Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Belonging by Sameem Ali


I finished reading two books in just two days. I made a review for "Daughters of Shame" written by Jasvinder Sanghera in my previous post and this one is for Belonging by Sameem Ali. 

Daughters of Shame and Belonging are two books about #forcedmarriages and coincidentally, these two books were written by Asian women whose parents hail from Pakistan and India. Jasvinder and Sameem's parents migrated to the Great Britain where the ladies were born. 

when I put down Jasvinder's book, I went to my shelf and picked this book up. As I started reading I realized that the story is somewhat similar and it took place also in Britain. Then I knew that forced marriages and honour killings are REAL and these horrible crimes are still happening today. I like the way the story is narrated in "Belonging". It is very engaging and believable. Sameem grew up in a children's home when she was young where life as a kid was beautiful for her and the rest of the kids. When she turned 7, her parents came to take her home and that's where the not-so-nice life started. 

She was basically treated like a slave, forced to do all the housework, forced to marry someone in Pakistan (one of her uncles had unsettled debts and to settle it off, Sameem was forced to marry one of his sons). She never knew what marriage, sex and pregnancy were at the age of thirteen but she was pregnant and had a child at the age of 14. 

Sameem was mistreated by her own family and it is really sad to know that the society still thinks that girls should not get proper sexual education. She never knew that women will go through menstruation and she was not even explained about it after attaining puberty. The society is cruel towards women as we are not even allowed to explore our own bodies and the way they work. We are not supposed to fully mature sexually because knowing what's happening to our bodies would educate us on how to protect ourselves and that would mean less control for men on women. What a shame!

This is an excerpt from the book that makes my stomach churn!

" Mother decided that she could fix the stutter by cutting the skin under my tongue, which she told me was pulling my tongue down in the wrong way. She shouted angrily at Hanif to help her, and the two of them laid me down on the kitchen floor, and told me to open my mouth. I was confused but did as I was told. In Mother's hand was a razor blade, the kind found in an old-fashioned razor. I stared at in horror. "

We have seen gradual improvements on racism, gay-lesbian rights, and many other issues plaguing our society but it's sad to know that we are still battling the war against sexism in 2014. It's sad to see Emma Watson being threatened online by some jerk who thinks he could leak her nude photos and humiliate her.

It's not just the UN ambassador's responsibilities to fight for justice. Let's spread awareness and make this place a better place for women and men. If we continue to portray men as rude, dominating and evil, when are we going to see the gentlemen around? 

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Daughters of Shame: A Review

Daughters of Shame
If you have never read any books written by human’s rights advocate, you should add this book to your TBR list!
I have read the first book written by this author (Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera) and I must say that domestic violence and child marriage are REAL and the pain can be very tormenting even when the victims are no longer abused.
In her first book, she wrote about her childhood and how she managed to escape the forced marriage. I’ve learnt about the Asian community living in the UK through this book and how the girls face similar issues at home.
In this book, she had shared some of the women’s stories whom she is helping through the community-based organization in the U.K by the name of Karma Nirvana. Jasvinder is the founder of this community and she voices out for the victims of honour-based crimes in the U.K.
It is absolutely saddening to see so many women and men who have fallen victims to one of the most atrocious form of crime among the Asian community. Girls as young as twelve are sent back to their parents’ country (which is usually India and Pakistan) where they are forced to marry men twice their age. These girls were often abused and tortured; treated like slaves and their children suffer the consequences of not having educated parents to care for them.
Girls who go against their parents’ wish were often killed by their own families in the name of honour!
I applaud the work being done by Karma Nirvana and Jasvinder Sanghera as the U.K. has enforced the Forced Marriage Act to protect underage children and adults from forced marriages and honour-based crimes.

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Friday, 8 August 2014

I Have A Dream And I Want To Live It


You and I, we all have dreams. We all want to live the life according to our own ways. We refuse to have our rights ripped off right in front of our very own eyes. We all want our freedom. We want the need to be respected for who we are and the choices we make. What happens when someone tries to snatch these needs away from us? We'd definitely refuse to budge and fight back to retain our dreams. 

