Inaugural session – 15th July 2014
The inaugural session of the Gender Studies Cell (GSC) for the academic year was convened on 15 July 2014 by student coordinators Rudraneel Chattopadhyay, A. Sneha L. Visakha, and Chandni Chawla, and Ms. Prasanna Invally presided over the same. Ninety-two students enrolled in various classes of the college attended the session. Sneha informed the students about the GSC and its activities followed by a fierce discussion on its necessity.
The session began with a discussion on the concept of ‘gender’ and ‘sex’. While some of them would call themselves ‘feminists’, majority of them said that they were feminists and the rest said that they would prefer calling themselves ‘humanists’. Inter-linkages of caste, religion, class and gender and whether gendered division of labour was out of mere convenience or an outcome of deeper patriarchal roots were debated upon.
Documentary ‘The Bro Code – How Contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men’ by filmmaker Thomas Keith, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Long Beach was screened. The Bro Code makes a powerful case that there’s nothing normal, natural, or inevitable about this toxic ideal of American manhood, and challenges young people to fight back against the resurgent idea that being a “bro” — and a man — means glorifying sexism, bullying, and abuse.
Chandni and Rudraneel briefed the group on activities undertaken in the previous year. The meeting concluded on an encouraging note where the students expressed their desire to participate in the cell’s activities.
Documentary Screening – ‘It’s a Girl’- 22 July 2014
Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. It asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice. The film
The film left a very deep impact on the students who shared personal experiences of this gendercide being practiced in their hometown and in their families, of their patriarchal families and how it was very difficult for them to leave their homes to pursue their academic dreams. They discussed the institution of marriage and how it sparks a lot of violence with its baggage of dowry. The students discussed the circles of violence in which a woman is trapped in since the time she is conceived to the time she leaves the world.The discussion ended with contemplation on solutions to change the societal mind set and framework. The need to strengthen law enforcement agencies was pointed out as one of the solutions.
Discussion on ‘Sita and Draupadi: Aggressive Behaviour & Female Role Models in the Sanskrit Epics’ – 20 August 2014
A.Sneha L. Visakha moderated the discussion in which 18 students participated. Scrutinizing Draupadi’s behaviour in Mahabharata, the idea of an ideal wife that prevailed in that period, the responses of Yudhistira and Bhima to Draupadi’s sufferings, Draupadi’s role in starting the war, and such other issues were raised. The character of Sita in Ramayana, Shakuntala, Kannagi, and Shulabha, to name a few, were discussed in the background of subjugation of women in the garb of ideal qualities.
Screening of ‘Vagina Monologues’ – 1 September 2015
The Vagina Monologues is the brainchild of Ensler, who realized through her work how little women talked about their own vagina. So she decided to conduct interviews, hundreds of them, and understand what women feel about this so called ‘hushed up’ topic, and wrote monologues, which include funny experiences, shocking revelations and a lot of new perspective by the writer herself.
There were around 7 to 8 monologues, all performed by Eve. For example, ‘My vagina, my village’ is a monologue in which she talks of the atrocious acts carried out on Yugoslavian girls during the war in the 90’s. Another sketch called ‘The flood’ is a hilarious account of an old woman’s orgasmic experience in her youth when a boy she liked unexpectedly came to kiss her! It has been interpreted and acted brilliantly. Students realized that the vagina monologues wasn’t just women talking about their vaginas, but more than that. It’s the idea to talk about the unspoken, to challenge preconceived notions, to understand a woman’s sexuality and give her the freedom to express it.
Judgment Analysis – Achey Lal v. NCT Delhi, Crl. A. 1534/2011 – 1 December, 2014
During the inaugural session of the Gender Studies Cell for the second semester of the year, a discussion was held on the judgment by a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court which was severely criticized by several feminist organizations, as it acquitted a drunken man accused of raping a similarly intoxicated woman for lack of evidence. This judgment, and its language, was discussed at length to understand the possible implications; another major issue with the judgment is the mention of the menopausal state of the woman. The session was conducted by A. Sneha L. Visakha, Rudraneel Chattopadhyay, and Soham Goswami.
