Saturday, March 26, 2005

protecting children

Imagine youre sitting in the beach or coffee shop (or whichever is your haunt) with your friends. What would you do if someone casually mentioned that they had been sexually abused? Would you stop and stare? Would you be stunned and not know how to react, what to say? Would you feel angry with the abuser and upset? Would you feel dirty having touched such a person? Would you be irritated that such a serious “dirty” topic had come up socially? Would you wonder “but he (or she) seems so normal! …” Start thinking about it - this is not too far fetched you know.

According to the FPA, every 1 of 2 girl children is abused. Every 1 of 6 boys is abused. Quite scary isn’t that.

an abuser need not be just a stranger (it usually isn’t). it could be a parent, teacher, grandparent, relative, neighbour, driver, servant…anyone. There is absolutely NO classification like only people of a particular race or socio economic background are abusers.

Child sexual abuse may be defined as the coercion of a child by a more powerful person into sex for his/her gratification.

These constitute abuse:

1.Asking to be touched sexually
2.Peeping at children when they are bathing or dressing
3.Kissing inappropriately
4.Touching a child’s private areas (other than for cleansing)
7.Pornography – filming/showing
8.Obscene language, speech, innuendos

children who are left alone a lot, are insecure, unprotected, in dangerous or unstable environments, etc are more vulnerable to abuse.

Though a lot of abuse goes undetected and unreported, sometimes you may have a clue – im putting down a list of possible symptoms. Please note that these are more or less the general responses to traumatising events. Use your judgement and check whats going on : you cant use this as a blind check list.

1. Enlarged anus, vagina due to fisting or penetration (could be with objects also)
2. Bleeding
3. Bruising
4. Tearing of tissues (hymen, anal tract, vaginal tract)
5. STD/HIV transmission
6. Vaginal discharge (this is abnormal before puberty. Suspect abuse)
7. Abnormally late or early onset of puberty
8. Pregnancy
9. Pain, swelling
10. Irritation, burning sensation
11. Loss of appetite
12. self injury (the child may try to keep hurting itself after the abuse)
13. suicide
14. sexual dysfunction, impaired response to sexual stimuli (for survivors)

1. Depression
2. Fear
3. Aggression
4. Sleep disorders
5. Aversion to sex or to the gender of the abuser
6. Suicide ideation
7. Shock
8. Post traumatic stress disorder
9. Repressed memory syndrome (the memory gets involuntarily blocked out, and surfaces later in life. So if you ask the child soon after it may not remember, but may much later)
10. OCD
11. Fear of homosexuality
12. Schizophrenia

1. Withdrawal
2. Isolation
3. Violent
4. exhibitionism (the child may keep displaying the part of the body which was abused)
5. may become an abusive adult if it doesn’t get help and counselling.

Just as important is how to identify an abuser. First, child sexual abusers are of two kinds – molesters and paedophiles. Molesters are more dangerous than abusers in that they simply make use of an “opportunity” to molest a person who is vulnerable (in this case, a child). They are adults who may otherwise be in healthy working relationships with other adults. Paedophiles are people who enjoy sex only with children. They find only children sexually attractive. Most abuse is perpetrated by molesters than by paedophiles. Each molester abuses an average of 300 children in his lifetime. If one of those children grows up to be a molester himself, that’s another 300 children – it grows exponentially.

This is how you respond to abuse:
1. BELIEVE the child. No child is capable of fabricating a thing like abuse.
Don’t blame the child. Nothing a child did could “deserve” a response like abuse.

2. Be calm. Don’t panic, don’t start shouting in fury even if its with the abuser, don’t cry – youll scare the child.

3. Affirm the feelings of the child are real. Don’t deny or ascribe feelings about the incident. Keep an open mind.

4. Be supportive. LISTEN to the child.

5.Report the abuse only if the child is ok, depending on the kind of abuse etc. a court case is a long traumatising process during which the child may have to relive the abusive experience several times. Though it would be great to nail the abuser, our priority is the child. See to its needs first. Help it heal. Then think of the abuser. Sad, but that’s the way it is for the Indian legal scenario.

