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Prime Minister Modi recently told a nationwide gathering of students, that he intends to make the education of girls a priority for India. He said his government has put into place many measures to ensure education for all girls, such as building toilets for girls. There are states in India where half the schools don’t have toilets, and this issue certainly needs attention.
However, The 50 Million Missing Campaign believes that one of the most critical issues that needs to be urgently addressed, is the escalation of incidents of rape and violence on girls while they are in school or while they are on their way to or going home from school.
Schools are now increasingly seen as unsafe places for girls in India. This is one of the major reasons many families in rural and slum areas are unwilling to send their girls to school, and often marry them off early. In fact reports of sexual assault on girls are also becoming increasingly prevalent in private schools in towns and cities, where parents spend a lot of money sending their children to school. Astonishingly even these private schools protect the criminals and also refuse to take responsibility for the safety of their students. Recently parents in the city of Bangalore went on a rampage because private schools there, taking advantage of the shortage of schools, tried to force parents to sign a release form saying they would not hold the schools responsible for sexual assault on their children while they were in school!
THEREFORE WE CANNOT BE TALKING ABOUT EDUCATING GIRLS IN INDIA, WITHOUT FIRST ENSURING THEIR SAFETY IN SCHOOLS. THE QUESTION IS: WILL THE PRIME MINISTER AND THE GOVERNMENT TAKE CONCRETE ADMINISTRATIVE AND LEGAL MEASURES TO GUARANTEE THE SAFETY OF SCHOOL GOING GIRLS?
Today India is one of the top most destinations in the world for couples and individuals seeking a surrogate womb. Does this actually benefit poor Indian women as many in the surrogacy business argue or is this a deeply misogynist trend in India? And what is the connection between surrogacy and India’s female genocide (gendercide)? Roxanne Metzger, The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s French Coordinator, discusses these issues with the campaign founder Rita Banerji. This interview was originally published in French on Sisyphus.org. To read that version click here
Roxanne: Was surrogacy a common practise in India before it was legalised?
Rita: Historically there isn’t much to indicate it was a common practice in India. This is because of India’s obsession with “purity” of caste and clan, and the mistaken assumption of its connection to human blood.
Roxanne: I also meant, that in recent years, before surrogacy was medically legalized in India, was it being illegally practiced in hospitals and clinics?
Rita: I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Often when the medical lobby pushes to open the “markets” on a technique or procedure, it means they are already practicing it, and simply need the legal go signal to exploit it freely on a large, commercial scale. That’s also what happened with the abortion laws in India. The push for the legalization of abortion in India, in 1971, came not from the feminist movement but the doctor’s lobby. The law is sexist and patronizing, and does not affirm a woman’s right over her own body, because a woman can have an abortion in India only if a doctor determines that there is a medical reason for her to do so . Soon as the law came into force doctors were freely advertising for families to come abort their daughters. There were huge public hoardings saying things like – “Get rid of your daughter now for Rs. 500, and save Rs 50,000 later.” Their ‘medical’ justification was Read more…
In an interview with The Voice of the Cape (South Africa), the 50 Million Missing founder, Rita Banerji explains why she is not surprised by Shetye’s project. However Rita also says, it is equally important to analyze the public rage and question what it really represents. She observes that rape seems to touch a public nerve in India in a way that no other form of lethal violence on women or girls does, and goes on to discuss why this is because it’s still seen through a prism that views women as sexual resources owned by men. Synopsis below [To hear the full 15 min. interview click on the box above].
by Hannah Spruce
Endless ghostly sisters, you the 50 million
who never existed. Missing or erased.
You, the womb rejected never had a voice.
At birth umbilical coils, snake-like
around your neck and mothers hands soft to him, strangle you. Read more…
by Rita Banerji
It irritates me when a man fawningly says “Ladies First!” I find it condescending. As a woman I see myself as perfectly able as any man and see no reason for being singled out that way.
Yet, by the same token I hugely resent the “Men First!” approach that I encounter everywhere in India. While walking on pavements, driving, inside homes, and even in offices. It’s that attitude that says, men are entitled to shove women aside and be served first.
It happened again at the bank yesterday and left me fuming. I had accompanied my mother to the bank and she needed some cash deposited. There was a long queue at the counter, so I told her to sit down and I’d stand in line and do it for her. A man came and stood behind me, and then suddenly moved in front and stood next to me, very close. I knew his intention was to make me uncomfortable enough so I’d step back and he’d move in front of me, or to thrust his deposit slip in front when my turn came. I’ve seen men take this liberty with women too many times. It’s like an aggressive, non-verbal statement of male entitlement. I told him Read more…
Originally posted on REVOLUTIONS IN MY SPACE: A BLOG BY RITA BANERJI:
Does the worship of goddesses in India have a feminist under-pinning? This is one of the questions I was looking at while researching for my book Sex and Power.
The answer to my question I found, was both ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ I discovered that there were two main streams of religious thought that had completely different origins and were diametrically opposite in how they viewed women, feminine sexuality and power. One of them, based in the tradition of the Vedas, was extremely patriarchal in its leanings, and even though it had goddesses, like Sarawati for instance, it regarded them as passive, inert manifestations whose sole aim was to nurture and sustain the men.
The other stream of religious thought was that of the Shaktas. These were worshippers of ‘Shakti’ which is the female personification of power as a concept. Below is an excerpt from Sex and Power on…
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Originally posted on Price Of Silence:
Numerous articles have chronicled the lack of proper sanitation in the weeks following the gang-rapes and lynching of two girls in Uttar Pradesh. NPR’s Julie McCarthy in the United States penned,”How A Lack Of Toilets Puts India’s Women At Risk Of Assault.” In the article McCarthy relays the sentiment Guddo Devi, the cousin of the two girls murdered in Uttar Pradesh: “When we step out of the house we are scared,” Devi says. “And we have to go in the mornings, in the evenings, and when we cannot stop ourselves, at times we go in the afternoons as well. … And there are no bathrooms. We don’t have any kind of facility. We have to go out.”
In another version of this article published in India’s Deccan Herald, reporter Nilanjana S Roy notes that having a toilet, “affects women’s ability to work, their safety (many rapes in slums and rural…
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