The Human Impact

From the sickening to the bizarre, Indian politicians still don’t get rape

A member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist uses an iPad to take pictures of a  protest rally in Kolkata

 

Covering women’s rights issues for so many years in India, I still find the number of ways women and girls are abused and discriminated against unfathomable.

From their discrimination in accessing health care, education and employment opportunities, to their brutal rapes and murders. From having acid thrown in their faces, to being trafficked for domestic or sexual slavery. From their suicides due to dowry demands, to their molestation on buses and trains. It often feels like a bottomless pit.

The December 2012 murder and gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapist on a bus in Delhi jolted many in India out of complacency, and helped bring about greater awareness of violence against women in the country.

But the discussion, particularly on rape, is also bringing to surface the deep-rooted patriarchal and misogynist attitudes that exist in the higher echelons of political power – among those who have the ability to forge laws and policies to protect and empower women.

Comments made by politicians from across the political spectrum bizarrely blamed everyone and everything but the perpetrators of sexual violence.

“They told me to have a sex change” – Iranian lesbian

Sara, a bright young woman studying for a masters at Tehran University, is a lesbian – but if the Iranian authorities had their way, she would change her sex and become a man.

Homosexuality is considered sinful in predominantly Muslim Iran, and homosexual acts are illegal. Sex changes, however, are legal and appear to be positively encouraged by doctors and psychologists as “treatment” for people who prefer their own sex.

When Sara came out to her family nine years ago at the age of 20, she was sent to a psychologist who declared after one 40-minute consultation that she should have a sex change.

Do gender and sexuality really matter anymore?

Contestants wait for the start of the annual race on high heels during Gay Pride celebrations in the quarter of Chueca in Madrid

Contestants wait for the start of the annual race on high heels during Gay Pride celebrations in the quarter of Chueca in Madrid

When I sat down with directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini to discuss “Mala Mala,” their documentary which premiered last month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, I took out my laptop and went over my questions one more time, as I always do.

It turns out I didn’t really need them, as the interview quickly turned into a striking conversation about gender and its many nuances, love and how we perceive ourselves.

Gender identity a top theme at Tribeca Film Festival

Music may have been the biggest theme at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, but movies exploring gender identity and sexuality also made a strong mark at the event, which wraps up on Sunday in New York.

Among them was “Mala Mala,” about the trans community in conservative Puerto Rico, and “Something Must Break,” a Swedish drama depicting the difficult love story of a young man whose looks defy gender norms and his straight-identifying boyfriend.

“The whole process of filming was really investigative, we were curious,” “Mala Mala” co-director Antonio Santini told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We had no other intention rather than understanding.”

Can a mother truly hate her own son?

One line in Bad Hair, which had its U.S. premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York, has made me uncomfortable for days.

“I don’t love you,” Junior, the nine-year-old protagonist of Venezuelan director Mariana Rondón’s movie, tells his mother in the emotionally charged scene.

You would expect a mother to dismiss such a dramatic statement and rebuke her son for speaking such nonsense but all that Marta, Junior’s mother, says is: “Neither do I.”

Ending the beatings, rapes, murders: Where are India’s men?

Violence against women is widespread across the world. Globally, 35 percent of women have been beaten by an ‘intimate partner’ or suffered sexual violence at the hands of a non-partner in their lifetime, the World Health Organisation says.

The same research suggests that almost one third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, and that some 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by their husband or boyfriend.

In India, the situation is little better. The International Centre for Research on Women reports that 37 percent of men surveyed admit to inflicting violence on their intimate partner.

Using rape as an excuse for moral policing in India

The conversation has changed in India since that horrific night in December 2012 when a young woman returning home after watching a movie at the cinema was gang raped on a moving bus and left to die on the streets of the Indian capital.

The crime – which triggered outrage amongst urban Indians who took to the streets to protest – acted as a turning point, forcing many in India to face up to the widespread violence inflicted on women and girls in this largely patriarchal nation.

Discussions about rape, acid attacks, sexual harassment, molestation, dowry murders and female foeticide are now no longer just confined to civil society groups, feminists and academics but are being widely debated in the mainstream media and even amongst the usually apathetic political classes.

Gender injustice: When Indian judges get it wrong

An Indian judge who called pre-marital sex “immoral” and against “the tenets of every religion” has been criticised by activists who say his remarks highlight gender insensitivity within the judiciary and the challenges faced by victims of sex crimes in seeking justice.

Judge Virender Bhat, who presides over a fast-track court which hears cases of sexual offences, made the remarks after ruling in one case that there was insufficient evidence that a man had duped a woman into having sex with him by promising marriage.

According to the Indian Penal Code, a man who has sexual intercourse with a woman after obtaining her consent on the false promise of marriage is committing rape.

Italian men seek help to stop battering wives and partners


Alberto, a metalworker in his mid-thirties from a town in northern Italy, would sometimes get so furious arguing with his wife in the car that he would drive into a tree “just to shut her up”.

“When we argued I felt cornered, like I was about to lose everything,” he said in emailed comments to Thomson Reuters Foundation.

From the beginning of his 13-year-old relationship with his wife, Alberto, who did not want to give his full name, struggled to contain feelings of rage, usually ignited by a cross word or critical tone.

India’s surrogacy tourism: exploitation or empowerment?

In a globalised world where everything at home is becoming more costly, outsourcing your needs to a third party thousands of miles away for less money makes a lot of sense.

For a country like India, one of the top global destinations for outsourcing, the benefits are tremendous – creating millions of jobs in sectors ranging from garment, software and car manufacturing to call centres and back office operations.

But over the last decade, a more controversial sector for outsourcing has emerged in India: pregnancy and childbirth.

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