Posts Tagged ‘sexual abuse’

Bengali actor Bobby Chakraborty

Bengali actor Bobby Chakraborty

Actor Bobby Chakraborty is not someone who would say anything just for effects. If he says something, he believes in it and if he believes in it he practises it. That is why his brainchild, the project titled I Am The King of My Mind, has gained so much momentum among school students in Kolkata, India. The project aims at telling young people the consequences of addiction and how one doesn’t need to drink or smoke to enjoy life.

For more: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-05-30/kolkata/39627920_1_addiction-exxon-mobil-actor-bobby-chakraborty

When Bobby is not shooting at the studio chances are you will catch him at some school, somewhere in West Bengal, interacting with young people. His pet project regularly takes him to the most well-known educational institutions of Kolkata, like the Heritage School and La Martinere School, and also to the numerous schools located in the interiors of rural Bengal and the Sundarbans.

Check Bobby’s Facebbok Page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/313095188790160/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g6QylXwSkg&sns=fb

Bobby with children at a school

Bobby with children at a school

Bobby posing with local kids at Sunderban

Bobby posing with local kids at Sunderban

There is one more thing that Bobby believes in too – that is equal opportunities and respect for women.

“When I interact with students I also talk to them about gender equality and respect for the fairer sex. In today’s society where there is so much violence against women this is particularly relevant,” says Bobby.

When I asked Bobby to write his views for my blog the actor took out time from him busy schedule and sent his views to my inbox within a day.

This is what he wrote:

I have always believed in peaceful co-existence of man and woman. That is how nature has made us. But some men, with their so-called physical superiority, have always been trying to foolishly prove themselves superior to women. Physical violence and rape has been the tool for such men for centuries.

Patriarchy is to blame

A woman is probably the hardest worker in the family, but her job is thankless. Most often children do not learn to value the work that women do and they are taught that men, often the bread winners, are all important. So the male child does not learn to respect the women in his family. And he carries this attitude forward to his future interactions with women – as friends, girlfriends, wives and eventually prey.

Men feel insecure around competent women

Educated and competent women are claiming the same recognition as men and more often than not giving them stiff competition at work. This is creating a sense of insecurity and the false male ego is bruised. That’s when men are resorting to violence against women to prove they are the ones in power. This trend is most dangerous.

Alcohol is often the reason for such crimes

It is said alcohol often brings out the Devil in you. And that is so true. People often end up doing things under the spell of alcohol that they would not otherwise do in a normal state. Rapists are usually dead drunk.

I hope and wish my crusade against alcohol will help in making future generations more sensible and sensitised about women.

Bobby at a candlelight vigil in Kolkata in June, protesting violence against women

Bobby at a candlelight vigil in Kolkata in June, protesting violence against women

But right now as responsible men it is within our capacity to make an immediate impact and make the environment safer for women. With the following examples I say what can be done:

1.           You are not a Superman but you can call for help

If you see a woman is harassed by some men and if you feel getting into the situation might be dangerous for you, call for help.

I will give you an example of what I did once. It was around 8.30pm and I was taking a walk on Marine Drive in Mumbai and enjoying the drizzle when I saw a gang of around eight-10 guys harassing a girl. I knew if I tried to intervene they would overpower me. So I ran in the opposite direction and alerted the traffic police on duty who in turn alerted the mobile van. Within no time the van came and rescued the girl.

2.           Put your foot down if you see a man trying to get fresh with a woman, be it on public transport or at a party

Women are most often strong enough to deal with these situations but it is our duty to let them know we are always there to lend them a helping hand.

I have seen drunk men often make advances at women at parties. A civilized talk with the drunkard might help but if that does not work then security should be called in. There have been instances when I have been threatened with dire consequences after they have been thrown out of the party. But men who use alcohol as a license to misbehave are usually cowards. So you can be sure that threat will always be empty.

3.           Stand up for your co-workers

In the workplace too there have been situations when I found out that a co-actor was being sexually harassed by someone. The first thing I did was to draw the producer or the director’s attention. If that does not work it can always be taken up with, in my case Artists’ Forum, in other cases the supreme authority at the workplace.

