Saturday, December 19, 2015

Women of India #KnowYourRights: Speak Up

There is no way this topic can be expressed rationally or without emotion. It reminds us about the numerous times someone brushed past us, touched us inappropriately in the shroud of a crowd, made us uncomfortable with their eyes. And it also reminds us of that "relative" or "family friend" whose visits we dreaded. If you haven't directly suffered this you know a close one who did. And it is an infinitely difficult topic to speak about, but it is time now to do so.

“I’m writing this blog post to support Amnesty International’s #KnowYourRights campaign at BlogAdda. You can also contribute to the cause by donating or spreading the word.”

It is said that unlike other cultures, epics in India are alive and celebrated. If that was true we continue to explore the epics in our own ways, some of us analyse it and some of us make assumptions directly. There is one scene in particular in Mahabharata, which shocks me to this day, the Draupadi vastraharan. Men who decide to teach a woman a lesson by disrobing her in public. All this while her many relatives watch "helplessly" until a brother decides to help her. Nonetheless, a brother whose cutesy childish acts included stealing clothes of bathing girls. (Why, even in the recent movies eve teasing is equaled to flirtation and rape is treated casually. Regardless of the fact that the actors who play the villain sometimes break down portraying it.)

To some, may be it is a part where the morals of the society fell to its lowest. But to some others perhaps, it is a sign of how a woman should be treated if she shows any sign of intelligence and courage, and must be punished with utter humiliation, even if she is the queen.

You have to wonder if all those men who are out to punish all the "free and easy" girls on the street, follow the same logic. They remain utterly ignorant to the fact that those people who doled out such justice were called the villains of the story. Is it this or is there no logic to it? There is definitely a very complex sexual politics at play here because not a single rapist has attributed the act to his urges he has always placed the blame on the girl.

But when there is no age or class factor here, when a new born is just as much at risk of an assault as is an old woman, you have to stop wondering and take steps. What has happened to Indian men? In a country where marriage is a guarantee to everyone why are they so sexually depraved?

More importantly why was it okay for so long? Why did it not create an outrage right away? Even when there were cases of utter brutality like the Aruna Shanbaug case (where the criminal is still scotfree). Why did it have to come to a Nirbhaya case? And why has the brutality multiplied ever since. Is it because we think these things will never happen to us?

Nirbhaya Case and Defence Lawyer M L Sharma

Women go through a lot of physical pain through their life. There is no representation of it in any form in the society. Instead it becomes a matter of shame, conducted in secrecy and even when it is rejoiced as in a child's birth it remains shrouded, with only the joy shown to the world.

We all know her story. We have wept about it. Why should I repeat it here? Because it seems time has numbed us. Year after year we have continued to lose a war.

Jyoti Singh, whose parents sold their ancestral land to educate their daughter, must have been like any other ambitious girl until some men of Delhi thought she was a girl who must be taught a lesson for being out at nine in the night, with a male friend. And they went on to assault her physically with every possible hurt they could cause. So much pain that even the most immediate and best of modern medical help could not save her.

The Nirbhaya case was an eye opener without a doubt. It broke our hopeless belief that no matter how flawed the society is the judicial system is just. And as heartbreaking as the handling of the entire case was, it was the Defence lawyer, M L Sharma's statements which made us question the entire judicial system. We have to assume that the reason the judiciary has been unable to bring these criminals to justice is because this M L Sharma is the one who spoke, but there might be countless such people in the judiciary who think exactly like him or worse but they have been diplomatically silent.

Nirbhaya Case and "The Juvenile"

The Indian Penal Code defines sex with a sixteen year old, even with consent as a rape. So the Indian judiciary thinks a girl who is seventeen is an adult. Yet somehow when Muhammad Afroz, (whose name and pictures are surprisingly hard to find,) who was the most brutal of all was let go scot free because he was thought to be too young to be tried with the other criminals.

Report Every Crime

Dear women who have had the courage to report the injustice done to them, I SALUTE YOU! It is said that only one out every 100 sexual crimes is reported. It takes much courage to report the incident. It has proven that rape is not something that happens to women who "deserve it" rape does not happen to women who dress as they choose, in fact rape does not just happen to girls or young women, it could happen to anyone.

It is essential to understand that we don't need to create a society where we teach men to protect women, but instead a society where women are safe enough that they don't need protection. Where a woman does not endure so much pain and rejection that she feels the need to "unleash" her son on to an unjust world.

As much as the judiciary is rewarding to the criminals, it is essential to report it, even if it means giving a big blow to the Indian culture whose prestige is in a woman's bindi and whose sanctity is in woman's vagina and whose conscience is surprisingly hard to find anywhere.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Responsible Tourism: Our Duty

You can blame it on the childhood reading that introduced us to the delights of Age of Exploration. It made us crave for an adventure on a big ship searching for unknown, magical lands.

And thanks to living in the modern age, our explorations have become easier with pretty much a wonderfully paved path anywhere we go. And we have started travelling more and more these days due to affordable travel packages for all kinds of monetary budgets -- and more because we realise how enriching the experience is.

It is no surprise that we have been struck by a wanderlust. Why would we not when there are movies, ads and magazines all showing us nature's beauty that keeps changing and getting more magnificent every few miles. Our lenses eager to capture these kaleidoscopic wonders. However, there are new challenges that have come with travelling in this age. And these are the challenges that will ensure the safety of our planet in the future.

"Sustainability" is a word we hear often these days. Which might sound surprising to us because we took the earth's bounty for granted. Yet all these resources that we had assumed were endless, depleted mainly because we were not careful to give back what we had taken - the cycle of nature.

It is true that big corporates continue to exploit nature and will be stopped only with more pertinence by even stronger forces. Thankfully as I am typing out the words world leaders are taking important steps to ensure that all our resources are guarded against all harmful forces.

But it is not like we are not part of those that exploit these resources and more so when we assume we are mere visitors. For instance, it is easy to be in awe of the Alps when we go to Europe or closer home to the Rishikesh or anywhere near the Himalayas. The beauty is so fantastic that our eyes cannot even grasp it in one go.

Yet what we, (by we I mean most of who travel to these wonderful locations) do around the places is horrendous. These are the places where natural rhythms of time have not changed for the locals. If it were a place of historical value, we are causing harm to the architectural structures of the place. How? By what we assume to be simplest of actions.

Due to the economic boom that we are enjoying, we are enjoying the luxuries and fun of road travel. Not only have we burnt fuel through our route but also to these places of natural and historical glory. Moreover, about the architecture, these man-made wonders suffer a lot due to mishandling by tourists and need continuous maintenance. We do not think anything about loitering these places.

Thankfully tourists all over the world have realised the flaws in our way and the damage that we are causing. And they are taking measures to minimise the damage. What we can do is a few things. We can take public transport which is actually cheaper and more fun than taking your own vehicle which at least one person will be engaged driving. Instead everyone on the journey could be enjoying it hands-free.

Actually, no matter how long or short a journey, it is indeed true that travel makes us more wiser than anything we ever undertake. Even a train journey of one hour can be as educating as an adventurous trek. And why just to be responsible for a glorious place that we tour, we travel to our workplace after all and inhabit our neighbourhood. Without being philosophical, our entire journey on the planet is a sojourn. Shouldn't we be good guests while we stay here?

“I am blogging for #ResponsibleTourism activity by Outlook Traveller in association with BlogAdda