Saturday, November 22, 2014

No more births... or deaths

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, Nov 23, 2014

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Women who underwent sterilisation surgeries receive treatment in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
PTI Women who underwent sterilisation surgeries receive treatment in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh

Should we forget about the 14 poor women in Chhattisgarh who died earlier this month? Can we write this off as another “unfortunate” incident? Or should we see it as reminder of the fundamental question that Indian policymakers need to ask: are Indian women, especially poor women, entitled to respect and rights due all human beings or will they continue to be viewed as baby-producing machines whose bodies the State can appropriate and control when it deems they have completed their assigned task?

The debate has been sparked by the ghastly tragedy that befell some of the 83 women who were herded into a disused hospital in Takhatpur, Bilaspur district, and subjected to laparoscopic tubectomies within a few hours. The same instrument was used. No time for sterilisation. No time to check if the women were in good enough health to undergo the surgery. And no time to relax and recover before being packed off. And, of course, no one to follow up to see whether they survived the journey home.

Within a day, eight women were dead. In the next days, in other locations where similar sterilisation camps were held, another six died, 14 in all. The doctor who performed the 83 tubectomies – he was rewarded earlier this year for having performed 50,000 tubectomies – was arrested. He says he was not at fault and insists that the women died from consuming contaminated drugs post-operation. It is suspected that the ciprofloxacin tablets given to the women were contaminated with zinc phosphide, a rat poison. And the state government refuses to explain why such a camp was held at a disused, run-down private hospital.

Everyone is blaming someone else. In the midst of all this noise, and the silence that has descended on the homes of the dead women, we must remember that what happened in Chhattisgarh earlier this month is not an exception, a one-off aberration that we can all forget about once the blame is fixed. Between 2003 and 2012, on an average 12 women die due to botched tubectomies. That is 12 too many. No woman should die from this procedure.

Also, whatever government officials might say to the media, the reality is that health workers are expected to fulfil targets by bringing women to these sterilisation camps. If such pressure was not exerted on them, it is possible that fewer women would come. But at least those who agreed to be sterilised would do so after having understood the consequences. And doctors would not rush through with the procedure at the vulgar speed as did the doctor in Chhattisgarh.

Government officials have consistently argued, as they do even today, that sterilisation is the best option for a poor woman with more than two children because she cannot insist her husband uses a condom and she cannot use other spacing methods, such as injectables for instance, because of the absence of health care in the case of complications. But by the same measure, how do governments justify sterilising women and sending them back to their villages without any follow-up? The women who died did so because they could not access emergency health care in time.

Even if poor women opt for sterilisation, surely they are entitled some dignity while undergoing the procedure. We thought the days when women were lined up like cattle, as depicted so starkly in Deepa Dhanraj’s path-breaking 1991 film “Something like a war” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fq7HSIPVq4), was something in the past, harking back to the days of the 1975 Emergency when mass sterilisation campaigns were implemented ruthlessly across India. But Chhattisgarh reminds us that this is happening even today, although on a smaller scale.

So respect for poor women is the very minimum that must inform any population programme. India has signed an international convention in 1994 committing itself to guaranteeing women their reproductive choice and rights. Simply put, this means that all women have the right to choose the kind of contraceptive method they want to use. It also means that population programmes must be centered on women’s health and choice.

Clearly, this is so much talk without substance. In 20 years, under one guise or another, central and state governments have continued with the policy of targets and camps. And women are those who are targeted, not men. The skew in the population programmes is more than evident, even if one looks at government data.

Also, despite scores of meeting, conferences, policy documents, including the National Population Policy (2000) that links a decline in fertility to many other aspects such as education, overall health, housing, drinking water and sanitation, the desire to fast-forward population programmes through sterilisation appears irresistible to policy makers of all political hues.

As a result, women continue to pay the price for this persistent myopia – especially poor women. 

(To read the original, click here.)

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Crossing over

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, November 9, 2014

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A stretch of the US-Mexico border. Photo: Reuters
A stretch of the US-Mexico border. Photo: Reuters
 
Sometimes a documentary film speaks louder than a thousand words. And so it was last week when I chanced upon a powerful documentary film, Maria in Nobody’s Land. Made in 2010 by a first-time filmmaker, Marcela Zamora Chamorro, and winner of several awards, the film portrays a picture of illegal immigration into the United States about which I had little knowledge.