4.           Always remember REAL men respect women

If you are a real man then you will learn to respect every woman in your life – from your mother to the woman you are travelling with in a public bus to the maid, who is working in your house. This way you will learn to respect yourself. When you have self respect you have everything.

(Bobby has recently starred in National Award winning filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s hindi film Station which is part of the series Thrayadashi.)

Advertisements

DSCN3960

It’s common to witness Dubai bashing in the international media but when one comes across a report like this in Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/britchick-paris/why-dubai-is-rapidly-beco_b_3156110.html#postComment

one is indeed pleasantly surprised.

More than anything else what struck me most in the article is the following paragraph:

Dubai allows you to be you. And controversially especially if you are a woman. I’m not the only woman to think that. I feel safer here in Dubai than I do in London or Paris. There is a healthy respect that means you are just left alone, so long as you in turn respect the local values and customs.

Also in Europe there is often an underlying chauvinism, that means that men can do it better, hence the paucity of women board members at big Western companies. Here from my experience and that of my entrepreneur friends, women in business are admired. I can hear all the cynics ready to wade in but I cannot refute the evidence I have from the last few weeks working here. It has been a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the openness and creativity that comes from a city that is exploding and growing at lightening speed. In ten years it has achieved what New York did in 150.

This egged me to write about what I know about the city living here for the last six years.

Ask any woman from any nationality if they feel safe living in or travelling to Dubai the answer will always be “yes” without a second thought.

Without any statistics at hand it might be a bit hard to explain why the answer is always so but I will try to do so with a few examples.

When I first moved to Dubai in 2007 my husband and I would go for after-dinner walks to the Dubai Creek which is 20 minutes from my home. One day while sitting there and enjoying the lovely view we never realized it was 1am. It was a weekday and the place was empty except for a few men sitting around here and there in twos and threes chatting amongst themselves.

I looked around and told my husband fearfully, “Do you think it’s safe to hang around here so late?”

He said, “Don’t worry, Dubai is totally safe for women. The longer you live here the better you will know.”

That’s when I spotted an abaya and sheyla-clad lady walking rigorously in her sneakers – all alone.  Coming from India, where a woman’s safety is a perpetual concern, this was quite an impossible scenario for me. Six years down the line I have not yet experienced a lone walk at Dubai Creek at 1 am but I have comfortably walked alone at 12am to the 24X7 supermarket in my neighbourhood to fetch something, I have driven back home from the outskirts of the city at 2am after an office party taking a detour to drop a female friend on the way. I have hailed a cab post-midnight and reached home safe and sound lost in conversation with a friendly cabbie, and I have walked back home from a friend’s place all alone pretty late in the night.

Men and women hang out at a cafe in Dubai. many cafes are open till 4am or through the night.

Men and women hang out at a cafe in Dubai. Many cafes are open till 4am or through the night.

In the neighbourhood where I live, it is not uncommon to see women coming back home from work really late, mixed or even all men’s groups sitting around and chatting in the cafés late in the night. Nobody will give you a second look, nobody will try to follow you, make passes at you, hassle you with lewd comments.

In India we are always looking over our shoulders, something we hardly have to do here. So when something happens in Dubai it always comes as a shock.

Does this mean crime against women does not exist in Dubai?

Not at all. With 120 nationalities living together in a metropolis it is inevitable crime will exist and one gets to read about sexual crimes against women in the newspapers often. Dubai is also fighting human trafficking and domestic violence is also one of the issues here. But one has to admit that the rate of crime is much lower in Dubai compared to other cities.

Teenage girls move around the city comfortably

Teenage girls move around the city comfortably

Women are as comfortable in western clothes as they are in traditional ethnic wear

Women are as comfortable in western clothes as they are in traditional ethnic wear

Moving around the city late in the night is not an issue at all

Moving around the city late in the night is not an issue at all

Then how is Dubai safe?

