India Insight

Women shouldn’t have mobile phones, politicians should: politician

Witness the latest public relations trap for a loose-lipped Indian politician, courtesy of the Deccan Chronicle:

BSP MP Rajpal Saini has now launched a tirade against mobile phones and has publicly declared that women and children do not need mobile phones… “Why do housewives and school going girls need mobiles? It encourages them to make futile small talk and get connected with people outside their homes.”

Mobile phones distract women, Saini said, and offer nothing useful for them, the Chronicle reported.

Saini did not say how Indian society would benefit from confiscating women’s mobile phones, but the context is wide and deep. Many more Indian women than ever before hold jobs, wear what they like, associate with whom they want and go out alone — and they talk on the phone. Meanwhile, many men cannot understand why this should happen during their lives. They have a hard time thinking of independence without the implication that its evil twin is sexual promiscuity. To them, independence leads to sex, which leads to rape, which leads to sullied family honour — and that is not just a quaint idea for much of the nation.

And that’s where the mobile phone confiscation idea comes. As the Chronicle notes, a Khap panchayat — or group of village elders — in Baghpat earlier this year banned women under 40 years of age from using mobile phones. When you’re on a mobile, you can go anywhere and say what you like in privacy to whomever you want. If you want control of your family, you don’t want this.

from The Human Impact:

Prostitution: their bodies, their rights

It is seen as a job no woman would want to do. A job no woman would willingly do.

Yet, spending time in one of Asia’s largest red light districts gives a view of prostitution that jars with what many feminists, gender rights activists and, in fact, society in general believe.

The Sonagachi district – a labyrinth of narrow bustling lanes lined with tea and cigarette stalls, three-storey brothels, and beauty parlours – in the east Indian city of Kolkata raises eyebrows with many who know this place.

from The Human Impact:

Acid attacks: the faceless women you can’t forget

Since I met her over a week ago, I have been unable to forget.

Every morning as I put on my lipstick and black eyeliner in front of the mirror, I am reminded of her face. Or lack of it.

Sonali Mukherjee, 27, is one of hundreds of women across the world who have lost their faces, and their will to survive, as a result of one of the most heinous crimes against women I have come across: Acid violence.

Nine years ago, three men broke into Sonali's home in the east Indian city of Dhanbad as she slept, and threw concentrated acid over her face.

from The Human Impact:

Undernourished and anaemic – the plight of India’s teen girls

The U.N.'s latest report on the state of the world's 1.2 billion adolescents gives food for thought, especially on the plight of India's girls aged between 10 and 19.

The report explores a range of issues affecting teenagers around the globe, from nutrition and health to sexual behaviour, knowledge on HIV/AIDS, attitudes towards gender violence and access to education.

Data from surveys of adolescent girls in India, and South Asia in general, are once again a reality check - which we shouldn't need but unfortunately still do.

from Photographers' Blog:

Privileged witness to the start of life

By Vivek Prakash

It's an experience I will never forget. I have no children of my own, but when the day does come, maybe I'll be just a little bit more prepared for it.

I had come a long, long way from my usual cosmopolitan stomping ground of Mumbai, to a place just about as far interior as you can go in India. I was about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Rajasthan border in the state of Madhya Pradesh, in a village of about 700 people. This is very, very small by Indian standards. There were dusty roads that a car could barely fit down, mud houses, a scorching heat during the day which turned to a deep chill at night.

I had many ideas in my head and many questions too - what kind of emotions was I going to experience and witness? Should I be excited, or should I feel like an intruder, given the subject matter I was here to shoot? I had come a long way to shoot this, but now, standing in this little rural community health center with my camera, I felt conflicted.

On Delhi’s deadly roads, life-saving helmet not required for women

India’s roads are among the world’s most dangerous, claiming thousands of lives each year. Cows and elephants rub shoulders with sleek foreign-made sports cars on highways across the country.

But two-wheelers remain India’s favourite mode of transport. Millions of scooters and motorbikes are sold every year, accounting for 75 percent of all vehicles sold in the country. Entire families are seen seated on these affordable and fuel-efficient vehicles, zipping in and out of packed traffic in cities and towns.

Enforcing road safety measures remains a huge problem, leading to one road accident every minute and a road accident death every four minutes in India.

from Nita Bhalla:

Acid attacks: the faceless women you can’t forget

Since I met her over a week ago, I have been unable to forget.

Every morning as I put on my lipstick and black eyeliner in front of the mirror, I am reminded of her face. Or lack of it.

Sonali Mukherjee, 27, is one of hundreds of women across the world who have lost their faces, and their will to survive, as a result of one of the most heinous crimes against women I have come across: Acid violence.

Nine years ago, three men broke into Sonali's home in the east Indian city of Dhanbad as she slept, and threw concentrated acid over her face.

India must ask: where is the honour in killing?

Three men were arrested by Delhi police this week for “honour killings” days after the Supreme Court asked eight Indian states to stop these so-called “honour” killings, where family members, typically men, kill daughters and their husbands for apparently bringing dishonour to the family by marrying below their caste.

An Indian brideThe killings, in a posh neighbourhood in Delhi, brought the tragic and shameful story of honour killings closer home to Delhi residents, who had so far dismissed the rising instances of these killings as a feature of rural India, equating them to a more traditional and conservative India they claim not to inhabit.

The clash between tradition and modernity is not new and is not unique to India, where more than two-thirds of its population lives in rural areas, and where more than half the population is below the age of 25 years.

An easier end to unhappy marriages in India?

India’s cabinet this week cleared a proposal to amend the Hindu Marriage Act to allow “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” as a ground for divorce.

Hindu brides sit during a mass wedding ceremony in Noida December 26, 2009. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/FilesThe amendment had been resisted earlier and been pending for nearly three decades now. Other grounds for divorce, which can take anywhere from six months to 20 years, include cruelty, desertion and adultery.

The amendment, if approved by parliament, will make divorce easier for estranged couples, experts say, particularly in cases where a partner is deliberately delaying proceedings. Even family courts are notoriously ineffective and insensitive when it comes to separation, with judges often admonishing the woman to be more “adjusting” or offering advice thinly disguised as rulings.

Some questions on the Women’s Reservation Bill

INDIAThe Women’s Reservation Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha on the International Women’s Day.

It may be the most consequential act of lawmaking since independence.

It is probably too late to discuss alternative proposals for getting more women into parliament or the opinion of those women who don’t agree with the reservation route to political empowerment.

How far will women’s reservation empower women and the society?

There are questions on its provisions as they have been reported.

The bill seeks to bring more women into parliament by reserving seats.

While this widens the choice for the voter by putting women leaders into circulation it also decreases the choice of candidates for voters in reserved constituencies.

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