Urban Poor Women and Children in Slums are Unsafe

ramblinginthecity:

Take inspiration from ordinary people with extraordinary vision and energy!

Originally posted on Terra Urban तेरा अर्बन:

By Shivani Singh, PRIA

Today, more than one billion people in the world live in slums. In the developing world, one out of every three people living in cities lives in a slum. The word “slum” is often used to describe informal settlements within cities that have inadequate housing and squalid, miserable living conditions. They are often overcrowded, with many people crammed into very small living spaces. These settlements lack basic municipal services such as water, sanitation, waste collection, storm drainage, street lighting, paved sidewalks and roads for emergency access. Most also do not have easy access to schools, hospitals or public places for the community to gather. Many slums have been unserviced and unrecognised for long periods, over 20 years in some cities. Like all informal settlements, housing in slums is built on land that the occupant does not have a legal claim to and without any urban planning…

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Misogyny and ‘ordinary’

ramblinginthecity:

‘Ordinary’ people can make a difference just by speaking out! Proud of you, Ma. You are an inspiration!

Originally posted on sitanaiksblog:

If I look back and try to summarize my life in one word – the word  would be ‘ordinary’. And this would be true, for the large majority of us. A relatively care free childhood, thoroughly middle class (as defined in the early post-independence years) upbringing,  the protective environment of  college and the workplace in the security of parents, friends, husband, friends, colleagues etc…. A personal life graph of events and achievements of note  would show a few  spikes (not very large spikes as those who know me would understand), which would become small blips in the macro-environment I have occupied (Academia mostly) and would not even ruffle the surface on any larger regional/national scale.   But even in a life so ordinary – any honest recap involves some episodes of ‘misogyny

The earliest episode – when I was probably just 6-7, is hazy – must have happened, as it floats…

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How We Teach Our Sons To Rape

ramblinginthecity:

How insiduous forms of misogyny could make the sweetest, nicest boys into rapists…This post has incited a lot of criticism from anti-feminists, but for me it isn;t about feminism at all. It’s about facing up to the reality around us….

Originally posted on The Belle Jar:

I have a son.

He is two years old.

He was born into a universe where time happens to be linear, which means that he is growing older with every passing minute. In a little over ten years’ time, he will be a teenager.

When my son is a teenager, he will almost certainly go to parties. He will drink. He might experiment with drugs. He will try to rebel against authority figures, myself included. He will test boundaries.

This is what teenagers do. These things are normal.

Do I necessarily want him to do these things? No, not really. But these are the things that I did when I was in high school. These are things that, as Jacqueline Warwick points out, serve as a sort of rite of passage for North American teenagers,  things that are “normalized and celebrated in countless coming of age stories.”

It won’t matter…

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Some unsolicited advice to men in relationships!

I got a call from a childhood friend last evening. We are particularly close and talk often, especially when we need to share something that we hesitate to even tell our own selves.

She asked me a strange question; in fact, it was a strange conversation:

Her: “Is it ok for me to borrow money from my parents or my brother?”

Me: “What do you need the money for?”

Her: “Just like that, I want to keep it with me. I have no savings.”

My friend is married, with two children. Her younger one will start school soon. She is a trained nursery school teacher and immensely talent with children. She used to teach, but has given up her career for the last three years to bring up her children.

Me: “I would not borrow unless I needed the money for something specific. And how will you pay it back?”

Her: “I don’t know. I don’t have a job right now. When I start working, I will repay I suppose.”

Me: “Would your parents not get worried if you ask them for money just like that? Is everything well at home? Did you have a fight with <husband’s name>?”

Her: “No, no. Nothing like that. But yea, I need money for myself, for small expenses. I have been spending from my savings from when I was teaching and now I have run out of money. I am not used to not having anything in my bank account.”

By now, she is sounding really distraught and confused. We talk things through and then agree that it would be best to talk this out with her parents when she visits them next and just ask them for some money to tide her over instead of taking a loan.

I also ended up urging her to look more aggressively for work and not feel guilty about leaving her young ones at home or in daycare. I reminded her that the decision to have a second baby was a joint one and that her husband is also responsible for her decision to be a home maker till the children grow up a little.

I was upset that she hesitated to ask him for expense money. That she felt guilty about wanting little pleasures in life. That she was so conflicted between her duties as a mother to her children and her need to be financially independent.

So many of us women are in this boat. Why do we accept the taunts and jeers, seemingly harmless but actually potent, that our husbands and others dish out to us, about decisions that are perfectly rational- like not going to work for a few years OR choosing to remain working even when our children are small? An individual has her own reasons to take these decisions. There is no formula here. Everyone is entitled to do what makes her a happy and satisfied person. And it is binding on a woman’s partner to support her just as he would expect his wife to stand behind him through the trials of life.

