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The porn debate is hitting public consciousness (read browsers) with a vengeance. Even as the Chief Justice of India's refusal to pass an interim order banning porn made reassuring headlines, reports of porn sites being inaccessible started hitting social media.

Chief Justice of India HL Dattu had said in early July, "Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody can come to the court and say ‘Look, I am an adult and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room? It is a violation of Article 21 (right to personal liberty) of the Constitution.’ Yes the issue is serious and some steps need to be taken… the Centre has to take a stand... let us see what stand the Centre will take.”

There is no official stand from the government, yet several porn sites are reportedly becoming inaccessible for some users over some networks like MTNL, BSNL, Vodafone, Spectranet and ACT with users getting a blank page or a message saying "The site has been blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority." Legally India and The Mint have independently verified, citing anonymous sources, with one and three ISPs respectively that the blocks on an unprecedented 857 websites were notified on Friday by the government and should be implemented Monday onwards.

This is problematic on several levels.

Lack of transparency in governance

The secret bans of websites are a non-transparent and undemocratic undermining of the rights of citizens of a democracy, with rules about what is allowed and what is not allowed decided and implemented in secrecy and with no opportunity for citizens to be notified or to have a dialgue on the subject. It is yet another mark of a "Pvt Ltd" government's contempt for democracy that fits in with a pattern of arbitrary restrictions imposed on people, ordinances replacing laws voted on by representatives of the people and serious and unscientific fudging of national data to create perceptions favorable to he government's image.

Violation of citizen rights

As pointed out by Chief Justice Dattu, such blocks are a violation of a citizen's right to personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution. That the government not only violates the rights of citizens, but does so in a manner that leaves citizens no opportunity to object is an alarming indication of authoritarian and arbitrary impositions of morality as defined by undisclosed persons.

Encouraging a culture of sexual repression

I have pointed out in another piece that a society that represses sexual expression ends up encouraging stress, frustration and aggression among citizens. Sex is a fundamental urge and a culture of taboos around sex is detrimental to self actualization and contentment among citizens.

The need to mitigate harms of certain kinds of porn without violating the freedoms of citizens

It is true that certain kinds of porn can influence people into seeing harm to another as acceptable entertainment. Rape porn, revenge porn or child porn in particular comes to mind. Porn with unusual object insertions can result in self harm as well as additional injury during rape. A person's freedom ends at another person's nose. However, there is also plenty of porn that is little more than harmless eroticism and even more that can enhance the sexual lives of people by providing them with ideas to pleasure their partners - something a sex-phobic culture of ours never allows dialogue about, even as they teach young adults about how to be a good husband or wife. Well, sex does make or break marriages very often, and perhaps regressive sex-phobic orthodox leaders can take comfort in knowing that their sacrifice may help keep the marriages they so revere, happier.

If something has the "potential for causing harm" and should be banned merely on the basis of that potential, we'd probably need to ban driving and elections altogether. They have both got way more potential to harm people than porn.

The need is to mitigate the influence of porn that can lead to potential crimes, while respecting the right of people to privately engage in whatever activity they will, as long as it harms no other. It isn't as impossible as it sounds, but it will take more effort than a lazy dismissal of citizen rights.

Can something be done to prevent harm of porn without banning it?

I think it can. Here are some suggestions.

Porn is a personal matter and not government business for the most part. Porn does play a constructive role in the sex lives/education of many people. However, there are harmful types of porn that can and should be regulated – not necessarily banned, but mandatory warnings added, etc. “The following actions are illegal in most countries” is not unreasonable to expect before rape or child porn in a country where smoking depicted in a film requires absurd disclaimers.

Ads like “single moms want sex” should not be allowed – they create an extremely dangerous perception about single moms at large – for example – ads should explicitly advertise either sex workers or sex products/services and not identities as a whole that may not be associated with a default of public sexual permissiveness.

A country the size of India has tremendous clout – if we legislate that porn depicting acts of violence or pedophilia must carry mandatory legal warnings or that extreme insertions type porn carries “don't try this at home” type warning, it helps viewers in a country with next to no dialogue on sex get a more realistic understanding of what the acts mean beyond jerking off. If we legislate that failing to provide such warnings, the site will get blocked, all sites doing business will not want to lose it to competition. It will be more effective than banning porn at large, as the availability of healthy porn and appropriate caution with violent porn will help shape public perception toward a more consensual view of sexuality as a whole.

The nation will be encouraged to have a far healthier view of sexuality if, instead of panicking over every instance of sex, we can encourage a healthy Sex Industry that educates, affirms rights of all, and protects from exploitation.

