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Women : Background & Perspective

By Sujata Madhok

 Women

There are several clear indicators of the fact that Indian women continue to be discriminated against: the sex ratio is skewed against them; maternal mortality is the second-highest in the world; more than 40 per cent of women are illiterate; and crimes against women are on the rise. Yet, the women's movement which gathered strength after the 1970s, has led to progressive legislation and positive change, spurred on by the participationof women in local self-government.


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»Violence Against Women By Oishik Sircar and Nalini Bhanot
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Analysis

Falling child sex ratio: Death before birth

By Usha Rai

falling sex ratioAs pressure under PCPNDT builds up on diagnostic clinics and doctors, is there a danger of a return to female infanticide, asks Usha Rai, at the end of a year-long campaign in 23 states on the falling child sex ratio

As a journalist writing on social issues I was shocked when I travelled through Salem district of Tamil Nadu over 20 years ago to report on female infanticide. Then a trip to Bihar revealed that the practise was alive and thriving there too with the dais delivering the babies given the responsibility of killing it if it was a girl.
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»The sex-selection killing fields By Vineet John Samuel
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»No honour in murder By Ammu Joseph
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»Warped media coverage portrays Goa as a rape capital By Frederick Noronha
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Features

Listening now

By Anindita Sengupta

counselling for rape survivors

There is a severe paucity of counselling services for survivors of sexual violence in India. Organisations like CEHAT and RAHI are trying to plug a gigantic gap in the mental health system in India

When Lalita* was raped by her 18-year-old nephew, she did not know that filing a case would have dramatic social consequences. The morning after the attack, Lalita went to Rajawadi Hospital, a government-run hospital in Mumbai.

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»The importance of women’s agency By Deepti Priya Mehrotra
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»Not on our bodies anymore By Rajashri Dasgupta
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»Impact of the Vishaka Judgment By Albertina Almeida
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Books & Reports

A landscape of unbelongers

By Sharmila Joshi

Why Loiter: Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets is about the myriad ways in which women continue to be relegated to the spatial margins of a ‘globalising’ city, and the growing list of other powerless groups – migrants, dalits, North Indians, Muslims, gays, etc -- who inhabit this landscape of unbelongers

Some years ago, when a woman was sexually assaulted in South Mumbai, allegedly by the son of an industrialist, the news media speculated gratuitously: she may have had a drink, she was wearing a skirt, and why was she out at 2.30 at night?  She was ‘suspected’ of being a sex worker, the media quoted the police as saying.

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»The 'two-finger' test By Sharmila Joshi
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»A limited liberation By Madhumita Bose
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»Women's work: Never done and poorly paid By Nirmala Banerji
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Changemakers

The spirit of satyagraha

By Biju Negi

Valliamma Munuswami Mudaliar, forgotten heroine of the satyagraha

Valliamma Munuswami Mudaliar, forgotten heroine of the satyagraha movement against racism and injustice in South Africa, died 100 years ago. She was only 16

February 22, 2014 marked the 70th death anniversary of Kasturba Gandhi. That was 1944, one- and-a-half years into the Quit India Movement, and she was in prison. She was arrested on  August 9, 1942, the very first day of the Quit India Movement. Mahatma Gandhi had already been taken into custody the previous evening.

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»The marginalisation of Kasturba Gandhi By Biju Negi
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»"We are women too..." By Moushumi Basu
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»A space of their own By Sujata Madhok
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Judicial Interventions and Women

Marriage and divorce: mental cruelty by the wife

By Rakesh Shukla

Mental crueltyIn this case of granting a divorce on grounds of mental cruelty by the wife, the Supreme Court seems to have gone out of its way to change the parameters of what constitutes mental cruelty on the part of the woman. It could have far-reaching consequences for future cases.

The courts are chock-a-bloc full of divorce petitions by women on grounds of mental cruelty by their husbands. Reflecting gender realities in society, it is rare to come across a case involving mental cruelty by the wife.

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»Gap between law in theory and in praxis By Rakesh Shukla
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»Patriarchy cedes to gender equality By Rakesh Shukla
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»Child custody in the context of foreign court orders By Rakesh Shukla
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Stories of Change

Changing men for gender equity

By Romit Chowdhury

Praajak, a Kolkata-based NGO which has been working with boys and men for more than a decade now, considers challenging the social construction of patriarchal masculinity a crucial route to achieving the goal of gender equity

The spaces of gender intervention, be they in social work practice or in academia, have largely been inhabited by women. Since women are most disadvantaged by an unequal gender order, it is frequently assumed that their empowerment will proceed most profitably by focusing on women alone.

