Thursday, October 29, 2015

Let's remove taboos associated with Menstruation.

I wrote a post about worshiping while menstruating sometime back, in that post I tried to address the stigma associated with menstruation and participation in religious functions. This post gets maximum views during Hindu festival seasons when there are lot of occasions where women might face this dilemma. Many people have expressed different views and concerns in the comments section of that post. Some even asked for advise about what to do if they face the dilemma where their culture and tradition contradicts their logic. So when I read this article I decided to write one more post related with this topic of menstruation and various misconceptions associated with it. Actually taboos associated with menstruation are not only problem of any one religion or any one culture but this exists all over world, in all regions and religions. Many developed societies have broken this barriers to large extend but still this issue is a tabooed subject in many societies all over the world. Why there is so much secrecy around this subject that people hesitate to discuss it in open? Why there is so much ignorance and lack of information about this very important biological phenomena which is directly related with our procreation? It is a simple biological process which is part of our natural life cycle, we know about it since ages. Lot of progress has been done in area of sanitation and hygiene which can remove all concerns and doubts associated with this process. Then even after all this why some societies or cultures continue to treat it as some disease or some problem?

Actually the root cause for all this stigma and discomfort associated with menstruation are some age old beliefs, customs or traditions. One can clearly see that even in societies where proper sanitation and hygiene methods are available women are not treated properly during their periods. Somehow it is still believed that they are impure or not normal during 'those days'. Women are also guilty of not trying enough to remove stigma associated with this essential and unavoidable biological process. Many times they fell prey to all this stereotyping and cultural pressures and surrender to those things without offering any protest. Very few who dare to go against the norm then face the severe criticism and are made to feel guilty about their behavior. Menstruation is not something they choose or do one their own so that they can be blamed in any way for it, it is a biological phenomena. So why are they discriminated because of one very essential natural process on which they don't have any control?

It is good to see that things are improving, the rate of improvement is definitely slow but for sure things are changing. Many females are questioning this unfair treatment, many of them are willing to challenge this stigma and confront discriminatory practices. So all this is bound to bring that desired change, after all how long unfair discrimination will last if entire gender affected by it rebels against it? The more protests come out against such discrimination the more these things will be discussed. These discussions will slowly spread more information and more awareness about issues related with menstruation and stigma associated with it. Surprisingly people don't want to discuss or talk about such a important issue withing their own family, actually we need to give proper information to our kids about all these things, specially about things related with their body and sexuality. This is essential part of their learning which will make them a better human beings. This subject definitely doesn't need any stigma or taboo associated with it, females have suffered some sort of discrimination or other problems because of these things. We need to remove any stigma or taboo or hesitation associated with subject of menstruation and related issues from all societies and cultures. This is too important subject for half of world's population, we can't brush it aside or push under carpet as if it doesn't exist. I am glad to see that now females are taking lead themselves to remove stigma associated with many such issues. I am sure they will create space for their issues in discussion forums at all levels. I request rest of us to join them in this quest.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Links:
1. A Girl Gets Her Period And Is Banished To The Shed

Friday, October 23, 2015

Haldi-Kumkum: discriminatory tradition which needs major reforms.

Haldi-Kumkum is a tradition or social gathering event celebrated in various parts of India by married women during festival season. It seems historically it was started as a occasion to give an opportunity for married women to interact socially. This sounds quite logical, because in heavily male dominated patriarchal society where women seldom used go out of home unless and until they have to there may not have been many opportunities for them for social interaction with women of other families. So it makes perfect sense to have some function like this where women can gather in relaxed environment and interact with each other socially and discuss about topics of their interest. So why the heck I am calling this gathering discriminatory? Is it because men are not invited to it, am I trying to bring gender discrimination here? Absolutely not, one can have male social gatherings as well as female social gatherings, there is no question of gender discrimination as long as one gender is prohibited to have similar thing just because of their gender. So this is not about gender discrimination but about discrimination within the same gender. I witnessed this discrimination as a child, but that time I din't realize that this was a discrimination as I thought it was a part of our culture. So about what I am really talking here? If you check about this function widows are not invited to this function, now why are they not invited? because their husband's are no more so they can't be a part of function where basically having alive husband is celebrated. I am sure most of readers know that in Hindu tradition only married women put kumkum on their forehead and widows are not allowed to put that mark on their forehead. Basically that mark denotes that woman's husband is still alive,  no such mark or symbol is required for males to indicate whether their wife is alive or not. Actually I was told that if widows are invited to such function it can bring a bad omen for all other married women in that function that is why they are not invited, it seems somehow all those married women also might get widowhood, it can spread like some sort of contagious disease. Another reason might be where being alive husband is celebrated these widows might feel bad that their husbands are no more, so to spare them from this sorrow they are excluded. But if this is true then isn't this gathering supposed to be a social function for women or was it supposed to be just a celebration for having a alive husband? Both cannot be correct, if it was supposed to be a social function then there is no reason why widows should not be allowed to be a part of it. Actually not many years before widows used to be excluded from many of these so called auspicious occasions, things are changing slowly now but this tradition was there and is still practiced by some even today.

