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Register For UN Global Webinar on Femicide on 17 May, 2022 at 12.30pm Vienna Time

May 17, 2022

Campaign founder Rita Banerji will be speaking at the UN global webinar on Femicide on 17 May, 2022 (Tuesday) at 12.30 pm Vienna time. This is a 10 year update on the female genocide in India, after the first conference which was held in Vienna in 2012. Here is the link to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_nAyZC_goS_-4WwV8h5reRg

Talking to Davinder Kaur About Her Autobiographical Book, ‘Forced To Marry Him’

January 7, 2022

Davinder Kaur was born and raised in England. Her early childhood was spent amidst the tight knit, conservative Punjabi community in Bradford. When she was 14, her mother got her engaged to a Punjabi boy in India who saw the marriage as his passport to England.  After that, despite her many pleadings to not want to marry him, she was forced to do so at 18. Prior to that, out of desperation, Davinder even ran away from home to try escape the marriage but was brought back. Her book ‘Forced To Marry Him,’ is an account of her struggles to escape the horrendous tradition of forced marriage, and her determination to seek her freedom and individual identity. Here Davinder speaks to Rita Banerji about her book and her life.

Rita:  Working with the 50 Million Missing Campaign for the last 15 years, it is very, very rarely that I find Indian women survivors willing to talk about the abuses they have survived, be it dowry, forced female fetal abortions, their infant daughters beaten or killed, rape or child and forced marriage. This silence is in fact forced by family and culture.  And so Davinder, having read your book, I must tell you I deeply admire your courage to break this huge cultural wall of silence. 
You were only 14 when you were engaged and 18 when you were forcefully married, and had led a very sheltered life within the Indian community in Bradford. Yet you decided to try to escape by running away to London just before the marriage your mother was forcing on you.  What gave you the courage, given your total lack of exposure to the world at large? Was there anyone you confided in? Anyone you could approach for help – a teacher, friend or neighbor? Is there anyone you confided in about this? Was there anything else you thought you could do then? Perhaps go to the police?

Davinder at 15 in the UK, a year after she was engaged to marry a boy in India

Davinder:  I’m not sure where my courage came from at age 18 prior to the marriage when I ran away.  I just knew it was something I had to do, and that I could not go ahead with this marriage.  I had somehow got trapped into this arrangement at 14 because I didn’t know any better, and had trusted my parents to do what was right, but as I approached 18, I knew instinctively that this was wrong.  There was no one I could confide in, not even my friends as they might have told their parents, and word would definitely have got to my mum since we lived in such a tight knit community.  I did not think about going to the police at all, as I knew this was part of our tradition, as wrong as it was, and therefore, the police would probably have not helped at all, and said that I should talk it out with my family.

Rita:   I also find it very interesting that you are unflinching in holding your mother responsible not just for the forced marriage but also for the trauma of an abusive childhood. Unlike other women I know of, your relatives didn’t seem to have collectively badgered or pressurized you. It’s true the women often function like foot soldiers (or like Margaret Atwood’s Hand Maidens) of the patriarchy by bearing the torch for traditions that abuse girls and women. What kind of a response do you get from feminists or women’s rights groups or women readers on this aspect of your book? What are your thoughts on this role of women in perpetuating culture? Do you think it’s necessary for women’s organizations to take this bull by the horn? Why or why not? What can be done in your opinion?

Davinder:  I haven’t heard too much to tell you the truth from women’s rights groups on the part about my mum being the sole person to really inflict this abuse on me, and how other relatives did not join in on pressurizing me.  The women readers who have left reviews about my book seem to be in agreement that my parents betrayed me instead of protecting and nurturing me.  Even though my dad was collectively responsible for what happened to me with the forced marriage, it was still mostly my mum who orchestrated the entire event, even though she had his support.  One reader depicted my mother as “merciless” and even though it saddens me to describe my own mother in these ways, I would have to agree that my mother was intent on getting what she wanted, and that was for me to conform to her expectations of us all having an arranged marriage and carrying on the traditions and culture.  I think it’s sad that women can perpetuate this kind of abuse on other women all in the name of culture.  We are supposed to be looking out for each other, and not continuing outdated traditions, just because “that’s what happened to us”.  We can and must end traditions that are harmful practices, and only do to others what we would want done to ourselves.  Women’s organizations need to do more in encouraging women to adopt ways of thinking that align with what they believe are fair practices and to challenge outdated and unfair practices.  What needs to be done is to stop beating around the bush about arranged marriages, and protecting that institution by saying arranged marriages are not a problem, and that both parties in an arranged marriage consent to the agreement, and that it’s forced marriages which are the problem.  It needs to be known that arranged marriages are very often forced marriages as who is going to say “I’m arranging my daughter’s forced marriage”?  They are only going to say they are organizing an arranged marriage, and are we always to then think it’s completely consensual?  My story will show you that is not the case.  We all have to rise up and stop being afraid of hurting the feelings of those trying to protect a tradition that doesn’t work or is outdated, and should be questioned.  If we tread so softly so as to not offend sensitivities, we are never going to get anywhere.  Sometimes, we have to risk the anger of those protecting a value that shouldn’t really be protected.  Dare to be different.

Davinder at 18, during her honeymoon in Venice, soon after her forced marriage which was conducted in Denmark.

Rita:  It was perhaps 30 or more years after you ran away from your forced marriage that you decided to tell your story publicly – in a book.  Why did it take you that long? Did you  wrestle with the idea? What changed your mind? In your book you mention that once you publicy started speaking about what happened to you, your mother stopped speaking to you. Was this a big factor in your decision? How did you come come to change your mind? What are the mental and emotional and other changes and experiences that happened to you in this 30 year period that compelled you to break your silence?