Guest post by @PowercutIn

PART A: Against Women Who Accept Slavery (Written Few Days Back in Frustration)

NOTE: This may hurt many. I don’t intend to say all women are same but some of them are exceptional. And this note is all about those exceptional women - not to target entire womanhood as I know there are ladies who know how to respect themselves, and others.

Stressed out, burned out for past many years trying to wake them up, to empower them, only to hear that husbands forcing sex on wives is okay n cannot be compared to rapes. Such comparison is a dumb comparison? And these slaves want dignity? Who will respect such women? Not me. Sex workers command better dignity.

Seems marriage is a license for sex - anywhere anytime for the 'dear' hubbies who can also go ahead and beat them if they say no. That is a different case?

If your husband beats you up in front of your kids, it is NOT okay. You are setting up a bad example. But no, it is Bharatiya Naari, born to sacrifice. Then go die. Why all the drama?

One day, while on hold on a call, I got to hear a mom saying to her daughter - "There is a word for people of your type - Vaishya (whores/sex workers)". If your mother calls you whore in front of others, should you hit back or should you retreat sulking? And what kind of mother would call her own child a whore. Setting up an example where gals choose to elope rather than seeking permission to marry the boys they like? I thought the relation between a woman and her girl is more of friends but it was proved wrong when I got to hear that dialog.

So?

1. Forced marriage is okay,

2. Submitting to husbands anytime, anywhere is okay

3. Beaten up by husbands is okay

4. Then I guess, being killed by husbands is too okay as it will open the doors of heaven for them. After all, husband is god. No?

Rani Padmini committed suicide when her husband was killed in a battle so that she is not used as objects by the enemies. Razia Sultana stabbed herself to avoid being caught by Akbar's forces. But they dint die just like that. They fought until there was no other option left. Being women, they fought the huge forces of Akbar and British. And they knew they'll lose their dignity if caught and they chose dignity over slavery.

But the case now is different. They are part of a democracy. They want laws - external entities to protect them and these laws should not apply to their husbands. In other words, women (not all) who don't have any respect at homes and are okay with it, want laws that will force others to respect them?

If I don't respect you, no law can make me respect you. Laws don't prevent crime, morals and values do. But then, husband is a deity. Go pray, be beaten up and bear children all your life only to be thrown away after your hubby loses interest in you.

From past few days, I am trying to convince myself this is not my problem. I am trying and trying to keep away. Only problem is, my mom always said if someone needs help, do whatever you can. She died fighting all the odds, for me and my brother. But these women, I don't think they need any help. They just need sympathy and a "special" status. I guess the best compliment a women (barring few who want their dignity at any cost) would expect from anyone is 'bechari - poor soul'.

Someone convince me it is NOT my problem and I need not spoil my health over these issues. Am already suffering from depression and anxiety; the past two months were already terrible when this Delhi rape case further added to the stress. Should I care? Why?

PART 2:  WHAT CAN BE DONE? (UPDATE: Jan 4 2012)

Someone said it is a curse women should live with. Why? Because they are told they need external support of a man? And a man who employs rude/disgusting methods, is it a man? You need a friend, not a beast. Cut it off. Leave him and start a new life - I know it is easier said than done. Society will ask plenty of questions and create hurdles. But that is the way it has always been. And if you need to go to the other side of river, you will have to find a way to cross it.

There is no quick fix solution to all this. At least, not in my knowledge! All I know is a mother is the best teacher and influences her kids more than anything else. Passing on good moral values to their kids makes sure at least some families down the lane are civilized. That is if just one mother accepts the challenge. You know how a tree grows inside soil, the roots. The values you teach your kid will not only serve one or more family in one generation but propagate to many others in the coming generations. MOTHERS HAVE THAT POWER. The only thing is - you have to believe that. And if you can get your partner to share the responsibility, nothing could be better. EXPECTING THE CASE WHERE YOUR PARTNER IS AGAINST YOU, you need to set an example that guides your kids forever. Problem is the emotions that tie us with relations. We cannot kill them easily. But I guess one can find a way where our emotions do not become a hurdle in others' growth, if you understand what I am saying. At least, we can try!

