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Ten Lessons

Ten lessons about working with men on gender equality in India 1. Gender equality is not a competition between women and men for reaching a goal of the superior human, a position that men occupy at this point due to patriarchy. Gender equality is not a tussle to topple men from that position.  2. Patriarchy has historically created privileges for men, creating asymmetry in power and privilege between women and men. To undo that we do not need a new competition for power, we need a new understanding of how power and privilege have created this asymmetry. 3. Men need to understand their privileges and the power that has accrued to them as ‘men’, but this is not done most effectively confronting them or blaming them. They become defensive, feel cornered and often miss the point. 4. Gender is neither the ‘only’ nor the ‘most’ pernicious social hierarchy in society. For achieving equality and social justice it is not useful to get into competitive victimhood, but understand the interpl

Men and Family Planning : A Population Day Reimagination

The 11 th Common Review Mission report of the National Health Mission released recently, reiterated what is common knowledge in India, that women bear the brunt of family planning responsibilities in this country. Since the days of the Emergency, when men had been taken forcibly from the streets and sterilized, the family planning programme has been squarely directed at women. Following the success of the male sterilization camps from Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the 1970’s, the female sterilization programme also adopted the camp approach, even though the female sterilization operation is a completely different proposition in terms of technical quality and competencies required. The introduction of the laparoscope made the tubal ligation operation appear to be the most simple among surgical techniques, and doctors in India went on record breaking sprees before failures, complications and deaths brought issues of quality to the fore. It has required the Supreme Court to make orders in

Father's Day

Father’s Day! Another day to be feted as the Dad! As if carrying your name, Heeding your various injunctions,   day in and day out …………………is not enough.   Your shadow in her ecosphere all the time, Far far more than your smile, your hug or the fragrance of your aftershave . Do you deserve the chocolates, colognes and other gifts Carefully chosen per your preferences? When you didn’t care ….               To learn about her fears and her doubts                              Desires and aspirations…………. As long as she made the grade, made you proud, not hang your head ! Father’s DayI Its another day to invest in being a Dad Beyond the sperm,….beyond the name, Beyond the authoritative control of fear of shame . A good morning hug a warming smile Some time … to share a laugh To conspire …. to hear the future bells Work cannot call, not at least today, as a Dad you have to stay… share your time. As an everyday Dad, make every day Father’s Day.

Making sense of India’s Population Conundrum

Every year on the 11 th of July the World Population Day is met with a mix of activities in India. On the one hand are the doomsday specialists who draw attention to the increasing population growth rate in India and how we are heading towards disaster adding more than one Australia to our population to quote a favourite comparison. On the hand politicians give long and sometimes comic speeches, my favorite being how India’s population growth can be reduced by providing TV sets to the poor. And indeed one CM had promised TV sets, but that was a state where the growth rate was not a problem. Later the TV set was replaced by the promise of laptops which probably have a greater population related relevance. No one seems to contest the fact that India’s population is growing dangerously and the sword of Damocles that hangs on our heads is that we will overtake the population of China in the next 10 to 12 years. The way this figure is repeated seems to be like a chant which could possibly

Overpopulation Facts and Myths

The World Population Day is celebrated every year on the 11 th  of July as a result of a UN Resolution in 1990 seeking to enhance awareness of population issues, including their relations to the environment and development. In India the World Population Day has more often than not been an occasion to highlight the ‘over-population’ in the country with a focus on the total number of people living in India and that this number is ‘too much’. This year this focus on overpopulation has been reinforced by a new group of concerned citizens called TAXAB or the Taxpayers Association of Bharat who are calling for a new population control law under the hashtag #Bharat4PopulationLaw. The overall logic of this campaign is two-fold – the first part argues that as tax-payers of India we should be concerned about the misuse of our taxes by the system towards the development of Bharat. The second part explains the nature of the misuse which manifests as lack of good roads, joblessness, increasing

The Global Pursuit of Eradicating Child Marriage and its Relevance in India – Part 2

