Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Your Safety is Paramount

Today has been a horrific day for me after reading into the details of the barbaric gang rape in our national capital. There can be no plausible explanations for this loathsome act and all ludicrous justifications that the society has been giving to rapes is not applicable here. The victim was not alone, she was not wearing provocative clothes, she was not out at midnight and she was not in a shady or dark corners of the city. She, a medical student, was returning from a movie at 9:15 pm with a friend (like you and me would on any normal day), when those six monsters wretched her pleasant evening.

Its been long since we have been condemning the immoral and patriarchal society we live in, is the cause of all these rapes, which needs a complete reform in the mentality of our society. But cultivating those moral values and that respect for women might take years or decades, meanwhile, you or me cannot let our friends, sisters, wife or neighbors walk into these fearsome streets of this country.

So what should we do? Lock them/yourself up in rooms and ban the women on streets. Not at all. Let us help equip every women, we know, with some basic self defense techniques. 

Before listing down few points for self defense I thought of listing down all the rapes that has occurred in this country and have appeared in the prominent newspaper during this month. This will entice anger among my female friends, which is necessary to keep up the motivation for practicing these steps.

18th Dec: TODAY

17th Dec: A 17-year-old, who set herself on fire after being raped a few days ago in Nashik by a relative, died at a civil hospital with 70 per cent burns, the police said on Sunday.

16th Dec: A 13-year-old girl was gang-raped allegedly by four persons at Kambalapadu, near Podili in Prakasam district in the wee hours of Saturday.

14th Dec: A 13-year-old boy has been arrested for allegedly raping an 11-year-old mentally disabled girl in a village in Sindagi taluk.

13th Dec: In a shocking incident, a man who persuaded his family friends in Malligehalli in Hassan district to send their four-year-old daughter with him to get her treated for an injured leg, has raped and savaged the child.

10th Dec: The Mumbai police on Sunday arrested a 42-year-old man for allegedly raping a 62-year-old woman at her home in the Marol area in a western suburb of Mumbai.

9th Dec: In yet another shocking indicator to the moral degeneration of society, the police have registered a case against a man on the charges of molesting his six-year-old daughter after giving her alcohol.

8th Dec: A young Rwandan national was allegedly gang-raped by four persons at Timarpur in North Delhi on December 3.

7th Dec: In a case where a 17-year-old domestic maid was repeatedly raped leading to her getting pregnant and delivering a baby boy at the office of a placement agency in Shakurpur in North-West Delhi after which the infant was sold by the agency owners to a social worker for Rs.23,000....

6th Dec: A 21-year-old youth was sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment for raping a minor girl in 2010.

6th Dec: A 70-year-old woman was raped by a young relative at Budhakhera village in Haryana.

5th Dec: The police said the four-year-old had been sexually assaulted for many days but it came to light only when she came home crying on Monday.

5th Dec: A partially paralysed man has been sentenced to five years in jail by a Delhi court for attempting to rape an intellectually and physically challenged minor girl.

5th Dec: A rape accused’s bid to escape the law by faking his death and furnishing a false certificate before the court has been foiled with his arrest two years later.

4th Dec: A 15-year-old tribal girl was allegedly gangraped in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh and nine persons, including two minor boys, were arrested in this case, police said on Monday.

3rd Dec: A five-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a temple priest in Mangolpuri here two days ago.According to the police, the victim had gone to a temple close to her house.

3rd Dec: A youth has been sentenced to two years in jail by a Delhi court for kidnapping and molesting his minor cousin after confining her in a room for seven days.

1st Dec: Two young men accused of gang-rape of a married woman from a Scheduled Caste allegedly committed suicide in the early hours of Friday by jumping in front of a moving train on the Rohtak-Delhi railway track near Kanheli village in Haryana, said the police.

Imagine, the above list includes only the list of incidents that appeared in Hindu newspaper (Hindu Link). From this we can make out the magnitude of such cases happening all over the country when most of them are not even registered.