If you have lived in the U.S., you would know about the push from people living in the countries south of the border to enter the U.S. in any way they can. This has been happening for decades and continues even today. A stark reminder of that is the U.S.-Mexico border, south of the city of San Diego in California. On the U.S. side of the border is vast open land; some of it declared a protected area to conserve a particular bird species. On the other is the town of Tijuana, visible from the U.S. side, a dense urban settlement with houses almost touching the border. Separating the two countries is a steel fence that extends into the sea, slicing the shared beach into two. The entire area is a militarised zone with helicopters constantly buzzing overhead keeping an eye out for desperate immigrants trying to make their way across. Mexico and the U.S. are not at war. Yet, looking at that border, you would think they are.

But the story of the desperate immigrant begins thousands of miles away from this and other similar border posts all along the south of the U.S. And not just in Mexico but even further south. It is also a gendered story, with many of those taking enormous risks to cross what appears an impenetrable border being women. These are single mothers, sisters, aunts — women who are convinced that by crossing over they will guarantee their families a better life. And, as legal immigration appears impossible, they risk taking the illegal route.

The film follows some of these women from the impoverished country of El Salvador, south of Mexico, to the U.S. border. What they encounter en route is a grim and frightening story. That they survive is a miracle; others like them are raped, robbed, kidnapped and killed by criminal gangs along the way. Their own government couldn’t care less. And neither does Mexico. If there is any solace, it comes from voluntary immigrant support groups who provide shelter and food.

One remarkable episode in the film shows a group of women who prepare packets of water and food every day. As a freight train carrying scores of these migrants passes their village, they stand near the tracks and pass out the packets. The train does not stop. It doesn’t even slow down. And yet, these women have figured out a way of getting all their packets to the people hanging on for dear life on the roofs of these trains.

Apart from bringing out the dangers that these women and men face even as they make their way to the American border, the film also reminds us of the gender dimension of immigration. The immigrant — legal or illegal — is not just a man. Increasingly, she is a woman.

In Asia too, women are migrating to other countries to find work and money to support their families. Over the years, women from Southeast Asia (the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia) and South Asia (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan) have been migrating not just to West Asia but further afield to Europe and the U.S. Unlike the women depicted in the documentary, many of these women are legal migrants. Yet, quite often, the job they think they will do turns out to be something else. Promised jobs as domestic help, for instance, they find themselves in the so-called ‘entertainment’ industry, another name for commercial sex work.

Many of these stories are never recorded. The illegal immigrants constantly fear being found out and deported. And those who have papers fear that if they report ill treatment, they will lose their jobs. Either way, silence is their only option as even the hardships they confront in the countries in which they work are bearable compared to the poverty — and in the case of women, domestic violence — that is the daily burden of their lives at home.

There are many more films waiting to be made, many more books waiting to be written, that will tell these stories. For only then is their hope that countries and their citizens will view the migrant sympathetically and as a person whose only ‘crime’ is to seek a better life. 

(To read the original, click here.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hunger games

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, October 26, 2014

Hunger, malnutrition, under-nutrition… are not the talking points at election rallies or television debates .
The Hindu Hunger, malnutrition, under-nutrition… are not the talking points at election rallies or television debates .

In this season of festivities, when urban lifestyle-based diseases are getting a boost as we stuff our stomachs with forbidden foods, and our homes eat up even more of scarce electricity, one in every third child will go to bed hungry. Her home will be dark, without even the light from the hearth that cannot be lit because there is no cooking fuel.

Hunger, malnutrition, under-nutrition… these are not the talking points at election rallies or television debates but they remain a hard and unrelenting reality for million of Indians. I fear that — in the drummed-up euphoria surrounding cleaning up India, making in India and other such slogans — this depressing reality will be obscured and forgotten.

