A film examining the mass killings of baby girls in India and China is to be released in early 2012 (trailer below). Researchers estimate that the gender imbalance in these two countries is such that it could only have been achieved through the mass abortion of female foetuses and the murder of millions of baby girls. Look out for Pickled Politics contributors Rita Banerji and Mitu Khurana at 1:41-1:54 in the video.
The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.
Delhi is the latest city to see a ‘Slutwalk’, where hundreds of protesters took to the streets to highlight abuse of women and the killing of female children:
One protester told our correspondent: “Every girl has the right to wear whatever she wants, to do whatever she wants to do with her body. It’s our lives, our decisions, unless it’s harming you, you have no right to say anything.”
Another protester said: “There are a lot of problems for women in Delhi because a lot of women do face sexual harassment and just a couple of weeks ago the chief of police of Delhi said that if a women was out after 0200 she was responsible for what happens to her, and I don’t think that’s the right attitude.”
The march provoked plenty of debate amongst feminists in India. The marchers focused on the issue of clothing and consent, but also highlighted the general levels of violence against women in India (as Rita Banerji pointed out in a previous piece, rape is the fastest growing crime in India).
A Slutwalk had previously taken place in India, in Bhopal on 17th July, where the march was recast as ‘Besharmi Morcha: PrideStride for Women’ . Yet this was not as widely reported, and only 150 went on the march. Nevertheless, Bhopal did well in getting in ahead of Delhi. None of these problems are unique to India however, and every country could use a Slutwalk.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, commenting on the recent Human Trafficking Foundation revelations that many girls are lured in to the trade and then trafficked by women, reflects on female on female violence:
In the past five years, we have been forced to open our eyes here, as women, often in trusted positions, have been convicted of grotesque acts on babies, infants and teenagers. The young American woman Jaycee Dugard, whose memoir has just been published, describes how she was taken, aged 11, from a street by Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy, kept hidden and raped for years, being forced to give birth to her children with only the two monsters present. There are other examples of female collusion in heinous sex crimes, which destroy those comforting beliefs in motherly grace and feminine care.
Michele Elliott, a psychologist and director of the charity Kidscape, believes this is considered the “ultimate taboo”, something society does not want to think about: “The possibility that the sexual abuse of a child can be perpetrated by women causes enormous controversy and distress. It is thought that even raising the possibility of women abusing children, detracts from the larger, more pervasive problem of male abuse.” She gives examples of adults despoiled by their mums or other female relatives, who were disbelieved even by doctors.
Ms. Alibhai-Brown goes onto point out the important role that women play in processes such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and they often are the ones persuading/forcing the girl into such a situation. Her piece ends with criticism of feminists:
We feminists, with our neat critiques of male dominance, are pathologically unable to deal with the fact that females are, sometimes, more sadistic than men and can and do viciously hurt their own sex. Who dares within the sisterhood to revise the assumptions on which so much of that belief system rests
This is unfair. Ms Alihai-Brown herself has written on forced genital mutilation (FGM) for decades and she hasn’t tried to blame everything on men. Plenty of feminist/womanist activists are intensely critical of the role of women in many cases of things like forced marriage and ‘honour’-based violence, characterising them as ‘footsoldiers of the patriarchy’. Books such as Jaswinder Sanghera’s ‘Shame’ detail the oppression the author faced from females in her own family. The classic stereotype of ‘man-hating feminists’ are few and far between in reality. Women do commit violent and disgusting acts (though still less than men), and this is recognised by most feminists/womanists, who campaign to end violence and oppression by both men and women.
Discrimination against girls in India is well known and documented. Campaigners have long highlighted the skewed sex ratio, the abortion of female foetuses and the murder of baby girls. Now let another method to reduce the number of girls has been revealed: forced sex change operations:
The row emerged after newspapers disclosed children from throughout India were being operated on by doctors in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
Doctors confronted in the investigation claimed that girls with genital abnormalities were being sent to the city’s clinics to be “surgically corrected” and that only children born with both male and female sexual characteristics were eligible for the procedure. But campaigners said the parents and doctors were misindentifying the children’s conditions to turn girls into boys.
The surgery, known as genitoplasty, fashions a penis from female organs, with the child being injected with male hormones to create a boy. Dr V P Goswami, the president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics in Indore, described the disclosures as shocking and warned parents that the procedure would leave their child impotent and infertile in adulthood.
