Monday, 19 May 2014

Our Ironical Passion

The unfortunate incident happened in Chibok on April 14th, 2014 has turned the lives of its residents into a living nightmare. Their daughters were abducted from the school by the Islamic Jihadist organisation Boko Haram. All because these girls went to school and Boko Haram believes western education is a sin. It has disturbed all of us. It’s been weeks and we have no clue about the girls. The kidnapping in itself is dreadful but there is something more heinous, the proud announcement of the man behind this. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of this group released a video message saying, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women.." [1] In the video stated he said all this with a sly smile. It makes my blood go chill. What’s haunting me the most is, “I will sell women.

All these 250-300 girls, among whom few are as young as 8-9 will be thrown in sex-trafficking forcefully striping off their dignity and self-worth. Girls no matter what age become the victims. They are abducted, threatened, befooled and sometimes even sold by their own parents or relatives. Poverty becomes the catalyst of such trade.  Sometimes parents sell their daughters to brothels for money or they are sold as brides to repay their debts. In this dark market children and women are reduced to be mere objects of sexual fetishes of perverts. The kind of torture women go through if they refuse is heinous. On March 23rd, 2014 in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra, a woman’s breasts were chopped off by the pimp for opposing [2].

All this is uncomfortable. Our blood boils and bile rises to our throats but we don’t know what to do. While reading about the Nigerian incident I came across a hashtag on twitter Real Men Don’t Buy Girls. I am confused who are these ‘real men’. When I look the stats for rapes or prostitution, it seems these ‘real men’ are few and also the involvement of women in trafficking or trading can’t be ignored. However, my mind is baffled that the kind of cruelty victims suffer, are the culprits even human.

While researching deep about sex-trafficking, I found that the sex traffickers have made the online pornography a tool of power and control by abusing, blackmailing and raping their victims.  Pornography sounds so familiar. For most of us pornographic sites have become a regular stopover either out of curiosity, habit or addiction. It’s is like junk food. Most of us know it’s not good but we find hard living without it. The social acceptance has gone to an extent where a porn actress is working in main stream cinema of a society as conservative as India. Most of us think that Prostitution and sex trafficking are closely related, however, have we ever given a thought over the correlation between pornography industry and flesh trading? I don’t know if we can get those ‘real’ men stop from buying girls or not, however there is something which we can surely do.

There was a Tedx talk by Ran Gavirelli [3] about not watching pornography. While I read the comments below it I found most of them justifying watching it. I am not sure whom they were justifying, the speaker or themselves. Here are the myths or excuses through which we attempt to justify pornography.

1)      We watch porn because it is available.
This is the most common one. We know that we watch porn because it is already there on internet; it’s already been uploaded for all. It is not created because we want to see it. We watch it or not it will be there.
Well, this is true but there is something we don’t know or maybe we know and chose to ignore. We have created a demand for internet pornography by making it a habit. As a newbie we watch whatever is available but as we proceed our fancies are kicked and we end up spending hours on such sites. We browse categories and search for new videos. With every download we create a demand and then supply has to be there. It became one of the most booming industries because we are not satisfied with what we saw once; we are salves of our habit or addiction. So, it may be true that we start watching it because it’s already uploaded on internet but as we watch it often, we unknowingly encourage the industry. The high demand for pornography has created an even more violent environment for victims of sex trafficking.

2)      Most porn actors and actress have chosen the industry
Pornography is a huge industry, it has lot of money. A very popular myth floats that girls abroad are in the profession by their choice. Sex is not considered as a taboo in English and American countries so people chose it as an easy way to earn money. No one is being forced to choose this as a profession. I agree some may have chosen the industry but most of them are forced. Unlike Sunny Leone who has glamorised the industry for Indians most of them have terrible life. On average 66% of porn performers have herpes, and 7% of porn performers have HIV. Ex-porn star Tanya Burleson says men and women in pornography do drugs because “they can’t deal with the way they’re being treated” in the industry [4].
So let us all get this fact straight that the kind of life they have or the cruelty most of them have faced is miserable. Just because people come from a liberal society does not necessary mean that they are happy to live without dignity. While of course not all women involved in pornography are subject to abuse, the number of those women who are exploited continues to grow without our knowledge.

