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Overcoming gender discrimination in India April 2, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Rajiv Kumar

It is a bitter irony that International Women’s Day came right on the heels of the controversy about the government ban on a BBC documentary about the fatal 2012 gang rape of a young Indian woman known by the pseudonym ‘Nirbhaya’. The documentary has, as could be expected, raked up public emotions that feed on self-righteousness, jingoism and middle class pretensions. The public discussion that followed the government ban unfortunately distracts from the real issue. This was not the only, and will surely not be the last, case of maltreatment of women in India.

Every day there are thousands of Indian girls and women who are kidnapped, tortured and trafficked. Some are victims of honour killings ordered by khaps or fatwas, a punishment dealt on the basis of religious legal judgment. A large number of cases of domestic violence and marital rape routinely go unreported. Thousands of girls are trafficked across the border from neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh and forced into prostitution. As a society, Indians choose to not only ignore but also often connive in the perpetration of these crimes. In any case Indian society does not care to challenge the stereotype of ‘good women’ propagated by both Hindu and Muslim extremists, and fringe groups. Why then the hypocrisy when an ‘outsider’, like the BBC, shines a light on this issue?

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Pakistan’s hopes rest with third-chance prime minister July 12, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Mollaun, Alicia, Pakistan , comments closed

Alicia Mollaun

On 11 May, Pakistan achieved a historic milestone: for the first time, a democratically elected government was replaced by another democratically elected government. In a country ruled for over half of its existence by the military, this was a notable outcome.

The lead-up to the election, and election day itself, was marred by violence. Over 120 people were killed in the weeks before the election. On election day, more than 600 000 security personnel were deployed to protect 70 000 polling stations, half of which were considered to be in sensitive locations and vulnerable to attack.

Despite heightened security, voting was tainted by violence: at least 38 people were killed and over 130 were injured. The Election Commission of Pakistan had to defer elections for three National Assembly seats and six seats of the provincial assemblies because candidates had died – some of natural causes; others were killed. Many candidates were kidnapped, including former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s son, who was taken by militants while campaigning for a seat in Multan.

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The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh and its implications for women May 28, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Bangladesh, By contributor, By country, Guest authors , comments closed

Eshan Motwani

The attack on Nadia Sharmin, a news reporter for Ekushey Television, by a group of Islamist activists last month was a brutal reminder of the wave of anti-secularism that has gripped Bangladesh in recent months. Her perpetrators belonged to the Islamic Group ‘Hefajat-e-Islam Bangladesh’ (hereafter referred to as Hefajat). The group was staging a rally in the capital Dhaka to push a list of demands that stand in clear contradiction to the nation’s secular principles. Sharmin was providing coverage of the protests for her network when the group of activists took notice of her. To them, Sharmin’s presence represented one of the many facets of modern day Bangladesh that they were protesting against, namely the free mixing of males and females. Sharmin, who was fortunate to survive the attack, spoke of her experience from hospital and stated that “fifty-six activists hurled brickbats and water bottled at me at Bijoynagar. They snatched my mobile phone and handbag having several thousand Takas. Then they threw me on the ground and beat me up”. Hefajat’s list of demands further threatens the advances that women like Sharmin have achieved since Bangladesh gained its independence.

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Shattering the stereotypes: the Delhi gang rape and the need for nuance March 13, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Elen Turner

In December and January I spent a few weeks in Delhi, a city I love and in which I have never felt unsafe. My only experiences of “Eve-teasing” (that horrible Indian euphemism for sexual harassment) in India did not happen in Delhi, and did not happen when I was alone, but with my male partner. Despite my positive experiences, I take seriously the city’s terrible reputation for the safety of women, and take precautions, as I do at home, in Australia, too. I refuse to be afraid, as this is the most crippling thing a woman can do, but I avoid going too far alone after dark, dress in a way that local people consider modest, and am generally on my guard against over-friendly men. The gang-rape of a twenty-three year old student in December, the injuries from which she later died, confirmed that Delhi’s reputation is not unjustified. A rape is reported every seventeen minutes in India, with more unreported, but this event caught national, and international, attention. Perhaps it was the brutality, or the fact that it happened in a “nice” part of South Delhi, or that the victim was middle-class, that caught peoples’ attention.

