Can we put a stop to this gender-based discrimination by introducing new legislation to codify India’s Shariah system? Working towards asking for a constitutional law for a focused, unambiguous definition of how Muslim men and women can obtain divorces (informed two-party consent), the minimum age of marriage (18), religious interpretations and the community’s stance on polygamy (illegal) and every other aspect of Shariah that pertains to family law, present scenario and potential solutions. Since codification remains a controversial topic in India, who will address this issue? Women in several Islamic countries, including Pakistan, Iran and Tunisia enjoy more legal protection than Indian Muslim women; have already codified its Islamic law. What is the way forward for total participation of 90 million Indian Muslim women to achieve their full potential? Is India ready for major reforms, what are the obstacles within and outside? Higher girl school enrolment, women labour force participation, vocational training, gender equal laws, violence and other socio economic data on the present day crisis which needs politico legal interventions. Most challenges women face in the Muslim world, are often enshrined in archaic laws and practices on ownership, early marriage, female genital mutilation, education, healthcare, job opportunities and wages. Ironically, these laws and practices are in violation of the letter and spirit of Islamic teachings on women’s rights.
Moderator: Aijaz Ilmi
The Consortium for Street Children is the largest global network of NGOs that works with street children. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the key piece of international law on children’s rights. It describes what children need to survive, grow and reach their potential in life. CSC has been instrumental in adding a general comment to this convention. The general comment on children in street situations lays out how the Convention applies to street children. We will be discussing the implementation of this comment in the Indian context against the background of challenges of Gender inequality and exploitation. For example, in many countries, the boys are visible in the streets while the girls are tucked away in shelters or safe houses or are disguised as boys. Exploitation and risks vary by gender as do opportunities for support and employment. The implementation of the general comment in the Indian context will be explored with various stakeholders. We will ask NGOs and street children to tell us about the differences and needs of street connected children how we should consider gender in supporting them.
Cinema and television in India have mainly reflected the patriarchal nature of the Indian society. Here the so-called ‘ideal’ role of men, women and other sex people have been narrated through a very narrow and rigid framework of stereotypical but, culturally, socially, religiously and politically popular norms based on the sex of a person.
Men were mostly shown as the breadwinner and warriors, while the position of women was limited to the kitchen or the bedroom, or they were to be projected as the sufferer, the giver and the house-maker. The subjugation and ridiculousness towards LGBT in cinema has been appalling.
However, with modernisation, the ‘Gendered Roles” also evolved. Unlike, movies like, Do Beegha Zameen, Biwi Number 1 or TV series like, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, where idolization of characters was the base of the storyline, but some films like, Fire, Ki & Ka, Simran, Gulaab Gang, Parched and Lipstick Under My Burkha extended narration of complex characters that are not riddled with patriotic or religious metaphors.
Cinema has had a very powerful impact on the people’s understanding of Gender but, very little has been discussed on its role in portraying the shifting roles of Gender and its far-reaching influence on the Indian Society and hence policymaking. This makes the discussion on, “Portrayal of Gender in the Indian Cinema” very crucial because films in India are seen as a reflection of the change in the social structure.”
“Silence is present everywhere under patriarchy,” says Rebecca Solnit, “though it requires different silences from men than from women. You can imagine the policing of gender as the creation of reciprocal silences, and you can begin to recognise male silence as a trade-off for power and membership.”
Black feminist writer, bell hooks, puts it more succinctly: “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence towards women. Instead, patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves.”
Breaking the silence around women’s oppression has been one of feminism’s most significant achievements, and breaking that silence around violence against women is among its distinguishing and notable successes. The #Me Too follows that in that tradition of naming and calling out abusers and perpetrators—in the home, on the street, at the workplace, and in public and private spaces.
What it has done, in addition, is to underline the entrenched sexism in social spaces—the glamorous space of entertainment and commerce, where rewards, awards and benefits are forthcoming in return for sexual favours—by women for men. And in the case of the #HimToo campaign in India, in academia and the enclosed space of the university. It’s a one-way street.
But if patriarchy demands silence from women and men, both, what will it take for men to break the silence around the “self-mutilation” that bell hooks speaks of, and to recognise that calling a halt to the violence—all violence—entails, first and foremost, breaking the silence around their silence. To begin the conversation between themselves and women; between and among themselves; in public forums; in offices; in the courts; in government; in the media. It requires that they engage, across the broad, in this necessary, albeit difficult, dialogue.
Moderator: Sridhar Venkatapuram