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»Orissa's wonder women By Pradeep Baisakh
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»Women break out of gender discrimination By Rashme Sehgal
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»The power of Kali
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News

First case of infanticide against family registered in Rajasthan

There are just 13 girls in the village of Devra. A possible 14th could have been the victim of the widespread practice of female infanticide

In 1997, Devra village in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district reported the first marriage of a girl belonging to a local family in over 100 years. Jaswant Kanwar survived to reach marriageable age in a village where female infanticide was ritually and ruthlessly practised. A newspaper article at the time stated that there were just two other little girls in the village.

Now, more than 14 years later, an investigation has been launched into the reported infanticide of Jaswant’s niece.

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»Planning Commission proposes financial aid for rape victims
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»Strong legislation but poor implementation continues to kill off girls
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»Maharashtra to provide 50% reservation for women in state local bodies
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Statistics

Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality Rates for Selected Indian States

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Some Facts About Indian Women

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Health, Fertility and Awareness Indicators for Women

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Statewise Total Female Population (rural &urban) in the Workforce

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Third Wave

Delhi’s winter of discontent…Becomes a spring of hope

By Manjima Bhattacharjya

MolestationThe nation-wide protests after the gang rape in Delhi have finally broken the silence around sexual violence, put women’s rights on the political agenda, and established that rape is not a sexual act but a legally punishable crime.

An innocuous SMS brought it to my notice. “Switch on the TV News.” Nothing could have prepared me for the images I was about to see. Thousands (I repeat, thousands) of people, largely young college students, had gathered in the heart of Delhi outside the security cordon that encloses Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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»Unsafe homes By Manjima Bhattacharjya
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»Too many cooks By Manjima Bhattacharjya
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»Compensation is the last mile in recognising rape as a crime By Manjima Bhattacharjya
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Women in night schools

Good girls don’t loiter

By Ditilekha Sharma

education for womenWalk purposefully, don’t loiter, dress modestly, take the crowded road or train, hide yourself behind a burkha....Despite all their negotiations, safety in public spaces is a big challenge for women who attend night schools in Mumbai.

Dipali Gambhire, a student of Modern Night High School, Mumbai Central, says she is not afraid of travelling back to Peddar Road alone after school. As we walk back to her home together one night she explains that as a mehendi artist she is used to returning home late during the marriage season.

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»Taking back the night By Ditilekha Sharma
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Violence Against Women

By Oishik Sircar and Nalini Bhanot

Not only is gender-based violence on the rise, it has also taken on insidious forms that are justified in the name of faith, community, even development. In the run-up to the 16 Days Campaign against gender-based violence which begins November 25, Infochange provides a primer on violence against women

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Women : Background & Perspective

 By Sujata Madhok

There are several clear indicators of the fact that Indian women continue to be discriminated against: the sex ratio is skewed against them; maternal mortality is the second-highest in the world; more than 40 per cent of women are illiterate; and crimes against women are on the rise. Yet, the women's movement which gathered strength after the 1970s, has led to progressive legislation and positive change, spurred on by the participationof women in local self-government.

Read more...

Falling child sex ratio: Death before birth

As pressure under PCPNDT builds up on diagnostic clinics and doctors, is there a danger of a return to female infanticide, asks Usha Rai, at the end of a year-long campaign in 23 states on the falling child sex ratio

falling sex ratio

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The sex-selection killing fields

By Havovi Wadia

The sex ratio of children aged 0 and 6 in India has fallen further in the last decade to 914 girls per 1,000 boys. Why are government and civil society campaigns making so little difference?

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No honour in murder

Youngsters in certain parts of India today cannot choose their partners. If they still do and the choice violates arbitrary, extra-legal norms set down by caste panchayats, the consequence can be death. Isn't it time we built a popular movement against the medieval practice of honour killings, asks Ammu Joseph

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Warped media coverage portrays Goa as a rape capital

Sensational reporting of incidents of rape and murder of foreign tourists in Goa overshadows the fact that Goa has a much better track record when it comes to giving women their social and economic due than many other states. It also gives the false impression that this is the single biggest problem the state faces, says Frederick Noronha

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Our women, their women: Sexual violence in Goa

By Albertina Almeida

Concerns about the large number of rapes of tourists in the tourist haven of Goa are prompted by fears that these will drive away tourists and give Goa a bad name. But the bigger issues -- of rape itself, whoever is the victim, of changing attitudes that excuse rape in some situations, of making sexual assault unacceptable -- have not been addressed

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Whatever happened to our freedom?