Student Presentation- Make War, Not Love: The Tale of Moral Policing in India – 8 December 2014
This session was conducted by student co-ordinator, A. Sneha L. Visakha. She dealt with the meaning of moral policing, origins and problems posed by the same. The session started with the discussion on what exactly “morality” was; how, time and again morality is defined as per customary requirements; how it is different from country to country; how western culture influences the eastern oriental concepts. The sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code are used to deal with obscenity, which are archaic laws. Yet, noted students among the audience that Kamasutra and the explicit paintings and art forms in Khajuraho forms part of our culture and nobody questions that. Sneha dealt with the development of case-law on the conception of ‘obscenity’ in law and a series of judgements were discussed.
The discussion moved on to peaceful forms of protests against moral policing especially by young people. Sharanya Kundu and Sneha led the discussion of the effectuality and impact of novel protests. Amongst others, the Pink Chaddi campaign launched by Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women against the attacks on women in Mangalore was discussed. The discussion also focused on the recent events of “Kiss of Love” campaign in Kerala and how it affected the whole nation and its mind set. Also the viability of Slut Walks and Gay Pride Parades in India was discussed.
The students had their own experiences to share where they themselves came up with the moral policing happening in their hometown and the pressure on the law enforcement agencies by their superiors. The meeting concluded on the note of general impression that moral policing is anathema to a free democracy like India.
Matrubhoomi – A Nation without Women – 22 December, 2014
The movie is centered on a girl named Kalki and her five husbands much like the Draupadi in Mahabharata. The story is based on a future dystopia in an Indian village populated exclusively by males due to female infanticide over the years. In the words of the director and writer Manish Jha, it truly examines the horrors of the emotional and psychological impact of a society without a women and resulting in the situation of fraternal polyandry.
The session was engaging and a lot of students had questions in mind regarding the future reality of such a horrific situation of gender imbalance. Parallel was drawn to the Chinese society where the gender imbalance is so rampant that child bride kidnapping and bride buying is a normal phenomenon. All the students focused on the roots of the evil which is societal values and they believed that solutions to such a problem can’t be brought about overnight. A radical and total change in the perceptions and scenario is necessary to remove this alarming gender imbalance in the country.
Digital Activism Workshop – Conducted by NGOs, Point of View & Safecity.in – 20 January 2015
The convenor from the NGO Point of View, Ms Bishakha Dutta, gave a brief introduction about the pioneering work done by them in spreading awareness about cyber-crimes especially cyber-crime and pornography. The students participated in the discussion regarding the problems of MMS circulation, cyber pornography, harassment over the internet, its prevalence and possible solutions to it.
Ms Elsa Di Silva from Safecity.in spoke to the students about the sex and gender related stereotypes and how they affect society and mind-sets – that results in making places unsafe for women. Chandani Chawla presented the vote of thanks.
Screening of Bombay Talkies – Decrypting Gender Roles – 16 February 2015
The session deliberated on the concept of gender roles depicted through the film. The discussion was moderated by Soham Goswami and Sangh Rakshita. Two excerpts from the movie were screened; one about two gay men in Bombay, and the other about a boy who doesn’t conform to the gender roles ascribed by the society. The session started with discussions of the compartmentalisation of gender roles with no cross movement being allowed and extended to the various facets of the third gender. The moderators delved into the sociological concepts of norms and group behaviour and their effect on gender roles. While the first clip dealt with the problem of coming out of the closet and accepting one’s gender as gay, the second excerpt dealt with a young boy who aspires to become a dancer and relates more to the feminine gender but is unable to express it because of the pressure imposed on him to conform with the societal norms of gender roles. The session concluded with discussion on the need to have differentiated gender roles in society and whether it will be more beneficial if a child was not exposed to such ideas at all.
Workshop on Sex and Sexuality by Samapathik Trust – 2 March 2015
Mr. Bindumadhav Khire head of Samapathik Trust conducted this 3-hour long session. The Trust is a men’s sexual health organisation which also deals with issues related to that of the third gender. The session was divided into three pronged discussions, namely on-alternative sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases along with reproductive health, and aphrodisiacs and misconceptions regarding pornography. The session started with the fundamentals of reproduction of cells and DNA replication and its impact on the anatomy of genitals. This was followed by a discussion on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) particularly about HIV, its effects and treatment. The discussion moved to modes of preventive care including use of contraception and practicing safe sex. An associate of Mr. Khire shared her personal experiences with the audience about growing up as a transgender. Another associate Mr. Vicky, share his story of discovering his homosexuality and battling HIV at a young age. Their stories had a powerful impact on the audience. Mr. Khire deftly handled detailed deliberations and questions regarding the above mentioned topics.