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NDA government insensitive to atrocities on women and used their safety issue to win election: Jagmati Sangwan

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By Ishan Kukreti

All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), an autonomous body working towards creating a better society for women to live in, boasts a membership of more than 1 crore.

Jagmati Sangwan, General Secretary AIDWA, is one of the many women in India who have faced gender based discrimination in their daily lives. But she is among the few who have decided to not suffer it with their heads bowed down, their hands folded.

Born and brought up in Haryana, where minister’s and panchayats are notorious for cooking up culinary or sartorial reasons for sexual crimes against women, Sangwan’s journey is nothing less than awe-inspiring. She has undoubtedly inculcated that one trait for which the people of Haryana are famous, courage.

In an hour long afternoon conversation with NewsGram at the AIDWA office in Shadipur, Delhi, Jagmati Sangwan talked about gender discrimination in India, its causes, government’s attitude towards women safety, her life as a female athlete in Haryana and much more. Here are the excerpts from the conversation.

Ishan Kukreti: What is All India Democratic Women’s Association and how did it come into existence?

Jagmati Sangwan: AIDWA was formed in 1981 by those women who had been a part and parcel of the freedom movement like Susheela Goplan, Anila Naglekar, Laxmi Shegal. The slogan “Janwad Samanata Nari Mukti” ( Democracy Equality Emancipation of Women) was raised by them. They felt that the path of development followed by India had not been addressing the issue of women’s equality.

We feel that Indian women are discriminated at three levels. First as citizens, then as part of the exploited class, and then as gender, in the form of dowry etc. So we take up programs on these dimensions. Our main focus is on the women from the weaker sections of the society.

IK: What are the main concerns about the women issues which AIDWA is looking at?

JS: We do awareness work, agitation, counseling and direct intervention of victimized women and policy intervention. These days our major area of intervention is food security. Our aim is strengthening and improving implementation of National Food Security Act and efficient working of PDS. Civic amenities are also a key focus area. We are also organizing our program and protests around efficient implementation of NAREGA. As a lot of women benefit form this scheme. We are also organizing women on the issue of 33% reservation. We also try to address policy issues related to violence against women.

One of the area of struggle has also been honor killing, in northern India in general and Haryana in particular. We have built a strong movement around this. It has become a national issue now. We forced the Haryana government to build protection centers. We will do massive campaigning in collages and schools in the near future to create awareness about the issue.

IK: You have been active in the struggle for women’s equality for long. What do you think are the major causes for such mistreatment of women?

JS: There are structural issues. Women don’t have equal property rights. Moreover, whatever they have in their name is also not under their control. They are discriminated at the level of entitlement. Then, there are unequal social institutions like marriage, dowry around which there is a whole range of traditions, beliefs and values which are against the equality of women. At the policy making level, the women is seen as a dependent individual and not as equal citizens of the country. The mindset is still very patriarchal and a woman is not looked as someone who has equal claim on the resources and the processes of decision making.

AIDWA Office, Shadipur, Delhi. Photograph by Ishan Kukreti
AIDWA Office, Shadipur, Delhi. Photograph by Ishan Kukreti

 

IK: In the light of increasing sexual violence against women, do you think the role of government has been satisfactory?

JS: AIDWA feels that the reason for increasing cases of rape or gang rapes is the insensitivity of the government. The woman organizations had been asking for an improvement in the laws relating to rape for more than 20 years but the government showed no interest. It was only after the Nirbhaya Case and the subsequent agitation, especially by youth, that the government did something.

Even policies which are being framed are not done with the right perspective and the policies which are in place are not being implemented properly. You see, even after creating a Nirbhaya Kosh, not a single rupee had been spent out of that fund, for the last two or three years.

The insensitivity was the same during the UPA government and its the same during this NDA government. The current government who said things like “Bhaut hua nari par atyachar, ab lao Modi sarkar” has completely used the issue of women safety and security to come gain power.