As a child I never realized that anything was wrong with any of these traditions. I was too naive and ill informed, I observed these things silently with many questions in my mind and no one around to answer them. I saw widows like my maternal grandma (we used to call her nani) wearing really simple clothes and participating in very limited functions. Actually I saw both my grandmas (nani and aaji)only as widows, but my nani lived much subduced or simple life than my aaji, may be because she had only a daughter as her only child but my aaji had 5 sons. I never realized back then the reason behind lack of colors in their lives. I also never felt anything wrong about it as I never knew that these women also have right to live life like other married women around them. I was trained to believe that it is part of our culture and tradition, so I accepted widowhood as something these women have to live with rest of their lives. It was their bad luck or misfortune and their family or society can't do anything to change it. But fortunately this ignorance didn't last long, slowly I realized that many of these traditions were plain discriminatory, misogynist and part of patriarchal culture. I also realized that not only men but women are also equally responsible in following and propagating these things and since then I question and oppose any such ritual or tradition which is discriminatory or biased in any way. I am glad that some people are questioning these things and some are even modifying these traditions to make them more accommodating and non-discriminatory. Both things are necessary, it is not true that getting rid of these traditions all together is the only solution, one can modify them, remove the discriminatory rules or rituals and keep on practicing them with same devotion and conviction. For example raksha bandhan is celebrated in our home in very gender unbiased way where brother and sister both tie rakhi to each other. I hope this ritual also goes through some major reforms and women start inviting all women irrespective of their martial status. This will be real social gathering and real interaction, having a living husband should not be the only criteria.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, October 16, 2015

Instead of anti-abortion protests fund some path breaking research ideas.

I see few people outside of Planned Parenthood centers on weekends and also on some days during weekdays protesting against abortion. They carry some posters and banners with pictures of babies or human fetus, most of the posters try to claim that life of every baby is important. I don''t think there is anyone who can disagree with this particular statement. Most people love babies, most of the world thinks that every born individual should get to live in peaceful and civilized world that is why we care about our environment or society so much, one of our aims behind all these efforts is that we want to give better society for our future generations. As a animal species we are radically different than all other animals on this planet and we are on continuous quest for improvement on many fronts. So no one disagrees with all baby's lives being important, but the main point of disagreement is not babies or their lives after they are born but 'the abortion'. It is a ultra sensitive political and social issue in American politics, it is so polarizing that there are  very extreme opinions about this. According to me it is utterly stupid to call someone pro-abortion or anti-abortion, after all it is a personal decision of that particular female (or couple) whether they want to have a child or not. Who am I or anyone to support or oppose their right to decide about their own parenthood? After all that female has to bear the pain of child birth and once someone becomes parents then they need to take care of their born child. Some people want to take that responsibility and some don't, some are just not yet ready for this, so it is their personal decision. Fertilization is a simple biological phenomena, as I wrote before there is no divinity or any external power involved in this process. Sperm meets an egg and embryo is formed, we know this process, it happens with other animals also, we study about this in biology class. So the entire opposition is to the process of 'abortion' where concerned person decides to terminate the pregnancy for variety of reasons. There can be so many reasons starting from some personal reasons or some health issues or pregnancy because of sexual abuse or even some economical reasons, it really depends on case to case why someone takes this step. We are really struggling on social and political level to find any acceptable solution for this problem. Some groups are dead against abortions, some support with some conditions and some consider it as women's right to chose what they want to do. There are some valid points with every side but unfortunately there is no common ground on which all parties seem to agree.

