Journal of South Asia Women Studies

Happy Mother's Day!

Editorial Note by Enrica Garzilli

Happy Mother's Day! A few days after May 12 I want to congratulate all the mothers, biological or not, and those with a maternal attitude towards the world: those who care about the world, about others, about the "different" ones, about neglected people; those who care not only about themselves. I want to dedicate the third issue of the JSAWS to everyone who lives with constant regard for the other as a part of himself/herself, to everyone who works to create a better world to live in, to everybody who, with his/her own life, reaffirms human rights -- the legal, political and social aspect of human values.


Asian women have always been stereotyped as admirable mothers: they are always caring, they sacrifice their lives for their children, they are devoted to them day and night, they serve them and help them in all their needs, and so on. The Almanac for American Women in the 20th century (ed. J. Freeman Clark) gives Philadelphia the credit for proclaiming the first Mother's Day on March 10, 1908. On May 7, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson decreed the second day in May a national holiday for mothers. In 1922, self-declared feminist Katharine Anthony wrote against the forced nature and commercialization of the holiday.

A few years later, Fascism and Nazism in Europe glorified motherhood -- mothers producing healthy, patriotic children who go to war to create the Empire. Rachele Mussolini, the faithful and betrayed wife of Benito, Eva Braun, the factotum and humiliated lover who committed suicide together with Adolf Hitler a few minutes after "being married" to him, the beautiful, shy, and modest Margret Speer, wife of Albert -- the architect and friend of Hitler -- these women became the symbol of the values of an epoch. These kinds of women, and the millions of women who offered their children and their wedding-rings to contribute to the war effort, became a model of courageous femininity for totalitarian regimes and totalitarian/fundamentalist parties all over the world.

It is worthwhile observing that here in the USA, unlike what happens in Europe, the Women's International Day on March 8 is not widely celebrated; rather, Mother's Day is celebrated and publicized throughout the country.
I hope Mother's Day is not meant to exalt values serving the interests of certain political and economic systems and/or regimes. On the contrary, we women who work to assert human rights should ensure this day celebrates a new kind of motherhood, perhaps the real kind.

This is why I am dedicating this issue of the JSAWS to mothers, and particularly Asian mothers: Happy Mother's Day!


I would like to thank Prof. Carol Gluck (President), Prof. James C. Scott (Vice-president) and Prof. John Campbell (Secretary-Treasurer) of the Asian Studies Newsletter. In the ASN vol. 41, no. 2, 1996, p. 18 the following announcement was made:

Two award-winning journals are available on the World Wide Web. The International Journal of Tantric Studies (IJTS) can be accessed at http://www.shore.net/~india/ijts/ and the Journal of South Asia Women Studies (JSAWS) can be accessed at http://www.shore.net/~india/jsaws/. Both journals are fully refereed and copyrighted. These sites also provide links to other sites containing useful resources for scholars of Asian languages.


On May 15 India's president chose Hindu nationalist leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee to be Prime Minister, giving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the duty to form its first government. Vajpayee did not immediately announce the parties that might participate in government coalition. The Hindu nationalist party, BJP, advocates a revocation of Muslim's special rights; arming India with nuclear weapons; taking a more forceful policy toward Pakistan and tightening restrictions on foreign investment. I hope that this does not mean a repeal of commitment (which was nothing but a commitment!) towards human rights of the past government.


In the next issue of the JSAWS, we will publish an interview with Taslima Nasrin and the lectures she gave here in Cambridge (USA). Nasrin is the internationally known Bangladeshi writer who was accused by Muslim fundamentalists of conspiracy against Islam. Fundamentalists advertised in major newspapers offering a reward of 50,000 taka (about $ 1,250) to anyone who would take her life. Nowadays she lives in Europe. In 1994 the European Parliament announced that she had won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

I am very pleased to announce that Prof. Gian Giuseppe Filippi (University "Ca' Foscari" of Venice, Italy) has joined us as a member of the Editorial Board. In a few days you will find his short cv on our web pages.


On May 7 the US Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on S.1284, the National Information Infrastructure Copyright Protection Act. This is a bill to adapt copyright law to the digital, networked environment of the information highway. This bill would prevent massive unauthorized copying on the Internet.

This journal is fully protected by Copyright regulations. Please note the Copyright notice at the end of every issue. If you want to submit a paper, please send it to garzilli@asiatica.org.

In this issue we will publish three papers: Sati was not Enforced in Ancient Nepal, by Jayaraj Acharya; The Daughters and Hindu Rites, by Bandita Phukan; Practical Steps Towards Saving the Lives of 25,000 Potential Victims of Dowry and Bride-Burning in India in the Next Four Years, by Himendra B. Thakur.

These papers have been written for the International Conference on Dowry and Bride-Burning in India held at the Harvard Law School, Sept. 30 - Oct. 2, 1995. It was organized by Mr. H. Thakur (ISADBBI) and Prof. M. Witzel (Harvard University, USA).

Dr. J. Acharya is a Fellow at the Harvard Center for International Affairs. In 1991-1994 he was the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Nepal to the United Nations in New York. During the same period he also served as the Vice-chairman of the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid; as the Vice-chairman of the UNICEF; as the Vice-chairman of the UN Disarmament Committee. He also one of our editors; you can find his short cv in our WWW pages.

Ms. Bandita Phukan is the first woman mechanical engineer in the state of Assam. To my knowledge, she is the first Hindu woman to have been allowed to perform the funerary rites for her father.

Mr. Himendra Thakur is an engineer. He is the Chair, Board of Directors, of the International Society Against Dowry and Bride-Burning in India, Inc. He is also one of our editors. The ISADBBI is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization established by Thakur and incorporated in Massachusetts, USA, on December 22, 1993. It has an Indian division with representatives in Delhi and Bombay. For the purposes of the organization, information on the tax-exempt status, membership information, and so on, you may contact:

H. B. Thakur, ISADBBI
P.O. Box 8766, Salem, MA 01971 (USA). Fax: 508-546-6981

I want to add that in order to provide shelters, educate, train, and find jobs for victims of dowry in India, and to foster their rehabilitation into social life, Advocate Rani Jethmalani of the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India (who talked at the Harvard Conference), and Himendra Thakur donated one piece of land each to the ISADBBI in India. One shelter has already been planned and designed.


In New Titles you will find the review of two books we have received: We Tried: Government Service in India and Nepal by Nancy Dammann, and The Game in Reverse. Poems by Taslima Nasrin, translated by Carolyne Wright.

If you want to send books for review please write to: garzilli@asiatica.org One of the editors will review them. Please also indicate the price of the book. Books received will not be returned.