Marriages, relationships are so complex and intertwined, and so so fragile. Communication (especially about aspirations) and financial transparency are key pillars that both partners need to work on together. This is what I would say to the men of this world: If your partner’s happiness is not important to you, if seeing her smiling and confident does not make you proud, if you find yourself unable to respect what she wants and expect her to always pay heed to your needs over hers, then you are not cut out to have a woman in your life! Let her go and let her lead her own life. Whatever that life may be, it will be better than wasting her talents and love and energy with you!

A bit radical, but that is what I really think! I know the black and white options do not work in reality. Many of us struggle desperately to make things work against many odds. And whether to hang in there or make a clean break is also, in the end, an individual decision that we must respect.

Related blog post, also interesting!

One Billion Rising Gurgaon: Burying Misogyny and celebrating equality

It’s not always necessary to be morose, upset and angry to make a point. And we most certainly were not! Far from it, we danced and sang, chanted and laughed as we walked down Gurgaon’s mall stretch as part of the One Billion Rising campaign for gender equality and recognition of women’s rights.

Gurgaon’s citizens groups have, over the last couple pf years, matured into a curious amalgamation of interest groups, those who work for a cause and RWAs, ably aided by Facebook. Last evening’s event was called by Let’s Walk Gurgaon and joined by other groups, notably Gurgaon Moms. Unlike OBR in New Delhi, we did not see huge crowds and college students were conspicuous by their absence. Yes, the innovative format of the protest made a mark for those who attended.

Fashioned somewhat like a Mardi Gras parade, we carried a coffin with the intent to bury Misogyny, all dressed up in a celebratory mood replete with bandwalas, slogan shouting, drums and all the rest of it. We walked from Sahara Mall to DT City Centre on MG Road, crossed over to MGF Metropolitan and walked back to Sahara Mall. At DT City Centre, some volunteers staged a street play and back at Sahara, others did a really fun flash mob thing. Then we proceeded to bury Misogygy and give birth to a world of equal rights and respect.

We had tagging along with us the police constables, men and women, who were assigned to be with us on duty. They hadn’t a clue why we were doing this! Many onlookers watched curiously and seemed to be having fun as well. Nupur and me kept wondering what was passing through their minds. We almost decided to do an impromptu survey, but stopped short!

What I really loved about the entire event is the way it gathered momentum as it was planned. People, both men and women, volunteered their time and creativity and worked together to make it happen. It takes a lot to move out of the comfort of your routine and be out there, doing things, saying things, starting a chain of change. And having fun while doing it! To sum up, the message of the street play underlined the need to start the change with ourselves. That’s a great thought to take forward as we continue to advocate for a real change in social attitudes towards gender. Join us, the more the merrier!

Here are some pics that capture the event, all photo credits to Swatantra Chhabra Kalra who is a friend and fellow blogger. She blogs at http://swatantra-independence.blogspot.com/

For the videos of the event, please go to- http://www.youtube.com/user/f20films

my body my rules

A variety of captions and many committed women…and men

Me! After I painted many cheeks and foreheads....what fun!

Me! After I painted many cheeks and foreheads….what fun!

All the 'bakwaas' misogynistic patriarchal to be buried in this coffin!

All the ‘bakwaas’ misogynistic patriarchal to be buried in this coffin!

The procession that walked down the MG Road stretch, being gawked at by many, with music and fanfare. Was too much fun!

The procession that walked down the MG Road stretch, being gawked at by many, with music and fanfare. Was too much fun!

I love this shot! Bandwala in the foreground looks so zapped. Similar expressions we saw on the faces of police staff, onlookers...so hard to understand?

I love this shot! Bandwala in the foreground is so pleased with himself! Hero!

Provocative posters galore!

Provocative posters galore!

misoginy maut

mahila hinsa

Street play outside DT City Centre

Street play outside DT City Centre

A still from the play that asked us to change ourselves and change the world!

A still from the play that asked us to change ourselves and change the world!

The flash mob that ensured the entire event ended on a fun, participatory note!

The flash mob that ensured the entire event ended on a fun, participatory note!

Does Modi’s popularity mean giving free reign to communalists, misogynists? Shocking reports from a protestor at SRCC

There was much noise about Narendra Modi’s talk at SRCC yesterday. He spoke about development and used this powerful term to capture the imagination of students. Which is all very well.

However, there were protestors outside from what the media termed the “communist” section of DU. And they were treated shabbily, very very shabbily indeed. I may not have a huge case against Mr Modi per se, but if his leading this nation means we give free reign to all communal, misogynist elements in our society, we should all think really hard before we vote this man to power.

Here is an account from a girl who attended the protests, shared by a DU student and a friend of mine on her FB wall today. Prepare to be outraged, shocked, saddened….it’s not just the Kashmiri girl band Pragaash, it’s each one of us in danger!

