This ‘Raksha Bandhan’, care beyond gender!

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all of you. And for all those who don’t have a brother, don’t be disheartened, your sister is your best guide, well wisher and protector for life. Today, I thought of coming up with something different. This blog is a thoughtful presentation of what and so much more which the festival can shower us with.

This Raksha Bandhan, let’s discover the emotional story of two sisters. While the younger one (Naina) always missed having a brother, especially as Rakhi came around the corner, the elder one ended up finding love, care and security in her younger sister.

Click here, to watch the video: 

‘Bandhan’- a short film on Raksha Bandhan

This short film is an attempt to convey that a sister can be a hero, a brother, a mother, she can be everything- because you don’t really need a brother to celebrate the feeling of being secure.
And hence, have  alook at this video which sends forth a warm Happy Raksha Bandhan message for all the sisters and brothers in the world. Thank you all,  for the feeling of doing ‘raksha’ or any ‘bandhan’ in the world doesn’t need a gender approval.

Do watch, comment, like or share if its relatable.

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Feminism: Solution to Patriarchy or a Hoard of New Problems itself?

By Naina Sharma

(This article is on demand by Blogurnalism reader)
Feminism is no easy concept and at the same time way too distinct from what we call a patriarchy. In simple words, feminism can be defined as a movement towards establishing equal socio, political and economic rights between men and women. Patriarchy on the other hand, is a system of society where men or dominant or rather preferred. Complexed through varied definitions and waves of developments, feminism and patriarchy have evolved and require constant modification pertaining to the manner in which they are perceived, as they may or may not be befittingly applicable to the changing society. While some relate the present demands of the feminist enthusiasts to the historically imbibed patriarchy, some others simply see it as an over-rated concept which is distorting the balance of the men-women relationships.

RIGHT TO CHOOSE OR RIGHT TO EQUALITY?

We can sense that something is certainly not going right when we hear the Delhi Metro filled with announcements like- “Please vacate the chairs for ‘women’ and the differently abled”.
Treating women equal to disabled people is definitely not right on so many levels and certainly not what modern feminists would have wished for. This is just another paradigm which conveys the extent to which feminism has been misconstrued in our country.
While the definition of patriarchy is quite clear, Feminism is most often differently defined. When feminism means rights for women, the benchmark shouldn’t be set or restricted to the rights enjoyed by men. It calls for equality which applies for both the genders. If a woman did not get voting rights through the universal adult suffrage until late 20th century, feminists in today’s era wouldn’t have demanded rights similar to those belonging to men but because sadly, the basic rights are always enjoyed by men, it is quite often interpreted as a hunt on men’s rights.
Feminism, as interpreted, is not about snatching rights but by distributing them at an equal pedistle and then leaving it onto a women’s capacity to decide whether she wants to exercise those rights or not. What cannot be denied is that rights have been curtailed through pressumptions regarding women’s actions both in the public and private sphere. It is not about freedom to earn, or freedom to work after marriage but solely about freedom to ‘choose’. Choice has never quite often remained in the hands of women, owing to the patriarchal structure and once given the power to choose, it would then be upon the two genders to support and co-exist in the most suitable way.

HARMS OF FEMINISM: PHYSIOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS vs PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS

There are a few ways in which feminism can do more harm than good to women in the longer run, going against its own objectivated Grail. Though a movement with a wis intent, it has created a world where women as viewed as victims. And this is where women need to move beyond the boundaries of patriarchy. What once existed cannot continue to define women as a victim forever. They are and need to be strong enough to let go off the patriarchal barriers. You can be a woman and not be a victim. Women don’t have to hide under the umbrella of feminism when the world, law, judiciary views woman as an equally capable adult. if you have the perception that the world is out to get you.

A woman who can let an entire human out of her body is strangely considered to be quite fragile and infantile. Thanks to viewing it as a battle rather than step towards empowerment.

