India Insight

No consensus on sex, violence and censorship in Bollywood

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Getting directors, producers and activists into a room to figure out Indian cinema’s connection to violence toward women, rape and crudeness in society can be like a family gathering. People shout, get angry and fail to solve fundamental problems because they can’t agree on anything.

The Siri Fort auditorium in New Delhi recently presented the latest forum for the debate. India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting held a six-day festival there to celebrate 100 years of moviemaking, and there was little agreement on how much responsibility Bollywood and the film industry bear for the poor attitude toward women that many people evince. It was perhaps a more pressing discussion than usual, given the name of the three-day workshop, “Cut-Uncut,” which dealt with official censorship in India, the role of sex and violence in movies and the influence of films on society.

To be fair, it’s a question with no apparent answers. Indian films are wildly popular. Storylines and songs become part of the thread of everyday life in a way that’s different than nearly everywhere else in the world. They also reflect a strange prudishness when it comes to love scenes with dance numbers as a substitute – strange because the dance numbers can seem infinitely more erotic than any kiss on the lips or lovemaking scene that they’re supposed to be representing.

Then there is the premise, debated for years in the United States by the music and movie worlds, that these images and the attitudes behind them in cinema reinforce a mindset toward women that brought us horrific stories in the past several months such as the Delhi gang rape and the rape of a Swiss tourist in Madhya Pradesh. Verdict? No answer.

Just another rape in India. Are we becoming numb?

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

A grim parlour game sometimes comes to mind when I read the latest story about someone raping a woman or a child in India. Is this the one that’s going to change everything? Is this the one that’s going to keep me up for days contributing to the news media’s coverage? Or is this just another rape?

There is no such thing as “just another rape” for a victim. Beyond the sexual violation, there is the torture. The physiotherapy student who was raped on a bus in New Delhi last December died as the result of injuries sustained by being penetrated with an iron rod. Everybody knows this, and everybody got angry, but anger runs out.

from Photographers' Blog:

Voices of women in India’s “rape capital”

New Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

My city is known as the so-called “rape capital of the country”. They say it’s unsafe, it’s dangerous, it’s full of wolves looking to hunt you down. A lot of it may be true. As a single woman working, living and breathing in New Delhi, I have had my fair share of stories. But the labels and opinions associated with the city were accepted on one level – no one questioned them, no one asked why – until a brutal tragedy one cold December night which shook the world and forced everyone (the authorities, the public, the lawmakers) to ask themselves uncomfortable questions and focus the on safety of women. It is still an ongoing, raging debate, thank heavens.

Meanwhile, I decided to focus on what Delhi’s women face and what they think about it. How do they go on with their lives, their work, their families? Just trying to understand the magnitude of how unsafe India’s capital is became one of the most challenging and emotionally exhausting assignments of my career.

SLIDESHOW: INDIA'S WOMEN DEFEND THEMSELVES

From call center executives to advertising professionals to tea stall workers, everyone has their stories and how they cope with it. Take the example of Chandani, 22, one of the few female cab drivers in the city. As she drove me around the city, a policeman stopped us at a barricade near India Gate. When he saw that a woman was driving the cab, he scraped his jaw off the floor. “You also drive a cab?” he said with an expression that suggested that he had spotted the Abominable Snowman. “I am doing a very unconventional job for women. Given that I do night shifts, I carry pepper spray and I’m trained in self-defense. Initially I faced a lot of problems but driving cabs at night has helped me overcome my fears,” Chandani said.

Delhi rape: what it says about us Indians

 Demonstrators run and throw stones towards the police during a protest in front of India Gate in New Delhi December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

We Indians are an angry people now. Thousands of people have poured into the streets, indignant and outraged over the savage case of rape and assault on a young woman in New Delhi.

That anger degenerated this week into hysteria and bloodlust, with calls for capital punishment and castration of the rapists. The Internet was flooded with comments urging public hanging and beatings. One response on an Internet forum suggested that Delhi men be raped so that “the problem can be solved”; another advocated the rapists be urinated upon.

Delhi gang rape: protests for women’s rights attract politicking instead

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The perfect recipe of a bad curry is to do everything right, then add one wrong ingredient, or add the right ingredient in the wrong amount. In this case, the ingredient is the mango, or as they call it in Hindi, “aam.”

I attended a candlelight vigil on Sunday night in Bangalore to stand up for women’s rights in India. The vigil was a peaceful version of the protests that have swept the nation after six men were accused of gang-raping and battering a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi last Sunday.

from The Human Impact:

Malala: An icon for millions of girls who want to learn

When it happened two months ago, it shocked the world. Masked Taliban gunmen stopped a school bus filled with children in northwestern Pakistan, boarded it and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck as she sat in the bus with her friends.

Her crime? She was a campaigner for the right of girls to go to school -- an act strictly forbidden by Taliban militants who are still active in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

This was her punishment for defying their edicts, the Taliban had said.

Fortunately, Malala survived and her story -- as well as her determination to continue to fight for girls to go to school despite the threat of death -- has captivated the world and made her into an international icon for girls' education.

from The Human Impact:

Dial-a-maid, get-a-slave in middle class India

When I arrived in India some years back as a single mother and full-time journalist, there was one thing I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about – finding domestic help.

Maids, nannies, drivers, cooks and cleaners are ten-a-penny amongst the urban middle classes here.

In New Delhi’s neighbourhoods, for example, most families employ full- or part-time help, who do everything from feeding and bathing babies and cooking family meals to sweeping and washing floors.

from The Human Impact:

Sri Lanka’s war-traumatised at risk as aid group leaves?

It was with a heavy heart I read the press release this morning.

A desperately needed aid programme run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) – in English, Doctors without Borders – in Sri Lanka's war-torn north has shut down after only 18 months of operation.

I had visited the project last September and I must say what MSF was giving was no ordinary aid.

It was not distributing food to survivors of the Indian Ocean island's almost three-decade long conflict. Nor was it reconstructing the shelled and bullet-ridden homes, schools and hospitals of Kilinochchi district.

India no angel in dangerous neighbourhood

By Annie Banerji

Perhaps the finger-pointing at neighbouring Pakistan and the talk of Afghan militancy destabilising the region that New Delhi so often rolls out should be reconsidered. The neighbourhood may well be dangerous, but India is no model pupil.

According to the 2011 Global Peace Index, an initiative of the Institute of Economics and Peace, which evaluates 153 countries based on the level of ongoing conflict, safety and security and militarisation, India is the world’s 135th most peaceful country, falling seven positions from last year.

This year’s rankings, which indicated a decline in the levels of peace for the third consecutive year overall, placed Iceland in the top spot as the most peaceful country and Somalia as the world’s least.

Kashmir seeks extradition of accused army soldier

A former Indian soldier, accused of killing a Kashmiri human rights lawyer, has been arrested in the United States on charges of domestic violence.

Major Avtar Singh fled the country in the 1990s after he was accused of kidnapping and brutally killing Jaleel Andrabi, a Kashmiri lawyer and human rights activist.

Andrabi’s decomposed body was found 15 years ago in a river. The killing sparked off massive protests and led to a probe by authorities.

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