No doubt this is just the tip of the iceberg either. It is unlikely that Indore is the only place where this happens. Nor is legislation likely to be effective to stop this. What is needed is proper enforcement of the laws and a change in a mentality that views girls as something shameful compared to boys.
Update: There has been some doubt cast on this story by an Indian newspaper, which is a rival of the newspaper where it was first published.
In an example of why Slutwalk was needed, a leading celebrity lawyer has argued that women need to take more responsibility for how they dress, to avoid “victimising men”:
Celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman sparked outrage from anti-rape campaigners today after claiming women ‘victimise’ men by dressing in a sexually provocative way. The 54-year old solicitor – named Mr Loophole – said females who dress in ‘racy’ red underwear, skimpy tops and fishnet tights conveyed a message they only had sex on their minds…
“In the real world a woman who behaves or dresses in a sexually provocative way conveys a certain message. A message that ironically can vicitimise men. ‘So ladies when you say you dress for yourselves and not for us males, I don’t believe you. It’s time to take responsibility for how you act and what you wear.”
No. A woman does not have to dress ‘responsibly’. If she is sexually assulted it is not her fault. There are no mitigating circumstances.
Mr. Freeman then made matters worse by recounting his own experience “when he ended up in bed with a fellow undergraduate only for her to say no to sex when she revealed she had a boyfriend.”:
‘But mustering every fibre of willpower, I leapt of the bed, pulled on my clothes and made my exit. ‘Disappointed? Obviously. But more significantly I was disgusted to have been manipulated and, yes, victimised. However both my tender legal training and moral code had blazed inside me.
‘To have ignored her wishes would have been rape. End of career, end of future, end of everything.’
Perhaps it is an uncharitable interpretation, but by putting in the bit about considering the end of his career, it suggests that was a thought at the time, when it shouldn’t have been. She said no. End of story.
Yesterday saw the London march of the now worldwide campaign known as Slutwalk. The movement began in Canada after a police officer speaking about rape told an audience that they should avoid dressing like ‘sluts’ if they didn’t want to get raped. The was a lot of talk about the march being about reclaiming the word ‘slut’, but the vast majority of people were there to simply reassert something that should be patently obvious: that rape is the fault of the rapist, not the victim, and that a woman (or man) should be able to wear what they want without being sexually assaulted.
Many women on the march were dressed in a revealing way to try and hammer home this point; that it is their choice, not anyone else’s. The protest saw a good number of men turn up too, with some dressed in bras and short skirts in solidarity with the female marchers. It was gratifying to see the media give the protest so much attention, though that was probably more to do with the photo and video opportunities afforded than anything else.
The Socialist Workers’ Party attempted to hijack the march by handing out placards with their name on it, but nobody seemed to be paying much attention to them. Given that they only recently formed part of a woman-hating coalition (with Respect), perhaps this was an attempt to make amends. Most surreal was the builders who stopped to watch the march, perhaps feeling unable to wolf whistle whilst they clutched their Starbucks frappuccinos.
The march finished with speeches in Trafalgar Square, the best one being (in my opinion), by a prostitute who spoke about the brutality of her work and the dangers of criminalising either prostitute or seller, as it would drive the practice underground.
Given the huge levels of domestic violence still prevalent in this country, and repeated incompetence in dealing with it, my thanks go to the organisers for helping ensure that this event took place.
Yesterday, a meeting was held to oppose Nadine Dorries’ agenda, which includes female-only abstinence classes and further restrictions on abortion. Campaigners also wanted to further liberalise abortion services in Britain, particularly in Northern Ireland. A number of interesting points emerged from the debates (I didn’t attend), but what it is notable is that debate on abortion tends to focus almost exclusively on the supply side; at what point can a woman have an abortion, what she needs to go through to get it, and so forth. This is understandable, but it does polarise the debate, since on one side you have people who believe you are killing a human being and on the other people who feel you are interfering with a woman’s right to choose.