ROLE OF MEDIA

Media can play an enormous role in educating not only the youth and coming generations but also the adults. It has the power to mould the society by affecting the thinking process. But as Narendra Modi said, the media these days is busy selling beauty products. And other than that, it shows soaps where women are vamps and trying to harm other women or whatever. I don’t watch much of TV (actually, stopped somewhere in May 2011) but almost all soaps are kind of enhancing the negative side of humanity - killing the emotions necessary for people to coexist. This won't change unless the viewers want change as the media houses want profit - at any cost. Still, if they want, they can dedicate some 10 minutes of prime time for educating people. How much loss would it be for them? As I am writing this, I can see them saying no. The people charging by 'seconds' may not want to waste any airtime for things does not involve cash inflow.

WHAT IS LEFT?

Past few days show a ray of hope as I see people rising against evil. If that spark is true, probably, they can form groups to educate people who do not have access to internet and similar media. Roadshows, banners, whatever - may or may not be effective. But try something on an experimental basis and see? Youngsters can make documentaries and show them in remote areas by arranging contacts using the Internet? Nothing solid here - just possibilities.

At the core of change, lies proper moral education. This may sound as if I am being what you call an RSS person is. But laws, are a short term option and may not be able to do justice always. Each law in IPC comes with one or more loopholes. For example, one section states the min age for marriage as 18 and other states marital rapes are rapes only when the bride is below 15 years! Makes sense?!

Analyzing all the prospects, the change is possible only when the women take a step forward. It took centuries to degrade the value of women who were revered in ancient Bharatvarsh. We cannot expect a reversal in a short time. The efforts should continue, consistently and then, over a few years, we will be able to see a society where the line between women and men is erased. Think!

t is no news that people in power couldn’t care less about the problems you face. At the same time, if they are to continue exploiting your votes for fun and profit, they must at least pretend to be doing something, so that they can later claim they tried and failed.

Seeing as how most of these people are chauvinistic pigs, it is no surprise that it is to their advantage that women get no real protection from rapists. After all, what would they do themselves, if raping became too difficult? Such people, with as much humanity as rabid dogs are increasingly caging women in, limiting their scope as humans, as professionals – which is something that they grudge anyway – in a pretense of protection.

The recent gangrape of a woman who worked in a pub has provided the Gurgaon administration with the opportunity to take state state sanctioned misogyny to a whole new low without actually doing anything at all to address the problem. ANYTHING AT ALL.

Here is how:

  1. The administration has told all malls, commercial establishments and pub owners that they cannot have women employees working beyond 8pm. Are only women employees getting raped? No. But this effectively means that women will earn less, be less likely to get a job if they cannot work for the full duration ANY place in Gurgaon that is open at night works. This will be a big blow to not just women’s earnings and work opportunities, but will have an impact on countless households where working women spend their entire salaries on running the home and caring for children. [Update: Don't just think of this as bar girls and restaurant waitresses. What happens to a woman executive's job if she can't work late on projects in emergencies without "permission from Labour Department"?] What will this achieve that is worth this kind of damage inflicted on these women? ZERO. Women patrons of pubs, bars, cinemas, will still be there late night. Only they will be an even more extreme minority and more likely to be targeted.
  2. Gurgaon deputy commissioner P C Meena said permission from the labour department would be required for a woman employee to work beyond the stipulated time in these establishments. What is the track record of the Labour Department in addressing the concerns of anyone at all? Apart from a new outlet to bribe, what will this Labour Department do about permissions requested? How can they be verified? How can faking information be prevented? Will women who get permission be allocated security by the Labour Department? No. So what will be achieved other than a hindrance to normal functioning? Again, ZERO.
  3. For staffers permitted to work after 8pm, the employer would have to provide transportation for them to go home, he said. In case P C Meena hasn’t read the news, the woman who got gangraped WAS in transportation AND accompanied by her brother. Did the kidnappers abduct her because she was using a taxi and not a company car? What dies this guideline achieve? ZERO.
  4. He directed employers to maintain a log book to record details of vehicles used to transport women employees, their time of departure, name of driver, etc. But tracking her transport was not a problem at all. The taxi driver had in fact approached the Gurgaon Cops for help along with her brother. He is cooperating with the police, he is speaking freely with news media. While this is a good idea anyway – and most people do it, it actually does ZERO to address the problem or PREVENT rapes, because drivers on payroll may not be the ones raping women. In fact, this is a subtle and baseless accusation on drivers.
  5. Any information about women employees working after 8pm should be sent in advance to the labour department. During inspection, the permission received from the labour department for deploying women beyond the permitted time will have to be produced when asked for by district administration officials,” said Meena. Meena seems to  either be unfamilar with pubs or hasn’t bothered to read the case. The woman who got gangraped was not an employee of the pub, but someone who offered to partner men to gain entry into the pub. She was a kind of “freelance” companion on hire. For the purposes of any inspection this moron is planning, she was a client of the pub. What could something like this have done to save her?ZERO.
  6. Meena directed officials to conduct surprise checks to ensure the order is being implemented. Looking busy is important. Implementing useless orders achieves ZERO. Other than helping the police economy by opening another avenue for bribes.
  7. Owners of malls, pubs and commercial establishments have been asked to install CCTV cameras at pick-up points near buildings. This has already been asked many times. What is new? ZERO. Did the woman get abducted from near any such potential camera location? Nope. Did this recommendation for CCTV get enforced? Obviously not, or he’d not be telling this again.
  8. Expressing concern over incidents of eve-teasing, molestation and assault, Meena said it shall be the responsibility of pub and malls owners to ensure that these places are shut within the closing time indicated in their licences. It is perfectly legal to be out on the street all nights. What does closing pubs on time do to prevent rapes? ZERO. If anything, the more people are around, the less likely rapes would be?
  9. Pub operators have also been asked to maintain records of visitors. They should keep a photocopy of the customers’ identity cards and show these to the area SHO once every 15 days. Are you fucking kidding me? Why the fuck should I be treated as a criminal by default? Do I or do I not have a right to privacy? In any case, what does this do to prevent rapes? ZERO. It only gives the cops a whole new bunch of people to hassle for money.
  10. Malls have been directed to disconnect electricity connections of pubs that stay open after closing time. What does that achieve to protect women? ZERO. Wait, minus several. Who protects the women patrons from being groped in the dark by assorted drunks?

