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Myanmar’s Rakhine state government has banned state employees from collecting donations to help thousands of residents displaced by hostilities between national forces and the rebel Arakan Army (AA), fearing that the funds are being diverted to the ethnic fighters, according to an internal memo issued by the state’s education department.
The memo dated April 5 instructed education department employees to refrain from gathering donations for internally displaced person (IDPs), citing concerns that some of the money is being passed on to the AA to assist the ethnic army in its battle for greater autonomy in Rakhine.
When contacted by RFA’s Myanmar Service, state education official Aung Than Myint confirmed the news and said he released the departmental circular per the state government’s instructions.
Police in Rakhine have also been stopping local NGOs from collecting money in some areas of the state, much to the indignation of local residents who want to provide aid to some of the estimated 31,000 people who have fled their homes due to armed conflict.
In a statement issued on April 6, the Representative Committee of Civil Society Organizations in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe condemned the actions of police officers who stopped a civil society group from collecting donations there.
“Because they are afraid the money will go to the AA, people who really are suffering will not get any support or donations from CSOs,” Thar Pwint, chairman of the Representative Committee of Civil Society Organizations in Sittwe.
“It’s not good,” he said. “They [the authorities] should use some other way to stop money from going to the AA.”
Letters of instruction
On the same day that Thar Pwint’s group issued its statement, Sittwe’s Organizing Committee for All-Arakan Solidarity sent letters to township police and village administrators, ordering them not to collect any donations without permission from the state government.
The letters instructed police authorities and village officials to take action against those who collect funds for the IDPs without permission.
When RFA contacted several village heads, they hesitated confirm that they had received the letters.
“We have heard that some people were collecting donations in some government departments to support the AA,” said a state government official who declined to give his name.
“The state government is just trying to contain the situation because of this rumor,” he said.
A man helping the IDPs, who asked that his name be withheld, said the influx of villagers who have fled their communities and have sought shelter in other villages has created food and water shortages.
“Some villages have only 100 households, but about 300 households have come to their villages [for shelter], and they have to share food for the 100 households with another 300 households,” he said. “This will be a problem in the long run. The host households have to take care of the IDPs who can’t work.”
Khine Maung Gyi of Sittwe township’s Organizing Committee for All-Arakan Solidarity, said that authorities believe money collected is going to the AA, they should come up with a more specific plan to stop it from happening.
“As the situation is bad enough with the IDP problem in Rakhine, it will get worse with other problems arising because of what they have now done,” he said.
“People are moving around, and they can encounter difficulties and problems anytime, anywhere, because of the weather and the fighting,” he said. “People should have the right to help IDPs in their own way.”
Supplies for IDPs
Ye Min Oo from Rakhine state’s Disaster Management Department noted that the state government has supplied IDPs with rice and other humanitarian aid now worth 500 million kyats (U.S. $329,300).
On Thursday, members of the Rakhine State Peace and Stability Supporting Committee visited Kyauktaw township, one of the areas affected by the fighting, where panel chairman Aye Thar Aung and vice chairman Pe Myint provided goods to IDPs.
The committee, formed by President Win Myint in March to prevent provocations that could cause further instability in the violence-ridden state, this week began conducting field studies on peace and stability in Rakhine, consulting with stakeholders, and offering suggestions on short-term and long-term projects to bring stability to the state.
In addition to the thousands of displaced people in Rakhine, the fighting has resulted in 43 deaths and 69 injuries among civilians, according to a list issued by the state’s Disaster Management Department,
In a related development, AA leader Major General Tun Myat Naing said Thursday that the ethnic military would release the family members of police officers it had detained a day earlier following a clash in Mrauk-U township.
About 200 AA soldiers attacked the compound, taking four women and three children from the residential quarters with them when they later retreated, with the wife of one police official shot dead by ethnic forces, a report in the official Global New Light of Myanmar said.
Two policemen were killed and seven others were reported missing during the fighting, the report said.
Tun Myat Naing said in the online journal The Irrawaddy that the AA did not abduct the people, but rather led them to safety, fearing they might be killed as Myanmar military planes bombed the area.
The Myanmar Police Force said the AA abducted seven people and that the wife of one officer was killed during the attack.
The AA will hand the women and children over either to the government or to a local ethnic Rakhine women’s group, Myat Naing told the journal.
The AA and Myanmar Army reported casualties on both sides.
Following a deadly attack on the police compound, government soldiers and the AA took their battle to a village north of Mrauk-U township where Myanmar troops later detained nearly 30 residents, villagers said.
Fighting ensued in Lekkar village after the AA attacked the No.31 Police Division before dawn earlier in the morning. Both sides confirmed the fighting but did not provide details.
Myanmar villagers told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Thursday that a military column had entered the village and apprehended 27 locals the troops believed to be connected to the AA, but that they had no ties to the ethnic army fighting for autonomy in Rakhine state.
“Nineteen people from our village [were taken],” said Thein Yee, whose husband Khin Maung Saw is among those being detained.”
The other eight are from different villages.
“Some people such as carpenters who were here to build houses were also in the village,” she told RFA.
“A tenth-grader was also taken. They have nothing to do with the AA. We can surely guarantee that. All of our village elders can guarantee that. They have nothing to do with the AA. We have to make a living working odd jobs.”
Thein Yee also said that Khin Maung Saw had been with her throughout the clash when they took refuge in a village monastery.
Lone Lone, the aunt of detained tenth-grader Soe Moe Kyaw, said that the boy from Pyine-cha village had come to Lekkar village to attend school.
“He went to Pyine-cha for a brief visit, and then came back here with me,” she said. “We were hiding in bomb shelters when soldiers came to the village.”
The soldiers called for Soe Moe Kyaw to come out and ordered him to take off his shirt, she said.
“He was left under the burning sun, and we were too scared to say anything,” Lone Lone said. “We dared not even look at them. My nephew didn’t understand the situation, because he is just a tenth-grader.”
35 names on a list
Villagers and AA spokesman Khine Thukha said the people that the military had taken away were not AA members.
But Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun of the Myanmar military’s information team insisted that they have ties to the Arakan force.
“They are members of the AA, according to our investigation,” he said. “We’ll release information later.”
A statement issued Wednesday by the Myanmar military said it had apprehended 23 members of the AA disguised as local residents who had escaped into the village.
When RFA asked Zaw Min Tun about the difference in the figures, he said the number varied based on the situation on the ground.
The military column raided the community and found a handwritten list of people whom it questioned, later taking away some of those whose names appeared on it, villagers said.
They insisted that the list did not belong to the AA, and instead contained the names of members of local welfare groups.
A local government employee speaking on condition of anonymity told RFA that the list contained names of members of a sentry group set up to protect the village during the fighting and prevent thieves from stealing cattle.
“We have about four or five groups to protect the village in south, north, east, and west locations,” he said. “The group in question was from the west.”
“The names of 35 people were on the list,” he said. “Some are at IDP camps, and some are in the village. The troops called out these people and accused them of having contact with AA. They said it openly in front of us.”
Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said the army is conducting necessary investigations.
“The truth will come out later,” he said. “That’s all I can say for now. I think the police will release their findings on the investigation later.” (RFA)
"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
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Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.