These positions are unlikely to change, but there is a way to please both sides, and that is reducing demand for abortion. To do this you first have to work out why women have abortions. Though there can be a number of reasons, two of the most common are not using contraception and women being pressured into sex. Therefore the way to deal with this, as Cath Elliot pointed out a while ago, is to increase contraceptive use amongst men and help women escape domestically violent situations. Thus you have less unwanted pregnancies and so less demand for abortions.
Who could object to this? Campaigners for liberalising access to abortion don’t actually enjoying the thought of abortions, so a reduction in demand wouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, as well as rescuing more women from abusive relationships. For those who genuinely think it murder, they should also support a plan that would see a reduction in the number of abortions. The only people who would object are the misogynists, who see abortion as a way to control women, and view sex education and promoting contraceptive use amongst men as immoral, but they wouldn’t be able to hide behind the excuse of protecting the unborn anymore.
Nesrine Malik has a good piece on the Women2Drive campaign in Saudi Arabia and the difficulties faced by campaigners who are protesting against customs rather than just laws:
Manal al-Sharif, the woman who attracted global attention to the Saudi Women2Drive campaign when she posted videos of herself driving on YouTube, was released earlier this week from Dammam prison. As a condition of her release she signed a pledge that she will not participate in the Women2Drive initiative and has officially withdrawn from the campaign. In her statement, she expressed “profound gratitude” to the king, who apparently had ordered her release…
Campaigns of this kind need to be personalised – to have a galvanising figure who can provide a role model and inspire others. But becoming that person in a traditional society can be nothing short of social suicide. Although Sharif is feted in the media and celebrated online, she still has to survive and raise her children among fellow Saudis who might be more disdainful. In an attempt to deflect attention, she said in her statement that she hoped the “Manal al-Sharif file is now closed”.
Ms. Malik points out that there are no written laws relating to female driving, yet it is banned because a ban in enforced in practice.
The latest figures from India’s national census make for grim reading. Between 2001 and 2011 the gender ratio (number of girls compared to number of boys per thousand) worsened, with only 914 girls for every 1000 boys being recorded, down from a ratio of 974:1000 in 1961. Some of the worst offending states, especially Haryana, did see slight improvements, but this was more than offset by the decline in Southern India, which traditionally has been less anti-female than the north. Much of the gap is due female foetuses being aborted. But infanticide (the killing of babies/infants) is also widespread, with young girls being murdered all over India.
What though can be done about it? Lifting people out of poverty is often the answer to many issues, but not this one. In the last twenty years, India has got richer, yet the gender imbalance is worse. It is often richer families who abort female foetuses, as they have access to ultrasounds and the money to pay for an abortion. As Rita Banerji’s article last week showed, such attitudes still exist in the (comparatively) wealthy Indian diasporas in the West, and this is only likely to worsen, as more Indians get access to affordable ultrasound machines.
Many assume The 50 Million Missing Campaign I run is about the female genocide – the mass and deliberate annihilation of women — in India. However, this is a phenomenon that concerns other countries too with sizeable Indian communities, like the U.K., the U.S., Norway and Canada.
In India the elimination is systemic and in many forms. But in expatriate communities, while issues like dowry violence and honour killings do exist, the most prevalent method of elimination is female feticide. The reason is, while western governments are compelled by law to deal with homicides, they are unwilling to address the systematic extermination of women through sex-selection.
A study published [subscription required] by researchers at Oxford University, reveals that 1500 girls went ‘missing’ from the Indian communities in England and Wales between 1990 and 2005. The 1500 figure indicates that 1 in 10 girls, who should have been born according to normal birth statistics, had been selectively aborted. The study raises another important question. This practice is not evident in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in the U.K., even though all three countries share a common history and culture, and the same social preference for sons.
I do not share Laurie Penny’s politics. I am not a regular reader of her material, and I strongly dislike some of her assertions, such as comparing housing benefit reforms to the murder of six millions Jews. From what I have read, there is plenty to criticise in her writings, and she should be held to the same standards as everybody else. But she isn’t.
Ms. Penny, more than any other writer, attracts a tidal wave of hate-filled abuse. In the comments on one critical post, her death is called for, her looks are dissected and scorned, she is called a ‘cow’ and ‘bitch‘ various times and attracts other comments too unpleasant to link to.
And that is just under one post. Posts frequently emerge attacking her, often leading to a plentiful supply of hateful comments, especially those focusing on her appearance. Much of the abuse is sexual/gendered in nature, and I can’t see a male blogger attracting the same sort of vitriol.