Actually according to me there is a strong possibility that science can help to resolve this complex issue. Specially it might help these pro-life people to solve their difficulty of worrying about every embryo formed. If the concern for every embryo is so important then they should aggressively fund research to develop technique which can make possible to carry out entire pregnancy and child birth outside human body. So in this technique once embryo is formed it can be taken out of body and processed as body does normally to develop it into a baby. This will eliminate most of the troubles or inconveniences associated with pregnancies and these pro-life people can take care of all these babies and everyone is happy. People who don't want can get rid of unwanted pregnancies and people who are so concerned about those embryos can take care of them, both sides get what they want. This research will definitely put an end to need for abortion. It will also avoid other troubles like going through trouble of pregnancy followed by child birth and then putting that child up for adoption, these new centers can take the fertilized egg and develop it into a baby and give it to pro-life groups to take care of them. Even this can be beneficial for other parents who want to have their won biological child but don't want to go through hassle of pregnancy and stuff related with it. This idea might sound like science fiction but I am sure this is achievable. Everyday new frontiers are conquered in scientific world and I am sure with proper funding and backing this also can be achieved. This has potential of solving a major social and political issue, once we solve this issue then we can focus on many other important issues which require our attention like education, poverty, economy, etc. So I am sure this suggestion will find some takers at least from pro-life section, after all this is about saving those embryos for which they are tirelessly protesting for so many years. I am not joking or being sarcastic here, I really thought about how to resolve this issue so that law makers of this great country don't waste time in debating about this personal health issue of women. Also I am not at all against these protests, I completely support their right to express their disagreement. I absolutely have no issues about their protests or any other protest as long as it is peaceful. I am just interested in finding some permanent solution for this long standing problem. Out of body pregnancy and child birth is bound to become reality sooner or later, so why not to consider this possibility now itself which can help us to resolve one very sensitive issue. This idea seems to have potential to solve this problem, I am sure some people might have other ideas also which I hope they share openly. Efforts of all of us might help to eliminate rift between these so called pro-life and pro-choice groups.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, October 9, 2015

Why it is important to have a tolerant society?

I always write about the importance of tolerance and how it is important for any progressive and civilized society to be tolerant. I found that many people somehow believe that showing tolerance is a sign of weakness. Somehow there is a perception that being tolerant means being weak person or submissive society. I wonder from where they get this notion, actually tolerance or registering your protest via non violent way is not a easy thing. Gandhi himself said that option of non violence is only for strong people, weak people can not follow this path because it is very tough for them to control their anger and animal instincts. Same is true for tolerance, for being tolerant one requires lot of patience and strength. Any society or government should learn to tolerate dissent or different opinions than their own. It is very rare for any diverse group or society to agree completely on any issue, there will always be some difference of opinion or some opposition no matter what is the topic of discussion. This is where tolerance comes into the picture. I think every individual, group or society need to ask this question to themselves, are they willing to accept that there can be a difference of opinion or counter-view to their own view (or majority's view)? They may or may not agree with it but do they support the right of that person (or group) to express those views openly? If yes, then are they willing to protect other's right to disagree? Because in any tolerant society scope for disagreement is very important, if I am scared to express my views because I might get attacked for expressing them as they don't align with majority then it is for sure that I am not living in tolerant and civilized society. For me freedom of expression is important that is why I care about tolerance.

Actually many people think that being tolerant means accepting everything, keeping quite when wrong things happen around you or not getting angry at all. Some of these wrong perceptions are behind the thinking that being tolerant means being weak. The truth is that tolerant people are also very passionate about their views and their ideas but the only difference is the way they express those views and ideas. They can be very assertive about their opinions but they are not physically or verbally aggressive. They also get angry but the difference is what they do when they get angry. The way they express their anger is very different than intolerant people. Actually it is very natural to get angry if anyone see anything which is contrary to their own set of beliefs but what matters is what they do when they are angry. Any tolerant person doesn't abuse the person expressing different opinion than them, they don't mob and attack or kill that person just because he/she believes in some different ideology or belong to some other group. But they engage in dialogue or discussion and want to debate the issue rather than force it on others. Tolerance doesn't at all means that accept all and reject nothing, the only difference is in the way you reject it and it is a huge difference. This difference can result in peaceful protest vs riots, picketing vs mob attacks, so the point I want to make is that this difference is huge, it can be the question of life and death of some individual. 

