Friday, July 31, 2009

Inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. (other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Indestructible rights and freedoms

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 30

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

(other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Limitations by law for morality, order, & welfare

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 29

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

(other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Social and international order

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

(other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dwindling number of men teachers

Home » Opinion » Edit Page Top Article: Where's The Teacher? Dev Lahiri Times of India 24 July 2009

This pitiful state of affairs has much to do with the way we, as a nation, view the teaching profession. Teachers are not considered frontline 'professionals' in the same manner as, say, doctors, lawyers or engineers. It is believed that anyone irrespective of qualifications or training can teach. And that is exactly what happens. [...]

Another area of concern is the dwindling number of men in the profession. It seems all the men (or at least those who could make it) have hopped off to greener pastures. Apart from the exodus to the Mideast, the IT sector more recently has claimed a large number. While women do make great teachers, they also have the role of homemaker to fulfil. Being a teacher for a woman is not quite as professional as, say, being a corporate executive. And the men who remain have largely embedded themselves in the tuition market, as opposed to being genuine mentors as schoolteachers. [...]

The profession itself suffers from a sense of low self-esteem. Teachers do not see themselves in the same category as lawyers, doctors, civil servants or engineers. They are almost apologetic about being teachers. Gone are the days of the 'guru-chela' relationship. Parents today are quite aggressive in their criticism of schools and teachers. Children take the cue from their parents. In the face of such aggression, teachers who already see themselves at the bottom of the food chain are put under further pressure. The irony is that they are still supposed to be the epitome of all that is noble and good!

A redefinition of our attitude to the profession and a fresh look at issues like teacher growth and training are required. I can never forget an incident when I was headmaster of one of the country's oldest public schools. A parent had come (in a rather fancy car) to pick up his son at the beginning of the holidays. As father and son got into the car, his final words of advice while pointing at the boy's housemaster were: ''Son, you'd better study hard or else, you will end up like him!'' Thereby hangs a tale. The writer is principal, Welham Boys School, Dehradun.

An ode to this most marginalised section of the society

True to life
Women from Sangli enact their lives on stage
From “My Mother The Gharwali Her Maalak His Wife” The Hindu Monday, Dec 08, 2008

Everyone has their point of view on sex workers. But we seldom know what they feel. To clear this ignorance Point of View and Sangram in association with Naz Foundation (India) Trust are presenting “My Mother The Gharwali Her Maalak His Wife". Directed by Sushama Deshpande, it is performed by VAMP (Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad) — a collective of women in sex work based in Sangli, Maharashtra. This is the first time that the play comes to Delhi in its complete form, having been performed previously at the Prithvi Festival and Ranga Shankara.

The play is the culmination of a process that began almost three years, when Sangram (which works with collectives of women sex workers) and Point of View (an organisation that promotes views of women through different mediums) started taking theatre workshops with the sex workers. They were first shown popular Hindi movies, which portrayed sex workers. The women were interested but felt that they’d been misrepresented in all.

Deshpande says that the women agreed Laaga Chunari Mein Daag was the closest to reality! The script of the play has evolved through these workshops and is basically a chronicle of 24 hours in a gully. The story revolves around Leena, a sex worker in love with her rickshaw-driver prince, “who is suddenly talking about riding off into the sunset — alone”. Bishakha Datta of Point of View elaborates on the relevance of the play, “They need to be put in a space where they are accepted as humans and as actors. Theatre has always been a form of empowerment against oppression. This play makes them the subject and not the object. It shows what their lives are actually like. This kind of effort will help change policy in a way that is beneficial to them.”

But for Meena Seshu from Sangram, the play’s greatest significance is that it has helped bridge the divide between the sex workers and their children, who also act in it. She explains, “Society’s views also get ingrained on their children. They feel, ‘I love my mom. But I can’t acknowledge her as my mother.’” The play has brought children and mothers closer. The organisers are also clear that they do not wish this to be seen as an “NGO play”. Deshpande emphasises, “We wanted to do something professional. We had to work on the acting, music and sets.” Datta, whose work involves mixing art and activism, says, “We don’t want to promote good activism through bad art. ”

The success of the show and the victory of the audience will be if we see the women on stage only as actors. The organisers hope that the audience will leave with empathy and not pity. email: NANDINI NAIR


