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Shaitan ki khala: Washing Brains the ISIS Way? #Vaw

[A take on the attempted brainwashing of our young minds and the sexist nature of some religious speeches]

 Guest Post By  Asthma Anjum Khan 

[Boy, O, boy, don’t tell me, but can we make this “condemning” our Common Collective Ummah Sport? Condemn, condemn, condemn! And don’t stop. Condemn some more, thank you.]

This happened a few years ago.

It was the usual hurried Jumma. My 12 year old boy looked solemn in his long, pale white kurta. His usual fervor for the special Jumma lunch [Daal Gosht with piping hot fried rice] was absent and I found him sitting at the corner of our large mahogany bed. He seemed contemplative, very unusual for him. When asked to join, he looked up and asked, Mom, why do you work? And before I could react and open my mouth to say Whatttt and look gawky; I heard this next.

And why don’t you stop working?

That was a barb totally out of the blue. Never before in all these years was I questioned this way. My little son had seen his mother rushing from work to home and vice versa, since he opened his eyes into the world and understood things. Trying not to lose my composure, I waited for him to make an elaboration. He began. Today Moulvi sahib was saying in his khutbah that women who work outside home are from Shaitan. They are going to hell. He paused for my reaction but continued however. Working women are not good women, he was telling.

After an awkward and difficult pause, he asked. Mom, is it true? At this I sure lost my cool. Does he believe the man who told him this? The cold reply he gave was:

I want an answer.


Juma at Jami Masjid, Firoze Shah Kotla
Sadly I had to give an explanation to that angry young man, my own son. I told him how a woman is well within her Islamic rights to work, if she chooses to. I told him how many of our pious women were financially independent and earned their own money. H.Khadeejah RA, the wife of Prophet P.B.U.H. was prominent among them. H.Zainab bint e Jahash RA [and H.Umme Salmah RA] used to tan leather with their own hands and thus earned their own money. Being financially better capable than her husband another Zainab RA, the wife of H.Abdullah bin Masood RA was urged to help her husband and children. This was double the charity, for a woman is not required to spend on her family. H.Umme Shifaa used to look after the affairs at the market place and was appointed by none other than H.Umar RA. The examples are too numerous to count.

Coming back to the tense situation that had all of a sudden developed at home, I looked at the young man, My son, My child, who questioned me after 12 years of living together, of growing together. I was made to stand in the dock; had to beat a retreat and look back pensively towards my last 15 years of tiptoeing struggle of balancing home and work. Where had I gone wrong? More than the abrupt impulsive question what was surprising was the sense of conviction with which I was questioned. That kind of chilled me to my very bones. How did the shift occur?

It was the Jummah khutbah where he had heard this. The new Moulvi had spoken. The working women are friends of shaitan. Listen more, those who ride bikes become the handy devices of his. I had to assure my child that there was no such thing and even in the olden times women had made their outings riding the camels. [Isn’t it pure common sense that women need a means of conveyance to move around?]. He didn’t take much time to be convinced; being a sensible and compassionate child. What had worried me more was the kind of sway that speaker had held over him, however briefly. How could he achieve this feat within minutes of his weekly speech and nullify my work of 12 long years? This was what worried me most.

I began wondering if a few minutes of passionate speech can make my little son tend to change his thinking track, even if momentarily then what about those who are brainwashed seriously with and for a certain purpose? It was too horrific to imagine. The kind of sway these semi-literate preachers hold over some of their young immature audience is worth watching. These guys do traditional Daras e Nizamiya and it is supposed to add to their knowledge, with little or no modern education. From impoverished and mostly illiterate backgrounds these young fellas study in madrasas sometimes located in decrepit buildings with little or no sun shine or fresh air, perhaps signifying the closed state of mind they develop there. [Of course, every rule has some exceptions; hence there are some Imams who work hard to bring the errant boys on to the right track.]

Question is should we not try to see what is being fed to our boys on Jummahs apart from the usual Daal-Gosht fair? We should, we must.

Read about brain-washing Israel Style here.

Writing on the Wall: ISIS

I am reminded of that pic where our boys posed in T-shirts. The words on those Ts seemed like writing on the wall. Watching those boys from Tamil Nadu in ISIS T-shirts was a horror. Sheer horror. What made them do such an outrage? A pure nut case of fools rushing where angels fear to tread! I gasped for breath when, a female Islamic preacher changed her profile pic to the ISIS logo! Interestingly horrific to watch was how people were getting swept off their feet and dreamt of a Khilafah! The media begins listing the horrific crimes of the group, burning, destroying the shrines, making the Christians flee Mosul, converting churches into mosques, their being asked to pay jiziya and of course that favorite Western pet peeve of female genital mutilation which was a pure hoax. The media and the social media bahadurs begin discussing it fervently and in effect making us all stand on the back benches of the class. You did it, they accuse us; by all means they seem to. When we swear we didn’t, they say, “Oh, You, yes, you didn’t condemn it”. And lo and behold there we go on a condemning spree. [Boy, O, boy, don’t tell me, but can we make this “condemning” our Common Collective Ummah Sport? Condemn, condemn, condemn! And don’t stop. Condemn some more, thank you.]


ISIS T-shirt Foolies
ISIS T-shirt Foolies:

Wonder who instigated these ISIS T-shirt foolies and more wonder how could they get so easily fooled? What did they achieve by doing this? Their defence that, this way they wanted to thank ISIS for sending the Kerala nurses back home safely does not hold water. In fact it should be thrown into the water, with their Ts included. Such an irresponsible act must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

It is said, the boys must have been tutored by someone to act out such whims. Who is this someone? Such indoctrination of young minds happens because of the lack of an open, all encompassing atmosphere of dialogue and for the lack of a mature meaningful and honest leadership. There is a tremendous need to engage our youth in various positive and constructive ways. They need to be sensitized about the critically delicate political situation that exists today. They must be made aware of the serious consequences of their silly immature acts. But who is going to do that? Of course this work can’t be left to the speakers/preachers who have nothing beyond their madrasa education. In fact they themselves need to be educated first.

It’s imperative for the Muslim society that they watch their youth. We must watch who is talking to them, or trying to give them those doses of indoctrination. This may or may not lead to their radicalization but we must be alert. Giving the youth a positive and constructive atmosphere should be a priority. In place of only madrasa educated preachers, let’s have some young charismatic speakers/leaders who are well versed in both strands of knowledge, the deen and the duniya, the religion and the world. Engaging the youth in a positive healthy way is crucial.

Nay, our biggest need is this. Our young Turks are our treasure; let us not allow anyone to steal them away!

Now came the next jumma and as a third party source [ my uncle!] revealed; my angry young man goes to that finicky Moulana and gives him not just a piece of his mind, but literally a verbal thrashing. The poor Moulana was told that his mother observes hijab, works and that he feels very proud of her. Soon after, there began a round of collecting charity money. My young man pulls out a bill of 1000 from his pocket and before putting it into the box, says loudly. This is from my mother who is a teacher and who has taught me everything good I have today. Turning back to that finicky speaker, with a mischievous smile, he asked,

Am I right, Moulana?

Do I need to tell you that I had got back my boy again?!

Post Script:

Sexist Nature of Some of Our Religious Speeches:

Another very serious thing is the sexist nature of the talks by some of the Khateebs/speakers. I cringe in my seat when words like, Beware of women, don’t allow women to work, all evil things sprout from women, fall on my ears. My pet peeve: it’s a woman who makes or breaks a home; that success of a marriage depends wholly upon the wife. This one is special. They hold a woman responsible for a happy home and family, entirely absolving the men from all responsibility. How convenient! Such a patriarchal attitude! Never have read or heard of such a thing from our authentic sources of Islamic knowledge. Another favorite of such speakers is to berate women constantly about how they waste time by watching TV for hours but failing to mention hours and hours of watching cricket matches by our men folk and ah that time spent on chai chats at the nooks and corners of our neighborhoods or on the internet. While the main and obsessive thrust of these speeches is Obey your husbands, rarely ever have I heard them talk about that most beautiful saying of our beloved Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. where he says, the best among you is the one who is the best with his wife. Anyone listening?]


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First adivasi woman in the Nilgiris District files a case of sexual assault #Vaw

Disquiet in the jungle


On the fringes: An adivasi village near the Mudumalai forest reserve
Courtesy; Accord, Adivasi Cultural Centre, Gudalur, Tamil NaduOn the fringes: An adivasi village near the Mudumalai forest reserve

The first adivasi woman in the Nilgiris District files a case of sexual assault. Her battle tells of a constant tussle between a community known for its gender equality and those in power.

Madi (name changed) is a 23-year-old adivasi girl from the Bettakurumba tribe — traditional hunter-gatherers — famous for their skills as elephant mahouts. She lives in a village inside the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. These forests, rich in biodiversity, are home to one of the largest populations of Asiatic elephants in the world. The adivasis share their home with the elephants and even the occasional tiger. Madi, who had studied till Class XII in a government school, worked as a shop attendant at a Public Distribution Shop within the forest area. Early last month, a forest guard, on the pretext of discussing work, insisted she come to his house. When she arrived, he sexually assaulted her, before she could scream for help.

Not one to be intimidated, Madi decided to fight back and take on the forest official, who continued to harass her with threatening calls and overt gestures. Along with her father she travelled to Ooty, the district headquarters, to report the case to P Sekhar, the District Collector. The collector passed her complaint to the superintendent of police who handed the matter to the women’s cell at the local police station in Gudalur. When she finally reached the police station, she was told that it was too late and since no investigation could be conducted in the night, she should return the next day to submit her compliant. When she met the superintendent of police to register her case under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA, 1995), he asked her inappropriate questions, such as, how could she prove the assault because she was a tribal woman. Statistics tell their own story, the conviction rate for POA cases in Tamil Nadu is 20 per cent lower than the national average.