The good news, we are told, is that acute hunger is decreasing. On the Global Hunger Index 2014, prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), India now ranks 55th of the 76 countries and its situation has moved from ‘alarming’ to ‘serious’. That is good.  But is it something to celebrate? That from 45.1 per cent of underweight children under five years of age in 2005-06, there are now 30.7 per cent of underweight children as of last year? It is progress, but that still leaves virtually one in every three children under five years of age that is underweight. This means this child will never be able to catch up as an adult because she has been deprived of adequate and nutritious food in the first five years of her life.

We should also be worried that the very programmes that helped this decline are now in danger of being neglected, or reformulated in a way that could prove detrimental. For instance, IFPRI acknowledges that government programmes that have contributed to this decline in child hunger are the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) under which balwadis in villages provide young children with a nutritious supplement; the committee to monitor malnutrition set up by the Supreme Court; the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) that has increased access to health care for many in rural areas; the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which has guaranteed employment to millions of people; and the Public Distribution System (PDS), which provides subsidised food grains to people below the poverty line.

Apart from hunger caused by inadequate quantity of food, millions also suffer from hidden hunger, due to the deficiency of micronutrients in the food. If you are poor, not only do you get little to eat, but what you eat is also of poor quality. This is what aggravates the already deadly impact of undernutrition. Whenever these subjects come up for discussion — and internationally and in India they do so all the time — there are many technical fixes that are discussed such as bio-fortification, which involves increasing the micronutrient content of food crops.  In other words, the same grain that you eat will be fortified so that even if you eat the same quantity, you will get more nutrients into your system.

While all that is well-meant, if you are poor, you need money to buy food, even if it is subsidised. And you need work to earn the money to buy that food. Despite its shortcomings, MGNREGA has been responsible for putting that money in the hands of millions of rural poor. Yet, this programme is being deprived of funds and could end up a mere acronym.

The technical fixes also misfire because the approach is sometimes top-down without taking in the particular needs of different parts of India. For instance, one of the solutions for malnutrition among children is to give them a high-energy protein paste, that includes crushed peanuts, through the ICDS programme. But the solution, although it makes sense, does not take into account the fact that children’s tastes and eating habits differ in various parts of India. Or that severely malnourished children — like those in isolated tribal hamlets in some parts of Maharashtra, for instance — cannot digest this rich mixture because they are so emaciated. Rather than giving them nourishment, the mixture can cause acute diarrhoea. So, universalised solutions do not work if there is no flexibility built into such programmes.

Just as a handful of long-handled brooms will not clean India, there is no magic wand for ending hunger. The real measure of a country’s progress should surely be the child hunger index. And here India continues to fall short. Moving from ‘alarming’ to ‘serious’ is simply not good enough.

(To read the original, click here.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Out in the open

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, October 12, 2014

Absence of sanitation facilities for women during disasters enhances their vulnerability. Photo: AP


Absence of sanitation facilities for women during disasters enhances their vulnerability. Photo: AP


The absence of sanitation facilities for women during disasters enhances their vulnerability.

Last month, while our attention was diverted by what our politicians were doing on foreign shores and at home, tragedies on a massive scale were being played out in many parts of the country.

Besides the devastating floods in Kashmir last month, vast swathes of the rest of India have also been inundated by floodwaters. Odisha, Bihar, Assam and Meghalaya have seen some of the worst flooding in years. For these states, floods are an annual phenomenon. But this year they have been worse and in places where the waters never advanced with such force in earlier years.

So even as the usual tamashas and tirades occupy our news space, spare a thought for the women, men and children in these states who are still struggling. Even as I write this column, an estimated four lakh people in Assam and Meghalaya, spread over 4,446 villages in 23 districts are homeless or badly affected by the floods. Thousands of people remain in relief camps because they cannot go back to their villages.
In Odisha last month, rising river waters submerged thousands of villages in 23 of the 30 districts in the state. In Bihar, too, the flooding has been relentless, spreading destruction, destitution and disease.

While the reports in the media on these states are few and far in-between — you have to make a determined effort to mine out the news from mainstream Indian media — the few reports that have appeared make heart-rending reading.

One report that I found particularly touching appeared in The Hindu on August 27, 2014, under the headline, ‘Women fight shame in flood hit Bihar’ (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/women-fight-shame-in-flood-hit-bihar/article6356043.ece?homepage=true). It quoted women in Bihar’s Supaul district talking about the particular challenge that they face as women in the wake of floods.