Davinder:  It did indeed take me more than 30 years to open up about my life and write this book.  I actually opened up about my life with public speaking just very recently in 2019, and that was my first step to opening up about my life and revealing my truth.  I had been conditioned as a child to not tell family secrets, and that family business was no one’s business but our own, and I took that to heart.  I never opened up about my arranged marriage.  I knew that so many girls had arranged marriages, and that mine was no different to theirs, and coupled with the instruction to not speaking about it, I would only very lightly tell only a very few people that I had an arranged marriage which didn’t work.  I never opened up about it though and honestly, I was not asked about it by anyone.  I guess people don’t want to pry once you tell them that you had a divorce.  I knew I had to stay quiet about my past, and only started thinking about what had happened to me when I was asked a question at college about why I was in college at that time in my life.  Since I was a mature student, and nearly forty years old at that time, my answer was so different to everyone else’s.  They were all younger than me, and were in college straight out of High School, and all answered this question with normal responses such as they wanted to become a doctor, or a teacher, etc., but my response was quite different.  I mentioned rather innocently that I had not been allowed to go to college when I wanted to because my mother had wanted me to get married and that college was not important for me, just marriage was.  The room full of students was all of a sudden shocked and quite literally in amazement!  I was also stunned to see that their reality was so very different to mine.  None of these kids had gone through what I had gone through and this was the first time that I really started thinking what had happened to me all those years ago, and that it was not right.  Since then I started tweeting about my forced marriage, and found it easier to write about it rather than speak about it.  The public speaking started just a few years ago in 2019, but when my mother found out about it, this is when I was disowned for a second time.  I had already started writing my book in early 2019, just prior to my first public speaking engagement.  Realizing that my mum knew that I was speaking up about my life has worried me naturally as I don’t want to embarrass my family, yet I knew the time has come for me to talk about this finally and not to hold it all in anymore.  My silence has to be broken, and I’ve finally found my voice.  I know that it’s the right thing to do to reveal the truth and break the silence.  It has to be done, for myself, for my own healing, and for all the other girls who this has happened to and may potentially happen to.  If I tell my story and awareness can be spread, my hope is that forced marriages and child marriages will soon become a horrible tradition from the past that will be banned everywhere all around the world, and no other girl has to face what I went through.

Rita:  Were there other British Indian girls you knew of in the UK who were forced into marriages they did not want? What do you feel made you resist and seek an escape, while many  other girls who grow up in western societies, submit? Have you conversed with some of these women? What do they say? Or what do you know through your own observations? In fact your own mother too was only a girl of ten when her family immigrated so she too essentially grew up here . So why did she not understand how you felt?

Davinder:  Yes, there were other British Indian girls going through the very same thing as me at the same time.  We were all having our marriages arranged for us at age fourteen.  They were also Punjabi and it seems like we all had similar parents with similar desires who collectively did not care what their daughters wanted.  My friends and I did not speak about our engagements as they also had been warned by their parents or brought up similarly to not discuss family secrets and what was going on in the home.  We only knew that each other were engaged, but we did not talk about how we felt and whether we wanted to go ahead with the marriage or not.  You have to remember that back in those days in the mid 1980’s, we still very much believed our families had our best interests at heart and we didn’t question what was happening to us.  We also were exposed to Bollywood movies where arranged marriages were shown all the time, so we knew this was part of our tradition and culture.  I honestly can’t tell you what made me escape while my friends just submitted to what their families wanted of them.  Perhaps it had something to do with moving away from Bradford and going to a different part of the UK, even though it wasn’t too far, it probably had some bearing on my being somewhat different to my friends as I neared the age of eighteen.  They were still surrounded by a very tight knit community, all watching them carefully, while I was an hour or so away, and even though I was watched by my family, we didn’t have a large Indian community around us in the new city we had moved to.  
I have not conversed with my old school friends unfortunately as I have lost touch with them all.  I have heard from other girls who have had similar experiences to me who have told me they relate to what happened to me and that my story is really important to share.  There are some other girls that I know of who have actually done the same as me, ran away from a very early age or who got away from their arranged marriages, and in some cases, there are those who did go to college first, and escaped the impending forced marriage and stayed away from their families for the rest of their lives out of fear, there are some very heartbreaking stories.  Most of these stories unite the survivors and myself in similar experiences, even though our circumstances were somewhat different.  
My mother should have known how I felt since she grew up in the UK and moved there when she was very young.  She carried on the traditions of the past as she ascribed to those traditions and was heavily influenced by my grandma and her peers.  She believe in the traditions and culture, and did not question them.  In doing so, she inflicted damage upon her own children similar to what was inflicted on her.  This is the prime example of women allowing abuse to occur to other women and not wanting to stop the cycle of abuse.  My mother was unfortunately very complicit in this.

Rita:   I know Jasvinder Sanghera who you admire much, and I do too, is a forced marriage survivor and has done much through her ngo Karma Nirvana to help British Indian girls being forced into marriages.  She established a police hotline and trained the British police to understand how to respond. Is there any such rescue hotline set up by any of the organizations in the US you are working with? You talk about one, Unchained At Last, for counseling women stuck in forced marriages that you volunteer for. What has been your experience working with them . At one point you mention that the US is 20 steps behind the UK in dealing with human rights issues. What specifically does this mean in context of women’s rights and dealing with forced and child marriage? Why are mainstream feminist groups or key charity foundations that hold feminist interests like Hillary Clinton’s foundation not involved?

Davinder:  I am actually not aware of any rescue hotlines that have been established in the USA for victims of child marriage and forced marriage.  Unchained At Last, which is the only organization in the USA dedicated to ending forced and child marriage, can be contacted by calling 908-481-HOPE.  My experience so far with working with Unchained At Last is nothing but positive as this organization serves a vital purpose.  I have been called once so far to assist and mentor a survivor of forced marriage, but it didn’t work out as the survivor lived in a different time zone and due to my full time job, I was not the most well suited mentor for her.  I have mentored a forced marriage victim who lives in India who was referred to me via a friend (this is prior to volunteering with Unchained At Last).   I was able to advise her and mentor her shortly after she went through her forced marriage, and she subsequently escaped from it.  
I believe the USA is 20 steps behind the UK in dealing with human rights issues because forced marriage and child marriage are not commonly understood problems here.  There is not enough awareness of it. There are so many charities in the UK dealing with forced marriage and child marriage, and so much support for the cause, that I am eager to see the same happen here.  We are not there yet.  Even though there is Unchained At Last, and Tahirih Justice Center, who support immigrant survivors of gender based violence, as well as the AHA Foundation who support individuals facing honor violence and forced marriage, this is not enough and much more needs to be done.  I am happy to see that just recently New York became the sixth state in the USA to raise the marriage age to 18, thereby putting a ban on child marriage.  However, there are still 44 states to go who have to do the same.  Why is there such a slowness in getting anything done here, when the UK has just recently passed a Bill banning child marriage, and also criminalized forced marriage at least six or seven years ago?  Chelsea Clinton and Hilary Clinton are both familiar with the work of Unchained At Last, and I feel that it will just be a matter of time before this great organization is given all the recognition it deserves for the amazing work that is being done.  They are the ones who were instrumental in getting six states to raise the child marriage age to 18, and it is due to their advocacy work, their determination and even to the chain-ins where women chain themselves while wearing white wedding gowns to show that they are imprisoned when married – these are all important initiatives that have to be undertaken to spread awareness so that the public takes notice, as do lawmakers.