Expressindia » Telling it like it is
Barun Pegu Posted: Jun 18, 2008
My Mother, The Gharwali, Her Maalak, His Wife staged in the city over the last two days provoked the audiences to pause, ponder and alter certain prejudices

Highlighting the plight of prostitutes, the play My Mother, The Gharwali, Her Maalak, His Wife that was staged at Bal Gandharva Natya Mandir on Monday, was a stark representation of the day to day struggles faced by women in this profession. Two highlights marked the event, the play was performed by a troupe of prostitutes and secondly, the play was no less than a professional theatre troupe performance. An ode to this most marginalised section of the society, the play took the viewers to a world full of trials and tribulations where the protagonists battle every prejudice in the book while trying to eke a living for themselves and their children.

But if you thought that this would be a deep, dark and brooding play, you were in for a surprise. The play adopted a lighter vein as it took a look at 24 hours in the lives of the people who live in or pass through the galli (street) in which Leena (the main protagonist) lives. Stringing together a series of episodes the play portrayed the daily harassments from the police and customers and false hopes given by politicians to the inhabitatnts of the sullied address.

The play was performed by VAMP, a collective of women in prostitution that developed as an offshoot of Sangram, but today independently runs a condom-based peer intervention programme in six districts of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka, in collaboration with the Centre for Communication and Development Studies, Pune.

Sangram, based in Sangli, Maharshtra, fighting for the fundamental rights of prostitutes in their communities and aiding them to live with dignity in a society that views them as less than human, has been instrumental in bringing about the play. Point Of View, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation that promotes the points of view of women through media, art and culture were one of the organizers too. The play was directed by eminent theatre personality, Sushama Deshpande and conceived by Bishaka Dutta, Meenu Seshu and Divya Bhatia.

Explaining the motive of the play, Durga, one of the members of the cast said, "All we are asking for is recognition as human beings." The idea came about when the actors realised that mass media like movies were portraying them in a wrong and stereotyped colour. "Movies always portray these women as the evil of society who are responsible for spreading HIV AIDS, and hence we are using the help of media like the theatre to stand up against this misrepresentation," said Sashikant Deshpande of Sangram. "It was necessary that the people of the community get to know about the abuse and harassment by the police and customers that they face and what better medium than the theatre," added Raju, son of one of the actors.

The play ended with a standing ovation from the audience who commended the effort made by the artistes and the organizers, and their initiative.

For Indian women, globalisation has generally done good

TOP ARTICLE Clouded By Confusion - Editorial - Opinion - The Times of India
Ravinder Kaur 14 February 2009

A straight line can be drawn backwards from the Mangalore type of incidents to the Delhi murders of Nitish Katara and Jessica Lal. The canvas can be broadened to include the recent resurgence of honour crimes in northern India, instances of acid being thrown at women, and the backlash against women who dare to voice an opinion or choose a lifestyle of their choice. Young people are being punished for what is being perceived as immoral and detrimental to so-called Indian culture and tradition. Yet, physical assaults and assaults unto death cannot simply be comprehended as protests against what is objectionable to the sensibilities of some. And it is the young who are victimising other young people, particularly women, drawing supportive responses from those responsible for law and order, whether it is a Ashok Gehlot supporting 'Indian culture' or a confused Sheila Dikshit asking women to stay indoors. The particularly virulent form the actions are taking and their vigilante nature propel us towards a more nuanced reading.

Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist, had a term and a theory to explain such (anti) social behaviour. Although his theory applied primarily to understanding suicide, it can, and has, been extended to other areas of human behaviour. Durkheim classified all periods of rapid change as leading to a state of 'anomie' or 'normlessness' in society. In such circumstances, individuals and groups are often in a 'state of confusion', uncertain of the appropriate norms to follow and uncertain of their place in society. Their response may be either in the form of extreme steps such as suicide, or violence against those perceived to be causing grievous harm to the moral foundations of society. That India is undergoing a period of rapid transition is not in doubt; the anomie induced may be held responsible for many of the responses and incidents listed above. Indian society has had few social revolutions, such as students' revolts or strong feminist protests, or movements for greater individual freedoms, which could explain the changes we are experiencing.

