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Tackling the difficult

With a focus on gender equality, the third edition of Difficult Dialogues beginning on February 9 will discuss how Indian gender constructs affect fundamental aspects of daily lives and citizenship

Story: #TGLIFE | 06th February 2018, 03:15 Hrs

Gender is a social construct. It refers to the laws, policies, cultural, family, and social norms that shape our behaviours, activities, expectations and ideas of what it means to be a man or woman in any society. Gender interacts with, but is distinct from, biological sex. Gender identities are fluid. Gender varies across time, space and location. It changes according to social contexts, the environment, specific situations, and across the lifetime. Most importantly, gender is a representation of power. It reflects the relationships between men and women, as well as between those who conform and who don’t, to societal expectations of gender.  

With focus on gender equality, the third edition of Difficult Dialogues which will be held at the International Centre Goa from February 9 to 11 will discuss how Indian gender constructs affect fundamental aspects of daily lives and citizenship. The conference will bring together civil society, media, academic experts, activists, and people working at community level with government and non-governmental organisations.  

The conference aims to share knowledge about gender - its determinants, expressions, diversity, and positive and negative consequences - to start a dialogue on how gender norms can be transformed to improve lives.  

Bringing together international experts, leading thinkers for an engaging conversation on gender equality, the summit will have panel discussions, workshops and conversations on - ‘Disrupting Masculinity at the Workplace’ by PLAN India, ‘Gender Inequalities and Potential Reformations in Indian Muslims’, ‘Gender in Street Situations and UN General Comment’,’ Portrayal of Gender in Cinema’ and ‘#MeToo and the Missing Conversation’.  

The panel discussion curated by Plan India and which is located within the larger context of ‘Difficult Dialogues: Gender Equality: For Everyone’s Benefit?’ seeks to answer the burning questions related to masculinities in the workplace and ways in which they can be eliminated. The moderator for this panel discussion will be Shaila Desouza, with panellists Abhijit Das, Anand Pawar, Baroness Shreela Flather, Charu Anand, Jyotsna Kaur Habibullah and Shivani Bhardwaj.  

There will be a panel discussion on ‘Gender Inequalities and Potential Reformations in Indian Muslims’ where questions like ‘Can we put a stop to this gender-based discrimination by introducing new legislation to codify India’s Shariah system?’ will be discussed. Topics like working towards asking for a constitutional law for a focused, unambiguous definition of how Muslim men and women can obtain divorces (informed two-party consent), the minimum age of marriage (18), religious interpretations and the community’s stance on polygamy (illegal) and every other aspect of Shariah that pertains to family law, present scenario and potential solutions will find a place in the discussion. The moderator for this panel discussion is Aijaz Ilmi and the participants are Zakia Soman and Zeenat Shaukat Ali.  

The Consortium for Street Children is the largest global network of NGOs that works with street children. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the key piece of international law on children’s rights. It describes what children need to survive, grow and reach their potential in life. CSC has been instrumental in adding a general comment to this convention. The general comment on children in street situations lays out how the Convention applies to street children.The implementation of this comment in the Indian context against the background of challenges of gender inequality and exploitation will be discussed in the session ‘Gender in Street Situations and UN General Comment’ where NGOs will speak on the differences and needs of street connected children. How gender should be considered while supporting them will also be discussed. Surina Narula and Julia Cook will head this session with Matthew Kurian, Renuka Chowdhury, Rupa Kapoor and Sanjay Gupta deliberating their views.  

Cinema has had a very powerful impact on the people’s understanding of gender but, very little has been discussed on its role in portraying the shifting roles of gender and its far-reaching influence on the Indian society and hence policymaking. This makes the discussion on, ‘Portrayal of Gender in the Indian Cinema’ very crucial because films in India are seen as a reflection of the change in the social structure. With Amrita Bhalla and Surina Narula as moderators, the session will be participated by Deepa Sahi, Manisha Koirala, Prakash Jha and Shohini Ghosh.  

‘#MeToo and the Missing Conversation’ will discuss on breaking the silence around women’s oppression. With moderator Sridhar Venkatapuram, the debate will see discussions between Belinda Bennet, Gabriella Wright, Ketan Mehta, Nandita Das, Vijay Singh and Vrinda Grover.  

Other sessions include ‘Trafficking & Vulnerability’ with Arun Pandey, Geeta Menon, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Meeran Chaddha Borwanker, Monika Kshatriya, Transforming Gender Norms: What Works? With Sarah Hawkes, Anand Pawar, Ashok Row Kavi, Nayreen Daruwalla, Ravi Verma, Shivani Singh, Women in Education, Science & Technology with Meeta Sengupta, BN Jain, Manisha Priyam, Nandiya Jayaraj, Shanti Priya, Varun Sahni, Gender Masculinities and Violence with David Osrin, Nayreen Daruwalla, Rahul Roy, Ritu Menon, Women in Politics with Mukulika Banerjee, Gilles Verniers, Jaya Jaitley, Pavan K Verma, Sanjay Kumar, Shamika Ravi, Shazia Ilmi and Gender, Fatherhood & Families with Margaret O’Brien, Abhijit Das, Anand Pawar and Rajalakshmi Sriram.  

To capture the voice of students, the forum is also opening up the debate to India’s universities by sponsoring Daring Debates, an intensive college debate series on ‘Is Empowering Women a Dilemma for Men?’ This year, students from Delhi, Manipur, Goa, Pune, Jharkhand and Puducherry are invited to compete with the winning teams from each place being given the chance to battle it out at the grand finale in Goa. This will  also allow the views of our future leaders to be considered by experts and peers - an integral part of the forum’s inclusive dialogue.  

Philanthroist Surina Narula who founded ‘Difficult Dialogues’ aims to include men in the conversation. “Gender equality can be best achieved with all genders working towards the same outcome. The only way that we can form a just society is if the journey is an inclusive constructive process, in which everyone feels empowered to participate. It should not be a feminist argument in isolation.” 

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