Understanding Early Marriage in South Asia Since the first time I heard international concerns around child marriage in Africa and South Asia, I detected hints of the ‘civilisational savior’ approach of the erstwhile missionary. The idea is to ‘save’ the girl child poor countries from the rigours of early pregnancy and other consequences of marriage. Often the label of ‘trafficking’ is used even though the girls are sent away knowingly by their poor families in exchange for some money. For the poor, the ‘daughter’ has a transactional value which they are encashing. It is inaccurate to call this situation ‘trafficking’ without acknowledging the economic and structural constraints faced by the communities. In the 21 st  Century the idea of sexual rights have been established, but rarely in conversations around early marriage are the issues of compulsory heteronormativity in marriage or the issue of choice in marriage raised in India. On the contrary sexual choice and autonomy of yo

The Global Pursuit of Eradicating Child Marriage and its Relevance in India – Part 1

Over 14 million girls are married before the age of 18 every year, and this phenomenon has emerged as one of the most important development issues of the world. India contributes a substantial number to this global total as over one fourth of all marriages in our country are child marriages and it is over 50% in some states. In recent times there has been some good news with a UNICEF report claiming that over 25 million child marriages were prevented in the last decade, and India had taken the lead. However this was not always so, and despite a law against child marriage since 1929 in India, a large proportion of girls in the country have consistently been married before the legal age. Some years ago I attended a meeting convened by The Elders in Addis Ababa to discuss this problematic and pernicious practice which is also common across many countries in Africa in addition to South Asia. The Elders is a group of global leaders who after finishing their official tenures as heads of

Bring in the men and boys to address domestic violence

Bollywood actor Armaan Kohli was arrested on June 12 th  for assaulting his girlfriend. I had not heard of Armaan Kohli earlier, but the news drew my attention. It does not only mark another episode of the continuing saga of violence and abuse of women, but provides an opportunity to look at the changes that have taken place in our understanding and response to the violence that women face in our society. Violence against women in India catapulted into the public consciousness partly because of horrific incidents like the Nirbhaya case in Delhi or the Shakti Mills case in Mumbai, leading to a reform of the law of the land. Women have also launched campaigns like the ‘Pink Chaddi’, ‘Pinjra tod’, ‘Slut Walk’ and ‘Take back the night’ clearly showing they are no longer willing to take this violence silently. However most of these campaigns were against violence in public spaces, while the Armaan Kohli incident draws attention to the private space and among the ‘non-poor’ classes. Dome

Making India Safer for Women

The recently released report of the Thompson Reuters Foundation poll announced that India is the most dangerous country for women. There is almost a sense of disbelief in the reporting in most newspapers. How could India be more dangerous than Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen or Somalia? These places are militarized, completely torn apart by shelling, street fights and even gassing. India on the other hand is a peacefully galloping economy. We provide the world with the largest number of high-tech workers and they are the model minority in many places. We are the land of Gandhi and Buddha, the land of the ‘ purushottama ’ Rama. And to make things worse it seems that India has risen up the ranks from the 4 th to the top-most slot in just 7 years. Clearly there has been a mistake. Many are trying to dismiss this list saying it is a ‘perceptional’ list, not the result of any ‘hard’ data and rigorous statistical analysis. It is based on a ‘poll’ of 548 global experts of whom only 43 we

Eid Mubarak

A friend noted on a WA group that we both belong to, whether we were being hypocritical or politically correct in wishing each other Eid Mubarak when none of us in that group were Muslims and didn’t greet each other for Pongal. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I was blissfully unaware of Eid. I remember the streets of Raja bazar and Entally, Kolkata, lined with thelas loaded with sewai, but it didn’t mean much to my childhood reality. Rajabazar was where the poor Bihari muslims stayed, culturally different and distant. Earlier when we lived in Delhi, I vaguely remember one Bengali speaking Muslim family who lived in our neighbourhood. I had enquired about them from my mother, only to be told that they were Bihari’s who spoke good Bengali. I went through five schools before my school leaving exams. I can’t remember having even one Muslim school friend. It was only in college that we came across Muslim classmates, and there was an uncertainity among some of our mates whether they were