The transformation in Indian society has primarily been brought about by changes in the economy and technology. Yet, the social implications of far-reaching economic and technological change have been little studied or commented upon, apart from the railing we hear against globalisation and its presumed role in the destruction of 'traditional' culture and values. For Indian women, globalisation has generally done good. It has brought them into the workforce, and done so in large numbers. Earlier, working women in India were either the elite or the poor. This picture has now changed with women of many classes choosing to work both before and after marriage. But there is a downside to this. Despite obvious class differences between women working in factories or call centres and in managerial jobs, tensions are perceptible and palpable in most families and in society at large. Men (and in-laws) are happy that daughters, sisters and wives are bringing home incomes but are not fully reconciled to them venturing out of the house. Work and independent incomes enable women to try out new freedoms. On offer are choices and an escape from the stifling confines of parental or marital homes.

Society is uncertain about how to respond to these new demands, and the new mores espoused by the young. Which are the constituencies most affected by change? If the old are protecting so-called tradition and their own hegemony, what are the young involved in incidents such as those in Mangalore or the Nitish Katara and Jessica Lal murders protecting or fighting against? Here class combines with a more general gendered targeting young men desirous of economic and social upward mobility, who are looking from the outside at others who have already got where they secretly wish to be. In such cases a genuine confusion over 'morals' combines with a destructive class envy, resulting in targeting of youth, especially women, who themselves are exploring the boundaries of their new freedoms. The targets are individuals who appear to have a glamorous lifestyle or putatively stand for a 'modernity' that has not yet embraced all. In all such cases, the freedoms sought to be curtailed are those of women, especially those seen as espousing a 'western modernity'. Additionally, the rise of the Hindutva parties gives a platform to these uncertain young men as defenders of 'traditional, Hindu culture,' providing them with respect from certain quarters.

That there is genuine confusion among our youth, especially among those associated with the socially conservative right, is often obvious in our classrooms. In an IIT classroom, peopled mostly with young men from small towns or cities, discussions of gender or homosexuality generally evoke embarrassed titters and reiterations of the importance of not losing 'Indian culture' to the juggernaut of globalisation. Yet, at least some of those with politically conservative affiliations are assailed by self-doubt are they right in hating Muslims, in agreeing with excessive parental control or in looking at women wearing jeans and T-shirts as 'loose'? Conservative ideologies often become a protective shield against the flux of rapid change, especially if one nurses the feeling of being left out. It is here that a liberal arts education has a lot of work to do in our universities and educational institutes. The writer is a professor of social anthropology, IIT Delhi.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ubiquitous simulation of the Other

The Melodrama of Difference (Or, The Revenge of the Colonized) by Jean Baudrillard
So what became of otherness? We are engaged in an orgy of discovery, exploration and “invention” of the Other. An orgy of differences. We are procurers of encounter, pimps of interfacing and interactivity. Once we get beyond the mirror of alienation (beyond the mirror stage that was the joy of our childhood), structural differences multiply ad infinitum – in fashion, in mores, in culture. Crude otherness, hard otherness – the otherness of race, of madness, of poverty – are done with. Otherness, like everything else, has fallen under the law of the market, the law of supply and demand. It has become a rare item – hence its immensely high value on the psychological stock exchange, on the structural stock exchange. Hence too the intensity of the ubiquitous simulation of the Other. This is particularly striking in science fiction, where the chief question is always “What is the Other? Where is the Other?” Of course science fiction is merely a reflection of our everyday universe, which is in thrall to a wild speculation on – almost a black market in – otherness and difference. A veritable obsession with ecology extends from Indian reservations to house­hold pets (otherness degree zero!) – not to mention the other of “the other scene”, or the other of the unconscious (our last symbolic capital, and one we had better look after, because reserves are not limitless).

A Critical History of Architecture in a Post-Colonial World: A View from Indian History By Swati Chattopadhyay
One of the things that Edward Said's book Orientalism (1978), based on a Foucaultian critique of the discourses of colonialism achieved, was to demonstrate the essentialized portrayals of colonized cultures, whether through the lens of western positivism (modernity) or through Orientalism. Nationalism as an indigenous colonial discourse, had to create an independent place for itself within the interpellation of the west by identifying its own essentlalized and ahistorical features for the nation. Postcolonial sociality in erstwhile colonized nations is still largely driven by the unfortunate identity politics of these discourses. Nationalism, as created by its founders, was largely thought of in its own time as a strategic essentialism, an invention of the soul-expression of a nation, to enable its identification and survival. But if such ahistorical descriptions become identity markers fossilized by institutional fiat, the resultant identity politics in an age of pluralism can only lead to violence and misfortune. Ongoing creative hybrid engagements are the way out of the postcolonial predicament. In this article, Swati Chattopadhyay, professor of Architectural History at UC Santa Barbara, shows how colonized nations create their own blind-spots based on the inability to classify the hybrid. At the same time, a situated social history of culture (here architecture) shows us that hybridity is the norm of human culture and its recognition leads us to the necessary evolution out of a phase of strategic essentialism into one of dialog and human co-existence.

