Mattel's popular Barbie dolls have forever been in the eye of the storm over issues like gender stereotyping and promotion of a certain unhealthy body-image. Their almost always fair-skinned, super-skinny Barbie, very popular among children and very fond of shopping and going out on dates with Ken, has been accused of promoting an unrealistic body image for a young woman, leading to a risk that girls who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic.
Well, as far as the gender-stereotyping is concerned Mattel is on the front foot now with its new ad called 'Imagine the possibilities'.
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As 78-year-old Pope Francis pays a historic first time visit to the United States of America and is all set to address the United Nations on September 25, representatives from three organisations urged the media to pressurize the Vatican to take concrete steps to address the crisis of sexual assaults by priests.
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The Sangh Parivar and BJP MPs such as Sadhvi Prachi and Sakshi Maharaj have added a ridiculous twist to the current obsession with the number of Muslims in India in some distant future, by insisting that Hindu couples produce more children.
The Hindu reported:
Without naming the minority community, he (Sakshi Maharaj) said: "The concept of four wives and forty children just won't work in India but it is high time that every Hindu woman must produce at least four children to protect the Hindu religion".
Many more hate-mongers have jumped in, obfuscating facts so that the real picture of Muslim and Hindu population dynamics remains unclear. The Badrikashram, Vasudevanand Saraswati, for instance, came up with a ten-child norm this week.
A report in Zee News said:
During a convention of Sadhus in Allahabad, Saraswati reportedly urged the Hindu couples to produce 10 kids, stating it will save Hindus race. "Produce 10 kids so that Hinduism does not become a minority," said Saraswati.
There are many issues with this fear-mongering. To start with, the growth rate of Muslim population in India in the past cannot be the basis to conclude how many Muslims will be India at a future date. In fact, judging by current trends, there will be far fewer than we suspect, as the growth rate of population has declined among Muslims. Statistically, one cannot divide the decadal growth rate by ten to arrive at the annual growth rate, simply because population grows exponentially. It sort of increases like compound-interest, gathering steam over time, but it's slightly more complicated than that, for fertility rates are involved too.
Therefore, the recently-leaked census figures on how many more Muslims there are in India now compared with 10 years ago, conceal more than they reveal. The lower growth rate indicates perhaps the declining fertility rate among Muslims – if anything, this shows their population is growing at a slower rate than ever before. And, in absolute numbers, Muslim population has increased by a paltry 0.8 per cent between 2001 and 2011 in those intervening years, relative to India's population growth.
The Times of India reported:
The latest census data on the population of religious groups, set to be released shortly, shows a 24% rise in the Muslim population between 2001 and 2011, with the community's share of total population rising from 13.4% to 14.2% over the 10-year period.
While the growth rate of the Muslim population has slowed from around 29% between 1991 and 2001, it is still higher than the national average of 18% for the decade.
Another fear-factor pulled out of the Sangh Parivar hat is that bigamy leads to more children. This too, is untrue, for whatever the rate of marriage might be for males of any community, the number of women (who alone bear children) will remain a constant.
What the numbers indicate though is that the growth rate of India's population has probably slowed down. Now, this is a result of better education and higher health standards but it is not something the BJP can take credit for – the years in which the change took place were all in the period when the Congress-led UPA was in power.
The repeated statements also give the impression that Hindus actually take the Sangh's leaders seriously and will promptly start breeding at faster. This is an incorrect impression, obviously, because having ten children is one thing – raising all ten entirely another. Ask the poor women.
The sad part is that in a previous National Family Health Survey, it was found that whereas the total fertility rate is 2.1 in urban areas, the total wanted fertility rate was 1.6, and similarly in rural areas: the TFR was 3.0 but the wanted rate was far lower, at 2.1. Herein is the tragedy and irony of inciting people to produce babies for communal reasons: Indians, rural and urban already want far fewer children than they have. (NFHS, 2005-6).
If all goes well, Hindus will simply ignore these leaders, though if taken seriously, it will seriously jeopardise relations in society and put at risk the gains made so far in healthcare, girl child education and economic conditions.
In any case, for anyone concerned with India's population growth rate, the largest majority should be the target of attention, not the minority. Here is what some number-crunching on the Hindu (as well as Muslim) populations in India (and the world) shows:
- There are around 870 million Hindus and nearly 140 million Muslims in India. (Census 2001)
- Hindu population in 2050 will be 2.7 billion if the rate of growth continues as it is. (With the growth rate increasing at an exponential rate, adding 0.125 per cent a year to the existing growth rate of Indian population, of 2.1 per cent).
- The Sachar report has predicted that Muslims will be under 20 per cent of India's population by the end of the 21st Century, and 16 per cent in 2030.
- Projected world population in 2050 is 9 billion (Stephen Emmott). This means that Hindus will be 30 per cent of world population – three in every ten persons in the WORLD will be a Hindu.
- Worldwide, according to Pew Research in 2011, Muslim population will increase by 2030 to 2.2 billion, from 1.6 billion in 2010.
In conclusion, unless India wants Hindus to take over the world, literally, by having so many of them around that it becomes difficult to breathe, there's no point taking the hate speeches seriously.
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Peshawar, 16 December, 2014.
"Pablo Neruda once asked if you could have a line which says “the blood of children flowed on the streets?” What is there that can match the blood of children flowing on the streets? This is also an aesthetic problem, and the way he solves it is by writing “And the blood of children flowed on streets like the blood of children flows on the streets." There is no equivalence outside itself."
—Agha Shahid Ali. August 1997. (H/T Professor Suvir Kaul on Facebook)
Since words fail, we give you a Faiz poem, sung by Iqbal Bano, with a rough, inadequate translation:
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