But Madi, a single mother, and the daughter of a traditional Bettakurumba healer, is staying strong. Suresh, a Bettakurumba leader and member of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (an adivasi peoples’ organisation) says, “Madi is the first Bettakurumba woman who has filed such a case, we must stand by her.” Those supporting her have received offers of money from the forest department officials to withdraw the case. But Madi says with determination, “I will not take the case back.”

Madi’s battle against the forest department is part of a larger story about the battles of the adivasis. Their traditional ways are under threat by the forest department. The Kattunayakan — traditional honey gatherers — have not collected much honey this year because of fear of the forest department. Officials harass and threaten to imprison tribals who collect firewood and honey despite the Forest Rights Act (2006). Routine intimidation, in the form of verbal and physical abuse, and general harassment has led to fewer and fewer adivasi women venturing into the forest. This means they can no longer gather the tubers, leaves and berries, which are essential to their diets. They are not allowed to collect the thatch and bamboo from the forest to build their houses. The sexual assault on Madi is the ugliest face of this routine intimidation.

Where women are equals

For Madi, and those of her community, regressive manifestation of patriarchy are absent. For instance, among many adivasi communities, widows have the freedom to live a full and happy life and can remarry if they choose. Dowry is unheard of here. Instead, most adivasi girls receive a bride price (in the form of cattle or grain) during marriage. Unlike the all-too prevalent sense of misfortune associated with the birth of a girl child, unmarried girls are not seen as a burden in adivasi families. Neither is it mandatory for women to be the ones who move to their husbands’ homes after marriage. Older women can be granted the status of the chief of a village while men are sometimes seen cleaning, taking care of children and cooking at homes. Adivasi women do not change their names after marriage and children do not bear the name of their fathers at birth. Traditionally, it was also acceptable for both men and women to have several partners through life, something that would certainly tarnish a ‘chaste’ non-tribal woman.

Clearly, the rest of India has much to learn from adivasi societies. We don’t need to reach out to western feminist traditions or United Nation charters that call for equal rights. Yet those in power are working against these communities and their progressive worldviews. Even today adivasis are commonly understood as ‘primitive’ communities in need of ‘development’. Dominant cultural forces are acting to ‘integrate’ adivasis making them more like the us, in other words less progressive and more misogynistic.

We all know that Madi’s case is one among so many other cases of gender violence in the country. Amidst all this it is hard to imagine that India is also home to communities where women are treated as equals. We often forget that we have many other stories to tell.

The only story we repeatedly hear is that of subservient, helpless girls faced with gruesome forms of violence. In the process other narratives are routinely made invisible. There are also stories of struggle and resistance, like Madi’s, which must be told and celebrated. She like so many others is fighting back. Her fight is for all adivasi women who, despite the odds, have decided to speak out bravely against the violence inflicted upon them.

(Priyashri Mani works at the Adivasi Cultural Centre, Gudalur, Tamil Nadu)


Read more here –

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#India – Lethal connections between gender, caste and class dominance

Atrocities on girls from Dalit and oppressed castes at Badaun and Bhagana underline

The brutal gang rape and lynching of two minor girls aged 14 and 15 in a village in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh is a grim reminder of the gender, caste and class based atrocities that women from Dalit, oppressed castes face on a daily basis in India. Two months earlier, four teenage Dalit girls aged 13-18 were gang raped by higher caste landowners in Bhagana in Haryana, where the survivors are still fighting for justice to take off.

The fact that the higher caste rapists at Badaun chose to finish off their vile crimes by murdering the victims and leaving their bodies on brazen display in full public view, rather than make any attempt to hide their deeds, shows that the act was intended as a chilling spectacle of higher caste dominance over the Dalits and oppressed. It also displays the confidence of the perpetrators, that they would not be punished for commiting crimes against women from oppressed castes. Indeed, less than a percent of rape cases of Dalit women by non-Dalits end in conviction.

In the Badaun case, the police refused to investigate when the girls’ families reported them missing. Two policemen have now been arrested with charges of conspiring with the higher caste rapists. The families of the victims of Badaun have been warned with dire consequences for seeking justice. They have been threatened with retribution once media and public watch ends in the village. In Bhagana, the survivors have been forced to travel to and camp in Delhi and stage a long protest to demand the arrest of the rapists after the police refused to register cases against the powerful men – the village Sarpanch and his uncle –  named by the girls in their testimonies.

In UP, where Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief patriarch of the ruling Samajwadi Party, declares that rape is a ‘mistake boys make’, and the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, instead of giving out a strong message against gender violence, stubbornly tries to defend crimes against women in UP by comparing it with other parts of the country, is it a surprise that the police try to help the rapists and refuse to file an FIR or arrest the culprits? In Haryana, where the all-male Jat-dominated Khap panchayats continue to enjoy social ‘legitimacy’ and enormous political clout, is it a surprise that bodies of Dalit women are treated as sites of ‘dishonour’ and entitlement that savarna castes ‘enjoy’ over the oppressed castes?

That the perpetrators of caste-gender violence enjoy utter impunity can readily be gauged from the role of the police.Neither Badaun nor Bhagana are stray incidents or ‘aberrations’ as claimed by the respective governments in power. In 2011, a 14 year-old Dalit-Muslim girl was raped and killed by UP police and then hung up on a tree inside the police station. The tree was cut down and evidence destroyed. Police, doctors, ruling politicians, the then government – all united to protect the perpetrators, and tried to bury the crime as deep as the girl’s body was buried. Last year in April a Dalit child was raped and murdered in UP, and when her family protested they were beaten up by the police. The beating was caught on camera. In another case in Aligarh, the police refused to file an FIR in the case of a missing Dalit child, and later her body was found – raped and murdered. When the family protested, they were viciously assaulted by a police officer – again, caught on camera. Even as the Badaun case came under intense public scrutiny, in another instance of shocking brutality, the mother of a rape victim was brutally beaten up by the father of the accused in Etawah. A week after the Badaun tragedy, a minor girl was raped, murdered and hanged from a tree at Sitapur. Notably, in Badaun too, the government acted only after there was a huge public outcry.

In the amendments to the criminal law that followed the anti-rape movements of 2012-13, a significant step-forward was Section 166A IPC, that mandates that police personnel who refuse to file FIRs or otherwise refuse to do their duty, must be criminally prosecuted, and can be jailed for a term between 6 months and 2 years. Although there have been multiple instances of police refusing to do their duty, or intimidating the victim’s family – in Delhi, Kolkata, UP, Haryana – nowhere have FIRs been lodged against the accused cops.

It is no strange coincidence that at Badaun, Bhagana and Sitapur, the households of the victim girls lacked basic amenities, including toilets. In all the cases, the girls had gone out to relieve themselves in open fields at night. That the girls in some cases went in groups did little to ensure their safety. The utterly insecure environments of day-to-day work and living in a sharply caste-hierarchical society, where women are compelled to travel miles to fetch water or are forced to work and relieve themselves in fields beonging to higher-caste landowners, make Dalit and oppressed caste women several folds more vulnerable and prone to being targets of sexual violence.

Dalit women have been targeted for sexual violence wherever Dalit communities have challenged caste and class exploitation. In Bhagana, the four girls were raped in ‘revenge’ after Dalits demanded that the upper caste controlled village council hand over the commons land which had been allocated to the entire village community by the government, and protested against eviction, socio-economic boycott and harassment. In Bihar, the Ranvir Sena, a landowners’ militia aligned with Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP, had targeted Dalit and Muslim women for horrific violence when the rural poor organized for land rights and a living wage.

In the wake of the Badaun rape-murders, the BJP has condemned the appalling levels of gender violence in opposition-ruled UP. But Amit Shah – the BJP’s chief campaigner in UP –  promised in election speeches to ensure that all FIRs against Jat accused in Muzaffarnagar riots and rapes be withdrawn. The fact that the BJP-led ‘Modi Sarkar’ has given no less than a ministerial berth  to Sanjeev Baliyan, one of the main accused in instigating the Muzaffarnagar communal violence in UP last year which involved mass rapes of Muslim women, gives the BJP’s indignation a lie.

We demand speedy trials to bring all culprits to justice. The UP Government must ensure that the cops who have been suspended, are booked and arrested under Section 166A IPC (Criminal Law amended in 2013). We demand that the victims of Bhagana be rehabilitated with dignity, and that the families of Badaun and Bhagana victims be protected against all intimidation. That the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act be invoked in all cases where it is applicable. Rape is an atrocity against women, a display of the male sense of entitlement and dominance over women. Feudal culture has always held that Dalit and oppressed caste women must be ‘available’ for the ‘use’ and ‘enjoyment’ of dominant caste men. From Bathe, Bathanitola, Khairlanji to Bhagana to Badaun, such instances abound, showing that endemic atrocities against dalits and oppressed castes continue to persist and thrive in 21st century India. The last year and a half has seen a powerful movement against gender violence in India. But the Badaun and Bhagana cases painfully underline once again that the struggle continues, and can only succeed if the lethal connections between gender, caste, class and communal violence are recognized and fought.

[ML Update Editorial]

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#India – Wanted: Gender sensitive political leaders


By Ajitha Menon “Enjoy..! It’s just like being raped, yaar! You can shout or you can enjoy. Nothing more than that”… This was what matinee idol Dev alias Deepak Adhikari, Trinamool Congress candidate from Ghatal constituency in West Bengal, had to say when asked if he was enjoying campaigning for the Lok Sabha election 2014.