In other words, none of the actions actually address the problem, though they seem to have been issued as a solution. Not one. Women also get raped in the day. Women get raped or abducted in cars. How about banning cars?

The police are shirking their responsibility by vaguely making it about drivers, about the character of women. For example, Firstpost, challenging the cops breaking law by revealing identities and maligning victims quotes:

Take, for instance, Noida superintendent of police Anant Dev who told reporters that the victim “willingly went” with the accused “because she wanted an alcohol party from the boys,” helpfully adding, “She even mentioned she wanted vodka. She was involved in a physical relationship with more than one of the accused.”

In my view, what is happening here has nothing to do with preventing rape, and everything to do with disclaiming responsibility for maintaining law and order and punishing women for being raped and exposing their lack of law and order.

Why is there no comment on the inability of the police to track down the Maruti 800 used to abduct her in spite of being given its registration number? Why is there not the least apology that the Police van her brother and the taxi driver approached to request for assistance did not pursue the escaping kidnappers?

When Keenan and Reuben were stabbed on the street and onlookers didn’t do anything to help them, there was this hue and cry and massive guilt. There was very clear blame on the onlookers for not helping. When cops are PAID to prevent such crimes and are given the licence number of the car of the criminals and requested for help, and they allow the criminals to escape, in my eyes, the cops are accessories to the crime. It could not be possible without their active acting in contradiction to their duties.

In my eyes, the real guidelines here need to be issued to the police, not citizens. And I think P C Meena should resign, and any pension or money due to him should be distributed to people he is asking to do his job for him. In other words, pay for CCTVs in public places with his salary, for example.

Gurgaon should have a massive Occupy The Night Movement – where women remain out on the street all night, every night as protest – even if they end up simply sleeping on the street, before the police take away the city from them and hand it over to criminals to enjoy.

1

A few years ago, I had attended a Group Relations Conference, which basically is a learning environment for learning to sense the unconscious dynamics of a group. Over the five day duration of the programme, we learned to recognize common stereotypes, assumptions and tendencies in the group with regard to leadership. We were about 18 or so participants. All of us modern, sensitive people with greater or lesser interest in human behavior. As such, at the onset of the programme, I was fairly certain that I was not a prejudiced person. I was also fairly certain that most of us viewed genders with equal repsect, if not all.

The faculty were headed by a male and a female chairpersons who formally began the programme in the first session. Imagine my shock when within a few minutes into the programme, the male chairperson declared that the fact that we asked the woman chairperson questions about the programme but not him meant that we were prejudiced against her and wished to silence her. Frankly, I thought the man was a few paise less to the rupee. Wouldn’t the fact that we engaged more with her than him mean just the opposite? But it was the beginning of the programme.

