What is Social Justice? by John Rajkumar

Social Justice is not something I was aware of, not until my wife asked me to help her with a blog post. So I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, I Googled it.

The first bit I searched for was the definition of what Social Justice is, and here is what I found first.

The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.

The definition indicates that social justice looks to form a new society. A society where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity. As an idealist, this does sound a worthy goal to me. However this definition is very basic. Tells me the what and not the how. So how will a society with Social Justice work? Perhaps before I try to define Social Justice I need to know its history and roots.

How did Social Justice start?

With help from Wikipedia I learnt, Social Justice has its roots in the 1840s, the term was used more towards the end of the Industrial Revolution. The key aspect at this point was POVERTY. The goal was to ensure resources were distributed evenly. Since then Social Justice has evolved to include other imbalances in society, such as, Equal rights – irrespective of gender, caste, colour, religion, etc. Essentially in a society there should be no reason to discriminate against an individual and prevent him from benefiting for the work he is trying to put in. At the same time there should be empowerment and upliftment of the underprivileged.

Are we aware of it? 

Understanding this I realise, this has been a topic we discuss often. Perhaps not under the term Social Justice and not completely under it’s definition. Most democratic countries have been a part of this. They have passed laws preventing discrimination. Laws have also been passed to provide welfare to the poor. This is entrenched in the Indian constitution as well. The chapter on Fundamental Rights has article 15, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, religion, race or caste. Article 17 abolishes untouchability. The People world over contribute to this as well. We pay taxes, we stand up for ourselves or for members of our society, either online or on the streets. Voices were raised in light of violence against women. This has been an ongoing conversation for decades – where voices have been raised. Some voices have been heard and some not yet.

True, but it is a long road. . . 

In my mind, the road is long and a lot more progress to be made. As an Indian, I see debates raging on various topics that affect the progress of Social Justice. We see citizens from underprivileged backgrounds, marginalised castes as well as women rising above their disadvantages and excelling. They have done this on their own will power, or with assistance from the Government or NGOs. However, we still see abject poverty, caste and gender-based discrimination. There are debates raging on how we should prioritise our citizens or on the methods we should employ to achieve Social Justice. This is normal I would presume in a functioning democracy. However, I do go back to realising, this is a long and difficult road.

How do we contribute? 

So, what is it that we can do to move Social Justice along the right path? I obviously don’t have the answer. I believe one important element in this is – the NGO. In a functioning democracy the primary custodian of this, is the Government. However, a Government has priorities that cover aspects other than Social Justice. Governments are not unknown to make mistakes as well. Here is where an NGO should stand as a pillar towards this goal. NGOs work at the grass roots, identify social and economic issues, work for the have nots and fight for their upliftment.

Contrary to what we read on the news, this world is seeing one of the most peaceful times. Perhaps now is the time for us to look outward, look at our fellow brothers and sisters, understand their trials and burdens and ask ourselves, what can I do?

 

John Rajkumar

One Billion Rising and What it means for YOU!

WHAT IS ONE BILLION RISING [OBR]

Based on horrifying statistics, we have realised that 1 in 3 women are beaten or raped and that is about one billion women/girls among our 7 billion population in this world. Women and girls is an inclusive term here though, it signifies that the weaker are oppressed and hurt.

February 14th every year has now been championed as a day for Revolutionary love, being as Valentine’s day focuses primarily on love. That’s what the One Billion Rising movement hopes to carry through their movement as well. LOVE. RESPECT and a chance for an EQUAL PLATFORM.

 

HOW DID IT START?

2013 was the first year of the OBR movement where people rose to express their outrage against injustices that women suffer. It spread through hundreds of countries, involving the local communities shining a light on the injustices faced by the survivours. This movement gave a voice to them and their oppression. It included a RISE through dance, talks, walks, strikes and dialogues to say that we shall stand together and shall not be silenced and we shall strive to create an environment where violence is resisted and believed to be unthinkable.

This movement included the struggle against sexual and physical violence, which has grown now to include economic violence and violence of poverty, racial violence, gender violence, violence caused by environmental disasters and violence impacting women in the events of wars, capitalised greed and much more.

The 2014 movement focused on One Billion Rise against Justice, while the 2015 to 2016 movement was focused on Revolution. That theme is carrying on to 2017 as well with a focus on ‘RISING IN SOLIDARITY AGAINST THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN.’

 

RISE! DISRUPT! CONNECT!

RISE! Women are at their most vulnerable to abuse – at home, in the workplace and economically. Women are abused in multiple layers of our society. One is through our patriarchal structures in society, while another is through the economic exploitation in the need for survival. This is quite prevalent among the marginalised communities – like our indigenous women, domestic workers and women from the lower socio-economic strata.

