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By Rebecca McCourtie
I consider myself to be a relatively well-composed individual. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I get excited at times. I show happiness and sadness. I even show anger on the odd occasion. However, as a general rule I would say that my emotions are always in check and relative to the situation at hand.
In having said this, I also know that life can sometimes throw you ‘knicker-s***ting’ moments, whereby ones ability to internally compose oneself flies right out the window. While not often, I have certainly been victim to these instances. For example, the time I booked a hotel online in Stockholm and ended up on the outskirts of the city in a refugee camp. Or the time I boarded a heavily congested train in a multicultural area of Gothenburg. Five minutes into the journey the cabin started to smell like burning and petrol, which subsequently led to 90% of the train getting off at the next stop. It’s sad and unjust when minority actions taint the broader perception of ethnic and cultural minorities, including the perceptions of those very minorities about themselves. Or my encounter with the drug fueled tourist sherpers in Cairo who mounted the bonnet of my taxi, whilst simultaneously yelling ‘ride my f*cking donkey,’ in protest to me opting to tour the pyramids in the safety of a cab. Or the time a man walked away from a suitcase at the Marrakesh Menara Airport and failed to return during the entire twenty minutes I spent staring at it, praying that it didn’t explode. Like I said, ‘knicker-s***ting’ moments when you really feel for your safety! These moments hit you when you least expect it and leave you feeling shaken well after the incident is over.
I am sitting in a plane right now destined for Tel Aviv. I’m taking a few moments to draw in a few deep breaths and count my lucky stars that I actually made it onto the flight. You see, I just had one of those ‘knicker-shitting’ moments. To be specific, I was just detained by the Polish police and interrogated by border protection officials!
‘I’ve already told you, the Swedish Government didn’t issue me with a tangible visa in my passport… they are electronic. I have all the paper work here!
‘What do you mean if it’s not in my passport you wont accept it? Obviously this paper work is proof that I’m not illegal! HERE, this is my housing lease and my tax number… MY TAX NUMBER… aka: I AM LEGAL and on the books…
OK, can’t you just call the Swedish authorities and ask then? My flight leaves in forty minutes’
I chose to stay silent after this. I was starting to feel terrified. My attempts to explain myself weren’t getting through.
‘Maybe that’s in Sweden, but this is Poland!’ With this statement the border control official shook his head and pressed the insides of his wrists together, indicating that I would most likely be arrested and taken off to Christ knows where. I turned my head to look at the doorway. A number of policeman were now standing in the doorframe, overzealously blocking it JUST IN CASE I decided to do the runner (the runner to where? It was a freaking airport!)
‘This is Poland!’
‘What the hell did that mean?’ I thought to myself. I knew I was in Poland… I also knew that I had a Swedish Holiday Working Visa and was WELL WITHIN my legal right in the Schengen Zone. I looked back at the border control man blankly. It was unprofessional of him to indicate that I had an impending arrest on the horizon. I got the feeling he wanted to stir hysteria in me, like he wanted to see the young woman from Australia cry. Well, I wasn’t going to give it to him! I nodded in response his physical suggestion that I was about to be cast in iron. What else could I do?
Absurdly enough, he looked a lot like my deceased father. I had been in Poland for over two weeks and had not come across one red head… but there, as I sat at a bleak brown desk with little more than a telephone and out-of-date looking computer on it, my father’s doppelganger looked at me with furrowed brows. It almost felt like a reenactment of my childhood, except this time I wasn’t going to simply be sent to my room, I was going to be sent to a dirty prison cell!
All I wanted to do was get the hell out of the country. It wasn’t like I was trying to get IN!
It was such a shame. I had had a wonderful time in Poland and now my attempt to depart was wrecking it all! The country had challenged every single stereotype I had held. Contrary to my preconceived notions of bleak skies, sad faces, and depressing post-Soviet surroundings, I was met with sunshine, smiles and beautiful natural and architectural surroundings. Poland was everything BUT the negative stereotype that seemed to follow it post-iron curtain.
I guess in a way the bleak sky, sad face, and post-soviet surrounding did catch me though, it had caught-up with me in that little office facing the man who bore a freakishly similar resemblance to the father I had lost five months earlier.
I continued to sit in silence. There was evidently nothing more I could say to support my case. What would be, would be! Besides, if I got deported it meant a free flight home. I could sort out any ‘life ban from Europe’ issues when I got back to Mum’s place. I wondered if a deportation flight would include my connection from Sydney to Canberra? Always look on the bright side right?!? This is what I was trying to tell myself as the border control official tapped the desk pointlessly and flicked through my paperwork for the tenth time.
‘You have overstayed in the Schengen Zone.’I made another futile attempt to explain that I had NOT overstayed my welcome.
Specifically, my issue was this: I have a 12-month working visa for Sweden. On the 16th of April I left Sweden and decided to travel around Europe. Unable to get a definitive answer as to whether my Swedish visa allowed me to travel freely throughout Europe for the remaining seven months of my visa, or whether I was subject to the Schengen three month limit (applied to Australians) from the date of my Swedish departure, I decided to play it safe and leave two days before the three months was up. Better safe than sorry right? One would have thought so, but apparently not! This Polish border control official was trying to tell me that I didn’t have a valid visa, which subsequently meant I had over-stayed in the Schengen Zone by SIX months, in other words time including my entire stay on my Swedish visa. If this was deemed to be the case then my next destination certainly wasn’t going to be Tel Aviv, it was going to be JAIL! I ask again, what happens in situations like mine when there is a breakdown in communication between countries? You end up in a post-Soviet interrogation room, THAT’S WHAT!
I wondered whether this situation would have occurred if I had been departing from another Schengen country like Germany, France, or Italy. Specifically, I wondered whether Poland’s relatively recent entry into the European Union meant that their administrative processes weren’t quiet up-to-speed with the rest of Europe. I had NEVER had any issues in any of the other countries I had visited, and now Poland was busting my balls over nothing. I WAS LEGAL! What is the point in having a Schengen Zone if the countries who are party to it don’t, or can’t, communicate imperative information! Poland should know that Sweden issues electronic visas! They should also have a means of checking the validity of a traveler purporting to be in receipt of one.
It took twenty minutes, multiple policemen, and countless border control officials, all thumbing through the same paper work that I had presented to the first official, to eventually deem me to be valid. In the end I don’t think they were so much convinced of my validity, as they were befuddled by the issue, and dare I say it, embarrassed that they had no way of checking.
I am not going to lie; I was scared! I kept on thinking about what my poor mother was going to do when I called her from jail… would I have even been allowed a phone call from jail? It would have been an absolute disaster had I been detained.
Desperate to catch my flight I attempted to snatch my papers from my Daddy-look-a-like and make a swift move for the door. Clenching the bundle and stopping me from my intended sprint, Daddy-doppelganger looked me straight in the eye and said: ‘You tell Sweden this is not OK!’ I nodded my head and shot a confused look back at him: OK dude, I’ll tell Sweden the Polish are pissed-off and I’m sure they’ll listen to me! RIDICULOUS!
"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.