It takes tremendous courage to tolerate or encourage opposition to your own ideas, it requires legendary patience to listen to people who criticize you even without any substantial proof or logic. These things can only happen in very civilized, modern and progressive society which understands meaning of open debates and discussions. Ask yourself few questions to check if you are living in tolerant society or not, if not then please take some efforts to improve your own behavior first so that at least you take first steps towards making of tolerant society which you desire. There are very rich and so called developed places in world where there is little or no tolerance about so many things. Specially practice of any other religion or criticism of rulers or ruling party is not tolerated. I am sure many of us don't want to live in such society, so make sure that this important characteristic doesn't get lost among noise of power hungry politicians or fanatic religious organizations. Protect this quality as it is a lifeline of any civilization if it wants to progress intellectually. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Saturday, October 3, 2015

One more mass shooting and few more deaths, will this ever stop?

Another mass shooting happened in USA, this time at Oregon Community College killing nine innocent people and injuring few. I know this is not a new news or first mass shooting incident pf this decade to get shocked beyond limits. I also know that no one will get shocked to read about this incidents, rather many might read the number of victims and try to compare it with number of victims last incident to see which one was worst. So this is what we have become now, these incidents have become so regular that we as a society we are getting immune to severity and seriousness of this heinous crime. I found similar sentiment in President Obama's message about this incident. He sounded upset, frustrated and angry at the same time. He rightly pointed out that our response after all such tragic incidents is becoming very routine, so routine that we all know who will say what. This is such a sad state of affairs for everyone. Guns and gun laws are very controversial and sensitive issue for public and political debate in US for long time. There are people who are for absolute no control over bearing arms (pro gun lobby) and there are people who want to ban guns completely (anti gun lobby). Both sides many times behave like fanatics with little or no real concern towards such tragic incidents except releasing some lip service to condemn such acts. I guess it should be clear to everyone that just condemning or expressing grief or offering prayers and condolence to victims and their families is not enough. We are doing these things for long and we know that these things are not going to stop these murders. When any terrorist act happens do you think just condemnation of that incident or offering prayers and condolences to affected families is enough? Or we want some concrete actions to make sure that such incidents don't happen in future?

Guns are deadly weapons, they have capacity to kill multiple people in short amount of time (mass murders) if they land in wrong hands. We all know about these things, as a society or country we can take few steps to stop or at least minimize these incidents. Every country including US has strict laws for get driving licence. Yes, driving can be a basic right and government is no one to stop anyone from buying a car and driving it on road. But you can not buy car and drive it just like that, there is written test and then road test, registration, insurance requirement etc. concerned authorities who grant driving licence want to make sure that everyone who acquires driving licence is capable enough to understand the responsibilities which come along with the driving right. So I don't understand why people are against introducing some tough rules and background checks before buying deadly weapon like assault gun? After all these are dangerous weapons, no one is saying that you can't have them, just go through some screenings before you buy them. Did you complain when they check or strip search you randomly before getting into aeroplane? Did you complain when any liquid including drinking water was banned from taking into planes? Do you complain when they do your background check before hiring for any job? Do you complain about background checks or even medical fitness tests which are part of selection process for some type of jobs?  Why not?? because we all know that even though some of these things might cause some inconvenience to us personally they are necessary to keep everyone safe. Some of these measures are required to make sure that right people are at right places. Some precautions are necessary to make sure that wrong people don't misuse the rights and privileges offered to them by state. Airport security or background checks before job hiring are not there to ban you or stop you from traveling by plane or hinder your job application process but these things are there to make sure that some lunatic or criminal don't enter the plane or administration and cause some irreparable harm or some devastating tragedy. Isn't is very easy to understand? If I am a law abiding citizen who want to own a gun legally and responsibly then I don't think any investigation or background check can stop me from doing this, why I should be worried about these things? After all these things if at all they get implemented are for public safety, not for banning everyone from buying guns. I don't know why these points fail to make sense to people from both sides who are stakeholders in taking these decisions. I really fail to understand this.
As Mr. Obama said, if as a country US doesn't take any steps to control this, then it means we as a society chose to allow such incidents to happen, then we must take responsibility for these murders. If we can do something to control such crimes and chose not to do anything, then directly or indirectly we are responsible for such acts. Arming everyone is not a viable or practical option to stop the violence in society. Maybe this was an option when there was no law and order with very poorly equipped and efficient police force. Guns are not toys, they are deadly weapons, wrong people armed with them can kill innocent people and not everyone is comfortable in handling them. Surprisingly many of these so called pro life people are very vocal about issues like abortion but totally mum about gun control and mass killings because of deadly assault weapons. This is when this is not at all about banning guns altogether but just to introduce more safety measures so that only right people can buy them. Any constitution or law needs to be updated or tuned as per changing time, every era needs some adjustment in some of the laws. If any society fails to take these steps then people suffer, imagine if tradition of sati would not have been banned in India, imagine if amendments to ban slavery got stuck in similar deadlock. Sounds really scary, right? But we are facing similar situation related with some issues today, but refuse to act. I hope better sense among our society and politicians prevails and they take right decision. Otherwise we will be discussing same issues, mourning for same tragedies and remain a mute spectator to sufferings of our fellow citizens, and we can't blame anyone for this because this is our choice, this is what we chose when we elect people who draft laws for us. Please think over this and then make decision.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, October 2, 2015

