21

She – a woman

DEAR DADDY,

I just wanted to thank you for looking after me so well. Even though am not yet born. I know you try harder than even superman – you don’t even let her have that sour tamarind. But I need to ask you a favor.

It’s about boys. Because, you see, I’ll be born a girl, which means, that by the time I am 14, the boys in my class would have called me a whore, a bitch, a cunt, and many other things. It’s just for fun – of course. Something which boys do, and you won’t worry… And I understand that. Perhaps, you did the same when you were young… trying to impress some of your friends. Am sure you didn’t mean anything by it. Still, some of the people won’t get the joke. And finally enough, it’s not the girls – It’s the boys.

So by the time I turn 16 a couple of the boys would have smocked their hands inside my pants while I am so drunk I can’t even stand straight. And although I say no- they just laugh. It’s funny right?

No wonder I am raped when am 21. 21 and on my way in a taxi driven by the son of a guy you went swimming with every Wednesday. The guy who always told insulting jokes. But those were jokes… and so you laughed with them too. Had you known that his son would have raped me you would have told him to get a grip… But how could you know? He was just a boy, telling weird jokes. And in any case it wasn’t your business. You were just being nice. But his son, raised on his jokes, becomes my business.

Then finally, I meet Mr. Perfect. And you are so happy for me daddy because he adores me… and he’s smart with a great job. He’s just like you. But one day, he stops being Mr. Perfect. And I don’t know why?

Wait. Am I overreacting? One thing I do know I am not meant to be this way. Am raised to be strong and independent women. But one night it gets just too much for him. He calls me a whore. Just like you called a girl from the middle school once. Then another day, he hits me. He calls me a bitch sometimes, but still we are the greatest couples right? I love him.. and Hate him. God am confused. I really don’t know what’s my fault here. And one day he tries to kill me.

Dear Daddy. This is the favor I want to ask. One thing leads to another. So stop it before things begin. Don’t let guys call them whores… Because they are not. And one day a little boy might think it’s true. And a 1000 lies can make a lie a truth.

 

She is a woman, who gave up her surname to accept her partner’s surname. She is a woman who says nothing while another woman (her mother-in-law) shouts at her.She is a woman who sacrificed her desire to study more and complete her education, because her parents couldn’t afford that. They couldn’t afford because the money was going to be spent on her lavishing marriage party, to save their fake repute. She is a woman who bears the unbearable pain during her periods, hiding it from the society due to the fear of getting “judged”, and still makes the breakfast for her children and husband. She – is a woman. Just another woman.

“She wakes two hours early and takes the pain…

But the credit for her work remains the same!

Incredible pressure to juggle work and family

But why no respect? Coz she ain’t manly!”

India might not be the same land as it used to be anymore, where people found pleasure in watching a monkey dance, but it isn’t surely a country who accepts girl as they are without judging for sure.  In the midst of growing modernity and the rise of “feminism” in this country, there apparently are so much so many problems that continue to thrive – of course for the women.

Khushi – a small 1 month old baby girl – wouldn’t have been alive if her mother had not fought in silence against those loud voices, those pressure words and coercion she had to go through which made her life a living hell.

“Throw her away! Push her off the roof! Kill her! Are you mad? Are you going to give birth to a girl?”

“Why do they do it? They are gods own creation. They look such cute, baby dolls while they are born. How can someone kill them while they are just in the womb.” – Khushi’s mother

Khushi’s mother had exclaimed that her neighbors provoked her to get an ultrasound and abort the child. Though an illiterate women, she knew female infanticide was illegal. More obviously, she knew it was immoral.

Till the girl gets 5-6 years of age, her unconscious mind and experience of a small span has made realize that she is different from the other sex, that the boy she plays with in the evening isn’t the same as she is, that she likes watching her mom dress up for any function while she tries to imitate her putting the clothes around her body like her mother wears a saree, and even tries to imitate her by sitting in front of the mirror, trying on the new maquillage that mommy had bought from the marketplace, though not able to do it perfectly. Her mom then helps her with it and the nail paint – Oh how happy she gets and smiles while seeing herself in the mirror and trying to shy away from her own self. Clearly a girl in India inhibits this quality of “being shy” from a very small age.

She gets happy when her maternal uncle comes home and brings her the best barbie – the barbie that none of her friend had till now. She feels happy and his maternal uncle pulls her and makes her sit on her lap. Little does she know what her uncle has in mind. He hugs her tight and puts pressure over her waist, until she gets irritated and finally says – “Mama dard ho raha.” Little did she know back then- little did she know that behind the loving uncle’s gift and her holding tight was a lusty predator. She only understands this when she gets a bit old – now does she understand what her “mamu” actually had in mind.

