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Archives for : Violence against Women

Kangana Ranaut’s open letter : If Saif Ali Khan’s opinion on genetic inheritance is right, I would be a farmer back home

In her open letter, Kangana Ranaut shares her perspective on nepotism after reading Saif Ali Khan’s letter on the issue. She also requests people to not misconstrue this and pit the Rangoon co-stars against each other. Here is what all she had to say in her letter.

kangana ranaut, kangana ranaut open letter, kangana ranaut saif ali khan nepotism, kangana reacts on nepotism,Kangana Ranaut writes an open letter mostly as a reply to Saif Ali Khan’s open letter.

First, came an apology from Varun Dhawan. Then it was Karan Johar who promised that he will not speak about nepotism nor Kangana because it would be ‘distrustful’ for her and it would be ungraceful on his part. And it was only yesterday that Saif Ali Khan’s open letter on the issue went viral.Unless you live under a rock, you must be well aware what triggered the nepotism debate once again in Bollywood. At IIFA 2017, Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan poked fun at Kangana Ranaut and had the courage to scream “Nepotism rocks’’ on the dais in front of the global audience.

While the three men were slammed for their act, the fans of Bollywood’s Queen were waiting for her response to the entire brouhaha. And finally, she spoke. Kangana Ranaut on Saturday penned a letter addressed mostly to her Rangoon co-star, Saif. Nowhere in her letter does Kangana take Karan Johar’s name. She also refrained from mentioning his apology as well.

Here is what Kangana wrote in her letter:

All the debate and exchange of thoughts on nepotism is exasperating but healthy. While I enjoyed some of the perspectives on this subject, I did find a few disturbing ones. This morning, I woke up to one such open letter (circulating online), written by Saif Ali Khan.

The last time I was deeply pained and upset about this issue was when Mr Karan Johar wrote a blog on it, and even once declared in an interview that there are many criteria for excelling in the film business. Talent is not one of them.

I don’t know if he was being misinformed, or simply naïve, but to discredit the likes of Mr Dilip Kumar, Mr K Asif, Mr Bimal Roy, Mr Satyajit Ray, Mr Guru Dutt, and many more, whose talent and exceptional abilities have formed the spine of our contemporary film business, is absolutely bizarre.

Even in today’s times, there are plenty of examples where it has repeatedly been proven that beyond the superficiality of branded clothes, polished accents, and a sanitised upbringing, exists grit, genuine hard-work, diligence, eagerness to learn, and the gigantic power of the human spirit. Many examples, all over the world, in every field, are a testimony to that. My dear friend Saif has written a letter on this topic and I would like to share my perspective. My request is that people must not misconstrue this and pit us against each other.

This is just a healthy exchange of ideas and not a clash between individuals.

Saif, in your letter you mentioned that, “I apologised to Kangana, and I don’t owe anyone any explanation, and this issue is over.” But this is not my issue alone. Nepotism is a practice where people tend to act upon temperamental human emotions, rather than intellectual tendencies. Businesses that are run by human emotions and not by great value-systems, might gain superficial profits. However, they cannot be truly productive and tap into the true potential of a nation of more than 1.3 billion people.

Nepotism, on many levels, fails the test of objectivity and rationale. I have acquired these values from the ones who have found great success and discovered a higher truth, much before me. These values are in the public domain, and no one has a copyright on them.

Greats like Vivekananda, Einstein and Shakespeare didn’t belong to a select few. They belonged to collective humanity. Their work has shaped our future, and our work will shape the future of the coming generations.

Today, I can afford to have the willpower to stand for these values, but tomorrow, I might fail, and help my own children realise their dreams of stardom. In that case, I believe that I would have failed as an individual. But the values will never fail. They will continue to stand tall and strong, long after we are gone.

So, we owe an explanation to everyone who either owns or wants to own these values. Like I said, we are the ones who will shape the future of the coming generations.

In another part of your letter, you talked about the relationship between genetics and star kids, where you emphasised on nepotism being an investment on tried and tested genes. I have spent a significant part of my life studying genetics. But, I fail to understand how you can compare genetically hybrid racehorses to artistes!

Are you implying that artistic skills, hard-work, experience, concentration spans, enthusiasm, eagerness, discipline and love, can be inherited through family genes? If your point was true, I would be a farmer back home. I wonder which gene from my gene-pool gave me the keenness to observe my environment, and the dedication to interpret and pursue my interests.

You also spoke of eugenics — which means controlled breeding of the human race. So far, I believe that the human race hasn’t found the DNA that can pass on greatness and excellence. If it had, we would’ve loved to repeat the greatness of Einstein, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Vivekananda, Stephen Hawking, Terence Tao, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Gerhard Richter.

You also said that the media is to be blamed, since it is the real flag-bearer of nepotism. That makes it sound like a crime, which is far from the truth. Nepotism is merely a weakness of the human nature; it takes a great deal of willpower and strength to rise above our intrinsic nature — sometimes we excel, sometimes we don’t. No one is putting a gun to anyone’s head to hire the talent they don’t believe in. So, there is no need to get defensive about one’s choices.

In fact, the subtext of all my talk on this subject has been to encourage outsiders to take the path less travelled. Bullying, jealousy, nepotism and territorial human tendencies are all part of the entertainment industry, much like any other. If you don’t find acceptance in the mainstream, go off beat — there are so many ways of doing the same thing.

I think the privileged are the least to be blamed in this debate since they are part of the system, which is set around chain reactions. Change can only be caused by those who want it. It is the prerogative of the dreamer who learns to take his or her due, and not ask for it.

You are absolutely right — there is a lot of excitement and admiration for the lives of the rich and famous. But at the same time, our creative industry gets this love from our countrymen, because we are like a mirror to them — whether it’s Langda Tyagi from Omkara or Rani from Queen, we are loved for the extraordinary portrayal of the ordinary.

So, should we make peace with nepotism? The ones who think it works for them can make peace with it. In my opinion, that is an extremely pessimistic attitude for a Third World country, where many people don’t have access to food, shelter, clothing, and education. The world is not an ideal place, and it might never be. That is why we have the industry of arts. In a way, we are the flag-bearers of hope.