Even as the media highlighted the actor’s derogatory remarks and his comments drew flak from women, activists, bloggers, political opponents, et al, to which he apologised in a tweet soon enough, saying his remarks were not meant “2 hurt any1”, this unfortunate episode did expose the fact that it’s not uncommon for desi politicians to make serious gender gaffes.India today is faced with grave gender issues and yet parliamentarians and leaders are often heard making reckless comments, which are then followed up by farcical, insincere apologies.

Dr Paromita Chakravarti, Director, School of Women Studies, Jadavpur University, attributes this mindset to “the gender bias entrenched in our political system”. According to her, “the entire political process is patriarchal. There is great resistance to giving women one-third seats in Parliament, which is why the Women’s Reservation Bill has been given the lowest priority.”Of course, while the unfortunate reality is that political parties want to keep women away from the corridors of power by denying them tickets, what is truly disappointing is the track record of prominent women in power.

In Bengal, for instance, electing Mamata Banerjee as the chief minister hasn’t really helped the cause of the state’s women. While gender crimes are at an all time high, the manner in which Banerjee has dealt with the situation can only be termed as objectionable. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveals that West Bengal has topped in crimes against women with 30,942 cases reported in 2012 – the highest in the country.

The picture gets grimmer with 2000 reported cases of rape in 2012 alone. From the much publicised Park Street rape case in 2012 to the gang rape of a 20-year old college girl in Kamduni, about 40 kilometres north of Kolkata in June 2013, to the two-time gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Madhyamgram, a mere eight kilometres from Kolkata Airport, in October 2013, and the heinous community gang rape of a 20-year old tribal woman at Subalpur village in Birbhum district in January 2014 on the orders of a kangaroo-style village court – all these incidents have occurred during her tenure.

There were other incidents too, but these cases gained significance in view of the heightened media coverage and the subsequent politicisation of the events by almost all major political parties in the state.The chief minister herself led the brazen attempts of politicisation by terming most of these cases as a conspiracy by her opponents. She called the Park street case a “sajanoghotona” (fabricated incident), declared the housewives protesting the Kamduni rape as “Maoists” and actually told them to “shut up”, and also alleged that the accused in the Madhyamgram and Kamduni cases were Communist Party of India (Marxist) supporters.

The parties opposed to the ruling Trinamool Congress, on the other hand, pointed fingers at her party workers as well as poor government and administrative measures. In short, none of these cases were treated as ‘crimes against women or law and order issues’ by any of the major political players.Banerjee may have struck a chord with the female electorate with her slogan of ‘Maa, Maati, Maanush’ (Mother, Earth and Mankind) but that has not translated into gender-sensitive governance. Statements fixing blame for the increasing number of rape cases on the free mixing of men and women only enforce this view.

The track of other state leaders is no better. Akhilesh Yadav, the “young and dynamic” chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha, has made no efforts to ensure that speedy justice is given to the minority women raped during the Muzaffarnagar riots. Moreover, Bharatiya Janata Party’s recent attempts to give Ram Sene’s Pramod Muthalik a ticket to fight elections, is another case in point. Muthalik’s supporters had attacked women in a Mangalore pub in 2009 for allegedly having “loose morals”.”

Gender issues have not been in focus during the polls despite the lip service paid to women’s safety. One look at the election manifestos will reveal that no political party across the spectrum is committed to women’s safety or adopted a clear position on stopping rape and sexual assault or taken a stand on effective implementation of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. And let’s not even talk about West Bengal, because the government here clearly shuns women’s rights and does not care about either their safety or their right to self-determination or autonomy,” laments social activist Ratnaboli Ray, adding, “The fact that the chief minister challenged the NCRB data and wants to create her own data clearly reflects her apathy towards women.

The police here are either hyperactive or totally inept, depending on the orders from higher quarters. I have seen them refusing to lodge FIRs and even if they do, in some cases they are so poorly written that it becomes difficult to form chargesheets.”Besides women, the political system and politicians have been extremely ambivalent on the rights of the LGBT community as well. According to Ray, parties need to be educated to respond to their needs. Even though the LGBT community has made itself visible in Bengal and some other states, rights are far from their ambit. Ray also stresses on the importance of eliminating discrimination in cases of violence against disabled women.On her part, Dr Chakravarti supports the idea of giving gender sensitisation trainings to Parliamentarians so that they can create informed laws and take inclusive decisions. What she welcomes today is the discursiveness that has emerged in post-Nirbhaya India, “At least the media is increasingly highlighting these issues. The comments made by actor Dev would have been ignored five years ago but not anymore.

The Election Commission is also taking note of irresponsible statements. I find Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to include women empowerment as a campaign issue interesting. No doubt there is politicisation of issues like violence against women, but now things are coming within the public domain politically and the change is actually taking place. Protests around gender issues are being noticed. They may not always in the proper way but they are definitely no longer marginal.”The absence of gender issues from the mainstream political discourse has been noticeable. Professor Sinjini Bandyopadhyay, Department of English, Calcutta University, believes the physical security of women, 33 per cent reservation in parliament and state assemblies and education should figure in election campaigns, while Dr Chakravarti emphasises that parties need to clearly state where they stand on issues like violence, women’s workforce participation – that is dropping alarmingly – women and environment, property rights – particularly within tribal communities – and most importantly, women’s participation in governance.In a surprising change, however, health indicators like Infant Mortality and Maternal Mortality rates, which are never addressed by politicians, have been mentioned this time around.

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s claims to development have somewhat forced his opponents to mention the poor record related to these in his governed state of Gujarat, while archrival Congress promised healthcare for all in their manifesto. Other developmental planks like sanitation and hygiene, health care, safe drinking water, access to natural resources or gender-differentiated impact of climate change, still remain largely ignored.Women make up 49 per cent of the voters but their problems are yet to be accorded an equal status in election campaigning. As always, there are a lot of right noises and not enough action.—

(Women’s Feature Service)

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SAWM-SL statement on March 8th- #Womensday

SAWM, Sri Lanka, statement on International Women’s Day

March 8 marks the International Women’s Day, a day that recalls and celebrates the women’s struggle for equality and recognises the contribution women continue to make for the advancement of their societies.

The United Nations declared 8 March as the International Women’s Day in 1975 which continues to be celebrated around the world in many different ways.

According to a recent survey carried out by UKAID, “Globally, women do 60% of the world’s work but only earns 10% of the world’s income and only own 1% of the world’s property,” highlighting the economic disparity that exists despite their ever increasing contributions to the advancement of the world. It further stated, “when a woman generates her own income, she reinvests 90% of it in her family and community.”

In Sri Lanka too, women have been in the forefront as prime income generators in a variety of spheres, contributing to the growth of the country which is yet to be duly acknowledged.
Dilrukshi Handunnetti, Colombo

Despite the advancement women have collectively managed to achieve, as in the rest of South Asia, in Sri Lanka too, safety of women has become a serious concern. It is unfortunate that women are increasingly becoming unsafe, also reflected in the media industry, with women journalists coming under various types of attacks including intimidation, threats, harrassment and even murder,reflecting a social malady.

As this year’s theme for the International Women’s Day being “Inspiring change”, the South Asian Women in Media Sri Lanka Chapter urges the authorities to investigate the crimes committed against women journalists and media workers in the past and to ensure better maintenance of law and order in the country which would contribute to make a safe environment for women.

South Asian Women in Media Sri Lanka Chapter


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Black Trans Bodies Are Under Attack”: Freed Activist CeCe McDonald, Actress Laverne Cox Speak Out

After serving 19 months in prison, the African-American transgender activist CeCe McDonald is free. She was arrested after using deadly force to protect herself from a group of people who attacked her on the streets of Minneapolis. Her case helped turn a national spotlight on the violence and discrimination faced by transgender women of color. In 2011, McDonald and two friends were walking past a Minneapolis bar when they were reportedly accosted with homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs. McDonald was hit with a bar glass that cut open her face, requiring 11 stitches. A brawl ensued, and one of the people who had confronted McDonald and her friends, 47-year-old Dean Schmitz, was killed. Facing up to 80 years in prison for his death, McDonald took a plea deal that sentenced her to 41 months. In the eyes of her supporters, CeCe McDonald was jailed for defending herself against the bigotry and violence that transgender people so often face and that is so rarely punished. At the time of the attack, the murder rate for gay and transgender people in this country was at an all-time high. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs documented 30 hate-related murders of LGBT people in 2011; 40 percent of the victims were transgender women of color. Transgender teens have higher rates of homelessness, and nearly half of all African-American transgender people — 47 percent — have been incarcerated at some point.

McDonald joins us on her first trip to New York City. We are also joined by one of her supporters, Laverne Cox, a transgender actress, producer and activist who stars in the popular Netflix show, “Orange is the New Black.” She plays Sophia Burset, a transgender woman in prison for using credit card fraud to finance her transition. She is producing a documentary about McDonald called “Free CeCe.” We also speak to Alisha Williams, staff attorney with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

“I very easily could have been CeCe,” Laverne Cox says. “Many times I’ve walked down the street of New York, and I’ve experienced harassment. I was kicked once on the street, and very easily that could have escalated into a situation that CeCe faced, and it’s a situation that too many trans women of color face all over this country. The act of merely walking down the street is often a contested act, not only from the citizenry, but also from the police.”

Click here to watch part 2 of this interview.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn today to a case that’s turned a national spotlight on the violence and discrimination faced by transgender women of color in the United States. That’s the case of CeCe McDonald.

On June 5th, 2011, CeCe and two friends were walking past a Minneapolis bar when they were reportedly accosted with homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs. CeCe was hit with a bar glass that cut open her face, requiring 11 stitches. A brawl ensued. One of the people who had confronted CeCe and her friends, 47-year-old Dean Schmitz, was dead, from a stab wound that police say came from a pair of fabric scissors in CeCe’s purse.