For me it is safe because every time I step out of my home I don’t have be constantly on my guard. I come from Kolkata where I am used to being groped, commented and stared at all the time. That way Dubai comes as a breath of fresh air for me. I can be myself, wear whatever clothes I want, not worry about attracting too much attention in my short skirt, go for after-dinner-walks at 11pm with my son and travel comfortably in public transport. And also, the same Indians who misbehave back home are civil here.

Police has a major role to play

The police here provides an amazing safety net for women by efficiently patrolling the city 24×7. Be sure to spot a Dubai Police patrol wherever you go. If a woman dials 999 for help they will be there in two minutes. And most importantly the Dubai police force command respect and fear among the people for their commitment. Unlike in India, where bribes can settle matters with the police, that is unthinkable here.

Another thing that keeps women in Dubai safe is the inevitability of punishment. There is no escaping that. A British woman was raped and kidnapped by three men last July. They were eventually caught and in eight months the verdict was out and they are now in jail. Justice is delivered quickly and efficiently.

Read her story here:

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/call-me-a-survivor-says-gang-raped-woman-in-dubai-1.1155077

Recently an intoxicated Pakistani bus driver tried to rape an American lady tourist in an empty bus only to be beaten up by her. She escaped from the bus and reported the incident to the police. The man has been arrested and the court proceedings have already started. I will not be surprised if the case is settled quickly. Read about it here:

http://gulfnews.com/about-gulf-news/al-nisr-portfolio/xpress/female-sailor-escapes-rape-during-dubai-visit-1.1175039

In this regard I would like to share an incident that put my friend in a tricky situation. This happened a few years back when she had just moved to Dubai alone. She and another friend were returning home late from a party when some men in a four-wheel started tailing them. They drove around town trying to shake them off but to no avail. Then after much deliberation they called the police. The officer on patrol duty immediately came to their rescue, did not ask them why they were out so late, escorted them home and needless to say, nabbed the men immediately.

Dubai Police patrolling the city

Dubai Police patrolling the city

My friends with teenage daughters growing up here say that they are less worried about them when they go out for their tuitions or to meet friends than they would have been had they been in India.

That day a friend asked, “What is it you will miss about Dubai when you move back to Kolkata?”

My instant reply was, “I will miss venturing out of my home, even at unearthly hours, without a care in the world.”

When I move back to Kolkata I guess I will have to sharpen my claws all over again.

(Photographs: Amrita Mukherjee)

10 things that have changed for the Indian woman.

 

Bindi

I started blogging on International Women’s Day last year and much has changed for the Indian woman since then. Some changes have been good and some bad. I list 10 of them.

1.    Violence against women has finally been acknowledged

For ages, rape, dowry deaths, domestic abuse were treated as isolated incidents that just happen sporadically in certain communities and to certain people. After the Delhi rape case it has been finally acknowledged by the Indian government that each and every woman out there risks being abused any time and something needs to be done about it. This awakening is a positive one.

2.    Helplines and apps

Special helplines and apps have come up for women which they can use in times of need. At least there is an effort to ensure safety for women. Something that was non-existent before.

3.    Women have found a united voice

For the first time in recent history so many women came together to fight against abuse. Women came out on the roads in Delhi and braved the December cold for days to protest against violence against women. The protests quickly spread to different parts of India giving all those sufferers a united voice. This has been followed up by the 1 Billion Rising movement that is expected to bring change for women the world over.

4.     Men are supporting the movement

Be it through Facebook, through blogs, through physical presence at protest marches men have also lent their voice and support. This has strengthened the women’s movement. I remember just after the Delhi rape case a policewoman on her way to work was being heckled on a Delhi public bus. Some men came to her rescue and took the culprit to the police station. This is indeed positive change.

5.    Police has been forced to register cases

After the furore caused by the Delhi rape case, no police station is likely to ever dare not register a complaint. I was reading that day a seven-year-old girl, living in a slum, was molested by her 17-year-old uncle. Her mother complained to the police and he was arrested. Earlier the mother would have definitely found it difficult to register her complaint considering her social status and nature of the complaint.

