India passes nondiscrimination law securing rights for people with HIV
- The first of its kind in South Asia, the law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, healthcare, and public accommodations such as restaurants and calls for the establishment of an ombudsman to monitor violations.
- An estimated 2.1 million people live with HIV in India, with some 1 million currently receiving treatment.
- Some advocates for the positive community argued that the law does not go far enough to guarantee free treatment for the afflicted.
“Parliament clears landmark HIV Bill” (The Hindu | April 2017)
“What is HIV/AIDS Bill? All your questions answered” (The Indian Express | April 2017)
“India takes flawed first step towards ending HIV and Aids prejudice” (The Guardian | April 2017)
(Image Credit: Jayanta Dey/Reuters, via The Guardian)
Female students locked in hostels to avoid harassment during Holi festival in Delhi
- Two women’s hostels at the University of Delhi were put on lockdown over the Holi holiday out of safety fears.
- India’s minister for women argued the restrictions were necessary to defend against consequences of “hormonal outbursts.”
- Women have long reported being sexually assaulted during the festival, but some activists expressed outrage at women’s rather than men’s mobility being targeted as a response.
“Holi festival: Delhi women forced into lockdown amid sexual harassment fears” (The Guardian | March 2017)
“Delhi University hostels ‘lock up’ girls on Holi” (The Asian Age | March 2017)
“Delhi University hostels prohibit women students from playing Holi outside the premises” (International Business Times | March 2017)
(Image Credit: Reuters, via International Business Times)
Pro-choice advocates push to expand abortion window in India
- Indian women can currently obtain an abortion up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy, after which termination procedures are legally permissible only on a case-by-case basis in cases of danger to maternal health.
- Advocates argue that many victims of sex crimes do not report pregnancies until late, leaving a very small window of time to abort the pregnancy.
- Advocates are now pushing to extend the window to 24 weeks and to equip doctors with the legal power to grant abortions rather than forcing women to pursue permission through law enforcement and the courts.
“Victims of sex crime race strict Indian abortion deadline” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation | February 2017)
“India’s population surges as men remain reluctant to use contraceptive measures” (The Hindustan Times | February 2017)
“US abortion funding cuts hit Indian NGOs” (The Economic Times | January 2017)
The Poetics of Protest for Bengali Muslims in India
Named for the pejorative term used to describe Muslims presumed to be undocumented immigrants, Miyah poetry has emerged as a cultural protest against the marginalization and scapegoating faced by the Bengali Muslim community in the northeastern state of Assam. Its dissemination through social media channels has made it distinctly public and communal as opposed to more academic forms of cultural protest, bringing together the voices of the trained and untrained alike. Al Jazeera highlights the origins of the form and the social and political conditions that have shaped its evolution.
“Protest poetry: Assam’s Bengali Muslims take a stand” (Al Jazeera | December 2016)
“For better or verse: Miyah poetry is now a symbol of empowerment for Muslims in Assam” (Firstpost | September 2016)
“A state on edge” (India Today | October 2016)
#MiyahPoetry (The Sunflower Collective)
(Image Credit: Kazi Neel/Al Jazeera)
Mayana Kollai: Hindu Transwomen’s Annual Oasis of Acceptance
Mayana Kollai, a festival honoring the Hindu goddess Angala Parameswari, provides a rare opportunity for the public acknowledgment of transwomen in India. The women—known as kothis, among other designations—transform into spiritually revered beings welcomed into homes for blessings and incorporated into major festival events. Offering brief respite from the social struggles faced by the Indian trans community including physical and sexual violence, the late-winter/early-spring celebration involves elaborate preparations for the women, some of whom have become minor celebrities in their own right. The New York Times features a photo series of kothis in the state of Tamil Nadu as they prepare for the festival, marking the bridge from social marginalization to divine honor.
“Mortal to Divine and Back: India’s Transgender Goddesses” (The New York Times)
(Image Credit: Candace Feit, via The New York Times)
Indian state strengthens property rights for slum-dwelling women
- Women living in slums in the state of Maharashtra will now hold ownership rights equal to men thanks to a new land title plan.
- The plan comes as the government seeks to regularize slums in the state, giving families land titles with joint ownership between marital partners.
- Though the development has been lauded, advocates warn that women continue to struggle to exercise equal rights once gained, with lack of education and intimidation perpetuating gender-based legal inequalities.
“India’s Maharashtra state to give women slum dwellers joint ownership rights” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation)
(Image Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)
Indian court grants women access to famous Islamic tomb in Mumbai
- The Bombay High Court ruled that trustees of the Haji Ali tomb could not ban women from entering the tomb, though the decision was stayed in anticipation of an appeal to the Supreme Court.
- Although India’s constitution protects religious groups’ rights to manage their own affairs, the Court invoked an exception for matters that are not “an essential and integral part of the religion.”
- The ruling follows a similar one earlier in the year allowing Hindu women access to temples in the state of Maharashtra.
“Indian Court Orders Haji Ali Tomb to Give Women Full Access” (The New York Times)
“Women can enter Haji Ali sanctum, rules HC” (The Hindu)
“Haji Ali: India court says women can enter Mumbai shrine” (BBC)
(Image Credit: Punit Paranjpe/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images, via The New York Times)