By Sumi Krishna

In a gender-equitable democratic polity, matters of dress, behaviour, mobility and personal life choices are no less important than people’s rights to livelihood, dignity and empowered citizenship. The attack on women in a Mangalore pub must be seen as an attack on the hard-won freedom and autonomy of Indian women

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Izzat ka mamla hai: The doomed love story of Rizwanur-Priyanka

By Rajashri Dasgupta

The indictment of the police by the CBI in the Rizwanur Rehman case in Kolkata reveals the complicity of State and society in maintaining and perpetuating regressive socio-cultural prejudices in the name of family honour and religious belief

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Sixty years of women's struggles for freedom?

It's probably the best time to be Indian in the last few hundred years. But, says Mari Marcel Thekaekara on International Women's Day, the many forms of gender violence make it seem as if things are worse for women today than they used to be

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Violence against women on the rise in literate Kerala

By Aleyamma Vijayan

Why does a state that boasts India's highest literacy levels and excellent social development indicators see a 300% increase in violence against women? Possibly because literacy and education do not change mindsets. In a deeply patriarchal society, education teaches women only to be good wives and mothers. A special report from Kerala as the fortnight-long Campaign Against Violence Against Women begins on November 25

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The trade-off between protection and freedom

By Oishik Sircar

Following the recent debate over banning women from working nightshifts, women's groups need to ask why it is that women can only be protected by curbing their freedom. If women want to step out of the 'private' sphere into the 'public' sphere, must they give up all expectation of protection from sexual violence by the State?

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Model law

By Rakesh Shukla

Laws drafted in dusty government offices are often vague and full of loopholes. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 is a clear and concise piece of legislation that demonstrates the value of involving stakeholders in the drafting of a law

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A bargain-basement knowledge 'mandi'

By Rahul Goswami

The new US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture will re-examine and overhaul existing curricula in agricultural education institutions in India. It will also leave Indian agriculture open to the interests of the world's largest food and agri-business corporations, says Rahul Goswami

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Challenges in implementing the ban on sex selection

By Sandhya Srinivasan

On March 28, the very first doctor in India was sentenced to two years in prison for violating the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act. In the 11 years since the Act was enacted, why have lawbreakers got away?

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International Women's Day: Cutting through the crap

By Ammu Joseph

International Women's Day began as an occasion to demand women's suffrage, the right to work and the right to strike for bread and peace. Today it's been commercialised and reduced to just another occasion to offer discounts on clothes and cosmetic surgery

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The significance of the Lancet study on skewed sex ratios

By Sandhya Srinivasan

While Census 2001 showed sex ratio distortions that could be correlated with the availability of sex selection technology, the Lancet study reporting 1 crore "missing" girls in India over the last generation actually analyses the reasons behind this phenomenon and quantifies the impact

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The violence against women campaign: Where have we failed?

For 25 years women's rights advocates have been campaigning against violence against women. They have succeeded in changing the law, changing the stand of the judiciary. But have they succeeded in changing social attitudes, asks Flavia Agnes, lawyer and noted activist

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Succession, gender equality and customary tribal laws

By Rakesh Shukla

The recent Hindu Succession Amendment Bill, making the daughter a member of the coparcenary, will make no difference to tribal women, since customary tribal laws continue to discriminate against women in the matter of succession

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A brief history of the battle against sexual harassment at the workplace

By Vibhuti Patel

Sexual harassment at the workplace has been one of the central concerns of the women's movement in India since the '80s. Presently, women's groups are lobbying to get the bill on sexual harassment at the workplace, 2005, passed by Parliament

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Equality among unequals: A critical look at Hindu succession

By Rakesh Shukla

The recent amendment to the Hindu Succession Act has made the daughter a member of the coparcenary. It also gives daughters an equal share in agricultural property. These are significant advancements towards gender equality

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SC upholds constitutionality of Section 498-A

By Rakesh Shukla

The Supreme Court in a recent judgment has upheld the controversial Section 498-A, related to violence against women. The mere possibility of abuse of a provision of law does not invalidate the law, the SC said

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Talking about sex

By Meena Seshu

Sexuality is often considered a frivolous diversion from the more critical problems of poverty, war, drought or violence against women. But it is precisely in destructive times like these that people become dangerously closed about sexuality. Meena Seshu, human rights activist and founder of Sangram, points out why we need to discuss issues of sex, sexuality, obscenity and morality more openly, and what we can learn from sex-workers

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Dance bar ahead: Keep out : Part 1: Fundamentalisms and sexuality

By Maya Indira Ganesh

The state government has embarked on a campaign to rid Mumbai of obscenity. The dance bars which employ 75,000 women, are amongst the targets. But is this just about dance bars or about the increasingly strident notions of purity and pollution, and about fundamentalism using the bodies of women as their locus of control?