Unfortunately, the world is made of some people who think that they don't just own the rights to decide their own lives, but also the lives of others. This young lady's dream was shattered by a man who thought he owns the right to decide how a girl's life should be. This incident happened in New Dehli; one of the largest cities in India. 

Acid Attack Fighter Laxmi
Acid Attack Fighter Laxmi

This is Laxmi, the Acid Attack Fighter, and this is her story. (quoted from her Facebook page)

My name is Laxmi. Read my story. I'm one of you. In fact, I am like you. I was young and beautiful and I had a dream. Even when I was studying in a Delhi school in Class VII, I would spend hours singing. I'd recorded my songs and sent them to talent hunt competitions. I was waiting for a call from 'Indian Idol'.
I'm from a poor family. My father worked as a chef in a South Delhi home. I became friends with another girl in the neighbourhood and her brother soon started proposing to me. I was only 15 and he, 32 years old. On April 18, he messaged me: "I love you.'' I ignored it, but the next day he messaged again: "I want an instant reply.'' Again I didn't respond.
I kept screaming for help but no one stepped forth. Everyone ran in the opposite direction. I could feel my flesh burning and I covered my eyes with my arms. That reflex action saved me from losing my vision.
Acid corrodes quickly. Within a few seconds, I had lost my face, my ear had melted and both my arms were charred black. A politician's driver took me to a hospital, where I was to stay for the next 10 weeks.
I saw myself in the mirror at the end of 10 weeks and couldn't believe what the acid had done to me. The doctors had to remove the entire skin from my face and keep it bandaged. I've already had seven surgeries and need at least four more before I can go in for plastic surgery, provided I can afford it.
I learnt to live with the physical pain but what hurt more was the way the society reacted. My own relatives stopped seeing me, as did my friends. I stayed indoors for eight years and ventured out only in a ghungat.
My main attacker was out on bail within a month and he soon got married. He returned to a normal life within a month, but what about me? Nobody even wants to be my friend; how can I even hope that I'll have a lover or a husband?
I tried to pick up a job but nobody was willing to hire me. Some said: "People will get scared if they see you." Others said they will call back but, of course, the phone never rang. I tried BPOs, banks and beauty parlours but all I got was rejection. Nobody wants to hire acid victims because of the way they look.
But I ask you, is it our fault? Society accepts those born blind or those who are physically challenged. Why are we shunned? If you ask me, we are worse off than rape victims because with our faces burnt, we seem to have lost our identity.
I still sing. I love music. I love partying. I love nail polish. I design and tailor my own clothes. I have desires like you do, but I seem to scare off people.
The only support I got was from my parents, my doctor, my lawyer Aparna Bhatt and from the couple at whose house my father worked. They paid for my surgeries and are still in touch with me.
Even while my parents were coping with the attack, my brother came down with tuberculosis and my father died. I was shattered for the second time.
In the instant that my father died, I had to carry the burden of being the bread earner for the family. My mother has to constantly be by my brother's side and feels really upset that she cannot spend time with me.
I gathered myself together and pursued my case in court. My lawyer had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, asking for a ban on the sale of acid.
Slowly, I started getting in touch with other victims, most of who are blinded or have lost their hearing. Each one of us is poor and cannot afford multiple surgeries.
You can't bear to look at us but we don't have the money to buy ourselves new faces. My friends - yes, I've made new friends and they are all acid victims - are mostly blind.
You stare at us and gather your children in a hurry, hoping they haven't got scared just looking at us. Why don't you tie a band around your eyes and see how dark it gets.
That's how dark our world is.
I hope you never have to inhabit it, but I do hope you understand it. Don't give me the strength if you can't, but don't try and break my confidence. I've just learnt to move on.
I started an online petition and was happy when 27,000 people signed it. I went to the home ministry to submit it to Sushil Kumar Shinde. We waited for three hours but he didn't have even five minutes for us. I had to finally ambush his car to hand over the petition.
Nahim Khan, the man who had attacked me with acid, had to go back to jail after the court awarded him a seven-year sentence. He will be free in two years and continue with life. But my scars will remain forever..
My legal fight will continue. The Supreme Court has ordered states to pay Rs. 3 lakh as compensation, but what about our medical costs - some of us need to undergo 30-40 surgeries? What about jobs? How about sensitising the police force and trials in fast-track courts?
Even countries like Bangladesh have implemented stringent laws to deal with acid crimes but India has resisted it for so long. So many could have been saved. I need your help. We need the government to compensate us too. What about so many of us who are still suffering. Should the law not be with retrospective effect?
I have a dream and I want to live it.
   