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Whats keeping Men from engaging in Gender Equality ? #Vaw

The Pedestal Effect may be the unspoken enemy of men’s engagement in gender equality.

Photo by: Exile on Ontario St / Source: Flickr

Every day, we fight a war against gender inequality. We fight systems that oppress people for being who they are. This means, being killed because of your sexual orientation, as in Chechnya or being unable to use the bathroom of your choice as it is the case in North Carolina.

For women and girls, the struggle is to have a life free of sexual violence, for equal access to opportunities, and control over their own bodies. In recent years, while some men have jumped in the equality waggon, pushing for a meaningful conversation about masculinities and what it means to be a man, the majority remains attached to harmful notions of masculinity.

Today, there is plethora of resources on how to be a feminist, an allyhow to raise feminist boys or boys that respect genuinely others. Videos, books, Ted Talkspodcasts and innovative art exhibits that are helping us understand better the layers and complexities of the relationship between gender issues and masculinities. There is more openness to talk about the issues that men and boys face. This is a fundamental step in achieving gender equality, an equality that includes men and boys too.

A silent enemy

Despite these advancements, there is a growing silent enemy of men’s engagement in gender equality. It manifests in subtle and sometimes, misleading ways. It is called the Pedestal Effect. This concept comes from the engagement of men as allies against Gender-based Violence (GBV) but its definition can be perfectly applied widely.

It “refers to men’s unearned praise and the greater likelihood of being listened to”. In sum, this means, putting men in a pedestal by praising them for actions, words or gestures that seem in line with gender equality, but might not.

Do we give men credit for “promoting gender equality” when in reality they are leveraging their power and privilege for their own benefits? What happens when we praise people or companies for gender equality actions that are motivated by profit? What about when we praise men for performing the same tasks that women are expected to perform?

To praise or not to praise?

There is a real threat in praising men and boys for acting in ways that seem in tune with gender equality but lack authenticity or real understanding of gender issues.

This happens when men are praised for “doing the dishes or helping at home” as if a divine presence is favouring mortals. Running a household, caring for family members, and providing meals take time and effort. This is called the “mental load” and it is carried primarily by women.

Men doing chores are not doing “a favour” or helping their wife or partner. We are assuming our fair share of the responsibility as adults living in joint space. So please, bite your tongue when you are tempted to praise men/boys when is unearned and make sure you call others when that happens. Even more, support men that use their soapbox to fight for equal rights in meaningful ways, for instance, for parental leave.

Champions of gender equality…not?

In June 2017, boys in a secondary school in Exeter, UK were confronted with two issues: hot temperatures and a rule against wearing shorts to school. Girls were not affected as they are allowed to wear skirts. When the school administrators refuse to change the rules, the boys devised an idea: wear skirts to school. The news went viral and the images of the boys wearing skirts took over the internet. Finally, the school gave up to the pressure and changed the rules to allow boys to wear shorts. They fought for their rights to equal treatment and they won.

Does this make them champions for gender equality? No, it does not. Is wearing a skirt a political statement? It could be. In this case, these boys are not challenging patriarchy by presenting themselves in a way that seems to emasculate by society, they are leveraging their own privilege to their benefit. If you ride the metro to rob the passengers does not mean you support public transportation. If you want to praise boys and their families who are challenging gender inequality, listen to Joe’s story who fought to change the rules to allow Trans boys to be admitted to the Boys’ Scouts.

The Axe Effect

Since 2015, Axe, a Unilever brand, has taken a U-turn in its narrative on men and masculinity. The recent launch of the “The Man Box” report -developed by Promundoand Unilever- is a good contribution to the discussion around the factors that shape young men’s experiences in becoming men. But Axe and its “Axe Effect” have been built on millions of dollars and decades of the most misogynist, sexist advertising. Unilever and Axe have made millions in profit by selling young men deodorant that would make women -literally- fall at their feet, as you can see in dozens of videos in multiple languages that show clearly this line of thinking.

Today, thanks to this report and two new ads (2016 and 2017), Axe enjoys the Pedestal Effect, getting praised for a sudden change in spite of its record and history. For how long would this change last? Is this a genuine change or only a strategy to increase profits? If the profits go down, would they stick to this new version of men or would they return to the safe-profit bet, even if it is harmful and sexist?

The Pedestal effect is harmful and it gives a halo of authenticity to actions and behaviours that might reinforce inequality. Our common responsibility is to make them visible and call the bluff when it happens. Not all men are guilty of patriarchy and gender inequality, but they are all responsible for confronting it without expecting to get praised for doing it.

What’s keeping men from engaging in gender equality?

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Uttar Pradesh couple brutally beaten, girl forced to ‘strip’ and ‘pose’ for camera

Video of couple brutally beaten up in Maharajganj goes viral; police arrests two

A video of a couple being thrashed in Uttar Pradesh’s Maharajganj district has surfaced online almost a week after the incident happened. The couple was brutally thrashed by goons in the name of moral policing and the incident was captured on camera by one of the goons.

The police filed an FIR and two of the accused, residents of Banarsinha village in the district, have been arrested in connection with the case, according to a Deccan Herald report. The girl, who is a minor, alleged that she was forced to strip and pose indecently with her lover by the miscreants.

When she told her parents about the incident, they approached the local police to lodge a case against the accused. However, the police allegedly asked the girl’s family to let the incident go in exchange for Rs 37,000 because the girl would face social humiliation if the matter became public, Times Now reported.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The local police launched an investigation only when senior police officials took cognisance of the video.

Opposition parties have accused the BJP government in the state of not doing enough to crack down on goons and prevent such incidents.

In April, Hindu Yuva Vahini members allegedly barged into a home in Meerut and thrashed a young couple on suspicion of ‘love jihad’. The boy accused the group’s members of moral policing.

The anti-Romeo squads constituted by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath have also been accused of harassment and it had aroused concerns that the squad members may indulge in moral policing.

Opposition parties have accused the Yogi Adityanath government of not doing enough to keep such thuggish acts at bay considering that such acts have been occurring frequently in the past few months.

”Women are not safe in this regime,” said Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Rajendra Chaudhary here on Wednesday.