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Dance bar ahead: Keep out: Part 2: The right to sexuality

By Maya Indira Ganesh

The ban on dance bars in Mumbai is ostensibly to protect youth from the sexualised environment of the bars. Instead of keeping the shadows and silences around sexuality intact, we need a rights-based approach to young people's sexuality, giving them the right to information that has a direct bearing on their health and well-being

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What constitutes a woman's identity?

By Rashme Sehgal

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court that even an illegitimate child must take the caste of its father has led women's activists to protest the continuing inequalities in property, custody and guardianship law in India, all of which continue to be determined through male descent

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"Poverty and patriarchy -- not religion -- determine the status of women"

By Rashme Sehgal

To get away from the Muslim stereotype, and the common belief that the status of Muslim women is determined by their religion and personal law, Ritu Menon and Zoya Hasan embarked on a path-breaking survey of 10,000 women. Their study, Unequal Citizens: A Study of Muslim Women in India, looks at Muslim women within the framework of poverty, gender and social disability

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Baina beach demolitions: What about the sex worker's right to shelter?

By Rakesh Shukla

Acting on orders by the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court, around 250 huts belonging to sex workers, on Goa's Baina beach, were bulldozed in an effort to 'clean up' Goa. 'Operation Monsoon Demolition' appears to have been based on the assumption that sex workers have no right to shelter

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'Whatever violates the integrity of a woman's body should be considered rape'

By Rashme Sehgal

Women's activist Brinda Karat discusses the importance of expanding the definition of rape to include violation of the body by unconventional means, especially in a country where two-thirds of rape cases involve children. A recent Supreme Court judgment refused to accept this stand

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Flaw in the law: Custodial rape, inadequate evidence and acquittal

By Rakesh Shukla

The lack of convictions in cases of custodial rape raises serious questions about the workings of the law

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Sati glorification: Crime, society and the wheels of injustice

By Rakesh Shukla

Despite protests both within Rajasthan and across the country, no appeal has been filed against the recent acquittal of those accused of glorifying sati, following the death of Roop Kanwar on her husband's funeral pyre back in 1987

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Undoing sexism: Involving men in the battle against domestic violence

By Malini Sen

In India, the response to domestic violence until now has been to reassert women's responsibility for policing men's violence. Few efforts have taken up the challenge of primary prevention: interventions intended to stop men and boys from using aggression

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Films and femininity

By Lalitha Sridhar

The conventional view that Indian cinema does nothing but reproduce patriarchal ideology is in itself a stereotype, says filmmaker and film researcher Venkatesh Chakravarty. In fact, our films are replete with female characters who bring the mightiest powers to their knees

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The medicalisation of sex

By Maya Indira Ganesh

Science, sex and the market form a cosy mAcnage-a-trois today. Biomedical knowledge, practices and techniques have taken sexuality from the most private hidden spaces to the centrestage of international conferences. The medicalisation of sex makes a cure that comes in a foil strip far more seductive than an overhaul of a lifestyle, personality, family system or state policy

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HIV, sexuality and identity in India

There has been a legitimate emergence of sexual minorities in India over the last decade. But even as transsexuals or sex workers exult in the opportunity to be heard and seen in mainstream society, we must realise that this is just one small evolutionary step towards raising the self-esteem of marginalised groups

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Listening now

By Anindita Sengupta

There is a severe paucity of counselling services for survivors of sexual violence in India. Organisations like CEHAT and RAHI are trying to plug a gigantic gap in the mental health system in India

counselling for rape survivors

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The importance of women’s agency

By Deepti Priya Mehrotra

Enhancing women’s status and power can have huge benefits, said Amartya Sen, pointing to Bangladesh, which performs better than India on many social indicators, including sex ratios

Amartya Sen

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Not on our bodies anymore

Violence against women is on the rise in Bengal, but the state authorities are dismissing recent cases of sexual assault as ‘conspiracies’ by ‘liars’. What really has changed since the Mathura rape case 30 years ago, asks Rajashri Dasgupta

law on rape

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Impact of the Vishaka Judgment