A few minutes later another woman from the faculty observed that we were treating one of the male participants as some kind of alpha leader and another participant was competing with him in authority. The group lit up like there was a bomb under our seats. Furious questioning ensued. Accusations flew that the faculty was trying to create discord in the group, and more. A male member of the faculty intervened to explain that this was a hypothesis based on the actions of the group and things calmed enough to proceed. At that point, I was wondering if I should have attended at all. The faculty was obviously some kind of gender fanatics – I remember thinking this. What a waste of good money and five days…

It only struck me over lunch that we had so far had two women and two men speaking. Both women got questioned, the statements or explanations of both men had been accepted without question. Immediately my mind jumped to the explanation that it was a coincidence that both women spoke insanely, but that was not true. The first was simply introducing the faculty and asked us if we had questions, while the other made an observation, but didn’t force us to agree with it. Both the men had agreed with the women in the sense of upholding whatever they said, or questioning them being questioned, but we didn’t have a problem with them.

It was like being run over by a truck to realize that far from wasting my time and money, I had started learning from the word go. There were no guarantees that what I learned would only be pleasing. By the end of the first day, it was clear that this programme was like nothing we had ever experienced. The observations of the faculty were usually so shocking that we didn’t want to believe them, but the evidence was mounting that they were strictly based on observations of actual behavior in the group. We had already started seeing the first layer of our stereotypes that determined how seriously we took someone or if we allowed their authority to stand, or undermined it. All this without intending. We were shocked everytime to realize what we had done automatically as a group.

Sex, age, power – powerful programming around these determining our responses to people. On a very easy to understand level, would you trust a police man or police woman with your safety? Or, if you saw a stranger on the street, would you be as likely to be attracted or repulsed by a virile looking man/woman (opposite gender) in his prime or a potbellied, graying woman/man (same gender as yours) – both being utter strangers? We have these tapes playing in our head creating inexplicable biases we don’t even realize exist. We act on those biases. As a society, we have many common biases that get acted on, which can be a very powerful thing to overcome when they are harmful.

One of the many interesting observations around gender and leadership was that a situation with threat or potential for bad performance had a higher rate of women representatives. This was very clearly observed as men leading group decisions till such a time as a representative leader had to step up for something unknown (and the programme was VERY intimidating psychologically). In almost every instance, it was a woman who either volunteered (me included), or got nominated. However, the leader to take over from her was male in EVERY instance the group successfully passed the phase. It was unanimously agreed based on our individual observations that the perception of challenge was followed a woman becoming a leader in every instance that a woman led the group. Men leaders led both in times of challenge or otherwise. There was no instance of women leaders when the group was enjoying fruits of success, but one that could have become (but didn’t). That was the factual data from within the group. There also were a few hypotheses raised as to why this might be so. The top three that caught the interest of the group were:

  1. As a group, we were trying to “preserve” our males by treating women as cannon fodder in situations of threat, bringing men to the fore again once the threat had passed.
  2. The vulnerability of the group in facing an unknown challenge was expressed in the form of a woman being its face.
  3. There was an unconscious attempt to manipulate a potentially unfavorable authority by charming/seducing them by means of a woman into being more favorable.

The programme concluded before the group reached any kind of consensus, and we mostly found further data that could mean any or all of the three. Inconclusive, but incredibly insightful on gender and leadership. However, there were some inescapable observations:

  1. Gender skews our thinking so profoundly that is is impossible to even understand the full extent of it. There is an overwhelming bias to the advantage of men and both men and women [often unconsciously] conspire to maintain it.
  2. This bias is not necessarily functional to the objectives or well being of anyone, though it does serve to make the immediate experience of men easier and women more difficult than it would be under strictly equal conditions.
  3. “Logic” is usually not logical. An overwhelming observation repeated hundreds of times was that behavior was largely determined by stereotypes and once a choice was made, logic was selected that would justify it. Sometimes it failed to stand up to scrutiny without an admission of intent to handicap women and give men an advantage. While reviewing our own behavior, the group was easily able to come up with logical explanations for alternative choices, though they had been inexplicably rejected in making the original choice.
  4. Men dominate women, women are conditioned to accept the dominance of men, “society” or the group is conditioned to seeing this as normal and equality, in fact, jars.
  5. Unless there is a threat or any other hindrance, the tendency is for men to have an absolute say over happenings in the group, including happenings relevant to women.

I was reminded of this today, when a lot of articles are happening considering that it is International Women’s Day. Some that stayed in mind and triggered recall of this pattern are:

In Subject for debate: Are women people? Jessica Winters describes the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 16, 2012 consisted of Catholic Bishop William Lori, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, Dr. Ben Mitchell, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Craig Mitchell – all men – with the stated purpose of determining the Obama administration’s policy on contraception.