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Delhi – Minor athlete gang raped, three arrested #Vaw

Minor athlete gang raped in Delhi, three arrested

New Delhi: Three men including a former national-level wrestler were arrested for allegedly raping a minor athlete in north-west Delhi’s Rohini area.

According to the police, the 16-year-old victim who is a national-level kabaddi player had complained on Monday that she was raped by a man on July 9 who posed as an official of the Chhatrasal Stadium and told and asked to meet her on the pretext of introducing her to other kabaddi players.

However, it was found on investigation that two more men were involved in the crime.

She said the man gave her a drink laced with sedatives and raped her after she fell unconscious, police said, adding the girl could not recall any more details as she was unconscious.

She was also threatened with dire consequences if she informed anyone about the incident. It was only a week later that the girl mustered up courage and informed the police about the incident.

A case of rape was lodged and the accused was identified as Naresh Dahiya, a former national-level wrestler who trained wrestlers at the stadium and also at his personal ‘akhada’ in Shahbad Dairy.

Police examined the roster of the stadium and found Dahiya’s activities suspicious following which he was arrested last night, they said.

Further investigation revealed that the girl was taken to a flat in Rohini by Dahiya where she was raped by him and two others identified as Satpal and Pratap. They were arrested on Wednesday.

Police said they will be adding charges of gang rape in the FIR after the arrest of the two accused.

(With inputs from PTI)

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What Caste Has To Do With The Endurance Of Open Defecation In Rural India

In most places around the world, infant mortality is falling quickly, the average height of children is increasing, and increasingly almost everyone uses a safe toilet or latrine. India, where now over one-fifth of babies are born each year, is an exception to each of these.

These exceptions are linked: infant death and open defecation are both more common in India than in many countries with lower GDP per capita and more poverty. This is a puzzle. Why is economic growth not translating into more human development for the sixth of the human population living in India? More broadly, in a world where most lives are improving quickly, can policy and development programs help those special cases that are not?
We have seen that India’s exceptionally high rates of open defecation cannot be explained by poverty, nor by illiteracy, nor by lack of water, nor by poor governance.

Here, we turn our investigation to the explanation for enduring open defecation in rural India: casteism and untouchability, two unfortunate consequences of the caste system and the ideas that support it.

Sohni Devi lives with her two small children and her mother-in-law in a Dalit hamlet on the edge of a large village in western Uttar Pradesh. Her husband is a migrant laborer. Sohni Devi told us that her house was built by her mother-in-law and father-in-law. It has two parts, one made out of bricks and the other made out of mud and cow dung. Sohni Devi and her husband did not build the latrine themselves. Instead, the pradhan, an elected village leader, hired workers to build it for them three years ago.

We asked Sohni Devi whether she had ever thought of building a latrine before the pradhan built this one. Sohni Devi explained, “Our house is broken and falling apart, why would we build a latrine?”

She does not even use the latrine she now has. She, her mother-in-law, and her husband all defecate in the open. The two children, aged 7 and 5, use the latrine now, but the family will tear it down when the children are old enough to defecate in the open on their own.

To us, the latrine seemed convenient. And Sohni Devi herself admitted that it saves her the hassle of cleaning up her children’s feces. Her children, like those in other families in the village who do not own a latrine, would otherwise defecate in the area in front of the house.

Yet, as the conversation went on, it became increasingly clear that Sohni Devi was annoyed that the pradhan had built a latrine on their land. Exasperated with the village government, she said: “The pradhan made this [latrine]. If we’d made it, we’d have made it the way we wanted. All of this Indira Vikas money has come, so the pradhan has made it. But he only got a very little pit dug. If we made it the way we wanted, then wouldn’t we have used a whole room full of bricks? How can a poor man? It costs 20 or 25 thousand rupees to [make a latrine].”

We have seen that India’s exceptionally high rates of open defecation cannot be explained by poverty, nor by illiteracy, nor by lack of water, nor by poor governance. The comparison of India’s open defecation rates to those of other developing countries presented a puzzle. Although many societies have ideas about what is clean and dirty, rural Indians’ ideas about purity and pollution are globally unique (except, of course, for places where Hindus have migrated) and are intimately related to the Hindu caste system.

Rural India’s history of untouchability, and the ways in which life is changing for Dalits mean that most households do not see using an affordable pit latrine as a viable option.

Rural India’s history of untouchability, and the ways in which life is changing for Dalits mean that most households do not see using an affordable pit latrine as a viable option. As Sohni Devi explained to us, villagers subjectively understand their sanitation options to be two: either build an expensive latrine with a cement-lined tank as large as a small house, or defecate in the open.

The toilets that save lives elsewhere

The latrines that can prevent the spread of infectious diseases are actually quite affordable. Many people in Bangladesh, for instance, build and use latrines that cost as little as two to three thousand rupees. From the health perspective, the most important part of a rural latrine is the underground pit. The World Health Organisation (WHO) promotes the use of inexpensive latrines that have underground pits that are about 50 cubic feet in volume. The WHO recommends that pits be lined with bricks or rocks laid in a “honeycomb” pattern. This pattern allows water to seep out of the pit into the ground. That way, the only thing left to be stored in the pit is decomposing feces, which are also largely water.

The Indian government latrines that are built under the Swachh Bharat Mission are much more expensive than WHO-recommended latrines because they have brick and mortar superstructures above the ground, rather than less expensive superstructures made out of tin, plastic, bamboo, or cloth. However, the latrine pits recommended by the Indian government are similar in size to the ones that the WHO recommends. If they were built and used properly, Indian government latrines would successfully interrupt the transmission of disease, saving lives and promoting child growth.

People in rural India equate manually emptying a latrine pit with the most degrading forms of Dalit labour.

The WHO estimates that when a normal latrine (meaning one with a 50 cubic metre, honeycomb-style pit) is used daily by a family of six, it will fill up after about five years. When the pit fills up, the owners must either empty it or build a new pit. In rural India, as in other parts of the developing world, when honeycomb-style latrine pits are emptied, it is done by hand.

As we explain in the book, biological germs turn out not to be the barrier to pit emptying. People in rural India equate manually emptying a latrine pit with the most degrading forms of Dalit labour. Therefore, the idea of manually emptying a latrine pit is at least as reviled for its social implications as it is for the physically disgusting nature of the work.

