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Thursday, November 3, 2011
Arab Spring, Indian Spring, voice of the women
How is everybody out there? Did you all have a bursting and cracking diwali filled with delicacies, get-togethers? I know. Though diwali is only for a day, unlike Dussera, the celebrations start after the finish of Dussera and the hangover remains for some more days which will continue upto the New Year.
As this year draws to a close, many historical events have taken place for good or bad. The most notable among them were the series of popular uprisings in the Middle-East. A self-immolation in Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia triggered a series of street demonstrations in December 2010 which led to the ouster of the President Ben Ali on 14th January 2011 ending the 23-year rule. The movement was fuelled by unrest due to corruption, unemployment, poverty, lack of freedom of speech. It was like a volcano waiting to erupt. It not only erupted, but the heat spread across the country of Egypt.
Egypt, the land of historical ancient wonders (The great pyramids), the land of one & only ancient glamour queen, Cleopatra, witnessed the latest historical revolution in Tahrir Square this January. President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from the power in February 2011, after an autocratic rule of 30 years. The Tahrir Square revolution was more or less peaceful as Mr. Mubarak himself decided to step down without trying to suppress the movement.
The third major revolution began in Bayda in Libya this January. This revolution began with protests against the poor living conditions and grew into all out anti-government protests by the middle of February. Though the Government tried to suppress the movement by using mercenaries, the casualities were running into thousands which drew the international attention. The Western allies(US, UK, France) joined together and started attacking the pro-Gaddafi sites. By late August 2011, the dictatorial rule of 42 years was ended with the help of coalition forces. It is hard to forget the brutal attack on Colonel Gaddafi and the images of a bloody Colonel Gaddafi which was flashed across the media all over the world.
There were many uprisings in the countries of the Middle-East which were not strong enough and so the ruling Governments could suppress them. But the spring has just begun and it should bring the much needed change from the autocratic Governments in the Middle East. The other countries where the protests started, though not loud enough, are Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, to name a few.
How much of women's voices are heard in these parts? Women in many parts of Middle East are yet to enjoy equal rights as men. While some countries there are more liberal, the most conservative one is Saudi Arabia. Women there are still fighting for right to drive on their own, right to vote, right to travel outside the country without the company of a male etc. Hats off to those women who came out and drove their vehicles by organising through the social networks even though they were threatened to be lashed. In Egypt, many laws were amended in favour of women in the name of Hosni Mubarak's wife which are known as 'Suzanne's Laws'. Now that his leadership has ended , these laws may be changed which can go against the women. The bottomline is, as the rulers are always men there, if the rulership changes, women's laws will be changed according to their (government's) whims and fancies.
Coming back to our own country, we witnessed the movement against the corruption through the 2-week fast of Shri Anna Hazare. It received enormous support directly and through the social networking sites that our government had to bow down to pass Shanti Bhushan's version of 'Jan Lokpal Bill.' Will our Government pass this bill sooner? But, why is it that Irom Sharmila's 11-year old fast against AFSPA Act yet to get this kind of response? Is it because the affected people are confined to the state of Manipur or because she is a WOMAN? Does a woman in our country need to raise the Voice twice the decibel levels of men to be heard?
Before I end this topic, I would like to share with you something that has been in my mind for sometime, which is not very much related to the above topics. Barring few Indian films, women-centric roles are less and most heroines are limited to song-dance roles and an extra decoration to the hero. As my viewership is confined to mostly Malayam movies, I have observed that most of the female roles' voices are dubbed. This is because of the stereotyped perception that women need to have a 'sweet, acceptable' voice all the time. For an actor/actress to do full justice to the role, it is desirable that he/she speak their voice. The famous award-winning dialogue of Manichithrathaazhu movie 'Vidamaattai, appo nee ennai inkerndu engum poka vidamaattai....'(You will not allow me to go anywhere) was dubbed by the artiste Bhagyalakshmi! Asked about this in an interview with the actress Sobhana, she replied that she very much wanted talk in her own voice, but was not allowed to do so as her voice pitch was lower than the 'required level'.
Women have still a long, long way to go!!!!!