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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Going Home~ Creating safe space is not a rocket science.

It is dark, and quiet,
She is alone,
She is young and beautiful,
Yet she is spontaneous and warm
Because she feels safe.
Doesn’t that feel good?
Whether you are a man or a woman,
to see a fellow human feel secure in your company?
Age, place, dress, time do not matter,
Secure and safe space is everyone’s right.
Can you give that space menfolk?
Yes, you can, and you must.
I know womenfolk will have that space one day,
And I know that day is not too far.

Creating safe space for women
Is not a rocket science.
Its not just possible,
but is very simple
Watch this:
A lovely short film by Vikas Bahl #GoingHome


Sometimes calamities unite us more

First published here:

The conscience-shaking brutal rape and subsequent
death of the anonymous student from Delhi is not India’s issue alone and the grief is not for one case alone
By Ilmana Fasih

As thousands of people on both sides of the India Pakistan border mourned the death of the Delhi gang rape victim, someone commented on Aman ki Asha Facebook group: “Well, the Delhi rape proceeds from a common mindset. The negatives unite us just as well as the positives.”
“Sometimes, calamities unite us more,” came a response.

The conscience-shaking brutal rape and subsequent death of the anonymous student from Delhi (who is referred to by different names by various sections of the media) has made us rethink how common our pains are.

Beyond this tragic incident, looking through the e-newspapers from the subcontinent, there is hardly a day without some incident of rape being reported.Be it the gruesome gang-rape of a medical student at a bus stop in a megacity, or a six-year-old girl raped by local goons in a village, or a girl raped while partying with friends in the posh area of another city, or a teenager gang-raped and then asked to patch up by accepting money or marrying one of the rapists in a town. Can you guess which side of the border each case belongs to? The scenarios differ, cities differ, but the crime remains the same. The mindset stays identical. Age is no bar. Infancy upwards, one finds women and children of all age groups being subjected to rape and sexual abuse.

Unfortunately this is one situation where the human race seems to have achieved a “no barriers of age, color, creed or class”, the world over.

Hard to digest, but rapes are on a steep rise in the subcontinent.

In 2011, 568 rape cases were reported in Delhi, and 459 in 2009 (National Crime Reports Bureau) .The figures given by Delhi Police reveal that a woman is raped every 18 hours or molested every 14 hours in the capital.

Similarly in Pakistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, estimates that “every two hours a woman is raped in Pakistan and every eight hours a woman is subjected to gang-rape”.

The Additional Police Surgeon, quoted in a 2008 newspaper report, estimated that at least 100 rapes are committed in Karachi alone every 24 hours, although most are un-reported.

If these are the statistics of two megacities, one can fathom what would be the situation in the other smaller towns and villages. It is well known that the majority of the rapes in India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries are never reported, and just a handful of the perpetrators are ever punished.
The tragedy is amplified when inane solutions are offered like: “Women should not go out late at night” or “Women going out late night should be accompanied by a male.” In the ‘Delhi gang rape’ case, the solution of an accompanying man clearly failed.

Women are advised not to wear western clothes, or more ridiculous “not to eat chow mein” or “not to carry mobile phones with cameras”. Some even advise women to not report the attack “if there are not enough witnesses”.

But none of this well-meaning advice takes into account why rapes occur. It is not because the woman was dressed so, or walked alone on the street late at night, or was attending a party with her friends or ate a certain kind of food. No. Rape occurs because some men want to rape. And why do ‘some’ men want to rape and not others? Rape is the culmination of a series of systematic experiences that a man is exposed to, from infancy to manhood- in which he is told, with or without so many words, that he is stronger, and a woman is not just weaker, but a commodity at his disposal. Rape is a way to display power and superiority.

So long as this mindset persists, legislation and punishment will never be enough of a deterrent. This tends to get overlooked in all the outrage at the gruesome details of the Delhi gang rape, that has led to demands for the severest of punishments, even public hanging for the perpetrators.
Without undermining that tragedy it is important to remind ourselves of the countless cases of rape and sexual harassment that are routine on both sides of the divide. Those who survive suffer psychological trauma, often far from the media limelight, mostly in silence.