Rita:   What strikes me throughout your book, is a certain absence of anger. Or would you say it is a withholding of it? After all anger is one of the taboo emotions for women. The one time you express anger is with your first husband to whom you were forcefully married and had to endure a violent rape. But often instead of anger there seems to be disappointment or sadness. In fact there is an astonishing amount of optimism too as you began to rebuild your life at 18. The kind of chances you took traveling to Europe and Australia and then the US,  finding love in new partners, completing college, and eventually working and raising three kids as a single mother, with no help from relatives, ngos or government takes an enormous amount of courage and will power. Where does this come from? How do you deal with the anger over your childhood? Where and how do you place this anger?  And how do you balance this anger against the optimistic focus you need to keep moving forward? 

Davinder:  I’d like to say that I’m not angry about what happened to me.  It’s very disappointing, and sad, but anger is not going to get me anywhere.  I understand that my mum was following tradition and culture and did not do this to me deliberately.  She tried in her own way to do what she knew had to be done, she was also listening to her peers and family.  I’m still not sure where my will power and courage come from, perhaps it was all I had to endure as a child, that was a lot.  I have to be optimistic about the future and focus on spreading awareness about what happened to me so that it hopefully will not happen to anyone else.  There is more reason to work with an optimistic mindset than with an angry mindset.  The first one can propel you with positive energy going forward, while the latter can drag you down and hold you back in the past.  

Rita:  Talking about marriages in your book you say “I still haven’t ruled out marriage,  even though I feel bad that I’ve been married three times.” Do you think marriage is a necessity for you? What are your opinions and feelings about marriage in general as an institution given you have experienced both sides – the cultural forced marriage and marriages by choice and love? Do you think it is still a patriarchal set up even outside the customs of arranged or forced marriages? 

Davinder:  I do not feel marriage is a necessity for me any more.  I have gone through it three times as I mentioned in my book.  If it happens again, it will be a bonus and especially if it works out!  I obviously have slowed down compared to how I was in the past.  All my three marriages happened within the first nine years from the time I was 18 and forced into the first marriage.  It has been over 26 years since I entered into my last marriage which was my third marriage which lasted just a year.  Unfortunately, what happened to me is that after my first disaster of a marriage, I rushed into marriage two more times.  I strongly believe that once you have been in an abusive relationship, somehow you are drawn to abuse again or perhaps are just a target for abusers, or you try to compensate for something that was lacking in your childhood.  When a pattern emerges such as mine, it really is time to stop as I did even though it was after the third marriage, and say to oneself “no more, until I can get my act together”.  I think I’ve finally got to the point where I’ve got my act together.  I have slowed down and actually was in a relationship for ten years where I did not succumb to marriage, and I’m actually glad I didn’t because even that relationship wasn’t right for me.  My feelings about marriage as an institution are that it can be obviously a beautiful union when both parties enter into it wholeheartedly, full of love, optimism, dreams and hopes.  I am still very much a romantic, and have not forgotten all those books that I read as a teenager. I think marriage can and is often very much a patriarchal set up even outside of arranged marriages and forced marriages,  in which the man is considered to be in the leadership role.  With everything I’ve been through, I will only go forward with another marriage as an absolute equal in every sense of the word.  I have not ruled marriage out as again, I’m still a romantic at heart.  

Rita:   Many believe that we undo or heal the trauma of an abusive childhood, in how we raise our own children later on. You talk about how you are careful not to overburden them with household chores like you were, so you didn’t have a carefree childhood.  Do you discuss your childhood or forced marriage with them? What else did you want for the child in you, that you try to give to your children? 

Davinder:  I have discussed my childhood with my children.  I want them to know how much better their life is compared to what I had growing up.  I want them to value their freedom, their right to choose, and their childhood in general.  I want them to enjoy their childhoods and to be kids, carefree and unburdened.   I have also discussed my forced marriage with them, without going into details especially with my youngest who is only thirteen years old.  It’s important for my children to know that not everyone has had the right to freedom, independence and choice.  They need to really value what they have as that is priceless.  Not everyone has had that, and I’m a prime example of it.  As far as what I wanted for the child in me that I try to give to them now is the power of my wisdom.  I was denied the right to education when I wanted it which was right after High School.  I wanted to go to college, but was denied that right due to having to get married.  I was told he’s been waiting to marry me for the last 4 years, since I was 14.  That was the most unfair thing ever, because who was the cause of him waiting for me for 4 years?  Since I had to go to college later on in life, I realized that it’s not easy when you are older to study, especially when you have kids and a full time job.  It’s so much easier to finish your education when your brain is fresh too and you are younger as the older you get, the more difficult it can be to retain information.  Therefore, I try to give all these examples to my children and I’m proud to say that my oldest daughter who is now 24 years old is studying for her Masters Degree in Nursing and I just couldn’t be prouder!  It gives me so much joy that she has experienced all the things that I never experienced – dorm life, living on campus, college right after High School, etc., not to mention doing this all when it makes sense to do it and not later in life when it’s already more difficult and there are other complications that can be a factor such as age discrimination when competing in the job market after graduating as a much more mature student.  My son who is 20 years old is also studying for a Computer Science Degree, and again, this makes me just so proud that both my two oldest kids are free to pursue their education and were not stopped in order to get married.  None of them were forced into arranged marriages.  I broke the cycle of abuse, and would never dream to do to them what was done to me.  

Follow Davinder on Twitter @luchanik at https://twitter.com/luchanik, on Facebook @luchanik https://www.facebook.com/luchanik, and on WordPress @luchanik https://luchanik.com/about/

Sign the Petition & Demand Justice for Rashmi Who Was Murdered For #Dowry During the Covid Lockdown

August 3, 2020

Dear friends,

The Covid lockdown has been particularly dangerous time for women in India.  We have seen an escalation in all forms of violence against women during the lockdown, with the police not responding to calls for help or taking action when crimes are committed.

We were approached for help on twitter by Swarn Bhaskar Upadhyay,whose sister was murdered for dowry.  (click for the tweet). We are posting his  letter below. Please support him by retweeting his tweet and demanding action from the police.

THE FAMILY HAS ALSO PUT OUT A PUBLIC PETITION ASKING THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR WOMEN TO TAKE ACTION. PLEASE SIGN IT AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT. CLICK HERE FOR THE PETITION.

Here is the letter from Swarn Bhaskar Upadhyay

I am writing to ask for your support for justice for my sister Rashmi who was brutally murdered by her husband and in-laws, just 16 months after her wedding.  At the time of her death, she was two months pregnant.

Rashmi was a very bright and ambitious girl from her childhood. She was great in her studies and was in her M.A. final year. She wanted to be an IAS officer so she could help others.  We are four brothers and she was our only sister. She loved us very much and was very close to our parents. She loved singing and cooking.