“Ragini Jha (a student present at the protest): “On 6th of February, there was a large protest against the invitation of and talk by Narendra Modi by SRCC Students Union, organised by various students groups and individuals. The road in front of SRCC had 3 rows of barricades on each side, some of which were subsequently broken. The Delhi police was extremely vicious in their handling of the situation, and were both highly sexist and communal. They passed lewd comments about women standing near the barricade, made kissing gestures and noises, asked women to come closer and talk to them. They also very openly stared and laughed at women in a way that was clearly sexual. When a woman student demanded that women police officers be present at the barricade as well to confront women students, she was told ‘aap aurat kahaan se hain’. Women were also told repeatedly to give up as they’re too weak to break barricades. Some women were told that they should stop protesting or they would be meted the same treatment as women in Gujarat in 2002. At the police station, women students were groped and felt up by the police when they tried to enter.

In addition to this the police also detained 8 protestors. ABVP students were allowed on the other side of the barricade, one even climbed the water cannon, but none of them were detained. This was despite them threatening students, particularly women, by saying things like “jo gujrat ke aurton ka haal kiya wohi tera hoga”. The police, after lathi charging students, laughing and joking as they did so, went on to drag students and throw them in the middle of ABVP and RSS activists, where they were further beaten up.

They were attacked by both ABVP goons and the police, who were supporting each other. The police were particularly obnoxious, whistling and winking at the female students (who were also groped at the Thana) and beating them (and the boys) up sadistically with lathis in addition to water cannons. The ABVP threatened them with Gujarat-like consequences – “Jo Gujarat mein huya vaise tujh me ghusa doonga” while brandishing a stick and similar things. Meanwhile the police were watching and laughing at the girls and other protestors and saying things like “kar le jo karna hai, kya kar payegi” and openly supporting the ABVP students, who were even dancing on the water cannons as they aimed at the protestors. The worst is that they would pick up some of the protestors (including young women) and push them into a crowd of ABVP goons who would then beat them. Some protestors were picked up and taken to the police station, and beaten up on the way (including on the head and groin with lathis). NONE of this shocking stuff is coming out in any of the news reports.”

My feminist journey: I have the power to change!

I’ve been a feminist for as long as I know. Even when it was not cool to be one and through many years when I didn’t know I was one! But even though I believed passionately in the concept of an equal world, and knew society to be hopelessly patriarchal; even though I could see strains on misogyny in people around me and would be irritated as hell with chocolate-faced boys in college who were innocent enough to believe that molestation did not happen in public transport- I had no idea that I was living my life as a victim of the patriarchal construct.

Don’t get me wrong. The men in my life have mostly been these wonderful people, probably more wedded to the idea of gender equality than most women I know. My father always championed the woman’s cause, advising patients to deal with gender-related problems with courage rather than ignoring the social and familial aspects of his patients’ lives, which would have been easy to do. In our marriage, Rahul has always treated our roles as a consequence of choice or circumstance than as dictated by gender. I genuinely think he would be happy to stay home and be a full time dad if I would choose to go out and earn the money needed to support the lifestyle we aspire to. These aren’t black and white issues, there are no easy choices.

But after spending some years of my life whining about having to work from home, being upset about restrictions on my mobility and stressing about bringing up my children, I came to the conclusion that only person standing between me and my aspirations is ME! I chose to believe what the world was telling me about the need for a woman to be a devoted mum to the point of squashing her own personality. I chose to see myself through the imagined perspective of my mother in law, stricturing myself for going out with a friend instead of putting my child to bed, or for going to the gym early morning and not being there when my children woke up; or feeling guilty about meeting a guy friend as a married woman even though my husband had no issues with this. In truth, I was happy in the roles I played as wife, mother, daughter in law, bhabhi, and I still am. But I did make an effort to fit into what I thought was the stereotype of all these roles in middle class Indian society. I was not saying- this is me, I am a good person, talented and sincere, caring and intelligent and you all should just accept me for who I am. Instead I was thinking- this is me, but that is what they want to see me as, so I ended up being someone in between, for many years.

When I began writing my blog daily in the beginning on 2012, I was aware of the need for change but was still this other person. By writing everyday, I forced myself to think about me, my convictions, the way I came across to others and what consequences my actions had. A new thought pattern emerged. One that put me in the center of my own universe, after a long long time. Long discussions with Rahul, arguments about the hurtfulness of being selfish, discussions about the complexity of marriage and the role of communication in it helped me wrap my head around the idea that one could be self-centered without being selfish. Possibly, it was possible! As a woman and a mother, I had to change the warped idea that I was at the center of the universe for my children, or my husband. Maybe I was, and maybe I was not. It did not matter! All that mattered was my happiness, my sense of satisfaction in what I did, my self-confidence in who I am- by being fulfilled I would automatically enrich the lives of those around me, simple enough! When I used this construct to think through my decisions and perceptions, everything else started falling in place.

