Tuesday, 27 September 2016

My Body Your Rules

image from depositphotos
There was once a fire in Neverland. It started small but was soon blazing away ferociously and had to be put out immediately. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, and that Somebody will do it. But Nobody did anything to stop the fire and it consumed the whole city.

This is the story of our lives and times. We are waiting for someone to come and rescue us from our villains and circumstances. But as the story goes, no one is doing anything about it. Reality check- If we accept the situation, it will become the norm.

The norm that we have got ourselves into is the constant denial of our sorry state. It is an irony that a woman beaten up by her husband is protected under the prevention of domestic violence laws but if the same woman is forced into a sexual act by her husband, she has no remedy under law. She will get relief against all other forms of ‘physical and mental abuse’ but not the most grievous one by the husband. It is his right.

What then, about husband-to-be? What if a woman agrees to the act with a “supposedly” ‘would-be husband’ who later denies the promise to marry? Will his mere denial make the act a rape? Or should we simply brand the girl to be of lose character, or a boy to be a cheat? If such act results in pregnancy, should the woman be forced to bear the child?

In Bareilly, a 14-year-old; 35 weeks pregnant, is grappling with this exact dilemma and unfortunately, everyone has let her down;

her employer who raped her (repeatedly on the pretext of marriage),

the courts who can’t find her condition “grave/serious enough” to abort the fetus,

the police who won’t act against the rapist,

the media, who will invite personalities on talk shows to uselessly discuss the failing laws, and

the mute society, who will stand and stare at the debacle.

Minor Rape- two words which wipe away any residual faith one may have in the justice system. The victim in such cases loses not just her modesty but childhood and innocence. Add pregnancy to complicate the matter. And now imagine denial of abortion. It is the final nail in the coffin for the raped. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act has fixed criteria for abortion at less than 12 weeks, or more than 12 weeks but not exceeding 20 weeks, and above 20 weeks only in grave circumstances. In the Bareilly case, each court has interpreted these clauses in its own way, unmindful of the victim’s plight. As a result, a physically, mentally and financially traumatized individual is forced to continue with the situation because no provision in the law can come to her rescue. The law wants her to have this child because there is no other law to suggest that she may have a choice.

Irrespective of the victim’s consent, age and marital status and the age of fetus, who is anybody to decide for a woman and her unwanted unborn? Amidst the lack of justifying laws, the question raised by this teenage victim remains unanswered - ‘Who will adopt this baby?’ Legislature, Judiciary or the Police?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Filthy Gaze

image from iStock

Back from tuition, I ran straight for my bath. Shower ran non-stop; head to toe. With it ran my heart, heavy and drenched,  sinking through the drain.

My mother called out, knocked, banged and yelled for holding in there for about an hour.

I could not tell her I was dirtied too much to be easily cleansed. I could not tell her that i was trying hard to scrub a filthy gaze that rubbed against me, EVERYWHERE. The gaze that still lingered and crawled over me.

Later that day, mother asked me to run down the street for some curry leaves and coriander. At a pan shop, I could see that man ogle, his eyes scanning what my clothes covered.  My blood felt frozen and my feet went cold. My bruised soul could not take another disgustingly penetrating stare. I didn't care for the curry leaves or coriander but this, I could not tell my mother. 

I could not tell her I feel raped. How I want to wipe off that leer but water does no good, tears don't help.
Monday, 12 September 2016

Education: Write System - Wrong Approach

image courtesy pixabay

Education: [ej-oo-key-shuh n]

the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

A look at the definition of education above can tell us how far behind we are from the goal. 

We seem to have a lopsided view of the whole process and our common understanding nowhere comes close to even the broadest of definitions of education. For us, in common parlance education means literacy whereas literacy is a by- product of education. It is one of the goals of education; not the sole purpose. The broad meaning of education is to pass on the collective knowledge to the younger generation so that they can lead richer, fuller lives with social cohesion.

There are some serious questions that need to be answered before we welcome the new National Education Policy 2016. As citizens of the world’s largest democracy, we need to question ourselves why we have turned a blind eye to our education system which is in shambles? Why do we continue to send our children to private unaided schools rather than government run schools despite the huge funding and infrastructure outlay the latter commands? How our education system, right from pre-primary level is focused on producing clones able to reproduce textbook content rather than fostering independent thinking? Will the recent change of guard at the HRD ministry promise a better future to education?

A lot is being done yet a lot remains to be done. The current education system is focused on literacy rather than learning, employability rather than educating, earning a living rather than making a life. Education is not a check box that needs to be ticked in haste, rather it is a valuable asset which needs to be provided and nurtured. As a nation, we lack the basic skills of creativity and intuitive thinking. Years of factory-like processing has produced countless products ready to be injected into several offices and companies. Look down and follow the rules. We are busy raising sheep not children.

In this scenario consider the plight of differently abled children and children with special needs. The education system doesn’t have adequate answers to meet their requirements. Most of the time, the teachers themselves are ill equipped to identify and guide such children. The one-size fits all approach of the curriculum can be frustrating. While eventually the goal is to mainstream these children, if every hurdle is too high, the learning becomes dreaded. We lack in appropriate assessment skills too. When children are born equal, endowed with the best abilities at entry, how do they end up labeled as slow learners or failures? There is a dearth of tests to assess or measure a child’s creativity, intelligence, curiosity or brilliance. What we know and endorse are only tests to measure their literacy skills. It is time to reflect on these questions and many more. Else we will lose the brightest minds of our country to greener pastures. No wonder the youth is keen to get on the first boat out of this country.

It is quite evident that the education system needs infusion of fresh talent and funds from the private sector. Teachers need to be remunerated well in order to attract and retain talent. The best brains will make a beeline for this profession and will not relegate teaching as a ‘last resort’ move. More importantly we need to imbibe a culture of revering teachers right from kindergarten, they really are the ones who shape the future of our children and in turn future of the nation.

The Right to Education Act 2009, is laudable for its wide coverage and broad based application. It has covered the universe of education and has provided rationale also. However, the devil lies in the implementation. As elements of the system, the schools, the teachers and the children themselves need to embrace the new Act and actively utilize its provisions to best effect. It is time we take education seriously.
Technology has infused new life in the system, and radically changed the way learning is imparted. However, there are still many who are not covered by the wave and yet to receive the benefits. Also, on deeper reflection, benefits of technological tools as educational aids need to be studied.

The original purpose of introducing literacy was to produce clerks for the British. We have come a long way but still suffer from a colonial hangover. The books have become thicker and the bags have become heavier. But we cannot claim to have reached our destination just yet.