On 10th December 2018, my sister, Rashmi was married to Shivkishan Upadhyay, who worked as a police constable in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh.  Shivkishan belongs to a very powerful and reputed family from Sultanpur. Shivkishan’s family had demanded a dowry during the time of the wedding. Since my parents wanted to give my sister a gift to start her new family life, we gave her a Stri Dhan (bride’s wealth) according to our capacity. After the wedding Rashmi had been living at her in-laws’ place.

Then, we heard Rashmi is pregnant and we were very happy for her.  But soon after Rashmi’s husband (Shivkishan Upadhyay) along with his father (Nagendra Prasad Upadhyay), his paternal uncle (Mahendra Upadhyay), his brother(Jaikishan Upadhyay), his mother and his uncle’s wife had been torturing and beating her due to my parent’s inability to fulfill their increasing dowry demand. Amidst all this, my sister somehow managed to call us and inform us about what had been happening and told us that her in-laws were now demanding Rs 10,00,000 (Ten Lakh) more as dowry. Listening to which we went straight to her place and pleaded them that we will be trying to fulfill their demand at the earliest and begged them not to torture our daughter anymore. We were miserable and downhearted because we were helpless and incapable of helping her.

On the 4th of April, 2020 at around 09:19 am we received a call from the in-laws asking us to come to their place as soon as possible because Rashmi was very ill. We reached her place and found out that the bedroom door, which had a two-sided lock, was locked and they claimed it was locked from the inside. The police came and broke the door and her body was found hanging from the ceiling fan. We are sure that his family members Shivkishan, Nagendra, Mahendra, Jaikishan and her mother in law brutely murdered her till death and then hanged her body with the fan to make it a  fake suicide case.

We have filed an FIR (police complaint), but the police have taken no action.  They claim that the accused,  Rashmi’s husband and in-laws who had been arrested, have escaped from jail. It has been four months  but despite our repeated pleas, the UP police has made no attempt to track them down and arrest them.

My family wants these men arrested and tried for murder in the court of justice.  We want justice for our sister and daughter.  Please support us in our fight for justice. Please sign this petition (click here).

Swarn Bhaskar Upadhyay

s/o Rabinder Upadhyay

Contact no. 9038301783

Twitter : https://twitter.com/prince_swarn 

A Teenager’s Analysis of Menstrual Health in the Indian Society

June 15, 2020
 by Samriddhi Sharma
[Editor’s note: We are thrilled to have 13-year-old Samriddhi Sharma write this article for us and speak so confidently about a taboo subject that Indian girls, even now, cannot openly discuss].

File:Amra Padatik India.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia

As girls and women, we face numerous challenges and obstacles that our societies throw at us. A lot of these challenges are born of social and cultural impositions. In a society like ours that has been prominently patriarchal throughout history, women have always been kept on the sidelines and marginalised.
From the Hindu religious text of Manusmriti to the works of Shakespeare and Dickens, there is literary evidence that women were controlled and made submissive to the male patriarchy. A woman was considered to be an asset of man, just like his land, animals and crops. In the modern world, the situation has changed for the better. Women have progressed to claim what should have been given to them naturally. The world did not accept this change in status quo and the shifting scales of a male dominated society with any ease. Earliest advocates for women’s rights and the precursors to the modern feminist movement such as Mary Wollstonecraft (author of
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (first signatory of Declaration of Sentiments) had to fight battles against the patriarchy for the future
generations of women to have the basic rights of voting, education, property, and marriage, among many other rights.
But for addressing the battles and struggles led by women against patriarchy and primitive, amoral & misogynistic orthodoxy, we do not necessarily have to turn to the
reformers from the west. In India, the fight for women’s rights was, and still is, very different from that of the western world. As a matter of fact, any civil and human
rights movement significantly depends on the geography, society, politics and economy of a country. In India, the brave women reformers and women’s rights activists had to battle the deeply seated patriarchy along with the associated religious and cultural orthodox practices that were, and still are, a part of the Indian people. The great Savitri Bai Phule and Pandita Ramabai Ranade, among many other brave women, are rightly considered to be the harbingers of the Indian women’s rights movement. They fought patriarchy that was embedded in every aspect in the life of an Indian woman- in her birth, her body, her mind, her marriage, her disposition, and in her education.
One such issue in India that still has widespread ambiguity, silence and secrecy around it is Menstruation. This silence about a naturally occurring process in a woman’s body is the evidence of the taboo that the female sexual health and sexuality is considered to be. To delve deep into this topic, let us first learn about the phenomenon.
What is Menstruation?
Menstruation is the process of shedding of the uterine lining which is accompanied by bleeding on a regular monthly basis in the female body. It begins in girls at the onset of puberty around the age of 12-15 and ends with Menopause which occurs around the age of 45-50. The first “periods”, as they are referred to, are known as menarche and last periods are known as menopause. Periods also stop when a woman becomes pregnant; they do not resume until the initial stage of breastfeeding.
Duration of Periods 
Usually, the menstrual cycle gets renewed in 28-45 days, varying from person to person. The bleeding lasts for 5-7 days, it also varies from person to person.
What is the reason behind Periods?
Menstruation occurs to mark the onset of puberty in a girl’s life, which also means that she is capable of reproduction. Every month her body is prepared for pregnancy. The uterus lining thickens for the embryo to get embedded after the egg is released from the ovaries. In the event of fertilization, the future fetus would rest here until childbirth. But if there is no such event, this uterus lining sheds off in the form of blood through the vagina.
What happens and how does it feel?
When a girl gets her period for the first time, she might feel some changes occurring in her body, like moodiness, lethargy, and fatigue. These emotional and
physical symptoms are known as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Many girls are unable to understand the normalcy of these changes and end up feeling ashamed and shy. This is due to the total lack of information as the important information about menstruation has customarily been withheld from girls and women in India.
Health issues related to menstruation
Regular periods are a sign that the female body is working normally and it is healthy. But, there are some symptoms that indicate the malfunctioning in a woman’s body
which could cause serious problems.
Some of these symptoms are Painful cramps, Absent periods, Infrequent periods,Short or light periods, Frequent periods, Heavy or long periods. In any such case, a doctor should immediately be consulted. But, due to lack of information, girls are often unable to recognise any of these symptoms and end up suffering serious health
problems.
Myths and Taboos about Menstruation in the Indian Society

A woman in New Delhi supports the Happy to Bleed campaign

Source: The Guardian. Photo by K Fayaz Ahmad

Despite centuries of work towards women’s social upliftment and empowerment by the likes of Phule and Ranade, in the present system, menstruation is still considered to be ‘impure’ and ‘dirty’. This taboo against a natural biological process has been carried as a cultural practice from the past. The origin of this myth dates back to the Vedic times and is often linked to Indra’s ( a Hindu deity) slaying of Vritras, a demon. It has been written in the Vedas that the guilt of killing a Brahmana (the uppermost varna in the Hindu caste system) appears every month as the menstrual flow in women’s body, as women had taken upon themselves a part of Indra’s guilt.