I had gone for a child sexual abuse prevention and healing workshop some time back. (All this is from the workshop). It was conducted by this ngo that’s doing really great work – theyre called Tulir (Center for Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse). They counsel the children, get them help, help fight cases in court… the works. If you know any child in need of help, that’s a good place to start. This is a good number to know : the national child helpline number is 1098 (remember as 10-9-8)

If youre an adult survivor in india, it is more difficult but not impossible to get help – I hear there is an ngo called Rahe in delhi that works with adult survivors. In madras tulir mentioned that there may be a self help group started. (ill let you know if that comes through).meanwhile, hopefully psychiatrists are becoming more sensitive to this problem.

Ill also see if i can find links for help for adult victims of abuse, and post them here if i do. Meanwhile, spread the word. You don’t have to be in some social service organisation for this – talk to siblings, family, friends, colleagues, go to your alma mater and talk to juniors… theres heaps we can do. Lets make sure as many of us as possible is aware of what to do to prevent abuse and to help victims of abuse.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


what is the point of this?


Monday, March 21, 2005

the great invocation

I am not a Christian, and I don’t pray much - but I still love this prayer! I find it very appealing because it seems to believe that there is a plan somewhere that will look after us, and that we can do something to help ourselves. It was written by a theosophist, Alice Bailey, and is called the Great Invocation.

"From the point of Light within the Mind of God
Let light stream forth into the minds of men.
Let Light descend on Earth.

From the point of Love within the Heart of God
Let love stream forth into the hearts of men.
May Christ return to Earth.

From the centre where the Will of God is known
Let purpose guide the little wills of men –
The purpose which the Masters know and serve.

From the centre which we call the race of men
Let the Plan of Love and Light work out
And may it seal the door where evil dwells.

Let Light and Love and Power restore the Plan on Earth."


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Womb pride

As women, we place a great premium on our breasts. We regard our breasts as the indubitable proof of our womanhood…. This despite also always feeling that our breasts are never quite good enough - theres always something wrong. if only they had been smaller, bigger, whatever......but we still cannot conceive being really freed from them. (which of us would say yes, I want to go back to pre-puberty?) Could the reason for our being so obsessed with our breasts be because of the high importance attached to them by men around us? - An importance even greater than that given to the womb….

Look at the womb. As the females of the species we are unique for our child bearing capabilities. Socio-culturally speaking, pregnancy is considered to confirm and “establish” our womanhood (itself a questionable concept). Why then do we not look at the womb and reverence it? After all, it is truly a fantastic biological creation – look at the magic that goes on in the womb at any point of time!

A part of the reason may be that the womb is seen as a hole. A cavity that’s as redundant as a cave (except for when it houses a foetus). We learn that we are walking around with a deep void in us, which by its very existence reminds us perpetually of our “incompleteness” and imperfection. How many of us women feel a deep surge of joy when our womb reminds of its existence every month? We curse it and barely tolerate it so that one day we may bear children. None of us even remotely likes it. How very sad: we rejoice in the result and scorn the basis that made it possible.

Patriarchy has never liked the womb. Early doctors (all male) used to blame the womb for all kinds of ailments. The case of the “
wandering womb” sounds ludicrous now, but in the recent past, men used to solemnly agree and shake their heads reprovingly over errant wombs. According to them, the womb of a woman makes her hysterical and unreasonable. Since women are born with wombs, it was also a convenient way of saying that all women are born unreasonable and hysterical, and need never be treated with anything beyond kind contempt.

We have not yet learned to hate the womb in its child bearing state. A mother was a sacred being in society, and is still cherished today. her status being irretrievably linked to the womb, patriarchy took the first logical step towards diminishing her importance. The experts on the female body (gynaecologists continue to be predominantly male), decided that the womb was incompetent and incapable of functioning properly. A natural birth at home with the help of other women as needed is unthinkable now – it has to be in the controlled environment of a hospital and almost always has to be a caesarian.

But even that option still left us with the source of power, the womb. So the next step…. Out with the womb! We “progress” and try to create artificial wombs – we try growing babies in test tubes, beakers, steel containers or any old thing. (what a woman can do, a man in a laboratory can also do?)