At the time, the murder rate for gay and trangender people in this country was at an all-time high. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs documented 30 hate-related murders of LGBTpeople in 2011; 40 percent of the victims were transgender women of color.

Nearly a year after the attack in Minneapolis, CeCe McDonald stood trial on charges of second-degree manslaughter. The judge in her case rejected key evidence, including a swastika tattoo on Schmitz’s chest and his three prior convictions of assault. Facing up to 80 years in prison, CeCe McDonald took a plea deal that sentenced her to 41 months behind bars. McDonald was held in a men’s prison, even though she identifies as a woman.

In the eyes of her supporters, CeCe McDonald was jailed for defending herself against the bigotry and violence that transgender people so often face and that’s so rarely punished. This is part of a video that was crowdsourced with the voices of different supporters of CeCe McDonald appealing for her freedom while she was still behind bars. On the video, they come together to tell her story.

CECE McDONALD SUPPORTERS: Last June, a Minneapolis woman was attacked on her way to a grocery store with her friends. While passing a bar, a group of onlookers assaulted them, yelling obscenities and smashing a glass in her face. Fearful for her life, she defended it with the only thing that she could find in her bag—a pair of fabric scissors. Fortunately, these scissors saved her life, when a man lunged at her and was stabbed. Unfortunately, she was arrested for the man dying because of it. Even more unfortunate, she’s been accused of murder and faced with upwards of 80 years in prison.

Sound ridiculous? It gets better. The woman attacked is transgender and black. And the main attacker who was killed? A white male neo-Nazi. And the obscenities yelled weren’t just any obscenity—”[bleep], [bleep] lover, chicks with [bleep], you’re dressed like a woman to rape me, look at that boy dressed as a girl and tucking her [bleep] in.” A hate crime. This was a hate crime, a transphobic, racist hate crime.

Why, then, is CeCe McDonald behind bars? Because the Hennepin County District Attorney Michael O. Freeman and the court didn’t see it that way. They rejected the following as viable evidence: consideration of gender, sexual orientation, race and class; the climate of violence transgender people face; those little statistics that say trans people are more at risk for bullying violence, domestic abuse, assault by law enforcement, suicide attempts and hate violence; the swastika tattoo on the attacker’s chest; his three previous convictions for assault; and, best of all, the meth, cocaine and alcohol present in his system on the night of the attack. However, the following were all admissible for convicting CeCe: how she, quote-unquote, “handled her scissors in an unreasonable way” when being attacked; how she defended her life by killing her attacker; oh, and she wrote a bad check once.

Because the usable usable evidence was so void of actual substance, the odds were stacked against her, and she was forced to make a choice: fight the murder charges with little support in her favor, likely spending years in jail, only to get slapped with an 80-year prison sentence, or plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter and only spend three years in prison. She chose the latter.

But was it really a choice, when the options were so unfair from the outset, when it became not a matter of innocence or guilt but the degree of guilt, when the path to freedom boiled down to the lesser of two evils—really guilty or somewhat guilty? No, this was not a fair choice and not a fair trial. CeCe McDonald is being punished for daring to confront and survive a hate crime. And this is unacceptable, especially when people just like CeCe are being killed almost monthly.

Governor Mark Dayton, you are the only one with the power to stop this injustice. Please pardon CeCe McDonald and show her and the world that bravery like this should be heralded and not punishable.

AMY GOODMAN: A video that was crowdsourced with the voices of different supporters of CeCe McDonald.

Well, CeCe McDonald is now free. She walked out of prison earlier this month after serving 19 months. She was also given credit for nine months of time served before her trial. And she joins us here in our New York studio.

We’re also joined by one of CeCe McDonald’s most well-known supporters, Laverne Cox, actress, producer, activist, transgender woman, who was there with CeCe McDonald the day she left prison. Some fans might be used to seeing Laverne Cox in prison attire: She plays Sophia Burset on the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black. Her character is a transgender woman imprisoned for credit card fraud which she used to finance her transition. Laverne Cox is producing a forthcoming documentary about CeCe McDonald called Free CeCe.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! CeCe, how does it feel to be free?

CECE McDONALD: It’s a blessing, foremost. It’s a feeling that I really can’t express, but I can tell you it’s a huge load off of my shoulders. It’s really good to be able to get back into, you know, doing everyday things, being a woman, living life. But the other day, I did a panel for the Anti-War Committee, and someone asked me, “How is it for you to come out of prison and regain your life?” And I told that person, “Every day is a journey, and each day I have to pick back up a piece of me from where I left off two years ago.” And it kind of touched everybody, because it’s a true statement, you know. You have to get back into everyday things and on top of things related to my transitioning and career-situated things.

And just, you know, having down time with my family and being able to hug them without someone watching over us or having a time limit to love someone, I really can’t put that into words. But I can just say it’s a really, really good feeling to be back with everyone and to actually use this platform that I have now to educate people and to inform people about the violence against trans women, about the prison-industrial complex, to let people know about hatred towards women and trans women, and just, you know, be more willing and open to help people understand what it’s like for me and for other trans women who are in prison, and people in general who have to deal with the policies and the martial law of prison, I should say.

AMY GOODMAN: Laverne Cox, why was CeCe’s case so important to you?

LAVERNE COX: Well, first of all, I want to say I’m just so happy to be here with CeCe in New York City. I’m so happy to see you. And it was very moving to see all those voices in support of a trans woman of color. So often our lives are treated as if they don’t matter. And I think that’s why CeCe’s case has meant so much to me. I very easily could have been CeCe. Many times I’ve walked down the street of New York and I’ve experienced harassment. I was kicked once on the street, and very easily that could have escalated into a situation that CeCe faced. And it’s a situation that too many trans women of color face all over this country.

The act of merely walking down the street is often a contested act, not only from the citizenry, but also from the police. I just had the wonderful pleasure visiting a young—a group of young people in New Orleans, Louisiana, called BreakOUT! And they were formed a few years ago to deal with the criminalization of LGBTQ youth of color in New Orleans by the police. Just a few weeks ago, Gabourey Sidibe, the wonderful actress, was on Arsenio Hall Show, and she talked about being in New Orleans and basically witnessing repeated acts of profiling of trans women of color in New Orleans by the police. And I think it’s really important to do—a lot of—she got a lot of controversy because she used some language that a lot of trans folks find offensive, but what the takeaway should be is that we have a witness to the police brutality that so many trans people face in New Orleans and all over this country.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. Our guests are Laverne Cox, the actress on Orange is the New Black, which just announced its next season, and CeCe McDonald, who last month was released from prison after serving 19 months there. This isDemocracy Now! Back in a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: “Tightrope” by Janelle Monáe, one of CeCe McDonald’s favorite artists. This isDemocracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We are joined by the African-American transgender activist CeCe McDonald, released from prison in January after 19 months. She was arrested in 2011 after using deadly force to protect herself from a group of people who attacked her on the streets of Minneapolis. Her case helped turn a national spotlight on the violence and discrimination faced by transgender women of color.

Also with us, Laverne Cox, the actress, the producer, activist, transgender woman, who was there with CeCe McDonald the day she left prison. She stars in the TV show Orange is the New Black.

And we’re joined by Alisha Williams, staff attorney for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and director of the group’s Prisoner Justice Project.

In 2012, Democracy Now! spoke to Rai’vyn Cross, one of CeCe’s best friends. She described the harassment that she and CeCe had faced for years.

RAI’VYN CROSS: We have encountered this every day of our lives, as us being together. We have been—have a solid friendship of eight years. We experience this on a daily basis when we wake up, when we go to sleep, if it’s in a public place or if it’s just outside, period. Transphobic slurs, racial slurs, I mean, we best deal with it just by just—you know, just wiping it off, just keep going on, just staying strong.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Rai’vyn Cross. In fact, she’s in the New York studios today, but not on the set, being here with CeCe as CeCe comes for the first time since she was freed from prison to New York. Cece, what was your time like in prison? You’re also a prison activist and have been.

CECE McDONALD: Prison was a very dark and bad place, basically. I had to deal with a lot of discrimination, more so than any of the other male inmates.

AMY GOODMAN: You were put in a men’s prison.

CECE McDONALD: Yes, I was put in a men’s prison.

AMY GOODMAN: You chose not to fight that, to be put in a women’s prison?

CECE McDONALD: Yeah, and my reasoning behind that was because after I did some educating myself on the prison-industrial complex and the history behind African Americans in incarceration, I felt like sending me to any prison wouldn’t solve my issue. Men’s prisons, women’s prisons, they’re prisons, and they’re not good. And I felt like instead of focusing all of the energy of I and the Support CeCe Committee and the people involved, I told them that we can use that energy to make sure that I’m not being discriminated against and to make sure that I was safe wherever I went. And so, by me doing that, people thought I was kind of crazy, because it was like, “Well, you know, you deserve to be in a women’s prison.” But me, personally, I felt like it wouldn’t solve any problems. It wouldn’t change the fact that now I’m a felon. It wouldn’t change the fact that I have to be under these harsh and cruel policies by the DOC that everyone has to deal with who is in prison. And so, I just kind of stepped back from trying to figure out whether I wanted to be in a men’s or women’s prison, because it wouldn’t help. It wouldn’t make me happy. It wouldn’t take away that pain that I was dealing with. So I just kind of just let that go and focused my energy on other things.

AMY GOODMAN: Alisha, can you talk about the situation of transgender women in men’s prisons, and what are the issues nationwide that they face?