The other frequent criticism of Ms. Penny is due to her privileged background. She is quite open about this, and it is unclear why having a privileged background should stop an individual from taking the stances that Ms. Penny does (as long as she practices what she preaches). Would her critics prefer that she ignores the issues she cares about and instead revels in the advantages her upbringing has given her?
Some people manage to criticise Ms. Penny without resorting to either of these tactics, as they should. Those who can’t manage to criticise Ms. Penny in a civil way should hold their tongues, as they are nothing more than bullies.
I know I’m going to be the party-pooper at this grande-monde celebration of madre-hood today in India.
But the thing is that I don’t really buy the idea of a ‘mother’s day’ or for that matter a ‘father’s day.’ Let me explain.
This lady, who is my mother’s age, recently said to me, “You know that Elton John singer. He’s gay and he married a man! And now they have a baby. That’s impossible.” I asked why. And she said, “How are they going to raise a baby without a mother? A baby needs a mother.” I told her she reminded me of some of my students, when I taught biology. For the laboratory exams when asked to identify the sex of fetal pigs, the boys would invariably write, “Female, because it has nipples.” And I always told them that they needed to go home and take a good look at themselves in the mirror, and I would give them the chance to re-write their answers.
Motherhood is pushed and promoted like it’s the biggest, global brand-name that every woman must have! First it’s about the ‘biological instinct’ that demands to be fulfilled through imageries of ‘weeping wombs’ and ‘ticking clocks.’ And later on, as with celebrations of mother’s day, it becomes this over-arching, altar of self-sacrifice. It’s fundamentally illogical: First it’s an acquisition, something that a woman craves for, and chases after. And once she has it – it becomes this icon of selflessness.
What happened there? Why does the image of motherhood go from hankerer to altruist?
My argument is, that this is because women are never told what motherhood is really about. It is not about the pregnancy glow, the nine-month bump, the maternity dresses, or the cute, bright nurseries with Disney prints.
Motherhood is really about a person raising a person. The child is always a totally separate and unknown entity, and the real job of the parent is to recognize and foster that. Motherhood is no different from any other kind of parenthood, whoever the parent is: man or woman, father or mother or guardian, straight or gay.
It is a difficult job, a demanding career, and a womb and mammary glands don’t necessarily equip you for it. Nor are they equipments that are necessary for it!
Dr Mitu Khurana is an Indian doctor and activist whose case we have covered a number of times on Pickled Politics. She is now facing a fresh and imminent threat to her daughters. Her case to date is best summarised by the below two paragraphs:
Dr. Mitu has been battling her husband and in-laws for years. Her troubles began when she refused to have an ultrasound (which is illegal in India due to the fear of female foeticide if the mother is found to be pregnant with girls); this upset her in-laws, who poisoned her and took her to a hospital in order to have the ultrasound done. When it was found she was pregnant with twin girls, she was pressured to have an abortion. She refused, and when they were born, she was expected to give them up for adoption. She did not want to, so her in-laws started conspiring against her, with her mother in-law pushing her then four month old daughter down the stars on one occasion.
Dr. Mitu eventually left the house with her daughters for good, and filed a complaint under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, the first individual to do so. Since then her in-laws have taken her to court in order to gain partial custody of her children, an action she believes is merely a ploy in order to get her to drop the complaint against them and the hospital. Numerous officials she has encountered have been unsympathetic or downright hostile. A high court judge even told her to reconcile with her husband and in-laws after they had tried to kill one of her daughters.
Now a court has awarded her husband visitation rights, despite the fact that he showed no interest in them prior to being accused of bringing about an illegal ultrasound. Dr. Mitu fears this could endanger her children, and puts further pressure on her to drop the sex determination case, as this would be the only way to get her in laws dropping their custody case.
Her husband is due to visit them on the fifteenth, and Mitu and a number of other activists are trying to prevent them from happening by lobbying politicians. Anyone in India should write to the president or local MP, whilst in England we should contact the Indian High Commission in London:
High Commission of India
This case from America was truly shocking. A high school cheerleader has lost a court case against her school and will have to pay the school $45,000 (£27,300) in compensation.