We shall learn to conveniently overlook the fact that the womb has a function beyond merely helping to produce children. Even after menopause, the womb continues to be critical to good health, as it keeps the body healthy through the secretion of hormones. Hormone replacement therapy is a long, turbulent, exhausting and by- no-means-perfected option… option? Silly me! Make it compulsion.

As usual, who gets a raw deal here? Lets see. The woman pays her (usually male) gynaecologist to suggest a surgery, the surgeon who relieves her of her womb, and then is back under the expert care of her gynec who prescribes an expensive cocktail of drugs. If she can afford it, she rides this cynical no-win merry-go-round, or if she cannot, she has the surgery and then lumps the side (more like main) effects the rest of her life. If shes really poor, she escapes the dubious attention of medicine. (medicine, being one of patriarchys more powerful minions, this may almost be a good thing)

Patriarchy has devised any number of ways to take away the control of her body from the woman herself. When you speak of somebody – the most basic definition of the person starts with just that – the body. To steal their body from them, to wipe out their face into the indistinct blur of a stereotype is to deny a person his or her identity, individuality and thereby, to deny them freedom.

You see, resistance from people is difficult to deal with – some of the troops (the basically decent men) may listen to their ethics and reason and refuse to be brutal. Dehumanize the resistance, and why, its so much easier isn’t it....


Thursday, March 17, 2005

the world's children

The movement for the rights of children, initiated in 1919, worked for more than 70 years to push for the charter recognising the rights of the children. In 1989, leaders of most of the nations in the world signed this document in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, accepting to protect and cherish their children. The charter embodied the entire set of rights listed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As the countries signed the pledge, the children cheered from the galleries.

Now that we are in the much-trumpeted next millennium, here is a quick review of what has been happening since the signing of the charter.

A majority of the people living under the poverty line are women and children. The majority of civilians killed in conflict are women and children. The population most vulnerable to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS is that of the women and children.

This is from the annual report published by the
UNICEF on the children of the world.

State Of The World’s Children (2000)

“….In the last 20 years, at the same time that the world economy increased exponentially, the number of people living in poverty grew to more than 1.2 billion, or 1 in every 5 persons, including more than 600 million children.

In the last 15 years, denial and an unconscionable silence have allowed the HIV/AIDS pandemic to kill millions and decimate societies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

And in the last 10 years, the rape of women and girls and the systematic slaughter of civilians, including children, have become conventional weapons of war in every region of the world where conflicts rage…..”

1999: “ …. 31 million refugees and displaced persons – mostly displaced children and women – were caught in the conflicts that ravaged the world, searching in vain for a safe haven, fleeing inhumane circumstances and ruthless attacks by mortar and machete, rape and dismemberment….”

“And where women’s rights are at risk, children’s rights are too.”

“To be a girl born into poverty is to endure discrimination many times over in pervasive and insidious patterns. From the moment of girls’ conception, their rights are in peril. There may be as many as 60 million “missing women” in the world who, except for the gender discrimination that starts before they are born and continues throughout their lives, would be alive today.” *

* in 2003, the figure stood at 100 million.

“It is disturbing to imagine what awaits a child of 6 when his parents place him in debt bondage in exchange for a loan of seed or shelter……It is almost unfathomable to think of a girl from the Nepalese mountains who, sold by her impoverished parents to an agents offering employment in a carpet factory, instead finds herself in a windowless room in Calcutta or Mumbai with other girls, forced to have sex with as many as 2 dozen adult clients a day.”

“Inequities between the rich and poor:

1. As the world’s currency markets exchange $ 1.5 trillion each day, more than 1.2 billion people in the world live on less than $1 a day – more than 600 million of them children.

2. While the average per capita income in 40 countries has grown by more than 3% each year since 1990, 55 countries have seen a decline during the same period and more than 80 countries now have per capita incomes lower than a decade ago.

3. The richest fifth of the world’s population enjoys a share of the global income that is 74 times that of the poorest fifth.