ALISHA WILLIAMS: I mean, oftentimes what we see is that when trans women are incarcerated, they are placed in a men’s facility because the facilities basically use their assigned sex at birth to determine where they should be placed. We have new laws that are being passed, like the Prison Rape Elimination Act. It’s a federal law. It’s not mandatory for states to comply with, but if they do not comply, they risk losing some federal funding, so you see states making some effort to change their policies and come into compliance with PREA. And PREA states that trans people should be—

AMY GOODMAN: Prison Rape Elimination Act, PREA.

ALISHA WILLIAMS: Yes, mm-hmm. So, PREA states that when trans people are incarcerated, their individual assessment of where they would be safest should be taken into consideration, along with a lot of other factors. And the courts show the prison system a lot of deference. So, I don’t see PREAas being a solution, necessarily, but it is something that advocates have now in their toolkit to use to advocate for safer placements for people. And as CeCe said, it’s totally—it should be totally up to the individual. We shouldn’t say all trans women should be in a women’s facility or vice versa; it should be up to the individual. And that’s what advocates have been pushing for.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Laverne Cox and your character, Laverne, from the Netflix show,Orange is the New Black. Laverne’s character is Sophia Burset. That’s who she plays. She’s been imprisoned for credit card fraud which she used to finance her transition. In this clip from the show, she’s speaking with a prison doctor.

SOPHIA BURSET: [played by Laverne Cox] Listen, Doc, I need my dosage. I’ve given five years, $80,000 and my freedom for this. I’m finally who I’m supposed to be. Do you understand? I can’t go back.

DR. BROOKS: [played by Arden Myrin] Look, I’d like to help you. Unfortunately, you have elevated levels of AST and ALT, which could mean liver damage.

SOPHIA BURSET: That’s [bleep]. That could mean anything.

DR. BROOKS: We’re going to take you off your hormones entirely—


DR. BROOKS: —until we can schedule an ultrasound, get a clean read.

SOPHIA BURSET: But that could take months.

DR. BROOKS: I can offer you an antidepressant.

AMY GOODMAN: Offer you an antidepressant. That is Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black. She plays the prisoner, Sophia. Talk about your role there and how common this experience is.

LAVERNE COX: Well, first of all, I wanted to stay around CeCe’s choice to stay where she was housed initially. It’s estimated that 49 percent of sexual assaults that happen in prison happen as a result of the prison staff, that the prison staff is committing these sexual assaults. So, we know that no matter where you’re placed, that is really a huge issue that needs to be addressed.

Sophia—I’ve often said that Sophia, in some ways, is very privileged, my character on Orange is the New Black, because she gets to serve her time in a women’s prison. The issue that we just saw in the clip is basically Sophia being taken off her hormones. That’s something that CeCe talks about having experienced in prison, and a large number of trans people.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is she in her transition in prison?

LAVERNE COX: Sophia has been placed in a women’s prison because of her surgical status. She has had gender reconstructive surgery. And so, because of that, she has been placed in a women’s prison. And so, depending on the state you’re in, you will be placed in a women’s prison based on your surgical status, but some states it’s based solely on the gender you were assigned at birth.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happens when the hormones are denied, like we see in Orange is the New Black?

LAVERNE COX: It is a major health concern for trans people. It’s devastating. I mean, honestly, for me as a trans woman, when I’ve had—there’s hot flashes, so it’s a weird sort of menopause that happens, but it’s really bad for your health, especially if you’re not producing any kind of hormones already, as my character wasn’t. Then you’re at risk for osteoporosis and any other conditions that women would face if they’re taken off hormones.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the research that goes into your character, Sophia. You’re a remarkable figure, because also you’re a remarkable actress, but talk about how this character—and now, we understand, when is the next season going to premiere?

LAVERNE COX: Season two premieres June 6th. We just announced that. Folks have been anxiously awaiting for that—awaiting that information, as have I. So, June 6th, the second season premieres.

The research that I did for Sophia, a lot of it had to do with me, you know, my own lived experience as a trans woman, but I’ve actually been researching on trans folks in prison because of CeCe’s story, before I even found out about Orange is the New Black. So, there was a lot of prison research I had been doing already, so it just sort of all aligned.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about your own life? Because it truly is fascinating. Even in the film, in the part where you’re—the flashbacks to you, Sophia is married—


AMY GOODMAN: —to a woman and has a child.


AMY GOODMAN: Those flashbacks are played by your actual identical twin brother?

LAVERNE COX: Well, the pretransition flashbacks, when we see Sophia—she was a firefighter before she transitioned—when we see her as the firefighter, that is—those moments were played by my identical twin brother. His name is M. Lamar. He’s a musician here in New York.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is in real life.

LAVERNE COX: Yes. I have a twin brother, identical twin brother, in real life. And he’s a brilliant musician and thinker, and he’s amazing. So, I’m a twin. And I’m very lucky that I have a loving family, and I feel very, very blessed. It’s very unusual to see a trans woman playing a trans character on TV. I’ve heard a lot of—people have tweeted to me, and I’ve heard folks at dinner parties say, “Is she really trans?” And I think folks just aren’t used to seeing trans people actually play trans roles. And there’s something very remarkable about that for a lot of folks. And I think it’s really important for people to see reflections of themselves in media, and I think that that can really begin to shift the conversation. I think so many of the issues that trans folks face have to do with policy, but also has to do with how our stories are told in the media, how do we begin to create more multidimensional, fully humanized stories of trans people in the media, because so many people don’t actually know someone trans, and the media can be a way to get to know someone.

AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us your story. And—

LAVERNE COX: What do you want to know?

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about growing up. Here you—there’s the two of you. There’s you and your identical twin brother. Just talk about how you decided to transition, how you felt when—I assume, when people would talk about “the boys” all the time, right, the two—you and your brother—that you felt, no, no.

LAVERNE COX: Well, I was very—I was always a creative person as a kid. I started dancing at a very young age. I was very feminine. I was majorly bullied as a kid, so I was chased home from school practically every day because I was very feminine. And that was my life growing up, so I never fit neatly into the sort of boy role. I don’t really think I ever really had male privilege even, because I was so feminine. I never sort of was in a “boy” situation in terms of my story; I was always very feminine.

And for me, it was about getting—moving past denial. And I’ve told this story a zillion times about when I was in third grade. My third-grade teacher, Ms. Ridgeway, called my mother and said, “Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress if we don’t get him into therapy right away.” And the funny thing is, I was just in New Orleans a few days ago doing a talk at Tulane. So, it took over 20 years for Ms. Ridgeway’s prediction to come true. But I—so because of that and because of a lot of the shaming and policing of my gender that happened when I was a child, I had a lot of internalized transphobia. And it really wasn’t until I moved to New York City and met actual trans people that I was able to debunk a lot of the misconceptions that I had about trans people, have empathy for them and then have empathy and love for myself. And once I began to develop that, I was able to accept myself and then to transition.

AMY GOODMAN: CeCe McDonald, what about your story?

CECE McDONALD: Well, my story is similar to Laverne’s.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

CECE McDONALD: I was born in Chicago, Illinois. And I moved to Minnesota when I was 18. But prior to that, I was very feminine. And I grew up in a big family. My grandma and granddad had 18 kids—nine boys, nine girls. And like Laverne said, I grew up in a really heavily religious family, very—as people call them, Bible thumpers, so there was also a lot of policing about my femininity. And it kind of made me hate myself. It made me become, I guess, more rebellious than most teens would at that age, when I got to that age.

And I pretty much had a hard life. I was out on my own since I was 14. And, you know, from sleeping on park benches and couch hopping and trying to figure out what I was going to do in my life, I really wanted to get a leg up, but it seemed like there was no opportunities for trans women in Chicago. And it seemed like every place I went into turned their backs on me or slammed the door in my face, and it was really hard for me to like figure out what I was going to do in my life.

And then, after some major consideration, I decided to move to Minnesota, after a friend had invited me. And it didn’t take me very much time to take her up on her offer, because it seemed like I had nothing to go for in Chicago. And she was telling me that, you know, I can start over, and there’s more resources, and I can get this help and that help. And so, it sounded really tasteful. I wanted to, you know, expand my horizons and see what I can, you know—or how I can better myself. And so, I moved to Minnesota.

And that’s when I actually started my transition as far as, you know, hormone therapy and finding a therapist and stuff like that. And that kind of made me build this love for other trans women, like you were saying, because, you know, you have this part of you that’s unquestionable, and it’s a big mystery until you meet these people. And you’re like, yeah, I think I know who I am as a person. And so, you know, sometimes you get a little bad advice, sometimes you get the best advice, but it was all helpful for me in my transitioning. And now I am here today, so…

AMY GOODMAN: Alisha Williams, how common is that, trans teens homeless?

ALISHA WILLIAMS: At our website,, we have a number of charts that kind of explain the disproportionate representation of trans people in prison because of things that happen beforehand, being forced into poverty and experiencing houselessness. It could be from family rejection, or it could be the lack of support at school, when you’re being discriminated against and bullied by other students or by school administrators, or not having safe access to spaces because you’re policed when you’re just trying to go to the bathroom, someone trying to tell you that you’re going to the wrong bathroom. We have a lot of people who are arrested on the streets. Because we work with low-income people of color, they’re living in neighborhoods that are already heavily policed.

AMY GOODMAN: We have a chart right now, that was—

ALISHA WILLIAMS: Oh, yes, that’s the chart I was talking about.

AMY GOODMAN: —your chart.


AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to that chart and go through it, because it’s quite interesting. When you look at the number of people who are in prison who are trans, you have all trans persons, 16 percent have gone to prison or jail; black trans persons, 47 percent; American Indian trans people, 30 percent; trans women, 21 percent. So, of the trans women, 21 percent have served time in jail, and trans men, 10 percent. How do you change those numbers?