The toilets that rural Indians build

Despite the fact that sanitation officials in the Indian government have known for decades that inexpensive latrines with two pits would substantially improve health in villages, and despite the promotion of this technology by some high-profile sanitation NGOs, the adoption of such latrines is extremely limited. Our survey found that only 2.5% of households with a latrine were using a twin-pit model.

[W]hy do rural Indians reject pit latrines? Answering these questions requires an understanding of rural India’s history of untouchability, and particularly the practice of manual scavenging.As Sohni Devi’s story suggests, part of the reason why the government fails to get people to use affordable twin-pit latrines is that government latrines are very different from those that rural Indians build for themselves. For one thing, the latrines that people build for themselves are much more expensive. Among survey respondents, we found that the median size of a privately constructed latrine pit was 250 cubic feet —five times as large as the Indian government recommends! In our qualitative research, many people told us that they aspire to owning pits even larger than that.

Missing middle rungs on the sanitation ladder

International sanitation professionals use the analogy of a ladder to explain the different types of latrines in developing countries. Successive rungs on the ladder represent more hygienic options— which can be more expensive, but need not be very much so. The lowest rung represents open defecation. Higher rungs progress to the simplest pit latrines (without a water seal), to pour-flush pit latrines with a water seal, through further improvements, and finally to private toilets that connect to a septic tank or to a sewer. The sanitation ladder in India is missing its middle rungs, with no intermediate steps on which households climb gradually up from open defecation towards flush toilets.

Why do rural Indians want such expensive toilets, sitting atop large pits? Why do they reject the affordable options that are found in other developing countries? In short, why do rural Indians reject pit latrines? Answering these questions requires an understanding of rural India’s history of untouchability, and particularly the practice of manual scavenging.


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Improving anti-trafficking strategies: why sex workers should be #Vaw

Sex work and human trafficking are often conflated, but what if – instead of voiceless victims – sex workers were seen as active agents working to prevent exploitation within their own sector?

The Sex Workers Project at the We Can End AIDS Mobilisation during the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. PJ Starr/FlickrCC (by-nc)

Last year, I conducted research on how sex worker-led organisations are dealing with the issue of human trafficking. I interviewed members of 13 different sex worker-led organisations in 13 different countries. At least eight of my respondents were sex workers themselves. The interviews addressed how the respondents defined and approached the topic of human trafficking, how they experienced anti-trafficking policies and practices, and if and how their organisations dealt with trafficking situations. The research, commissioned by the Red Umbrella Fund, showed that sex worker-led organisations use different strategies to fight trafficking within their sector and work at various levels to strengthen their communities.

Sex workers against human trafficking

The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), a sex workers’ collective of over 65,000 members in India, has demonstrated the positive potential of involving sex workers in anti-trafficking initiatives through their use of self-regulatory boards. Each board is made up of sex workers as well as social workers, health workers, police officers and local government officials. When a new person enters the red light district, sex workers arrange an interview to inform their new colleague about their rights, available services, and to check that person’s motives and make sure he/she is not forced or underage.

A similar model was subsequently implemented by another Indian sex workers’ collective, called VAMP. Their conflict redress committees were developed to both empower and protect their communities and also to “keep track of new entrants to ascertain that they are adults and in sex work of their own volition”. VAMP, part of SANGRAM, also published a graphic novel that shows the complexity of a person’s story and explains their model for identifying, supporting and ‘restoring’ a woman who worked in a brothel against her will.

Other groups I interviewed all shared different stories of how sex workers and their organisations are able to help their colleagues either avoid exploitation or extricate themselves from it. Some of the points they mentioned include:

• Information sharing: sex worker-led organisations share information with people working in the industry. Information includes practical knowledge about the job, safe spaces to work, sex workers’ rights as well as the laws and policies governing sex work, and reliable organisations or lawyers to contact in case of a problem. Information is shared through websites, workshops, pamphlets, walk-in-centres, and peer educators. The goal is to empower sex workers and to make them less dependent on others and therefore less vulnerable to exploitation or abuse.

• Campaigning for decriminalisation: the sex worker-led organisations I spoke with all argued that full decriminalisation of sex work is essential to a safer work environment for sex workers and will decrease their vulnerability and risks. When sex work is fully decriminalised sex workers can report problems to the police and be supported by the legal system in case of any wrongdoing. Decriminalisation is also a necessary step in addressing public stigma and discrimination against sex workers. Therefore, sex worker-led organisations are lobbying for full decriminalisation of sex work and a safe working environment.

• Signalling: Many sex workers work together with others or at least know others working in their sector. In work places such as brothels, clubs, and other ‘hot spots’ where they meet with clients, sex workers also meet each other. These direct personal contacts can be valuable. Not only can they work to keep each other safe before things go wrong, but if or when they do sex workers may be the most accessible people to reach out to for help. This is especially true when the law is hostile to sex work, as fellow sex workers are unlikely to report them to the police or judge them for what has happened. Through this personal contact, people can also be referred to trustworthy support organisations, when available.

Despite these efforts, why is it that sex worker-led organisations are often not at the table during anti-trafficking policy-making processes that affect their sector?

The discourses on trafficking are distorted

Some sex worker organisations are reluctant to engage with the trafficking framework or do so primarily from a position of critique. Why? Because the trafficking discourse is soaked with distortions in which sex work and trafficking are conflated. While all the people I interviewed accepted that human trafficking into the sex industry happens, many emphasised it does not happen at as large a scale as is often suggested. Sex workers also stressed that trafficking does not occur exclusively in their sector. While some groups such as the DMSC and VAMP are successfully engaging with the trafficking framework, other groups stated that their main concern is to separate sex work and human trafficking.

According to the website of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, many sex worker-led organisations explicitly state that one of their main issues is to “critique the trafficking paradigm that conflates representations of sex work, migration, and mobility”. As a representative of the Kenyan sex worker-led organisation Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) told me, “as a sex worker organisation we are very keen to point out that difference and to detach ourselves from any trafficking”.

