What is innocence? Is it lack of experience? Freedom from guile or sin or bad behavior? Is it nearness to beauty, to God? Innocence is what we expect of a child. It’s the terrain of childhood, of the beginning. It was why they gave me the silver dollar. There was no reason not to. I [...]
This week at Media Voices we draw your attention to an extraordinary documentary, The Naked Option, which tells the inspiring story of a grassroots group of women in the Niger delta who fight the oil giants, Shell and Chevron, using the threat of going naked in public, a serious cultural taboo, to make their voices [...]
This Human Rights Watch report documents brutal and long-lasting violence against women and girls by husbands, partners, and family members and the survivors’ struggle to seek protection. Turkey has strong protection laws, setting out requirements for shelters for abused women and protection orders. However, gaps in the law and implementation failures by police, prosecutors, judges, and other officials make the protection system unpredictable at best, and at times downright dangerous.
This week at Media Voices, we’re considering the Third Millennium Development Goal – the one about promoting gender equality in education and empowering women. Or rather, we’re considering its opposite – several extreme examples of female powerlessness, and the ripple effect on their children’s lives and the societies they live in. We have two videos [...]
In the video courtesy of India Unheard, correspondent Gunjan Singh finds a village in which generations of women are forced into prostitution by their male relatives in the name of tradition in rural Uttar Pradesh, India.
Gunjan, our correspondent from Uttar Pradesh brings us this shocking video about Natpura, a village near state capital Lucknow, where for generations, men have been forcing their daughters and sisters into flesh trade.
The girls here are made to start serving clients when they are barely 11 or 12. Since they start working at such an early age, none of them goes to school. No woman here gets married either as nobody wants to marry a girl form this village.
The most shocking fact is that almost every woman here believes that she is just carrying on a ‘village tradition’. This thought instilled in them by their family members and other male relatives in the childhood. So few girls protest or even realize that they are being exploited or their rights are violated.
Natpura, which comes under Hardoi district, has about 50 families. In every family, all the young women work as prostitutes and are the main bread earners. But when they are old and have retired from the profession, they live in extreme poverty, abandoned by their relatives.
However, men of the village here live the way they want. They marry and bring home their brides, whom they protect well, keeping them away from prostitution. But when the same couples have female children, they bring them up only to make them prostitutes.
Gunjan who first visited this village 4 years ago, says that things have changed a lot in past 4 years, but only for worse. Now girls are trafficked to work in brothels in places like Mumbai and Dubai. This is one reason why Gunjan couldn’t find girls of her age to speak with, because they were all working abroad.
Those who are still based in the village, have a clientele that includes several politically and economically powerful people. Since they pay well for the women’s services, men in the village are not willing to take the women out of the profession. The village has no schools, no electricity and no panchayat/village council of it’s own – facts that makes the village a perfect breeding ground of any social crime.
Gunjan says when she visited Natpura, it felt as though the village was not a part of the country she lived in. This is because the talk of empowering women and ensuring their rights etc seemed to be alien subjects as women here had just one reality: Selling their bodies. And this is the reason why she felt compelled to share this story with the world, so it wakes up, takes notice and helps stop this utter injustice to women that has gone on here for long.
In this video courtesy of India Unheard, Rohini Pawar examines the outlawed tradition of ‘devdasi’ which sanctions religious prostitution continues in rural Maharashtra.
Rohini had heard about ‘devdasi’, or temple slaves when she was growing up, but it wasn’t common in her parents’ village. Temple slavery is an institutionalised form of religious prostitution, where mostly young girls from backward castes and poor families are given away or ‘married’ to the local deity. Priests, feudal lords and high caste men are served by these women, who are known as ‘god’s servants’ – they are not allowed to marry or have children. This tradition was outlawed in 1988 and is slowly disappearing, but in many parts of India continues to exist.
In her video, Rohini profiles a 13-year-old devdasi called Priyanka. A friend of Rohini’s husband is a cable television dealer and is the one who introduced Rohini to them. “Priyanka has never been to school and doesn’t know a single letter of the alphabet,” Rohini told us. The women were unwilling to speak openly on camera, “stop asking us such questions,” they said. When she was shooting the dancing, the women and the musicians thought she was recording footage to accompany religious hymns for a music CD.
“I felt really bad for these women. I always thought there was something divine and respectful about them. But after talking to them I realized it is nothing like that,” Rohini said. It is usually parents who cannot conceive who make the promise to dedicate their child to God should they be granted one. So, usually temple slaves are single children and take on the burden of supporting their families with the money they make from dancing at various religious festivals and prostitution. When they are five years old, they are sent to accompany troupes of devdasis so that they can learn the songs and dances. Rohini related, “One woman was an only daughter and she started crying – she said, why did my parents leave me? Was I a burden?”
As they get older, it is harder for them to make money through prostitution and so they do housework and other errands for the priests and wealthy men in the village. “Imagine a woman who has a husband, no one would dare approach them…but these women are alone, they have no support system. So they are used in this way,” said Rohini.
After four years of devastation in southern Lebanon, reconstruction is beginning. In the film by UN in Action, a new program supported by ILO, the International Labour Organization, is training young people at risk for long-term unemployment. One of them is a determined young woman studying to become southern Lebanon’s first woman electrician.
Around the world, hundreds of thousands of women die every year due to pregnancy-related causes. A new human rights study suggests that discrimination against women plays a significant role in this chronic global problem. This film from the UN in Action examines the situation for mothers in India.
This week at Media Voices, we have a wonderful blog from Jamila Larson, Baby on a Tightrope, about the mutually life-changing effect of mentoring a friend’s baby. As I write this, there is a story on the front page of The New York Times “Cuts to Head Start Show Challenge of Fiscal Restraint.” Head Start. [...]
Mari Marcel Thekaekara is a professional journalist on social issues and a media campaigner on the rights of Adivasi, Dalits and other disadvantaged groups. Mari has written in national and international magazines and newspapers as well as on websites which include The Hindu, Statesman, Times of India, Indian Express, Frontline, Economic and Political Weekly, Hindustan Times, Seminar, Infochange, New Internationalist and The Guardian.
This is an article written by Mari Marcel Thekaekara for the Dalit Network Netherlands, as part of a series of articles on issues relating to Dalit women, men and children.
Thekaekara is a professional journalist on social issues and a media campaigner on the rights of Adivasi, Dalits and other disadvantaged groups. She has written in national and international magazines and newspapers as well as on websites which include The Hindu, Statesman, Times of India, Indian Express, Frontline, Economic and Political Weekly, Hindustan Times, Seminar, Infochange, New Internationalist and The Guardian.
Mari Marcel Thekaekara has written extensively on the issue of Dalit human rights, including the (violation of) rights of Dalit women, for e.g. the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Action Aid, Christian Aid and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. A piece she wrote for The Hindu on children of sanitation workers won the Press Club Best Article of the Month award in 2004.
In particular, Thekaekara has closely tracked the issue of manual scavenging for over a decade. In 1999 she published the book Endless Filth which contributed significantly to attracting attention to the issue. Thekaekara has also documented in a number of articles the struggle against manual scavenging by the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), a national movement against this inhuman practice.
We in the US are avid sports fans. Whether watching, playing, or cheering for our favorite sports teams, we make sports a central part of our lives. And after years of mild interest, it appears that US citizens have finally added soccer to their list of favorite sporting events. An estimated 19 million viewers tuned [...]