A Constant Battle Against the Sale of Bodies in Bihar

New York Times

The women’s rights activists Ruchira Gupta and Gloria Steinem are keeping a diary of their travels throughout India as they meet the country’s young feminists, writers and thought leaders (previous posts are here and here). In this installation for India Ink, Ms. Gupta and Ms. Steinem visit Patna, Bihar state’s capital, and Forbesgunge, a small town on the border of India and Nepal, in Bihar.

Jan. 22, Wednesday:  Not many tourists go to Bihar.  It’s one of the poorest states in India, with good land for agriculture but too few other jobs and too little electricity to create them. Buddha was born here, but after national boundaries were drawn, his birthplace ended up in Nepal. This was also the home ground of Jayprakash Narayan, the great Gandhian socialist leader, but a leftist tradition is held against Bihar by a central government now into big business. Life is politics. Politics is life.

This is my fourth visit to Bihar, Ruchira’s family home. They used their income from small rice, oil and biscuit factories to help socialists, reformers, poets. You might say they were the Kennedys of Bihar. Continue Reading.

Raise the Bar

The Pioneer

The One Billion Rising movement has got bigger this year with men participating in equal numbers. Apart from flash mobs, there will be car rallies, plays and musical performances at multiple venues. Divya Kaushik reports

When American activist Eve Ensler came to India around a month ago, there was a long queue of college students waiting to meet her, wherever she went. Her only introduction to most of them was that she is the woman who started One Billion Rising. The movement, started last year, emerged as the global campaign when women got together on streets and danced to spread the message against violence. According to Eve, “Dance is the best way to unite and express freedom.” The worldwide campaign got so big that it made Eve a household name even in rural areas. Going by the excitement among the youth that has grown manifold in the last one year, Eve said during her Indian visit, that this year the campaign will be bigger and better and women will rise together for justice. Continue Reading.

Feminism Beyond Boundaries: Apne Aap’s Director, Dr Abhilasha Kumari in conversation with Artist, Leena Kejriwal

Oxford Bookstore,  Delhi, 11th Feb 2014:
The UN Development Programme (2010) claims that Asia is missing approximately 96 million women, as a result of death through practices such as neglect, sex selective abortion and domestic violence. India’s Census (2011) reveals that only 914 girls were born for every 1,000 boys, which shows that a huge proportion of these missing Indian women were not just killed, but never born at all.

Leena Kejriwal, a Kolkata based photographer and artist, considers this to be a devastating social truth and has forced her art and audience to address this issue. Kejriwal has been working alongside NGOs that combat trafficking and prostitution for some time, but it was her latest piece M.I.S.S.I.N.G… which launched at the India Art Fair 2014 which provoked countless international discussions and media attention onto this stigmatised topic.

‘It should be there for everyone to see it, even if they don’t want to’ Kejriwal insisted to the audience  and Dr Kumari as she described the idea behind her latest outdoor installation. M.I.S.S.I.NG…, uses black steel to portray  an inescapable and mesmerising silhouette of a girl against the backdrop of the sky. Kejriwal’s ‘public art’ is an enormous political statement. By taking her art out of the confines of a gallery space, Kejriwal jolts the collective consciousness of India and beyond, and urges everyone to realise the extent to which these girls are disappearing.

Dr Kumari talked with Kejriwal about the anonymity of these figures, maintaining that the indistinguishable nature of these silhouettes  reminds us of the lack of support and protection the women and girls who are trapped in trafficking and prostitution receive. ‘They are invisible citizens, without identification cards, without any kind of legal documentation’.

Kejriwal’s installation reveals the powerful way in which art can be used as a medium to express anti-trafficking messages on a global scale, which is something that Apne Aap wholeheartedly supports in their effort to reach and save the most marginalised, last girl.

