Tag Archives: India & Sri Lanka

India News | Women

Millions form “women’s wall” for gender equality across Kerala

  • Organizers reported that some five million participants turned out to form a 385-mile chain across the southwest Indian state of Kerala, stretching from Kasaragod in the north to Thiruvanthapuram in the south.
  • Although the demonstration was broadly framed as promoting gender equality, it emerged following protests targeting women who attempt to enter the Sabarimala temple, a Hindu shrine that has historically banned women of “menstruating age” (defined as between the ages of 10 and 50).
  • The ban was formally struck down in September 2018 by the Supreme Court after having been enforced judicially since 1991, but protesters have continued to prevent women from entering.

Read

Women form a fortress against gender inequality” (The Hindu | January 2019)

Millions Of Women Formed A 385-Mile-Long “Women’s Wall” To Protest Gender Inequality” (BuzzFeed News | January 2019)

Sabarimala temple: Indian women form ‘620km human chain’ for equality” (BBC News | January 2019)

Connect

#WomensWall (Twitter)

India Feature | African Students

Racism and Anti-African Sentiment in India

As Indo-African economic relations have expanded in recent years, so too have social and cultural relations between India and African nations, particularly via the growth of international student populations across the Indian Ocean. For African communities in India, this cultural exchange has come with a price: incidents of anti-African violence in recent years have both threatened the security of India’s largely university-based black communities and strained relations between India and African countries. Beyond targeted persecution, students also recount instances of everyday ignorance and racism, including references to all black Africans as “Nigerians” regardless of national origin, derogatory name-calling by strangers, and accusations of cannibalism, prostitution, and drug trafficking. Over the last few years, several media outlets have featured the experiences of African immigrants in the country, chronicling instances of discrimination, violence, and disruptions in their education.

Read

African victims of racism in India share their stories” (Al Jazeera | May 2017)

African students hospitalized in roving mob attacks in India” (CNN | March 2017)

The photographer giving Africans in India a voice” (CNN | March 2017)

Being African in India: ‘We are seen as demons’” (Al Jazeera | June 2016)

Their Indian horror: Africans recount everyday racism” (The Hindustan Times | October 2014)

Africans decry ‘discrimination’ in India” (Al Jazeera | December 2013)

Connect

Association of African Students in India (AASI)

India Feature | Colorism

Darkening Beauty in India


Source: Dark is Beautiful Campaign/YouTube (October 2013)

In India, a cultural movement to tackle colorism has taken root, from challenging the pervasive preference for fair skin in romantic partners to reconstructing depictions of Hindu gods and goddesses using dark-skinned models. Skin-whitening practices are pervasive throughout the country and drive a multimillion-dollar industry, but activists and other community members are seeking to reaffirm beauty and value in darker-skinned people.

Read

Dark is divine: What colour are Indian gods and goddesses?” (BBC News | January 2018)

Bleached girls: India and its love for light skin” (The Conversation | July 2017)

India’s unfair obsession with lighter skin” (The Guardian | August 2013)

Watch

A Brown Girl’s Guide to Beauty (UnErase Poetry/YouTube | July 2017)

Connect

Dark Is Beautiful

India News | Dalit

Dalit community protests following violence in Indian state of Maharashtra
  • The violence arose during celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, where low-caste Dalits sided with the British colonial army to defeat the upper-caste rulers of the region.
  • The rally was allegedly attacked by a right-wing Hindu nationalists, leading to the death of a 28-year-old man and protests throughout Maharashtra calling for justice for Dalits.
  • Demonstrations in Mumbai blocked highways and train stations, leading to mass arrests and violent clashes with police.
Read

Dalit protests: How Mumbai was shut down” (Al Jazeera | January 2018)

Bhima-Koregaon violence: 3,000 Dalit youths detained, no action against right-wing leaders, alleges Ambedkar” (Hindustan Times | January 2018)

Caste violence erupts in India over 200-year-old faultline” (CNN | January 2018)

Perspectives

Indian Dalit recalls protest that paralysed Mumbai” (BBC News | January 2018)

India News | HIV+

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.
Read

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)

India News | Women

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.
Read

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)

India News | Women

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.
Read

Victims of sex crime race strict Indian abortion deadline” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation | February 2017)

Related Reading

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)

India Feature | Bengali Muslims

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.

Read:
Protest poetry: Assam’s Bengali Muslims take a stand” (Al Jazeera | December 2016)

Related reads:
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)

Additional:
Itamugur (Facebook)
#MiyahPoetry (The Sunflower Collective)

(Image Credit: Kazi Neel/Al Jazeera)

India Feature | Transwomen

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.