A woman in her thirties was quoted saying, “Poor women like us face more problems to relieve ourselves when floods force us to flee our villages. It is our fate. No one can imagine this except those like us.”
Another older woman said, “We have no option but to relieve ourselves in the open by closing our eyes and minds to the hell-like situation.”

What they are talking about is the pathetic absence of any sanitation arrangement for women during such disasters. You might argue that in any case many of these women would not have toilets and are therefore used to open defecation. But can anyone imagine what this woman means when she says they close their “eyes and minds” when they go out to relieve themselves in a flooded landscape?

Why, people would legitimately ask, should we make such a fuss about women’s problems at such times when everyone — men, women and children, as well as the elderly — are affected? I do so because in many ways women’s vulnerabilities are enhanced at such times. If they confront a daily challenge of sanitation, this is compounded during floods and other disasters. Yet, when relief measures are put in place, the particular needs of women are often overlooked.

In a powerful article that Assam-based journalist Teresa Rehman wrote after the 2010 floods in her state (infochangeindia.org/environment/features/sanitation-in-the-time-of-floods.html), she quotes a woman called Salma Begum from Sonitpur district: “Sometimes we have to seek permission from the owners of a dry patch in order to defecate. Most often we have to do it discreetly, on other people’s land, as it becomes difficult to control oneself. Sometimes, during the floods, we starve ourselves so that we do not need to defecate.”

In this instance, women like Salma were beneficiaries of the government’s Total Sanitation Programme, in particular low-cost toilets. Yet, one flood, and everything including these toilets are washed away. Women like her are then left with no alternative but to revert to the age-old practice of open defecation, with the added complication of not finding a dry spot.

Floodwaters are indiscriminating. They sweep away everything and everyone that comes in their way. But for the survivors, the story varies greatly depending on class, caste and gender. And this is where the voices of women like Salma from Assam or the women from Bihar must be heeded. The process of relief and rehabilitation must necessarily be ‘gendered. The absence of toilets is a woman’s problem in a very specific way.

Sweeping our streets clean is all very well but surely cleanliness must mean that women do not need to live through ‘a hell-like situation’ on a daily basis.

(To read the original, click here.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A woman’s worth?

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, Sept 28, 2014


  • The widows of Vrindavan. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
    The widows of Vrindavan. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
  • The widows of Vrindavan. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
    The widows of Vrindavan. Photo: V.V. Krishnan


