Our bodies, our selves #womenrights #gender #Vaw


Female homicides in Ciudad Juárez

 

 

 
NILANJANA S. ROY, The Hindu

 

Until we embrace the idea of consent in all relationships, including marriage, there can be no gender equality. Its absence makes discussions on sexual abuse meaningless

 

The man who was my abuser was a fine host, a good husband, a caring father, a respected elder whose generosity and kindness were as genuine as the fact of the abuse. These qualities were important, because they helped him conceal the abuse he carried out over a period of four years.

 

As a much-loved older relative, a close friend of my parents, he had unrestricted access to our house, and we visited him often. It was only at 12 that I began to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know the term “child sexual abuse,” and had no words with which to describe my discomfort with the “games” he played — but I sensed there was something wrong about the silence that he demanded. When I was 13, I left Delhi for Calcutta, to study in that city, and left my abuser behind. But he didn’t forget, and when I came back to Delhi as a 17-year-old, he was there.

 

FIERCE, PROTECTIVE BARRIER

 

At 17, I knew now that he had no right to do this to me. When he sent poems, said that despite the four decades that separated us, we were supposed to “be together,” I broke my own silence — but only partly. I told my mother and my sister, and they formed a fierce, protective barrier between me and my abuser.

 

But the man who had started his abuse when I was nine was still invited to my wedding, because we were all keeping secrets, trying to protect one family member or another. (He was married, with grown children of his own.)

 

Years later, when my abuser was dying of old age and diabetes, I visited him. There was no space for a long conversation, but I did tell him that I would not forget, even if forgiveness was possible. The silence around the abuse festered and caused damage for years, until finally, in my thirties, the difficult, liberating process of healing began.

 

If this story saddens you, please think about this: my story is neither new nor rare, nor was the man who abused me a monster, or in any way out of the ordinary. According to a 2007 survey (the largest of its kind in India) conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, over 53 per cent of Indian children have experienced some form of sexual abuse — a slightly higher percentage of boys than girls. I am only one of many.

 

As I learned to cope with the fallout from the childhood abuse, I made unexpected connections, found good friends, found strong mentors, found help, found my voice again and built a happier, more free life. If I bring up the abuse today, it’s to make a point about the importance of consent in the debate over gender equality in India.

 

Child abuse survivors are experts in two areas: we’ve taken a masterclass in the toxicity of silence and secret-keeping, and we have doctorates in our understanding of the importance of consent. It can take survivors, like rape survivors of either gender, years to reclaim a sense of ownership over their own bodies. The body is the site of so many violations, starting with the chief one: our abusers did not ask us for permission to use our bodies as they pleased. Children subjected to abuse learn one harsh lesson — their bodies are not their own.

 

RIGHT TO OFFER OR WITHHOLD

 

Over years, those of us who are fortunate enough to find counsellors and healers learn to reclaim our bodies. We learn as adults what children are supposed to know by instinct: we learn that we can be safe in our bodies, we learn to allow ourselves pleasure, to take care of ourselves, and most of all, we learn that we have the right to offer or withhold permission to other people, when they want access to our bodies, our selves.

 

In December 2012, a violent gang rape in Delhi took the life of a young woman and set off a raging debate over women’s freedoms and rape laws. In all the complex arguments we’ve heard in the last few months in India on rape, violence against women, we have not discussed consent as much as we need to. When we talk about rape, women’s bodies are often discussed as though they were property: how much freedom should the Indian family allow its daughters, wives, sisters, mothers?

 

Recently, rejecting the Verma Committee’s strong appeal that marital rape be made an offence under the law, the Standing Committee on Home said that (a) the Indian family system would be disturbed (b) there were practical difficulties and (c) marriage presumes consent.

 

These assumptions expose the toxicity at the heart of a certain view of the Indian family. For marriage to “presume consent,” you must assume that a woman gives up all rights to her body, to her very self, once she goes through the ceremony of marriage. You must also presume that a man is granted the legally sanctified right to access over his wife’s body, regardless of whether she finds sex unwelcome, frightening, painful, violent or simply doesn’t feel like it that day.

