Monthly Archives: December 2012

Delhi Gang Rape Victim’s Death Prompts Vigils Across India

This article originally appeared in Global Voices.

The victim of a gang rape on a bus in Delhi died yesterday in a hospital in Singapore.

The Delhi gang rape occurred on the 16 of December after the victim and a friend attended a movie. After boarding a bus, they were assaulted by five other passengers. On 26 December, the victim was sent to Singapore for further treatment and she passed away on 29 December, 2012.

Mumbai’s vigil, in memory of Delhi gang rape victim, took place on Saturday December 29, with attendees marching from the Gandhi statue at Juhu beach to Kaifi Azmi Park.

According to Zee News, the day is being called ‘Black Saturday’ with people all over the country protesting against the injustice.

Mumbai vigil. Image courtesy Molly Anderson. Used with permission.

Set off by a tweet from actress Shabana Azmi this message was retweeted 405 times:

@AzmiShabana: Citizens of Mumbai including theatre, film personalities lead silent march at 5.30 pm today from Juhu Beach gandhi statue 2 Kaifi Azmi Park.

wrote in Policymic about the vigil I attended:

The vigil maintained a somber mood. Signs ranged from “My body, my city, my rights” to “It’s not her shame it is ours” and “Girl child, boy child, our child”

According to police, the crowd consisted of about 1,500 people. The marchers included women and men, as well as Bollywood stars such as Kailash Kher and director Satish Kaushik, famous lyricist Javed Akhtar, in addition to others.

As Aruna Prakash, a radio jockey for 90.8 Jaaga Mumbai said, “I’m a women, I was a girl, and I am a Delhite.” Prakash was “enraged, angered and sad,” at the news. She remarked that in the past girls were safe, but now that is not the case.

Sonam Revanker a young professional in Mumbai came to the protest with her brother. As she said, “It’s time someone takes some action.” Revanker heard of the vigil through facebook and twitter and decided to come with her brother. [..]

As Bollywood actor Sameer Kochhar said, “I’m here to show solidarity and support. As an Indian and a Delhiite, I am saddened.” He walked in order to “show that we do care and we need a change to happen.”

Mumbai Vigil. Image by Molly Anderson. Used with permission.

Mumbai Vigil. Image by Molly Anderson. Used with permission.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women called on the Indian government to:

do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure.

Newspaper articles and opinion pieces have ranged from calling for castrating the perpetrators to calling for speedy action when it comes to rape cases. Some state governments are calling for all women teams to deal with crimes against women.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Aruna Broota, is quoted in The Hindu saying said that to counter the rising fears among women and girls there is a need to educate boys and men.

“They have to begin with some kind of workshops and therapy in schools and they must include the boys. There is an absolute need to involve the boys and men and to address the hierarchy in gender relationships.

 

Indian activists lights candles and hold placards during the protest in Agartala, India. Image by Arindam. Copyright Demotix (30/12/2012)

Additional responses on twitter have focused on a need for education:

 

Matthew Ward‏ was retweeted 1988 times:

@HistoryNeedsYou: Listen to the women of India: Don’t stop your daughter from going out. Teach your son how to behave. #Delhigangrape pic.twitter.com/OvmlArpQ

Harsha Walia says:

@HarshaWalia: best twitter response to headlines like “india has a woman problem” –> “the world has a patriarchy problem” #delhigangrape #delhiprotests

Author Anand Giridharadas tweeted:

‏@AnandWrites: Gut-punched to hear #DelhiGangRape victim has died in Singapore.#RIP. Will she be #India‘s Tunisian vendor, or will complacency prevail?

Today’s vigil will be followed by a protest on December 31st from Colaba to Gateway of India.