This archaic and baseless theory has disrupted the normal lives of Indian women. In India, women who are menstruating are not allowed to live a normal life as they are prohibited from performing several day-to-day chores.
Many girls and women in rural and even urban India are restricted from entering temples from the fear of ruining the “puja” led by male brahmins. They are also prevented from offering prayers and touching holy books. They are prohibited from entering the kitchen- the supposed “territory” of the Indian woman. It is a widespread
belief across rural and urban India that girls and women who are ovulating are impure, dirty and unhygienic, and anything they touch and possess is contaminated .
The many misconceptions about menstruation such as its association with evil spirits leads to shame and embarrassment about any issue surrounding female sexual health. In some parts of India, women bury the cloths they used during their menstruation to prevent the “evil spirits” from using them. Some believe that menstrual blood is dangerous and can be maliciously used to cause harm using “Kala Jaadu” (black magic). The misinformation and orthodox beliefs are so prevalent that it is alleged that a woman can use another woman’s menstrual blood to “impose her will” on her husband. It is also believed that if a girl touches a cow while she is menstruating, the cow becomes infertile.
These beliefs are widely popular and faithfully practised in a majority of India. There is no scientific explanation and logic behind these beliefs, and yet a majority of Indian
population goes on to practice these amoral and discriminatory practices as the patriarchal and misogynistic society dictates them to.
Amidst the primitive beliefs and extremely inhuman practices that are an outcome of the traditional patriarchal Indian society, the only individual that suffers the most is the girl/woman. Her sexual health has been put behind a lakshman rekha (demarcation) of obscurity and ambiguity and there seems to be no escape from centuries old traditions. These real obstacles in a woman’s life make her already difficult survival more unfortunate and inconvenient.
Such beliefs and practices take a serious toll on girls and women’s health. An environment of shame and guilt has been built over the centuries about menstruating women. And as a result, today’s adolescent girls and women feel insecure, ashamed and stigmatized about menstruating.  Most girls are not provided with the basic and necessary health product that is the Sanitary Napkin or Pad. Pads are the most hygienic means to provide comfort to a woman’s body while she menstruates. This results in girls using unhygienic ways to handle their menstrual blood flow like filling up old socks with cotton and old rags and using them to absorb blood. This rather risks their health and increases the possibility of infections like Herpes and Hepatitis.
Even if they overcome societal and familial shame to try to procure sanitary napkins, they feel embarrassed to buy them from pharmacy stores run by men. Another reason for young girls and women not using sanitary napkins and pads is its high cost. High cost and taxes on hygiene products make them unattainable for poor girls and women. Requests must be made to the government to reduce the cost of menstrual pads and make them easily accessible.
In a television report on ‘Menstrual Hygiene, Women’s Day Special’ by NDTV, it was put forth that the percentage of girls and women using sanitary napkins in India is less than 20%. The report also mentioned that every year, 23 million girls drop out of school when they start menstruating- some are forced by their families to do so and some do it with their  own will. The Indian Council for Medical Research’s 2011-12 report stated that only 38% menstruating girls in India spoke to their mothers about menstruation. 70% of mothers with menstruating daughters considered menstruation as “dirty” and didn’t know how to manage menstruation in a hygienic manner. The research also said that schools are also not that helpful as there are many schools which don’t educate their students about menstruation and sexual health.
Inspiration can be taken from countries such as New Zealand and Scotland which are amongst the first countries to provide sanitary products free in all schools, universities and colleges. Such models will ensure that proper sanitary accessories are provided to every single girl child and women in the remotest parts of the country.
The lack of knowledge is costing young girls and women their futures. It is a topic about which  adults at home and school are not too keen to talk about. They feel uncomfortable talking about sexual and reproductive health. These same people feel that there is no need of making teenage girls aware about sex education and menstruation.
A key issue that is associated with menstruation is the disposal of the sanitary waste generated in the process. The old practices dictate that women burn the already old,
dirty and unhygienic cloth rag, used by women at the cost of endangering their lives, be burnt in utmost secrecy post its use. It is a huge problem that needs to be addressed urgently. Data by government health organisations show that every month, 353 million women and adolescent girls across India use sanitary products and generate menstrual waste. In urban areas, girls and females dispose of the used sanitary napkins by flushing in toilets or by throwing them normally in trash with other waste. But in rural areas, women are still commanded to follow the old ritual of disposing by burning or burying in secrecy, away from the eyes of people.
So, along with generating awareness and giving the vital information to all girls, boys, women and men, proper steps should be initiated towards addressing the issue of
sanitary waste disposal. Steps like special bins for menstrual waste and the use of incinerators are a few suggestions for adopting a healthier and hygienic approach for disposing the sanitary waste.
There is an urgent need for these reforms because it is high time to discard the centuries old traditions that put the baseless customs and beliefs above the health, life
and well-being of girls and women. Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) must be an open topic, and information about menstrual hygiene and the sanitary products must be accessible to every girl and woman. In fact, men should be educated about this issue too.
Modern technology should be used by the government and authorities to create awareness about sexual health and menstruation. Applications and video based
platforms should be used to spread the message of discarding taboos and orthodox customs and embracing healthy ways to maintain hygiene in regards to the sexual
health of women.
Thus, in this 21st century, we must look back to Savitribai Phule, Pandita Ramabai Ranade, Tarabai Shinde, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and all the great Indian reformers who dedicated their lives to uplift the poor, empower women and give equal strength to every individual who had been crushed by the vices of old customs, patriarchy and orthodoxy. They abolished the inhumane Sati Pratha and other misogynistic practices; and so now it is our chance to abolish the stigmatisation of menstruation. Let us all embrace their teachings, and together we must fight to defeat the enemy that resides in the archaic and obsolete customs of the patriarchal society.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. Levy, J., Romo-Avilés, N. “A good little tool to get to know yourself a bit
better”: a qualitative study on users’ experiences of app-supported menstrual
tracking in Europe. BMC Public Health 19, 1213 (2019).
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7549-8
2. Menstrual Hygiene – The Present Scenario and Adverse Effects
http://www.vims.ac.in/blog/menstrual-hygiene/
3. 23 Million Women Drop Out Of School Every Year When They Start
Menstruating In India
https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/23-million-women-drop-out-of-school-every-yea
r-when-they-start-menstruating-in-india-17838/

About the Author: Samriddhi Sharma is a Class 9 student at Delhi Public School.

 

How Aadhaar, India’s New Biometric ID, Is Wrecking Women’s Lives

September 1, 2018

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In 2009, the Indian government launched a new, biometric national ID called Aadhaar. Though its use by citizens is supposed to be voluntary, and the Supreme court has said so too, of recent the government and private companies have begun to make it mandatory.