Though I am no self defense expert, I have googled and tried to compile an exhaustive list of what women can do at the minimal to try prevent themselves from such incidents.
  1. AwarenessThe first, and probably most important, component in self-defence is awareness: awareness of yourself, your surroundings, and your potential attacker’s likely strategies. Be ready with exit strategy. 
  2. Use your sixth sense. “Sixth sense.” “Gut instinct.” Whatever you call it, your intuition is a powerful subconscious insight into situations and people. All of us have this gift, but very few of us pay attention to it. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage. Avoid a person or a situation which does not “feel” safe–you’re probably right.
  3. Plan in advance. If you're going out to party on night, make a plan with your friends. Know ahead of time where you're meeting and whether you're all leaving together. Look out for one another and be up front about what you're hoping to get out of the night.
  4. Set your own boundaries (whatever they may be) and be prepared to defend them. So say you're dressed "racy" or like Pretty Women pre-Rodeo Drive. Whatever! You do you, girl! But say someone sees that as a license to do something you don't like or don't want. Use a strong voice and body language to make your boundaries clear. Know that it's all about attitude, rather than clothing, when it comes to protecting yourself. Give you (and your "unwanted admirer") an out by making an excuse to get out of the situation, such as needing to find your friend or whatever. If he can't take the hint, a clear "no" or "back-off" will likely work.
  5. Yell. If you are in a crowded place like bus or train being eve teased or touched inappropriately, shout. Don't be shy of what others will think, there will sure be someone out of so many people to help you out.
  6. Escape. Always your best option. What if the unthinkable happens? You are suddenly confronted by a predator who demands that you go with him–be it in a car, or into an alley, or a building. It would seem prudent to obey, but you must never leave the primary crime scene. You are far more likely to be killed or seriously injured if you go with the predator than if you run away (even if he promises not to hurt you). Run away, yell for help, throw a rock through a store or car window–do whatever you can to attract attention. And if the criminal is after your purse or other material items, throw them one way while you run the other.
  7. Use your elbow. Elbow is the strongest part of your body. Keep it in front of your body while walking in crowded places.
  8. Pepper spray. Pepper spray, like other self-defence aids, can be a useful tool. Red chilli powder can be used as a substitute to this. (currently its not available on flipkart, but hope it is soon)
  9. Right to fight. Unfortunately, no matter how diligently we practice awareness and avoidance techniques, we may find ourselves in a physical confrontation. Whether or not you have self-defence training, and no matter what your age or physical condition, it is important to understand that you CAN and SHOULD defend yourself physically. You have both the moral and legal right to do so, even if the attacker is only threatening you and hasn’t struck first. Many women worry that they will anger the attacker and get hurt worse if they defend themselves, but statistics clearly show that your odds of survival are far greater if you do fight back. Keep a stick in your purse. Aim for the eyes first and the groin second. Remember, though, to use the element of surprise to your advantage–strike quickly, and mean business. You may only get one chance.
  10. Home invasions. A crime on the rise. The primary way to prevent a home invasion is simply to never, ever open your door unless you either are certain you know who’s on the other side or can verify that they have a legitimate reason for being there (dressing up as a repair person or even police officer is one trick criminals use). [Src: Top ten things every women should know about personal safety]
Flipkart request to add Pepper Spray
Edited: Pepper spray available on

I hope there occurs no such situation where you ought to use these pointers and I agree none of these would have worked in helpless situation that the girl faced but little preparation never hurt anyone. Find a friend, practice few moves on him and learn some kicks and punches. I can volunteer if necessary. :)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Male Chauvinism, a bigger concern

Something reminded me of a boring afternoon of college days. Six college guys, to kill time, started off a discussion on the weirdest topic, "Who would let her wife wear bikini on a beach?". Soon the discussion turned into a heated debate, with three of them saying that they won't let her wear that, no matter what happens, while the other three saying it would rather be her choice. I was on the latter side, but that for-fun debate made me think, that up to what extent is our society patriarchal? 

Patriarchal, as we all understand, is a term used when there is violence against women/girls, but it is defined as a social system that is dominated by male, also known as male chauvinism. We all are worried about plethora of crimes against women ranging from eve-teasing, molesting to more vicious female foeticide, dowry and rapes. But what are the roots of all these crimes? These all, I think, are the by-products of thousands of years of patriarchal and male dominant society of ours.

Painted by: Digambar Sonawane
The term ‘eve teasing’ is an Indian origin, which itself has some demerits. Eve represents temptress and the term actually signifies that eves (women) tempt or provoke males for vulgar comments and behaviors. Ironically, that also means women cause the problem and are also a victim to it. The word is disrespectful of women because we are. A good friend of mine once told, "Mujhe to beta hi chahiye" and I was not able to understand his thoughts behind it. Further inquiring, I came to know that it was because of the great deal of money given by his father for his sisters' wedding. If we wouldn't have looked at women differently, we wouldn't have eve-teased, molested and raped them and if we wouldn't have considered them inferior to men we wouldn't have to pay dowry to get them a good man. Also, we all know that dowry is the main reason for female foeticide. Hence, male chauvinistic/dominant nature is a very important point of concern and needs lot of pondering upon.