Rape survivors are often pressured by the police or local goons to hush up the matter either, to accept money, or worse still, marry the rapist. Many commit suicide, or live with permanent scars. The rapists often roam scot free, posing a threat to the survivor who does not even dare to raise her head for justice.

Insisting on the death penalty in an isolated case that has shaken people cannot be a solution. Studies have shown that the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, is a greater deterrent to crime.

We also need to look towards at preventing this crime rather than just push for a punishment after a case gets highlighted.

Foremost, each of us, irrespective of gender, which empathises with the Delhi student who was gang-raped, or any other faceless rape victim, needs to strive to ensure every woman in our sphere of influence feels secure and gets due respect. One of the signs of evolution in human beings is the neo cortex which enables us to restrain behaviour and train our minds. We need to use it to ensure that we don’t force anything upon any woman – or indeed anyone in a more vulnerable position.

Secondly, we need to empower girls with the right information and stop making rape a taboo issue for their ‘innocent’ minds. It is more important to teach a girl to be assertive than to try and ‘protect’ her. “Look up as you walk and stand up straight; pretending as though you have two big panthers on either side of you as you walk may sound silly, but it can help boost confidence,” suggests a self help site on rape prevention. “Attackers are more likely to go for those who they think cannot defend themselves.”

Given that over 90% of the perpetrators are known to the victims, girls (and boys) must be taught that if they feel uncomfortable with anyone’s touch – even if it is an uncle, a cousin or a friend – they must trust their gut and not let it continue. Thirdly, if we cannot change the mindset of some grown men, we can at least guide our sons, right from babyhood, to respect women and not consider them a commodity that is ‘available’. Last but certainly not the least, for those who cannot change their mindsets, a real need for certainty and not the severity of punishment to the rapist, as a mode of deterrence, is mandatory.

Shocked after the demise of the Delhi paramedical student, I tweeted: “Her sacrifice must no go in vain. Let us rise to make violence against women a history.” Knowing the scale of the menace, this may be wishful thinking, but we need to keep striving to make it a reality.

The writer is an Indian gynaecologist married to a Pakistani, a proud Indian Pakistani dreaming of a peaceful, healthy and prosperous South Asia.

She tweets @zeemana

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A tribute to Delhi gang raped girl, inititially known as Amanat, Nirbhaya or Damini:

Goodbye Damini – A tribute to Nirbhaya

Mosaic Festival 2012: Day 3: Saving Face.

Happening adjacent to Square one, is also Mosaic Film Festival, with an impressive line up of select and Award winning films being screened, from all over the globe.

I had marked in my calendar, long before the festival began, to sneak out of my volunteer arena and watch one of the two Premiered movies in the current festival, Saving Face..

The Mosaic audience is fortunate to be the only Canadian audience to have been treated to a full 54 minute director’s version of Saving Face, instead of the usually running 25 minute short film.

My interest was not just its Academy Award (Oscar Award) crown, but also the issue it highlights, of acid burns in Pakistan, or to be fair in the rest of the subcontinent too.

The ease of availability of the strongest of acids, at no price, and the super speed with which it disfigures the life of the victim, both literally and metaphorically, makes it a handy tool in the hands of its ego-bruised perpetrators. As bluntly put by Dr Jawad,

Guns need a licence, but acid throwing needs none.”

The film revolves around the real stories of two unfortunate, yet courageous women, Zakia and Rukhsana, for whom the roles they performed were scripted ruthlessly by none other than their own husbands. Almost near psychopaths that these men  were, they did not even appear to have any remorse on their actions, in retrospect. Perhaps, had they been in possession of even a streak of humanity, they would not have resorted to this premeditated act.

On the other hand were the two courageous women, who despite of all their miseries, decided not just to live with their heads held high, but to carry on with their missions.

Zakia, after being severely disfigured, came out to get justice, and to fight for legislation against the perpetrators of acid burns. The severity of her burns, had made the reconstruction of her face impossible, as Dr Jawad stated the limitations of plastic surgery,

“After all we are not Gods”.

However where there is a will, there is a way.

Not only was the legislation passed on the punishment for acid throw, and she even saw her husband get two life imprisonments. The reward in return to her was a new lease of life through a  prosthesis, which gave her a new face, at least for the outside world.