Today, Laxmi continues to fight for women's rights and campaigns against Acid Attacks in India where the poor regulations of acid sales contribute to rising number of acid attacks. Laxmi was one of the recipients of the International Women of Courage 2014 award. 




Being a female in a male-dominated society has made survival harder. When something goes wrong to the girl, the society talks about her appearance, her behaviour, her dressing sense and everything else she does but nobody investigates on the actual cause of the incident. What women can do to protect herself is actually very limited when the she has no control over how the others (men) behave at large. We are taught to uphold modesty at all times but what's the point of women minding their behavior alone when members of the opposite sex remain assholes all the time? 

Domestic violence takes place at every corner of the world, in different forms. Probably the differences in cultures across the world result in the variations of social issues we all encounter today. But what's certain is the fact that we all understand what is it is like to have our rights violated, despite the cultural and language barriers. Watch this explanatory video.


I too, have a dream To make a change in the society we are all living in today. I do know that there are numerous challenges to face in order to be who I really am. It's my dream and I want to live it. What's yours?

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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Apparently Brazil Got Raped Last Night !


I wish I could blog as many times I want in a day! That happens if only I could kick all other work aside. I come across at least one news in the headlines of a local newspaper or on my Social Media news feed that would certainly piss me off and makes me wonder if the battle against sexism ever works. 

So, last night's (depending on where you are) match saw Brazil as the host of the FIFA World Cup 2014 ending their journey in the world's most prestigious football match. Yes, it was a bad loss. They were defeated by Germany by a score of 7-1. It's was a joyful moment for the entire fan club of Germany and they took this victory as an opportunity to humiliate Brazil widely on social media. 

Just google out this hashtag #brazilraped and you will find out how many idiotic fans are actually celebrating the defeated opponent by coining the term 'raped' to humiliate them. Are rape victims supposed to be humiliated? Is rape even a reason for celebration?

I urge you to check out the posts about the match happened less than 12 hours ago on your social media stream to see if you have any sexist friends. I spot a couple of them and I also had a Facebook page moderator criticizing this act of complete stupidity. 

You would be surprised to know that people actually welcome this lame joke and think that it is okay to post such thing online when in reality we are actually supporting the idea of shaming victims of sexual violence.  


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Monday, 5 May 2014

'Breast Ironing' In Cameroon To Avoid Rape and Delay Puberty

Mothers ‘iron’ daughters breasts to delay puberty and prevent rape
We all know that every society deals with its own issues of discrimination against women. We have societies dealing with rape in night clubs, child bride issues, the 'dowry' or 'wedding gift' custom, birth control and abortions. But in Cameroon, little girls go through hell in the name 'protection' by their very own mothers.

Rape and child pregnancies are very common in Cameroon and mothers over there decide to iron their girls' breasts to delay puberty and prevent rape. So, flat breast don't attract men! Meh! It is a new tradition due to sexual violence in Cameroon where girls will be forced to get their breasts ironed as early as 11. They would simply grab any objects, heat them up and press it on the girls' breasts. These girls cry so hard but all their mothers say is that it is for their 'own good'. Good? So, has the rape cases drop over the years? 

What happens to these girls as they grow up is horrifying as they develop diseases due to this practice. Some have cysts, some have infections and some have their breast looking extremely bad and non-symmetrical. The psychological disorder these girls develop is even worse. They grow up to feel bad about their appearance and the trauma remains in their heart, forever!

