Debates, book releases mark second day of Patna Literature Festival

Times of India

PATNA: Frequent drizzle notwithstanding, people in large numbers enjoyed hot debates, discussions on Indian cinema and folk literature, book launches and screening of sensitive documentaries on the second day of Patna Literature Festival (PLF) on Saturday.

Opening with a session on ‘My Life: A Musical Journey’, Vikram Sampat and Kumud Diwan discussed the lives of music maestros followed by release of a book, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In: The Curious Ambivalence of Religious Sadhus in Recent Politics in India’. Written by Dr Rajesh Pradhan, it was launched by Om Thanvi. Continue Reading.

Prostitutes to take part in One Billion Rising campaign

Business Standard

Demanding an end to sexual violence, prostitutes and women vulnerable to trafficking will bring out a protest rally tomorrow on Valentines Day.

About 70 prostitutes from red-light areas of Sonagachi and Munshiganj will bring out the rally on a two kilometre stretch at Khidirpore as part of the”One Billion Rising for Justice campaign” to end violence against women and promote gender equality. Continue Reading.

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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Field realities from denotified tribes: Apne Aap organizes a talk about the exclusion, deprivation and state of discrimination of the tribes

Swati and RuchiraNew Delhi, 10th February, 2014:- Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a registered charitable trust in India committed to work towards the empowerment of girls and women today organized its seventh session of ‘Terrace Talks’ at their head-office at India International Centre, New Delhi. The talk was chaired by Swati Chakraborty, Head-Monitoring & Evaluation at Apne Aap Women Worldwide. The discussion revolved around ‘Field realities from denotified tribes’.

The ongoing study on the educational status of de-notified Tribes by Apne Aap Women Worldwide in the states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal clearly shows that these communities are still treated as outsiders by society and discriminated and victimized by authorities. Suspicion and traditional stereotyping (as criminal) is still a standard yardstick with which these communities are looked at. This is due to both conventional belief as well as ignorance about them among the authorities as well as the general public.

The session further delved around the findings of the study, where Swati and the team found  that young girls were seen as a financial resource and often  kept as security with brothel owners for a specified time period against a specified amount in case of familial dispute.  It threw light on the incidents when poor families have been forced to use their daughters more than once. There are endless stories of extreme exploitation of young girls and women .One member of Kanjar communities told the study team: doh hi chiz to bikte hain. ek hain aurat r ek hain zameen. hum logo ke paas to zameen hain nehi—toh aurat hi bech te hain.Aur keya kar sakte hain. (Two things can be sold—one is women and other island. We do not have land so we sell our woman. What else we can do).

Participating in the discussion Abhilasha Kumari, Director Apne Aap Women Worldwide said, “Many of these denotified tribes practice inter-generational prostitution which is the extreme form of exploitation of young girls. Being an anti trafficking grassroots organization, Apne Aap came into the picture largely because we wanted to create an impact about this practice. We consider that every child that is put into prostitution is trafficked. We realized most of the people didn’t know about denotified tribes so we took the help from ICSSR. ICSSR has supported this research and provided us with authentic information and evidence. These findings will help us to develop, strategies and policy formulation for the development of these communities”.

Elucidating on the denotified tribes study , Swati Chakraborty highlighted how across the states, despite being extremely poor and low on all human resources indices,  this study found that de-notified communities are not entitled to the various government schemes meant for the poor and backward communities. There is abject poverty among them across states. Police find it convenient to hold these communities responsible for any crimes both in rural and urban areas. Speaking at the session, she said It is very easy to show  through statistics  how many children are not attending school, but the reason why they are not going or what  are the factors that are pushing them away can  only be known by having a field experience and by conducting studies of this kind”.

The session concluded with the audience discussing various measures to implement the much needed reforms towards the cause of these tribes.

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

How India Inc can help combat human trafficking

DNA

On 31 December 2013, Barack Obama declared January 2014 the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States, and reaffirmed his government’s commitment to combating this problem effectively. In India, on the other hand, human trafficking still remains the biggest unacknowledged menace.

India is a source, transit and destination country, and millions of women and children are trafficked here every year. Females are the worst victims, trafficked for purposes of prostitution, forced marriage and domestic survivable servitude. Continue Reading.