So let me add my voice to the controversy generated by Mathura Member of Parliament Hema Malini’s comments about the thousands of destitute widows and abandoned women who live in her constituency. In the fashion of most public figures caught out, Hema has proceeded to retract her remarks, and claims that she wanted the sons and daughters of these women to take responsibility for them.
However, the issue is not just her insensitivity towards these women, many of who barely survive on alms and die miserable lonely deaths, but that the Bharatiya Janata Party member has also cynically used these women to rake up an entirely pointless issue of regionalism. Go back to where you came from, she said in effect. For someone who is supposed to be aware of the Indian Constitution and the rights it gives its citizens, this exceeds limits of not just insensitivity, but ignorance.
The only salutary purpose the BJP MP’s remarks have served is to draw attention again to a shameful tradition that has no place in 21st century India. If Hema is worried about the conditions in which these women live, she should be questioning the very reason that drives them to Vrindavan.
What she and all of us need to question is why in India a woman’s worth is measured primarily through the institution of marriage. Why should a woman’s life end when her husband dies, or abandons her? Why does she become ‘inauspicious’ when this happens? How can we support or justify ‘traditions’ that debase women for no other reason than that their husbands have died or have abandoned them?
We cannot speak of women’s rights and equality as long as traditions like this exist, traditions that are reinforced by politicians who suggest that the solution to the situation in Vrindavan is to get families to send their destitute widows to temples in their own states.
The National Commission for Women (NCW), at the behest of the Supreme Court, had done an interesting survey of the women in Vrindavan. In its 2009-10 report, the NCW makes a number of useful recommendations that Hema ought to read and pursue, given that she represents these women in Parliament. She should also take time to read the report as it contains useful data, including more accurate estimates of the number of widows and abandoned women in Vrindavan. Based on detailed interviews with 216 women, the report documents their pathetic life and the reasons for their coming to Vrindavan. Although the majority of them were from West Bengal, there were also women from other states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. Most of the women were in the 60 and older age group. Also, while the majority were widows, among them were women who had been divorced or separated, women who came to Vrindavan with destitute and ailing husbands, and women who had never been married.
The report quotes the 2005 survey conducted by the Vrindavan Nagar Palika Parishad that estimated the number of such women at 3,105. Another survey in 2008-09 of the number of women receiving pensions placed the figure at 3,710. Even if these are underestimates, and they most likely are, the total figure would surely not exceed 10,000 in a population of 63,005 in Vrindavan (2,011 census). Incidentally, between 2001 and 2011, the population of Vrindavan grew by less than 10,000. So there is more than a little exaggeration in the numbers of widowed and abandoned women flocking to the city. Numbers aside, even if a handful of women are compelled to leave their homes and travel to a temple town many miles away just to survive, it is a matter of shame. We have to rethink the value of a woman within the institution of marriage. As long as she is measured first by the amount of dowry she brings, second by her ability to produce a male heir, and third by dying before her husband, the tragic saga of the widows of Vrindavan will continue.
The Prime Minister is busy travelling around the world, projecting the image of an India impatient to change and move ahead. Perhaps he should turn his gaze to the condition of widows in his own constituency, Varanasi, and that of his party colleague’s, Vrindavan. India will move ahead when we understand what is holding back half our population.
(To read the original, click here.)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Devil in the detail

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, August 31, 2014

Students express solidarity. Photo: Kiran Bakale
The Hindu Students express solidarity. Photo: Kiran Bakale


Crimes against women have become a popular talking point in India. They figure in the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech. They find a mention in a statement by the Finance Minister about how the growing incidence of crimes against women is affecting tourism in India. And they are the focus of a plan by the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, to win the 2017 Assembly elections in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, albeit with a twist.

The BJP is concerned about crimes only against women of one community (read Hindu) and has concluded, without any evidence, that the perpetrators are all of another community (read Muslim), who are waging something that exists only in the imagination of the Hindutva rightwing, namely ‘Love Jihad’.

Where does all this leave Indian women, of whatever community? Should they feel reassured, more secure, that the highest in the land are concerned about their welfare? Or should they be afraid that this concern is ultimately only instrumental, to push a political agenda, or an economic one — such as making India a more attractive tourist destination?

Whatever one concludes, it is evident that those making statements from the top have little idea of what happens on the ground when women are assaulted, and particularly when they pick up the courage to report the crime and to fight the case through our courts.

August 22 was the first anniversary of a brutal gang rape in the heart of Mumbai when a young woman journalist went on a work assignment to the abandoned Shakti Mills compound. Her resilience and determination played no small role in ensuring that the case was registered, the perpetrators apprehended, charged and committed. But only now, a year later, do we know the details of what she went through in the process of seeking justice.

These facts are brought out in two important recent articles. One by Flavia Agnes, Audrey D’Mello and Persis Sidhva in Economic and Political Weekly of July 19, 2014 (http://www.epw.in/insight/making-high-profile-rape-trial.html) informs us in considerable detail about what happened before and during the Shakti Mills trial. It exposes the insensitivity that infects the entire system — from police to prosecution to the media — where the welfare of the survivor seems to be the lowest priority. If the survivor did not have the support of the Majlis Legal Centre, to which the authors of this article belong, her fate would have been much worse. For instance, it is they who insisted that her privacy should be protected from the intrusive and persistent media when she entered and left the courtroom during what was supposed to be an ‘in camera’ trial. The authors also write about the mockery of the confidential nature of the trial when the public prosecutor gave out all kinds of details of the trial to a hungry media.

Even more disturbing is an article written for the web by a colleague of the Shakti Mills gang rape survivor. Titled ‘That hashtag was my colleague’ (https://in.news.yahoo.com/that-hashtag-was-my-colleague-060844991.html), the article gives us a different insight into what happens in such a situation, including the gross insensitivity of the media concerned only about an ‘exclusive’.