In one year, I have been able to take more decisions towards my career, been able to start practicing the arts I love, spend time with my children without over-analyzing things, been able to read more, travel more, observe more, write more- in general, I have become a far more productive and happier person.

The trick is not to be trapped in the stereotypes built around you. To analyze them objectively and identify what makes you happy. The idea is to be a fulfilled, excited, energetic person who contributes to the world around.

Today, I am a more informed feminist. I am confident about my strengths but also careful to try and not fall prey to the patriarchal construct I have imbibed through my life. I have the power to educate, the power to influence and change myself and those around me even as I practice consciously the tenets of empathy and tolerance, justice and equality.

Missing the point! Delhi police ad to aid women’s safety

This ad is in the papers this morning and its good to see the police sending out a strong message about something that has really become a talking point in Delhi and where the police have taken a huge beating to their reputation.
In a presentation to the LG, DDA body UTTIPEC had suggested pro active campaigns that used images of men to reinforce that men need to take the initiative on an issue like violence against women as opposed to constantly showing a woman as a victim. Looks like the suggestion was well taken. I am a bit concerned about the copy here though. It suggests that men should take personal action (beat them?) against perpetrators of crimes against women. It’s only the small print that clarifies that the suggestion is for men to report other men who they observe committing such crimes!
While I think it’s a great idea to start a campaign that calls on citizens to partner with the police, I am not sure this sends out the right message! Comments anyone?

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Verma Committee report kindles hope: Let’s fan the flames!

Most, if not all reviews of the Justice Verma Committee Report on Amendments to Criminal Law in the context of gender-related safety and sexual offences, declare it to have seized the moment in proposing changes that could have far reaching impact if implemented. It is indeed a hopeful sign for all those of us who have fretted and worried, stood in protest, and hoped to hell something will happen of the momentum of activism and sheer anger that our nation’s citizens unleashed post the Delhi gang rape.

To sum up the report’s positives, rape is now defined within the context of sexual crimes as any act of non-consensual penetration, while sexual assault includes all forms of non-consensual non-penetrative touching of sexual nature. Marital rape is very much recommended to be within the purview of this criminal offense. The committee recommends that marriage cannot be offered as defense and is not relevant to the matter of rape. A huge step forward for the country this would be, if implemented.

Much praise has come in for the committee’s inclusion of people of all sexual orientations in its recommendations. This broader view of dealing with sexual crime as perpetrated against any citizen regardless of gender or sexual orientation, in my opinion, is really relevant in making this issue universally relevant and not just about women’s safety. For the inclusion of a gendered perspective in our society is necessary so that we all evolve to be more sensitive citizens and so that we deter criminals of all types.

Further, the recommendations of increasing the punishment terms of rapists from a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life imprisonment is a balanced one; the report rules out both the death penalty as well as castration and this too sends out the right signals about India’s position as a humanitarian democracy. I have been really disturbed about the baying for blood that has been a strong strain in protests post the Delhi gang rape and am heartened by the Verma Committee recommendations.

Police reforms and the amendment of AFSPA, in which sexual offences in conflict zones are specifically addressed, are other positives that deserve mention.

Of course, we can take the cynical view and despair about whether these would be implemented. However, this is precisely the reason why the activism must continue. Not just women’s groups, but all concerned citizens must speak out for the need for legislation to prevent sexual exploitation. This, along with physical planning measures to increase safety in public spaces as well as support groups to help victims speak out and tackle sexual crime in their lives, are the way forward, certainly. For once, I would think the Opposition wouldn’t really have objections to most of these recommendations.

So friends, don’t let the fire die out. Speak, protest, write, do what you have to do and we can together hope for a safer India!

ramblinginthecity:

Really honest post by a colleague and friend. How do we work towards a city, country, world where women can simply be regular citizens? How do we fight the paranoia inside us? Do read…

Originally posted on teachmehowtodelhi:

Amidst the deluge of news that is covering Delhi’s, and more broadly India’s, moral decline, gender discrepancy, and ineffective governance, I thought I should write about how the incidents over the past few weeks have affected my life as a single woman living in what is now considered one of the least safe cities for females. To be fair, Delhi was considered unsafe before the tragic rape of December 16th, and that incident was, for a variety of reasons, the one among countless others that caught the attention of the media and public at large. Perhaps it was the unusual cruelty, the previous “safer” image of South Delhi (where the incident occurred, and where I live), or simply the straw that broke the camel’s back, but occurrences like that are sadly common even though they are chronically under reported. For me personally, however, the events on and after…

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