3)      It’s a harmless fun
For sure it seems to be harmless, but is it really as harmless as it seems. I will address this myth from four perspectives.

a)      Harm to women
After reading the facts above, we must have understood by now the harmlessness of the industry. Trust me if you will search for the stats you will come to know about the brutal and barbaric facts about ‘pornography’ as an industry. To women what it does is well described by MacKinnon in her book ‘Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws’, “Women in pornography are bound, battered, tortured, harassed, raped, and sometimes killed; or, in the glossy men’s entertainment magazines, “merely” humiliated, molested, objectified, and used. In all pornography, women are prostituted. This is done because it means sexual pleasure to pornography’s consumers and profits to its providers, largely organized crime”. Many children, girls and women are kidnapped and sold.

b)     Harm to society
Pornography triggers the quench of sexual gratification. People want to replicate the pleasure in real life. India being a conservative country doesn’t give many options to explore, so either they visit a prostitute or try to indulge with females they know. It affects all sections and class of society. Casting Couch, Exploitation at Work, Extramarital Affairs, Exploitation of Children etc. are few consequences of the unsatiated libido prompted by such videos. Well, maybe it’s not responsible for most of the crimes against women but we can’t ignore its effect on the social psychology.

c)      Harm to Us
It is hard to believe but it’s true. Even we as individual are getting affected by it. Pornography triggers a neurotransmitter ‘dopamine’ which is responsible for sexual gratification. When the dopamine hit is often, it gets entangled with the brain making it very difficult for you to be satisfied in real life. This dearth of satisfaction sometimes leads to crime against women, visiting a prostitute or extra marital affair. If no such option is at hand due to any social or moral barrier people most commonly resort to the online virtual pleasure and so it becomes a vicious cycle. So the common myth that watching porn spices up the sex life, is all false, it actually makes it difficult.

d)     Harm to our CHILDREN
This is something which can’t be overlooked at any cost. It’s a dangerous threat spreading across the world with every passing moment. UNICEF in one of its report stated, “Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 U.S. States; anyone can be trafficked regardless of race, class, education, gender, age, or citizenship when forcefully coerced or enticed by false promises”[5]. Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States [6]. In India it’s even worse, there are no national or regional estimates for the number of children trafficked every year. But 40% of prostitutes are children, and there is a growing demand for young girls in the industry [7]. There are two dreadful phases on it, as victims and predators.

1)    Child trafficking as happening with the victims of Chibok has shown a dramatic increase since few years. The cases of child abuse are simply going up not only in the Red Light world but also in our daily life. No one can claim to be safe. In 95% of cases, the sexual abuse offender is known to the child; that is they are a relative or trusted friend. Only 5% of child sexual assault cases are ‘stranger danger’ [8]. We all are matured enough to understand the correlation. Pornography increases the curiosity of a person to such an extent that may be people can go to any extent to experience it. Any child is a prey to some pervert (known and stranger) and kidnappers who would sell them.

2)      Kids as young as 10-12 have access to pornography these days. It makes them curious and kind of addicted to it. As they are not mature enough to understand the complications of it, they simply understand it as pleasure and try to replicate in real life. Habitual of seeing women as object of sex and abuse through those videos, they can’t respect women. A study by the Crimes Against Children Research Centre at the University of New Hampshire states in one of its reports that Juveniles are 36% of all sex offenders who victimize children [6]. There are more stats on the internet about the kind of brutality juvenile sex offenders show towards their victims which will shake your soul.