“Mama jaise mujhe pakda tha waise bhai ko bhi pakdo na!”

She now enters that time of her life where things change for her. They find changes in there body and a pain every month. Afraid of the blood coming out while in school and the unbearable pain – she thinks that something has happened to her. Only to know from her mother that this is a normal thing and that she will have to bear with this pain every month – every year – till a very long time.

Little does she understand why the neighbor holds her more often, why he brings her gift and tries to kiss her when no one is around. Little does the small brain of her understand why does he touch her. Only till the day arrives when she is out in the ground to play – while he calls her and locks the door from inside – Little does she know that the uncle who had been bringing gifts and chocolates for her had such a pervert mentality and little does she know that this scoundrel will try to haul on her when no one was around.

A girl, if she is raped, cannot say this or raise her voice against. Reason? No one believes her. Or no one wants to believe her. She cries, only to hide her tears, till her mother notices that she is living in silence, not the same little girl she knew, who was jovial more often and used to be lively the whole day. When she asks her, the girl refuses to reply and still remains silent. When after a lot of percussion she tells her what she went through, her mother cries and asks her to not say this to anyone.

When the girl crosses her intermediate, she asks her parents to support her as she wants to become a doctor. Her father, a government servant, refutes and says we don’t have money for it. Little does she know how does the same father have money to spend on her brother for his coaching.

“He hardly studies, cheats to pass, he doesn’t like to study, why does father still spend money on his coaching when he even bunks it to have fun with his friends?”

Her aspirations are drenched. She is forced to attend a local college only to complete her graduation she is least interested in. She is compelled to go to college in the bus, when she had asked for her scooter. “Paise nai hai” was the reply from his father. The same father buys a brand new bike for his son.

While she gets in college, a guy makes her fall in love with her. She falls for the small things he does for her, makes her feel special. He takes care of her, makes her smile, lets her enjoy her life, kisses her, hugs her, listens to everything she says and supports her for her aspiration to get a job and join the corporate world. He takes her for interviews in the final year of college, and stays with her till she gets the job. Things seemed to have changed for her.

Changed only till her parents get to know about the job and that she will have to leave her parents place and stay in an alien state. They deny, refuse and ask her to give up her job. They shout at her when she refuses and ask her

“Who put this in your mind that you could have a job?”

They get to know that their is a guy involved, beat her again, close her in a room, stop her food and ask her

“Yahi karne k liye bheja tha padhne?” 

“Pata nai samaj me kya muh dikhaayenge!”

“Kya zarurat thi muh kaala karane ki? Aise hi maar deti hume?”

She has to leave the job and she is married off to an unknown. Her parents spents way more money for the lavishing marriage- the money he could have spent to fulfill her wish to be a doctor. He spent it for a day’s false repute building. The unknown sleeps with her on the very first night, and has sex with her. She cannot say anything to him, because according to “Indian marriage system”, he now has the official license to sleep with her.

She gets pregnant, only to realize from a forced ultrasound that she has a baby girl in her womb. Her parents-in-law are against it. Her female neighbor and her mother-in-law, asks her to drop the plan of having the baby, they force her to abort. This vicious cycle continues where it started.

There are so many things I want to point out, so much of hypocrisy that prevails in this society. India is a country where people worship Ma Durga and Ma Kali, and ask her for prosperity and a good life. They are same people who have a bad eye on a girl from a neighbor, merely 12. They are same people who judge her when they see her with a boy in college. They are the same people because of whom a girl cannot ask for the sanitary napkins openly in store. They – are the same people who were born out of a women themselves.

Why this hypocrisy? Why should a women suffer, always , like ALWAYS? Who gave us the right to kill a soul before she is even born? Who gave them the authority to kill someone who is sent by the almighty himself? Who gave her the right to sexually assault her when she doesn’t know what does that even mean? Who gave her the right to judge her for the menstruation cycle? It should in fact be celebrated – something a guy can never do – give birth to a baby, keep it in his womb and take care of it for a period of 9 months – taking every pain when she comes out. Who gave us the right to take her aspirations? Who gave us the right to all this?

 

 

33

Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole

While moving through the narrow lanes in the small village of Korba in Uttar Pradesh, the sight of youth sitting idle at home, who at this time should have been either studying or doing  a job, was worrisome. Under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(MGNREGA), people who didn’t get job for the whole 100 days got “free allowances”, which made their slothful and indolent, reluctant to find job, study or increase their skill. Clearly,this scheme wasn’t actually lending a hand, but was actually proving to be a dole.