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In Jaipur, New Feminists Are Born

New York Times

The women’s rights activists Ruchira Gupta and Gloria Steinem are keeping a diary of their travels throughout India as they meet the country’s young feminists, writers and thought leaders. In this installation for India Ink, Ms. Gupta and Ms. Steinem take part in the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Jan. 17, Friday: Gloria and I walk under a canopy of brightly embroidered umbrellas toward Diggi Palace, a 200-year-old Persian-style estate, in whose courtyards and gardens the Jaipur Literary Festival has just started. We are officially here to hold a public conversation about our new book, “As If Women Matter,” but unofficially we want to meet student activists, new and old feminists, writers, poets, storytellers and book lovers in this five-day feast of people and ideas. Continue Reading.

Jaipur Literature Festival

Gloria Steinem on Indian Standard Time

Walk the Talk with Gloria Steinem

NDTV

Gloria Steinem is a writer and activist who has been involved in feminist and other social justice movements for over forty years. Recently she was in Delhi at Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an anti-sex trafficking NGO where she met Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, Indian Express and told him about her journey in India 50 years ago. She describes her efforts to bring about a change in the way people look at women as an object and to make them realise the potential a woman has. Watch the Video. 

Feminism has been made fun of for 40 years, give it another 60: Gloria Steinem

Times of India

She is the woman who famously said, A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’. At 80, feminist Gloria Steinem has lost none of the spirit, sparkle or humour that marked her radical writings. In Delhi to launch her latest collection of landmark essays, As if Women Really Matter, she tells Malini Nair that she is awed by the on-the-street radicalism of young Indian women

Post the December 16 gang rape in Delhi last year, it is as though there is a sudden and dramatic realization in Indian women of their self-worth. How do you see this?

It was like lighting a match to dry tinder. If this had happened 20 years ago the energy would have been suppressed. Women are no longer saying ‘give us protection’ because protection is more imprisoning. They are saying: give us justice. It will take a long time for the rest of the society to get used to it and accept it. But I believe that men are also beginning to tire of forever playing masculine roles of being aggressors and protectors. They realize that gender stereotypes are bad for them too. Continue Reading.

Excerpt: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader

Live Mint

Prostitution isn’t the oldest profession. It’s the oldest oppression. One barrier to fighting both prostitution and sex trafficking is the false notion that there has always been this kind of inequality. In a patriarchy, some women are sexually restricted to childbearing and keeping the ruling race or caste “pure,” while others are sexually exploited for sex only or for producing more workers. But when European colonists arrived among the five hundred or so tribes of North America, they wrote home about their shock that “these savages” didn’t rape, not even their female prisoners. Columbus himself wrote home his complaints when conquered Native women fought against becoming sexual slaves to his crew. Continue Reading.

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Gloria Steinem at the Jaipur Literary Festival, by Kara Meyer

GR2

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem and Apne Aap President Ruchira Gupta were greeted with warm applause as they took the stage on the first afternoon of the 2014 Jaipur Literature Festival earlier this month. During their hour-long conversation, the two women discussed modern day patriarchy, the global issue of sex-trafficking and prostitution, the trauma of body invasion, and the power of sorority and friendship. Steinem also spoke of her new book, As If Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader, which was edited by Professor Gupta and addresses many of the topics touched upon at the literary festival.

The conversation began by problematizing the institution of pornography. Steinem states, “pornography is a function of injustice” in the way that it subjugates women while also perpetuating racist and classist ideology. In her book, Steinem juxtaposes pornography with eroticism, stating that the latter “contains the idea of love and mutuality, positive choice and the yearning for a particular person,” while the pornography implies “a form of sexual slavery.”

Steinem went on to discuss reproductive freedom, the importance of intersecting social movements, and the way in which her time spent in India as a young woman influenced her later in life. “India made me who I am today, I hope you’re satisfied,” she joked.

On a more serious note, Gupta and Steinem also addressed the policy debate of legalizing or criminalizing prostitution. Steinem offered a solution in what she calls “the third way” which would decriminalize the victims of prostitution, and penalize and educate the customers. She ended the discussion by reminding the audience that, “the means don’t justify the end, the means are the end” – a Gandhian principle of non-violence that is also encouraged by Apne Aap.

Gloria Steinem’s new book As If Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader is now available for purchase through Rupa Publications.