View:
Mortal to Divine and Back: India’s Transgender Goddesses” (The New York Times)

(Image Credit: Candace Feit, via The New York Times)

India News | Women

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.

Read more:
India’s Maharashtra state to give women slum dwellers joint ownership rights” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation)

(Image Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

India News | Muslim Women

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.

Read more:
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)

India Research | Women

Gender-based Harassment in India’s Urban Spaces

A YouGov/Action Aid UK survey recently polled 502 Indian women about their experiences in urban public spaces, finding that nearly four-in-five women have experienced public harassment in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Kolkata. In the aftermath of the brutal gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus in late 2012, government and civil society campaigns have encouraged women to report violence, although advocates say crimes (particularly domestic violence) continue to be underreported.

79%

Percentage of women reporting having experienced public harassment in cities

46%

Percentage of women reporting public insults and name-calling

39%

Percentage of women reporting having been groped or touched involuntarily

16%

Percentage of women reporting having been drugged

337,922*

Number of reports of violence against women in 2014, including rape, abduction, and molestation

Read:
Almost 80 percent of Indian women face public harassment in cities: survey” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation)
79% of women in India faced public harassment” (The Times of India)
Three in four women experience harassment and violence in UK and global cities” (ActionAid UK)

* According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

Commemorating the day when homosexuality was de-pathologized by the World Health Organization in 1990, the 13th-annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOT) stands as an occasion for global mobilization towards LGBT visibility and security. The day, like many global celebrations, is also one many governments choose to speak out on global human rights and minority security, announcing initiatives to support their LGBT citizens and international projects.

Even today, ongoing disagreements between nations over LGBT rights have prompted diplomatic rows and roadblocks to international cooperation, including the recent objection of 51 Muslim countries to the participation of LGBT groups in a U.N. AIDS forum in June. The push to extinguish homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia at all geographic levels remains important to the global mobility of LGBT people worldwide.

Here are highlights from IDAHOT 2016:

Africa & the Middle East


Video Credit: Collectif Arc-en-Ciel

LGBT Nigerians have continued wrestling with conflicting legal messages, with the recent passage of the landmark HIV Anti-Discrimination Act doing little to undo the effects of a 2014 anti-homosexuality law.

While a moratorium on LGBT criminalization is officially in place in Malawi, individuals are subject to entrenched marginalization and stigmatization in healthcare services, with a national referendum on LGBT rights having stalled.

The Gay and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) organized events for IDAHOT in Bulawayo, focusing on mental health as ongoing social and healthcare difficulties plague the community.

Though homosexuality remains criminalized in Tunisia, activists have achieved increased visibility and pushed for legal reform amidst ongoing discrimination.

Israel reaffirmed its commitment to LGBT Israelis, announcing funding to support an emergency shelter for LGBT youth and a hostel for trans people who have recently undergone gender confirmation surgery.

Days before IDAHOT, activists staged a sit-in outside of a Beirut gendarmerie, protesting Lebanon‘s anti-homosexuality legal holdovers from French occupation.  Similarly, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) issued an appeal to the Lebanese government to decriminalize same-sex relations, arguing for recognition of homosexuality’s presence within the natural variation of human sexuality.

The Americas


Video Credit: teleSUR

U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement of support as his administration lended its voice to a national debate over the bathroom rights of trans people.

In Canada, PM Justin Trudeau announced an anti-discrimination bill protecting trans security as advocates organized a demonstration for trans healthcare rights following the firebombing of a trans health clinic.

Across Latin America, important gains in same-sex partnership and family rights and gender identity healthcare and legal protections have heartened LGBT Latin Americans, but the region continues to have some of the highest reported rates of violence against the LGBT community in the world.

LGBT organizations held cultural and political events throughout Argentina to highlight conditions facing the Argentine LGBT community, call for an anti-discrimination law, and press for federal recognition of the International Day Against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination, as the day is known.

Cuba celebrated the day fresh off Pride events in Havana, where Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro, led a parade of thousands through the city streets.

Asia Pacific


Video Credit: Out for Australia

As the country continues contentious battles including the push for marriage equality and erasure of “gay panic” legal defenses, rainbow flags and celebrations appeared across Australia, including over police stations in Canberra, in the streets of Brisbane, and in the senior-care facilities of Tasmania. In Victoria, officials announced a retreat for Aboriginal gender minorities to be held later in the year.