Let’s try to comprehend the meaning of this statement. “Lending hands” in literal sense is supporting someone. This support may be in the form of consoling wordsimplementation of schemes on ground level, instilling faith by providing basics (education and health),empowerment,humanitarian support and technical assistance. The second part of the statement says “better than giving a dole”. Dole here means “grant“, an “allowance” or a “benefit” being transferred basically understood in economic terms. The following write-up will find an interconnection between the two statements, and look for different aspects including economy.

First,let’s try to look into history about how this statement holds water. Despite the plight that the Women and Dalits had to face in the Indian society, Gandhi made sure they participated in Non Cooperation Movements. This idea evolved not only by announcing the fight against the colonists, but by making sure women and dalits were accepted by the majority. The impetus to national feeling wasn’t evolved as a dole(for free), but it took Gandhi’s helping hand to invoke that feeling in them.He himself did the works of the harijans and fought for the rights of women.

After independence, reservation was provided for a period of 10 years on the premise that the dalits had suffered years of  injustice, grief and dejection. But little focus was given on empowering them. Result? Reservation still continues, not for the betterment, but for vote-bank politics.

In the present national context, while the 14th Finance Commission recommended for the devolution of power and revenue to the state government, the other necessary budgetary allotments like for health and education along with maintenance of biodiversity was cut to eliminate duplication of efforts and hence putting oil in the fire already burning. But what the GOI forgot was that most of these benefits needed an expertise. Teacher training, capacity building and opening  new government colleges for future doctors, necessary recruitment for the trained teachers was their work, they have been failing in these.The solution lies in the problem itself.

Apparently, India’s poverty index is calculated on a very narrow basis i.e the family income. While it may be one of the basic parameters, it doesn’t count the people who are “extremely poor”, those who can’t even think of earning because of their infallibility to move, due to social depreciation or due to low confidence. We call this strata the “pauperists”. What did the government do? They went for Public Distribution system. This effort of the government, though a welcome step, proliferated the infallibility of the poor to come out of misery, because now they were getting food without working for it. Can we think of eliminating pauperism merely by giving them food, or instead instilling confidence in them?

Apparently,the government is focusing on Direct Benefit Transfer(DBT). Although a good step, it may be utilized by households for non-food purposes and end result will be adding to malnutrition. Increased responsibility towards health, higher education and marriage of a girl and hence dowry eliminates the basic idea behind DBT, it is instead pushing people towards more miseries and more debt traps. The solution lies in changing the mindset of sahukars, and not merely giving money to the poor. Dalit Capitalism is on a rise and Dalit India Chamber of Commerce and Industry is focusing on Dalit entrepreneurship to socially uplift them and pave a way to end caste discrimination.

Thankfully, there has been a paradigm shift in the thinking of government and now it focuses more on making “job befactors” rather than “job appellants”.The coming up of SETU, Start up and Stand Up India has enabled this. Government is now focusing on research and technology driven start-up’s and hence working on giving an enabling environment for these and also techno-financial benefits and incubation centers are being started. But the solution isn’t only about giving these “benefits” but making sure the funds are actually allotted, there are no bottlenecks and there is a commissioner in place to look for the loopholes in the system.

Moving on, nowadays there has been a rising fudge about how women have been denied cultural rights and how they are not allowed to enter the temple to offer the praying to the deities. The constitution, although under Article 15 calls for the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender, and Articles 25-28 talk of right to freedom of religion and its practices, they are denied equal rights. Why this discrimination that too in a country where women is worshiped as Durga and Kali? The solution is not in giving provision in the articles under the constitution, or setting up of National and state commissions, but the solution is in changing the “mindset” of the people, so as to make sure patriarchy is uprooted.

How can this be done? Many recent surveys reveal that as the inclusion of women into the Panchayati Raj Institutions increased, there was a steep decline in the cases adjoining domestic violence, alcoholism, dowry and child marriages went down. So, empowering women is a solution. The same goes for the menace of child labor. Although various laws in place to eradicate child slavery, the real solution is in providing education to the children and maybe some pension schemes for the families who are forced to send their children to work for living.

Moving on,at the Banking level, Priority Sector Lending quota is a way to penetrate the financial support by the banks to the rural areas, but banks shift it towards NABARD and SIDBI to reduce risks.So basically, there is an enabled provision but their but no ground implementation. Similarly, Indira Awas Yojana aims at free housing for the poor, but their is corruption in allotment processes,lobbying issues.So lot of poor become mere pavement dwellers. They want to make smart cities but they don’t want poor to reside there.

For coping with the aftermaths of disasters, National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) was made and various agencies took power. Funds allotment took place at various level. But no nodal agencies was made which could integrate the works of the various departments, which leads to duplication of efforts, leakages and delays in field work. Also, much of the amount is spent on post-crisis management, the bulk expenditure of which could have been used for better plan of basic reduction risk infrastructure. The solution lies in a better framework for technical assistance to prevent the disasters instead of focusing on mitigation.