When the whole world talks about human and sex trafficking with rage it gives us a hope that may be some day my sister, friend, wife or daughter will feel safe. It also makes me as a woman feel safer. Ironically at the same time, pornography is tolerated, accepted, openly defended, and even celebrated. Every time we watch pornography, some girl somewhere across the globe is paying for it. A famous saying goes, “There's no such thing as free lunch”, and it’s just that you think you are not paying for it today but,

P.S. Indeed, most of us won’t be comfortable sharing it, however, trust me that perhaps is the least we can do if we stand against human trafficking.

Image Courtesy:

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Kudos to Youth..Together We Stand!


With every tick of the clock the excitement is rising. The great grand fat elections in India for 2014 are about to wrap up with results I hope will help the nation grow. People are happy and sad for their own reasons and affections to different political candidates or parties. However, I am happy for a different reason; this is the first time I have seen Indian youth to stand for their convictions. If we talk about the three major parties BJP, AAP and Congress, the kind of youth support BJP and AAP are enjoying is phenomenal. Varanasi has witnessed it all.

Its a time to congratulate our youth for the kind of revolution they have brought in the country and the minds of people.

Looking beyond these elections, I think this is the beginning of an era in India. It’s not about the elections or who won and who lost, but about the kind of participation Indian youth has shown. I am amazed to see the youth fighting for the candidate they believe in. Youth who are not associated officially to any political party took all the pains to aware people and vote wisely. Hundreds and thousands of BJP and AAP supporters from all over the world swamped Varanasi to talk about what they feel.

India you already won when young boys and girls took leave from their offices and traveled from distances to give a message to vote wisely. It hardly matters they stood for BJP or AAP or Congress, what matters is that they stood for a bright India.

India you already won when people with no vested interests and just for you stood together and supported their respective parties.

India you already won because they not only care for you but also can go to any extent to ensure you get the best.

India you already won when they stood for you in their own ways.

If we continue standing like this for our convictions for our country above our vested interests, ‘Achche din’ will never fade away irrespective of who wins or who loses. 

Jai Hind!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Coming back to life!

Things have moved fast for the whole world since March 08th, 2014. India is busy with the on-going elections. The world is eagerly waiting to know what enfolds in the future for this country. But, there are a set of people in the world for whom the clock is ticking for sure but the time is at still. These are the families of the people who boarded the unfortunate Malaysian flight 370. It flew towards its destination but lost all its contact to the ground within less than an hour after its take-off. The aircraft was carrying 12 Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 14 nations.

That day not only these 239 people went missing, but with them went missing the smiles and lives of all near and dear ones of them. Since then their life has never been the same. The families have spent hours and days in the assistance centers in hope of a miracle. All they want is some news - good or bad. After extensive search of nearly two months, conducted by all the super powers of the world nothing could be found. With every passing day the despair ascends. They don’t know what happened to their loved ones. Evidences tell them their wait is futile but they are still waiting.

Last week exacerbated their woes. The airlines announced that they are closing the assistance center at Hotel Lido, Beijing on May 2nd and all other centers on May 7th. They want the families to go back home. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia advised and requested the families to “accept reality”. People are scared to go back home. Some may live in remote areas with no Internet access, they are not sure if they will miss something important. Some are scared what if they return and the governments cease the search but what is scaring them the most is to resume lives without their loved ones. Will they be able to do that? At every phone ring they will pray, with every knock they will pray, with every news flash they will pray. Their hope won’t let them sleep and their thoughts will make them miserable when they are awake.

Some have gathered the courage to accept the reality. On last Sunday, May 4th, 2014, the first funeral of this mishap was held. Friends and families of two Australian citizens, Mr. Rodney Burrows and Mrs. Mary Burrows gathered all their courage to do this. However, most of the families are yet to come to terms with it. They are still struggling to face it. They don’t know where to restart from and some of them don’t even want to restart.

Let us all pray to dear Lord to give the families the courage to bear this irreplaceable loss. Every time I read some article or hear some news about the mishap or even while I am writing this down, I am not able to think what’s more cruel – living with the truth of losing someone or dying daily in the hope that he/she may return someday.