In China, a study conducted by the U.N. Development Programme, Peking University, and the Beijing LGBT Center, the largest of its kind to date, was released revealing that only 5% of LGBTI Chinese are fully out at school and work, but also showed encouraging levels of acceptance of LGBTI people among China’s youth. The head of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission expressed support for anti-discrimination legislation at IDAHOT festivities in the city.

In Fiji, former President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau joined festivities at the French Ambassador’s residence to celebrate the island’s LGBTQI community.

Advocates took to op-ed columns in India to confront ongoing transphobia, reflect on gay representation in film, and highlight everyday homophobia in urban life.

A tug-of-war over LGBT rights between Islamic fundamentalists and pro-diversity moderates in Indonesia has led to mixed messages about LGBT security in the nation, spurring anti-discrimination protests.

A recent Human Rights Watch report on anti-LGBT bullying in Japan served as a reminder of the purpose of the day, highlighting rampant anti-LGBT sentiment even as the government has initiated broad efforts to combat bullying in schools.

Europe & Eurasia


Video Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The divergent prospects for LGBTI people across Europe, from Western Europe’s distinctive commitment to the protection of gender diversity to ongoing persecution in the East, was further confirmed through a UNESCO report highlighting anti-LGBT violence in schools released as global education ministers met in Paris.

Rainbow colors appeared in the shopping district of Cyprus‘s capital as 22 organizations came together to organize events to launch the country’s third Pride Festival, focusing on the need to increase legal recognition of both sexual and gender minorities in the country.

In Gibraltar, organizers canceled event plans in support of action on marriage equality legislation currently under consideration, arguing that holding a rally in front of the Parliament as uncertainty prevails would undermine pressure on MPs.

Kosovo‘s first Pride march brought out hundreds from the LGBT community to Pristina, including the U.S. and U.K. ambassadors.

Organizations in Luxembourg planned a silent march to call attention to the plight of LGBTI individuals worldwide and call for increased international protections (including asylum).

Organizers in Serbia took the day to announce the date of this year’s Pride parade (September 18) and address concerns of homophobia as right-wing parliamentary representation has increased.

Advocates, allies, and diplomats gathered around the rainbow flag raised at the US Embassy in Latvia.

On the island of Gozo in Malta, NGO leaders celebrated gender diversity in the country.

After advocates scrapped plans for IDAHOT activities in Georgia due to security concerns, a group of activists were arrested for painting pro-LGBT graffiti on administrative buildings. A “Family Day” protest against LGBT rights and visibility, the third such anti-LGBT demonstration, brought together members of Georgia’s conservative Orthodox community and international religious groups.

In the U.K., London’s new mayor promised to make the city a more just place for its LGBT residents as a rainbow flag flew over the Mayor’s Office.

(Image Credit: EPA, via The Straits Times)

India News | Women, Indigenous & Dalit

India PM launches entrepreneurship initiative for members of historically disadvantaged communities
  • PM Narendra Modi announced Stand Up India, a program to spur entrepreneurship and business-technological integration among women and India’s Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, historically disadvantaged groups subject to affirmative action by the government.
  • Banks will be required to sponsor relatively inexpensive loans for entrepreneurs from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.
  • The initiative comes ahead of next year’s elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh, with the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition seeking to court Dalit and tribal votes.

Read more:
PM promises to ‘change’ lives of tribals, Dalits with ‘Stand up India’” (The Hindustan Times)
‘Stand Up India’ will transform lives of Dalits, tribals: Modi” (The Hindu)
‘Stand up India’: PM Modi to book first e-rickshaw through Ola” (The Times of India)

(Image Credit: Sandeep Saxena/The Hindu)

India Feature | Women

The Women Enforcers of Ghunduribadi

While international media attention often focuses on oppressive conditions women face in India’s tribal regions, women from Ghunduribadi, in the eastern state of Odisha, have stepped up as the security forces to protect the land rights of their villages. Land rights reforms have sought to reclaim ancestral lands expropriated under British colonial laws, but enforcement has been spotty and, according to some advocates and lawmakers, diluted. As their community suffered from illegal incursions into the forest their village relies on for food and supplies, the women banded together to conduct patrols, stepping in where the law wouldn’t to ensure that their land and community are protected.

Read more:
These Indian women said they could protect their local forests better than the men in their village. The men agreed.” (Public Radio International)

Additional reading:
‘Centre, states undermining tribal rights’” (Hindustan Times)
Cong. protests ‘dilution’ of Forest Rights Act” (The Hindu)

(Image Credit: Sam Eaton/PRI)