What was worst was not the case itself, but how it came about. The unnamed cheerleader (‘HS’) was sexually assaulted by Rakheem Bolton, an athlete at her school. He pleaded guilty to the assault, but the charge of rape against him was dropped, so he was allowed back onto the basketball team (because being convicted of sexual assault isn’t a bar to representing a school it seems).
In a subsequent game, ‘HS’ refused to cheer her attacker when his name was mentioned, which prompted her expulsion from the cheerleading squad. The school deserves plenty of criticism for this, but so do the courts, especially given the way in which they dismissed her appeal by branding it “frivolous”. Whatever the merits of awarding ‘HS’ compensation, the anger of a sexual assault victim at being punished for failing to cheer her attacker is not some ‘frivolous’ gesture. The court said:
“As a cheerleader, HS served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams,” the appeals court decision says. “This act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, HS was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.”
So the school wasn’t at fault for allowing a sex attacker to represent them, rather it was the victim for trying to rebuild her life by taking part in something which mattered to her? Disgraceful.
This is a guest post by Dr. Mitu Khurana. Mitu is a doctor and activist whose struggles and campaign have been covered here.
Recently I attended a performance held by the “Asmita” group of artists, in collaboration with an N.G.O ‘Ekatra’ in New Delhi,. Everyone was in tears by the end of the play. The play titled –“TERI MERI USKI BAAT”- raised several questions which need to be discussed by every citizen in today’s India.
A girl playing the role of a minor raped at the age of 7 years , asked the audience- “why was my schooling stopped, why did my friends stop playing with me, why was I being singled out and pointed out everywhere I went ,what was my fault? No one blamed the rapist; it was my life which stopped. The rape happened when I did not even realize what has happened to me, I knew of only the physical pain. My parents did not want to go to police because I would be stigmatized. Today the physical pain is no longer, but it has been replaced by a mental pain at a much deeper level- the pain of being violated, the pain of being rejected by my friends, the pain of my own stopping my life where it was. WHY? Why should be the stigma on me, when I did no wrong?”
Another girl played out the role of a minor girl whose marriage was fixed up by her parents, without consulting her at a tender age when she was not even 18 years old. The vows of the marriage included- “I will never speak out against my husband”, “I will never ask my husband anything if he comes late”, “I will tolerate all abuses”, “I will bring gifts from my parents for my husband and in laws throughout my life” and “I will never give birth to any girl child throughout my life” among other such vows. The play showed her life after she became pregnant with a daughter. Her parents refused to support her, her siblings refused to help her save the baby, and when she went to her husband, he kicked her and beat her up mercilessly in order to cause her abortion. The whole theatre rang out with her screams – “PLEASE SAVE MY DAUGHTER, PLEASE DO NOT KILL HER.”
There are going to be marches in India, Canada, America and Dubai this Sunday to protest against female feticide in India, and specifically the case of Dr. Mitu Khurana, an Indian doctor who is fighting to protect her daughters and have her former in-laws and a hospital for forcing her to undergo an illegal ultrasound test (as well as poisoning her . More details below from the campaign:
This is for innumerable daughters who lost their lives before getting their lives. And for the mother who is fighting the system to save her daughters “March for India’s Missing girls, March for Mitu” is a part of a global initiative to protest against the government indifference to the continuously declining sex ratios. This is to protest against the improper implementation of the act which bans sex determination- Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques regulation act (P.C-P.N.D.T Act), resulting in a large number of Female feticides taking place. Delhi`s sex ratios have dropped to 821 females per 1000 girls.
The March also aims to protest against the harassment being meted out to Dr Mitu Khurana who is the first complainant under the P.C-P.N.D.T act, and is still struggling to save her daughters.
The major Goals and Objectives of “March for India`s Missing girls, March for Mitu” are-
1. Protest the daily murder of over 7000 baby girls in India.
2. To create awareness and remember the victims of this genocide.
3. To pressure the Indian government to enforce the laws to protect these baby girls and their mothers.
4. To collect signatures for Justice for Dr Mitu, who is fighting a lone fight to save her daughters.
5. To protest against the harassment by the Authorities who have tried their best to force Dr Mitu to withdraw her cases under P.C-P.N.D.T act.
6. To demand that the Authorities stop shielding the guilty under the P.C-P.N.D.T act, so that more women can come forward and report sex determination and save their daughters.
