Monday, June 22, 2020

Gaza under Israeli blockade — Its Impact on COVID-19

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Empty street on Gaza Strip | Source:Catholic Church (England and Wales) via

The Gaza Strip has faced massive destruction due to Israeli-led blockade since 2007. Israel controls all the entry and exit points of Gaza which it uses to restrict the movement of goods and people between Gaza and the outside world, effectively turning it into the “largest open-air prison” in the world. Gaza, as a result of the humanitarian crisis since the last 13 years is now one of the most densely populated yet the poorest spaces in the world. This has adversely impacted the delivery of public services, including healthcare service in Gaza strip. According to the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sub-delegation to Gaza, Ignacio Casares, the health system in Gaza “is already overstretched, already at its limit,”. Daily power cuts and irregular electricity supply add on to this which forces Doctors to rely on generators during emergencies. This horrible condition was documented earlier as well in a 2017 UN Report which stated that the Gaza Strip would be “unlivable” by 2020. 

The 13 years long blockade has forced the government as well as people living in Gaza to manage the harsh conditions with the meagre resource at their disposal.  The WHO  had pointed out in a report last year that all the patients and their companions were required to apply for Israeli permits to exit the Gaza Strip for accessing the hospitals in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel,". "Access has been particularly problematic in 2019, with the patient permit approval rate declining”. 

People in Gaza strip are now battling the COVID-19 pandemic also with the help of simple whatever meagre resources at their disposal. The healthcare and other authorities understood that they would not be able to provide the hospitalization if the pandemic broke out, so they took some immediate steps to contain the COVID-19 from the early stage. The places of large public gathering like street markets, shops, shopping malls, wedding halls were ordered to lock down by State authorities. A senior official with the Hamas movement said at a news conference that officials were considering imposing a curfew. Using the traditional methods, the authorities built more than 1000 quarantine rooms in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Ministry of Health states that quarantine centres are established in three places: Rafah, Deir Al-Balah, and Khan Younis. More than 1000 people who came from the Israel and Egypt borders were quarantined in schools, hotels, and hospitals. 

With the increase in the number of cases, society started displaying anxiety and fear but it was overcome by mutual cooperation. The State of Palestine and its citizens has proved that the constraints cannot become an obstacle in dealing with the pandemic.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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