-On the 28th of June, various Indian cities saw protests under the name of ‘Not In My Name’ being held. The protests, although held in immediate response to the lynching of Junaid Khan, addressed the larger issues of militant nationalism and vigilante ‘beef lynchings’. While holding a protest like this was extremely important, people have voiced criticisms of the protest as well, in particular speaking out about the issue of the name of the protest, saying it’s like the “Indian upper-caste liberals’ version of #NotAllMen.”
-In celebration of Pride Month, Chennai held its (9th) annual pride parade this June, and over a 100 people participated. People chanted slogans, dressed up in colourful clothes and handed out badges. A group of sex workers also joined the parade to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.
-This month, the Indian Express started a new series called #GenderAnd, where through different articles and news pieces, it looked at the intersection of gender with other concepts like culture, the nation, and development, showing that gender isn’t something that can be looked at in isolation. The series includes articles on painting (gender and culture), corporate India (gender and business), trans rights (gender and the nation), and so on.
-After a long struggle with the Indian Censor Board for certification, Lipstick Under My Burkha (which was initially supposed to release in October last year) will finally hit Indian theatres on the 21st of July. The film was earlier denied certification on the premise that it was too ‘lady oriented’. Balaji Motion Pictures announced the news with a bold and telling poster. Despite its release being stalled in India, the film has won numerous accolades abroad.
-Video Volunteers, a media and human rights NGO has a campaign called #KhelBadal, a video based campaign that tries to initiate conversations on different issues. This month, the campaign was called What’s In A Name, and talked about how many women all over the country are unable to address their husbands by the first name as it’s seen as a sign of disrespect. Not following this practice leads to social censure. Watch the video here.
Politics and Governance
-Chaya Kakde, accompanied by five other social workers from her women’s self-help organisation in Maharashtra, has been on a hunger strike since the 21st of June (as of 26 June 2017). Their demands include: removal of GST on sanitary napkins, making sanitary napkins available at ration shops, the providing of free sanitary napkins to women with uterus cancer, and the installment of sanitary pad vending machines in Maharashtra schools. They plan to move their protest to Jantar Mantar by June 30 if their demands are not met.
-Tamil Nadu is going to make the registration of pregnancies with the health department mandatory. Not completing such formalities could mean that the child will not get a birth certificate. The scheme, which will be implemented in July, is "[...] an ambitious project that attempts to bring down maternal and infant mortality rates by keeping a tab on every pregnant woman in the state," according to health secretary J Radhakrishnan.
However, this announcement does raise certain issues. As this article points out, the implementation of the scheme, especially in rural areas, will reduce the amount of time village nurses have to actually interact with pregnant women and educate them about health risks, as record keeping will begin to consume most of their times. Further, placing pregnant women under surveillance could make them feel conscious to avail of abortion services.
-A conference organized by the National Commission for Women in Chandigarh revealed that many women who married NRI men were being abandoned by their husbands, who after moving abroad without their wives, sent them divorce notices. This is a common occurrence, and to curb it, the Indian government is going to launch a web portal to help women who have been abandoned by men abroad. This redressal system will aim at helping women register grievances regarding maintenance, divorce, and child support.
-The Haryana government will now allow married girl students in state universities and colleges to avail of maternity leave benefits of up to 45 days after submitting a valid medical certificate, effective from the upcoming academic session onwards. However, this only applies to married students, despite the fact that is it possible for unmarried women to get pregnant too!
-This month, the Punjab government decided to implement a number of progressive measures that will empower women in different spheres of their lives. Firstly, it increased the percentage of seats reserved for women in rural and urban local bodies from 33% to 50%. Further, it declared that education in government schools and colleges from the nursery to PhD level will be made free. The education reforms also include making textbooks more accessible and equipping classrooms with internet facilities.
-The Tamil Nadu government made education for transgender students free in the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli. Further, ‘meritorious students’ are to get an additional stipend of Rs. 3,000 per month. Over in Kerala, the State Literacy Mission, following a survey, decided on continuing its education programmes for transgender students who discontinued their education midway. The programmes started in early June, and are being held in different cities for both tenth grade and senior secondary levels.