By Albertina Almeida

While a legislation on sexual harassment seems imminent, the Vishaka Judgment on sexual harassment at the workplace has, over the last 15 years, leapt out of the statute books and deeply influenced policy and practice in institutions and offices

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Women map their lives

By Pamela Philipose

The women of Itaha Kalpi, a drought-hit village in Bundelkhand, UP, came together across caste lines to map water and other resources available in their village in rangoli, and then on paper. In the process, the barefoot cartographers also learnt to map their inequities, their aspirations and demands, and began to voice these

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Tendu leaf binding centres: No place for pregnant women

By Sarada Lahangir

The Orissa government earns crores from the tendu leaf trade. But the poor women employed in the binding centres work 12 hours a day for less than minimum wages. Pregnant women, who work these long hours without adequate drinking water or sanitation facilities and no healthcare, are the worst-affected

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MMS porn clips: The dark side of technology

By Tripti Nath

Cyber gender crimes are on the rise in India. But how are these crimes to be policed and prevented, and why has there been not a single conviction in such a case so far?

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'Men also need to be liberated from patriarchy'

Efforts to tackle gender-based violence against women in India have concentrated on empowering women to assert themselves and prevent violence. Men have been insulated from the process of transformation, says Harish Sadani of Men Against Violence and Abuse. Until men are seen as part of the solution, the status of women will not change significantly

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Abandoned and divorced: The NRI pattern

By Shamita Das Dasgupta

Two out of 10 NRI marriages reportedly end with the wife being abandoned. India has no laws that protect wives whose NRI husbands get ex parte divorces and custody of children. Will government’s decision to issue two valid passports to women marrying abroad help this situation?

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Medieval practices in a modern state

By Moushumi Basu

Three members of a family were hacked to death under the gaze of an entire village because their witchcraft was believed to be responsible for the death of a young girl. This is one of three such incidents in recent times in a village just 14 miles from Jharkhand's state capital, Ranchi, which itself has seen 240 murders of ‘witches’ in the past 10 years

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Singur's women: From warriors to worriers

By Panchali Ray

In Singur following the exit of the Tatas, with no farmland returned and no land development either, landless agricultural labourers were the first to slip into the ‘food unsecured’ category, followed by sharecroppers, fisher folk and marginal landowners. Most affected in each category have been the women

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Women at work: The betel nut crackers

Text and photographs: Manjima Bhattacharjya

A photo-essay on the poor, lower-caste, mostly non-literate women of Karnataka who labour undocumented and unrecognised behind the scenes of the multi-crore betel nut industry

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All aboard the ladies special

By Shreya Bhattacharya

More than 80% of women in Delhi say they are sexually harassed on public transport. The paternal administration’s only response is to further sexualise public spaces by offering ladies special buses with curtains to protect women from the male gaze

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'Criminalising the client will cause prostitution to drop by 80%': Catharine MacKinnon

By Rashme Sehgal

Leading American feminist Catharine MacKinnon makes a strong case for criminalising the client and not the sex worker

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New vistas for working women in India's IT industry

By Monideepa Sahu

By 2010 60% of graduates across Asia, America and Europe will be women. At its third annual IT Women Leadership Summit held recently in Bangalore, India's premier trade body NASSCOM declared that workplace diversity and gender inclusion is a business imperative today

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Why is the women's movement silent on abortion?

By Anjali Deshpande

The Union Ministry of Health is examining the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act with a view to raising the time limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. What would the moral and ethical implications of this move be? And why has the women’s movement in India been strangely silent on these important developments?

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Maharashtra's age-of-marriage competition

By Usha Rai

58% of girls in Maharashtra first conceive at 15-19 years. Following the success of an IHMP initiative which saw a three-fold increase in the use of contraceptives, delay in the median age of conception by a year, and a reduction in post-natal complications and reproductive tract infections, the Maharashtra government will reward villages that succeed in raising the age of marriage for girls

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The song, dance and sorrows of sex workers' lives

By Mirra Savara

VAMP, a sex workers' collective, aims to ensure that marginalised communities like women in prostitution and transgenders can assert, articulate and access their rights. They couldn't have come up with a better way of articulating their concerns than My Mother, The Gharwali, Her Maalak, His Wife, a play devised and performed by the sex workers themselves

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Murdered for Love

By Nirupama Dutt

'Honour' killings of young people who marry outside their caste are making front-page news every day. Even as the administration and local politicians look the other way, some courageous women have raised their voices and filed cases against the perpetrators of these barbaric acts

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Trafficking women for domestic work

By Sujata Madhok

Many 'employment agencies' that are springing up in cities to place migrant women for domestic work are little more than traffickers. The condition in which these women work violates several laws including the Bonded Labour Act and in many cases the Child Labour and Juvenile Justice Act. Activists are calling for a specific law to regulate the domestic work sector

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Mistress of indigenous flavours

By Aparna Pallavi

Triveni Devangan, daughter of a farmer in Chhattisgarh, set up an ice-cream factory a little over two years ago with a loan of Rs 22 lakh. Today, her factory has an annual turnover of over Rs 20 lakh. Her products sell in six districts of Chhattisgarh, with her signature flavours being most in demand

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The land is ours!