4. Income inequality has increased in most OECD countries since 1980.

5. An estimated 12% of the people living in the richest countries in the world are affected by poverty.”


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

being a feminist now.

Reactions Ive heard to feminism -

Oh that…. aren’t they the ones who have this “issue” with everything?

They don’t believe in bras right?

hey come on. Look at us now – I have a very satisfying career…. That was in the 60s and stuff.. you don’t need that radical stuff now.. I mean….

That last especially, sort of stops you in your tracks. Eh? Feminism is passé now? You look around you and you find quite a few people – women – looking at you scornfully. This needs careful thinking: women think feminism is redundant. They seem to think now that we’re in the new millennium and the Age of Tech, feminism should be shriveled and killed off like a vestigial organ.

Why? Women are still getting beaten up if the rasam doesn’t measure up. If they give birth to a girl child. Women are suckered by several industries - healthcare, cosmetics, food, you name it. Women in suits in corporate board rooms “make it” only if they walk away from their female-ness and try to act aggressively male. (Even then they are belittled, have fewer opportunities and are subject to harassment.)

I peer at the murky scene around me. sheer cussedness if nothing else makes me say to hell with the majority, im playing this my way! so I started learning about feminism. What I see, I like. I learn more daily and am becoming a feminist gradually. Contrary to popular perception, it was a very gradual slow process: it didn’t just naturally “come” to me because I am a woman! There are so many complex forces around us, and this is so personal… I started by speaking to this teacher of mine. This man never once called it feminism. He was just tremendously socially aware. My guess is, where he was concerned, feminism seemed to naturally flow from that awareness.

Then came slowly reading feminist literature and feeling very worried. Gosh… am I doing all these things? Am I helping to perpetrate this culture? You look at the men and women around you – your friends, teachers, family… and you start asking questions. and from there, you start framing your personal politics.

There are still so many things I do not know about feminism. That I do not understand…. Can I disagree with established feminists? Can I look at them critically and disagree, or does that imply that im in someway subscribing to patriarchy? What if I don’t agree with the third wave feminists? just because I subscribe to the second waves politics, does that mean that im talking a concept that’s dated and irrelevant and unimportant?

I like art yes, but im not fashionably arty. Feminist expression is stronger in arty forms. id love to read a greer or toril moi, but I probably wont be able to sit through the vagina monologues. Does that mean im not a “hardcore” feminist?

I like what germaine greer says – that being a feminist means that before you think of race, religion, country, skin colour or creed, you first identify yourself as a woman. that one bond you share with another woman is beyond the other divisions. But… Ive meet patriarchal women and feminist men. Do I have to declare my loyalties to the women anyway because of sex, or do I stand by the men because of their politics? I also wonder how that definition can be interpreted for male feminists : it seems to shut them out and address only the women. I don’t subscribe to that. the male feminists Ive met are really evolved beings. I refuse to discount their importance!

I find some answers to this dilemma and others in parts of hindu philosophy. My feminism is tied up with metaphysics as expressed in my religion. That sometimes becomes a barrier when im talking to another woman (or man) of a different religion. do I ditch the feminism or the religion? fine. Ill ditch what ive thought out for myself and just go by what other people have said. What if I don’t subscribe to abortion? Does that mean im again opposing feminism?

I also get these doubts at times… what are we fighting for when the women around me are so contented with being male playthings, and would emphatically hate any change in their worlds. Or for that matter when men blindly accept patriarchal philosophy and would rather live with a stereotype that’s choking them rather than reject it?

And finally…. Why am I expected to know all the answers? I am still only learning. I need to work my way through sooo many issues. I don’t want to state what I think as of today as some kind of complete component not subject to any change, ready to address all the issues of the world (how absurd that would be!) - But if I don’t strenuously assert and constantly defend my stance on everything and anything I risk being contemptuously dismissed by patriarchy!

If you thought learning feminism was a walk in park.... Think again! :- )

Labels: ,

Monday, March 14, 2005

arbit blah 3

"i am a marxist of the groucho variety"


Monday, March 07, 2005

they like it that way?