 

MEDIEVAL VIEW

 

This diminishes both genders, in its assumption that men are little more than lustful beasts, unable to restrain their libidos, that women are passive receptacles without desires of their own, forced to submit to demands for sex regardless of what they want. This is a medieval view of marriage and sex, and it is dismaying that Parliament appears to subscribe to it.

 

What is missing is the key question of consent — the consent of the woman, of any person in a sexual contract. All people — children, women, men — have a right to their own bodies.

 

In any equal partnership, the only possible basis for sex is on the mutual understanding that consent is an active process — to be offered freely and gladly, to be withdrawn just as freely. Underlying the principle of consent is the equally strong principle of respect; respect for one’s self, as much as for one’s partner. No one should be forced to share their bodies against their will.

 

On an active, day-to-day basis, consent embraces the idea that any woman or man is free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a sexual encounter, inside or outside marriage, regardless of whether they are, in the ugly phrase of the courts and police stations, “habituated to sex.”

 

Child abuse survivors and sexual violence survivors understand instinctively that true respect includes giving all people the right to say ‘no,’ the right to choose when they will be touched, and by whom.

 

If it is hard for Indian society to understand why everyone should have this right, then perhaps we should start with the basics.

 

You own your own body. Everyone has the right to live without their bodies being violated. Everyone has the right to demand that you ask for permission before you touch their bodies.

 

Perhaps in time, Parliament and the government might understand this. Justice Verma Committee and thousands of women trapped in marriages where they do not have the right to refuse sex certainly do understand. (For those who believe that marriage in India is a perfect, unsullied institution, read the statistics: over 40 per cent of women in marriages have reported domestic violence. That’s reported, not experienced. In addition, we rarely discuss the experiences of men who have gone through childhood sexual abuse — currently, the percentage is slightly higher for boys than girls, but men are doubly silenced, by shame and the demands of masculinity.)

 

FROM VICTIM TO SURVIVOR

 

My own journey from victim to survivor and then to a kind of freedom, took years. Even so, I had less to deal with than many whose stories are reported in Human Rights Watch’s recent study of child sexual abuse in India — no institutionalised abuse, no caste abuse, no extreme violence. In time, I became a writer, a listener, and a collector of stories. The shared stories of survivors allowed me to let go of shame — child abuse was too common and too widespread for that. I also learned that your memories, however dark, will not kill you, or prevent you from creating a better life.

 

Reclamation happened slowly, sometimes painfully. I was lucky to have the support of my partner, friends and great counsellors. But that journey started with believing that I did have the right to say ‘no,’ that my body did belong to me.

 

The debate in India over rape laws, particularly marital rape, is about such a simple thing: acknowledging that women (and men, and children) have a right over their own bodies. Why is this being treated as though it were a dangerous or radical idea? In a country that calls itself modern, as India does, it’s time we embraced the idea of consent, in all relationships.

 

Even though it’s so common — more than half of all adults in my generation of Indians have experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse — few survivors speak about their experiences because of the Indian family’s insistence on silence. That silence transferred the shame of the abuser’s act on to the child, and on to the family; it is powerful and crippling, and it actively enables abuse.

 

The silence around marital rape is strengthened when the Indian social and legal system refuses even to acknowledge that it exists; for an abuser, and for a rapist, these silences are frighteningly empowering.

 

Just as children have the right to ask that their bodies remain unviolated by the people they should be able to trust, a woman has the right to say, no, she does not give her consent. Even, and perhaps especially in, a relationship as intimate as marriage.

 

(Nilanjana S. Roy is a New Delhi-based writer)

 

 

 

 

International Women’s day- We are One Woman: A Song #Video #Womensday


From China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia, acclaimed singers and musicians, women and men, have come together to spread a message of unity and solidarity: We are “One Woman“.