Prolonged dependence on feminism as a label has created a sphere of competition between men and women. This has created more problems than solving many where life has become a race for the two genders to decide on who is better rather than filling the gap of what the other lacks. Well, there is definitely more to a human than his /her gender. If a man is a better cook than you, he is so because he is talented, this hasn’t got much to do with him being a man. Just like women don’t wish to be shouted at as defined through male dominance, similarly, men don’t wish to be dominated either.

….. SO, SOLUTION, PROBLEM, BOTH OR NONE?
The problem doesn’t lie in giving women an option to choose- to choose between being an homemaker or a working woman, what creates issues is when women try to change themselves drastically in order to satisfy the societal demands of the feminists. If feminism isn’t confused with disrespecting men or trying to bow them down, if it is a call for equality, then so be it.
If the extreme feminists wish to outrun all the chivalrous acts of men and if feminists wish to not be treated in a coy manner then again there exist two categories of women. One, who would want to be treated with care and two, who do not wish to seek men’s help in any case. Remember, if a man helps a woman it shouldn’t be treated as a favour and it is women who need to understand that for it is a two way street. Since men are in many ways dependent on women, if women accept the same it wouldn’t do any harm to their feminist goals.
Personally, more than getting entangled in a term which has been constantly changing its meaning over years, I would wish to be a female who has the freedom to choose and treat the requirements of both genders as equal. While patriarchy talks of male dominance, feminism doesn’t speak of female dominance at all. One speaks of superiority and the latter of equality, at least in terms of actions. So yes, in order to boost the process of shedding supressive male dominance, we do need feminism as a catalytic initiator. Once the job is done, it is upto the women to lead a life which neither looks upon them as victims nor as self centered. So, yes feminism to an extent is a solution to patriarchy. But yes, only to an extent. Remember, the idea is too hyped that only a handful would know of Matriarchies existing in parts of Kerala and Karnataka. Yes! Matriarchies exist too. And yes, men are feminists too. So feminism isn’t a battle between men and women, it is a movement for women- a movement which can flourish better in cooperative cognizance between the two genders, thereby shunning patriarchy in the process itself. Patriarchy is not the only problem feminism must deal with. It is in fact the non-patriarchal societies who endorse feminism way more than the  rest, suggesting that feminism is being applied today, under the situational considerations of the past decades. The concept needs alteration for women in a modern society aren’t victims. They have the rule of law to solve problems more than any book on feminism would.

 

(Picture Courtesy- Factmyth.com)

Death by Intoxicated Food vs Affordability: An Indian Dilemma

By Naina Sharma

“An Act to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” This is the Food Safety and Standards Act of India framed in 2006. An Act dedicated towards ensuring healthier food consumption for people, stands helpless in front of the junk food packets or even the street food stalls serving across the country.

An inquiry by the KABP (Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Practices) study on food and drug safety in India surveyed 20,719 households from five regions spread over 28 states.
About 13.2 percent households reported that at least one person in each household
suffered from foodborne illness during the previous 15 days of the survey. At
community level 3 percent of the villages surveyed indicated that there was at least one
foodborne disease outbreak in the community during previous one year. It is reported
that distribution (%) of foodborne diseases according to food safety awareness and
practices by region wise (North, South, East, West and North East) indicated that
occurrence of foodborne disease was high in the western region (24.2 percent) from the
nearest region i.e. North East (10.9 percent).

 

The reasons are plentiful. There are innumerable bacterial pathogens which can be commonly found in street eateries. Many of these cause vomiting, diarrhoea, vomiting, appetite loss, typhoid, food poisoning, clostridium perfringens, abdominal cramps and in most severe cases, death. The presence of coliform in surveys conducted across the markets of the Indian Capital (New Delhi) over the past few years, indicate the absence of clean water giving way to unhygienic conditions during the food preparation. 