It's heartening to see different state governments making progressive measures to empower different sections of the population. However, the large gap between announcement and implementation can make policies fail, even if they have the best of intentions.
For example—the Kochi Metro, this month, became the first government organization to employ transgender people, with 23 transgender people being hired as ground staff. However, within a week of the metro’s implementation, 8 of the employees quit, as people refused to rent houses/rooms to them because of their gender identity.
Undoubtedly, it’s extremely important for the policy formulation and implementation agencies to recognise that nothing takes place in a vacuum—the social context always needs to be taken into account, and structures need to be put into place to ensure that the policy can function smoothly on the ground.
-Women are allowed to hold positions in the medicinal, legal, and engineering branches of the Indian Army, but they cannot be placed in combat positions. However, this month, the Army Chief said that the Army was in talks with the government to open up combat roles to women, something very few countries worldwide have done. The chief further said that initially, women would be recruited in the military police, whose role involves maintaining movement of soldiers, handling prisoners of war, assisting the civil police, etc.
This, however, raises larger questions about whether we as feminists should be lauding the Army for taking this step. This Firstpost article puts forward some pertinent points—“If the inherent nature of the army is violence, and if violence is something that is both incompatible with feminism and that has uniquely horrifying effects on women, what does it mean to enlist more women in such an organization? There’s a lot here to unpack before we throw a party celebrating women’s entry into this traditionally male field. We’re all for women facing better employment prospects, but do we really need them to be hired as agents of violence and the patriarchy?”
-The Uttarakhand High Court declared that courts throughout the state should hear acid attack cases on a daily basis, and ensure that such trials conclude within three months. The court also announced that a compensation of Rs 1 lakh should be paid to acid attacks victims by the state after the filing of an FIR. It also ordered the state government to provide protection to eye-witnesses during the trial.
-The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup commenced this month, and our cricket team emerged victorious from their first match, where they beat England by 35 runs.
-Pro-wrestler Kavita Dalal has been selected for the WWE’s 32-competitor Women’s Tournament, The Mae Young Classic.
-Following company research that revealed that many Indian women don’t set profile pictures of their faces out of fear that their pictures will be misused, Facebook is now rolling out a new feature in India called profile picture guard. Activating the feature means the following: others cannot download, share or send your profile picture in a message on Facebook, and Android users will be unable to take screenshots of your profile picture. However, screenshots still can be taken from other devices.
June at Zubaan
-After five long years, we sent out a new and improved version of our e-newsletter to our subscribers! If you’re interested in being up to date about Zubaan’s new releases, activities and projects, make sure you sign up for the (monthly) newsletter here.
-This month has also been dedicated to putting the finishing touches on our e-Essays project, due to launch next month. This project is going to ‘unbundle’ content by making select essays from anthologies available in e-formats for a reasonable fee. If you’re subscribed to our newsletter, keep your eyes peeled for the e-Essays mailer, coming to your inbox soon.
-On the 25th, Zubaan’s feminist book club discussed Amruta Patil’s Adi Parva. If you were unable to attend but are interested to read it, pick up the book here. Also, if you’d like to know when the next meeting is, don’t hesitate to shoot us an email (email@example.com).
-This month on the blog, we featured two excerpts from our title Watercolours: A Story from Auschwitz by Lidia Ostałowska, translated from Polish by Sean Gasper Bye. Watercolours is the story of artist Dina Gottliebová-Babbitt and how she survived Auschwitz. In the words of S.G Bye:
Lidia Ostałowska’s telling of this powerful story interweaves Dina’s life with the history of the camp both during and after the war, tracking how cultural memory of the Holocaust has evolved over the last half-century in Europe, America and Israel. She also poses challenging questions about art and morality. If art is used in service of genocide, is it still art? What are the artist’s duties under such circumstances? And to whom does the artist’s work belong—to the artist? The victims? To humanity?
That’s it for June, but On Topic will be back next month with more feminist news, so see you soon!
(PS: for daily feminist news updates, follow us on Twitter!)