India Insight

To Indian women: Forget freedom, follow rules

Anyone looking for stories of outrages committed against women in India this month doesn’t need to look far. Just after an attack on a woman in the northeast city of Guwahati, and a plea by an Islamist group in Jammu & Kashmir for female tourists to dress more conservatively, a group of village elders in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh has released some new rules to ensure that women stay safe. The only loss they’ll suffer is individual freedom:

- Women cannot use mobile phones in public

- Women under the age of 40 cannot go outside without a male relative to accompany them.

- Women should cover their heads in public.

- Village boys cannot play songs or music on their mobile phones in public.

The village elders, known as a khap panchayat, took the actions, they said, to prevent sexual harassment. The result, of course, is to punish women pre-emptively by restricting their liberties in the name of protecting them from men who cannot be trusted to restrain themselves.

The Uttar Pradesh government said that the panchayat has no legal authority to enforce such rules, and that people should report attempts to do so. When the police tried to step in, a crowd of people beat them up.

On the same day, a row over attending classes in hijab (headscarf) sprung up in Mangalore when some female students belonging to the Muslim community boycotted classes in Sri Ramkunjeshwara First Grade College, Ramkunja. They were protesting the management’s decision to ban the hijab as a part of their dress code.

Woman attacked in Assam: what should the press have done?

On the night of July 9, a group of about 20 men groped and stripped a teenaged girl attending a birthday party at a pub in Guwahati.

A local news channel, News Live, whose studio is nearby, recorded the incident and broadcast it. The video went viral on the Internet after the channel posted it on YouTube, shocking the nation. (The original video has been removed from You Tube)

The mob molested the girl for more than 30 minutes until passersby and police rescued her. One of them was a journalist, Mukul Kalita, editor of Assamese-language daily Ajir Asom.

from The Human Impact:

Does marriage stop prostitution? Indian village thinks so

Is marriage a guarantee that a woman won't be prostituted?

It's a question that played heavily on my mind recently when I went to the remote village of Wadia in India's western region of Gujarat to cover a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls, which was aimed at breaking a centuries-old tradition of prostitution.

I arrived in the small, neglected hamlet on the eve of the big ceremony. Preparations were well underway.

Soon-to-be-brides sat inside the mud-walled compounds of their homes surrounded by singing female relatives, with "haldi" or turmeric paste smeared on the faces and arms - a South Asian pre-wedding ritual believed to make the skin "glow".

Indian women hard-pressed to relieve themselves

For an Indian man, the entire country is one easy-access urinal. Be it mustard fields, the national highway or the Himalayan foothills — unzipping, unleashing and relieving comes naturally to them. Indian women, unfortunately, do not enjoy the same privilege. For them, infinite patience is a survival skill and a big bladder a necessity.

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan seems to empathise with the pain of the Indian woman. He wants to “dedicate” his life to building public utilities for women across India. “I want dignity and respect to be brought to women,” he said at an event in Mumbai.

It is a shame that the government has still not woken up to this disparity in India’s infrastructure. Be it urban areas or villages, clean public toilets for women remain an alien concept in India.

Is India ready for a Slut Walk?

By Annie Banerji

Dress appropriately, don’t make eye contact with strangers (especially men) and be at home before sunset. These are a few basic rules that Indian daughters imbibe from their parents, even in a new India where years of economic boom have thrown up a trendy, affluent youth with a kind of freedom unknown to many of their parents.

India had its first Slut Walk in Bhopal city in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday to denounce the idea that women entice men and invite trouble with their attire, a belief seemingly held by many Indian judges as well.

The first Slut Walk was initiated by Canadians in April in response to a comment made by a Toronto police official.