ALISHA WILLIAMS: Well, definitely, it’s—even though we have “Law” in our name at SLRP, we do not really believe that the law is the answer. We have a lot of legal remedies that reduce harm that people in prison are facing, but really the answer is to keep people out of prison and to provide safe spaces, safe access to healthcare, to employment, to education, so that we really need to push for those sort of policies in our neighborhoods to make sure that we’re keeping trans people and people of color, low-income people, out of jail and providing them safe access to the systems that other people have access to.

LAVERNE COX: And I think, too, the bigger—

AMY GOODMAN: Laverne Cox?

LAVERNE COX: May I? I think the bigger picture, too, is that—how do we begin to create spaces in our culture where we don’t stigmatize trans identity, where we really create spaces of gender self-determination? It is so often acceptable to make fun of trans people, to ridicule trans people. When we look at the epidemic of violence against trans folk, so many people sort of think that our identities are inherently deceptive, our identities are inherently sort of suspect, and then we should be criminalized because of that. I mean, in Arizona, they were trying to sort of criminalize going to the bathroom last year, like literally. That policy was overturned. But how do we begin to create spaces where we accept trans people on our own—on trans people’s own terms, and really listen and let trans people lead the discussions in terms of who we are and what the discussion about our lives should be?

AMY GOODMAN: Defining yourselves—I wanted to turn to that for a moment in the mainstream media, to turn to a clip from television. The author and transgender advocate Janet Mock, who has written a book about her own life, recently joined CNN’s Piers Morgan to talk about that book,Redefining Realness. After the interview, Mock said she felt the Piers had tried to sensationalize her story by saying, quote, “She used to be a man and was born a boy,” and by displaying an on-screen descriptor under her name that said she, quote, “was a boy until age 18.” Following her criticism, Piers Morgan invited Janet Mock back on the show. I want to go to a clip from that second interview.

PIERS MORGAN: With the greatest of respect—and I mean with the greatest of respect—you’ve written a book, Redefining Realness: My Path to WomanhoodMy Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, right? I’ve got here, as I say, the Marie Claire article that started your whole media profile, “I Was Born a Boy,” repeatedly, in your words, saying—

JANET MOCK: I did not write that piece.

PIERS MORGAN: “I was born a boy.”

JANET MOCK: It’s not my words.

PIERS MORGAN: Right. So let me ask you a—

JANET MOCK: Words are precious to me. I’m a writer.

PIERS MORGAN: Let me ask you—let me ask you a simple question.

JANET MOCK: Words are precious. And I really believe that—

PIERS MORGAN: Let me ask you a simple question.

JANET MOCK: —we need to give people—I would like to ask you a question.

PIERS MORGAN: OK, can I ask mine first, then you can ask yours?


PIERS MORGAN: OK? My question is simply this: Do you—do you dispute that you were born a boy?

JANET MOCK: Do I dispute that I was born a boy? I was born a baby, who was assigned male at birth. I did not identify or live my life as a boy.


JANET MOCK: As soon as I had enough agency in my life to grow up, I became who I am.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Janet Mock speaking to CNN’s Piers Morgan. Janet Mock actually tweeted a photo of herself and Laverne Cox reacting to her initial interview with Piers Morgan. You both have your eyebrows raised. The tweet says, “Me + @Lavernecox’s reaction after @piersmorganlive tried it with the man and boy tag lines.” Talk about your reaction, Laverne.

LAVERNE COX: Well, my initial reaction to the interview—that was actually at Janet’s book party. The night that interview aired, she was having her book party for her brilliant book, Redefining Realness, which everyone should read. It’s incredible. My reaction was not to the interview. It was initially to the tweets that were sent out surrounding the interview. So they were—it seemed as if what was happening in the tweets is the suggestion that she used to be a man and all those sorts of things. Janet would never tell her story that way. She has never described her experience that way. And really, the important piece for media to remember when we’re telling transgender people’s stories is that we should let trans people take the lead in terms of how we describe ourselves. Janet has written extensively about critiquing. And if they had read the book, Redefining Realness, in the introduction to it, she actually critiques the Marie Claire article that Piers Morgan refers to in that clip.

AMY GOODMAN: He kept saying, “You wrote this article. Why are you denying it?”

LAVERNE COX: And she did not write—she actually didn’t write the article. It was an interview. And the editor of Marie Claire, a few days after the Piers Morgan sort of controversy, tweeted out that Janet and the writer of the article actually had issue with the title, “I Was Born a Boy,” and the editors of the magazine went with that anyway.

AMY GOODMAN: Go to that point, “I Was Born a Boy.”

LAVERNE COX: I think the piece—I think in mainstream media over the past 61 years, since Christine Jorgensen stepped off the plane from Europe and became the first, you know, sort of internationally known trans woman, we’ve had a certain narrative that we’ve told about who trans people are. And that narrative has been someone born a boy and having sex reassignment surgery and becoming a woman. That is not everyone’s story. And even the idea, “born a boy,” is a social construct. We assign gender at birth. We don’t really know how people identify. Gender is so deeply complicated. It’s about more than genitalia. We assign people genders at birth. No one is born anything. We actually name and impose that on someone. And it’s really important with trans folks to listen to how they describe their own experiences. And the amazing thing to me about Janet Mock is that she wrote this book, Redefining Realness, to redefine how our stories are told, and in this media moment, the interviewers and the producers of the Piers Morgan show relied on very traditional ways of telling trans stories, when Janet has this wonderful document of a new way to tell our stories.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very interesting, when you talk about a baby. A person is born a baby. Why is it so important? What is the first question most everyone asks when they meet a little baby? Is it a—

LAVERNE COX: “Is it a boy or a girl?” I actually say, “Is it a boy, a girl or trans?” is what I say. And I say it that way to disrupt that binary assumption and to also open the possibilities of—we don’t really know, we don’t really know how someone might identify. And we have these very rigid—the gender binary—the logic of the gender binary models puts people in very rigid categories that most of us don’t fit neatly into.

AMY GOODMAN: And isn’t it more about how should the person who’s asking react to the little baby? It’s because we ask, “Is it a girl or a boy?” I think the studies have been done. I remember years ago Baby X, when a parents decided not to reveal the sex of the child, because they decided they didn’t want people to respond to the infant in stereotypical ways, that that determines how we treat an infant.

LAVERNE COX: And make all kinds of assumptions. And what’s interesting to me, I think—I talk about this a lot in my lectures—that all the bullying that I experienced, the violence that so many trans folks experience, policies that constantly police our genders, are really about policing gender, to make sure people fit neatly into two categories that most of us don’t fit into, that we have to police gender constantly to maintain this binary model. If we just let people be who they are, how amazing would that be?

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break for a second, then we’re going to come back to this discussion. I also want to ask you about Facebook, that’s just expanded the gender identifications that people can use. We’re talking with Laverne Cox, the actress, the star of Orange is the New Black. We are also speaking with CeCe McDonald. It’s her first trip to New York since she was freed from prison after serving 19 months. And we’re joined by Alisha Williams, who’s staff attorney at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: “You’ve Got Time” by Regina Spektor. “You’ve Got Time” is the theme song ofOrange is the New Black, the Netflix hit show that one of our guests stars in today, Laverne Cox. I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. As we talk about the violence and discrimination faced by transgender women of color, I want to turn to a story here in New York. On January 30th, a group of transgender women and their allies gathered outside the New York City Police Department headquarters to demand justice for Islan Nettles. Nettles was a 21-year-old transgender woman of color who was taunted with slurs, then beaten to death in Harlem in August. A suspect was arrested on assault charges, but the case against him was later dismissed. So far, no one has been charged with her murder. Protesters have accused police of mishandling the investigation. These are some of the voices from the rally. One of the voices in the middle of this piece is Islan Nettles’ mother, Delores Nettles.

PROTESTER: No justice!


PROTESTER: No justice!


PROTESTER: If there ain’t gonna be no justice!

PROTESTERS: There ain’t gonna be no peace!

DANIELLA CARTER: That I’m here. I’m living in New York City. And I’m as educated, and I’m as political, I’m as human—you know, because we’re dehumanizing the trans community. And this is a prime example of dehumanizing someone and their rights.

LOURDES ASHLEY HUNTER: With Islan Nettles, she was beaten until she could move no more, outside of a police station. She was in a crux of three different police stations in a gentrified neighborhood of Harlem where 10 different cameras are not working. This goes beyond just brutality and discrimination and against trans folks. What about the safety of all New Yorkers? How could it be in the middle of Harlem and cameras don’t work? This could happen to anyone. If it happened to a white woman, would we be standing out here right here in the freezing cold fighting for justice six months later?

DELORES NETTLES: I spoke to a Sergeant Dorsey on the 17th.





UNIDENTIFIED: Sergeant Dorsey!

DELORES NETTLES: Sergeant Dorsey told me the only thing he could tell me was that the person was arrested. And I said, “Half of my child’s brain is out of her head, and that’s all you can tell me?” And no one came from that precinct. But I thank all of you for coming. I appreciate it, and that’s all I have to say. Thank you. I love you.

MADISON ST. SINCLAIR: He was arrested, but he wasn’t charged. And I sat with his mom, who is actually right there, Islan’s mom, in court to listen to them sort of just destroy her as a person. It was disgusting. And she was the victim.

LOURDES ASHLEY HUNTER: Unacceptable. We are tired. We are tired of waiting by lesbian and gay folk to champion their policies and what they’re interested in. Marriage doesn’t impact us. We’re tired of being pushed away and discriminated against in housing, access to jobs, education. And we’ve had enough. And even with this particular murder, you know what I’m saying? This is continual. This is not something new. This is indicative of NYPD. This is indicative of politics in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED: … comes to transgender people, is violence chases us all everywhere, whether it’s CeCe McDonald in Minnesota or us here in Harlem, in New York City.

