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This interview was originally posted on The Prospect.
I am very passionate about feminism and related things. I read each day and begin to believe that soon I will have a much better understanding of how things were, are, will be and should be. There are certain philosophies I have a lot of respect for and others, not so much. But then there are some things I have tried really hard to understand but have never been successful. Hijab is one. Hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women, it can range range from just covering the hair to covering the whole body thereby only exposing the eyes. I recently saw a little girl wearing one and I suddenly felt uncomfortable. I wondered why a young little girl absolutely unaware of worldly things had to be covered and what she had to be covered from.
Nihal Saad Zaghloul started the Imprint Movement in Egypt in wake of the Egyptian Spring. Today she talks to us and gives us her perspective as a Hijabi and a Feminist.
What is the hijab? How can people coexist and respect each other while also maintaining an environment of healthy discussion?
The Hijab is sign a of modesty and humility that women choose to wear when they want. Just like Virgin Mary in all of the pictures drawn of her, she is always covered, her hair and body is never shown. (Relevant verses from the Quran Soorat Al-Hujarat (49:13))
Essentially Allah created us different so that we may know one another and truly believe, that is to realize Allah’s plan and his creation. A relationship must be created so we co-exist with each other.
Is Hijab a choice? What would you say to young women in schools struggling between the Hijab and normal clothing?
Hijab is a choice, every thing we do is a choice. Women who are struggling should look within them and do what makes them comfortable. They should be true to themselves and hence they will be true to God. The Hijab is not a hindering tool, it will not hinder women from doing what they want. Women can climb mountains, dive, do road trips, dance. Everything is a choice. The Hijab is something women do to get closer to Allah, its a step towards heaven. So if women decide to use it then great if not then they don’t.
The Bottom Line
After talking to Nihal, I got much needed perspective about the phenomenon. Essentially, Hijab is a choice, or at least it is supposed to be a choice. No one should, under ideal conditions, be forced to don one against her wishes. But also, no one should be profiled or stereotyped for wearing one. No conclusions will be drawn for you. Make your decision while respecting other people’s rights to express themselves. Of course there are several problems with religion and its influence on the lives of women and LGBT+ folk and discussions need to keep happening, but maybe we could be a little more respectful. Everyone is fighting his/her/preferred gender pronoun battle.
For now, live your life, let others live their lives, be aware, be involved and be awesome.
I’m a hosteller in Panjab University and this boy has been bothering me for many weeks now. He got my number from somewhere and keeps calling me. I don’t know what to do. I asked some male friends to talk to him and he’s still calling and smsing me. I don’t want to go to the police but I don’t know what to do. I can’t tell my family because they’ll ask me come back home. I don’t know what to do now.
I was coming back from sector 38 market yesterday and this guy on a cycle decided to whistle at me. I shouted at him and he just went away laughing. I’m so angry. What’s wrong with people? So much has happened and still people are doing this. It’s disgusting.
This week saw fewer harassment cases reported by the media. However, Panjab University as well as the Chandigarh Courts are taking proactive measures to deal with gender-based violence in the city.
Panjab University adopts a Policy in line with the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013. (http://news.oneindia.in/2013/08/24/panjabuniversity-adopts-policy-against-sexualharassment-1290732.html)
Panjab University student organizations are taking further steps to ensure female students’ safety during elections. PUSU also plans to launch a special women’s helpline in the university. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-24/chandigarh/41442932_1_panjab-university-pu-campus-pusu)
Courts work faster in gruesome rape case – a case from February 2013 where a man had raped a three-year-old has come up for hearing in Chandigarh. The evidence process was completed in just one day! (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Assault-on-minor-Evidence-process-completed-in-a-day/articleshow/22083846.cms)
We’re continuing our weekly updates about the sexual violence cases reported in the city. This week saw 5 reported rape cases and 3 molestation cases.