By Keya Acharya

Around half of all agricultural land in India is now farmed by women, as more and more men migrate to earn money. Yet the slow pace of land and property rights reform has failed to keep up. Although women may have more rights on paper than they did 20 years ago, there has been little progress on the ground

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Brick by brick

By Aparna Pallavi

Twelve illiterate tribal women belonging to a self-help group set up their own brick kiln, changing the power structure in their village in the process

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Delays do not bode well for Domestic Violence Bill

By Rashme Sehgal

Domestic violence is spiralling: 7 lakh cases are expected to be registered in this year. But India's path-breaking new Domestic Violence Act, passed last year, has not yet been notified. Activists in the capital met recently to demand that the government notify and implement the law

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Supporting the ban: Bar girls are often trafficked

By Freny Manecksha

A study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences' Prayas project supports the controversial 2005 ban on bar dancers in Mumbai on the grounds that there is often an element of human trafficking involved in the entry of these women into the dance bars. The majority of women spoken to were not, in fact, exercising free choice and the right to livelihood but had been duped by middlemen

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Penalising clients of sex workers: Pros and cons

By Nitin Jugran Bahuguna

Will the amendments to the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act proposed by the government protect sex workers from exploitation at the hand of clients and police, or will it end up making them more vulnerable?

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Sting operation to find 'missing' girl-child

By Durga Chandran

Sting operations are not conducted by the media and law-enforcement agencies alone. The Satara-based CSO, Dalit Mahila Vikas Mandal, has nabbed seven doctors red-handed for violating the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act and revealing the sex of foetuses

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Dancers in the dark

By Freny Manecksha

As three bar dancers commit suicide in Mumbai following the ban on dance bars in Maharashtra, an SNDT study busts several myths about the working conditions, backgrounds and lifestyles of these

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Delhi's skewed sex ratio: "24,000 girls go missing every year"

By Rashme Sehgal

Delhi's sex ratio has become more and more skewed over the years. One study of families which already have one or more daughters shows just 219 girls being born for every 1,000 boys

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The rot in Orissa's reproductive health services

By Manipadma Jena

At a recent public hearing in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district, both men and women told harrowing tales of negligence, bungling and lack of facilities in the state's public healthcare system

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Women panchayat members: Catapulted into the public domain

By Rashme Sehgal

More than a decade after the 73rd constitutional amendment made it mandatory for 33% of all panchayat seats to be reserved for women, have women begun to play a significant role in local self-governance?

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'Treating infanticide as homicide is inhuman'

By Lalitha Sridhar

Prosecuting women such as Karuppayee, the first woman in Tamil Nadu to be convicted of female infanticide, is hardly the answer to the problem of female infanticide and foeticide, says P Pavalam, state-level convenor of the Madurai-based coalition NGO Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion (CASSA). The role of the state and society in perpetuating the secondary status of women is the real issue to be addressed

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Female foeticide: The collusion of the medical establishment

By Lalitha Sridhar

The PCPNDT Act prohibits sex selection by any means, before or after conception. But, as one survey in Chennai of 29 ultrasound clinics found, for the medical fraternity it's business as usual

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SANGRAM: A war for all women

By Lalitha Sridhar

SANGRAM sees women in prostitution not as potential carriers of HIV/AIDS but as agents of change. The organisation and its peer educators work in six districts of Maharashtra and Karnataka's border areas

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Voices of women in prostitution

By Lalitha Sridhar

Women of the SANGRAM collective for women in prostitution in Sangli meet regularly to discuss issues and problems. All have stories to tell about their lives and their profession

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The sinister targets of Indian health camps

By Sreelatha Menon

At Usayini in Uttar Pradesh, some 'health camps' funded by USAIDS are really places where local midwives are pushed to bring women in for sterilisation. There is absolutely no attempt to provide all-round reproductive health care. This approach flies in the face of India's official policy of target-free family planning

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Dowry spreads its tentacles across India