MADISON ST. SINCLAIR: Trans people are no longer a marginalized community. We’re no longer a disenfranchised community. We’re doctors. We’re lawyers. We’re taxpayers. And we demand and deserve the exact same rights as everyone else. We’re not asking for special rights; we’re asking for human rights. And so, it’s disgusting that this happens now. It’s constantly happening. People are being killed all the time, and no one is being charged for it.

PROTESTER: No justice!


PROTESTER: No justice!


PROTESTER: No justice!


PROTESTER: No justice!


AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices at a rally calling for justice in the case of Islan Nettles. Special thanks to our Democracy Now! fellow Messiah Rhodes for that report. Laverne Cox, this is a case that you’ve been particularly interested in here in New York.

LAVERNE COX: Again, with Islan’s case, we see the safety of trans folks just walking down the street, having the audacity to walk down the street, being questioned. And so often—the director of the Ali Forney Center spoke at that rally and talked about how folks who have been served by the Ali Forney Center, who are trans women who have—we’ve lost to violence, their cases haven’t been solved. So often, these murders of trans women—and it’s the—we know it’s the highest homicide rate amongst the LGBTQ community, is trans women—it’s usually trans women of color. So often, these murders don’t go—they go unsolved. And I think it reflects how so often our lives are treated as if they don’t matter by the police, treated as if they don’t matter by society.

AMY GOODMAN: CeCe, what was your response as you watched? This has to hit very, very close to home.

CECE McDONALD: Yeah. Just watching that kind of just made me go back to that time where I know what it’s like to have to always have this guard up, because you don’t never know when somebody will literally try to kill you for just being who you want to be. And to know that Islan’s life was taken from her out of hatred and out of ignorance, it really upsets me, because I’m trans, and all the people that I know who are trans that are really close to me, I always have this fear for them, because I would never want someone to get a phone call saying that I was dead or me getting a phone call saying that one of my friends was dead because someone just wanted to hurt them. You know, like, it’s rare that you hear about a trans woman living happily and long and having this glorious life where she dies of old age, natural causes or whatever. Usually, from my own—you know, from me knowing about the history of violence against trans women, I’ve yet to hear of a trans woman who has just lived her life happily. And I’m trying to be one of those women who tells other trans women to educate themselves and to protect themselves and to be safe and to be cautious, because people do not care. We’re—trans people are like props to people sometimes, I feel like, like we’re just less than human. And it’s really ridiculous that we have to live a life like this every day. Like, I and so many other trans women who have dealt with violence, you know, over the course of growing up—you know what I’m saying—have to deal with this on a daily basis. And for me to have to watch that was really heartbreaking, because it’s another story. It’s another name that we have to add to this day of Trans Day of Remembrance. And I always encourage people to like—we have to change that. We have to make Trans Day of Remembrance Trans Day of Celebration. We need to celebrate our lives. We need to celebrate being human. But it’s just—it’s just so much. I can’t right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Laverne Cox, this hits close to home for you, too, as you cry.

LAVERNE COX: It does. I think—I think, for me, what comes up, listening to CeCe talk, is the collective trauma that so much of our community faces. And particularly, I think it’s important to look at the intersectional piece, that we’re usually talking about trans women of color, that there’s something about—that black bodies are under attack in this culture, and black trans bodies are under attack. So it’s important for us to remember that. And how do we create spaces of healing for ourselves as a community in the face of such oppression, in the face of such trauma? It’s devastating. It’s devastating to our community to continually hear about this kind of violence. And it’s pervasive. It’s intimate partner violence. In the documentary, Free CeCe, people can find out about it at In the documentary, we’re going to be looking at intimate partner violence. We’re going to be looking at all of the different elements of violence that surrounds these situations, to hopefully find some solutions and ways to combat it.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for joining us. We want to do a post-show and we’ll post it online. I also want to talk to you about the new definitions or identifiers in Facebook and more. Our guests are CeCe McDonald, who is just recently out of prison; Laverne Cox, the actress who stars inOrange is the New Black; and Alisha Williams, staff attorney with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. And a great honor to have them all on this day, our 18th birthday. Democracy Now! went on the air February 19, 1996.




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What FB’s 56 genders mean – Are you Genderqueer or Trans Male? #socialmedia

The social network’s gender options confuse some and please others, but here’s what they really mean, in layman terms

Kashika Saxena , Bombay Times, Feb 18, 2014

Social networks and websites only offer the ‘male’and ‘female’gender options currently. However, Facebook has gone ahead and is now offering 56 more gender options! Here’s a brief summary for your understanding.Many options are variations of a single theme….
1. Agender: Neither man nor woman. A person who doesn’t identify with any gender. Also referred to, as Neutrois.
2. Androgyne:A person who has both male and female gender characteristics. Androgynes may express more femininity or masculinity depending on their mood and other factors, but an androgyne is a single gender that combines femininity with masculinity.
3. Androgynous: Same as androgyne. 4. Bigender: While androgynes combine the traits of both male and female genders, bigenders switch between male and female at different times. Bigenders are two distinct genders that are expressed separately. 5. Cis: Short for cisgender. 6. Cisgender:The opposite of transgender. People whose gender aligns with their birth sex, which is also their societallyrecognised sex. 7. Cis Female: A woman who is born as a woman and identifies herself as a female gender in a female body. 8. Cis Male: A man born as a man and identifies himself as a male gender in a male body. 9. Cis Man: Same as Cis Male. 10. Cis Woman: Same as Cis Female. 11.Cisgender Female:Same as Cis Female. 12. Cisgender Male: Same as Cis Male. 13. Cisgender Man: Same as Cis Male. 14.Cisgender Woman:Same as Cis Female. 15. Female to Male: A person who is born as female but identifies as male, and is transitioning/has transitioned from female to male gender identity, either socially or medically. 16. FTM: Short for Female To Male. 17. Gender FluidThe idea is that gender is not fixed but fluid. Gender fluid people may believe that neither male nor female describes them accurately, and feel free to act like a male or female at different times. 18. Gender Nonconforming: People who do not behave according to the societal expectations for their gender. 19. Gender Questioning: Still trying to figure out one’s gender and sexual identity. 20. Gender Variant: Same thing as gender fluid or gender nonconforming, but some people believe that the term variant implies that there is a ‘normal’ standard for gender. 21. Genderqueer: This category covers all gender nonconforming identities. 22. Intersex: A person born with sex chromosomes or sexual anatomy that isn’t entirely male or female. They may also have biological characteristics of both male and female. This term has replaced hermaphrodite, which is considered derogatory or problematic. 23. Male to Female: A person who is born as male but identifies as female, and is transitioning/has transitioned from male to female gender identity, either socially or medically. 24. MTF: Short for Male To Female.25. Neither: Someone who doesn’t identify as male or female. 26. Neutrois:Same as Agender. 27. Non-binary – People who identify as non-binary disregard the idea of male and female dichotomy. It’s an umbrella term, much like Genderqueer. 28. Other: Same as Neither. 29. Pangender: An inclusive term for all genders. 30. Trans: Short for Transgender. The opposite of cisgender. Someone whose gender identity is the opposite of their birth sex. Since these definitions vary with locations and individuals, also see Transsexual31. Trans*:Some people believe that trans (without the asterisk) is applied to trans men and trans women, while the asterisk makes an effort to include all non-cisgender gender identities32. Trans Female: Assigned male at birth, but identifies as female. 33. Trans* Female: Same as Trans Female. 34. Trans MaleAssigned female at birth, but identifies as male. 35. Trans* Male: Same as Trans Male. 36. Trans Man: Same as Trans Male. 37. Trans* Man: Same as Trans Male. 38. Trans Person: A person who doesn’t identify with their birth-assigned gender. 39. Trans* Person: Same as Trans Person. 40. Trans Woman: Same as Trans Female. 41. Trans* Woman: Same as Trans Female. 42. Transfeminine: A spectrum of gender identities dominated by female identity. 43. Transgender:Same as Trans. 44. Transgender Female: Same as Trans Female. 45. Transgender Male: Same as Trans Male. 46. Transgender Man: Same as Trans Male. 47. Transgender Person: Same as Trans Person. 48. Transgender Woman: Same as Trans Female. 49. Transmasculine: A spectrum of gender identities dominated by male identity. 50. Transsexual: An older term originating from medical and psychological communities referring to transgender. Some people prefer the term Transgender to Transsexual, while some definitions make a distinction between the two. While the term transsexual implies that the person almost always wishes to undergo a gender-affirmative surgery, some use transgender as just an umbrella term. 51. Transsexual Female: Since a medical assessment is required to give surgical assistance to transsexual people, transsexual females’ birthassigned sex is male, but they’re medically assessed as female. 52. Transsexual Male: A person whose birthassigned sex is female, but they’re medically assessed as male. 53. Transsexual Man: Same as Transsexual Male.54. Transsexual Person: Same as Transsexual. 55. Transsexual Woman:Same as Transsexual Female. 56. Two-Spirit: A Native American term for gender fluid people.
It’s a big boost when a website as big as this recognises the transgender community. Self-expression is a major life goal and even a small thing — being addressed the way we want to, on social media — has a positive impact on everyone in the community. I definitely think this will be adopted in the Indian context, too. I know people who were active online in the past, whether under hidden identities or otherwise. This move encourages them to come forward and accept who they are in front of their loved ones.
– Kalki Subramaniam, founder, Sahodari Foundation, that works for transgenders
Social media is such a major part of everyone’s life right now. All the people in the community desire to be able to express themselves the way they want and not get tied down to accepted codes. With the new options, the people get to be themselves, and the neutral terms give them more respect. At the end of the day, it’s all about one’s identity, and small things like these go a long way in making a person of the community feel positive about their own self.
– Rituparna Borah, Qashti LBT India 
It’s extremely important to be able to accept transgenders in the social space. The Ministry of Social Welfare in the country has also been trying to introduce a third sex — which is still in debate. It is fantastic that this social network has taken this step. So many transgenders are on the site and it’s a small lesson for this country, where laws are so skewed. We can’t depend on the state to acknowledge genders apart from male and female — but at the global level, if such steps are being taken, India needs to learn from them. – Ina Goel (doing a PhD in Social Medicine and Community Health on Transgender and Intersex people from JNU)Queer people have always been on this site. Transgenders, gays, lesbians — all of us have used social networking to interact with others. I feel this step has been taken to attract more people from the queer community. It is definitely a progressive move. We can cite this as an example, of how the world is reacting to LGBT issues, in our movement here, too. Given the inhuman behaviour that transgenders face in India, this move will help people accept them a bit more. – Gourab Ghosh (gay rights activist and PhD scholar, JNU)