India has an increasing number of women leaders as our economy is in increasing crisis. From 9% last year to 14% this year in senior management positions. HR, a department under increasing stress of inadequate performance due to job hopping, difficulty in finding excellent professionals, and managing employee satisfaction in the face of depressing economic scenarios has the most women at 24%. Last year, 1% of CEOs were female, this year it is 10%. Financial officers have also gone up to 10%.

On the contrary, China, doing well so far is reporting a low number of women in executive positions as compared with last year. A sentence that particularly jumped off the page for me is:

Anthea Wang, vice-president of public relations and media communications at DaimlerNortheast Asia Ltd and Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd, said women enjoy certain advantagesthat, during negotiations, can help parties that are at odds on some issue reach commonground.

There are other examples, but they are not the point. It isn’t as though observations from a small group of people will apply exactly to a world with multiple ethnicities and many possibly related variables. But I think it underscores something I have been saying for a long time.

The inequalities that give birth to human rights problems are not necessarily deliberate and thus cannot be fixed with our current approach of relying on laws alone. They are very subtle ways in which we, as a group change our choices to address biases and priorities that we are not consciously aware of even having and would likely outright reject if we were making conscious choices. We need to address human minds in a well researched, knowledge oriented and systematic manner and develop within society the skills to recognize their actions and their impact on the well being of everyone. In other words, the government needs to urgently start making serious investments in social analysis to see desperately needed changes on the human rights front.

1

Today is International Women’s Day and it is still a world that needs a special day to talk about women. In many ways, the world is changing for women. Opportunities are slowly opening. Professions that a decade ago would have not been possible are now within reach. From defense journalists to astronauts and train drivers to political leaders, as the world makes a conscious choice that they have a legitimate right to pursue their choice, there are women using those slivers of opportunity to make their presence known.

Psychologically, socially, the change is still to permeate in our realities. In other ways, the emerging threat of having to share space with women in an increasingly competitive and insecure world is resulting in increasing violence and backlash in an effort to turn back time. From sexual violence to condemnation of attention paid to women’s rights, there is strong objection to women leaving an existence as an object of convenience to becoming people. That hasn’t changed.

Politicians and other random authority figures continue to excuse crime against women in a world where everyone has too much on their plate and they would rather deny women rights than taken on a whole new war on an unprecedented scale. Sexualized violence is more and more vocally shrugged off as a social concern and onto the broken shoulders of its victims.

Occupations like farming still don’t recognize the role of women in production. Nor do suicide statistics and compensations, since they only acknowledge the person who owns the title to the land as a farmer. CEOs of corporations are still overwhelmingly male, and feminine connotations are still used to convey inferiority. And while there is a moral snobbery about professions like prostitution, women are increasingly used to lure people (men?) into otherwise unrelated actions – for example through advertizing or “item numbers” or news anchors with visible cleavages.

A pretense in the name of modernity sees women in bikinies with men relatively clothed in some parts of the world – while women who dare to bare are seen as loose and a “bad influence on others” by the same people who hoard centerfolds – yet, it is the woman blamed for that, and not supposedly family friendly media that publishes the pictures that were perfectly acceptable in certain kinds of media. The idea is that every opportunity that arises from the changing dynamics may be exploited for profit, but anything that makes people uncomfortable is the fault of the woman alone. But women are used to this. It is not new, and they are used to swimming against this tide – fair or not – and they are pursuing their dreams.

While the progress of women cannot be stopped in the windows that have opened, there are other, uglier areas no one wants to talk about that are becoming increasingly insecure. The gender ratio in India is still on its way down. Women own about 1.2% of property worldwide. Gender selective abortions are causing concerns in several countries, including developed ones. Women have become the bone in a chauvinistic tug of war, where they are targetted for religious conversion or their conversion is resented – either way, more women are changing religion than men.

Women seem to bring out the worst of humanity – where the vulnerabilities of sexual desires and power meet. And like any other battle zone, they pay the cost. We stand at an important crux where we must find the capacity to co-exist and allow every human dignity, safety and freedom, because the world is not the exclusive property of any one group of people.

There is also change. As women who do have voice are able to raise it louder, pockets have formed that push back against unacceptable traditions and attitudes socially and politically. As are men, who wish to see a more equal world.

I wish us all on the occasion of International Women’s Day to find the confidence within ourselves that doesn’t require to push someone down to rise. Where there is synergy, attraction and beauty co-created by the male and the female. Like so