India Rape Victim’s Death Prompts Vigils Across India, But This is Not Enough

This post originally appeared in PolicyMic

Mumbai’s vigil, in memory of the unidentified 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim, took place on Saturday December 29, with attendees marching nearly 4 kilometers, from the Gandhi statue at Juhu beach to Kaifi Azmi Park.

protest sign

The mobilization of 1,500 people via Twitter and Facebook is admirable, but it is still not enough to halt rape across the country. Even in Mumbai, with a population of 14-20 million people (depending on the source), there should have been more people in the streets.

The rape victim died in a hospital in Singapore on December 29. The Delhi gang rape occurred on December 16, after the victim and a friend attended a movie. After boarding a bus, they were assaulted by five other passengers. On December 26, the victim was sent to Singapore for further treatment. The rape has prompted protests in Delhi and major cities throughout India.

According to Zee News, the day is being called “Black Saturday” with people all over the country protesting against the injustice.

Prompted by the tweet from actress Shabana Azmi: “Citizens of Mumbai including theatre, film personalities lead silent march at 5.30 pm today from Juhu Beach gandhi statue 2 Kaifi Azmi Park,” The Mumbai vigil maintained a somber mood. Signs ranged from “My body, my city, my rights” to “It’s not her shame it is ours” and “Girl child, boy child, our child.”

According to police, the crowd consisted of about 1,500 people. The marchers included women and men, as well as Bollywood stars such as Kailash Kher, director Satish Kaushik, and famous lyricist Javed Akhtar, in addition to others.

As Aruna Prakash, a radio jockey for 90.8 Jaaga Mumbai said, “I’m a women, I was a girl, and I am a Delhite.” Prakash was “enraged, angered and sad,” at the news. She remarked that in the past girls were safe, but now that is not the case.

Sonam Revanker a young professional in Mumbai came to the protest with her brother. As she said, “It’s time someone takes some action.” Revanker heard of the vigil through Facebook and Twitter and decided to come with her brother.

Others accidentally joined, such as Ravi Joshi, an IT professional who works in Mumbai. “We just came here to show visitors,” Joshi said. “Even I have a daughter and I have sisters too. What happened was very cruel. Like a monstrous act, not a human act.” Joshi and his family planned to march with the crowd for a short time.

As Bollywood actor Sameer Kochhar said, “I’m here to show solidarity and support. As an Indian and a Delhiite, I am saddened.” He walked in order to “show that we do care and we need a change to happen.”

Kochhar has spoken out against the Delhi rape in the past, writing for Telly Chakkar.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women called on the Indian government to “do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure.”

Newspaper articles and opinion pieces have ranged from calling for castrating the perpetrators to calling for speedy action when it comes to rape cases. Some state governments are calling for all women teams to deal with crimes against women.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Aruna Broota, who is quoted in The Hindu said that to counter the rising fears among women and girls there is a need to educate boys and men. “They have to begin with some kind of workshops and therapy in schools and they must include the boys. There is an absolute need to involve the boys and men and to address the hierarchy in gender relationships.”

Today’s vigil will be followed by a protest on December 31 from Colaba to Gateway of India.

Prague Street Art Exhibit Puts a Modern Spin on What’s Museum Worthy

This article originally appeared in PolicyMic

I’ve been coming to Prague almost every year since my father moved here 15 years ago. I’ve seen my fair share of art exhibits, and “Stuck on the City” has proven to be one of my favorites. Bringing street art to Prague and contrasting this with Prague’s old city makes for an intriguing exhibit.

Prague claims, like many cities, to be in the heart of Europe. Whether or not Prague is the heart of Europe is open for discussion, but the fact that Prague is a city steeped in history well-known for its art scene is not under question.

2The exhibit is Prague’s first representative graffiti and street art show with nearly 25 artists from around the world.

As the exhibit flyer says, they are united by “the city,” which is “their prime source of inspiration, their studio, canvas, and exhibition venue at one time.”

In an interview with Blanka Cermakova one of the co-organizers of the “Stuck on the City,” she said the graffiti and street art scene in the Czech Republic has become increasingly “popular and visible.” The exhibit took a small group of people almost a year to prepare.