DISRUPT! OBR believes in a world of equality, freedom, peace and dignity. This belief carries through our YWCA movement as well and it strikes an intense chord with us. Through walks, dances and other creative resistances – a force is built with hope and will that is strong enough to ask for a dialogue and create a need for the Government to pay close attention to a demand of the people.

CONNECT! No movement, or in this case Revolution, can be without support or solidarity. No system change, no challenge to a patriarchal thinking process can be done alone. It needs support and lots of it. Solidarity with a movement, with a cause that will affect each and every one of us and those suffering at the hands of these injustices can help move our hopes and dreams for a equal world forward.

 

HOW TO BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT?

There are global coordinators from the OBR movement and there are two based in India. They are Abha Bhaiya and Kamla Basin from the Sangat South Asian Feminist Network. They organise events that support the OBR campaigns. You can contact them for more information, follow the links through their names to find out more.

From one of the previous campaigns, a group called New Light Girls performed the Anthem of the OBR called, Break the Chain. This anthem can and is still used till today and any new variations of it are encouraged by this campaign.

Follow the OBR blog for more information about the events taking place around the world and know how you can help. The Indian movement has been categorised here. And here is a list of all the events taking place tomorrow around the world.  In India, there are two events taking place, one in Delhi and another in Kolkatta with subsequent events taking place around 22 states throughout February.

 

 

 

Why Harambe?

October 2016, saw the resurgence of vigils being held for Harambe, in fact, there were two held in the country itself. However, it was strangely obvious that the true nature/reason for the vigils had been lost – which is surprising considering the social media firestorm that broke over this.

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Who is Harambe?

In May, a 4 year old toddler had fallen into a Gorilla enclosure. Harambe – a 400 pound 7ft Silverback Gorilla – got ahold of the child and was roughhousing with the child, as he would a Gorilla young one. To rescue the child, Harambe was unfortunately shot and killed. Harambe, was one of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla’s, a species that is critically endangered.

What does that all mean? 

Since the 80s, there have been reports of humans (toddlers and adults) falling into Zoo enclosures and either miraculously surviving or being mauled to death by the wild animals inhabiting those enclosures. Western Lowland Gorillas, like all Gorillas in the world are on the Endangered list. There are fewer than 95,000 present in the wild with about 765 being reared in captivity. Hunting for their meat along with the outbreak of diseases like Ebola (yes, even Gorillas suffer from these diseases) have wiped out their numbers by up to 60%. So killing Harambe has a lot of people upset about this.

Shooting Harambe, was a blow towards the conservation of this species.

 

Was there really no other way? 

Most people disregard the fact, that killing Harambe was a very difficult decision to make for the Zoo Officials, and in their shoes, we would have been shaking with fear. Protect the child, or save the critically endangered Wild animal.

Harambe was like any curious Gorilla, touching, prodding, dragging something new that was in front of him. He was rough with the child, because humans are weaker than wild animals. However, from the videos it did show that Harambe was in a manner playing and being protective of the little toddler – in essence, it might have been normal Gorilla behaviour.

Experts do mention that it was playful behaviour, and they stand by the Zoo’s decision, because at the end of the day, Gorilla’s are volatile creatures. No matter how much research into a wild animal and their behaviour, it is always difficult to predict how they will react or behave. Tranquillising Harambe would have been risky because it could have agitated him – thus harming the toddler – before it finally did take effect. Tranquillisers take time to release into the blood stream, precious moments when the Gorilla had his hands on the child.

 

Poor Harambe, Shameful Mother?!

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Social media went into quite a rage, because when you are anonymous and behind a keyboard you are bolder than if you were to say it front of a crowd face-to-face. What was shocking was many calling out the mother for not keeping an eye on her son and for being responsible for the murder of Harambe. Also worth mentioning, is that while reporters talking about Harambe were passionate and had more emotion in their voices, reporters covering mass shootings or any other violence (in America or the world) had bland, calm voices, almost as if it was ‘par for the course’.

 

What’s wrong with taking sides? 

 

Argument A:

A video or an article does not give a complete picture. Toddlers are spritely and full of energy that losing track of them in a blink of an eye, does happen. Judging a mother and her apparent parenting capabilities is not right. We were not that family, we were not there, we were not in that family’s shoes. Condemning them is not our place. Parenting is a difficult job.

Argument B:

There is so much happening in the world today, keeping informed is easy and difficult. A beggar on the street, we walk by without thinking of their plight. A man doesn’t have a vehicle to transport his deceased wife because of his status in society, becomes the news of the hour. See another story like that and it’s no longer interesting. However, watch as a man throws a dog off a building and we get up in arms over it calling for that man’s head.

And that is the other side of the coin, Zoo officials and the experts were quite clear, Human life is important! However, it’s interesting to note, that most of us behind the keyboard place our preference with an animal than a human.