6.    Rape has become a hot topic of discussion

I was in Kolkata last month and an elderly uncle said, “These days there is so much talk about this ‘rape shape’.” (Aajkal ei rape shape niye khub lafalafi hocchey.) Rape was an issue that people rarely discussed in drawing room conversations. Now any such conversation is incomplete without it. But in this discussion there are usually people who are truly concerned and there are also people who think unnecessarily too much importance is being given to the issue and there are also people to whom this is another amusing topic apart from Bollywood and Indian politics.  Also I have noticed people of all age groups are comfortably discussing rape, something unimaginable in our Indian culture only a couple of years back.

7.    More rape cases are being reported

Either there is an increase in the number of rapes committed or now more cases are being registered and reported. But in the last three months, sadly, there are more reported cases of rape on minor girls (one as young as three years) than I have ever heard of in recent times. This makes me think that is so much talk about rape and no consequent punishment and safety network egging some people to explore the violent crime even more? Most of the minors have been raped or molested by people they know. This is a dangerous development.

8.    There is more fear among women

I was talking to a friend of mine in Kolkata and she said that after the Delhi case women feel more fear. “Whenever I take a cab I feel scared if there is a helper with him. If he suggests an alternative route or wants to take the less populated EM bypass I start panicking thinking he has some other plans. And then if I am not home at a decent time my mother starts panicking and keeps calling me to check if I am safe.” Many women are asked by their parents, guardians and husbands to get home early to avoid any “uncalled for situation”. A friend in Delhi said, “Women’s safety was always an issue here and I worried and fretted if my wife got late. But what has happened now is that the thought of rape is constantly at the top of our minds. What if… it’s a scary thought.”

9.    Indian women are perceived as the most abused by the international media

Never imagined Wall Street Journal would be interested in a small town in West Bengal called Barasat. But now they are. They have even written about how women wear long nails and pink nail polish not for beautification but to fight their abusers.

Check the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324616604578302620513689386.html

What they have written in the article is true but what is most interesting is the recent focus of the international media on violence against women in India. All top foreign media like The Washington Post, New York Times and The Guardian have been writing about women’s issues in India. That’s fine. But most often the tone is like India is the worst place for women. That’s unfair. If you look up statistics in Wikipedia you will see rape is probably more rampant in the US and UK than in India.  Following is an example from Wikipedia.

According to a news report on BBC One presented in November 2007, there were 85,000 women raped in the UK in the previous year, equating to about 230 cases every day. The 2006-07 British Crime Survey reports that 1 in every 200 women suffered from rape in that period. It also showed that only 800 people were convicted of rape crimes that same year, meaning that less than 1 in every 100 rape survivors were able to convict their attacker. According to a study in 2009 by the NSPCC  250,000 teenage girls are suffering from abuse at any one time.

10. Marital rape is officially not a sexual offence in India

Although women’s organizations have criticized the decision to not make marital rape a punishable offence in India I look at it this way that there are laws for dealing with domestic violence in India. Section 498A gives a woman the power to put her husband and in-laws behind the bar first and then proceed with the case. If marital rape is considered a part of domestic violence there is already a punishment in place.

 

The Guwahati incident

The Guwahati incident

Chances are you didn’t know. And even if you did you just browsed through it on the net or read it in the morning paper and moved on to TV to keep yourself abreast about what was happening after the rape of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi.

On December 7, 11 of the accused of the Guwahati molestation case have been given two years of jail term while four, including the journalist who covered the event, have been acquitted. For more details go to: http://blog.tehelka.com/guwahati-molestation-case-verdict-pricks-many-uncomfortable-questions/

But as Tehelka journo RATNADIP CHOUDHURYwrites : While the incident evoked a sharp response, it seems nobody cared about the judgment. No women rights groups were present in the court premises; there was hardly any reaction on the judgment from civil society who were up in arms to fight for proper justice for the victim. The fact that they did not bother to express their ‘happiness’ or ‘anguish’ over the judgment, makes it clear that public outcry is only immediate. The ‘national’ TV news channels only aired the judgment in ‘brief’ since it is no more the “TRP driver.”  Once again an issue from the Northeast faded out of the mainstream media mind space ‘too soon’, the disease long harped upon.