As Cermakova said, “We wanted to bring the best from the best and to show different attitudes and nationalities.” Initially, the idea was also to incorporate graffiti history as well, but due to high insurance costs they were not able to include this aspect in the exhibit.

In an interview with European-raised Brooklyn-based brothers How and Nosm whose artwork was featured in the exhibit, they said, the city of Prague, “has to reinvent itself over and over to stay modern and competitive with other large metropoles so it is quite natural to venture into newer art movements like graffiti and street art.”

3.HownNosm

How and Nosm’s installation took four days to paint, with another two days installing objects and building sculptures. As How and Nosm said, “The viewer should find himself within a world created by the artists and engage in a thought process inspired by what he sees.”

They see the exhibit as evidence of what has been going on around the globe for more then 40 years – painting walls. In contrast to other exhibits, “Stuck on the City” included graffiti and street art.  As the brothers said, “Adding conceptual artists and video installations to this group shows not only the development of this young art form but also the creative growth the artists themselves undergo with time.”

When asked about bringing street art into the gallery space, How and Nosm said that “An artist shouldn’t worry about his actions as long he knows that they are done with honesty and with the goal to reach creative and personal happiness.” Adding that the monetary gain from gallery work, “should support the artist’s freedom to continue working indoors and outdoors.”

It is also important to bring this art movement into a gallery and museum environment in order to document it properly, it is now an integral part of society and should have its respectful place in history.

As How and Nosm say of street art in Prague: “Older graffiti writers have evolved artistically and are now respected contemporary artists, which is so well documented in this exhibition.”

“Stuck on the City” is unique, not only because of the subject matter, but also because the artists were allowed to paint directly on the walls, because the space will be redone following the exhibit. As Cermakova said, “The difference is in the ephemerality, what was created for the show will be destroyed after the last exhibiting day, as happens on the street, nothing will survive. Everything was prepared few day in the gallery space so it was like a workshop of a big crew on one spot.”

Cermakova said that the reaction from the public has been positive overall, though she says journalists are still asking if this kind of art should be in gallery spaces.

With around 250 people visiting per day the gallery expects to see around 25,000 visitors overall.

City Gallery Prague, Municipal Library, 2nd floor, Mariánské square 1, Prague 1
Exhbition hours: October 10, 2012 – January 13, 2013. Tue – Sun 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Women Banned from Using Mobile Phones in Indian Villages

The article originally appeared in Global Voices.

A village council in the Indian state of Bihar banned the use of mobile phones by women in the Sunderbari village, roughly 385 kilometers (239 miles) east of Patna, the capital of Bihar. The population of Bihar is 104 million, larger than any European country and one third the population of the United States.

The most recent ban, comes after a July ban on mobile phones for girls in the Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh. This was followed by a ban in August on mobile phones for girls under age 18 in Jhunjhunu district’s Udaipurwati in Rajasthan, according to The Times of India.

In Rajasthan, the ban was issued so that girls would not be “spoiled” by excessive use of cellphones. In UP the ban on mobile phones also included a ban on women under the age of 40 going shopping un-escorted by a man. Overall the bans target women’s freedom and mobility. A local resident said:

It has been observed that mobile phones have given ‘unnecessary’ freedom to girls, which is distracting them from following our culture. The Panchayat’s decision will be followed strictly in the village as it has been accepted by all.

Photo courtesy of Gayatri Agnew

In the most recent case, in Bihar, the village officials claimmobile phones were “debasing the social atmosphere” by leading to couples eloping. In recent times the “elopement” from these villages have been increasing rapidly. The council has also imposed a fine of 10,000 rupees ($180) if a girl is caught using a mobile phone on the streets and married women would have to pay 2,000 rupees ($36.60).

Jagmati Sangwan, vice president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said that the men who head such village councils “want women to get cut off from the processes of modernization, education and employment.”  She said they that such laws, targeting only one segment of society, are not legal, according to India Ink.