My grandmother’s story is perhaps the story of thousands of Indian women even today. As a vivacious, young woman, she had attended college more than 73 years ago, at a time when most Indian women, even in the middle and upper classes were illiterate. She dreamed of becoming a lawyer someday, like her father. Even now she fondly recalls how in college she had played the role of Portia (who takes on the disguise of a male lawyer to save a friend’s life), in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. But my grandmother never got to be Portia in real life.
She was soon forced to marry a man that her family considered to be a good match for her — an engineer, who had just returned from England, and had his own flourishing firm. However he did not appeal to her and she made that clear from the start. But her wishes and desires were of little consequence, and she was pressurized into the marriage. It was not just a marriage that was the equivalent of rape, but for more than 50 years she also had to endure terrible emotional and physical violence.
The first time that my grandfather had slapped her, she had turned around and walked out of the house just as she was — barefoot and in her dressing gown. She walked that way right across town, back to her parents’ house, and refused to return to her husband. It is something that women in the middle and upper-classes in India simply did not do! And still don’t. For a society that places the highest premium on “a family’s reputation” — the pressure is that much more on women in the educated and elite sections to remain silent, and return to their marriages to keep up social appearances. In the end that is what my grandmother too had to do.
I look around, among the middle and upper educated classes in India, and see my grandmother’s story repeating over and over again, even today!! How do these women endure the betrayal of their own parents, snuffing out their dreams and forcing them into unions that are nothing more than rape? How and why do they endure the continuing violence — and a society that remains blind and indifferent to the injustice of their lives, while it continues to exalt marriage and traditions as it supreme altars? Why, when they are educated and working, do these women not break their silence; break the tradition of enduring torture in the name of family and honor? This was my reason for writing ‘My Grandmother’s Memories.’ Read the article ‘My Grandmother’s Memories’ here in The Wordworth Magazine (click on Columns).
Sky pundit Andy Gray, already under pressure following his sexist comments about a female assistant referee and women in general, has been sacked by Sky after new footage emerged of a previous incident where he made sexually suggestive comments to another presenter. Given that his views and behaviour are fairly typical, he was unlucky in that he got caught, with others who have no doubt said similar things now distancing themselves from him. The search for his replacement is underway, and who is in the running (though not the favourite) to fill his shoes, but Glenn Hoddle, who had this to say about disabled people when England manager:
“You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains,” he was quoted as saying. “Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime.” I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap.”
We are seeking volunteers who can make 20-30 minute presentations on The 50 Million Missing Campaign and the fight against female genocide (femicide) in India.
We want these presentations made everywhere — in schools, colleges, universities, for women’s groups and other organizations, or even for a party of small friends at home.
We have the presentation all set for you here. All you have to do is download it onto PowerPoint and walk your audience through it by reading out the information on each slide.
THESE ARE THE 4 STEPS TO MAKING YOUR PRESENTATION:
1. There are 14 slides. Click on each (slide) thumbnail below. It will open to its full size . Then download it in JPEG onto your computer.
2. Copy the slides sequentially (the file names are numbered) into a new MS PowerPoint file or any other slide-presentation program that you use.
3. Save your slide presentation on your pen-drive, and read through this short paper by the campaign founder, Rita Banerji, in the Journal of Gender and Sexuality. It provides the background and references for your presentation. “Female Genocide and The 50 Million Missing Campaign,” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 22, October 2009.
Also read the link for Roopa’s story (slide 11). Roopa is a dowry-survivor. When her parents refused to give her in-laws dowry, her husband and in-laws pinned her down and forced acid down her throat. The 50 Million Missing campaign is a zero fund campaign. We don’t raise or collect funds and run on volunteer effort. However none of the ngos or international organizations in India that we approached for Roopa would help her, and she required urgent internal surgery, otherwise she would have died. Her own family is very poor, so the 50MM rallied for people to donate to her family and it saved her life.
4. Whenever you make a presentation please come back to this page and put a comment down here, indicating when and where you made your presentation and how your audience responded.