Other groups argued that human trafficking is used as a cover for implementing restrictive laws on migration or sex work. When asked about anti-trafficking measures in Thailand, a representative from the long-standing Thai sex workers’ organisation Empower foundation stated that “it was never about protecting women. It was about border control, it was about controlling migration and it was about abolishing sex work”. Other groups I spoke with expressed similar sentiments, pointing out repeatedly that the conflation of sex work and anti-trafficking, as well as distorted images and misleading statistics on trafficking, lead to criminalising policies and practices. These are not only harmful for sex workers, but also ineffective for those who have actually experienced the types of exploitation that are often included under the term ‘trafficking’.

Restrictive laws and harmful policies

Some sex worker organisations also lack the opportunity to engage with anti-trafficking debates because either engaging in or supporting sex work remains criminalised in many countries. As Empower explained, the way Thailand has implemented the trafficking framework has resulted in ineffective policies that neither make sex work safer nor improve labour conditions for workers:

While women are working in labour conditions much better than 20 years ago, labour conditions still need to be improved. But this whole trafficking framework doesn’t help them at all. The definitions that people use, the way to tell if it’s trafficking or not, and then the final solution of being arrested, detained and deported is not a solution that people in bad working conditions want.

A sex worker in the United States from the Red Umbrella Project emphasised the importance of decriminalising sex work and a good relationship with the police when it comes to helping those who have been trafficked. At this moment sex workers in the US can be arrested and detained by the police when they report something and in some states even be charged with trafficking themselves. She explains how much more effective self-monitoring would be if those obstacles weren’t there:

We are noticing! Sex workers are around other sex workers all the time. If we are noticing trafficking or somebody who has been trafficked, we can then report those things because we would have a system of communication.

Not taken seriously as anti-trafficking ally

A third argument for not being directly involved with the formal work of ‘anti-trafficking’ is that sex worker-led organisations are not considered a partner in the fight against trafficking. One of the respondents from the Netherlands was of the impression that her organisation Proud was not recognised as ‘representative’ of the people working in the sex trade, and especially not of individuals experiencing exploitation. She emphasised that it is difficult to both challenge the current discourse on trafficking and at the same time be recognised as allies in the fight against trafficking. She explained:

As long as we don’t ram out those idiotic non-evidence based ideas, we can’t do much. But we want to do so in a way that is respectful to those people who are in such a situation [of exploitation]. And that is very difficult. Because what we hear, when trying to nuance that image, is “you don’t care about them [people in exploitative situations]”. Well, that is the splits we’re in, because we only do this because we care about them!

This lack of trust results in limited access to decision making spaces and very little funding for sex worker rights organisations, while every year millions of anti-trafficking dollars go to often ineffective, and sometimes even harmful initiatives.

Conclusion: only rights can stop the wrongs

My interviews with members from sex worker-led organisations demonstrate that these groups have the potential to be valuable allies in the fight to protect sex workers from exploitation, including the sort of exploitation that gets labelled as trafficking. However, that opportunity is lost as long as they remain excluded because: a) potential partners are unwilling to incorporate sex workers’ critical stance toward many aspects of mainstream trafficking discourse; b) other parts of the legal system criminalise their profession and put sex workers at risk when they interact with law enforcement; and c) an external perception exists that if they are organised and open practitioners of sex work then they do not represent the targets of anti-trafficking policies.

Recognising that everybody is working for the same ostensible goal – to better protect sex workers – is the first step towards effective collaboration and progress in the fight against exploitation. This means listening to the opinions and experiences of sex workers and taking their critique of the prevailing ‘trafficking’ discourse seriously. Sex worker-led organisations understand the realities of sex workers, their motives, their challenges and their vulnerability. They can give insight into what goes on in their sector, explain the consequences and (in)effectiveness of current anti-trafficking laws and policies, and provide an invaluable monitoring function when given the space and security to do so. To that end, criminalising sex work is counterproductive when it comes to protection and can actively harm people in vulnerable situations. After all, as sex worker-led organisations argue, ‘only rights can stop the wrongs’.

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Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan’s digs at Kangana Ranaut were disgusting

The actors and filmmaker clearly haven’t got over legitimate criticism and defiant feminism from the Queen of Bollywood.


The trio of Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan have screamed in unison at the India International Film Awards (IIFA) 2017 that “Nepotism rocks!”

Their declaration of nepotism as an enviable Bollywood trait comes, quite naturally, at the expense of Kangana Ranaut, who has ruffled most of the established feathers of the Bollywood insiders, whether they are “movie mafia” Karan Johar, the three Khans, fading superstar Hrithik Roshan, or the eminently forgettable Adhyayan Suman.

At the IIFA 2017 held in New York City, Johar, Khan and Dhawan got together on stage to make a series of disparaging comments. In a thoroughly orchestrated display of disgusting and dangerous cliquishness, they said: “You’re here because of your papa. You’re here because of your mummy. I am here because of my papa.” And then, together, they proclaimed: “Nepotism rocks!”

nepo_071717053741.jpgKaran Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan have screamed in unison at the IIFA 2017 that “Nepotism rocks!”


Only in the singularly entitled, insiders-only, obeisance-loving, factious rivalry and incestuous investment driven world of Bollywood can this chanting seem to go unchallenged, even laughed along with, as the three most privileged star-kids-turned-Bollywood-honchos declare something patently against the spirit of creativity, art and democracy.

Oh, and this is also a casual display of exactly that sentiment which Kangana Ranaut, a three-time National Award-winning actress and one of Bollywood most critically and financially acclaimed female stars, diagnosed with clinical precision at Karan Johar’s own signature show, Koffee With Karan.

The systematic decimation of entitled male superegos that Kangana Ranaut achieves with awe-inspiring regularity is clearly something the Bollywood biggies cannot digest. Ever since Kangana Ranaut eviscerated Karan Johar on his own show sitting right across him and with a straight face, the Queen of Bollywood has become an obsession of sort with the filmmaker and producer.

And he never misses a chance to diss Kangana on her temerity to openly challenge him, to show him the splintered mirror of his own insecurity, despite him having a million platforms to set the record straight, clear doubts, answer in nudge-nudge-wink-wink pathos of his loneliness, criminalised sexual orientation, and his incessant need to control the situation, have actors, directors and other artists ritually bow before his mighty sway on Bollywood’s mind and matter.