As Techdirt reported: this is not about “eroding the moral fabric of society”, but about power, and in particular the erosion of traditional male power in the village.

Local officials have begun investigations saying such bans cannot be allowed in a healthy society.

While some twitter reactions from India have been surprised at the ban, and seem to blame it on the predominantly Muslim population of the village, religion does not explain bans in other regions of India.

@Against_Pseudos: Islamic Sharia!! Muslim dominated village in Bihar, Sunderbari, ban girls and women from using mobile phones!

@HeathaT (Heather Timmons): A ban on cellphone use for women & girls in rural Bihar shld spark a write-in campaign to Bihar tourist office: RC http://nyti.ms/TECSFd

‏@subtletea (Sameer Khandelwal): Indian Village Bans Unmarried Women & Girls from Using Mobile Phones. Why not ban it for everyone, irrespective of gender or marital status?

Kavitha Rao notes that mobile phones may be the single most empowering technology for Indian women. In other areas of Bihar, mobile phones are being used by activists and social workers to work on areas such as health and education and it contributed to results such as decrease in maternal mortality rates.

A couple of years ago Contador Harrison Wanarua wrote on a news of a similar ban on mobile phones for unmarried women in another part of Uttar Pradesh:

Only an neo-colonial mentality person can fail to support local women’s rights group criticism of the measure as backward and unfair.

Mobile Phones have played a tremendous role in helping ease communication among people and one cannot discriminate in the use of these contraptions on the basis of sex. If effected this could be a national shame to all mobile industry players…

On Facebook Sethi Mushtaq writes:

This is the real India and not what their Bollywood projects it to be worldwide :P

Let’s hope the real India stops restricting women’s freedom and mobility.

 

India: Haryana Rape Cases Prompt March Against Violence

This article originally appeared on Global Voices.

In recent months, rape in the Indian state of Haryana seems to have become commonplace.

In October, the Deccan Chronicle, in an article titled ‘The Haryana horrors‘ mentions Haryana as the “rape capital of India” for 19 reported rapes in one month. As a result of the rapes, women have been advised to avoid going to a pub, using mobile phones and wearing jeans.

According to Tehelka, rapes have nearly doubled in Haryana in the past seven years. From 386 cases in 2004, it has jumped to 733 in 2011.

In many cases, rapists have targeted Dalit women and girls. As the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), says “Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to such crimes.” In addition, according to IDSN 90 percent of crimes against Dalit women are not reported because of a fear of social consequences and personal safety.

Dalit activists sent a fact finding mission to Haryana and organized a march. Starting from November 1, 2012, the nine day long Karwan titled Dalit Mahila Garima Yatra (Dalit women pride march) traveled through towns and villages of Haryana meeting rape survivors, officials and community members. It “expressed solidarity with the rape survivors and outrage against the institutionalised sexual violence against Dalit women.” As Asha Kowtal writes on Savari (a facebook page for adivasi, bahujan and dalit women):

We are all energised by the process and of course we are once again reminded of our very small role/contribution in the struggles of our community. Often, we tend to make the mistake of burdening ourselves, but instead the resilience of our community and survivors of violence shows us the way ahead.

Marchers assemble outside a local village office, Haryana, India Courtesy of Asha Kowtal

A collection of responses from Dalit Activists can be seen on Dalit Web. A photo essay of the march isposted here.

Kalpana Sharma, a columnist, wrote in The Hindu, and is quoted in the New York Times saying, “If you are a poor woman who is raped, you cannot even imagine a life where there will be justice,” she adds “If you are a poor woman and a Dalit, then the chances of justice are even slimmer.”

From Twitter:

‏@dalitcamera (@Ravichandran): I uploaded a @YouTube video http://youtu.be/oWYkzwbr-9I?a  Asha Kowtal speaks in detail about Haryana dalit rape cases

@HollabackCHD: http://toi.in/Q3jAjb  After gang-rape, two accused commit suicide #rohtak#haryana