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Archives for : Gender equality

MDG Report 2014: India among worst performers in poverty reduction, maternal death and sanitation

Author(s): Moushumi Sharma 
Date:Jul 9, 2014

Report shows good progress in areas like poverty alleviation and access to clean water and controlling diseases like TB, Malaria

imageSome MDG targets, such as increasing access to sanitation and reducing child and maternal mortality are unlikely to be met before the deadline

The United Nations (UN) released this week the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report, 2014. The report, launched by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, says that many of the development goals have been met or are within reach by 2015.

The report is the latest finding to assess the regional progress towards the eight developmental goals that the UN targets to achieve by 2015, including eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Progress slow but target possible
Ban Ki-moon has lauded the progress so far, saying that many global MDG targets have already been met. The report states that extreme poverty in the world has reduced by half; over 2.3 million people gained access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2012; gender disparities in school enrollment in developing nations have been eliminated to a large extent; and political participation of women has increased. The report maintains that if the current trend of progress continues, the world might surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment. An estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria could be averted between 2000 and 2012 due to substantial expansion of malaria intervention programmes, while intensive efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 million lives worldwide since 1995.

But it is too soon to celebrate. According to the report, some MDG targets, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are unlikely to be met before the deadline.

India’s dismal performance
India’s progress has been below the mark on the parameters of poverty, child and maternal mortality and access to improved sanitation. In 2010, one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extremely poor (32.9 per cent) lived in India alone. The poverty figures for the same year for Nigeria and Bangladesh, two countries less developed than India, were 8.9 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively.

A recent study by an international non-profit ranked India 137th among 178 countries when it comes to maternal and child health, categorising the country among the worst performers (Read: India among worst performers in maternal and child health). The UN report states that India had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children in the country dying before age five. This is shameful when one takes into account notable reductions in the under-five mortality rate since 1990 and particularly since 2000 in low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

While the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013, India still accounts for 17 per cent of maternal deaths. India’s MMR target for 2015 is to bring down maternal mortality to less than 109 deaths per 100,000 live births. But only three states—Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra—have so far been successful in reaching this target (Read: India nowhere near millennium goal for maternal mortality.

The UN report further states that MMR in developing regions—230 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013—was 14 times higher than that of developed regions, which recorded only 16 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the same year. It maintains that the best possible way of reducing neonatal mortality is through greater investment in maternal care during the first 24 hours after birth.

Scourge of open defecation
Between 1990 and 2012, two billion people worldwide gained access to improved sanitation, but a billion people still defecate in the open. A vast majority of the world’s population—82 per cent—resorting to open defecation live in middle-income, populous countries like India and Nigeria.

Official data on open defecation in India will put any country to shame. The country has the world’s largest population that defecates in the open. (Read: Mission possible. According to data released by the National Sample Survey Office in December 2013, 59.4 per cent of the rural population resorted to open defecation. 2011 Census figures put the number of rural houses without toilets at 113 million.

To make matters worse for the country’s reputation, a recent study conducted by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, Uttar Pradesh, claims that in 40 per cent of rural households in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, which have a functional toilet, at least one member chose to defecate in the open. At least 30 per cent of the world’s population, which defecates in the open, live in these five states alone (Read: Despite having toilets at home, many in rural India choose to defecate in open.

Hope for the future
Presenting the report, Ban Ki-moon said that the world is “at a historic juncture, with several milestones before us”. He underscored that the report makes clear “the MDGs have helped unite, inspire and transform…and the combined action of governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector can make a difference”. “Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are critical to building a solid foundation for development beyond 2015. At the same time, we must aim for a strong successor framework to attend to unfinished business and address areas not covered by the eight MDGs,” the UN chief said.

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Gender Equality in Veda: ”Oh God, Bless us with a male child; give the female child else where” #Vaw



No empowerment here. Photo: Paul Noronha

The HinduNo empowerment here. Photo: Paul Noronha

Where have all the girls gone in a country full of men?

Mumbai’s taxi drivers are repositories of earthy wisdom. They come from all parts of the country. A few are grumpy. Some are silent. But mostly they are loquacious, if you ask them the right question.

In the last couple of days, I have been at the receiving end of some down-to-earth and commonsensical opinions about life, values and politics from such taxi drivers.

The first, a young taxi driver from Vasai, which is on the outskirts of Mumbai, informed me that he was actually a “Hindu Brahmin”, but loved Jesus Christ. Without much prompting, he then proceeded to predict that Narendra Modi would win the elections. Would he vote for Modi, I asked. Not necessarily, he said. Then whom would he want to vote for? Arvind Kejriwal, he said. Why, I asked. Because, he said, he had watched Kejriwal’s TV interviews. He was convinced that this was a good and honest man. More than that, he was educated, qualified, had a good job and yet gave it all up to do something about corruption. These were the kind of people India needed in politics, he asserted. Above all, he said, this was the only man who had the courage to take on the richest and most powerful man in India.

The other was a Tamilian who had lived in Mumbai for 35 years but continued to read a popular Tamil newspaper (that now arrives in the morning because it is printed in Pune). Despite the many years in Mumbai, he had a clear view of Tamil politics. There was no doubt in his mind that “Amma” would sweep the polls in Tamil Nadu. Why, I asked. Because she has looked after the poor, he said. And she does not discriminate between Hindu, Muslim, Dalit and Christian.

More important, he continued, she has addressed the problem of families not wanting to give birth to a girl child. He then proceeded to explain to me in detail the government schemes that encourage families to look after girls. He also gave graphic details of how families kill infant girls. He was clear that this was an evil practice and must be ended. And he gave credit to “Amma” for putting in place monetary incentives to help raise the value of girls.

So, corruption and schemes that help the poor and stop female infanticide were the issues these two men talked about. Corruption features in election talk. And every party ruling a state, or the centre, speaks of its pro-poor schemes. But what about India’s steadily disappearing women?

Results of the Annual Health Survey conducted by the office of the Census of India — reportedly the largest sample survey in the world — have recently been released. The survey covered 20.94 million people and 4.32 million households in 284 districts in nine states.

While the survey has a lot of interesting information on several aspects of health, including infant and maternal mortality rates, its findings on the sex ratio — at birth, in the 0-4 age group and overall — are perhaps the most significant.

According to the survey, in 84 of the 284 districts there was a fall in the sex ratio at birth. In some districts like Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, the sex ratio at birth was as low as 767 girls to every 1,000 boys. That is a worrying sign as it suggests that the law to prevent sex-selection has not succeeded in creating enough of deterrents against the practice of aborting female foetuses.

Equally worrying is the decline in the sex ratio in the 0-4 age group. This was visible in 127 districts and was significant in 46 districts. Rajasthan recorded the lowest levels in this category, while Chhattisgarh recorded the highest. The reason for the decline in this age group is clearly neglect of girls after they are born. Otherwise, there is no reason that more girls should die than boys. Overall, the sex ratio was worse in urban areas than rural, suggesting again that the availability of sex selection technology and higher incomes contributed to this decline. In a state like Jharkhand, for instance, while the sex ratio at birth was 961 in rural areas, it was as low as 903 in urban areas.

In this election season, where rhetoric is king, the reality of India’s disappearing women — who everyone seems to want to “empower” — is not even a blip on the horizon. Yet, it has been evident for decades that all this talk about “women’s empowerment” has little meaning if we are unable to deal with the despicable attitudes and practices that guarantee that girls will not be born, and if they are, that they will not live to become young women.


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Gender equality will make the world kinder, less violent, and less demanding for men as well.
The HinduGender equality will make the world kinder, less violent, and less demanding for men as well.

Gender equality will make the world kinder, less violent, and less demanding for men as well.

For the third year in a row, on Valentine’s Day when many celebrate romantic love, women and men in more than 160 countries around the world danced, sang and rallied for another kind of love — one based on safety, equality and respect for people of all genders. It is estimated that a billion girls and women face violence at some time or the other during their lives. A global call was therefore made for One Billion to rise, and it caught the imagination of people around the planet.

Last year, the focus of the campaign was to highlight the pervasiveness of many forms of gender violence, and this particularly resonated in an India wounded with the brutal gang-rape of a student in a bus in Delhi. This year the global demand was for justice for survivors. This symbolic global rising of people against violence unites survivors of violence, breaks down their sense of being alone, and heals the battering not just of their bodies but also their spirits.

It is often assumed that gender equality will make the world better, safer, happier and more dignified for girls and women. What is forgotten is that it will also make the world kinder, less violent, and less demanding for men as well. As Nancy Smith writes unforgettably:

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

If the world is to evolve into a fairer and less threatening place for all people, women as well as men, it is imperative to work not just with women but also men, not just with girls but also boys. Many fine organisations today are working with masculinities, or the ways that men socially construct the idea of manhood. These include MASVAW (Men’s Action for Stopping Violence Against Women); Forum to Engage Men (FEM); the MenEngage Alliance; and SANAM (South Asian Network to Address Masculinities). They work with boys and men to help them introspect how their socialisation pressurises men to be strong, powerful and potent, and how a more gender-equal world will also set them free.

For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female”, there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.

Patriarchy is a system of social organisation fundamentally organised around the idea of men’s superiority to women, while masculinity is the socially produced but embodied ways of being male. But what happens when men cannot make the grade of socially determined standards of masculinity? Not all men can suppress their soft natures, or be successful in earning money, competing against other men (and increasingly women) and supporting their families. Men can and do fail financially, socially and sexually, but they often lack the emotional resources to cope with these failures.

For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.

Both the need to dominate and the inability to deal with failures lead men to be violent, and this is why violence across a large majority of cultures is an essential component of masculinity. Scholar Michael Kauffman observes that ‘the imperatives of manhood (as opposed to the simple certainties of biological maleness), seem to require constant vigilance and work, especially for younger men. The personal insecurities conferred by a failure to make the masculine grade, or simply, the threat of failure, is enough to propel many men, particularly when they are young, into a vortex of fear, isolation, anger, self-punishment, self-hatred, and aggression.’

For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.

It has been my consistent experience that only strong men can act with compassion and gentleness. It is weak and insecure men who are violent. Today, many more women are entering the labour market, but on unequal terms of much lower wages, greater exploitation, vulnerability to violence and denial of social protection. Even so, men feel threatened and confused, and violence helps them compensate for their insecurity and low self-esteem and to hold on to the ephemeral idea of power.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay, there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

Successful and powerful men, those wielding power of class, wealth, caste and race, use violence against women as an extension of their overall sense of entitlement. Men seek not only to dominate women but also other men. Suppressed and oppressed men learn socially to reclaim their manhood by violence to women. Violence against women is the last resort of defeated men.

Many women today have imbibed the spirit of equality, and are battling all odds to follow their hearts and achieve their potential, in homes as well as work-places. It is men who still need to learn much better to give up their sense of entitlement, privilege and power, and to recognise that in so doing they are also setting themselves free.

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.


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AIR could lead by adopting gender-related strategies for Radio #womenrights

You are here: Home » In Perspective » Who’ll cast first vote for equality?

Who’ll cast first vote for equality?

Ammu Joseph, Feb 12, 2014 :

(February 13) is World Radio Day and it’s time to take stock of where radio stands in terms of gender equality
News in all forms of media in India is dominated by male subjects. This is particularly true of radio, with women constituting only 13 percent of the subjects of news bulletins, according to the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 (GMMP 2010). Indian print and television news boasted more female news subjects:  24 and 20 per cent respectively (albeit still less than a quarter of all news subjects).

While the pattern was similar across Asia with regard to press and TV news (20 per cent in both), women were better represented in radio news across the region (21 per cent). The exceptionally poor representation of women as news subjects on Indian radio is all the more significant considering that radio news is provided solely by the public broadcaster. At present neither private nor community radio stations have permission to air news and current affairs. The latest GMMP survey also found that only about one third (34 per cent) of the news stories in the Indian broadcast media – radio and TV – were presented by women. The corresponding figure for Asia was considerably higher at nearly half (48 per cent). Again, there were marginally more female announcers on television (public and private) than on radio in India.
All India Radio (AIR), India’s public broadcaster, was headed by a woman, Noreen Naqvi, between 2009 and 2011. However, according to employment figures received in 2012 from the public broadcasting corporation, Prasar Bharati, women constitute only 10 per cent of AIR’s employees (in news and non-news positions). So it is not surprising that women are not well represented at leadership levels: 28 per cent in senior programme management, 38 per cent in senior administrative posts and none in engineering.

Unique opportunity

As the only radio news broadcaster, AIR has a unique opportunity to enhance gender equality and women’s empowerment in radio, the theme of World Radio Day 2014. AIR could play a strong leadership role by developing, adopting and implementing gender-related policies and strategies for radio.

Privately owned FM radio stations have proliferated in urban centres across India over the past couple of decades.  Women’s voices are regularly audible on most of them, thanks to female radio disc-jockeys and listeners responding to call-in programmes. FM radio appears to be increasingly employing women in leadership positions, even in socially conservative small cities and big towns.  A proper, industry-wide survey is certainly overdue – perhaps the Association of Radio Broadcasters of India (ARBI), currently headed by a woman, will commission one soon – but the fact that at least four of the approximately ten large and medium size FM radio networks in the country are led by women and the reported trend towards more women occupying key leadership positions in such networks are encouraging.

Although there is no evidence of any existing policies on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the FM sector, at least one company has adopted a detailed policy on sexual harassment at the workplace and established the legally required compliance committee. This is more than many other Indian media houses have done. Perhaps ARBI can be persuaded to take the necessary first steps towards developing and promoting gender-related policies and strategies for the Indian commercial radio sector.

Both public and private sector radio may have much to learn from the community radio sector in this respect. Even though it is relatively new in India – officially sanctioned only in 2006 – community radio (CR) has traditionally been inclusive, enabling a range of women (especially poor, illiterate, rural women) to exercise their communications rights. In fact, some of the oldest and best known CR stations are effectively run by women from socially and economically disadvantaged communities, many of them with long experience in radio work, using various means of communication, even before their stations were granted broadcast licenses.  An impressive number of women now work in CR across the country, mainly as producers and on-air talent but also, in some cases, as station managers.

Of course, as Kanchan K Malik of the University of Hyderabad points out, a number of challenges need to be addressed to ensure women’s progressive involvement in all elements and stages of a CR station – as listeners, producers and decision-makers – and thereby strengthen the empowerment potential of
the medium.

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India: Sterlisation by default: Where’s choice in family planning? #Vaw #Womenrights

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Aug 23, 2013

Odisha is a specific instance where the state continues to piggyback on female sterilisation to meet its development agenda, writes Leena Uppal.

Khurda: World Population Day was marked by much fanfare in Odisha this year, with the state government publicly felicitating the ‘best performing’ districts for having achieved impressive family planning levels for the year 2012-2013.

Not surprisingly, the top three districts in this regard were all predominantly tribal – Malkangiri, Koraput and Anugul. Equally unsurprising was the fact that their impressive achievement was made possible because of a dependence on female sterlisations. While Malkangiri achieved a sterilisation level of 138.27 per cent, Koraput and Anugul notched sterilisation levels of 109.08 per cent and 106.09 per cent, respectively. What about breakthroughs in the propagation and delivery of other contraceptive methods, whether intrauterine devices, oral pills or condoms? Clearly, the less about this, the better!

The Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is working hard to project the fact that its family planning programme has changed tack from the sterilisation-centric approach of yore. Now, it claims, it is offering a basket of contraceptive choices for women and men in the reproductive age group. At the Family Planning Summit in London in 2012, it had talked about how different kinds of contraceptives are being made available through public health centres and with the help of accredited social health activists (ASHAs).

But such change is hard to find in the field. A permanent method of contraception like sterilisation clearly continues to be the mainstay of India’s family planning departments across Indian states, with female sterlisation emerging as the obvious favourite. This is in keeping with the historical perception, which continues to prevail in the country that it is women’s ‘irresponsible breeding’ that is the single biggest factor for India’s ‘overpopulation’ and is the major barrier to its social and economic development.

Odisha is a specific instance where the state continues to piggyback on female sterilisation to meet its development agenda, despite faring quite well on social and economic indices of growth. A closer look at the relevant data is revealing: the state already has a total fertility rate of 2.3, with 10 of its districts having achieved the replacement level fertility rate of 2.1. It ranks eleventh among major states across India in the overall human development index. Yet, the Annual Health Survey, 2012, confirms the dark side of the state’s family planning programme: female sterilisations account for 30.1 per cent of all contraceptives used.

In Odisha, the mega sterilisation camp approach that had brought such notoriety to the national family planning programme in the Seventies has been done away with. This would have been commendable if it had been replaced by a more consensual approach to female sterilisation. But that, unfortunately, is not in evidence. Most sterilisations in the state are conducted in hospitals through a fixed day static service. What actually happens, according to sources on the ground, is that women in labour are forced to agree to go in for tubal ligation, after they deliver their second child at a health facility.

This has implications that go beyond family planning. A glance at the family planning register being maintained at the district headquarters hospital at Khurda tells its own story. It shows that in the months March and June 2013, not a single couple who had undergone the steralisation procedure had had two daughters. All couples who had undergone the operation had either had a son and a daughter, or two sons. Sterlisations then could be an important factor for the declining sex ratio that is causing so much alarm in policy circles.

To understand why this happens, one just needs to speak with the ASHAs. One ASHA working in the region put it this way, “We are required to motivate and bring in couples for sterilisation, and we try our best to do this. We do not persuade those clients who have daughters to consider this option but prefer to focus on those who have already given birth to boys. They are much more receptive to the message. Sometimes we even motivate the woman’s mother-in-law to send her across for sterilisation and she immediately agrees because she too does not want granddaughters.”

The ASHA’s words come as a reality check. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare officials in New Delhi may insist that the government is not focusing on sterilisations but is interested in promoting a wide spectrum of contraceptive methods. They even claim that the number of sterilisations is now on the decline when compared to earlier years. But the ground realities in the hinterland seem to indicate otherwise, with female sterlisations still dominating the family planning landscape.

In fact, in some places female sterlisations have reached saturation point. An ASHA in Khurda district gives the game away when she innocently exclaims, “There are no more women left to sterilise in my village, I don’t know how I will reach my sterilisation target for next year!”

Women Feature Service



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Female homicides in Ciudad Juárez





Until we embrace the idea of consent in all relationships, including marriage, there can be no gender equality. Its absence makes discussions on sexual abuse meaningless


The man who was my abuser was a fine host, a good husband, a caring father, a respected elder whose generosity and kindness were as genuine as the fact of the abuse. These qualities were important, because they helped him conceal the abuse he carried out over a period of four years.


As a much-loved older relative, a close friend of my parents, he had unrestricted access to our house, and we visited him often. It was only at 12 that I began to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know the term “child sexual abuse,” and had no words with which to describe my discomfort with the “games” he played — but I sensed there was something wrong about the silence that he demanded. When I was 13, I left Delhi for Calcutta, to study in that city, and left my abuser behind. But he didn’t forget, and when I came back to Delhi as a 17-year-old, he was there.




At 17, I knew now that he had no right to do this to me. When he sent poems, said that despite the four decades that separated us, we were supposed to “be together,” I broke my own silence — but only partly. I told my mother and my sister, and they formed a fierce, protective barrier between me and my abuser.


But the man who had started his abuse when I was nine was still invited to my wedding, because we were all keeping secrets, trying to protect one family member or another. (He was married, with grown children of his own.)


Years later, when my abuser was dying of old age and diabetes, I visited him. There was no space for a long conversation, but I did tell him that I would not forget, even if forgiveness was possible. The silence around the abuse festered and caused damage for years, until finally, in my thirties, the difficult, liberating process of healing began.


If this story saddens you, please think about this: my story is neither new nor rare, nor was the man who abused me a monster, or in any way out of the ordinary. According to a 2007 survey (the largest of its kind in India) conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, over 53 per cent of Indian children have experienced some form of sexual abuse — a slightly higher percentage of boys than girls. I am only one of many.


As I learned to cope with the fallout from the childhood abuse, I made unexpected connections, found good friends, found strong mentors, found help, found my voice again and built a happier, more free life. If I bring up the abuse today, it’s to make a point about the importance of consent in the debate over gender equality in India.


Child abuse survivors are experts in two areas: we’ve taken a masterclass in the toxicity of silence and secret-keeping, and we have doctorates in our understanding of the importance of consent. It can take survivors, like rape survivors of either gender, years to reclaim a sense of ownership over their own bodies. The body is the site of so many violations, starting with the chief one: our abusers did not ask us for permission to use our bodies as they pleased. Children subjected to abuse learn one harsh lesson — their bodies are not their own.




Over years, those of us who are fortunate enough to find counsellors and healers learn to reclaim our bodies. We learn as adults what children are supposed to know by instinct: we learn that we can be safe in our bodies, we learn to allow ourselves pleasure, to take care of ourselves, and most of all, we learn that we have the right to offer or withhold permission to other people, when they want access to our bodies, our selves.


In December 2012, a violent gang rape in Delhi took the life of a young woman and set off a raging debate over women’s freedoms and rape laws. In all the complex arguments we’ve heard in the last few months in India on rape, violence against women, we have not discussed consent as much as we need to. When we talk about rape, women’s bodies are often discussed as though they were property: how much freedom should the Indian family allow its daughters, wives, sisters, mothers?


Recently, rejecting the Verma Committee’s strong appeal that marital rape be made an offence under the law, the Standing Committee on Home said that (a) the Indian family system would be disturbed (b) there were practical difficulties and (c) marriage presumes consent.


These assumptions expose the toxicity at the heart of a certain view of the Indian family. For marriage to “presume consent,” you must assume that a woman gives up all rights to her body, to her very self, once she goes through the ceremony of marriage. You must also presume that a man is granted the legally sanctified right to access over his wife’s body, regardless of whether she finds sex unwelcome, frightening, painful, violent or simply doesn’t feel like it that day.




This diminishes both genders, in its assumption that men are little more than lustful beasts, unable to restrain their libidos, that women are passive receptacles without desires of their own, forced to submit to demands for sex regardless of what they want. This is a medieval view of marriage and sex, and it is dismaying that Parliament appears to subscribe to it.


What is missing is the key question of consent — the consent of the woman, of any person in a sexual contract. All people — children, women, men — have a right to their own bodies.


In any equal partnership, the only possible basis for sex is on the mutual understanding that consent is an active process — to be offered freely and gladly, to be withdrawn just as freely. Underlying the principle of consent is the equally strong principle of respect; respect for one’s self, as much as for one’s partner. No one should be forced to share their bodies against their will.


On an active, day-to-day basis, consent embraces the idea that any woman or man is free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a sexual encounter, inside or outside marriage, regardless of whether they are, in the ugly phrase of the courts and police stations, “habituated to sex.”


Child abuse survivors and sexual violence survivors understand instinctively that true respect includes giving all people the right to say ‘no,’ the right to choose when they will be touched, and by whom.


If it is hard for Indian society to understand why everyone should have this right, then perhaps we should start with the basics.


You own your own body. Everyone has the right to live without their bodies being violated. Everyone has the right to demand that you ask for permission before you touch their bodies.


Perhaps in time, Parliament and the government might understand this. Justice Verma Committee and thousands of women trapped in marriages where they do not have the right to refuse sex certainly do understand. (For those who believe that marriage in India is a perfect, unsullied institution, read the statistics: over 40 per cent of women in marriages have reported domestic violence. That’s reported, not experienced. In addition, we rarely discuss the experiences of men who have gone through childhood sexual abuse — currently, the percentage is slightly higher for boys than girls, but men are doubly silenced, by shame and the demands of masculinity.)




My own journey from victim to survivor and then to a kind of freedom, took years. Even so, I had less to deal with than many whose stories are reported in Human Rights Watch’s recent study of child sexual abuse in India — no institutionalised abuse, no caste abuse, no extreme violence. In time, I became a writer, a listener, and a collector of stories. The shared stories of survivors allowed me to let go of shame — child abuse was too common and too widespread for that. I also learned that your memories, however dark, will not kill you, or prevent you from creating a better life.


Reclamation happened slowly, sometimes painfully. I was lucky to have the support of my partner, friends and great counsellors. But that journey started with believing that I did have the right to say ‘no,’ that my body did belong to me.


The debate in India over rape laws, particularly marital rape, is about such a simple thing: acknowledging that women (and men, and children) have a right over their own bodies. Why is this being treated as though it were a dangerous or radical idea? In a country that calls itself modern, as India does, it’s time we embraced the idea of consent, in all relationships.


Even though it’s so common — more than half of all adults in my generation of Indians have experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse — few survivors speak about their experiences because of the Indian family’s insistence on silence. That silence transferred the shame of the abuser’s act on to the child, and on to the family; it is powerful and crippling, and it actively enables abuse.


The silence around marital rape is strengthened when the Indian social and legal system refuses even to acknowledge that it exists; for an abuser, and for a rapist, these silences are frighteningly empowering.


Just as children have the right to ask that their bodies remain unviolated by the people they should be able to trust, a woman has the right to say, no, she does not give her consent. Even, and perhaps especially in, a relationship as intimate as marriage.


(Nilanjana S. Roy is a New Delhi-based writer)





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From China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia, acclaimed singers and musicians, women and men, have come together to spread a message of unity and solidarity: We are “One Woman“.

Launching on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world.

This year, International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women — a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women and a top priority for UN Women. As commemorations are underway in all corners of the globe, “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.


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Promoting Gender Equality through Education in India #womenrights


Rebecca Winthrop | January 15, 2013 2:25pm,

A 16-year-old girl sits inside a protection home on the outskirts of New Delhi (REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal).Protests continue in India, weeks after the horrific gang-rape of a 23-year old university student on December 16th and her subsequent death two weeks later – and rightly so, the incident itself was beyond the pale. A young couple in Delhi boarded a private bus after seeing a movie and instead of discussing character development and plot turns on the way home, the bus doors locked and they were subject to brutal attacks by the other passengers and driver as the bus drove around the city for over two hours. Witnesses driving by did nothing and the victims were eventually dumped out of the bus under an underpass.

But the awful details of this crime are not the main reason for the protests. Instead it is the deep and pervasive gender inequality in India of which this heinous act is a symbol. Girls and women are attacked every day and Indians across the country, particularly young people, are sick of it. Enough is enough they say. There are real reasons why half of all the girls in Indiadon’t want to be girls, and it’s time to change.

If there is any silver lining to this tragedy, it is that the issue of gender equality is on everyone’s lips. Urvashi Sahni, an alumna of our girl’s education Global Scholars Program, is tracking this issue from India and writes that for one of the first times the debate on gender equality is “engaging voices from all sectors of society including students, civil society, academia, political parties, the police, the judiciary and the government.” Now the question remains: what will India do to improve the status of girls and women?

Much of the public discussion focuses on short and long-term solutions such as reforming the law enforcement systems, updating the legal code, supporting the women’s movement, developing new systems of accountability and, of course, having “greater dialogue about India’s patriarchal norms.” All of these things are important but it is the last that is perhaps the most difficult for policymakers and bureaucrats to tackle. Even if it is the most difficult, upending gender norms is perhaps the most fundamental thing needed for long-term sustainable change. Without transforming, in the deepest sense, how girls and women are valued in India, important interventions around such things as legal reforms and police training will end up in the problematic category of “necessary but not sufficient” for developing gender equality in society.

