Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Adverse Situation of Women in India

The United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1979 the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which has been ratified by the Government of India. The CEDAW provides for a review from time to time to see whether the ratifying governments are implementing its provisions or not. This is an important forum in which the situation of the women of India can be portrayed by citizens who may be dissatisfied with the working of the Government with regard to women's rights and welfare in the form of an Alternative Report to that which the Government will submit to the Review Committee. I have contributed something to the preparation of this alternative report and here is what I have written - 
There are four areas in which the Indian Government still needs to do a tremendous amount of work to ensure the emancipation of women. The first is with regard to Article 5 of CEDAW which states - 
"States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:
(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;
(b) To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases."
Unfortunately even today social and cultural practices in India are highly patriarchal and reinforce the superiority of men over women and force women into doing  most of the domestic work thus preventing them from participating freely in social and economic life. Consequently there have to be specific legislation and policy measures to reverse the adverse Gender Division of Labour for women. I am sorry to say that even in our social activist fold I have seen men shirking domestic work and it becomes the responsibility of the women activists to do the domestic work. This becomes an even more onerous burden for women with regard to the care of children. In poor households the care of children is the sole function of the women and elder girls, the latter having to give up on education to take care of their siblings. Due to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan enrollment rates throughout India are close to 100% for both boys and girls at the primary school level. However, after this the dropout rate for girls is much more than that for boys and this is mainly the result of the inadequate implementation of Article 5 b above. There is a need for specific brainstorming to ensure that the provisions of this article are better implemented because it is the key to women's emancipation.

Secondly Article 6 too is not being properly implemented -
 "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women."
While there is legislation in India to prevent trafficking of women this is proving ineffective because public sex work is illegal in this country. That is a sex worker can offer her services in private but not in brothels and she cannot solicit. This is an idiotic provision because no sex worker can operate in private on her own without soliciting and like any other service provider she has to advertise or run an establishment.  Now as long as we have an economy that promotes migration of lone male workers into urban areas from the poorest to the highest economic classes on a seasonal or permanent basis there is always going to be a strong demand for sex workers regardless of our dislike of the adverse ethical connotations of sex work. This is similar to the demand for liquor due to its stress reducing qualities for men who are generally stressed due to work and living conditions. Under the circumstances the fact of public sex work being illegal pushes the whole sex work industry underground and makes the women who are forced into this profession, prey for the mafiosi and the unscrupulous elements in the police, the latter happily looking the other way while the law against trafficking is cavalierly flouted by the former. Here too there is a need for detailed brainstorming to work out a legal and policy framework that results in a much more healthy work and life environment for sex workers while at the same time ensuring security for women against trafficking.

Thirdly and Fourthly there are the issues of non availability of reproductive and sexual rights and services and gender based violence. The CEDAW was adopted in the UN General Assembly in 1979 and so it predates the later feminist movements for reproductive and sexual rights and against gender based violence which have come to take centre stage today in a milieu of growing attacks on women by men. So even though these do not specifically form the subject matter of CEDAW, nevertheless the failures of the Government of India on these crucial fronts too should be mentioned in the alternative report. The National Crime Records Bureau data shows that crimes against women are continually on the rise and rape happens to be the fastest growing crime in the country cutting across all categories. This is sought to be explained away by those responsible for preventing it by saying that this is because women are dressing more provocatively. Nothing can be more perverse and dangerous from the point of view of the security of Indian women. Similarly the stress of the Government Public Health system is primarily on safe motherhood to the almost total exclusion of the serious gynaecological problems that women face due to patriarchal sexual mores and lack of menstrual hygiene. A huge number of women suffer in silence from these problems and a considerable number who can afford it undergo hysterectomies due to the false propaganda of unscrupulous doctors and their touts that this is the solution to their gynaecological problems. While the general decay in the Government Public Health System has adversely affected the whole poor population in general the lack of reproductive and sexual health services has affected women more seriously because unlike in the case of general health, these services are not provided by quacks who are the largest medical service providers in this country for the poor.

All said and done the situation of women in India in the above crucial areas is extremely adverse and a strong critique of this should be presented as part of the Alternative Report to CEDAW.

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