The fact that 22% of the Indian population lives below its official poverty limit of less than $1.25 dollars a day is quite an alarming peek into the reasons why the slum dwellers are forced to feed on food reminisces dumped as the street garbage. This is a reality which substantiates the reports by WHO (World Health Organization). WHO reports suggest that is mainly African and South-East Asia Regions which have the highest burden of food-borne diseases where 1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 4,20,000 die as a consequence.

While schemes providing free and healthy meals to the poor is one of the keys to the problem, the numerous deaths of school going children due to intoxicated mid day meals puts a question mark on the credibility of the same. How I wish- food being a basic prerequisite to survival wasn’t something the Below Poverty Line Indian population required to ‘pay’ for to ‘buy’ a living!

Honour Disguises Disgrace as Casteism backs Euphemism

By Naina Sharma

As a child I used to live in a bubble about a surname being something we chose for ourselves just to make our names sound fancy. Never did I know that this very surname which we attach to our identity is a symbol of severance- a symbol, which over the years has created not only divided opinions but led to violence, disputes, murders and more. Last week, three of my mornings started with waking up to the news notifications of murders in 2 different parts of the country. One thing which remained common in these killings was the cause disguised as a death for the sake of ‘Honour’.

A young woman in Telangana, Tummala Swati, 20, dies as she married Amboji Naresh who belonged to a different caste. A choice not approved by the girl’s parents on grounds of caste ultimately led to the demise of the young lady. The very next day, a pregnant woman’s husband gets killed in Jaipur, post one and a half years of marriage. Not to my surprise, the woman blamed her parents for having murdered her husband over dissent on the marriage since the parents were Jats from Rajasthan and Mr. Nayyar belonged to Kerala.

INDIA: A LAND WHERE CASTE DEFINES HONOUR

Deeply plagued by a historic hierarchy of castes divided into 4 major slabs, research suggests that more than 1,000 young people (mostly the ones who opt for inter-caste marriages) in India are doned to death annually in the name of ‘honour’. Research statistics by  National Crime Record Bureau indicates an enormous spike in the incidents of honour killing across the country. Every year there is a more than 700% hike in murders committed for honour. While the figure was 28 in 2014, it has jumped to 251 in 2015.

Strongly supported by a tradition of In-Caste Marriages and Caste based hierarchy, staunch followers of the Indian traditions define honour through the realms of caste. A layman would describe caste as a social tag. But a stringent follower of caste system would define it as a symbol of pride. For them, it means insensitive categorization. For example, an illiterate Brahmin would be a better candidate for marrying a girl as compared to an excessively educated OBC. We must not ignore this sick mentality as it continues to plague the country. The deaths owing to ‘honour killings’ are now 60% greater than deaths due to terrorism if compared over the past few years. The most prominent states which witness this evil frequently are Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where UP  alone has a count of 900 honour killings annually. The fact that more than 90% of the couples opt for or are rather forced to go for arranged marriage (based on castes) suggests that there are just 10% families which favour inter caste weddings. Thanks to the matrimonial columns which have extensively promoted within castre weddings, inter- caste marriages have seemingly attained the status of being a social crime.

FORCED MARRIAGES: A SUBSTITUTE TO ‘HONOUR’ KILLING?

The maximum cases of honour killing have been reported in the most populated state of the country, Uttar Pradesh. However, what is devastating is that forced marriages are considered as an alternative solution to avoid honour killing. So, in most cases there does exist a choice on the part of the victim to either get married forcefully or lose their lives. In a country which is the largest democracy of the world, the will of most of the people is sacrificed in the name of deep old tradition of caste system.

However, there are intertwined complexities as forced marriages are convoluted with honour killings. On one hand, marriage is forced on an individual to save honour, and on the other hand, women can be killed as well for rejecting a marriage fixed against her consent and rather willing to marry a partner who is unacceptable to her family.

