Women in the News
3/4/2022 COMMENT comment
Women in the News
By Juhi Baveja
Public figures, pop-cultural icons, survivors, and dissenters, these women have made headlines with their choices and actions.
Actor, director, and producer Jodie Foster veered away from the obligatory acceptance speech at the Golden Globe awards last month. Her insecurities, achievements, sense of self, quirks, relationships, and quips were all amalgamated in a candid display of authentic emotions, as she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award – an honorary Golden Globe Award for the stellar contributors to the industry. After announcing that she had come out as a homosexual many years ago, she went on to criticise the glaring media scrutiny and reality television culture, which deprived people of their right to privacy. She finished by thanking the industry, and derived heartfelt emotion from the audience. Foster, who has been in the entertainment industry for over 50 years, promised to be true to herself in the next phase of her career.
In the wake of the rise of Malala Yousafzai comes another revolutionary figure who wishes to bring about a change in the literacy figures in Pakistan. Twenty-five-year-old Hamaira Bachal has earned herself the title of an education crusader and was featured in Asia’s 21 Young Leaders list by NPR. She kick-started tuition centres through her Dream Foundation for students in Karachi in 2003. Those centres have now been converted into schools, attended by over a thousand students, which offer workshops for adults – women and men alike. Bachal has also been part of a documentary that showcased her endeavour, and affinity for inculcating educational requisites in young girls.
Mirroring the sentiments of outraged Indian women, is the incessant tirade of women across Nepal. A movement launched to end violence against women and gender discrimination, Occupy Baluwatar has gained momentum since last month. Stationed in front of the Nepalese Prime Minister’s office at Baluwatar in Kathmandu, are protestors, who have found a common voice after the attack on Sita Rai – a migrant worker, who was first robbed by immigration officials and then raped by a police officer – was shared on social media networks. Cases of attacks on Chhori Maiya Maharjan and Saraswati Subedi have also earned public ire.
Despite efforts to smooth tensions on both sides of the border by diplomats, Indian and Pakistan seem to be maintaining a tenuous balance. Tempers are running high after the brutal beheading of an Indian jawan by Pakistani soldiers, even as public remarks made by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar, has prevented a truce. After India refused to accept the repeated cease-fire violations, the Pakistani stateswoman went on air to deny the charges. Speaking on the prime-time American Charlie Rose show, Rabbani Khar accused India of engaging in “war-mongering”. Her misplaced comments were met with a backlash, as Sonia Gandhi asked her to “be civil”.
Vociferous supporter of LGBT rights and a prime candidate of free-form feminist expression, pop artiste Lady Gaga shared her somewhat skewed views on feminism recently in an interview. Talking about the entitlement of every women to express her views about feminism, she said, “As a new-age feminist, I would say I quite like the transference of strength I feel by submitting to a man – being under him. I actually wrote a song about it on my album, it’s called GUY and it stands for ‘go under you’.” According to her, women do tend to feel oppressed by makeup, and accepted that they have every right to feel that way as well. “But personally, I think the feel of makeup is so alluring for a man,” she added.
The ethereal actor, VJ and model Sophiya Haque – who wowed audiences in the early nineties, passed away last month in London. A bout of pneumonia and a severe blood clot in her lungs led to system failure, and Haque passed away in her sleep. The 41-year-old was diagnosed with cancer a month back, when she was performing in a West End production of Privates on Parade. The British Asian was part of MTV Asia for over eight years and portrayed the role of Poppy Morales in Coronation Street. Last year she appeared in BBC’s Fairy Tales series House of Anubis as Senkhara. She was also noticed in the Angelina Jolie starrer Wanted.
Najia Sediqi, the head of women’s affairs and a champion of women’s rights in Afghanistan, was assassinated last month by fundamentalists. Gunmen shot Sediqi in public as she made her way to her office in eastern Laghman province, in western Afganisthan. An upward curve in the spate of killings has become evident to the international community, even as US has decided to pull back their troops and make the nation vulnerable to Taliban-esque elements. Sediqi’s predecessor was also killed in a similar manner, as both handled the cases of abused women and oversaw regional economic empowerment programs.
In a historic decision by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the government has announced that under the royal decree, 30 women will hold posts in the Shura council. Although the council remains a toothless body with consultative powers, women’s empowerment groups see this as a sign of things changing. The council had recently suggested a sexual harrasment law to be passed by the Parliament, which was met with disdain by the conservatives. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah has also listed other reforms that would be promulgated later this year, even as many thought leaders are debating whether these reforms are mere window dressing and pre-emptive methods to curb any rebellion.
The 25-year-old actor, director and creator of the hit HBO show Girls, Lena Dunham is now all set to make a debut as a writer. Considered one of the biggest book advances, Random House has signed her for $ 3.7 million for a book full of quips and self-depreciating humour (titled Not That Kind of Girl). Dunham, winner of two Golden Globe awards for her show this year, has almost finished penning her ‘advice for every odd girl’ book, but found herself battling online trolling after her proposal was leaked by the Gawker website. Gawker apparently published excerpts of her proposal with derisive comments, but later took them down once Dunham’s lawyer issued a notice for infringement.
Having emerged as a strong contender for the Democrat presidential candidate for the US elections in 2016, Hillary Clinton is making the headlines ever so often. Clinton’s feisty display of courage – especially in the face of accusations of harbouring information about the attack in Benghazi – has won her many supporters. The former secretary of state was grilled by an entire senate full of Republicans, but emerged a strong victor by standing her ground about having no information prior to the deaths. This comes after an intense speculation about her wellbeing, as she was hospitalised with a blood clot, after suffering a concussion and fainting from dehydration.
Considered a device of oppression, Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code is now going to be altered by the government. After the news of 16-year-old Aminaal- Filali’s suicide attempt over conjugal rape became viral, the existing rape laws became a topic of debate. Justice minister Mustapha Ramid considered tougher sentences for the rapists. The current law makes it a criminal offence to “abduct or deceive” anyone under the age of 18 into sexual acts against their will and makes these punishable by up to five years in prison. The North African country’s government unveiled plans to outlaw the traditional practice of allowing rapists to go free if they marry their victim.
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