However the Aadhaar database is hugely compromised. Firstly, it was not collected NOR VERIFIED, by any government officer. Hence, at the points of collection, by the government's own admission, 50,000 vendors faked, replaced, sold, and compromised citizen's data. More so, there have been massive data leaks from various websites. And media investigation has revealed that there is a black market for citizens data, that is buying and selling the data for as little as $6.00

Probably one of the most dangerous aspects of Aadhaar is that it functions like a centrally controlled, tracking device, a biometric dog-tag for each citizen, that also determines whether or not a citizen exists and whether or not a citizen is entitled to goods and services via a process called authentication. To avail any goods, services, and government subsidies, in fact to even access and operate your own bank account, you have to place your finger in a biometric machine, which determines whether or not it is you and if you have permission to avail of the service or your rights.  Due to the massive compromise of data and other factors, like poor technology and internet connectivity, millions of people have been denied basic goods and services.  As the government turns deaf, dumb and blind to widespread crises of exclusions due to Aadhaar, there have been multiple reports of deaths due to starvation. As 68% of adult illiterates in India are women, who are also poor, they have been most vulnerable to the predatory, corruption ridden, abusive system of Aadhaar.

We have started a campaign with the hashtag #AadhaarWarOnWomen on twitter to raise awareness about this human rights crises.  We share some of these tweets below.  Please RT and visit our twitter handle @50millionmissin for more.

 

Here’s Why India’s ‘Save The Girl’ Campaign Will Not Stop Female Gendercide

March 7, 2017

by Rita Banerji

Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao’ (Save the Girl, Educate the Girl) programme, launched in January 2015, was the first time since independence that the Indian government had raised the issue of female genocide in a public campaign. British census data in the 18th century had attributed India’s skewed sex ratio to female infanticide and other forms of femicide, such as sati, but after independence subsequent governments remained bizarrely indifferent to the issue even as it reached epidemic proportions.

photo by Rita Banerji

Modi’s initiative was all the more surprising, given that Gujarat had recorded the lowest Child Sex Ratio (CSR) for girls under his stewardship as state minister.  Mr. Modi’s views on women often infuriated women’s activists, for example when he attributed  the high rate of malnutrition among girls under five in his state to dieting and fashion consciousness.  However, as Prime Minister, his Save the Girl campaign appears to have the imprint of Maneka Gandhi’s (the Women and Child Development Minister) independent thinking on women’s issues.  Mr. Modi observed that female genocide  is a national “crisis” although his plea to let girls live and to educate them was framed as the ‘Prime Minister… begging for the lives of daughters’ rather than in the language of rights.

India’s female genocide is widely attributed to poverty and illiteracy even though data and facts say otherwise. As India’s most recent census data from 2011 shows, the CSR, which is the ratio of girls to boys from birth to six years, is best among the poorest and least educated communities. Globally a CSR of 950 girls to 1000 boys is considered ‘normal’.  CSR in India gets worse in proportion to increases in wealth and education. The wealthiest states have a CSR of 850 and below, much lower than the national CSR of 914 in the 2011 census, itself the lowest since India’s independence. This correlation between increase in wealth and a corresponding increase in the rate of killing of girls in the 0-6years age group is repeated across the spectrum in neighbourhoods, districts, villages, cities and states.  Even a religion wise comparison reveals that the worst CSRs are to be found among the wealthiest communities: the Sikhs and the Jains. Conversely, the highest CSRs are among the tribal and lower caste communities who are also the poorest and least educated.  Yet even among the tribals, when there’s access to wealth through education and jobs, there is a corresponding decline in CSR.  Kerala, with its matrilineal past and no history of female infanticide, had a higher than national average CSR which was always attributed to its high literacy rate (almost 92%). However by the 2011 census Kerala too showed a drop of 8.44% in CSR with reports of rampant foeticide and infanticide. This corresponded with an influx of wealth (almost $20 billion/year) into this historically communist state from Indians working overseas.

What is this driving compulsion to be rid of daughters, particularly with upward social mobility? The answer is dowry – the insidious, misogynist, patriarchal politics of wealth ownership and distribution. The more wealth a family accrues, the more invested it becomes in the patriarchal retention of that wealth and views daughters as a threat to that goal.  Indeed, the more educated a daughter is, and wealthier her family, the bigger the dowry she is expected to bring. Dowry is seen as a way of dispensing with a daughter who then can make no further claims on the family’s inheritance, but because of their education daughters are increasingly fighting for their legal share of parental property. On the other hand, a man not only has an inherent right to his own parents’ property but to his wife’s parents’ wealth too. A son is an easy means of wealth acquisition; the more educated he is, the larger the dowry the family feels entitled to demand. Indeed there are openly exchanged dowry rate charts that list copious amounts of cash, luxury cars, property and gold and diamond jewellery by the kilos.  In fact wealthier neighbourhoods record the highest rates of dowry violence and dowry related murders and suicides.

Nonetheless, this clear correlation of wealth and education with female genocide is anything but an evil-rich and pious-poor divide. The factors that save girls in poorer and illiterate communities, or at least don’t kill them in the same high proportions, are an inverted extension of the same patriarchal system in which women are simply dehumanised and turned into buyable, sellable, usable and disposable commodities. Daughters in poorer homes are allowed to live because as children they can be put to the economic servitude of their families. Poor families use daughters for cleaning, cooking, fetching fuel and water, and for earning an income for the family.  Millions of girls are leased or sold by their families for work as domestic help in urban areas, as labour in fields and factories, and to the sex industry. Another thriving business involves the sale of thousands of girls as ’brides’ through a network of agents to wealthier states with low sex ratios. These girls are kept as slaves, to sexually abuse, to bear babies, and are abused and exploited by all the men of the house, before they are resold as ‘bride’ to another family. In Hyderabad, there’s a flourishing business where wealthy paedophiles from Gulf countries pay poor Muslim families handsomely to arrange a temporary “marriage” with their underage daughters, who they enslave, abuse and divorce before returning to their countries. There are also thriving baby trafficking networks, often operating out of government orphanages, where the babies, all girls, can be bought for as little as Rs 5000/- (approx. £60) from poor tribal communities.

However, there are also numerous tribal communities like the Bedia, the Banchada, Kanjar, Sansi and Nut, where traditionally the sex trafficking of daughters and sisters has been a primary source of income for families and is considered a ‘family trade.’ These communities are also known to openly auction the virginities of their daughters as young as ten, for large sums to the highest bidders. The 2011 census’s CSR for the Bedia population shows an interesting anomaly.  While tribal communities generally have normal CSRs of about 950, census data shows the Bedia community with a CSR of 1276, which is abnormally high.  Investigations reveal that tribal communities like the Bedia and Nut have interstate networks to traffic girl babies, who they  adopt and raise as their own ‘daughters’ and prep for the ‘family trade’ by injecting them with hormones to sexually develop them by the time they are seven and eight.