POLITICAL AND JUDICIAL STANCE

The Indian Law has a perplexed stance on honour killings. At present,honour killing falls under the Section 302 of IPC. Most of the honour killing cases are not broadly tried as murder. For the same reason, many a times questions have been raised in the parliament over the current laws related to honour killing. Recently (post honour killings in UP and Telangana), it was Jharna Das Baidya, CPI(M) member from Tripura who wished to question if falling in love was a “big crime” in India. She further stated that the northeast hardly witnessed such incidents which is an evidence of education being an important factor in curbing the crime. Baidya urged the government to bring a specific law that deals with stringent provisions in case of honour killing offenders.

If one looks at the Supreme Court rulings of the past, the problem shouldn’t have aggravated to the current level in the first place. In the year 2006 itself, the SC ruled that,”inter caste marriages lay in the national interest as they would destroy the caste system”. The SC also believes that there is nothing honourable in the acts of honour killing and that they depict feudal mindedness which must be subject to severe punishment. With shame killings being an epidemic equal to other crimes in the country,there lies a dire need to give special status to the examination of honour killings where the cause preceding the murder must be taken up as the actual murder instead.

I come from a family where not just inter- caste but inter- religion weddings have also taken place for a simple reason that our pride lies in the human and not in his/her caste. For a country which is secular and has a constitution which describes no discrimination on the basis of caste,creed or religion in Article 14,our honour must then lie in freedom, happiness, individual accomplishments and not in barbaric vigilante will euphemised by the the ethnological taboo around caste.

“Like a girl”- a new definition

By Naina Sharma

“Run like a girl, throw like a girl, fight like a girl” – said an advertisement as I sat comfortably on my couch. Made in 2014, the ad entered our country recently and is suggestive of shattering gender stereotype in India, a country which continues to idolize boys and where girls face a significant drop in their self confidence since their very childhood. I knew this advertisement was going to stay with me for atleast a couple of days.

That very evening, while walking past the market near my house, I decided to speak to the policeman in charge of the area, stationed at a centrally located booth. Familiar with him, I greeted him and spoke to a stern looking but polite Mr. Om Prakash. “How often do you get complaints from girls in this locality”, I asked him. He didn’t have a firm reply. I made the question more specific and asked the number of calls he got with regard to women being subjected to humiliation in any form. He explained to me that he got a minimum of 1 call every day. With a total of 95 police stations in the capital, that makes it approximately just 100 cases per day and only 3000 cases per month, quite contrary to the expected frequency. Further, Mr. Prakash told me the reason behind the fewer number of cases. “Many women do not file a report since they are not supported and do not have the confidence to fight the implications alone”, he said. “Most of the victims wear short dresses and skirts when teased and their families blame them instead for wearing inappropriate clothes, which is completely wrong”, said the policeman- a father of 2 daughters with gloomy eyes. His statements reminded me of how women are always asked to not wear short skirts and how sensitive men are always mocked at by being asked not to cry ‘like a girl’.

Baffled by the observation, I went back home, only to find that my flatmate was counselling her friend to step up and my maid failed to turn up. With soap and utensils in our hands, we discussed the issue. Her friend, a 20 year old girl, belonging to an affluent family, wasn’t allowed to seek higher education and rather was being compelled to get married. On the other hand, my maid took an off for she had to drop her 21 year old daughter back to the hostel as she pursued engineering. Well, clearly, the 2 contrasting stories indicated that gender stereotype didn’t necessarily have to do with the amount of wealth one had.

Today, I work in a news company which is dominated by women, only to depict that we have finally learnt to stand up for our choices. “Media is not meant for girls”, “You cannot live independently in a flat”, “You are a girl- not built to make a career, your husband will take care of you” – having heard such statements, from the people around us in India (if not our families), the fact that most of us have fearlessly come to live in a new city, handle our problems independently like a girl and wish to continue doing things that we truly believe in, we aim to make ‘like a girl’ depict strength, character and zero tolerance against the idea of compromise.