Argument C:

Also, many blamed the Mother of the child for bad parenting, instead of including the Father, he was around that day as well. It’s amazing how we all fall into the gender stereotype trap so easily. Anyway, the main issue here is not about the Zoo killing Harambe or the boy and his mother.

Argument D:

The issue is about this tragic situation in it’s entirety. A life was saved, while another had to be sacrificed. There are no sides to this argument –  each was horrifying.

The boy for being in the clutches of a wild animal for a few minutes, for the mother watching her son get dragged by a wild animal so much more stronger than her and her boy and wondering if she would see her son again all while blaming herself, and finally Harambe, for no fault of his, being a curious Gorilla exploring something that would not have been in his natural habitat.

Argument E:

We overtake these amazing creatures’ homes and develop their homes to satisfy our growing population, while we stick them in closed spaces expecting to protect them and view them at our own convenience as well. It was brought home once again when silverback Kumbuka escaped his enclosure from the London Zoo recently. It was a contained situation, however, Kumbuka did want to make an escape – someone noted that the more number of visitors, the more agitated the Gorillas got and attacked each other or growled at the visitors in the zoo.

 

Back to Harambe

Mentioned at the start of this article, we discussed how vigils were held for Harambe. The importance of these vigils isn’t to focus on the tragedy or the blame game. It needs the focus to be on CONSERVATION. Many species are being held in captivity to propagate their species because there is no guarantee that they will be safe in their natural habitat. Humans have amassed a lot more land taking away from theses magnificent beings, however, something’s got to give. Conservation is the need of the hour. Education towards the need for these species being important for the environment is a must. That is what Harambe symbolises, not the divide between humans and wildlife nor the divide between Harambe and the mother of the toddler.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) ACT 2013

Media cannot stress enough about the harassment of women as they go about their daily life. Be it at work, home or walking down the road, women are at risk. The key to protecting one self is not just self defence, it is also education. Education oneself about your rights is beneficial. Half information is no good. Be informed. Know your rights and at the same time do not abuse the knowledge that you have. As Peter Parker’s Uncle would say ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’

This article highlights your rights as a women in the work force. It could happen to you or to someone you know. Share the informative, learn and spread awareness as well. But never, ever misuse the information at your fingertips. Because, in this day and age, media shares enough information for you to know, that even men and transgenders suffer harassment at a workplace as well as women.

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DEFINITION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT:

The Act defines sexual harassment as an – unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour aimed or having a tendency to outrage the modesty of woman directly or indirectly. It includes:

• Sexually coloured remarks
• Physical contact and advances
• Showing pornography
• A demand or request for sexual favours
• Any other unwelcome physical, verbal/

non-verbal – such as whistling, obscene jokes, comments about physical appearances, threats, innuendos, gender based derogatory remarks, etc. Additionally it recognises the promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as ‘sexual harassment’ at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts.

TYPES of SEXUAL HARASSMENT:

  • QUID PRO QUO HARASSMENT – Something for something – Harasser has position of power or authority and Refusal to submit will affect the victim‘s job.
  • HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT DUE TO HARASSMENT – Such conduct which unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work or performance or creates an unfriendly and uncomfortable work environment.
  • SAME SEX HARASSMENT – Male harassment on another male, or female/or Harassment on another female.
  • THIRD PARTY HARASSMENT – Sexual harassment by a non-employee, e.g. Vendors, Customers or Visitors/or Behaviour found offensive by other employees.

Companies can and should set up a complaints and redressal system. In fact it is the employer’s obligation to make sure his employees are protected and have the support that they require.

EMPLOYERS OBLIGATIONS:

The Act casts certain obligations upon the em- ployer to, inter alia,

  1. provide a safe working environment
  2. display conspicuously at the workplace, the penal consequences of indulging in acts that may constitute as sexual harassment and the composition of the Internal Complaints Committee
  3. organise workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitizing employees
  4. treat sexual harassment as a misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for misconduct.
Complaints raised will be looked into and investigated by a panel formed by the employer, that can then be taken to court. False complaints are also a punishable offence!!

PUNISHMENT FOR FALSE COMPLAINT:

If allegations against the accused are found to be false and made with a malicious intent, the complainant may face similar penal provisions as listed for the accused.

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SOME STEPS WOMEN CAN TAKE

1. Wake up, prevent spread of Sexual Harassment. Your rights are defended and you have equal opportunity in every area.

2. Empower yourself. Keep improving and expanding skills. Achieve jobs/promotions by merit and not because of ‘being a woman’.

3. Act, ask for specific rights, file written complaints and speak up.

4. Believe in yourself – your growth is within not outside you.

5. Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.