Although the ‘Save the Girl, Educate the Girl’ campaign is well-funded, its emphasis on rhetoric instead of strategic and well thought out projects puts into question its ability to accomplish its goals. Common sense says that the focus needs to be on the middle and upper classes where census data shows CSR to be the worst. Yet, the campaign focuses on rural and poorer districts, instead of targeting the more powerful classes for fear of a political backlash.

photo by Rita Banerji

A popular rural project that’s been massively funded by this campaign is the planting of trees at the birth of a daughter. The logic behind planting trees is that fathers of girls can harvest these trees to pay dowry. Encouraging the custom of dowry, the very factor contributing to female genocide, contradicts the campaign’s aims. Two of the most important and likely to be effective projects suggested at the campaign’s inauguration unfortunately have not yet seen the light of day, and must be implemented.  One of these projects is putting up public boards that note the CSR of every neighbourhood, on a monthly basis, thereby forcing members of communities to be watchful of and accountable to each other. These particularly must be set up in urban, middle and upper class areas in coordination with police and legal cells for effective action.

The second recommended project that must be implemented is the compulsory registration of all births and deaths of girl children. Additionally, there must be a system of compulsory monitoring of all girls till they reach the age of 15, as 95 % of girls are killed or go missing between the ages of 1-15 years. Indeed, the low CSR is often falsely assumed to be due to sex-selective abortion. The breakdown of the CSR census data shows that more than 84% girls are actually killed from age one to six years.  Less than one million girls were eliminated through sex selection and/or killed as infants after birth and up to age one. But by age six, that number escalated and  7 million girls were exterminated. 

In order to save girls, the implementation of these two projects must be the campaign’s number one priority.

This article was first published on OpenDemocracy 50.50 under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. It was published under the title ‘A Deadly Politics of Wealth: Femicide in India’

Rita Banerji is an author, feminist and founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign, a global campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies‘ is a historical study of the relationship between sex, power and female gendercide in India. She tweets at @rita_banerji

A Brother Begs @PMOIndia & @MinistryWCD To Help w/ His Sister’s #Dowry #Murder Case

January 9, 2017

More than 106,000 young women are burnt to death in India every year. Uma, who was only 23 years old was one of them. We are sharing the following letter and photo that we received from Uma’s brother, Rajesh. Please CLICK HERE and sign and support his petition for justice for his sister. Anyone who can help the family legally or in any other way, please contact Rajesh at bjpnishad@gmail.com; mobile: 7895980071.

 

To,

Mr. Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India) and Ms. Maneka Gandhi (Woman and Child Development Minister),

I am writing to beg for your help  with my sister Uma Kumari’s dowry murder case.

My sister Uma was married to Omprakash on 12th June, 2012.  Omprakash is the younger son of Mr. Baijnath of Kanpur district which comes under the Mushanagar police station.   For the wedding my family gave Rs.3,50,000 in cash and Rs. 7,50,000 in jewelry and household items as bridal gifts.  

However, soon after the wedding, Uma’s husband and in-laws began to pressurize her for dowry and would verbally and physically abuse her.  They wanted a Rs. 400,000/- four wheel vehicle and a house that my family had built.  When we did not give in to their demands, all of Omprakash’s family including his brothers, sisters-in-law, and uncles began to beat and abuse Uma and threatened to kill her.  My family complained about this dowry abuse to various offices, including the National Commission of Women.  However, Uma’s in-laws would bribe the police and get away. 

Then they hatched a plan to murder Uma.  Since they have more influence on the police and locals in their village than in the city, and can easily escape the law, they planned to murder Uma in their village house. So they first moved my sister from the town to their house in the village. Then on 25th November 2016, Omprakash and all his family members gathered there and began to beat my sister and attempted to kill her. When she didn’t die, they poured 4 liters of kerosene on her and set her on fire. Uma was in the hospital for 20 days and every second there she suffered tremendous pain. She died on 15th December, 2016.  

Uma’s in-laws did not care what happened to her. They’ve only been trying various means to escape the law and protect themselves. My mother has not stopped crying since Uma died and my family has been extremely distressed not just by the terrible and painful death of my sister but the fear that her in-laws will once again influence the police and locals and escape the law.  We want justice for Uma, and we won’t rest till all the members of her husband’s family, including—Ompraksh, Kisingopal, Rambabu, Baijnath, Ramkhilawan, Guddan, Durga, Ramvati—are  all arrested, jailed and hanged. Please, please help us get justice for Uma.

From a grieving brother,

Rajesh Baboo Nishad

mobile: 7895980071

bjpnishad@gmail.com

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Five Favorite Feminist Moments From the Film Parched

October 8, 2016

parched_film_posterby Rita Banerji

As a feminist activist who has worked on systemic violence on Indian women for over fifteen years, I have long waited for India to produce a film like Parched.  Directed by Leena Yadav with a strong, all-female, central cast, there is a cinematic beauty and integrity to the film’s narrative that undoubtedly are among the factors that have earned it eighteen international awards and a place in the Oscar library.  But what makes this film particularly memorable, is how without cringing it makes a number of explicit and discomforting statements on how women need to deal with male violence which, even if presented within an Indian cultural context, have universal relevance.

Parched is the story of three women, Lajjo, Rani and Bijli, in an Indian village and how their friendship helps them triumph misogyny and male violence in their personal lives. Lajjo (played by Radhika Apte), is a talented seamstress whose drunken husband grudges her being barren, and beats her up daily.  Rani, (played by Tannishtha Chatterjee), was widowed young and spent all her life supporting her mother-in-law and unruly son. She takes a loan on her house to buy a child bride, Janaki (played by Lehar Khan) for her son.  And then there’s Bijli (played by Surveen Chawla), who works for the local adult entertainment company as a dancer and a prostitute. She seems the most worldly-wise and resourceful of the friends, and in control of how she negotiates her life.

Below I share my five favorite feminist takeaways from Parched in no particular order:

  1. Men who are sexual predators outside are the same men who are predators at home.

Rani’s hooligan son who roams the streets with his male friends stalking and sexually harassing women, and soliciting prostitutes he can’t pay, also violently rapes his child bride whenever the mood suits him.  One-third of the world’s child brides live in India, and this is perhaps one of the very few mainstream Indian films that unflinchingly shows the kind of sexual and other abuse under-age married girls are subject to.  However, even in adult marriages about 60% of Indian men admit to physically abusing and raping their wives. Indian women are also particularly vulnerable to sexual violence from other family men, as shown at the start of the film where a woman begs the village to not force her to return to her husband, as her brothers-in-law and father-in-law were sexually abusing her.