For curbing corruption, a legal framework was made and acts like Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) was enacted. But instead of just giving the PCA, enforcement procedure needs to be focused on. Even though there is a code of conduct of various government official levels, but there has been no commission officer in place to punish the wrong-doers. So even though means is provided, the “helping hand”( in this case a commissioner from the house of legislature) isn’t provided.

Internationally, there is a focus more on “long term investments”, on “soft loans” rather than donations. Japan’s assistance to India with a soft loan worth a $100 Billion to build the Bullet, or be USA’s assistance to Vietnam and China’s building of Chabadar port in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK), isn’t merely a “dole” but a “helping hand” by giving technical assistance and “special status” for trade too, though with a more focused motive of long term interest.

Similarly, during the earthquakes in Nepal, India was one of the first countries to provide the relief funds and the Indian Army was the first to give assistance for evacuation and rescue operations. Was monetary help the only way for showing out empathy for the misshaping? No. Apparently, the humanitarian support that was provided by Indian Army was much appreciated both by Nepal and around the world. Mere dole wouldn’t have increased this reputation of India.

Thus, we saw that the solution doesn’t merely lie in allotting funds for a particular work, but it has a social, humanitarian and political motive that needs to be connected too. The solution isn’t merely giving money, the solution is finding a long term measure. The government shouldn’t merely be focusing on how “laws” are made, but how they are “implemented”, not on how much “money” is given, but how they “earn” it themselves, not on how “reservation” should empower, but on how “instilling faith” would help us eliminate the menace due to reservation, not on how they get the “free money”, but on how they “give money” to others.

 

 

0

Should women be allowed in the combat services?

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India’s step on allowing women to fly the jet fighters in the IAF has been seen as a welcome move by the government towards their women candidates, keeping in mind their aspirations and also to be at par with developed countries like US and even arch rival Pakistan, who already have women women flyers in their force. The latest move not only marks the maiden entry of women in combat roles in the IAF but in any branch across the Indian armed forces.Following the statements back this year by the defence minister, questioning the physical abilities of women as they were “incapable of being a part of the combat services” had received much of the criticism.
Seeing all this as an optimistic move, the question arises as to why the women members shouldn’t be allowed in the combat. The opponents of these had many points.

Prisoners of War: “Have you wondered what would happen if women become prisoners of war?” While the statement has its edge of a slightly practical picture, this factor can never be a sole reason as to why they shouldn’t be allowed. Of course there is a great possibility that if caught, they will be subjected to sexual and physical exploitation, but if people remember, Indian movements for independence got an edge only after women started being a part of it. Not to forget the contribution of sarojini naidu, who was one of her kind, moving along with mahatama to complete the salt march. Morover after the Geneva conventions following the 2nd world war, there are provisions that protect the basic human rights of a citizen, which includes protection from humiliation and misbehaviour. But since unfortunately since these rules cannot be said to have made a difference, it cannot solely be relied upon. So this topic remains controversial.

Physically less stronger : “The women cannot fight as they are physically and mentally less stronger than men”. According to many studies conducted worldwide, women and men both went through the same stress level and mental issues after firing a weapon in combat, handling human remains and witnessing death. According to another study of women and men in responses, it found that men in case of emotional stress developed “more aggressive attitude” than women, and we know aggressive attitude cause more likely the accidents and injuries to take place. Women though maybe having less muscle power, but analytical skills are an important attribute of a person in combat. Besides the women being the one giving birth to a child, how can some stereotype them being physically and mentally less weaker, when giving birth requires so much of physical and mental hardships for a women?

Women leaving the services and combat more often: This has been found to be true according to the empirical data. But until and unless we let go off the patriarchal mindset which includes having this women as the sole member to look after the family and be involved in family affairs letting go off their aspirations and dreams, how can we even expect as any other conclusion out of it?

As long as people are perceived equally and fairly in practice and training, it gets over it. There’s actually no evidence that males break down when females are injured in battle or are distracted by their fellow female warriors. As long as they go through the same rigourous practice and the armed forces are trained to protect each other regardless of what chromosome we possess. The problem comes with the stereotypes from the society as well as those already in service about female sexuality, not from facts and science, as science says an altogether different story.

A country like India who has seen women leaders like Rani laxmi bai and Bezum Hazrat Mahal fight against the egregious suppression from the Britishers, does it suit to have such an approach and mentality for women ?

In the end, they are service members first and women, second. Caliber and ability are the currencies of the armed forces. As the females are trained equally, they can prove that they can do anything fellow men can do. We need to trust the tactical and analytical abilities, until they support and aspire to be member of the combat forces and serve the country.