Last year, as Kangana collected her third National Award, the raging controversy involving Hrithik Roshan and Adhyayan Suman saw her being accused of practicing “witchcraft”, being dubbed a “pishachini” on shows as huge as Salman Khan’s Dus Ka Dum.

The release of an email chain between Hrithik and Kangana, with Roshan’s side of the correspondence artfully edited out led to a despicable show of ganging up against the Queen star. Here, she was being typecast as the maniacal “Other” woman, in fact borrowing from the very roles Ranaut played in her early films like Gangster, Fashion, Woh Lamhe.

But clearly, the trick didn’t work. Fighting off a massive PR machinery greased by the biggest camps of Bollywood, she came off on top, looking gorgeous and self-sure, confident and intelligent, beautiful and generous, unafraid to speak of her fears while discussing at ease the many hurdles an outsider newbie with no industry connections faces at every step.

kang_071717053813.jpgKangana Ranaut.

From being frank about her English elocution lessons to talking about period blood, rampant sexism and turning the question of Bollywood’s acceptance of an actor on its head, Kangana Ranaut emerged morally and ethically victorious simply by the dint of her intellect and courage.

But how could she stop being herself when it came to challenging the even bigger entities such as Karan Johar, who singlehandedly decides the fate of movie stars, but puts his tail between his legs and runs when a political goon like MNS chief Raj Thackeray takes him on over casting a Pakistani film star like Fawad Khan.

Johar’s claim to fame as the tastemaker of everything Bollywood, deciding who’s in and who’s out, who gets to sit across him in the famed Koffee With Karan and flaunt their proximity with the ultimate arbiter of industry fortunes and ratings, was blown to smithereens when Kangana decided to call his bluff.

She accused him of nepotism, called him the “movie mafia”. She was bang on target, and she dared to say the things that no one, not even the biggest industry stars such as the Khan troika, would ever let slip out of their mouths.

Of course, by saying what she said, Ranaut had proved once again that she was nobody’s cheerleader, and she wasn’t in the least “grateful” that Johar had decided to call the cast of Rangoon to his show and give them an opportunity to promote the film.

Yes, Rangoon bombed at the box-office. But many critics seemed to agree that if there was anything salvageable about that unwieldy leviathan of a film, it was Kangana’s role as Julia, the stunt queen cum screen goddess. Saif’s performance was lacklustre and pitted before this able actress, his role paled under a rickety and flabby script, not tightly held together by its lush cinematography.

Is that the reason why this otherwise solid actor decided to lend his voice to a deplorable chorus of singing paeans to industry entitlement?

Saif Ali Khan, in addition to being the legendary actress Sharmila Tagore’s son, is also the Nawab of Pataudi and the son of the doyen of Indian cricket. When he joins the ear-splitting cacophony and says “nepotism rocks”, does he give credence to the dynastism corroding Indian politics and filmmaking from the core?

kangbd_071717054148.jpgKangana Ranut recieving the National Award from President Pranab Mukherjee.

Does he realise how terribly privileged and cavalier he sounds and what a disservice he does to his otherwise erudite and impeccable political utterings when he says something as repugnant as “nepotism rocks”?

It’s equally galling to have a Varun Dhawan, known for his acting chops and interesting choice of films, say what he said to dance to the tune of Karan Johar. The designer spontaneity of that conceited exchange and Johar saying “Kangana talks too much”, and Dhawan’s participation in that terrible display of male chauvinist supremacy that only a congenital sense of entitlement can explain, all point towards Bollywood’s inherent allergy towards real talent minus the blue blood, its deep condescension towards “actors” and proclivity to only count its “stars”, as well as its acute misconception about it being a place of true creativity and dynamism, when it’s really not so.

Kangana Ranaut isn’t a fair-weather friend, a sycophant and an actress who is afraid that her success will run out of ramp in case she fails to pay obeisance to the Bollywood mafia. No, she’d rather call them out right in front of them. She’s a bitter pill that Bollywood cannot digest but might kick-start a colon-cleanse of its rotten gut.

Ganging up against Ranaut in her absence when she had no way of getting back is typical Bollywood bullying that Karan Johar has long been guilty of, using his show or the rigged award functions to settle scores, air jealousies and take pot-shots reeking of masculine chauvinism.

But guess what, none of that petty point-scoring would diminish Kangana’s stature, nor would it acquit Karan Johar of his inherent and pigheaded need to hover above and over everyone in the industry. In his obsession to be the industry god, Johar is only becoming a caricature of himself.

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Nepali ‘menstruation hut’ ritual claims life of teenage girl #Vaw


What's a 'menstruation hut?'

Story highlights

  • Teenager dies after being bitten multiple times by a snake
  • Activists in Nepal are campaigning against the continued use of menstruation huts

New Delhi (CNN)A teenage girl in Nepal has died after she was bitten by a snake while banished to a cowshed during a menstruation ritual that sees young women separated from their families and made to sleep alone.

The victim, 19-year-old Tulasi Shahi, from western Nepal’s Dailekh district, was taking part in chhaupadi, a common practice in the west of the country in which women, considered unclean during menstruation, are sequestered for the extent of their periods.
It’s a ritual that Shahi had likely endured many times before, but on Thursday night, alone on the floor of her uncle’s cowshed, the teenager was bitten by a poisonous snake. “Twice, on her head and leg,” the local district mayor Surya Bahadur Shahi told CNN.
Shahi’s family members initially attempted to treat her using home remedies, before later taking her to a local health center, which did not stock the anti-venom medicines needed.
The monsoon rains had flooded the region’s mountainous roads, making the three-hour journey to the nearest hospital all but impossible.
After seven hours of battling the venom, Shahi died Friday morning.

