident of Jamia Millia Islamia to the VC on the arbitrary cancellation of late nights in August last year, marks the inception of Pinjra Tod as a movement. It has been an incredible year of reaching out to each other, connecting, discussing and collectivising in Jamia. Overcoming our anxieties of a repressive state machinery intent on criminalising minority voices and institutions, conquering our fear of an administration that has repeatedly targeted students (especially women) for raising their voices, we came together in Jamia last Thursday (17th Nov), drawing confidence from our collective strength, to hold our first ‘public’ event: an exhibition celebrating the struggle of women for education, and a session of poetry, songs and sharing of experiences.

Women students reiterated that the UGC circular issued on 2nd May’16 is being shamelessly flouted by Jamia administration, as in all other Universities and colleges. There are no sexual harassment complaints committee (the program was conducted beneath a huge anti-ragging banner), libraries and other facilities on campus remain inaccessible to women students after 8 PM, random show-cause notices for ‘misconduct’ are a common practice, very little democratic space for women students to organise events/discussions/screenings within hostel spaces and continuous surveillance.

Continue reading “A Pinjra Tod Winter Afternoon In Jamia Millia Islamia, November 17, 2016”