The UPA government said that it will create a One Stop Crisis Center at every district, but now the NDA government has decided that just one is enough in each state.

IK: Do you feel that the is a difference between the discrimination faced by a women in urban India and one in the rural?

JS: The placement of rural women make them more vulnerable to all kinds of violence. The infrastructure to provide protection and serve justice to the offenders is not available to these women. As compared to a woman in rural India, an urban Indian woman is comparatively well placed. She has some structures at her disposal where they can file their complaints, like police stations, NGOs, civil society organizations etc.

IK: You belong to Haryana were ministers and Khaps say all sorts of things about violence against women, why do you think this is so?

JS: Haryana is a paradox, in the sense that it is a state which is economically better off than most north Indian states, but socially it is the most backward. The sex ratio in Haryana is a shame to humanity, cases of domestic violence and rape are rife. I feel this is due to the political leadership of Haryana which has a very patriarchal mindset. For example, the Haryana government tried to abolish the Parental Property right twice. I don’t think any other state government has tried to do such a thing. Moreover, there aren’t many women in the political parties and government machinery in Haryana. Also, there has not been a social reform movement in the state which could improve the situation.

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IK: How did you get associated with the feminist cause?

JS: I was an athlete, a volleyball player, in a village near Sonipat. And many of my friends, who were more talented at the game than me, had to quit because of societal pressure. They were married off after their 12th exams. I was lucky because of Arya Samaj’s influence on my family and also because I made it to a sports college in Haryana which provided lodging facility.

When I went abroad to represent India, I saw that the techniques employed by the top teams there were those which my village friends had mastery over. This thing touched me at a very deep level and I decided to join the cause of improving and providing equal opportunities to women.

 

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Meet to sleep campaign undertaken by women on the support of the 6 year old gang rape victim

In a bid to make cities safer, the government has set up help lines and installed security cameras which was a great fail according to the rights activists. A six year old girl was raped in the state of Haryana.

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FILE - Indian women participate in a candle light vigil at a bus stop where the victim of a 2012 deadly gang rape had boarded the bus on what would become her final journey, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014.
Indian women participate in a candle light vigil at a bus stop where the victim of a deadly gang rape in a moving bus had boarded the bus two years ago, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. The case sparked public outrage and helped make women’s safety a common topic of conversation in a country where rape is often viewed as a woman’s personal shame to bear. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
  • A 6 year old girl was gang raped int the state of Haryana
  • The gang raped was compared to The Delhi gang rape in 2012
  • “Meet to Sleep” campaign done by women

December 16, 2017: Five years after the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old physical therapy student in the Indian capital turned the focus to violence against women, small groups turned out in New Delhi and several other cities on Saturday to highlight the need for safety for women in public spaces.

The “Meet to Sleep” movement, under which women took a short nap at a park, is one of several campaigns that have emerged in the wake of massive protests that rocked India after the gang rape. The symbolic nap highlights the need for women’s safety when they are most vulnerable.

“What happened to her [the gang rape victim] happened in a very public place, in a bus, which is a mode of transportation that many women use, but remains unsafe. Five years on, not much has changed,” said 26-year-old Kriti Omprakash.

Kirti Omprakash says that public spaces are still not safe for women in the Indian capital, where a horrific gang rape in 2012 turned the spotlight on sexual violence against women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Kirti Omprakash says that public spaces are still not safe for women in the Indian capital, where a horrific gang rape in 2012 turned the spotlight on sexual violence against women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

The gang rape victim was assaulted by six men on a bus that she boarded with her male friend in December 2012. She later died due to the injuries she sustained.

Not only do sexual attacks targeting girls and women continue to pose a challenge – such incidents actually have increased, according to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau. Delhi, considered one of India’s most unsafe cities, reported 1,996 rape cases in 2016, up from 1,893 in the previous year.

Rising voices

Women’s rights activists say the biggest change, however, is that women have become more vocal in demanding their freedom and safety and that the subject of violence is now discussed openly in a country where talk of sex crimes previously had been considered taboo.