By Rashme Sehgal

A major new survey involving 10,000 respondents reports that the practice of dowry is becoming prevalent amongst dalit, backward caste, Muslim and Christian communities, which never had a tradition of dowry in the past. Even matriarchal societies, which earlier paid a bride price, are now demanding dowry from the bride's family

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Maa Bambaleshwari! Chhattisgarh's women have taken charge

By Rashme Arora

One million women in the newly-formed state of Chhattisgarh have formed 76,000 self-help groups and are now running the weekly bazaars, the fisheries and even the stone quarries

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Short Stay Homes: A reality check

By Manipadma Jena

A new study of 22 of Orissa's 32 Short Stay Homes for deserted and destitute women reports trafficking of some of the inmates, cramped living conditions and inadequate vocational training and counselling

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No more discussion on the Women's Reservation Bill, say activists

By Rashme Arora

Women's activists are aghast at the suggestion that the women's reservation bill can only be passed if double-member constituencies are introduced in a third of all parliamentary seats. This will only send out the message that women MPs are incompetent, they claim

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India's school for 'ideal' wives

By Anjali Deshpande

In Bhopal, young girls attend a course that teaches them that all marital problems stem from wives who don't know how to keep their egos and tempers in check. Here they learn how to surrender to the patriarchal forces in society, keep their heads covered at all times, and have sex only for procreation!

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Cash can't end discrimination

Will the recently announced cash incentives to poor mothers giving birth to girls really help to discourage female infanticide, female foeticide or the pervasive neglect of girl-children?

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Mum's the word

By Laxmi Murthy

In a society which reveres motherhood, deifies the mother in mythology and popular cinema, mothers in India have hardly any legal rights over their children. The Tamil Nadu order making it mandatory for schools to list the mother as joint or sole guardian of the child, is a small but significant change

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Legislating for change: Articulating women's rights

By Laxmi Murthy

Various legislations pertaining to women's rights are hanging fire, including the one on sexual harassment at the workplace. Others such as the Protection from Domestic Violence Bill 2002 are glaring examples of the co-option and dilution of serious issues

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The benefits of advocacy on women's rights

By Rashmi Arora

Chandni Joshi, regional programme director, South Asia, of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the women's fund of the United Nations, talks about the impact of globalisation on women, and the difference that advocacy has made to the way women's rights are perceived

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Women workers demand visibility and a voice

By Laxmi Murthy

On March 8, 1908, women workers in the needle trade in New York marched in the streets, demanding suffrage and an end to sweatshops and child labour. Almost 100 years on, over 100,000 workers took to the streets of New Delhi this February, to register their protest against the government's anti-worker policies and the severe impact of liberalisation on women workers

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Sex selection: Getting down to business

By Laxmi Murthy

An estimated 20 million females in this country have been eliminated following sex-determination tests. But not a single doctor has been convicted. It is the providers of this technology who have to be held ethically as well as legally accountable. Will the recent amendment to the PNDT Act change anything?

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Adverse sex ratio results in no brides in Rohtak

By Rashme Arora

Decades of female foeticide and infanticide have finally caught up with the people of Haryana. With the sex ratio in Rohtak district down to 796 females per 1000 males and the rest of the state faring not much better, young men are desperate to get married but cannot find themselves brides

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Baluben and Monghiben take charge

By Nachiketa Desai

With guidance from the NGO Utthan, women from traditional, feudal households in Saurashtra, Gujarat, are taking charge -- promoting water harvesting, ousting moneylenders and insisting that development projects provide employment to local villagers

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Shabana:'I have the right to sell my body - and I will sell it'

By Atul Tiwari

What does it mean to be a woman in prostitution? What does it mean to sell sex? In a first-person excerpt from 'Unzipped: Women and Men in Prostitution Speak Out', recently published by Point of View, Mumbai, the feisty Shabana, who works the highways on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border, but also distributes condoms in collaboration with two voluntary agencies, opens up to the reader her world of exploitation, survival, empowerment, victimhood and choice.

The testimonies of the men and women who speak out in 'Unzipped' chip away at the myth that those in prostitution are eternal victims -- with no power to deal with the situations in which they find themselves. They also tell us that it is not just poverty that forces women into prostitution, but poverty acting in concert with gender. Until we stop marrying young girls off, until we stop burning, harassing and discriminating against young girls in ways big and small, the family will not be a safe place for young girls. The family will be a place to run away from...into the arms of a pimp, a shyster, or even a distant relative who is a gateway to prostitution.