Launching on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world.

This year, International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women — a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women and a top priority for UN Women. As commemorations are underway in all corners of the globe, “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.

 

Promoting Gender Equality through Education in India #womenrights


 

Rebecca Winthrop | January 15, 2013 2:25pm, brooking.edu

A 16-year-old girl sits inside a protection home on the outskirts of New Delhi (REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal).Protests continue in India, weeks after the horrific gang-rape of a 23-year old university student on December 16th and her subsequent death two weeks later – and rightly so, the incident itself was beyond the pale. A young couple in Delhi boarded a private bus after seeing a movie and instead of discussing character development and plot turns on the way home, the bus doors locked and they were subject to brutal attacks by the other passengers and driver as the bus drove around the city for over two hours. Witnesses driving by did nothing and the victims were eventually dumped out of the bus under an underpass.

But the awful details of this crime are not the main reason for the protests. Instead it is the deep and pervasive gender inequality in India of which this heinous act is a symbol. Girls and women are attacked every day and Indians across the country, particularly young people, are sick of it. Enough is enough they say. There are real reasons why half of all the girls in Indiadon’t want to be girls, and it’s time to change.

If there is any silver lining to this tragedy, it is that the issue of gender equality is on everyone’s lips. Urvashi Sahni, an alumna of our girl’s education Global Scholars Program, is tracking this issue from India and writes that for one of the first times the debate on gender equality is “engaging voices from all sectors of society including students, civil society, academia, political parties, the police, the judiciary and the government.” Now the question remains: what will India do to improve the status of girls and women?

Much of the public discussion focuses on short and long-term solutions such as reforming the law enforcement systems, updating the legal code, supporting the women’s movement, developing new systems of accountability and, of course, having “greater dialogue about India’s patriarchal norms.” All of these things are important but it is the last that is perhaps the most difficult for policymakers and bureaucrats to tackle. Even if it is the most difficult, upending gender norms is perhaps the most fundamental thing needed for long-term sustainable change. Without transforming, in the deepest sense, how girls and women are valued in India, important interventions around such things as legal reforms and police training will end up in the problematic category of “necessary but not sufficient” for developing gender equality in society.

If done right, education can play an important role in redefining gender norms in India. Around the world, there have been numerous excellent examples of education changing people’s way of viewing the world and leading to new forms of behavior, ways of relating with others and ultimately social norms. Indeed, there have been decades of academic research on this topic, so much so that entire subfields of education theory and practice have developed (see for example Jack Mezirow and the field of transformative learning and Paulo Freire and the field of critical pedagogy).

India itself has good examples of education changing social norms towards gender equality. An interesting case of girls’ education programs run in the province of Uttar Pradesh demonstrates that schooling, if done right, can help change gender norms, even in the most marginalized societies. Founded by Urvashi Sahni, the Study Hall Foundation has demonstrated that at the same or lower cost per student as the government schools, their schools can educate girls in a way that enables them to both excel academically, but more importantly emerge as empowered young women. In one of their schools, Prerna, girls outperform their peers both within the province and across India. Ninety percent of Prerna girls complete their education to year 10, compared to below 30 percent nationally, and they do so while outperforming in virtually all subjects (in math and science the Prerna girls perform about 20 percentage points higher on exams than the national average). But most importantly, these girls are changing the gender norms in their communities. They are beginning to fight back when they or their peers are planned to be married off at too early an age. Through street protests and cajoling discussions, they have convinced their parents to keep them in school instead. They initiate community-wide discussions on violence against women. They apply for higher education scholarships and convince their families to let them go once they receive them (an incredibly 88 percent of the girls go on to higher education).