This goes on to prove that we are a flippant nation. As we observe Black Saturday today I raise a few questions:

Why are we so flippant?

India has a short public memory so it is easy to get away with anything and everything here. While it feels good that India has finally woken up to the issues surrounding women and people of all age groups and all classes have taken to the streets to join in protests not only in Delhi but all over India but the question is how long will the protests last and will there be any positive outcome?

First and foremost parents will tell their wards, “Beta don’t get involved in all this. You are safe why do you care for others? Tell what you have to say on Facebook you don’t have to venture out.” And as NDTV will move on to some new TRP-raking programme we will move with them too.

It’s a shame how the outrage we felt at the Guwahati incident fizzled out. Really, how many of us now care if two years is enough for the culprits or have we questioned why such criminals have been allowed to roam the streets on bail? And the girl, does anyone care about how she is and if she is okay? I just hope and pray the Delhi incident doesn’t die such a death.

Why are we so cowardly?

While we spring to social media with our instant reactions do we do the same when we are out on the streets?  How many of us can say that we have stood by a woman when she was being eve teased or molested? We talk, we write but when it comes to the real scenario we say, “Gosh! That’s none of my business why should I get involved?”  If the perpetrators of crimes against women knew that the public would be on the woman’s side if she raised her voice they would have thought twice before making a single move.

Let’s take it that the nation has woken up post-Delhi rape case then if I had been a journalist on the ground in India now the story that I would have done is by asking women taking public transport: Are more men coming to help when you raise a voice of protest inside a public bus or train?

A girl protesting in Delhi

A girl protesting in Delhi

Why are we so gullible?

It’s so easy to fool us. Really, believe me. The Government tried to prove that they were taking the girl out to Singapore on a six-hour flight for better treatment and we all thought they are trying to do their best. But not a single reporter asked a politician/doctor/government employee what exact treatment did they intend to give her there? Given MT Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore is the best in organ transplant but you can do a transplant on someone when that person is in a relatively stable state of health. Can you do it on a woman with her insides completely affected in septicemia? My layman’s brain says it’s not possible wonder what the docs have to say. The idea was to ensure Safdarjung Hospital docs couldn’t be blamed for her death. The poor girl has been yet another pawn in a political game.

By the way, there are 20 ministers in India with rape cases pending against them. Who are we kidding? We are pushing for capital punishment with this government?

There can only be rule of fear

Intellectuals are constantly talking about sensitization and changing of the mindset in India. It is possible but it is a long-drawn affair and can happen after 100 years. Definitely!!  What’s the immediate solution? I would say FEAR. Someone said on social media: If they sent the girl to Singapore for better treatment they should send the criminals to Saudi Arabia for better punishment.

The same Indians who pass lewd comments at women in their home country and don’t think twice before raping or molesting them don’t dare to look them in the eye in countries like Saudi Arabia or even in the UAE. Why? Because they are shit scared of the law and the police. They know one single complaint from a woman could land them in jail and end with deportation.

Capital punishment or no capital punishment there has to be fear of inevitable punishment then only women in India will be safer.

Now that the numbers are out – the National Crime Records have shown that in West Bengal there have been a staggering 29,133 reported incidents in 2011 accounting for 12.7 per cent of the total crime against women in India – media, political parties and governments are sitting up and taking notice of a malaise that every woman has to live with in West Bengal.

While our government, ironically headed by a woman, continues to live in blissful denial of the atrocious condition of women in our state, the kind of response my post on March 2011 headlined You are lucky if you have not been sexually harassed in Kolkata, https://amritaspeaks.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/you-are-lucky-if-you-have-not-been-sexually-harassed-in-kolkata/

had got, go on to reinforce the fact that harassment of women is an issue that touches each and everyone’s life.

I would say this escalation of violence and sexual abuse is not a sudden phenomenon, it has been a process taking place over a period of time.