On the other hand, like majority of helpless women and mothers, Rukhsana, after all the trauma, had chosen to patch up and return to her husband. However, her generous forgiveness was returned back with a brick wall being built between her and her children. Despite the series of misfortunes that destiny had offered her, she chose to continue on with her new pregnancy, and postpone her surgery until delivery. A hope to start a new life with a new baby, rekindled a new desire in her love to live.

I could not hold back tears, when Zakia walked out on the street, for the first time after years, with face revealed and saying, “There is hope in this life again.” Or when Rukhsana holding her new baby boy remarked: “I want him grow up to be a doctor like you, and not like his father.”

I salute them both, for being a true embodiment human resilience, in the face of worst of tortures, and still bouncing back to life with hope. It is this hope that has kept this world revolving for centuries.

Hats off to Dr Jawad,  Shairmeen Obeid Chinoy, Daniel Young and the entire team, for saving their own faces too, and for inspiring a passion in others,  to come forward and help, in millions worldwide.

The appeal for donations for the cause, by the Festival organisers, saw many signing off cheques and pledges for the cause, at the end of the film.

Perhaps we all need to save our own faces, and do our own bits for this cause and for women abuse at large, whether by screening this film, writing about it, or simply teaching one’s own sons to treat their women with dignity as they grow up.

Little Terrorist~a short Film

Little Terrorist tells the moving story of a Pakistani Muslim boy who accidentally crosses the Pakistani-Indian border which is riddled with landmines. He ends up in a strange country that regards him as a terrorist. The old orthodox Hindu Bhola takes him in and hides him from the Indian soldiers. However, traditions and prejudices about Muslims remain an obstacle in the relationship between Bhola and the boy. Ultimately, humanity triumphs over prejudice when Bhola risks his own life to help Jamal cross the border again. This symbolic story of hope is a tale of human solidarity conquering all artificial boundaries.
Ashvin Kumar, the director, was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Live Action Short Film category.
Ashvin Kumar’s Little Terrorist also won first prize for best short film at the Montreal Film Festival.

And was nominated and selected for various other prizes.

The Girl Effect

Girl Effect is a NPO founded in 2008.

The following are excerpts from an article published in Businessweek, 2009

‘Girl Effect’ Could Lift the Global Economy

There are 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries, but they are largely invisible to the world at large. Included among them are girls affected by armed conflict, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, and internal displacement, as well as girls in child-headed households or locked in early marriages. To ignore them is to miss the “girl effect,” which could be an unexpected answer to the global economic crisis.
When a girl benefits, so does everyone in society, including business. Girls as economic actors can bring about change for themselves, their families, and their countries. Conversely, ignoring the girl effect can cost societies billions in lost potential.

• When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later, on average, and has 2.2 fewer children.

• An extra year in primary school statistically boosts girls’ future wages by 10% to 20%, and every additional year a girl spends in secondary school lifts her income by 15% to 25%. The size of a country’s economy is in no small part determined by the educational attainment and skill sets of its girls.

• Young women have a 90% probability of investing their earned income back into their families, while the likelihood of men doing the same is only 30% to 40%.

• A girl’s school attainment is linked to her own health and well-being, as well as reduced death rates: For every additional year of schooling, a mother’s mortality is significantly reduced, and the infant mortality rate of her children declines by 5% to 10%.

• If educated, girls can get loans, start businesses, employ other women, and reinvest in their families—when they’re ready to have them. That means their children can also have an education.

Here’s why: When a girl benefits, so does everyone in society, including business. Girls as economic actors can bring about change for themselves, their families, and their countries. Conversely, ignoring the girl effect can cost societies billions in lost potential.
Girls and young women could be an important centerpiece of sustainable economic recovery—one that is worthy of innovative policy making on the part of business and governments alike. There are 600 million girls out there, after all. They just need to be seen, understood, and given a chance.

Sources: ( the video) (the above text)

Koi Sunta Hai: A Film on Kabir by Shabnam Virmani

A incredibly beautiful film on how Kabir Poetry is woven into the Folk Music in India.

Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein : A Film on Kabir by Shabnam Virmani