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#India – Nothing gender neutral about Aam ‘Aadmi’ Party #AAP

Kamla Bhasin, Hindustan Times
January 12, 2014

I must confess that I did not expect the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to do so well in the recently concluded assembly elections in Delhi. Nevertheless, I am happy that the party did well at the hustings. However, I, as well as my feminist friends, have been asking ourselves how different is the party from the others that are in the fray? Is the year-old party’s perspective on women and the issues of gender justice any different from the others? Unfortunately, I think the Arvind Kejriwal-party is not different from its opponents.

Why do I say so? The language AAP leaders, especially its chief and Delhi chief minister Kejriwal, use is telling. In his first speech in the assembly after he took over, Kejriwal explained who ‘aam aadmi’ is and  every sentence he uttered was in the masculine gender: “Aam aadmi kheti karta hai, chaand pe jaata hai, research karta hai”. This language and the thinking that went behind it exclude half the nation — 49% of India’s population — and this is truly reprehensible. It is clear that the mentality of AAP leaders is no different than those of our other national leaders who wish Independence Day to all the ‘countrymen’ of India.

If Kumar Vishwas, a poet and one of the top leaders of AAP, represents the thinking in AAP, then it is really worrisome. I have had the misfortune of watching two of his videos, in which he uses sexist jokes liberally to amuse his audience. The most objectionable was one about tennis player Sania Mirza and her Pakistani Muslim husband cricketer Shoaib Malik whom Vishwas called a “chhakka” or a eunuch.  Honestly, I could not believe my ears when I heard this. The remark is appalling, to say the least, and he must apologise to women for those insulting remarks.

In the 18 main demands for Delhi, there is only one about women and that is related to speedy justice for victims of violence; there is nothing about jobs for them or 33% reservation for women in the assembly.

Kamla Bhasin is a women’s activist


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#India – #LGBTQ have Made More than #377 Contributions

Garam Masala

They have Made More than 377 Contributions to All Sections in India!


It seems like any other sandwich in the café’s display case until you notice the small label: LGBT sandwich. What’s in it, you ask. Lettuce, Gouda cheese, Basil oil and Tomato, says the person behind the counter, deadpan. LGBT also stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, a group of people that a Supreme Court bench recently dismissed as a ‘minuscule minority’ whose rights were not worth protecting. Someone at this café, part of a national chain, seems to be more supportive. I won’t name the chain to prevent this quiet gesture from gaining controversy, but if you ever see the sandwich, consider ordering it in tasty solidarity (though I wish instead of boring iceberg lettuce they had used lively, peppery arugula which would better suit the lesbians I know). Fashion is the stereotypical gay profession, but food isn’t far behind, and rather more inclusive of the rest of the alternate sexuality spectrum. LGBT people have long found sustenance, salaries and solace from all parts of the food business — as chefs, wait staff, food writers, farmers, food entrepreneurs and just cooking up multitudes of delicious meals. The Alice B Toklas Cookbook, which famously first popularised a recipe for hash brownies, is as much a memoir of Toklas’ life with her life partner, the writer Gertrude Stein. MFK Fisher, the best, most luminous of American food writers, lived for years with another woman. Lots of LGBT People in Indian Food Biz 
In one of her memoirs, she has a memorable chapter on the lusts and appetites (for oysters as much as sex) that pervaded Miss Huntington’s School for Girls where she studied in 1924.
James Beard, the guru of American gastronomy was gay, though he had to be discreet about it for most of his life. James Villas, a much younger food writer, writes in his memoirs of taking the massive Beard to a gay club for the first time, which he enjoyed, though he felt everyone there was too thin: “They just need to put some meat on their bones.” Craig Claiborne, long-time food critic for the New York Times, and one of the first to popularise Indian food in the US, was gay, as was Richard Olney, a reclusive, but influential expert on French food.Today, sexuality hardly seems an issue in the food business in the US. Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential, his entertaining exposé of high-stress restaurant life admits that kitchen swearing is often homophobic and racist, but doesn’t mean it: “We spend too much time together as an extended, dysfunctional family to care about sex, gender, preference, race or national origin.”
Several Indian-American LGBT people have made their names with food, like Preeti Mistry, who is openly lesbian, and was a chef on the Google campus before taking part in the Top Chef show. Raghavan Iyer, whose 660 Curries is one of the best written and presented big books of Indian recipes dedicated it to his late mother, to Terry Erickson, his partner of 25 years and to their son Robert who “tasted all of the recipes in this book (extraordinarily commendable when I tell you the testing happened during the fourth, fifth and sixth years of his life).”
In India, LGBT people in the food business may be less open, and this regressive ruling might force them to be even more discreet. Yet there have always been lots of LGBT people involved in Indian food, like a well-known food writer who multiple reliable sources have told me was gay, but since he lived well before the relative openness of recent years, never really came out. One of the first really stylish small restaurants I encountered in Bangalore was run by a gay couple and a lesbian chef runs some of the best restaurants in the country. I haven’t been to Salem in a while, but if I do go, I’ll make sure to eat at the Menmai Arusuvai Idli Kadai which has been set up by a transgender community group and has been such a hit they plan to start a chain.
Lathika George, in her book The Suriani Kitchen, writes about Missy, an Anglo-Indian lady famous in the Syrian-Christian community in Kerala in the 1940s for her cooking skills. She travelled, teaching how to make her delicacies and usually stayed in the local convent, since she was a devout Christian. One night when she didn’t respond to knocking at her door, a young nun peeped through the keyhole and “spied Missy hurriedly pulling a dress over her head, turning then to reveal she was actually a man.” What happened to Missy isn’t told, but her memory survives in her recipes which George passes on, like for instance Molaga Chertha Mooriyerchi Chops, steaks marinated in tamarind, jaggery and pepper.
Since many LGBT people live with families and can’t bring partners or friends home, restaurants and cafes become particularly important as places to meet. The Gaybombay support group started off 14 years back with a group of men meeting informally in McDonald’s, which had just opened in the city. It wasn’t the fast food that was the attraction, but the fact that it was cheap, easy to access and even had a nice family vibe, that mattered for a group that wanted to show that being gay wasn’t something sleazy, but just as regular as anything else.
Over the years, many restaurants, cafes and bars have hosted LGBT meetings – United Coffee House in Delhi was one of the very first – and it was heartening to hear how one Mumbai bar, after the Supreme Court decision, waived some charges that a LGBT group owed them for the event as a sign of support. Another supportive brand was Amul which did a congratulatory hoarding after the positive Delhi High Court ruling in 2009 and a commiserating one now. But as always for LGBT people, it’s the food cooked and eaten at home that has been the most important. ‘Feeding Lesbigay Families’ is a fascinating study by Christopher Carrington that studies food interactions of gay and lesbian couples in the US to show not just how similar they are to straight couples, but also to illuminate aspects of straight relationships, like the often unexpressed inequalities in food shopping, cooking and consumption. And at the start of the essay he quotes an epigram he found in the kitchen of a lesbian family: “Life’s riches other rooms adorn. But in a kitchen, home is born.”


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#India – The fight for gender equality is not that of women alone

Hindustan Times

A modicum of sensitivity is the least we expect from our elected representatives in an atmosphere vitiated by growing sexual violence against women

Not so from Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal who has taken the Tarun Tejpal case as an example to conclude that this will lead to companies not hiring women for fear of them levelling sexual abuse charges against men.

He dismissed the Assam gang-rape as a daily phenomenon and said that such incidents take place regularly in the Capital. He also added the usual argument that women should not wear revealing clothes if they wanted to protect themselves from unwanted attention.

Now we can dismiss him as a habitual offender. But it was only recently that additional solicitor general Indira Jaising, in a speech, mentioned that some judges had approached their chief justices asking that women employees in their offices be either removed or that new ones not be hired.

This amounts to the fact that women, who are at risk of sexual violence, are doubly condemned to lose their right to livelihood. This suggests a backlash against women at a time when people should sit up and think of ways to extend the maximum protection to women.

The fact that the law is quite explicit in its provisions to protect women will not work in their favour if there is a subtle discrimination by organisations.

It is almost as if saying that men cannot resist the temptation to molest, so women should be careful. The fear of losing their jobs could lead to a culture of silence among women, and such remarks can only compound the felony.

Mercifully, not too many right-minded organisations will turn away a qualified woman candidate on the spurious grounds that she may one day complain of harassment. But, it really does not help for people in positions of responsibility to come out with such regressive statements.

Many men have come out in droves to condemn violence against women. Sadly, the few really rotten apples also get heard. The fight for gender equality is not that of women alone, men are equal partners in it.



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