The success of this program is not because the students come from well-to-do families, they don’t (the average family income of students is $108 and 60 percent of their mothers and 40 percent of their fathers have never been to school). It is also not because teachers have higher qualifications or are better paid than government teachers. Rather, according to Mrs. Sahni, it’s because every day the girls’ talk about their worth, value and the issues they face around gender equality. “Gender equality needs to be taught, like math, science, and any other subject” says Sahni, who describes how in Prerna gender equality classes are regularly taught alongside a government curriculum. Then, she is quick to point out, teachers need to be encouraged and supported to fulfill their role as social change agents.

Now this is an idea that the Indian government would do well to listen to. It very well may be a center piece for transforming India’s “patriarchal norms”.

Couples who share the housework are more likely to divorce, #wtfstudy #wtfnews


 

 

Divorce rates are far higher among “modern” couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found.

The report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.  Photo: ALAMY
Henry Samuel

By , Paris, The Telegraph

27 Sep 2012

In what appears to be a slap in the face for gender equality, the report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled “Equality in the Home”.

The lack of correlation between equality at home and quality of life was surprising, the researcher said.

“One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite,” he said.

The figures clearly show that “the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” he went on.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” he suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight.”

But the deeper reasons for the higher divorce rate, he suggested, came from the values of “modern” couples rather than the chores they shared.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said. “In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially.

They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said. Norway has a long tradition of gender equality and childrearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers in 70 per cent of cases.

But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The study emphasised women who did most of the chores did so of their own volition and were found to be as “happy” those in “modern” couples.

Dr Frank Furedi, Sociology professor at the University of Canterbury, said the study made sense as chore sharing took place more among couples from middle class professional backgrounds, where divorce rates are known to be high.

“These people are extremely sensitive to making sure everything is formal, laid out and contractual. That does make for a fairly fraught relationship,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“The more you organise your relationship, the more you work out diaries and schedules, the more it becomes a business relationship than an intimate, loving spontaneous one.

“That tends to encourage a conflict of interest rather than finding harmonious resolutions.” He said while the survey applied to Norway, he was confident the results would be the same in the UK.

“In a good relationship people simply don’t know who does what and don’t particularly care. “Unless marriage is a relationship above anything else, then whenever there are tensions or contradictions things come to a head. You have less capacity to forgive and absorb the bad stuff.”

The survey appeared to contradict another recent one across seven countries including Britain that found that men who shouldered a bigger share of domestic responsibilities had a better sense of wellbeing and enjoyed a better work-life balance.

The researchers expected to find that where men shouldered more of the burden, women’s happiness levels were higher. In fact they found that it was the men who were happier while their wives and girlfriends appeared to be largely unmoved.

Those men who did more housework generally reported less work-life conflict and were scored slightly higher for wellbeing overall.

Experts suggested that, while this may be partly because they felt less guilty, the main reason could be that they had simply learnt the secret of a quiet life.

 

UNESCO: Launch of World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education


To mark International Women’s Day, UNESCO and the UIS have jointly released the World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education, which includes over 120 maps, charts and tables featuring a wide range of sex-disaggregated indicators.

The vivid presentation of information and analysis calls attention to persistent gender disparities and the need for greater focus on girls’ education as a human right.

The atlas illustrates the educational pathways of girls and boys and the changes in gender disparities over time. It hones in on the gender impact of critical factors such as national wealth, geographic location, investment in education, and fields of study.

The data show that:
Although access to education remains a challenge in many countries, girls enrolled in primary school tend to outperform boys. Dropout rates are higher for boys than girls in 63% of countries with data.
Countries with high proportions of girls enrolled in secondary education have more women teaching primary education than men.
Women are the majority of tertiary students in two-thirds of countries with available data. However, men continue to dominate the highest levels of study, accounting for 56% of PhD graduates and 71% of researchers.

The atlas also provides a fresh perspective on the progress countries are making towards gender-related targets set by the international community under Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals.

The print edition of the atlas will be accompanied by an online data mapping tool that enables users to track trends over time, adapt maps and export data. This eAtlas will be regularly updated with the latest available data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Download full report here

Download the full report or obtain a printed copy

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