A woman takes a symbolic nap at a park in New Delhi as part of a "Meet to Sleep" campaign initiated to highlight the need for more safety for women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
A woman takes a symbolic nap at a park in New Delhi as part of a “Meet to Sleep” campaign initiated to highlight the need for more safety for women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

“In the past five years, one of the most positive things I think is that those kind of agitations have taken teeth and grown,” said Kavita Krishnan from the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

In a bid to make cities safer, the government has set up help lines and installed security cameras, although that has failed to be a deterrent, according to rights activists. They express disappointment that despite the tightening of laws for rape and sexual harassment, crimes are still surging, sometimes against very young girls.

“We feel very, very let down by the system, by the government. The gruesomeness of crime has increased,” says Ranjana Kumari at the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. “There have been very, very young children who have been assaulted in most brutal way.”

Less than a week ago, a six-year-old girl was found murdered with grave sexual injuries in the northern state of Haryana – a case whose brutality led to comparisons with the 2012 bus gang rape.

Women activists say movements like "Meet to Sleep" have increased in the wake of the 2012 gang rape. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Women activists say movements like “Meet to Sleep” have increased in the wake of the 2012 gang rape. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Legal efforts

The mother of the gang rape victim, Asha Devi, also expressed anguish over reporters asking, “Women and girls are still being raped, what changed? The city is as unsafe as it was five years ago.”

Activists also worry about what they feel are efforts to dilute the tough laws that were instituted after the gang rape to punish men and point to a judgment.

Earlier this year, a judge set aside the conviction of a Bollywood filmmaker for rape after ruling that a “feeble no” could indicate willingness on the part of the victim.

Kavita Krishnan stresses the need for more mobilization of the kind that was seen in the wake of the 2012 gang rape to continue to keep the focus on women’s safety and freedom.

“We cannot celebrate the 2012 movement without realizing what is happening around us right now. It has to be a continued fight. It can’t just be a ritual obeisance paid to the 2012 moment,” she said. (VOA)

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The major Challenge is to make the Youth of the Country Entrepreneurial and not Job Seekers : Venkaiah Naidu

"The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers," Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government's various initiatives.

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Venkaiah Naidu
Venkaiah Naidu. Wikimedia Commons
  • At a time of tepid job growth and continuing income disparities, the major challenge is to make the youth of the country entrepreneurial and not job seekers, Vice President  Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday.

“Disparities continue to remain in India and so there is a need for inclusive growth… there is the need to take care of the suppressed, oppressed and depressed,” Venkaiah Naidu said at the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust’s (BYST) silver jubilee celebrations here with Britain’s Prince Charles as the chief guest.

“The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers,” Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government’s various initiatives to encourage youth enterprises like Startup India, Standup India and the Mudra financing scheme for underprivileged sections.

Modelled on Prince Charles’ Trust for business startups, BYST, founded by Lakshmi Venkatesan, daughter of former President R. Venkatraman, is engaged in building rural entrepreneurship — “grampreneurs” — as also enterprise among under-privileged sections, which includes business mentoring. The current BYST chairman is Bajaj Group chief, Rahul Bajaj.

“Without mentoring, it would be very difficult to set up startups, with all the business, marketing and other vital issues involved in the first two-three years,” Prince Charles said in his address at the International Mentoring Summit organized by BYST to mark its 25 years.

“What amazes me are the sheer number of jobs these young entrepreneurs had created. The aim of such a project should be to create a virtual cycle of creating entrepreneurs who can then invest in the future of business,” Charles said referring to his trust.

BYST was officially launched in 1992 by Prince Charles and expanded its operations to six major regions of India.

