BLACK, MALE


                  September 28th and 29th, 1996
                  Morehouse College
                  Atlanta, GA


The crisis that currently exists within communities of African descent
cannot be fully understood without taking the time to realize not only the
implications of racism and classism on our communities, but also of sexism and
other forms of oppression as well.  This conference is the first of its kind
aimed at bringing together black men who are actively involved in the struggle
against patriarchy, sexism and homophobia or are simply beginning to question
the sexism of their own socialization.  The conference will cover a wide range
of issues, from sexism in the black liberation movement to anti-sexist
parenting and transforming hip hop culture.

         If you would like more information about the conference
         check out our web site: http//miamiu.muohio.edu/~freillof
         or write us at: Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism
                         P.O.Box 11078
                         Atlanta, GA 30310
         or call us at: (404)524-4030 ext.3
         or fax us:     (404)524-0444

We cannot hope to solve the radical problems we face as a people with moderate
solutions based on one-dimensional ideas of what our problems actually are.
And we do not have the luxury, as black men, of being complacent in our
piecemeal privilege while our commuities are dying.

Both this message and the conference are being brought to you by
Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism (BMES)

yours in love & struggle,
Omar Freilla ([EMAIL PROTECTED])
>From [EMAIL PROTECTED] Tue Aug 13 10:23:31 1996
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 11:23:59 -0500 (CDT)
From: Santanu Borah <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: State of Widows in India

Please forward the following to as many concerned groups as possible.
Thank you.

RANJAN ROY, Associated Press Writer

VRINDAVAN, India (AP) -- Devotion is the driving force in this river 
town. The chants of the
faithful blend with the chiming of bells from 5,000 temples.

But the prayers rising from a small alley have an especially soulful 
tone. They are the devotions of
widows -- some still in their early 20s -- who were cast away from their 
families and shunned by
society after their husbands died.

In India's ritualistic, male-dominated Hindu society, widowhood is a 
little noticed dimension of the
discrimination that women face.

Among superstitious families, a widow often is blamed by her in-laws for 
her husband's death.
Unless she controls property, she is treated shabbily and even 

Vrindavan developed into a Hindu pilgrimage center early in this century 
and soon became a refuge
for cast-out widows, who believe that by dying in such a holy town they 
can break the cycle of birth
and re-birth.

At the six shelters for widows in Vrindavan, more than 2,000 widows 
gather each morning to begin
prayers that last until nightfall.

Dressed uniformly in white cotton saris with their heads covered, they 
sit in a courtyard around an
altar with an idol of Lord Krishna surrounded by burning incense sticks. 
Their heads bob up and
down to the monotonous drone of ``Hare Rama. Hare Krishna.''

Each widow is given two rupees (7 cents) every evening and a cupful of 
uncooked rice and lentils,
enough for one meal.

``We have no limit here. Anybody who comes here and spends the day 
singing odes is entitled to the
bounty,'' says Bipin Sharma of the Bhagwan Bhajan Ashram Trust, which 
runs two homes for
widows in Vrindavan.

Before they begin their prayers, many women work, earning about 350 
rupees ($10) a month
cleaning temples. Half that goes to rent a room often shared by as many 
as three widows.

``I am too ill to work, so my 12-year-old daughter earns by stitching and 
sewing,'' says Jashoda
Rani, 35. Rani fled to her brother's house after her husband died four 
years ago, but came to
Vrindavan when he, too, abandoned her.

There are few options for widows.

Hindus frown on remarriage for women, although there are no social 
barriers for men. Family
members go to the extent of ensuring that widows turn vegetarian, 
believing that eating meat arouses
sexual desire.

Until modern times, widows were expected to jump on the funeral pyre of 
their husbands in a
tradition known as ``sati.'' The practice was outlawed decades ago, but 
the last known case was as
recent as 1987.

Most women in Vrindavan have little to look forward to. It is the dead 
end of their lives, and for
some it came early.

``I was married off when I was five years old. My husband, whom I never 
saw, was 13 and he died
one month after the wedding,'' says Gita Devi, who at age 77 is among the 
most veteran members of
the shelter she helps run.

According to the World Bank, 65 percent of Indian women older than 60 are 
widows. That rises to
80 percent for women older than 70.

``Widowhood reflects the status of women in India,'' says Anne Tinker, a 
World Bank specialist
who has studied Indian women for four years.

As India modernizes, attitudes toward women take bizarre contradictions. 
Indian women fly air
force jets, head million-dollar corporations and sit in Parliament -- 
Indira Gandhi was prime minister
for 16 years.

But it's a different story for most women.

Infanticide of newborn girls and abortion of female fetuses has reduced 
the number of women to 927
for every 1,000 men.

On average, girl infants are weaned two months earlier than boys. Girls 
get less food than their
brothers and often are forced to stay home helping their mothers rather 
than go to school.

In a phenomenon known as ``dowry deaths,'' young brides who fail to 
satisfy rapacious in-laws with
gifts from their families are murdered in ``kitchen accidents'' or 
tormented into suicide.

``In India, where a woman's identity is determined by her being appendage 
to a male, widowhood
has a much larger dimension than losing a husband,'' says Vrinda Karat of 
the All India Democratic
Women's Association.

Reply via email to