Born Again Ideology (religion, technology and terrorism) by Arthur Kroker
Kroker's book Born Again Ideology examines Fundamentalism and its relationship to Empire. Although written as a response to the techno-militarist expansionism of George Bush and his neo-conservative American ideology, that fuses the protestant ethic with streamed capitalism, that expresses manifest destiny under the sign of a its simulacra deity; the digital commodity form, and re-territorializes the planet through a Nietzschean will to technology, there are global parallels drawn in making explicit how many global fundamentalist movements appropriate techno-science for their often millennial aims. In chapter 5 for example he uncovers ideological similarities in the exploitation of techno-science in the India Shining Movement with their their mastery of infomatics with the expertise in developing technologies of cyber-warfare of the Zionist occupation forces. Kroker makes medieval and millennialist Fundamentalism fully relevant to the new millennium

Why is the United States the spearhead of the technological future? Beyond its massive power as the leading empire of 21st century political economy, what explains the remarkable historical situation that since its Puritan origins America has actually innovated the future thanks to a seemingly singular cultural genius for innovation, creativity and (patent-driven) consumer practicality? Here, seizing upon the language of technological innovation as its primary means of expression, what might be described as the discourse of technology and the American mind has become both the essence of American drive towards the fully realized technological future and increasingly, due to its hegemony as a dominant political power, the dominant cultural code of global society.

Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance: South India through European Eyes, 1250–1625 Reviewed by Daud Ali
If Edward Said's Orientalism stands as a watershed in modern studies by disclosing the essentalized nature of colonial discourses which form some of the major sources of our contemporary discontent, this work has also been criticized for its own essentlialistic nature. By ignoring the reality of cultural histories and generalities of culture, it has played into the hands of post-Enlightenment modernity for which postcolonial peoples have been rendered historyless. It has also failed to disclose the internally conflicted nature of the discourses of colonialism or the strategies and possibilities of understanding at work within them. Post-Orientalistic scholarship has addressed some of these errors and lacunae in Said's work. At the forefront of new discursive approaches to medieval histories of India is the work of Daud Ali, professor of Early Indian History at the School of Asian and African Studies at the University of London. In this article Ali reviews a book on Renaissance travel literature on India and shows how useful such documents are as expressions of "truth games" (Foucault), the creative ways by which identity and difference are negotiated in furthering the establishment of what is true in any given time and space.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

All major religions have united against the granting of gay rights

Gay Rights and Wrongs from Around and About by shantanu dutta

In fact religious leaders of different faiths in the country talking united on one voice on any issue is something that does not often happen. But the subject of gay rights and whether homosexuality ought to be decriminalized brought together all of them. Initially, it was the Christian clergy who seemed to be more vocal and was the religious face on television channels but later others joined in too. But is the matter of gay rights, a religious issue? Partly yes, partly no, perhaps. [...]

A larger question to be confronted is whether morality ought be enforced through law or preached persuasively as a lifestyle. History proves that criminalizing anything merely drives people underground. A century or more of the provision of law penalizing “act of carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal an offence” has obviously not prevented the development of a robust gay movement in the country. Neither has for instance, more than 60 years of keeping Gujarat a dry state done much to keep people from consuming illicit hooch and dying.

So clearly the matter is far more complex. Clearly the government will not find it easy to break this impasse. Obviously, social laws cannot be passed by ignoring religious sentiments when all the major religions have united to raise a chorus of support against the granting of gay rights, because it is against bharatiya sanskriti or Indian culture.

But we must remember that in 1829, when the practice of Sati was being banned through the efforts of Raja Ram MohanRoy, William Carey and others, obscurantist elements had sought shelter under the same veneer of culture and tradition. So, in the mean while rather than trying to be God and pass judgment on those individuals, a better option may be to offer prayers to those struggling with their homosexuality and society’s largely hostile responses to them.