5. If you think your audience will be interested, we recommend that after your presentation you could show them this film “Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women.” This is a brilliantly made film that won many international awards. The story, which is a projection into the future, is about an Indian village where every girl child has been killed off, except for one. This child is raised by her father in total secrecy. In a village where men are desperate to find women to marry, no one knows about her existence, till one day someone discovers her in the forest, where she’s playing dressed like a boy. [It's important to note that there is much in this film that represents reality. For instance the massive trafficking of women across India, their "sale" as brides, and the fact that families of 4-5 brothers often times "buy" a bride to share].
5. Finally, we often get requests for campaign speakers from organizations and international symposiums. If you would like to be an official speaker for us, then please contact us at 50millionmissing[at]gmail.com before you start making your presentations. And we will tell what you need to do.
This sounds a bit unlikely, but would be good if it was true:
The Taliban are ready to drop their ban on schooling girls in Afghanistan, the country’s education minister has said. Farooq Wardak told the UK’s Times Educational Supplement a “cultural change” meant the Taliban were “no more opposing girls’ education”. The Taliban – who have been fighting the Kabul government – have made no public comment on the issue.
Given the Taliban’s repeated and vicious attacks on girls’ schools (LINK- contains a graphic image), this could be nothing more than political posturing (if it is even the Taliban who have said this), and some regional analysts have expressed doubts about the Taliban leadership’s ability to control their more radical followers. A example of their current attitude below:
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls’ school in the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened. A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid.
The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces. One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.
This is an edited crosspost from the 50 Million Missing Campaign
498A is a significant law in India that is meant to protect married women from violence inflicted on them by their husbands and in-laws, and ensure justice in case they get killed. These cases may or may not involve dowry. The law is cognizable (i.e. a police officer can investigate and arrest without a warrant) and non-bailable (i.e. the court has the power to grant or refuse bail). The maximum sentence under this law is only 3 years.
Over the last few years there has been a very powerful, wealthy, lobby of Indian men, many living outside India (married to women from India), who have funded a strong anti 498A drive and have managed to put the law before the Indian administration for amendment. Their complaint is that many women are making false claims of torture and harassment under this law. They want the law to be made non-cognizable and bailable.
The 50 Million Missing Campaign will be sending this memorandum (letter below) to the Committee protesting this amendment. We request that you put your comments in the boxes below [HERE] supporting our protest. Your email address will not be published. You can also send an email (by Dec 30) directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The debate surrounding Earth’s resources and population growth can often be quite fraught. Some people argue that an ever-growing world population will strain world resources even more, worsening climate change in the process. Others criticise this vision as an attack on the poor (who use less resources per head than the rich) and women who have plenty of children, which suggests some sort of mass planning where permission to breed is required from the state.
In theory, the calculation is a simple one. If technological advances and energy conservation can keep pace with population growth, then the situation is unlikely to get any worse. But whether this will work in practice is impossible to say. That is why it is useful to approach the issue from other angles, just as Kate Smurthwaite has done. Ms. Smurthwaite believes that reducing population growth is a good thing, but doesn’t see the need for state planning and control:
There are millions of women around the world and right here at home who desperately want to have less or no children, to have children later in life and to control their own fertility. Furthermore some of us crazy feminist types actually think it is their right to do so and to be given access to the tools and education to enable them to make those choices in their own lives. We call them reproductive rights.
Free access to and information about contraception – including condoms which also prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs – and abortion are basic rights that every woman should have. All we have to do is provide them.
More education and rights for women is a good thing in itself, and if it helps combat climate change then even better.
Avina Shah has released a new single, Tere Bina, which focuses on domestic violence. It was inspired by the film ‘Provoked‘, which told the true story of a abused wife who killed her violent husband and was jailed for it. Southall Black Sisters were one of the most prominent supporters of her and therefore Avina Shah has decided to donate the earnings from this single to them, which is available to buy at itunes. Her website is here. As Ms. Shah put it:
Tere Bina is a positive song all about girl power! It tells the story of a young girl who finally decides to walk away from a really violent and abusive relationship. The lyrics are in Hindi but the music has a very western feel, which I think will appeal to listeners that like to hear something a bit different but with a conscience. People think that domestic violence is a thing of the past, but it’s shocking to discover how common this problem actually is still today. We’ve put a lot of thought in trying to capture all of these emotions into the song itself as well as the music video.