Murdered for eating beef, this is where polarization leads.

It is really ironical that I am writing this post which is related with mob violence on the day of birth anniversary of two most peace loving leaders from India M K Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri, I was deeply shocked and disturbed to read the news of mob lynching of a man because of suspicion that his family consumed and stored beef in their home. This incident happened in a village called Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. I wonder how come many people in India don't find this news deeply disturbing, I still remember the protests and public outrage when delhi gang rape and brutal murder happened, this incident is very similar to that. A person's house was attacked by mob, they beat him and his son brutally, the man succumbs to injuries and son is recovering in hospital. The reason for all this? It seems people who did this had doubt that this person ate and stored beef in his home, and even if he did who are these people to punish him like this?

Who is to blame for all this? That mob which became violent for such trivial reason? Few people who actually attacked and killed that man? Politics of polarization which most political parties of India are playing for decades which has resulted in such divisive atmosphere? Administration and law and order which fails to investigate such incidents and punish the culprits in timely manure? Bystander's attitude of people who prefer to watch such things in silence rather than raising voice against it? or all of this? One can keep on playing the blame game but the the truth is that one human lost his life for no reason. If only few people were involved in attacking of that family as many villagers claim it then how come a mob of almost thousand people couldn't stop these few people from doing it? If most of the mob was non-violent then why they allowed such brutal violence to happen in front of them?

Such mob violence or riots are equally heinous acts like terrorism. Terrorists also kill innocent people and rioters also do the same thing but if we look at the history of India we can find that rarely people responsible for riots get caught and punished. Very often riot or mob violence cases result in very shabby investigations and very poor rate of conviction. This happens mainly because of heavy political interest and capital involved in such incidents. It is very clear that many political parties reap heavy political benefits even from such tragic incidents, but I am surprised that how long people want to go on with such nonsense? I wrote a post that meat ban or beef ban in India is not at all about meat, it has some deeper meaning than claim of saving or worshiping those animals. It was specifically designed to create polarization in society. Muslim community is not the only community in India who consumes beef, rather many Muslims don't eat it as beef is not easily available in India but still somehow they are targeted every time for eating beef because of some heavy propaganda by certain right wing organizations. These organizations are only interested in created deep rift between two communities, they don't care if this results in some riot or murder, they just want to spread hatred. They want to create a uniform society where everyone follows same religion, diet, dress code and thought process. Any deviation from this is a problem, if you dare to object or question then it doesn't matter who you are, you will be targeted and silenced if necessary. Such mentality was there in past also but it seems these people are getting more powerful day by day and others keeping silent is serving their purpose. Disturbing silence from the top leadership of India is puzzling, in US president's at least share their thoughts on the wake of any such tragedy but in India I think any such expectation is like liking in fools paradise, it seems this is specially true with current government. Based on history I know that nothing much will come out of any investigation of this incident, government will give some monetary compensation, there will be communal politics played over this death and then everyone will go back to their usual business until next death or riot. This is somewhat becoming like routing, just like mass gun killings in USA. I hope people dare to look beyond politics on this issue and really try to find some viable solutions. After all we humans create these problems so we should definitely be able to find solutions if we want. I am deeply hurt and ashamed by this incident and hope there is some lesson for everyone to learn from this incident. If not then we all are going to suffer, remember intolerance can affect each and everyone of us who love their freedom it is just matter of time, so fight to protect freedom of others if you want to be free.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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