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Rape is a global issue, says ‘Daughters of India’s maker’

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New Delhi: It’s wrong to put a “harsh lens” on India regarding gender inequality and sexual violence as it’s not just confined to Indian borders but spread across the globe, says Vibha Bakshi, who framed the aftermath of the December 2012 gang-rape on camera in the National Award winning documentary “Daughters of Mother India”.

“We are not a rape capital of the world. It is wrong to paint everyone with the same brush. It’s not just India’s fight. This is a global issue as all rapists speak the same language. India is always under a harsh lens and I think that is wrong because it leaves people with disgust and disillusionment,” Bakshi told IANS in an interview.

India earned global notoriety after a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern was brutally gangraped in a bus in New Delhi on December 16, 2002. But India is not the only country to be fighting the evil.

Mumbai-based celebrity hair stylist Sapna Moti Bhavnani has come out in the open about her ordeal when she was gangraped at gun point in Chicago. Bhavnani, who appeared in reality TV show “Bigg Boss 6”, narrated her experience on social networking site Facebook, and drew a lot of attention.

In the same vein, Bakshi, who shared views about the need to spread awareness about sexual violence at TEDxWalledCity 2015 last month, even questioned that “there are so many incredible strong women and men of India, how can you erase that?” while painting India’s image on the international map.

Her film “Daughters of Mother India” won a National Film Award in Best Film on the Social Issues category this year and it also walked away with the Best Documentary Film award at the 15th edition of the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF).

Bakshi, who embarked on a journey to find answers about women with the film, says the positive response to the film added impetus to her endeavour of bringing change in society.

“Our film takes a more panoramic view…with people who are relentlessly working towards change. And we have taken them as a model. The success has exceeded anything we could have hoped for. The film sensitised people and didn’t leave people with disgust and disillusionment,” she said.

“Our toughest critic, the police, also embraced the film. So, that is one step in the right direction,” added Bakshi, who is also credited with the film “Terror At Home”, which was part of the United States Government’s Emmy Award winning campaign to Stop Violence Against Women.

What changes can a film bring to society?

“My film does not give you an answer. But it makes you think. I think a film can create empathy, which will be converted into action. It makes you retrospect about your attitude,” she added.

The director, who has studied Journalism and Broadcasting from Boston University and New York University, noted that she has moved a step ahead with her campaign to usher in a change.

“Right now we are working very closely with the police across the country. We just launched a women safety campaign which hit all the theatres in Mumbai. Under this, theatres screened three films based on three disturbing sexual crimes of Mumbai of three-minute duration,” she said.

Though the campaign was restricted to Mumbai, Bakshi says she is planning to make it pan-India starting with Delhi.

“We will soon start shooting in Delhi. The Mumbai campaign went viral. It will be a state-based campaign to bridge the gap between people and police,” said Bakshi, who is also in talks to take her “Daughters of Mother India” for screening to the United Nations headquarters.

(IANS)

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India Can Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?

A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues , 43 of them from India

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BJP Leader Asks Parents Of A Rape Victim To Express Gratitude To Them
Can India Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?. Flickr

-By Deepa Gahlot

You read with a mixture of alarm and scepticism, the poll report by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, beating Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

According to reports, a total of 548 global experts on women’s issues — 43 of them from India — were asked about risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking. And shockingly, India comes out as the worst!

We see women progressing in every field in India, but, there is also the increasing violence against women and young girls reported every day; not long ago, female tourists felt safe in India; but now, women travelling solo are constantly targeted. Everyday there are reports of the rapes and murders of minor girls, often accompanied by unimaginable torture and mutilation.

There has been outrage in India, and also holes punctured in the survey that has such a small number of respondents, but can we really take an ostrich approach to the condition of women? Even as education and healthcare improve for women — at least in metro cities — the contempt for women is socially and culturally ingrained in the Indian psyche. In a city like Mumbai considered progressive and relatively safe for women, the girl child is unwanted even by many educated and wealthy families. In spite of laws being in place, female foeticide and infanticide is rampant, to the extent that there are large territories where there are no girl children and brides for the men have to be ‘imported’ from other states.  As dowry murders and rapes rise, the more unwanted the girl child becomes.  The fact is that India’s gender ratio is deplorable.

And if the male child is valued over the girl child, he grows up believing that he is special and if he is thwarted in any way, he can resort to violence. In spite of education and exposure to progressive ideas, in the case of rape or sexual violence, the tendency to blame and shame the victim persists.

To give just one small example, in the West, accusations of sexual harassment resulted in united shunning of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and many others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that helped many women speak out about their experiences.

In India, Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused in the abduction and rape of an actress, and was boycotted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), was recently reinstated. This caused shock and dismay among women in the film industry.

A statement by a group of over 150 women film practitioners says it like it is, “A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime. Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague. We condemn this cavalier attitude by artistes against women artistes who are working alongside them. There is misogyny and gender discrimination embedded in this action.

“We admired and supported the Women in Cinema Collective that was formed by women film artistes in Kerala in the aftermath of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, a top star in the industry. We applaud the WCC members who have walked out of AMMA to protest the chairman’s invitation to reinstate the accused. We pledge our continued support to the Women in Cinema Collective who are blazing a trail to battle sexism in the film industry.

“Cinema is an art form that can challenge deeply entrenched violence and discrimination in society. It is distressing to see an industry that stands amongst the best in the country and has even made a mark in world cinema choose to shy away from using their position and their medium responsibly at this important moment. Today, women form a significant part of the film and media industries, we reject any attempt at silencing us and making us invisible.”

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Indian women. VOA

The preference for male children has had some unexpected ramifications. In a working paper published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, by Northwestern University’s Seema Jayachandran and Harvard University’s Rohini Pande (quoted in Quartz Media), finds that stunting in Indian children could also be blamed on the cultural preference for sons.

“In India, on average, the first child — if he is a son — doesn’t suffer from stunting. But, if the first — and so the eldest — child of the family is a girl, she suffers from a height deficit. And, then, if the second child is a boy, and hence the eldest son of the family, he will not be stunted. This happens because of an unequal allocation of resources to the first child”.

According to the report, “When Jayachandran and Pande compared India and Africa results through this lens, they found that the Indian first and eldest son tends to be taller than an African firstborn. If the eldest child of the family is a girl, and a son is born next, the son will still be taller in India than Africa. For girls, however, the India-Africa height deficit is large. It is the largest for daughters with no older brothers, probably because repeated attempts to have a son takes a beating on the growth of the girls.”

Also read: Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

In spite of all the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao rhetoric, the required shift in the male-centric attitude towards a more egalitarian one is simply not happening; or, it is a case of one step forward, two steps backward. The Thomson Reuters Foundation report may be unfair and skewed, but being known as the rape capital of the world does nothing to improve the image of India in the world or even in its own eyes. (IANS)