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The Delhi gang rape can be explained by India’s gender ideologies February 26, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

Riding a bus in New Delhi was always intimidating. I still remember how, in the early 1990s, a largish, unknown man just flopped on my lap on the aisle seat. When I mildly expressed displeasure, his demeanour switched between menacing and casual, forcing me to shut up and leave him the seat. This was not an isolated experience: many women, whether in Delhi or Bangalore, have had similar experiences in their daily lives and felt amazed at how ‘naturally’ traditional gender ideologies are ‘performed’ in public.

So is what came to be known as the Delhi gang rape case different (and if so, how and why) from the myriad forms of violence that Indian women face every day, whether in urban or rural India, at home or in public, from close family members, spouses or completely unknown strangers?

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SAM recommends… September 13, 2012

Posted by aungsi in : South Asia Masala Recommends , comments closed

An article in East Asia Forum on the recent religious violence in Assam, which draws parallels with the Rohingya issue in neighbouring Myanmar.

Racist violence against international students in Australia: facing the facts September 19, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest authors: Ashutosh Misra and Simon Bronitt

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), the premier research agency in Australia, has recently completed a study of violence against international students. Based on reported crime to police, victimization studies and homicide monitoring data, as well as the data-matching of visa records from the Department of Immigration, the AIC report paints a picture of the scale and profile of crimes of violence (robberies and assaults) against international students in Australia. The impetus for the report stemmed from a spate of attacks on Indian students that received extensive media coverage in Australia and in India, which became the focus of political and diplomatic exchanges between the respective governments in 2009-10.

The report has some reassuring take home messages. First, Australia, relative to other destinations, is a safe place for international students, with lower levels of crime targeting them than other popular student destinations, such as the UK and USA. Homicide is relatively rare in Australia compared with other destinations, and from the AIC’s National Homicide Monitoring Program, it appears that of the ‘eight Indian students killed since 1990, none involved racial vilification or discrimination’. The profile of the crimes reported in the AIC study also showed that international students were vulnerable to attack at certain times and certain places – often working late in service industries (taxi and fast food) and therefore exposed more frequently to alcohol-fuelled violence. These insights allow safety messages for students to be targeted by universities and local police. But the key question, which raised the concerns of the Indian students in 2009, was whether the attacks occurring were racially motivated?

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Pakistan: he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword January 11, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Pakistan, Snedden, Christopher , comments closed

Christopher Snedden

Recent Facebook postings showed that many Pakistanis applauded Malik Mumtaz Qadri’s brutal assassination of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer.  So also did statements such as by Maulana Shah Turabul Haq Qadri, a scholar of the less hardline Barelvi inclination.  For either Qadri—the malik or the maulana—Taseer was engaging in blasphemy against the Prophet, Muhammad.  His death was necessary, even laudable.

Hardline Pakistanis advocating or employing violence against other Pakistanis should stop and think.  Such brutality has a nasty habit of getting out of control, with violence able to be used against anyone not considered politically or religiously ‘correct’.  And those delivering the violence invariably determine correctness.  Equally, someone ‘correct’ today could become incorrect—and therefore disposable—tomorrow.

History shows that illegal and arbitrary violence is a fickle master.  Two example of its capriciousness come to mind: the revolutionaries executed by ‘Madame Guillotine’ as the French Revolution ‘ate its own’; the millions of deaths of innocent, patriotic Soviet citizens that Stalin’s merciless KGB and gulag killed.

Closer to home, vicious Sunni-Shia violence in Pakistan claims an increasing number of victims each year—which, in turn, inspires further inter-sect hatred and violence.  Equally, the Pakistan Army’s forceful and bloody removal from Islamabad’s Red Mosque in 2007 of Muslims who had ‘strayed from the correct path’ helped to inspire the current crop of Islamic fundamentalists now rampant throughout Pakistan. (more…)