There a now a group of women activist with more than 10,000 members are now fighting for the younger generation and the campaign is showing positive results as the percentage of women affected by this practice has dropped to 12 from 25% in 2006.





It is obvious that we all should stay united in fighting for the rights of women and any form of injustice. Are you girls aware of what's going on around the world? Do they know how to protect themselves from men who sweet-talk? Do you teach them to become women who knows their worth? 

Do your part today. Let's do not let another generation of women to define their worth based on their looks or approval from men. 


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Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Rise Of Plus Size Models

The Rise of Plus Size Models Is A Good Sign For Women
A few weeks back I came across a blog post from one of the modelling companies about plus size models. It was recruiting plus size models back then and I got the chance to learn more about ''plus size models''. The term was a whole new idea to me. I have never heard of a modelling company looking for women who are big.

Plus-size model is a term applied to a person who is engaged primarily in modeling plus-size clothing. They also engage in advertising photography for cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. The rise of the plus size models is a good sign of change in the way the society thinks and embraces people in general. 

The society in the previous years has defined beauty in a crude way. A woman has to be as thin as possible to be even 'considered' beautiful. We teach kids to think that way and they end up being so conscious about their weight instead of focusing on their health. Where do you think illnesses like bulimia and anorexia came from? The society puts pressure on young girls with their definition of beauty. We have been giving so much emphasis on people's physical appearance. We are so quick to judge someone by thinking that people who are obese just do not care about their health. 

In reality, your weight and health have very little to do with each other. You can be big and still healthier than a skinny person. You can also be big and unfit. Your health depends on your life style and it doesn't depend on your size. 

I'm happy to see little progress in the society we are living in right now and I think we are outliving the generation that has a very shallow understanding of beauty. With the rise of plus size models, we will have more women accepting themselves for who they are. The qualities one should have to become a model have been revamped and the definition of beauty is now not just entitled to extremely thin models who look 'unhealthy' most of the time but also to women with real curves and realistic bodies that come in all sizes. 

Over the time, the confidence level and how good a person is will be the new yardstick to measure the real beauty! We are progressively redefining beauty and we can be certain of that !

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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Feminist Rating On Movies?

Image from http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02725/potter_2725991b.jpg

This might be an old news for some of you. I think this rating was introduced in Sweden somewhere in the month of November last year. This new rating for movies based on the level of gender bias was introduced in the cinemas as an effort to encourage more female characters and stories emphasizing women. 

The rating is carried out using the Bechdel test and for a movie to get an "A" rating, it should have at least two women characters talking to each other about any topics or issues other than men. I have read a few articles on feminist rating to get a clearer idea on how this rating system is being implemented and I only manage to get one clue and that is for the movie to get an "A" rating, it must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.

Taking this new rating system into consideration, many box office movies fail this test and that's including the Harry Porter films. If you have a look at the comments on articles on this news, you will be able to see many, MANY men who disagree with this rating system as they feel that this is just another bullshit from the feminism movement, thus calling feminists feminazis! 

I think the purpose of this system is good but the mechanism to implement it has flaws. It has a very vague guideline and will not assure the elimination of sexual violence at any cost simply by ensuring movies having more than two female characters discussing about anything other than men. The aim of this new rating system is simply to promote gender equality among the society and I believe it has to start from the media which is a great influence on people. I do agree that movies traditionally do not emphasize on female roles and if you look at movies from the East or Bollywood productions, female characters are not given importance most of the time. Although there are some very good movies based on women, they do not get to be in the spotlight. 

The main issue about our movies and the media is that the film and advertising industries have been bias and the public has been getting wrong perceptions about gender equality all these while! Take a look at this advertisement below. 


I applaud the effort taken by Sweden to handle the way media portrays women in the eye of public. But, it could have revised the way the system works to ensure better results without compromising the quality of movies being produced. I hope it doesn't kill good movies with unnecessary bad ratings.

While reading some comments from readers about Sweden, I got to know that men are not allowed pee while standing in Sweden's country council's public restrooms. I guess we should always look at the bigger picture. As long as they know how to aim, it doesn't matter how they pee. What do you say?

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