The Missing Girls

I don’t know which is the organisation behind this ad really, but someone sent it to me today, and I thought it was worth sharing. (As a sort of grim visual accompaniment to this earlier piece).

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The women-friendly IT industry

I recently stumbled upon Krish Ashok’s blog, and wondered how I could possibly have missed it all this while. In yet another super-entertaining and food-for-thought post, he looks at the dismal state of women in the IT industry, supposedly a highly gender-neutral one. Not having worked in anything remotely tech related myself, and with very few friends from that line, I don’t have any insider info. But yes, it is common knowledge that the (in many cases needless) late-working culture of the industry does impact women much more than it does men. Relatively few women can manage past the age of 30, once claims of marriage and children set in.

Krish Ashok’s post brings in many other aspects of the working culture in this supposedly women-friendly industry. Go read, and tear your hair out on whether to laugh yourself silly over his hilariously worded post, or despair at the state of things!

Women and Religion

Readers must have been following the case of the Saudi rape victim who was, in a perversion of justice, sentenced to 200 lashes for being in a car with a man not related to her, when the rape occurred. She was sentenced to 200 lashes? Yes, you heard that right. Since Saudi law prohibits women (and men) from interacting with unrelated members of the opposite sex, she was considered a law breaker herself, not a victim, and sentenced to 90 lashes. Which was then, increased to 200 as a punishment for publicising it in the media.

Now it appears that King Abdullah, the current Saudi ruler, has pardoned the woman, while strenuously maintaining that the justice meted out was not unfair. Its just his prerogative you see, to pardon people, it doesn’t really mean anything.

I believe that almost all religions (or the customs through which they get defined) are oppressive to women. But where the state actively colludes to enforce this oppression, there is little hope except in the form of such knee jerk reactions.

Do we still need to talk about Feminism?

Tamizh readers who pop over to Lakshmi’s blog, Malarvanam will find themselves moved by this piece titled Do we still need to talk about Feminism? I was certainly much troubled by this piece which focuses on the dark side, and indeed shame, of the state of Tamil Nadu – female infanticide. Since the majority of readers, I assume, cannot read Tamizh, I will mention here in translation, some of the issues she has spoken about so eloquently.

Female infanticide has for been long prevalent in Tamil Nadu (TN), especially in some districts, for various cultural reasons. The most significant one ofcourse being that girls are required to carry a hefty dowry with them when they get married, a dowry so heavy indeed, that it can break the backs of most working class and middle class parents. In this situation, families try to put away the cause of trouble as soon as she is born. Coupled with the traditional belief that a boy is needed to light the funeral pyre to send one’s soul on its way, and the feeling that boys will take care of one in old age, girls have very little chance indeed.

Lakshmi’s piece starts with the case of one Ravi, from Dharmapuri district, who already has a male child, yet, when his third child turns out to be a girl, kills her and justifies it in this manner, “I already need to repay a lot of loans. In this situation, I thought how would I bring up this girl too, so I killed her.” Further, the magazine Junior Vigatan that she picks up this story from also has an interview with an organisation called Podhigai, working on the ground to combat this heinious practice. Lata, one of the leaders at Podhigai confirms that the practice is really far from over, and that there are many cases that do not come into the public eye.

Lakshmi also quotes the Social Welfare Officer of the Dharmapuri district, Sailakshmi, who mentions that “…The situation has improved. This is the first such incident since I have taken charge. Otherwise, in most cases, if there is a girl child born, they will drop it off in the Cradle Babies Scheme…”

The Cradle Baby scheme was a well meaning scheme started up by the TN government many years ago, when the issue of female infanticide was brought to light. While the scheme has had its successes, and atleast it prevents some girls from being killed who otherwise would have been, it is not a solution for infanticide itself. As Lakshmi says, “They avoid the sin of killing their infants, and instead, leave them with the cradle baby scheme – as orphans.”

Lakshmi left me much disturbed. While I have heard often before of the female infanticide happening in parts of TN, I was somehow under the impression that the practice is dying down. On the other hand, it seems like a very slow road indeed. Nowhere are we close to a situation where girls are genuinely viewed as equals and as assets to the family. Instead, people move into more and more devious ways of maintaining their prejudices. Can’t kill them? The police have become too watchful? Ok, never mind, lets abandon them. Even easier, kill them while they are in the womb itself. While Indian laws allow the freedom of abortion without any other conditions – they do have one condition keeping in mind the gender prejudices of Indian society. Sex determination is infact outlawed for this reason – that gender does not become a criterion for abortion. In practice, many unscrupulous doctors have no hesitation in performing this test and telling parents what sex the child is – so that they can decide, whether it can be ‘allowed’ to live.

Makes you want to throw up, doesn’t it? But what can we do about it? I felt close to tears when I read Lakshmi’s powerfully written piece, hard to reproduce here. While many organisations are working to combat these, this is not about girls alone. Unless we have enough Indian men who will stand up and say that they will not take any sort of dowry, girls are likely to continue being seen as a burden. (And no, dowry is not restricted to the uneducated poor, in case anyone has such notions). In a patriarchal society, unless both halves change, there is no hope of our girls seeing the light of day.

The Comeback Post, And Human Fodder for Advertising

For the last month or so, I have been in a true blue blogging funk. I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but strangely I just didn’t feel upto posting. Partly I think its because I started blogging initially as a fun activity and now, especially with wordpress, I feel I am getting too much into this circus – blog stats, views, ratings, technorati etc etc. Ofcourse I know I can choose not to, and a lot of the time, I feel I’m much less bothered about it than others I know. Still. Somewhere the original reason for blogging seemed to be moving away. Then, the weather here and the cold and cough it brings along, makes me feel disinclined to do anything more than the bare minimum.

Until. One of my favourite bloggers, Megha, piped in and rapped me smartly. (Well, blogically). “Ok, we are way past the ‘few days’. Come back now”. Thats what she says. Its about time I guess. I hope everyone else missed me too 🙂

Now, lets get started. Has anyone seen the latest Airtel corporate ad? Whats with ad folks? I don’t know how anything about the human condition can become fodder for advertising. Sure, ads are meant to relate to our lives and touch a chord. But is it really justifiable to use what looks like a refugee camp to wring out tears from your audience? For those who haven’t seen the ad, its about two boys on opposite sides of barbed wire, getting together to kick a ball. More tears are wrung out by one litte boy actually getting snagged under the wire for moments. The moment I saw this ad, I thought, what the hell, next will they be showing us two Abu Ghraib prisoners talking to each other? (Communicating, you know, which is what Airtel is all about).

I know the ad is somewhere meant to show the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and blah blah. But it somehow just doesn’t come out that way. The feel good phrase at the end doesn’t help – everything will be fine as long as we talk to each other. (Something on those lines). It just feels like some fairly big problems in the world are being belittled with this trite solution. What do you think?