Gender, Desire, Space : A Discussion on Women’s Safety at World Book Fair 2017

New Delhi World Book Fair 2017 (7th – 5th January) at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, witnessed a great discussion  ‘Gender, Desire, Space: Through the Bollywood Lens on 11th of January, based on the themes of the book ‘Mornings After’ by Tharun James Jimani. The motive for such an initiative was to establish a dialogue on women’s safety and issues related to it, not only in public places but in the personal spaces as well. The discussion included the author himself, Jasmine George (Founder of Hidden Pockets), Manak Matiyani (Executive Director of YP foundation) and Himanjali Sankar ( Editor at Bloomsbury).

This contemporary piece of work by Tharun follows the relationship of a young couple living together in Bandra, Mumbai and their voyeuristic journey of a chaotic interplay of gender roles and identity in the modern India with a touch of Bollywood industry to it.

The discussion was apt just as the title is, highlighting the core challenges of women’s safety; where the real contribution of people lacks and how our society has a regressive attitude towards women.

Jasmine George, founder of Hidden Pockets pointed out how women talking about safety or their rights is fine but talking about their pleasure is unacceptable. She mentioned that at some point we need to provide them with such spaces to talk about their innermost desires without being judged.

The Executive Director of YP foundation, Manak Matiyani, talked about how men are now actively participating and opening their minds to feminism. He also mentioned that it is legit for women to talk about Feminism but simultaneously difficult for the young men to talk about Patriarchy because of the lack of space for it. Thus, the void needs to be filled and a space for debate and dialogue has to be created. He believes that only this could put an end to gender disparity.

Himanjali Sankar, the Editor of Bloomsbury, shared a personal account of her life of having two daughters and constantly being told by people to monitor their safety specifically after the Nirbhaya assault of 2012. It wasn’t just a tough call for her but for all women in particular. To her, the constant nagging and the mindset of ‘she asked for it’, truly brings discomfort to a woman’s mind and her personal space.

The eye opening discussion came to an end on the note that gender disparity and objectification of women as pleasure seeking object has to be fought by men and women equally. ‘Mornings After’ perfectly fits in the space for the gender talk and the encounters of Indian Youth that see them struggling with a whole spectrum of current events, be it any political, cultural or social encounter. One should really give it a go as it open their mind to a wider aspect of faux notions of Indian society.

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