Looking at the cases of male chauvinism in media we will find that lot more than often females have to go through this. Sania, Jwala and Dipika have recently shown their outrage on the Indian sports authorities for male chauvinism. Acid throwing is a major concern for Indian women, which was, until recently, a bailable offence. Even Indian cinema, with its usual accompaniment of song and dance routines, which invariably results in the heroine submitting to the hero's advances towards the end of the song, and young men tend to emulate the example, is strengthening chauvinism. Movies like Chak de India, a block-buster, which showed the reality of male chauvinism, whereas Devdas and even its modern version Dev D, shows that Dev’s chauvinism gives him the liberty of having all the fun with females around him and the same chauvinism leads to his break up when he gets suspicious about the loyalty of his girlfriend.

Tremendous instances are encountered in our day-to-day life also but either we choose to ignore or we just don't notice them. Most common of them, which I have heard even from my friends is, "Mere se jyada padhi likhi wife nahi honi chahiye" or "Wife ki salary apne se jyada nahi honi chahiye". Ironically, the same person is ready to accept dowry and live in wife's flat or drive wife's car, and that would also be a proud moment for him. Almost every Indian parent teaches their daughter to cook but not her brother. Just hours ago, a friend bursted out her anger, "Why is it always me, who is expected to clean or cook whenever mom is ill or maid is on leave? Why can't dad or bro do it at times?". These things are so deep rooted that we don't even realize that this is happening. Few days back I encountered a blog (link here), where the writer was very critical and angry on a facebook pic shared by his friend commenting regarding women apparel. Yesterday, even I found a pic being shared by ample people on facebook (link here). In all these ways, we are bolstering male chauvinism instead of doing the inverse. Two days back, while sitting in a restaurant I saw two couples having dinner on the same table, one of them asked other couple what they would have and the man answered to his question using "hum" ye nahi khaenge. I could see the willingness of her wife to have that but she was keeping her wish silent in front of her "male". These are few incidences encountered by me and wasn't able to digest them well.

In school we are taught about gender equality, but as we grow up the two lines of 'equal to'  (=) sign starts rotating and we don't even realize when it intersects each other to form 'less than' (<)  sign resulting into GIRL < BOY. No embryo in the womb would sign up for this if it knew that world is such a biased place. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

First and Foremost - we all are human

A recent show Taboo on Natgeo awakened me and made me think - what if every time while filling a form, I had to think whether to mark 'Male' or 'Female'. What if every time I stood outside the washroom gates, I had to go through the dilemma of which door to enter. Sure it is difficult to even think of stepping in those shoes, but that does not mean those shoes are not there. There are millions with this plight, who are known as the third gender or third sex or eunuch or kinnars (sanskrit). 

Wikipedia defines the third gender as individuals who are categorized as neither man nor woman. Scrolling down a little, on that wikipedia page, I found that India has most well known and most populous third gender in the world - almost 5-6 million only in Mumbai, which is equivalent to 5 percent of its total population. 

It is believed that they have supernatural/divine power and their blessing are taken in high regards. Hence, the most well known role of the third gender is to bestow in the God's name, "the power to procreate as well as create new life for the newly born male babies and newly-wed couples." Even though, being in such high percentage of population and being considered to have divine powers, they are devoid of social status and dignity. Their main source of earning is by providing entertainment through their performance to those gathered around for the occassion. However, in recent years, due to urbanization and westernization of India, past decade has pushed them out of their homes and they are forced to beg or to prostitute, which in turn earns them disdain. These situations have created a vicious cycle of antipathy and disparagement. 

Every citizen has the right to life, the right to self expression, under constitution. The right to gender expression is inherent in it. The discrimination against the third gender is embedded in our consciousness and is aggravated by ignorance and insensitivity. Even well-meaning persons are uncomfortable if they face someone who does not fit in the Procrustean beds of “the normal”. Prabha Sridevan, former Madras High Court judge, cited a nice example in her Hindu article. She wrote, "There was an abysmal decision by our top court, the appeal Court, in the 1930s, when people of Indian origin objected to being excluded from post office counters where white people would queue. Three out of four judges could not see the problem; the applicants could be served just as well in the one queue as in the other. Only one judge, Gardiner said, ‘It touches on the dignity of people to be excluded, it's not simply a question of functionality'. The brown man will get the same postcards in the other counter. So why complain? No, it is about dignity, real dignity to all barring none."