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Heat and dust, struggle and success

By Huned Contractor

Travelling through the villages of Gujarat, Huned Contractor finds that women have shrugged off the tradition of centuries to assume the dual roles of wage-earners and housewives. Women who had never travelled outside their villages now speak about their work at international fora. Harijan women who had to sit on the floor now proudly occupy the chair of the deputy sarpanch. It's nothing short of a revolution

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Women in white: India's widows

Following the recent announcement that the National Human Rights Commission will now coordinate governmental and non-governmental measures to help the widows of Vrindavan and the rest of the country, this article discusses the situation and problems of widows in India, past and present

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A landscape of unbelongers

By Sharmila Joshi

Why Loiter: Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets is about the myriad ways in which women continue to be relegated to the spatial margins of a ‘globalising’ city, and the growing list of other powerless groups – migrants, dalits, North Indians, Muslims, gays, etc -- who inhabit this landscape of unbelongers

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The 'two-finger' test

By Sharmila Joshi

Though the Supreme Court has ruled that the results of a ‘finger test’ cannot be used against a woman, and that a rape survivor’s ‘habituation to sexual intercourse’ is immaterial, this ‘unscientific, inhuman and degrading’ test is still widely used in India, says a new Human Rights Watch report

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A limited liberation

By Madhumita Bose

Activist and social critic Vinodinee Neelkanth, like most other women writers of the early-20th century, favoured the empowerment of women, as long as they left undisturbed their roles as wife and mother. It was left to the male writers of the ’20s and ’30s to create vibrant, non-conformist female characters

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Women's work: Never done and poorly paid

By Nirmala Banerji

Jayati Ghosh’s new book on women’s work in globalising India reveals the Indian state’s patriarchal attitude towards women’s work

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Savitribai Phule: Forgotten liberator

By Melanie P Kumar

Savitribai Phule's name is not in the history books alongside the Rani of Jhansi and others. But it deserves to be. She, along with her husband Jotiba Phule, was a pioneer in the struggle against oppression of women, dalits, adivasis and religious minorities. A new book sketches her life and work

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Lives sacrificed: Women and health in South Asia

By Deepti Priya Mehrotra

A new World Bank report looks at the state of reproductive health of poor women in five countries -- Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- and makes a case for decentralised planning, delivery and expansion of health services, with a clear focus on enhancing inclusion

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Apple toss to alu mutter: At home in the world

By Sanjay Srivastava

Small-town India's new middle class is negotiating globalisation and modernity in much more meaningful ways than the metropolitan middle class, says Sanjay Srivastava's new book

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'Enter victims' reality' to combat violence against women: UNFPA

By Lisa Batiwalla

Reports that chronicle the extent and forms of violence against women are commonplace. However, a unique new report offers 10 case studies from across the globe that show how interventions that adapt to local contexts can actually reduce gender-based violence

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Suman's story

By Arshia Sattar

Premchand has always used his women characters as the lens through which society is critiqued. A reading his 'Sevasadan' in English translation almost 90 years after it was written brings home the fact that little has changed: women are still striving to control their own destinies

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Missing mothers and grandmothers

By Arshia Sattar

A lush book of photographs of Indian women in the colonial period focuses on the women we all know -- the freedom fighters, the social reformers, the artists. But where are the ordinary women -- our mothers and grandmothers?

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Indian women in the Age of Globalisation

By N P Chekkutty

'Impact of WTO on Women in Agriculture', released in January 2005, studies the plight of rural Indian women through public hearings in Punjab, West Bengal, Karnataka and Bundelkhand. This is the first such assessment of the gender impact of the WTO and the globalisation of agriculture

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The unheard scream: Reproductive health and women's lives

By Laxmi Murthy

A review of a new book on the neglect, deprivation and non-existent reproductive healthcare in India

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Mother goddesses and warriors: RSS women as ideologues

By Rakesh Shukla

Paola Baccheta's new book explores the minds and ideological constructs of women who are part of the nationalist Hindu movement

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Behind closed doors: Women on primetime TV

By Rashme Sehgal

A new three-nation study of primetime television soaps finds that over 70% of the serials are set in affluent homes, with women spending 80% of their time within their four walls. If television is to hold up any kind of mirror to society or represent a popular history of the times, it must become pluralist and representative

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Gender is at the heart of all discrimination

By Arshia Sattar

A review of Translating Caste and Translating Desire

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Women who own property are less likely to face marital violence: study

While there is no simple answer as to why men abuse their wives, the findings of a recent study suggest that women who own property are less likely to encounter spousal violence

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