The conference hosted over 1,500 globally represented attendees and lecturers who discussed topics on Islamic Feminism, including: problematics in defining Islamic Feminism, Qur’anic hermeneutics and feminist readings of the Qur’an, gender equality in the Middle East and Feminist Activism, and gender rights justice in the construction of male superiority over women in Islam.
One of the goals of these continued conferences is to validate Islamic Feminism as a growing phenomenon by providing a forum for intellectual discourse. Aiming to celebrate and support women’s rights groups and organizations around the world as they work toward reinterpreting scripture, giving women an educated voice and challenging patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.
Two weeks after the conference closed, Saudi Arabia was voted onto the executive board of UN Women.
Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot drive, vote or leave the house without a niqaab. Saudi Arabia. Where women cannot visit a doctor, travel, go to university, work or leave their homes without the expressed consent of their male guardian. Saudi Arabia. Ranking 130th out of 134 countries for gender parity. Saudi Arabia. Where Saudi UN officials defend polygamy by saying it’s required to help satisfy the sexual urges of men. Saudi Arabia. Where there are no laws protecting against child marriage and where rape victims are routinely punished for being alone with a man and charged as adulterers. Saudi Arabia. Home to Islam’s most holiest sites, the birthplace of the Prophet, and the main source of petrol-funded, political Islam.
The Goals of the UN Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women includes advancing global gender equality by helping inter-governmental bodies formulate global policies and standards and helping Member States implement these standards. The controversy over Saudi Arabia joining this executive board is clear: how on Earth does the UN expect to enforce these global standards on a Member State who clearly has a horrendous record of violating women’s rights, and who falls back on a politicized religious interpretation to bypass any Western global standard of equality? As activist and liberal Muslim Mona Eltahawy so aptly points out in her special to the Toronto Star:
In 2000, Saudi Arabia ratified an international bill of rights for women but stipulated that the country’s interpretation of Islamic law (Sharia) would prevail if there were conflicts with the bill’s provisions. So why sign in the first place? Especially as that interpretation is where so much discrimination against women originates — polygamy, half inheritance allotted to a man, little access to divorce and child marriage among them.
Talk about completely undermining the Islamic Feminist movement.
What many Islamic (and some Muslim) Feminists will argue is that the Qur’an and teachings of the Prophet are filled with proofs supporting women’s rights and social justice. The society that the Qur’an was revealed to regarded women as little less than chattel, and it was changes to this patriarchal system that the Prophet attempted to bring about.
The Qur’an prohibits violence toward women and expressively condemns female infanticide; it provides women with inheritance rights, the right to testify, to divorce, to own property and assets; and requires both women and men to equally fulfill religious duties. Historically, women were teachers of some of Islam’s most treasured male and female scholars, passed down prophetic traditions required in the formation of Islamic law, were key translators, led armies on the battlefield and ruled kingdoms. Women are afforded the right to be active participants in all aspects of religious and social spheres.
Part of the problem that we face today is in the interpretation of these sacred sources, and a complete revisionist history of women’s roles and rights in society. Islamist parties have interpreted the Qur’an and prophetic traditions according to their cultural worldview of women existing as second class citizens (or worse). This culture of female subjugation and constructed male authority has become so ingrained in people’s daily life and traditional expressions, that divine religious authority becomes conflated with the human constructed state. So speaking out against misogynist state policies is like speaking out against Islam.
According to Mona Eltahawy, the fact that Saudi Arabia has been voted onto the UN Women is less about truly effecting change in the country and more about the power of “generous contributions” and the benefits that “membership on a powerful agency” could one day bring the Kingdom. Like Eltahawy, I really can’t see how Saudi Arabia will do anything but rubber stamp and possibly gain a few extra points on the gender parity scale.
Some believe that their membership will put Saudi Arabia on the spot and that increased international attention will actually help women’s rights organizations gain more ground. I’m not holding my breath. While they won’t exactly have the power to shape global standards on women’s rights according to a politicized Islamic worldview, they will donate. And the money going to help promote women’s rights will come from one of the world’s worst offenders of these rights.
I really don’t know how to feel about that.
Unless of course, in some brilliant irony, the money coming from Saudi will go toward empowering Muslim women in their objective to reinterpret scripture, and God willing, help them challenge patriarchal systems that use religion to subjugate women.