Out of these six regions, four — Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad — run the urban programme while two regions — Haryana and Maharashtra — run the rural programme.(IANS)

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Women’s sports coverage encounters subtle sexism: Study

It has been found that 95 percent of anchors, co-anchors and analysts, analysing the sports coverage were male

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Women's sports and the surrounding sexism
Women's sports. Pixabay
  • A subtler sexism frames the TV broadcasts of women in sports, according to a recent study
  • L.A.-based network affiliates devote only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports on news broadcasts
  • The researchers have been constant in updating their findings roughly every five years

Washington D.C. [USA], Sep 19, 2017: A recent study stated that a subtler sexism has now made it to the Newsrooms framing the TV broadcast of women in sports.

The ongoing, decades-long study by the University of Southern California researchers suggests, that even if the mainstream broadcast coverage now treats the sports played by women a little more seriously, a major part of it, mostly respectful coverage still has to face the relegation to the sideline.

Only 3.2 percent of airtime, according to the research team, was devoted to women’s sports on news broadcasts, by the L.A.-based network affiliates, witnessing a degradation of 5 percent from 1989, which was the first year of the study. ESPN’s SportsCenter, on the other hand, only stands worse, devoting 2 percent of the airtime to women’s sports, same as it was in 1999 when the study began tracking the show.

“When compared to the start of the study, women used to be framed in ways that were overtly sexist. Now the sexism is subtler,” said lead author Michela Musto. “It seems at first that it’s respectful, but if you compare the framing with men’s sports, women are talked about in a much more boring way. There is no joking or complimenting. Those kinds of descriptors are missing from women’s sports.”

The researchers have been constant in updating their findings roughly every five years, in 1993, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014, to be exact. It has been planned to start the research later this year, for it to be updated in 2018.

The researchers, in a manner similar to the previous cycles of the study, analyzed three two-week segments of TV sports news coverage on three Los Angeles network affiliates, and on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The coverage was then coded across 20 distinct categories, which included gender, segment length, type of sport, competitive level of sport, and production value.

Much of the disparity may owe to the little airtime devoted to each individual woman’s story on SportsCenter. Sports stories revolving around women averaged 77 seconds, approximately 50 percent shorter than men’s stories, however, better than the 44 seconds allotted to them on local affiliates.

The overall respectful coverage may be the advancement from the time when Morganna the Kissing Bandit was one of the few women featured on the local sports report. But the refined tone of this coverage carried a brand of chauvinism, of it own. The researchers gave it the name “gender bland”, a programming that confronts the treatment of a mandatory “set aside.”

In “gender-bland” programming, the athletic achievements of women are depicted as “lackluster” and “uninspired.” That is, unless they approve to the image of caring teammates or partners and spouses, for instance, the 2016 Olympic trap-shooter medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s portrayal in mainstream media as “the wife of a Chicago Bears linebacker.”

Also readWhere Girls and Women are missing out in Sports? Or is it simple Gender Discrimination

A surge of female athletes since the 1970s, when Title IX, which prohibited discrimination based on gender in education for athletics became a law, makes the sparse coverage of women’s sports out of step, the researchers noted.

Around 3.1 million girls participate in high school sports today, compared to 4.4 million boys; in a stark contrast to the situation 45 years ago, when only 294,000 girls played sports in high school, and less than 39,000 played in college.

There are but few women in sports media industry that may play a role in influencing the coverage decisions, noted the researchers. It has been found that 95 percent of anchors, co-anchors and analysts analysing the sports coverage were male. The data shows resemblance to the other findings stating that 90.1 percent of sports print editors happen to be male.

If a woman in the sports broadcast industry happens to scale heights, as the case of Samantha Ponder, a sideline reporter who replaced Chris Berman as host of ESPN’s featured NFL program, Sunday NFL Countdown, this August, it still makes big news.

“I do believe that part of the move toward greater respect and equity for women’s sports in the media will involve getting more women into newspaper sports desks, radio and TV commentary,” said senior author Michael Messner.

“However, I also think that employers, when they hire new people, should seek to hire reporters and commentators — women or men — who really care about women’s sports, who can and will express genuine enthusiasm, rather than gender-bland sexism, when they report on women’s sports,” he added.

The study has been published in the journal Gender & Society.

prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha