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Archives for : Women Rights

Risking Health Of Its Women, India Uses Controversial Contraceptive In Family Planning Programme

Shaifali Agrawal,

parivarvikas_620

 

In July this year, the Indian government introduced an injectable contraceptive, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), best known as depo provera, into the public health system. The contraceptive would be made available for free through Mission Parivar Vikas, which seeks to improve family planning services in 145 high-focus districts.

 

This was an important development for India, which is set to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by 2024 and where millions of women (12.9%) who need contraceptives do not have access to them.

 

However, DMPA has long been controversial, being linked to a range of health issues including osteoporosis, breast cancer, and delayed return of fertility. Those who support its use, including government agencies, say its benefits outweigh its risks, that it will be administered with informed consent, and that use in the private sector has already settled suspicions about its side-effects.

 

Women’s rights groups and health activists point out, on the other hand, that widespread illiteracy makes informed consent a farce in Indian settings, where the healthcare system displays a Malthusian aversion to population growth, especially among the poor. They warn that the Rs 100 incentive for the user may unfairly induce women to choose DMPA over more appropriate alternatives, and health workers may push it without properly informing women of its potential risks as required under the rules.

 

Why DMPA

 

DMPA is a progestogen-only drug injected intra-muscularly. It acts by inhibiting ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the endometrial lining to make it difficult for the fertilised ovum to implant itself.

 

It does not need to be taken daily but once in three months, and women with unsupportive husbands can use it without letting them know.

 

However, it is suspected to contribute to, as we said, osteoporosis and breast cancer, and to make it difficult to conceive for upto a year after discontinuation. It does not help prevent the spread of HIV, and possibly increases the chances of contracting it. Also, there are practical problems in administering it in India’s public healthcare system.

 

The contraceptive has been introduced under Mission Parivar Vikas across 145 districts in seven states that have Total Fertility Rates (TFR) of more than or equal to 3, with the aim of reducing this to the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 by 2025.

 

Across India, as per the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), 12.9% women do not have access to contraceptives that they need, and 5.7% to spacing methods. India’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in Southeast Asia–174 per 100,000 live births. Adequate contraception could reduce maternal deaths by 29% a year around the world, according to a 2012 study published in the Lancet.

 

Source: World Health Statistics 2017, World Health Organization

 

Different contraceptive options serve varied purposes depending on a woman’s age and stage in life, Abhijit Das from the Delhi-based NGO Centre for Health and Social Justice told IndiaSpend. One type of contraceptive might be useful for someone whose primary concern is to prevent infection, another might suit couples who want to avoid conception, and yet another may work best for those who have intercourse occasionally.

 

Health concerns and studies in India

 

So a new contraceptive should be good news for adding to the bouquet of choices available. In the case of DMPA, however, the situation is complicated.

 

There has been no definitive research in India on Indian subjects to put the question of its suspected health risks such as osteoporosis and breast cancer at rest. A 2006 study showed longer duration of use (2-5 years) was associated with more loss and less complete recovery of bone mass density, which can increase one’s chances of acquiring osteoporosis. A 2012 studyshowed that recent DMPA use for 12 months or longer was associated with a 2.2-fold increased risk of invasive breast cancer, although the elevated risk of breast cancer associated with DMPA appears to dissipate after use is stopped. Both studies were conducted abroad.

 

“We have always asked for…independent data before you put it out there,” Vani Subramaniam from Saheli said, data that would be generated “in India, and within the populations you are going to reach with the family planning programme. And not by studies that are funded by companies that are making profit from it”.

 

“Research is not race-, caste- and gender-neutral,” Mohan Rao, professor of Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, said. “Most scientists in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) would be trained in the neo-Malthusian way of thinking. They believe that population is the biggest problem, and so we should do something about controlling population.”

 

This March, the World Health Organization (WHO) reclassified DMPA from “safe for everyone” to “benefits outweigh the risk” for women at high risk of contracting HIV, after reviewing 35 years of research. Some public health groups insist that women and couples at high risk of HIV acquisition must be provided with male and female condoms, regardless of which family planning method they choose.

 

Among the dozen public health experts IndiaSpend spoke to, the majority said DMPA must be used cautiously, or not at all. C Sathyamala, author of an epidemiological review (health or disease surveillance to identify risk factors) based on five years of research, said even one injection can be harmful. The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) and the NGO FHI360 said, respectively, that after two years it should be reviewed “on a case-to-case basis” and used “with caution”.

 

“There is no perfect method. All methods have some or the other side-effects,” Das said, adding that most neighbouring countries use it, “but we have not seen the kind of complications we expected from there”. He termed it “reasonably safe” for short-term use, but emphasised its use should be limited to short durations.

 

Source: Trends In Contraceptive Use Worldwide (2015), United Nations

 

However, the government’s reference manual on DMPA says “there is no limit to the number of years DMPA can be continuously used.” “There are no long-term impacts, even if one uses it for 10 years,” said Suneeta Mittal, a gynaecologist at FORTIS who was engaged with the government on depo provera.

 

Provider-controlled method in unaccountable system

 

Like most hormonal contraceptives, DMPA has several temporary side-effects: Menstrual changes, weight gain, headache, changes in mood, and decrease in sex drive.

 

“Counselling and education of clients are most effective in management of side-effects and certainly influence continuation rates,” Manisha Bhise, Director Clinical Services and Quality Assurance at FPAI, said. Counselling means giving information on all the contraceptive options available, and the side-effects of each.

 

However, less than half (46.5%) the current users had ever been told about the side-effects of a method of contraception in NFHS-4.

 

According to the WHO’s Medical Eligibility Criteria 2015, DMPA should not be used by women with multiple risk factors for arterial cardiovascular disease, such as advanced age, smoking, diabetes and hypertension; unexplained vaginal bleeding before evaluation; a history of current or past breast cancer; and other medical conditions.

 

“Do the doctors have time in primary health system to do the hormonal assessment–and look at contraindications?” N Sarojini, director of SAMA Women’s Resource Centre, asked.

 

Das argues that all methods of contraception require screening, and that should not deter their use. “Can the system do screening for sterilisation, which has chances for infections, failures, and death if not done correctly? Today even IUDs are pushed in a coercive manner,” he said.

 

Even in the US, the majority of the 12 million women using depo provera belong to the marginalised or less-empowered communities. A “myth of informed consent is promoted as a safeguard and to protect the manufacturers from liability clause”, Sathyamala said.

 

Those opposed to DMPA say it is hazardous even if used in the “best” way. “If I were a woman, I wouldn’t use it even if I had the money [to go to private practitioner offering better quality of service],” Yogesh Jain, founder of Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS), a people’s health support group in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, said.

 

How it came to be introduced

 

During 1993-94, when DMPA was introduced in the private sector, women’s rights groups had approached the Supreme Court seeking a ban on it, in addition to other drugs.

 

In 1995, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) of the drugs regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, which decides technical matters pertaining to drugs, issued an order that DMPA should not be allowed for mass use in the National Family Planning Programme and that its use should be restricted to women who are aware of the implications of its use.

 

The litigation concluded in February 2001. A number of drugs were banned, but DMPA was allowed in the private sector, where, it was hoped, it would be administered after counselling and with informed consent.

 

More recently, the interest in injectables has grown after the global movement FP2020 was launched by the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012, aiming to reach 120 million women in poor and developing nations by 2020, 40% of whom live in India.

 

On February 16, 2015, the DTAB held a meeting to discuss the Department of Family Welfare’s  proposal to introduce DMPA into the public health facilities under the Family Planning Programme. “It has recently been discovered that the osteoporotic effects of the injection grow worse, the longer Depo-Provera is administered and may remain long after the injections are stopped, and may be irreversible,” DTAB noted.

 

It also noted that the US Food and Drug Administration had kept DMPA under its strictest ‘black box’ warning since 2004 on similar concerns. It said DMPA should be used as a long-term birth control method only when there is no alternative available.

 

The DTAB recommended that the Department of Family Welfare “examine the matter in consultation with the leading gynaecologists of the country”.

 

On July 24, 2015, the head of the family planning division of the department held a national consultation with representatives of government medical colleges and leading civil society organisations including the ICMR, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India, FPAI, PFI and FHI360 India.

 

Those opposed to DMPA, such as SAMA, Saheli, Jan Swasthiya Abhiyan (a coalition of more than 1,000 organisations) and respected professionals, were absent from the list of invitees.

 

It was agreed that since DMPA had been used in the private sector for 20 years with no adverse events reported, no pilot study was required. Working on this recommendation, the DTAB agreed to introduce DMPA in the public health system on August 18, 2015.

 

Essentially, the DTAB changed its stance without any discussion with the opposing groups and without any scientific evidence, a memorandum signed by more than 70 health groups pointed out. “Given that the safety and other concerns regarding Depo Provera remain and have not been resolved, we wish to know the basis and the rationale for this sudden granting of approval by the DTAB,” the memorandum said.

 

DTAB did not respond to questions for this story.

 

Concerns remain

 

By introducing DMPA without a pilot and in the absence of any long-term studies, the government has acted on a crucial matter of public health without adequate scientific evidence, Sathyamala said, adding that “anecdotes cannot replace well-designed study”.

 

Yet, there were few protests against the DTAB’s decision, which Rao blames on “a certain kind of NGO-isation of the women’s movement” that shows a weakened health movement and women’s movement. “When there were early efforts to introduce injectables, there were massive demonstrations at Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,” Rao said. “Today we could only do a signature campaign.”

 

The campaign against DMPA and the questions around it remain relevant, Smitha Nair, who teaches at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, wrote in the February 2017 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly. Reproductive rights, when reduced to “choice of contraceptives” without considering the overall health and wellbeing of women, result only in the control and “unfreedom” of women, she wrote.

 

IndiaSpend Solutions
Attribution Solution Explanation
Abhijit Das, Centre for Health and Social Justice Promote the use of condoms. “Korea and Japan which have a high rate1 of condom use (23.9% and 46.1%, respectively) have low total fertility rates of 1.1 and 1.2 (per 1,000 women). Condoms are a cheap, least invasive, safe, user-controlled and effective option not just for contraception, but for prevention of infection (HIV, STDs, STIs). Men need to be responsible and involved in the decision-making process regarding family-planning.”
Any spacing methods which are safe and reliable, such as diaphragms, should be introduced in the public health system. “Women have to have access to methods. Contraceptive needs of unmarried women also need to be acknowledged… More methods will allow women to chose the one that suits their needs best.”
N Sarojini,
SAMA Women’s Resource Centre
Put DMPA off until 2019 when the result of the ‘Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes’ (ECHO) trial provides clarity on its potential link with HIV acquisition. ECHO is an ongoing randomized trial that seeks to provide definitive information on the risk of HIV acquisition associated with different contraceptive methods. Study results will not be available before 2019.
Jashodhara Dasgupta, Sahyog From a civil society point of view, meet the need for information on contraceptive options; and empower users to monitor these services themselves. “Experience with NRHM had shown that when we are looking at poor people accessing family planning services, they do not work until the poor people are informed and are themselves empowered to actively monitor whether these services are working or not.”
Remove incentives. Under the MPV, the health worker who administers the injection and the woman who receives it both get an incentive of Rs 100 each. “Incentives are considered a form of disguised coercion.”
Mohan Rao, Jawaharlal Nehru University India needs an institution like theNational Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE2) in the UK to routinely scrutinise all technologies. “We can’t blindly accept technologies for what they promise,” he said, citing the example of the ultrasound technology that has been used to determine the sex of the unborn child in order to selectively abort female foetuses, skewing India’s sex ratio.

1. Trends In Contraceptive Use Worldwide (2015), United Nations; 2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/risking-health-of-its-women-india-uses-controversial-contraceptive-in-family-planning-programme-36857

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Chandigarh – Abortion services denied if you do not have Aadhaar #Vaw

The woman could not undergo an ultra sonography (USG) as she could not furnish her Aadhaar card.

The linking of Aadhaar to seek abortion services poses risk of life to the life of a woman, doctors at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) at Chandigarh have stated. According to the latest paper published in British Medical Journal (BMJ), a 28-year-old housemaid was forced to seek services from an unqualified quack after being turned away by the government hospital at Chandigarh, because she did not have an Aadhaar card.

After having not menstruated for two-and-a-half months, she realised she was pregnant and visited a government dispensary. Weighing 45 kilos, the woman already had three children.

The woman could not undergo an ultra sonography (USG) as she could not furnish her Aadhaar card. She asked the government doctor to provide her with an oral abortion drug, but she was refused that without a USG. She was then directed to a private diagnostic centre for a USG but it was too expensive. One can get an abortion in a private centre without furnishing Aadhaar card. But, she needed the consent of her husband who would not approve. “A week later, she came back to the clinic where I was posted, profusely bleeding. Her heart rate and blood pressure had gone awry,” said Dr Sudip Bhattacharya, author of the BMJ paper.

She had visited an unqualified local physician after being refused abortion services at the government hospital. The quack had conducted the abortion very poorly, and she had to undergo hospitalisation and had to be transfused blood to recover.

The housemaid had earlier also had two induced abortions, without the knowledge of the husband, a daily wager who was against abortion and also against using any form of contraception to prevent pregnancy.

The present case, however, represents only the tip of the iceberg, as many such incidents occurring in daily practice remain unnoticed and undocumented.

India’s maternal mortality is 239 deaths of pregnant women per 1,00,000 live births, as compared to those of developed countries that have 12 per 1,00,000 live births. Linking of Aadhaar for seeking abortion services is just adding more woes to a poor woman’s plight, the BMJ paper argues.

Bureaucratic procedures like this act as impediments for a woman to access safe abortion services, it says.

“Our patient also initially sought safe abortion services from a government hospital, but was denied because of bureaucratic restrictions, including the requirement for proof of identity and her husband’s signature. on certain proforma before she could even be registered as a patient. This case demonstrates how as far as poor people are concerned, the approach to safe abortion services in India can be described as ‘one step forward and two steps backward’,” Dr Bhattacharya said.

“Paradoxically, the access of underprivileged women to safe abortion services has been reduced in India, despite societal modernisation and technological advances.

There is an urgent need to remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks (procedural barriers) hindering the access of unfortunate women to safe abortion services.”

AT A GLANCE
  • Linking of AADHAR for seeking abortion services is just adding more woes to a poor woman’s plight, the BMJ paper argues.
  • 4.2 crore women with unintended pregnancies undergo induced abortions worldwide
  • 50% procedures are unsafe and 68,000 women are dying of unsafe abortion
  • India’s maternal mortality is 239 deaths of pregnant women per 1,00,000 live births, as compared to those of developed countries that have 12 per 1,00,000 live births.
  • http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-aadhaar-a-problem-for-women-seeking-abortions-2554206

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‘Dowry helps ugly girls get married’ – Sociology book #WTFnews

 The horrifying contents of sociology notes at a top Bengaluru college

Students of the college were given photocopies from a book that lists the “advantages” of dowry, according to its “supporters.” The college’s PRO said it was opposed to such “obscurantist and oppressive patriarchal” views.

Dowry has been illegal in India since 1961. (Image for representation)Dowry has been illegal in India since 1961. (Image for representation)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • St Joseph’s College is conducting an investigation
  • Such views have never been part of the college syllabus: College’s PRO
  • Earlier in ’07, it emerged that a Maharashtra textbook blamed dowry on womens’ ‘ugliness’

“The marriage of ugly girls, who otherwise would have gone without a partner, is made possible by offering (a) heavy amount of dowry.”

Supporters of dowry think it provides this important advantage, says the author who penned the words above. And believe it or not, the page that contains them was photocopied and distributed to undergraduates at a top Bengaluru college.

Dowry has been illegal in India since 1961. The suggestion that the practice helps “ugly girls” find a match isn’t the only one the author attributes to its apologists.

For example, they’re also said to think it is “a useful and effective method” for “attracting good, handsome, and sometimes unwilling boys for marriage.” And that it “may provide self-employment,” “increases the status of women” in the family, and is “an opportunity” for “meritorious boys of poor classes to go for higher education and make their future.”

See for yourself.

Professor Kiran Jeevan, the Public Relations Officer of St. Joseph’s College, said an investigation was under way. He said the college was “trying to find the root of the problem.”

“Such views have never been part of the college syllabus. In fact the department and the college are opposed to such obscurantist and oppressive patriarchal views as are contained in the page cited,” his statement read.

Earlier this year, the Maharashtra government ordered a probe when it emerged that a Class XII sociology textbook read by public school students contained the following lines:

“If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes very difficult for her to get married. To marry such girls, the bridegroom and his family demand more dowry. Parents of such girlsbecome helpless and pay dowry as per the demands of the bridegroom as family.”

This, the book says, “leads to rise in the practice of dowry system.”

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/dowry-sociology-notes-bengaluru-college/1/1072051.html

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Bombay HC fines Vodafone for not having an internal complaints on sexual harassment #Vaw

TELECOM FIRM FINED FOR FLOUTING VISHAKA GUIDELINES

Telecom firm fined for flouting Vishaka guidelines
The Bombay High Court has dismissed a sexual harassment complaint against Vodafone Essar Ltd and its former higher ups, but, at the same time, it has imposed a Rs 50,000 fine on the company – to be paid to the War Widows’ Association – for not having an internal complaints committee in place at the relevant time.

While passing the judgement last week, a division bench of Justices AA Sayed and MS Karnik, observed, “We do note here that the Respondent No 1 (Vodafone) had not followed the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in Vishaka as there was no Complaints Committee constituted at the relevant time.”

The case was filed by an employee who started working as Sales Operations Manager in 1994 with Max India Ltd, which later entered a joint venture and came to be called as Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd and is now known as Vodafone Essar Ltd. She was later designated as Manager, Customer Care, but terminated from service in August 2000.

She alleged that she was terminated because she did not yield to her Chief Operating Officer’s demands seeking sexual favours. She alleged that her immediate senior and another employee helped the COO put pressure on her. “Respondent No 2 (COO) started to use subtle pressures through these persons who were subordinate to him for canvassing to her the virtues of giving a little sex to achieve substantial progress in the organisation. She was getting more and more terrified at the thought that sooner than later she would be thrown out of her job,” the judgement notes. She had filed a case before the Labour court for being terminated for not yielding to her senior’s demands for sexual favour.

However, the company defended its decision of terminating her services, citing lack of performance and also termed her case as ‘revenge’ for the same. It also argued that the victim’s statement to the court that she had complained to the Human Resources department was false as there were no such complaints in the company’s records. It also mentioned that the victim failed to pursue her case before the Labour Court.

In the HC, the victim sought compensation for “the grievous injury and irreparable damage done to her physically and her psyche by reason of actions complained against them,” which too was rejected by HC.

In a significant observation in the judgement, the court also said that unless an employee’s case for sexual harassment is established, she can’t claim violation of fundamental rights around the alleged incident. Citing the Supreme Court’s judgement of 1997 – commonly known as Vishaka guidelines judgement – the HC bench observed, “Thus, it is only when there are instances of sexual harassment that it can be said that there is a violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. In other words, unless it is established that there was sexual harassment, there can be no violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21.”

 https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/telecom-firm-fined-for-flouting-vishaka-guidelines/articleshow/61148137.cms?

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Odisha- Minor raped, impregnated by headmaster; village demands ‘purification’ feast #WTFnews

The villagers are demanding a community feast from the family for pregnancy of their daughter before marriage.

Three weeks after the headmaster of a tribal residential school in Odisha’s Koraput district was arrested on charges of impregnating a minor tribal girl, the victim’s family is facing social boycott.

Early this month, the victim’s father lodged an FIR accusing the headmaster of the government residential school of forcing his daughter into a physical relationship with him.

The victim is a standard 9 student.

Doctors ruled out abortion as the child is five months pregnant.

 

Amid their troubles, villagers have been demanding a community feast as a ‘purification ritual’ since the girl was impregnated before marriage.

“I am a daily labourer. The community feast would cost me at least Rs 30,000. How can I arrange such a big amount. Besides, I need money for regular health check up of my daughter,” said the victim’s father.

He said the district administration is yet to provide him any assistance.

District welfare officer of Koraput Jagannath Soren said a committee that inquired into the case found that apart from the headmaster, the matron of the hostel is also involved.

“We are concerned about the problems the family is facing. The district administration may give some assistance to her family,” he said.

The DWO said the departmental probe committee found it as a case of “illicit relationship” on the part of the headmaster and not that of sexual assault.

“As there was no sexual assault, we can’t recommend financial assistance. The district collector may decide on that,” he said.

As per Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017, a rape victim is entitled to get a financial assistance of Rs 3 lakh.

Crime against women is high in Odisha. According to a figure provided by the state’s police in its website, 2,144 rape cases were reported during the year 2016. The number was 2251 in 2015 and 1,978 in 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/odisha-minor-rape-victim-s-family-faces-social-boycott/story-n9upfJ80QB2KcZhXkLT7II.html

 

 

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How women in India are programmed to remain silent about sexual abuse

Most women are victims of child sexual abuse, they fear speaking up against men in positions of power even later in life.

SONAL KELLOGG

 

The Harvey Weinstein case of serial sex abuse of the who’s who of Hollywood female actors including such A-listers as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevigne and Ashley Judd among others has brought in a storm in the US film industry but the fact remains that many of the victims choose to remain quiet for decades.

If this is the case in the US, where women are known to be more empowered, the situation in more conservative societies is bound to be worse. The problem worsens when someone who has been abused in their childhood is sexually assaulted.

A Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) survivor is especially unable to stand up against abuse and has big issues with setting boundaries particularly when the person making advances is in a position of power and authority such as a professor making advances to a college student.

Well-known Bangalore based psychiatrist Meenakshi Kirtane, also the founder of Maanas, a counselling and psychotherapy centre said, “We see several cases of young women who are unable to speak up against sexual assault and molestation by their professors or people in positions of authority like their bosses. Many of them are victims of CSA and therefore have boundary issues.”

The problem is compounded by the fact that in India over 47 per cent girls are victims of CSA, as per the study of Child Abuse: India 2007commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, government of India.

In conservative cultures, like in India, children are taught to respect elders and their authority. This culture prevents children from being able to speak up against abuse but this is also the reason why many women are unable to speak up against sexual assault and rape, especially if the man in question is powerful and well-respected. The more a molester or rapist is accomplished, the more difficult it becomes for someone to speak up against them.

Women fear that speaking up would invite criticism and many would not believe the victim, which we often see. With the increase in trolling on social media, the scale of the problem has increased manifold. For instance, when rape charges were levelled against senior journalist Tarun Tejpal, the first reaction from many was disbelief. Powerful men have kept women quiet for years in this way.

We have also seen the case of Dr Rajendra Pachauri. Due to his standing in the world, the allegations of sexual harassment by his female colleague were not taken seriously in the beginning. People even jump to defend a powerful person completely discrediting a woman who has mustered up all the courage she could to speak up. Delay in reporting also adds to people not taking a victim’s words seriously.

childrape690_102017021602.jpgWomen have internalised the myth that it is their responsibility to prevent rape, in case of sexual abuse the onus is on them.

Jamila Koshy, Chennai-based psychiatrist said, “This is the bind that women are in. Right from childhood, women are taught that the onus is on them to prevent rape, whether it is by covering up properly or by avoiding travelling alone in the night or various such precautions, they are told that it is their responsibility to protect themselves. This has been internalised by women. They often think that they need to prevent being sexually assaulted or raped. If they are raped or assaulted, they blame themselves. They think of ways in which they could have prevented the attack on them. Maybe they should have not gone out, maybe they should have done this or that. It is endless.”

She said that till women absolve themselves of this guilt they will not be able to speak up against sexual assault or rape. “You can only speak up boldly when you are sure you are not to blame for the sexual harassment or rape,” she said.

In a patriarchal society such as India, it gets very complicated. First you are taught to respect elders and people in authority. Then if the accused is a person who has also been involved in doing good works in society or has some other accomplishments, it becomes difficult for people to believe that he could be a sexual predator, like we have seen many, many cases both in India and abroad.

Recently, Ronan Farrow wrote about the scandal of his family when one of his siblings Dylan Farrow accused their father and acclaimed film-maker Woody Allen of sexually molesting her when she was seven. The female actors, who were asked why they continued to work with him, replied that these were only allegations which were not proven and that it was a family matter.

Just like in Weinstein’s case, Woody Allen’s public relations machinery went into an overdrive to discredit both Dylan and her mother Mia Farrow is what Ronan said in his articles. Similarly, in Pachauri’s case, the defence has been that his personal computer, mobiles and laptops were used by someone else and that he didn’t send the emails harassing his female colleague.

In the case of Mahmood Farooqui, accused of rape, the court observed that the complainant had not sufficiently communicated her unwillingness to Farooqui and so he was acquitted of rape. Again Farooqui’s movie Peepli Live was highly appreciated and his efforts to revive the art of Dastangoi has been much appreciated so he is also a person whose work has earned his much acclaim and bringing charged against him would require courage on the part of the complainant.

Another issue which has been observed in the Harvey Weinstein case is that though the female actors were sexually abused, many of them continued to maintain relationship with him for years and one even said she had an affair with him later. This continued friendship with a sexual predator also discredits the accusers in the eyes of the public, which doesn’t see that a powerful person has many ways to get his victims to comply with his wishes and also to make them believe that nothing actually happened. Some of them felt guilty but they also doubted themselves and most importantly kept quiet for years fearing that their careers would be ruined.

But the bottom line remains that no one can be seen to be above sexual aggression just because of his achievements and society has to get over such misogyny. We need to start teaching men that women’s bodies are not something that they can grab whenever the desire strikes them. Their willingness or otherwise has to be respected.

Parents and society have to start teaching boys and men that they need to start respecting women and their bodies. They need to stop being the predatory cavemen of a bygone era.

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/child-sexual-abuse-rape-crime-against-women-sexual-assault/story/1/20159.html

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SC judgment on sex with minor wife should not be interpreted as a tool for parents and community leaders to “tame” rebellious daughters

  
A woman's hand with bangles
A newly married woman | Source: Jasleen Kaur/ Flickr

.

In a widely-praised judgment last week, the Supreme Court declared that sexual intercourse with a minor wife will be deemed rape under the law. In its immediate aftermath, the judgment led to calls for the nullification of all child marriages, which in my view, is a top-down approach with serious consequences, and removed from the social realities of the country.

To begin with, the judgment in a public interest litigation filed by Independent Thought, lends itself to two interpretations.

The first, a formalistic interpretation, which deems all sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 years of age as statutory rape, including with an underage wife. In the context of a large number of underage marriages, comprising both forced as well as self-arranged or choice marriages by the girls, a nuanced response is necessary. Such a response will safeguard the rights of young persons, rather than enhance their vulnerability and voicelessness, especially of adolescents. What we do not need is a flattened, de-contextualised response.

A harmonious interpretation is also possible, involving a reading of all concerned laws. Such an interpretation would read the judgment as correcting an anomaly within the law, which de-criminalised non-consensual sex with wife of 15 to 18 years on the one hand, while declaring all sexual intercourse, including with a consenting older adolescent till 18 years, as rape (called statutory rape). This judgment allows non-consensual sex with a wife under 18 years to be prosecuted as rape, thus aligning the provisions on statutory rape with marital rape.

However, the judgment steers clear of interfering with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, under which all under-age marriages remain legal. These may be declared void, but only at the initiative of the spouse who was a minor at the time of the marriage, by exercising this option within two years of attaining majority.

The judgment, if interpreted in light of the child marriage law, would only strike at non-consensual sex with an underage wife as rape. This interpretation best lends itself to advancing social justice goals within socio-economic realities that compel early marriage, which was further complicated in 2012 with the problematic increase in age of sexual consent from 16 years to 18 years.

All discussions on the law relating to statutory rape – including of an under-age wife – must take into account key socio-economic realities within which the law operates. These include several aspects, of which four are important for the purpose of understanding early marriage.

First, there is evidence of increasing numbers of early marriages that involve older adolescents. In fact, the trend suggests a shift away from ‘child marriage’ to what is called, ‘early marriage’.

Second, there is a rise in self-arranged marriages by young people, which are not forced. While this is not the predominant pattern, it does disrupt the popular imagination of forced marriages of children.

The third aspect pertains to socio-cultural reality that makes marriage a safer option for young people who choose to be together, to escape the stigma of pre-marital sex – especially when such intimacies transgress social divisions of caste and religion, and run the very real risk of ‘honour’ related backlash.

The fourth aspect is that, with women’s participation in the paid workforce in India being amongst the lowest globally, marriage (early or in adulthood) remains the primary means of social and economic security for women. In other words, marriage in India is almost compulsory for a girl/woman’s social and economic stability. These conditions must be recognised as shaping the ‘choices’ of all marriages, arranged by the family or the self.

An analysis of district court judgments from Delhi from 2012-16 conducted by Partners for Law in Development shows that most of the cases filed against consensual sexual relations by girls under 18 years is by the parents of the girls. Through these cases, the parents seek to prosecute the husband of their daughter, and declare the marriage void under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. Typically, the legal action is initiated by the parents to regain control over their daughter and punish the man their daughter has chosen.

In a highly gendered society, where stigma and shame are inevitable outcomes of sexual expression by girls, the increase in the age of statutory rape to 18 years, blurs the distinction between abuse and positive sexuality. This only adds fear of law to the existing social stigma, making it difficult for girls to seek help or avail health services in crisis. Such consequences make it important to interpret the Supreme Court verdict as criminalising only non-consensual sex with an underage wife. In fact, this is a compelling justification for restoring the statutory age of consent to 16 years, to ensure that the law is able to redress violations and not punish positive expressions of adolescent sexuality.

Any other interpretation of the judgment would amount to sanctioning the use of law as a tool of retribution in the hands of opposing parents and community leaders, to “tame” rebellious daughters, and legally punish their partners.

For the law to be aligned to fundamental rights and freedoms, it must not intentionally or unintentionally serve the interests of moral policing, honour-caste-communal retribution.

Madhu Mehra is a feminist lawyer, and founding member and Executive Director of Partners for Law in Development.

Don’t misread SC judgment, not all early-age marriages are forced

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India : The fight for gender equality in the Indian Navy

Image result for transgender  Indian Navy

By Madhavi Gopalakrishnan*

In August this year, proceedings were initiated to discharge Sabi Giri, a sailor with the Indian Navy, on grounds that she had undergone sex reassignment surgery in the previous year. Sabi, who had joined the Navy as an 18-year-old, had felt uncomfortable with her gender identity for some time; in October 2016, she took the decision to fully transition into and present as a female, paying for her surgery out of her own pocket while on leave. When Sabi returned to work twenty-two days later, she contracted a urinary tract infection, forcing her to visit a Navy doctor and to reveal her gender identity.

News reports stated that while her infection was soon cured, her status as a transgender woman quickly became common knowledge. Sabi noticed a marked change in how she was treated; ignored by her former friends, her only contact with other officers was marred by propositions for sex. Once higher authorities got wind of her transition, Sabi’s situation took a turn for the worse: she was placed in a male psychiatric ward for six months. When she was finally released in April this year, authorities continued to dither over what to do, only taking the decision to discharge her in August.

In a statement released by the Press Information Bureau of the Defence Ministry, Sabi’s transgender status became public, and she was continuously misgendered and referred to by her former name. The statement claimed that Sabi “wilfully altered his gender identity from the one he was recruited for at the time of his induction”. The statement offensively concludes that the termination of employment is due to Sabi’s “altered gender status [and] medical condition”, seemingly referring to her involuntary confinement in the psychiatric ward.

Protections for Transgender Persons in India

The judgment in NALSA v. UOI held that the failure of the State to recognize the gender identity of transgender persons would violate Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. In rendering its judgment, the Supreme Court observed that members of transgender communities face discrimination in access to housing, education, healthcare, and employment, and therefore the State was “bound to take affirmative action to give them due representation in public services”. In furtherance of this observation, the Court additionally held that Article 16, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in public employment, would apply to the transgender community.

A Private Member’s Bill to give effect to the NALSA judgment was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2015, and then introduced before the Lok Sabha in August last year. However, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill has been pending ever since, opposed by people across the ideological spectrum. The transgender community itself has objected to several provisions in the bill, which uses offensive and inaccurate language to describe transgender persons, and is widely seen as inadequate to address the unique socio-economic status of transgenders in India.

International Law and Policy on Transgender Rights

Possibly foreseeing that Parliament would put such a Bill on the backburner, the Court in NALSA had further held that, in absence of “suitable legislation protecting the rights of the members of the transgender community…[and without] a contrary legislation, municipal courts in India would respect the rules of international law”. The most comprehensive formulation of the protections available to LGBTQ persons under international law are the Yogyakarta Principles, which explicitly set out the right of such persons to access education, security of person, healthcare, and any such rights usually available to citizens of a nation. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has, in essence, ruled on several occasions that LGBTQ rights are human rights, and that the State cannot discriminate in their treatment of such persons versus other citizens.

NALSA draws from these principles, stating that discrimination against a person on the basis of their gender identity and expression is akin to discrimination on the basis of sex. At present, the rights available to transgender persons even in the international realm are not ‘special’, nor do they prescribe affirmative action programs, but they merely affirm that transgender persons must be treated on par with every other human. The Indian State fails even at this basic requirement of providing constitutionally-available rights to an oppressed minority community.

What about the Navy?

Article 21 states that no person can be deprived of their life and personal liberty, except through procedure established by law. In the instant case, there is no existing law that permits the Navy to confine its employees to a psychiatric ward without any reason, nor is there any reason to believe that such a law would be valid. Moreover, since Sabi has transitioned and identifies as a woman, placing her in the male psychiatric ward violates her right to have her gender identity recognized and validated by the State and is also violative of her right to privacy. While Sabi has not revealed whether she was referred to a military psychiatrist, which is standard protocol for confinement, it is shocking that the response to her transition was to brand her as mentally ill. The recent Mental Healthcare Act defines mental illness as a “substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life”. A transgender person is not mentally ill simply because of their transgender identity. Additionally, the Act has specifically stated that persons confined to psychiatric wards or mental hospitals have the right to information and confidentiality about their illness and treatment, both of which were breached in Sabi’s case.

The Navy Act specifically prohibits women from being employed in service of the Indian Navy, except in non-combatant roles, such as a legal officer or as naval architect. In fact, until recently, women were only permitted to be employed in the Short Service Commission (SSC), which would allow them to only serve for 14 years; it was only in 2011 that the Ministry of Defence permitted women to join the Permanent Commission, which allowed them to serve for a lifetime, and to avail benefits such as pension. However, this meant that the Permanent Commission was still only available to women in the branches of law, naval architecture, and education. However, a bench of the Delhi High Court accepted the contentions of several female officers belonging to the Navy, who were seeking equal rights with their counterparts in the Army and the Air Force, which allow women to serve as both SSC and Permanent Commission; the matter has been appealed and is pending before the Supreme Court.

Sabi herself has pointed out the irony of her situation: while recruited as a young man, she was deemed fit for service, despite not having any prior training. Seven years later, she has a considerable amount of experience in the Navy, but is deemed ineligible solely due to her gender. While the Navy has announced that they plan to formulate a policy for women to serve on warships, they are yet to explicitly engage with the transgender population of the country. However, it is clear that the Navy is open to changing its policy on women serving as active combatants, and hence its decision to discharge Sabi, without making arrangements for her to serve in another capacity, is disheartening. The armed forces have a lot of catching-up to do; their policies do not even recognize the existence of transgender persons, let alone being transgender-friendly.

The Way Forward

Sabi Giri wants to challenge her discharge, and is willing to take the fight for her rights to the Supreme Court. She must be encouraged to challenge the Navy’s treatment of her after her transition, especially her illegal confinement in the psychiatric ward. She should also challenge her discharge as violative of her basic right to equality and gender identity under Article 14. Transgender persons have been continuously recognized as one of the most stigmatized and marginalized communities, internationally and in India. The State must endeavour to promote, rather than restrict employment of this community, and its failure to do so violates the law set down by the Supreme Court of India. The collective number of personnel employed in the Indian armed forces is one of the largest in the world; the armed forces must institute policies that recognize, protect, and encourage transgender people to be part of them.

While we support Sabi in her endeavour for justice, it is also essential to remember that the fight is not over. Parliament continues to ignore the Bill to protect the rights of transgender persons, despite it being introduced more than two years ago. Transgender people continue to be ostracized, harassed, and violated simply for realizing their right to express their gender identity. The Transgender Persons Bill must be amended to include an accurate and sensitive definition of transgender persons, but it is equally important for the State to create a reservation for transgender candidates in the public sphere, as well as offering incentives to private actors who employ and train transgender persons. Finally, it is illogical and discriminatory for the Navy to continue to permit women to only serve in a limited capacity, and it is hoped that this case changes the narrative, and encourage the Navy to get rid of all its discriminatory policies and become a force for equality.

*Madhavi Gopalakrishnan is a remote intern with the Asian Human Rights Commission. She is a final year law student at the Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat.

http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-ART-044-2017

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My Husband Killed Harshita: Haryanvi Singer’s Sister Comes Forward

Haryanvi singer Harshita Dahiya was shot dead by unidentified assailants at Chamrara village in Haryana‘s Panipat district on Tuesday, 17 October, police said. The Panipat police has launched a formal investigation into the matter.

Three bullets were recovered from Dahiya’s body during the post-mortem – two from the head and one from the chest, Dr Rajeev Maan said. The body was then handed over to the family.

On Wednesday, 18 October, Lata Dahiya, the sister of the deceased, alleged that her husband, Dinesh, had gotten Harshita killed. She told ANI:

She (Harshita) was killed by my husband (Dinesh) because she was a witness in my mother’s murder case


Lata Dahiya. <i>(Photo: ANI)</i>
Lata Dahiya. (Photo: ANI)

“Shot in the Head”

The 22-year-old singer was shot when she was on her way back home in a car at around 4 pm after a performance at a function in the village, police said. “When she was returning, a black car overtook her vehicle near Chamrara and forced it to stop,” Desh Raj, Panipat Deputy Superintendent of Police told reporters.

He said two unidentified men asked the singer’s assistants and driver to step out of the vehicle. The assailants then fired seven bullets, six of which hit Harshita on the forehead and neck, killing her on the spot, police said, adding that the accused fled the scene after the murder.

“They did not target anybody except Harshita. As of now, there is no clarity on the exact number of the assailants. We have got some clues and we are working on them,” the DSP was quoted as saying.

“A team has been formed and the investigation is underway… We will slowly get to the bottom of it,” the DSP said.

Haryana police denied any political or professional enmity behind Dahiya’s murder. The police is going through the deceased singer’s social media posts to examine other possible angles.

Three dance troop members, who left the venue with Dahiya, on Tuesday, are with the police and are cooperating in the investigation.

Haryana police said it has never received any threat complaints from the deceased, and it is now checking with the Delhi police.

When news of the murder came to light, The Indian Express quoted Panipat Superintendent of Police Rahul Sharma as saying that the police suspect Harshita’s brother-in-law, Dinesh, of having played a role in the murder.

Dinesh is currently lodged in Haryana’s Jhajjar jail. “Earlier, she had accused him of raping her. Dinesh is also accused in the murder of her mother. Harshita was a witness in that case. But we are not ruling out other theories,” Sharma told the daily.

Harshita’s cousin, Ravinder Kadyan, said Dinesh killed Dahiya’s mother because she witnessed Dinesh raping Harshita.

Dinesh abducted and raped Harshita in 2014. When her mother was about to appear as the prime eyewitness, she was killed inside the family’s house in Delhi.

Harshita Dahiya’s cousin Ravinder Kadyan. <i>(Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)</i>
Harshita Dahiya’s cousin Ravinder Kadyan. (Photo: The Quint)

When The Quint reached house number 352, in Gali number 10 of Swatantra Nagar locality of Narela in north-west Delhi, a dog was barking inside the locked house. After her mother Prem Devi’s murder in November 2014, Dahiya was living in this 50-yard, two floor house with only her dog for company.

Harshita Dahiya’s house in Narela was locked up.
Harshita Dahiya’s house in Narela was locked up.
(Photo: The Quint)

The singer’s neighbours said no one in the area used to interact with her much. According to one neighbour, Manish Rana, “her actual name was Gita. Harshita was her professional name.”

Harshita’s family in Panipat told the media that the dead body will be taken to her Narela house, but that wasn’t the case. Her sister, Lata, gave a mobile number to media persons in the mortuary.

A person picked up the phone after The Quint dialled the number. Claiming to be a ‘friend of Harshita’ he said Harshita would be cremated at Sanoli ghat in Panipat and won’t be taken to her house in Narela.

Harshita Claimed Her Life Was in Danger

The singer, from Sonipat’s Muhammadpur village, was living with her aunt in Delhi’s Narela. In a recent video on her social media profile, Harshita alleged that her life was in danger.

The 22-year-old’s Facebook timeline is replete with videos of her talking to her audience, many of them upwards of 30 minutes.

https://www.thequint.com/news/india/haryana-singer-harshita-dahiya-dead

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When Journalism leads to murder- Panama Papers journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Murdered Panama Papers journalist’s son attacks Malta’s ‘crooks’

Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed because she ‘stood between rule of law and those who sought to violate it’, says son Matthew

The son of the murdered Maltese investigative journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia has described finding parts of his mother’s body around the blazing car in which she died and attacked the island as a “mafia state” run by “crooks”.

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” Matthew Caruana Galizia, who is also an investigative reporter, wrote in a moving and at times graphic Facebook post.

“But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead.”

Dutch forensic experts and a team from the FBI were due to arrive in Malta to help police in the EU’s smallest state investigate the killing of Caruana Galizia, who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption on the island.

A woman holds a lantern with a picture of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a protest demanding justice.
 A woman holds a lantern with a picture of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a protest demanding justice. Photograph: Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images

She died on Monday afternoon when her Peugeot was destroyed by an explosive device so powerful it blew the car into a nearby field. “I saw a small explosion coming from the car and I panicked,” said one witness, Frans Sant, who was driving in the opposite direction.

“A few seconds later, around three to four seconds, there was another, larger explosion. The car continued coming down the hill, skidding at high speed, full of fire. The car missed me by around 10 feet. I tried to help but the fire was too much and the car ended up in the field,” he said.

Several hundred people demonstrated outside the main law courts in the island’s fortress capital, Valletta, on Tuesday afternoon to demand justice for the 53-year-old journalist, described as a “one-woman WikiLeaks” whose blogs were as fiercely critical of the island’s politicians as they were of its organised crime gangs.

“The state did not defend Daphne,” said Andrew Borg-Cardona, a prominent lawyer who works with the journalist’s husband. Michael Briguglio, a leading member of the island’s Green party, said: “This is a political murder because it clearly has a political context and the state did not protect a journalist who was in danger.”

The European commission said it was horrified by the murder. Asked if it would open a procedure to check if Malta was meeting the EU’s rule of law standards, a spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said an “outrageous act has happened and what matters now is that justice will be brought. This is what we need to see.” 

Matthew Caruana Galizia said he would never forget “running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it”.

One of the policemen said: “Sorry, there is nothing we can do,” he wrote. “I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me. I realised they were right, it was hopeless. ‘Who is in the car?’ they asked me. ‘My mother is in the car. She is dead. She is dead because of your incompetence.’”

Caruana Galizia ran a hugely popular blog relentlessly highlighting cases of alleged high-level corruption among politicians across Malta’s party lines. “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” she wrote in a post published barely half an hour before the bomb exploded.

The scene of the car bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.
 The scene of the car bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Police said the journalist had just left her home and was on a road near the village of Bidnija in northern Malta when the bomb detonated. Local media said she had reported receiving threats two weeks ago, although police officials denied receiving any complaint.

Caruana Galizia’s most recent revelations pointed the finger at Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.

Muscat denounced the journalist’s killing on Monday, calling it a “barbaric attack on press freedom”. Muscat, who sued the journalist and won a snap election in June called as a vote of confidence to counter her allegations, said he would “not rest until I see justice done in this case”.

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 ‘Her life was not for nothing’ – Vigil held for Panama Papers journalist killed by car bomb – video

While Caruana Galizia’s targets were mainly the ruling Labour party and its supporters, she had more recently turned her fire on Malta’s opposition whose leader, Adrian Delia, on Tuesday called on the prime minister to resign and the police chief and attorney general to be sacked.

“The political blame for her death lies squarely in [Muscat’s] lap and he should shoulder responsibility for it,” Delia said. “Everything in this country has a price now, but … You can be sure that someone will have to pay for this death.”

Caruana Galizia’s targets ranged from allegedly corrupt politicians to banks facilitating money laundering and the links between Malta’s online gaming industry and the mafia. Her recent work had focused particularly on revelations from the Panama Papers, a huge cache of leaked documents from the leading offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Candles are lit at a vigil to protest against Caruana Galizia’s death.
 Candles are lit at a vigil to protest against Caruana Galizia’s death. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Matthew Caruana Galizia said in his Facebook post that his mother’s killing was “no ordinary murder and it was not tragic. Tragic is someone being run over by a bus. When there is blood and fire all around you, that’s war. We are a people at war against the state and organised crime, which have become indistinguishable.”

He criticised “that clown of a prime minister”, making statements to parliament “about a journalist he spent over a decade demonising and harassing”, and highlighted a Facebook post by a police sergeant who shortly after the murder wrote: “Everyone gets what they deserve, cow dung! Feeling happy :)”

Caruana Galizia concluded: “Yes, this is where we are: a mafia state … where you will be blown to pieces for exercising your basic freedoms, only for the people who are supposed to have protected you to instead be celebrating it.”

He said a “culture of impunity” had been allowed to flourish on the island after the prime minister “filled his office with crooks, then the police with crooks and imbeciles, then the courts with crooks and incompetents.

“If the institutions were already working, there would be no assassination to investigate – and my brothers and I would still have a mother.”

After an application by the dead journalist’s family, the investigating magistrate, Consuelo Scerri Herrera – who had come under criticism from Caruana Galizia in her blog and subsequently sued her – withdrew from the case on Tuesday.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/17/murdered-panama-papers-journalist-son-malta-crooks-daphne-caruana-galizia

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