What I found personally most disturbing was the description given in the article about the Test Identification Parade (TIP). In popular TV crime serials and films based on systems in the West, we see a one-way glass between the survivor and the suspects. Each suspect carries a number and the survivor is supposed to state the number of the person or persons she considers responsible for the crime. In India, the system is truly brutal. In one room, often without any women police, a rape survivor has to face a line-up of men. She then has to walk up to the men she identifies as the perpetrators of the crime, touch them on the shoulder and then announce loudly what they did to her. One cannot even imagine the trauma that a woman who has been brutalised must go through with such a grotesque system in place.

There is much else in both articles that will disturb anyone concerned about the issue. But what speaks loudest is the urgent need to address these details of our criminal justice system so that women subjected to sexual assault do not have to go through further assaults on their selves in the process of seeking justice. 

(To read the original, click here.)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Invisible women

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, August 17, 2014

At a garment factory. Photo: K. Pichumani
At a garment factory. Photo: K. Pichumani

Should women ‘work’ after they get married? I put the word work in inverted commas deliberately because women work all the time but only when they do paid work is it considered ‘work’.

One imagines that this question need not be asked anymore because India is changing. But is it? Going by recent reports and studies, it is evident that some things never change, or change so slowly as to be imperceptible. And the one equation that does not change is the expectation from women once they get married. Their priority has to be ‘the family’ and all else, including jobs that could be something they enjoy doing, must be set aside.

An advertisement that is being passionately analysed and discussed on social media depicts a woman boss instructing her junior, who turns out to be her husband, to work over-time to complete a project. Meantime, she heads home and instead of putting up her feet and relaxing, proceeds to cook up a gourmet meal for the husband. She then sends him the pictures through her phone to tempt him to come home for the meal.

So is this depiction of woman as the boss ‘progressive’ or is it ‘regressive’ because ultimately she conforms to the stereotype of the wife who must please her husband? If the roles had been reversed, would the husband boss have done something similar? At most, he might have ordered in a great meal, or asked the domestic help to cook something special. Incidentally, where was the domestic help when the woman ‘boss’ was slaving in the kitchen? It stretches credulity to believe that a woman at the top in the corporate sector would not have domestic help.

Perhaps we are making too much of this but the advertisement raises other, more important, questions about the ability of women to continue doing paid work after marriage. This paper carried an interesting analysis on this subject on August 11 (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/marriage-driving-urban-women-out-of-jobs/article6301574.ece). The article reported research that showed that women dropped out of paid work once they got married or/and had children. The exceptions were women in the upper income bracket and the poorest, who had no option but to continue some form of wage work. Poor women in villages also had no choice although their work was often unpaid as it was part of agricultural tasks that they were expected to do in the family.

What the advertisement represents is the exception to the rule. For the majority of women who are poor, whether in city or village, there is really no choice. Speak to any woman who works as a domestic. You hear identical stories. There is not enough in the house to make ends meet. The man either has no work, or cannot work due to addiction, or is in a low-paid insecure job. Often, the woman’s salary is the only steady amount coming into the family kitty. As a result, these women — come rain or shine, illness or family tragedy — are forced to continue to work. What is interesting is that despite the drudgery of domestic work, many of them persist because it gives them a chance to escape the greater drudgery of the work they must still do in their own homes.

The article in The Hindu, however, does touch upon a group of urban women who are neither so poor that they must work for survival nor so well-off that they can continue to work outside their homes because they have help at home. It is the women in the middle who get caught. For them, paid work is ‘permitted’ so to speak, only until they get married. And then it has to stop. Unless the family into which they marry ‘allow’ them to continue. So the little bit of autonomy they gain through earning something through their own labour is snatched away from them the day they get married. Apart from the blow to their own self-esteem, this is a waste because these women could be productively employed.

We do not read enough about this class of women. They are all around us in our cities — working in garment factories, in offices, as saleswomen in the growing retail sector, in call centres etc. Yet, they are virtually invisible. What are their stories?

Perhaps it is time the camera focused on these lives. 

(To read the original, click here.)