Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yemeni Child Brides say NO!

You know how parents are always worried of what new trend their teenagers will throw at them?Well, the parents of Yemen have a radically different new trend to deal with. The country has managed to successfully get under the nerves of their young teenage girls who have now put their foot down and are filing for divorce!Yes, you read  that right.In a country where young girls are forced into marriage and subsequently sexual relationships long before they even hit puberty, the child brides are finally heading to the court to get the marriages annulled.

The source of the strength can be traced down to the crusade of a little girl named Nujood who had been forced into a marriage with her family's thirty-something deliveryman at the age of ten. In her recently published brave autobiography I am Nujood,Age 10 and Divorced, Nujood, now twelve, recalls in horrific details about how her mother failed to voice her disapproval on the match, how her "husband" forced himself on her right after their marriage and how her mother-in-law encouraged her husband to regularly beat her up. When she heard that judges in court could grant divorces, she one day sneaked out of her home, jumped into a taxi and went straight to the courthouse to look for a judge. Soon she became a celebrity of sorts among the Yemeni intellectual circles and eventually won her divorce! Her fame spread so widely that Secretary of State, United States of America, Hillary Clinton addressed her as "one of the greatest women I have ever seen!" (It is safe to say she is the only third grader to have possibly received this honour!). Though initially accused by her family of bringing shame upon them, she is now a lot more loved and respected by her father and brothers for being the chief bread winner of the householder(she supports them with her book royalties)

Nujood's victory encouraged other Yemeni girls to follow suit. Her case was closely followed with that of an eight year old's who had been forcefully married off to man in his 50s to pay off her father's debt.The latest case is that of a twelve year old's who filed for divorce with her thirty year old cousin.Most of these young brides have been taken out of school, brutally raped and beaten up by their husbands, tortured by their in-laws and are too scared to refuse their fathers or go back to their homes for fear of shaming their family.However, the tide has been changing ever since the story of the brutal death of the 12-year old Yemeni girl (which I had mentioned here) hit headlines and brought international attention to the plight of Yemeni girls.

The brave young girls have started a revolution and till now have managed to raise the legal age for marriage to 17. While a lot of work still remains to be done, this change in the mindset of young girls is a much needed progressive change! Hopefully with time they will get what is only their natural right-a childhood.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Adventures of Salwa

The League of Independent Activists (IndyACT) have come up with a novel idea for spreading awareness about sexual harassment faced by women. The campaign, titled "The Adventures of Salwa," aims at helping women combat various forms of harassment and abuse both in the public and private domains of their lives.

The campaign is the product of the beliefs and genius of five women who feel the need to be aware of and equipped to deal with everyday harassment and the resulting trauma. To achieve their objective, the campaign follows a series of steps ranging from featuring Salwa in all major social networking sites to holding meetings for victims of harassment to deal with their trauma.

The animated video shows Salwa working by her computer when she is summoned by her boss. On entering her boss’s office, she finds him holding a letter certifying her promotion. As she happily goes to take the letter from him, he suddenly leans forward, attempting to kiss her. An infuriated Salwa smacks the boss with her handbag and walks out in a huff.

The first part of the story is not a very uncommon one. It is the “walking out” that most of us are unable to do — the reason of course being the fear of the repercussions! We understand that we will face further persecution on letting go our job while our perpetrators will escape unscathed. In India, it’s only been six years since sexual harassment has been given the recognition of a criminal offense(an amazing story behind it too!some other blogpost maybe!). Yet, the condition of women at work and in the streets has not improved much! In fact, this form of expression is so often used by men to subjugate women, it has become a hidden, almost normal part of our lives.

Undoubtedly, therefore, this “Salwation” comes as a fresh lease on life for the Lebanese women and a gentle reminder to stand up against harassment for the rest of the women in the world!

Read more:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wars, Women and Wowness

"The sprites of fiery termagants in flame.
 Mount up, and take a Salamander's name"
                                                               -Rape Of the Lock, Alexander Pope.

For a number of reasons ranging from very sensible to absolutely senseless, women aren't allowed to serve in the infantry of the Indian Army. The chivalric code renders women almost impossible of survival when left on their own without manly protection. Smelling salts and satin gowns are the best a woman can hope for. The world wasn't always like this though. This post is about Amazons from different parts of the world and time lines!Here are some women who screamed "SCREW YOU" as a battle cry and kicked some ass.Hard.

1.The Trung Sisters- Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, daughters and later wives of powerful lords, are credited with resisting the Chinese and basically creating a nation out of Vietnam! Trac's husband, a brave rebel, was executed and Trac herself was brutally raped. Obviously, the Han Chinese picked the wrong girl to mess with. The sisters raised an army of 80,000 women, trained 36 of them(including their mother) to be generals and drove the Chinese out of their lands in 40A.D. Together (though Nhi was the better fighter), they liberated the people of Vietnam and some sixty five fortresses. For the next three years, the successfully resisted Chinese invasion. They were however, defeated in 43 A.D as a consequence to which they committed suicide rather than be slaves.

"All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission;

Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country."

15th century Poem

2.Boudicca -Boudica's husband, Prasutagus, was the ruler of the Iceni people. Being a lot more liberated than his conterparts, he left his kingdom jointly to his two daughters. After his death however, his will was ignored, his kingdom was annexed, his wife was flogged and his daughters raped. But Boudicca was of course a warrior queen! So when the Roman governor  Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was busy leading a campaign on an island in Wales, Boudicca raised an army of Icenians and completely destroyed modern day Colchester, London and St Albans. She created a crisis so severe, that were it not for her eventual defeat, Nero would have withdrawn his soldiers from the island! Accounts of her death differ but it is most probable she killed herself so she would not be enslaved.

3. St Joan of Arc- The Maid of Orleans who led the French army to several victories. She was hailed as a heroine after she returned to take charge despite a wound on her neck. Heck! Even God thought she was good enough to be a Chosen One! She was however captured and later tried for heresy. The technical reason for her execution was the Biblical Clothing Law( Joan wore men's clothing. During her trial she relapsed to women's clothes but after being raped in prison, she donned men's clothing again as a sign of rebellion.) She was burnt at stake on 30th May, 1431. 

4. Rani Laskhmi Bai- I know I have written about her before. But I can never say enough for her. The Lady here has been immortalized in our nursery rhymes. She fought off the British Army till her last heroic breath. Even more amazing, she did all of this with a baby strapped on to her (super mom anyone?)! 

5. Beatrix Kiddo- I KNOW she does not exist but hey! It doesn't make her any less awesome! I mean, she.killed.bill! 'nuff said.