‘Our girls and women are dying’

Shahi is the second teenager to fall victim to chhaupadi in less than two months in Dailekh. On May 22, 14-year-old Lalsara Bika died from a severe cold-related illness contracted during her stay in isolation.
Late last year, two girls lost their lives in similar circumstances in the nearby Achham district.
“Our girls and women are dying and the state is turning a blind eye,” said prominent Nepali writer and menstrual rights activist Radha Paudel.
Chhaupadi was outlawed by Nepal’s Supreme Court in 2005. Three years later the government promulgated guidelines to eradicate it nationally, but activists say that hasn’t made a huge difference.
“What the government has put out is just a guideline. No one can report to police, no one can file a case … you cannot punish anyone for sending their girls and wives to these huts,” Paudel argued.
Activists say Nepal has laws for ending child marriage, domestic violence and other female-specific issues, but not for menstrual rights.
Dailekh’s Chief District Officer told CNN, that “after the recent loss of lives” his office would carry out internal discussions with a view to pushing recommendations at a government level.
Women in Nepal face systemic discrimination across a host of issues.


Chhaupadi dates back centuries and has its roots in Hindu taboos over menstruation.
As well as being isolated in tiny “menstruation huts” — small, ramshackle buildings with small doors and often no windows and poor sanitation and ventilation — women and girls are forbidden from touching other people, cattle, green vegetables and plants, and fruits, according to a 2011 United Nations report.
They are also not allowed to drink milk or eat milk products and their access to water taps and wells is limited.
“Some in the Far West (of Nepal) still believe that a God or Goddess may be angered if the practice is violated, which could result in a shorter life, the death of livestock or destruction of crops,” the report said.
“It is believed by some that if a woman touches fruits, they will fall before they are ripe. If she fetches water, the well will dry up.”
In some areas, the restrictions extend to girls reading, writing or touching books during menstruation out of fear of angering Saraswati, the goddess of education.

Widespread practice

A recent government survey showed that Dailekh district — with 49,000 plus households — has more than 500 menstrual huts.
But activists say the government numbers do not reflect the gravity and magnitude of the situation.
“The prevalence of Chhaupadi in Dailekh is more than what the government survey claims. People may have stopped building a separate hut but they now use some unused dark corners of the house, or cattle sheds,” Dailekh-based human rights activist Amar Sunar told CNN.
“Local political leaders even go around and claim this practice has been long abolished,” Sunar added.
Dailekh Women’s Development Officer Anita Gyawali was appointed eight months ago.
Gyawali told CNN she was surprised to see how little officials in the district care about the issue. “It is clear that in addition to the awareness and education program, strict laws are required to tackle this grave problem.”
Activists like Paudel maintain that female menstruation rights have been “heavily ignored, heavily marginalized, heavily over-looked.”
“In Nepal, we have a female President, the speaker of the House is a female, and until recently we had a female Supreme Court Chief Justice … but even top women leaders haven’t said a single word about this issue,” Poudel said. “It is beyond shameful.”

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13 years after Mothers of Manipur protested naked against Indian Army, where is justice?

The immediate provocation was the brutal rape, torture, mutilation and murder of 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama by the 17th Assam Rifles.


Thirteen years ago, on July 15, the world woke up to some shocking images from Manipur. The images were of 12 naked middle-aged women carrying a white banner with “Indian Army Rape Us” painted red on it.

The immediate provocation was the brutal rape, torture, mutilation and murder of 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama by the 17th Assam Rifles, the oldest paramilitary force of India.

Manorama was picked up from her home in Imphal, on July 10, on the pretext of an interrogation and under the assumption of being a militant, with no incriminating evidence whatsoever. Her body was found the next day in a field four kilometres from her house.

There were 16 bullets lodged into her genitals, gash marks (presumed to be from a knife) on her thighs, and several deep wounds and bullets throughout her body. The autopsy confirmed Manorama as being raped multiple times and then being shot in her genitals.

This was a boiling point for the Mothers of Manipur – the Meira Paibi.

Meira Paibi, which means women torchbearers in Manipuri, is a women’s civil rights group that was started way back in 1977 as a coalition of normal middle-class women in a spirit of solidarity and protection. The name derives from a practice that the Meira Paibi do, which is to carry torches throughout the night in groups as a way of protection and as a symbol of protest against the repeated rapes committed by the Indian Army on unsuspected, innocent women.

Soon after word spread about the horrific fate of Manorama, on July 15, 12 women of Meira Paibi did something remarkable. They all assembled outside the Assam Rifles headquarters in Kangla Fort, Imphal, and stripped all their clothes and screamed slogans of “Indian Army rape us… we all are Manorama’s mothers” and “Kill us. Rape us. Flesh us.”

The anger and rage was palpable in the environment. Everybody was stunned, including the officers of the Assam Rifles.

By using their bodies from a site of sustained vulnerability to an entirely different kind of strengthened vulnerability, they challenged years of sexual violence by the Indian Army. They used their own body as a powerful tool of protest and resistance against years of sustained violation and humiliation.

“They had their weapons, we only had our body… Together the mothers gave a war cry,” recalls Soibom Momon Leima in an interview.

The mothers had not told anyone in their family before actually protesting outside the Kangla Fort. They were working class middle-aged women who we all can relate to (but for the sustained sexual violence they and their family face).

army-embed_071517044744.jpgThe perpetrators are the same people who are valourised and celebrated every day without critique or question. Photo: Reuters

Gyaneswari, recalls touching her husband’s feet before leaving home that day as she had not confided in him what she was going to do. “We could easily be molested or raped. Why then should we not walk in the streets naked?” she asserts.

Soon after the protest, the 12 mothers were arrested and jailed for three months, but it was just the beginning of an unprecedented line of protests in Manipur. The Assam Rifles were forced to vacate the Kangla Fort soon after, and the AFSPA removed from seven Assembly segments in the Imphal Valley, though it remained in the rest of Manipur.

The perpetrators are the same people who are valourised and celebrated every day without critique or question. Of course, no doubt, the sacrifice of many members of the Indian Army is venerable, but does that necessarily mean the crimes committed by them, brutally so, must be excused or condoned? Is that what a democracy entails? Then what is the difference between a constitutional democracy and a land that is governed by martial law?

Manipur is one those territories which is under the rule of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Under the AFSPA, no member of the Armed Forced may be prosecuted without sanction from the Union home ministry or Union defence ministry.

In July 2016, in an interim judgment based on a petition filed by the Extrajudicial Execution Victim Families’ Association Manipur (EEFVAM), the Supreme Court hauled up the Indian Army heavily for a great amount of excesses and extra-judicial killings committed by the force.