1) August 14 – Two women molested on the eve of Independence day in the city (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-15/chandigarh/41412598_1_two-women-sanjeev-kumar-sexual-harassment-cases)
2) August 19 – A tailor arrested for raping and killing his 3-year-old step daughter. He has confessed to this horrendous crime. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Tailor-held-for-raping-killing-step-daughter/articleshow/21905691.cms)
3) August 20 – 22-year old charged with continually raping a 16-year old for six months. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-20/chandigarh/41428032_1_minor-girl-sexual-offences-act-2012-the-sho)
4) August 20 – Two auto drivers arrested in Mohali for raping a 14-year-old. (http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130821/cth2.htm#5)
5) August 21 – A domestic worker struggles to get her complaint registered at the Zirakpur Police station. Only after two days of persistence, was a female police officer called in and her medical examination arranged. (http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20130822/cth1.htm#7)
6) August 21 – Manimajra resident arrested for raping 16-year-old neighbor. She had stepped out at night to answer nature’s call when the man abducted her. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/man–rapes–16yrold-neighbour-arrested/1157818/)
7) August 22 – Man arrested for harassing woman while she was accompanied by her father. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/24yrold-arrested-for-harassing-girl/1158390/)
Last week, we started collating mainstream media reports about sexual harassment and assault cases reported in the city. It’s going to be a weekly feature about the state of crimes against women in the city. This week saw fewer reported incidents but more stories about people taking action to make the cities safer.
1) Man held for raping 19-year-old daughter over the last five years. She spoke up when he was about the molest her younger sister as well! (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-11/chandigarh/41294524_1_raping-daughter-victim-complaint)
2) Chandigarh Police have registered a total of 41 cases in the last five months under the amended IPC sections. The cases relate to charges of stalking, voyeurism, sexual harassment and act with the intent to disrobe a woman. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/since-march-41-cases-filed-under-amended-ipc-sections/1152124/)
3) Activist files PIL in P&H High Court for proper implementation of new laws. Chandigarh Police are still letting male cops record statements of rape victims despite changes in the IPC earlier this year. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/six-male-sis-took-statements-of-rape-victims-violated-law-activist/1154744/)
4) Panjab University has proposed the formation of a permanent panel to deal with cases of sexual harassment. About time! (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-08-11/chandigarh/41293864_1_pu-students-senior-pu-faculty-member-harassment-committee)
I stay in a PG in sector 37. I was walking home from the market last week around 8 pm. Two boys on a bike started following me and making comments. They kept saying ‘hum ghar chod dete hai’ (We’ll drop you home).
I kept quiet and started walking faster. I came home and told my room-mate and she told me about this site. I’ve stopped going to market alone now. I try and always take someone with me. It’s too scary to go out alone, especially at night.
Over the last one week, we’ve seen more and more women in the city filing complaints and speaking up against gender-based violence and sexual harassment. These stories are being picked up and highlighted by the media and not just swept under the carpet.
There has also been a rise in the number of harassment incidents being officially reported and while that’s nothing to be happy about, we see this as an encouragement for other women to speak up against such issues. Starting today, we will be compiling a weekly list showcasing sexual harassment and violence cases in the city.
1) July 30, 2013 – A Tibetan Studies Research Scholar at Panjab University filed a complaint against her guide who was sexually harassing her on the pretext of getting her research work completed. The PU sexual harassment committee has taken cognizance of the case and has ordered an inquiry for the same. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pu-orders-inquiry-into-the-sexual-harassment-case/1148427/)
2) August 1, 2013 – A man was arrested for harassing a pregnant woman in Sector 39. He tried to molest her but when stopped by her sister-in-law, he proceeded to slap the latter. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/man-held-for–harassing–pregnant-woman/1149683/)
3) August 2, 2013 – A colleague and former lover blackmailed a woman and uploaded her objectionable photographs and videos to social networking sites. An FIR has been registered and the accused has been charged for Extortion as well as under the Information Technology Act. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Colleague-booked-for-blackmailing-30-year-old-woman/articleshow/21544233.cms)’
3) August 2, 2013 – A father of two was arrested for raping a two-year old! The victim was gravely injured and had to undergo surgery. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/24yearold-held-for–raping–2yearold/1150142/)
4) August 4, 2013 – A 50 year old man has been arrested for raping a 30 year old woman in SAS Nagar District. The accused raped her on the pretext of getting her a job in Chandigarh. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/Punjab/Chandigarh/Man-arrested-for-rape-on-pretext-of-job/SP-Article1-1103132.aspx)
5) August 6, 2013 – A 40-year old government employee has been charged with beating and molesting his 16 year old daughter in Manimajra. Despite threats from the father, the class ten student filed a complaint with the police. The accused is now under arrest. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Father-molests-16-year-old-held/articleshow/21639683.cms)
6) August 6, 2013 – A woman was followed by a man in the Sector 15 market. He then blocked her way, manhandled her and molested her. While the accused got away, the woman noted down the car number and filed a complaint. The man has now been arrested and charged under Section 354A of the IPC. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Father-molests-16-year-old-held/articleshow/21639683.cms)