6. Don’t face problems of sexual harassment in seclusion. Share with colleagues and seniors. Go to higher authorities if no solution is found.

When Words Hurt!

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!

Remember these words we used to chant as a mantra in school when bullies said mean things to us? Verbal abuse is a powerful powerful weapon. In school yards, playgrounds, offices, even in our homes {domestic violence} – words hurt. We learn that as children we are still adjusting to everyone’s sensibilities and that we are untactful at times. So the easiest weapon then, was to let it roll off your back.

Times are a little different now. With the rise in technological advancements, social media has been booming. Every child of this age understands how to use a smartphone, tablet or computer, at a rather early age at that. Hiding behind a screen, makes even those who are meek, bolder. Thus giving rise to the most problematic trend in our country among the youth – ranking us in the top globally – Cyberbullying.

What is Cyberbullying?
Instead of face to face bullying, it’s bullying from behind electronic technology. Tagging inappropriate photos, tagging and name-calling publicly on the web and spreading rumours are some such examples.

What are the various types of bullying?

  1. Physical – which is violence on another person. Face to face, where a person, or gang of persons hit, pull, break or steal something from another person.
  2. Societal – which involves discriminating against another, spreading rumours or using peer pressure to exclude a person from friendships.
  3. Verbal – which is bullying using hurtful words, name-calling and threats on another person.
  4. Cyber – which is bullying by sending mean texts, prank calls, stalking someone through social media and shaming through the internet.

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Why is Cyberbullying a concern?
According to a survey conducted last year among four other countries, results showed that 81% of children from the age of 8 – 17 years had access to social media sites, with 22% being bullied online, 52% admitted to bullying others and about 70% admitted seeing, understanding bullying online.

Yes, the numbers are shocking, yes India ranks highest on these charts among the other countries. But the cause for concern is that Cyberbulling is particularly vicious. Being behind a screen gives everyone a false sense of security spewing hate or horrible comments, and with the victims spurious rebuttals, it becomes a game that gets engaged in longer and longer.

It affects the victims self esteems and at times affects social lives outside of the cyber world. In a few cases, victims have ended up physically hurting themselves because of this.

Another, main concern is that the level of aggression among the bullied is high, even among the aggressors. This aggression either is used physically on the abusers face to face or the victims turn bullies themselves. A horrific cycle of hurt.

What are the signs of being Cyberbullied?

  1. Avoids use of mobile devices or computers
  2. Suddenly deletes social media accounts
  3. Becomes moodier after receiving emails and/or messages
  4. Is more secretive than usual about online activities
  5. Is reluctant to go to school and avoids social contact
  6. Grades and school performance fall
  7. Appears more frustrated, impatient or angry than usual
  8. Has trouble sleeping

What can be done?

We all know the world is not a safe place, the cyber world is the same. The haunting reality is that the numbers are rising, the aggression online is tripling.

  1. Awareness needs to be built on the subject among students, parents and educators as well. It is prevalent and it affects everyone involved.
  2. Teaching safety is a priority. Children need to learn to protect themselves online and certain rules need to be in place set by the parents.
  3. Keeping communication lines open between parent and child helps when the child needs help about their online activities.

Here is a video that aptly discusses cyberbullying and what to do about it here.

 

When No Means NO!

We’ve heard whispers of it growing up. We’ve giggled in scorn over it at times. We’ve passed judgement without clearly understanding the facts. We’ve claimed ignorance in this because it never happened to us!

However, it isn’t fair to be part of this world, where we know injustices occur and expect to turn a blind eye in all the brash knowledge of a youth that it wont happen to us. It could. It could happen to someone you know and you could help them.

You dig into the archives and even Google it, you will chance upon statistic upon statistic. Sexual harassment is quite prevalent, it’s just not addressed. It happens to both women and men. It can be a woman or a man who sexually harasses. Unfortunately not many people come out and state it because of the embarrassment and scorn they know/feel they will face.

The workplace is a common place that this occurs at, and there are laws that are in place that protects an employee being harassed.

Sexual harassment is an – unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour aimed or having a tendency to outrage the modesty of woman directly or indirectly. It includes:

  • Sexually coloured remarks

  • Physical contact and advances

  • Showing pornography

  • A demand or request for sexual favours

  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal/non-verbal – such as whistling, obscene jokes, comments about physical appearances, threats, innuendos, gender based derogatory remarks, etc.

Additionally it recognises the promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as ‘sexual harassment’ at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts.

Find out more about sexual harassment, not just as a means to arm yourself or a friend, but also in a way to shun those whispers to the background. Sexual harassment is a crime. It is not the victims fault. Sexual harassment is never encouraged. It is never entertained. It is feared by the victim. Judging a victim or passing along blame never helps anyone.