Someone just said “… Them blondes and brunettes (bless them) that pose in playboy do so out of their own will. This happens to be their chosen profession. I am pretty sure that if you were to offer these chics an alternative source of employment they would not take it up. This is easy and fast money. There has been a history of really well to do film stars baring it all for the centre fold of this magazine. For these hollywood stars - money ain't the only reason they do it. Its the fame that comes with it and they have chosen to achieve it by this way….”

This is about women in prostitution and pornography. wilfully or naively, what we do not see is that yes, these women have taken up these professions on their own, but were driven to them as a final resort. ive heard so many people claim that these women have chosen to earn their living that way after all, so whats the big deal. heres whats the big deal.

Choose to earn that way? You don’t get employee benefits, pf, insurance, medical cover, perks. you don’t even have a set of labour laws to protect your rights. Yours is the first head to roll when the cops and politicians want to look good. You also lose the right to call your person – your body – yours. Because you stripped once before the camera, people assume youre always "available" – its never a rape.

“...... of a truncated woman: her head severed from her body with a sword, a symbolic penis”- Andrea Dworkin.

A quick brief of what a shoot entails: you spend a couple of weeks on a totally unhealthy regimen designed to make you look more “sexy”. This would include a course of diuretics to make you lose water and look thinner, applying hormone ointment on your breasts to make them look bigger (who knows the long term effects). Of course there’s good old silicon as an alternative (whose long term effects we do know but don’t care to reveal). So much for quick money. This is the maintenance of “stock” in this trade. Im not even glancing at the perpetual near starvation or the sick sexual fantasies that your audience has which youre forced to act out. Easy money?

“It costs a lot of money to look as cheap as I do” – Dolly Parton.
Get real. For every 1000 women barely making ends meet, living as prostitutes and starring on porn magazines and movies, maybe one will “make it big” – and pay the price dearly for that. (tell me, even for the one who makes it big, where are our ethics when we are ready to dole out more money to some woman's slavery than to some woman's bid to break free of her chains?)

“A person working as a prostitute to fund a drug habit is the least free individual on the planet.” – Germaine Greer.

In India, we have no idea of the real extent of substance abuse. So I don’t know how many women take up prostitution or pornography to fund a drug habit. Tell you what I do know : ive been to a few red light areas in my city. The women don’t do it for “kicks”. It is a way of earning money to feed the kids, and sometimes a husband whos a boozer. Glamour? youre talking sex under a truck, in a bus terminus, next to a public bathroom. Just anywhere where theres place to lie down. Foreplay? Talking? Caring? Forget it - it’s a matter of in and out again – literally.

God help you if youre “famous” and “well known” - that wont make sure that your vegetable vendor doesnt leer or feel you up and treat you with respect when youre paying him with money that you earned with much more pain and effort than he ever did.

no, not all the women in prostitution and pornography are pushed into it. only some, whose husbands beat them and “lease” them out to pimps and porn film makers. The remaining do it because that’s the only way societys ready to employ them…. when did you last see a recruitment ad saying “wanted, retired or practising prostitute (or porn star) with 5 years experience?” we have a sanctimonious attitude towards these "fallen women". (fallen where, because of whom)

they are not able to get jobs. And before getting sniffy or condescending about that, lets just quietly sit back and remember how the most brilliant and well qualified amongst us was worried and desperately looking for “placements” in our final year, or after we graduated. these women are illiterate and don’t have “job skills”. Please… look at the state of education here: amongst the literate population, which gender fares better? Which gender at least gets a chance to learn to read and write? Even if they were literate, capable of getting a job and did land one, how seriously do you think they will be taken with a previous career of prostitution/ posing for porn?

For the women in Hollywood whom you say are rich and have done it for kicks…. I think they deserve to be quartered. They help to further push down every one of the desperate struggling women in prostitution, and reinforce the vicious system that these women are victims of. Sex workers prostitute their bodies. The Hollywood “chicks” prostitute womanhood and womenkind.

"A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual" - Gloria Steinem.
we're not joking.

Labels: ,

Visit to help prevent environmental destruction.
Creative Commons License
This blog's content is protected. Whack this and you get whacked.