The petition demanded that investigations be conducted into 1,528 cases of extra-judicial and unwarranted killings committed by the Army. The same court had, in 2014, awarded a Rs 10 lakh compensation to the family of Manorama.

The Supreme Court also condemned the use of extra-force by the Indian Army and stated that they will not be permitted henceforth to use extra-force unless and until they do so for their defence. Whilst such a position of the court is welcome, it is far from being cathartic.

Sanctions to prosecute is still abysmally low, as has always been since Independence. If that be the case, what would be the benefit of tokenistic guidelines? The central government, outraged with even this position of the Supreme Court, has filed a curative petition to allow the armed forces to use force as they deem fit.

Sexual violence is a tool used by the Indian Army and one must reckon that the Army, which is so valourised, eulogised and patronised, is also prone to killing innocent people, raping and mutilating the bodies of innocent women and torturing in the name of interrogation. It is but sheer hypocrisy and unbridled nationalist, megalomaniac ego to not critique where critique is necessary.

Till date, the killers of Manorama have not been apprehended. The blood is on our hands who turn a blind eye to these instances, just as much as it is on theirs – for we are the reason, the perpetrators in green enjoy immunity.

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India – We need a law to regulate domestic work #Vaw


It’s not help, it’s work

Getty Images/istockphoto   | Photo Credit: Vectorig

We need a legislation to regulate domestic work

Employing a help in house? Only after verification,” says the ad’s headline. Below, in capital letters, appears a warning: “An unverified domestic help can pose a serious security risk.” And then a call to action: “Contact your beat constable or local police station for domestic help verification.”

The copy is set against a visual of a cop taking a picture of a young girl, presumably the domestic help, while an elderly woman, her employer, looks on. The girl picked to represent the ‘domestic help’ has the features of an adivasi, is slightly built, and dark-complexioned. She is shown standing, in one corner of the frame, while the cop and her employer are seated.

Readers of English newspapers would be familiar with this ad campaign, urging them to get their domestic helps verified by the police. Of late, these ads have become a matter of great concern for unions, domestic workers, and social activists, who say the campaign reeks of class prejudice.

But what they find most objectionable is the criminalisation of people on the basis of their occupation. Copies of so-called police verification forms are doing the rounds of housing societies across Delhi. Domestic workers are being made to fill up the form and submit them to the nearest police station.

The data sought by the form includes, among other things, the domestic help’s “petwords of speech”, “physical built”, “complexion” and “handwriting specimen”, besides descriptions of eyes, hair, tattoo marks, and prints of all the fingers of both hands. No such information is sought about the employer, despite there being ample evidence to suggest that the security threat works the other way too.

Indeed, hardly a week goes by without some news report about a domestic help being abused by her employer. Cases of torture, beatings, sexual assault, and incarceration are common. If anything, one could argue that in this sector, it is the employer who poses a bigger security threat — to the employee.

Lack of recognition

For the record, no other category of workers is required to register themselves with the police. In a country where 93% of the workforce is in the unorganised sector and therefore beyond the purview of most labour laws, domestic workers represent a new low in terms of disempowerment: they are not even recognised as workers. Their work — cooking, cleaning, dish-washing, baby-sitting — is not recognised as work by the state. Criminalisation is thus the last straw.

India has only two laws that, in a roundabout way, construe domestic helps as workers. The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, (UWSSA) and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. While the former is a social welfare scheme, the latter is aims to protect working women in general. Neither of these recognises domestic helps as rights-bearing workers.

Yet this recognition is a necessary pre-condition for state regulation. Strangely enough, it exists — in the form of a draft National Policy for Domestic Workers. This policy not only calls for promoting awareness of domestic work as a “legitimate labour market activity”, but also recommends amending existing labour laws to ensure that domestic workers enjoy all the labour rights that other workers do. But the government seems to be in no hurry to adopt it.

Domestic work as an economic activity is too vast and employs too many to remain unregulated. Though the 2011 NSSO data put the number of domestic workers at 3.9 million, trade unions estimate the number to be around 10 million. Most of these are from vulnerable communities – Adivasis, Dalits or landless OBCs. Nearly all of them are migrant workers. And an overwhelming number are women.

The apparently endless supply of domestic workers has a lot to do with the decline of employment opportunities in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, which took a hit post-2008. At the same time, demand kept rising, as the entry of middle class and upper middle class women into the male-dominated world of work was not matched in scale by a corresponding entry of men into the (feminised) realm of unpaid housework.

Poorer women from the hinterlands stepped in to fill the labour gap, for some remuneration. Today, the economic value of housework is no longer disputed. But the nexus of the state and the market has managed to keep domestic work outside the realm of economic regulation. Neither the Maternity Benefits Act nor the Minimum Wages Act or any of the scores of other labour laws apply to domestic work. Domestic workers can be hired and fired at will. The employer has no legally binding obligations.

A regulatory framework

Some have attempted to justify the government’s reluctance to regulate domestic work on the grounds that the workplace is a private household which should not be encroached upon by the state. But this argument does not hold since the anti-sexual harassment law recognises the private household as a workplace. Besides, we already have a draft legislation that presents a model for regulating domestic work without inviting the state into the living room, as it were.

The National Platform for Domestic Workers submitted a draft bill, the Domestic Workers Regulation of Work and Social Security Bill, 2016, to the government in January. Going beyond state-centric welfare measures, it calls for the compulsory registration of the employer and the employee with the District Board for regulation of domestic workers. Unlike the UWSSA, which puts the onus on the state, it mandates the collection of cess from the employer for the maintenance of a social security fund for domestic workers, whose access would be mediated through an identity card.

This framework achieves both the objectives of police verification — security, and documentation of identification data. But in a refreshing contrast, it does so not by criminalising domestic helps but by empowering them as rights-bearing workers.

Thus, to view domestic workers as a security threat is but another way of denying them the status of workers. The policy mindset regarding domestic workers must shift from a law-and-order paradigm to one about workers’ rights. A good place to start would be to consider enacting a Domestic Workers Regulation of Work and Social Security

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