But this invisible section of the society is gaining recognization and their fights for the equality in society is gaining victories. In 2009, this invisible section got the right to  vote and they can indicate their gender as "O" for 'others' in the electoral roles. The Argentine Senate has passed the Gender Identity Act, which recognises that the person's subjectively felt and self-defined gender may or may not correspond with the gender assigned at birth. It has been described as the most progressive and liberal in the world. Chief minister Jayalalitha has announced, destitute transgenders aged above 40 years living below poverty line to get a monthly pension of 1000 Rs. Anjali Gopalan, the infamous activists fighting for LGBTs says, "Sexuality is your own business and not others. I don’t know why people should feel so threatened at the sight of a gay or a transgender. Different gender does not mean that they are bad and cannot contribute to society. Getting people to understand this will bring about the attitudinal change.” Sarojini Bharadwaj, Chairperson of the Karnataka State Women’s Development Corporation (KSWDC), has said the corporation has prepared a broad plan and allocated Rs 75 lakhs to bring the transgender community to the mainstream. “We have asked them to get ration card done so that they can benefit from government schemes,” she said. All these shows a small victory for the third gender. After all we are democracy and entitled to get same benefits.

However, there are still questions on their access to education and safe childhood. They are still deprived of jobs in most sectors of societies. Again, is reservation in government schools, colleges and jobs an answer to the improvement of their plight? Will we be able to see our child studying with one of the other gender? Will we have our colleagues belonging to that so called invisible gender. We don't have answers to that, but today, let's have them earn a decent life, with dignity. First, we all are human, after that we are a boy or girl or eunuch.

Monday, 13 August 2012

What is it about

65 years ago, Pandit Nehru declared our independence by these words, "At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom." Let's look back at those lines and think "Are we actually awake?".

With India pursuing to be a super power, we are the ones who has to be part of it and contribute towards its pursuit. However, there are many setbacks in our pursuit that needs attention. Most of us are ignorant of these setbacks and cling to things like absurd images on facebook, more than stupid shows on MTV and Channel V and bizarre news on India TV, mostly for entertainment. We need not discard them, they are necessary and playing their roles well, but let's try to take out some time to know the actual truth of society. Let's not be ignorant and learn more and more about the world, about our culture and our needs and try innovate a society that is a perfect fusion of all this, where every human is equally respected, has the freedom to pursue his dreams, without being unlawful and inhumane.

We all know stealing is wrong, killing is a crime, terrorism is inhumane; but why do we all shut our eyes or seem to accept when issues like dowry, molestation, black money, female foeticide, human trafficking, eve-teasing, dignity of third-gender come in front of us. We tend to think, "Ye sab to chalta rehta hai". Now, a lot of it is already being said and written by many leading newspapers and social/intellectual bigwigs, however most of those things are being overheard, neglected or at the most pitied. Aamir Khan with his show "Satyamev Jayate" started a wave of awareness and awakening people about the social issues. But we tend to bother less when we hear from unknown people and when the same thing someone close to us tells, we can empathize with it more easily. With the same thought let's make efforts to eradicate ignorance, let's strive for excellence, let's not overlook the setbacks, let's talk about it and innovate a solution for each.

There is an age old truth by the prophetic philosopher, Confucius. He said that to see what is right and not do it requires more courage than actually doing it. He also said that one should not be ignorant of the opportunities and let that ignorance cause a setback in the quest to ones goal. This is what is currently happening with us; the ignorance of self belief, the pre-conceived notions of culture, the agreement to live in anguish and unyielding blames on the politicians for all our problems is setting us back in our quest to our goal. Let us be courageous enough to turn these set backs into opportunities and if can use each resource responsibly we will be able to eliminate guilt and worry that hold us back. Let everyone be capable of making the rightful decision and have the courage to do what is right.

Highly Optimistic View (but that's what we need)

If even 100 of us can share and spread awareness about such setbacks to other 100 on our facebook page it will reach 10,000 reads. Now, that's not a small number. Our self-belief will empower us with the reasonable probability as regards of the attainment of our cherished goal. A reasonable probability is only certainty. So on this historical day, let's join hands and embark to the journey of new awakening, with positive attitude and unflinching self-belief.

Jai Hind!!!