  1. Women often unthinkingly or as a survival strategy, perpetuate the system that enables male violence.

Rani who was herself a child bride robotically perpetuates the cycle of violence she endured by buying a child bride for her son, silently witnessing his sexual abuse of her, and justifying it through her own passive abuse of the girl.  Rani is initially resentful of her friends being critical of her son’s behavior, but eventually she makes the connection between the violence she has endured and the violence she is perpetuating.  In helping her daughter-in-law escape, Rani finds the courage to seek her own path of freedom.  She also recognizes her own role in the perpetuation of an oppressive, patriarchal system in how she raised her son. In a parting shot to her son, Rani delivers one of the most important lines of the film “Don’t try to be a man. Learn to be human first.”

  1. How men and women define their individual sexual identities directly impacts on their response to male violence.

Men whose individual identities are invested in the collective, hierarchical, patriarchal order, are more likely to use sexual violence as a weapon of power. Often it’s a means of establishing their position in the pecking order by asserting their ‘malehood.’  Rani’s son and his gang of friends who stalk and harass women, and find their entertainment in porn and prostitution, bond by asserting their sexual prowess over each other. Conversely, women are socially conditioned to define their sexuality in terms of how they serve the patriarchy’s needs, and so they are virgin, wife, mother and whore.  The more aware a woman is about sex as her personal identity, need, expression and choice, the more likely she is to reject behavior that reduces her to an ‘owned good’ to be labeled, used and abused at will.  We see Lajjo routinely and silently enduring extreme physical brutality from her husband who faults her for being barren.  However, when Bijli convinces Lajjo that likely it’s her husband who is infertile, it’s an eye-opener for Lajjo.  When Bijli arranges her meeting with a certain mystic lover, Lajjo not only gets pregnant but for the first time experiences sexual ecstasy, and discovers a confidence about her own needs which helps her stand up to her husband.  Similarly, Rani as a young widow, in keeping with social expectations has long squashed her libido.  She owns a mobile phone which the village committee had objected to for all women.  Through the phone Rani connects with an unknown admirer who she never meets, but through whom she experiences an awakening of her sexuality which she secretly relishes.  In a subtle act of symbolic sexual rebellion the women giggle over their use of that mobile as a vibrator.  While mobile phones have been banned in many Indian villages because the men believe it ‘ruins’ women, it is a pointer to how social restrictions set on women through clothing, behavior, movement and laws are always a means of controlling women’s sexuality, and thereby a revolution.

  1. It is an illusion for women to assume they can exert bodily agency and choice within the framework of a patriarchal system for which women are commodity.

At the start of the film Bijli, who works for the local adult entertainment company as a pole dancer and a prostitute, is shown to be in control of her life and choices as she negotiates the terms of her work with her boss.  She refused clients if they didn’t suit her liking and asserted that it did not matter if they had good money, as her shop was ‘closed.’ This is shown in sharp contrast with Rani’s daughter-in-law, who has no choice but to submit to her husband’s sexual abuse as he believes that by having paid a dowry he has bought the right to use her as and when he wants.  Bijli though understands only too well that for the men, she, as all women, is only a sexual product. But even as she regards this view with contempt, she’s confident of her ability to hold her place in their misogynistic world.  However, when one of the company’s workers who she assumed was in love with her, turns out to be only interested in stealing her from the company to become her pimp, she decides to chuck the system and strike out independently.  When her new client subjects her extreme sexual violence, she realizes that her belief in her agency and choice was only an illusion.  Her protection was guaranteed only as long as she was a product whose use was negotiated between men.

  1. Freedom from male violence should never be a lonely and frightening journey for any woman. When women connect and pool their resources, they’ll be able to combat male violence and break free of its prison.

If one goes through stories of women who struggle against gender violence and injustice, from any part of the world, we often find these women to be alone and vulnerable. This is particularly true for when that violence happens within a family or community. The film puts the onus on women to reach out to each other, share their stories, and pool their energies and resources to fight the system of male violence.  The final segment of the film shows the three women driving off into the open space in a quirkily painted open, three-wheeler, discussing their plans and options, as they leave their houses and village behind.

This conclusion was particularly interesting to me, because it almost inverted the classic approach of the feminist movement. Much of feminist outrage today is outwardly directed.  We take our slogans out onto the streets demanding safety in our public and work spaces. But the message of the film that women everywhere need to heed is that we must, first, bring the feminist revolution into our homes where male violence is bred.  If women cannot be safe from male violence at home, they cannot expect to be safe from the same men outside.

 Rita Banerji is the founder and Director of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end female genocide. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com Follow her on twitter @rita_banerji

 

30-yr-old Aradhana’s Letter to the Indian Prime Minister Regarding #Dowry

December 1, 2015

Nov 28, 2015

Aradhana is a 30-yr-old woman from Noida in northern India who recently wrote to the Indian Prime Minister about the distress she felt each time a prospective groom turned her down because her family couldn’t give him the dowry he demanded. She wants the Prime Minister to give her financial help to ensure she gets married on Dec 02, as planned, or else she has threatened to commit suicide. Aradhana because of her family’s poverty could not study beyond class 10, and had to help by doing menial jobs. In her letter to the PM she wrote:

“My wedding was fixed several times in the past few years, but it never happened as my family could not meet dowry demands. With great difficulty, my father (a gardener) found a match for me about 10 months ago. He is a driver and lives in Dankaur, Greater Noida. However, I am afraid that this time too my wedding may not take place as it has already been postponed once. If this time something goes wrong, I will kill myself as I don’t want to be a burden on my family. I am trying to educate my siblings but it is tough.”

The question is how should the government help Aradhana?  Should the Indian government give her family the dowry money, even though dowry is illegal in India, and the demands keep escalating and thousands of women get killed even after paying dowry?  Or should the government take legal action against this and all the prospective grooms and their families for making an illegal and criminal demand?  If Aradhana is bent on paying dowry to get married, will either of these steps prevent her from getting killed?

26-yr-old Pinki Burnt to Death for #Dowry: #SayHerNameIndia

November 30, 2015

26 Nov, 2015, UP,

26-year-old Pinki was burnt to death for dowry by her husband and in-laws in Rudauli village. A case has been registered against Pinki’s husband Ram Samujh Nishad and his mother by the victim’s mother at Aserwa police station. Police say investigations are on. http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/26-year-old-woman-burnt-to-death-over-dowry-115112900774_1.html

More than 106,000 women were estimated to be burnt to death for dowry in one year. Most of these cases are dismissed as accidents and suicides and the women never get justice. Read the report here: https://genderbytes.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/video-murder-by-fire-100000-women-a-year/

 

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