I believe West Bengal is leading India in crimes against women because…

We are living in denial

While West Bengal’s State Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee has summed up the general attitude in his classic comment, “There is a national propaganda to show our government in bad light and hence all these figures are now being brought into the media,” he should check out this article published in the Times Of India in December 2006, when National Crime Records showed that West Bengal held second place in domestic violence, next only to Andhra Pradesh. (By the way we were governed by the Left then.)

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/calcutta-times/If-you-prick-us-do-we-not-bleed/articleshow/793369.cms

The statistics show in 2001, there were 265 reported cases of dowry deaths and 3,859 cases of domestic violence. In 2005, there were 446 dowry deaths recording an increase of 68 per cent and 6,936 cases of domestic violence, recording an increase of 80 per cent.

A problem can be addressed if a person is ready to accept there is a problem. If there is denial in the first place the question of a solution does not arise. I think the minister has already forgotten (in true politician style) the Park Street rape case, the Katwa train rape case and the molestation of a girl on Free School Street, which happened recently in the span of a few months.

Sexual abuse is a great way of showing power

After being humiliated by a boss at work many men like to get back their dignity by beating up their wives at home. I think groping a woman on a public transport is less about sexual gratification and more about getting satisfaction out of the embarrassment caused to a woman. This zeroes down to power play once again – that a man has the power to embarrass a woman. Gross, but it’s the truth.

As frustration among men rise because of the narrowing avenues of employment, escalating prices and reference group syndrome meaning that only a certain category of men having all the purchasing power, abusing women is a great way of keeping their slipping egos in place. That’s why in West Bengal women are abused by all kinds of men they interact with. Starting from the husband at home which leads to domestic violence, from the boss and colleagues which leads to harassment in the workplace, harassment in public transports and public places and last but not the least – political harassment, when a woman becomes the target of political parties trying to prove a point. A case in point would be the Nandigram rape case which became a complete political drama.

Chivalry is dying

Only a decade back if a woman had been harassed by a man all she needed to do was raise her voice and there would be a pack of men coming to her rescue. The dialogue would inevitably start with, “Didi apni jan. Amra dekhe nicchi. Ki byapar dada, ki hocchey?”  (Didi you go we will handle this. So dada what are you up to?).

I wonder where those men have gone now. Instead we have a pack of wolves waiting for a chance to pounce. They readily side with the perpetrator and keep questioning the woman’s dignity. In this regard I will mention two incidents. One was shared by my ex-colleague Moumita De Das on my blog.

Moumita wrote: “but i wud never forget  the day before dhanonjoy (hetal parekh rape n murder case) was about  to be hanged to death on 15TH August, 2004…the time was 10pm santoshpur mini bus…i boarded the bus from exide crossing as i was returning from my office (hindustan times). A drunk guy was too uncomfortably close…just then when i reacted… the entire menfolk were suddenly united and abusing me verbally… all were supporting dhanonjoy’s actions criticising our legal system for his verdict and so on and so forth…i felt as if i had been verbally gangraped….that day i sensed that dhanonjoy’s humiliation was affected personally all kolkata’s bhadralok and i realised MEN ARE NOT BHADRALOK…”

The other incident happened with my late brother Anirban Mukherjee. He was returning from work in a mini bus when a woman slapped a man because he was harassing her. All the men in the bus egged the man to slap her back. My brother was the only one to stand up for her and brought the situation under control.

I know there are a lot of men like my brother who have come to our rescue so many times. Wonder why they have become a vanishing lot these days.

Law keeps its eyes widely shut

It is the fear of law that keeps all kinds of criminals in check. But when it comes to crimes against women most often the criminals go scot-free or the trial becomes such a long-drawn affair that the crime itself is forgotten. If a criminal gets to know that he can get away with his crime, and quite easily too, why won’t he do it again?

And now I won’t be surprised if after all this brouhaha about the National Crime Records statistics there is an even bigger leap in the crimes against women. The perpetrators can have a free run because they are now sure they can get away with it. All the more thanks to ministers like Partha Chatterjee.

(What is your opinion about crimes against women in West Bengal? Please click the dialogue box on the right side of the headline and leave your comment. I would like to include your opinion in my next post.)