If done right, education can play an important role in redefining gender norms in India. Around the world, there have been numerous excellent examples of education changing people’s way of viewing the world and leading to new forms of behavior, ways of relating with others and ultimately social norms. Indeed, there have been decades of academic research on this topic, so much so that entire subfields of education theory and practice have developed (see for example Jack Mezirow and the field of transformative learning and Paulo Freire and the field of critical pedagogy).

India itself has good examples of education changing social norms towards gender equality. An interesting case of girls’ education programs run in the province of Uttar Pradesh demonstrates that schooling, if done right, can help change gender norms, even in the most marginalized societies. Founded by Urvashi Sahni, the Study Hall Foundation has demonstrated that at the same or lower cost per student as the government schools, their schools can educate girls in a way that enables them to both excel academically, but more importantly emerge as empowered young women. In one of their schools, Prerna, girls outperform their peers both within the province and across India. Ninety percent of Prerna girls complete their education to year 10, compared to below 30 percent nationally, and they do so while outperforming in virtually all subjects (in math and science the Prerna girls perform about 20 percentage points higher on exams than the national average). But most importantly, these girls are changing the gender norms in their communities. They are beginning to fight back when they or their peers are planned to be married off at too early an age. Through street protests and cajoling discussions, they have convinced their parents to keep them in school instead. They initiate community-wide discussions on violence against women. They apply for higher education scholarships and convince their families to let them go once they receive them (an incredibly 88 percent of the girls go on to higher education).

The success of this program is not because the students come from well-to-do families, they don’t (the average family income of students is $108 and 60 percent of their mothers and 40 percent of their fathers have never been to school). It is also not because teachers have higher qualifications or are better paid than government teachers. Rather, according to Mrs. Sahni, it’s because every day the girls’ talk about their worth, value and the issues they face around gender equality. “Gender equality needs to be taught, like math, science, and any other subject” says Sahni, who describes how in Prerna gender equality classes are regularly taught alongside a government curriculum. Then, she is quick to point out, teachers need to be encouraged and supported to fulfill their role as social change agents.

Now this is an idea that the Indian government would do well to listen to. It very well may be a center piece for transforming India’s “patriarchal norms”.

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Couples who share the housework are more likely to divorce, #wtfstudy #wtfnews



Divorce rates are far higher among “modern” couples who share the housework than in those where the woman does the lion’s share of the chores, a Norwegian study has found.

The report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.  Photo: ALAMY
Henry Samuel

By , Paris, The Telegraph

27 Sep 2012

In what appears to be a slap in the face for gender equality, the report found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled “Equality in the Home”.

The lack of correlation between equality at home and quality of life was surprising, the researcher said.

“One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite,” he said.

The figures clearly show that “the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” he went on.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” he suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight.”

But the deeper reasons for the higher divorce rate, he suggested, came from the values of “modern” couples rather than the chores they shared.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said. “In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially.

They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said. Norway has a long tradition of gender equality and childrearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers in 70 per cent of cases.

But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The study emphasised women who did most of the chores did so of their own volition and were found to be as “happy” those in “modern” couples.

Dr Frank Furedi, Sociology professor at the University of Canterbury, said the study made sense as chore sharing took place more among couples from middle class professional backgrounds, where divorce rates are known to be high.

“These people are extremely sensitive to making sure everything is formal, laid out and contractual. That does make for a fairly fraught relationship,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“The more you organise your relationship, the more you work out diaries and schedules, the more it becomes a business relationship than an intimate, loving spontaneous one.

“That tends to encourage a conflict of interest rather than finding harmonious resolutions.” He said while the survey applied to Norway, he was confident the results would be the same in the UK.

“In a good relationship people simply don’t know who does what and don’t particularly care. “Unless marriage is a relationship above anything else, then whenever there are tensions or contradictions things come to a head. You have less capacity to forgive and absorb the bad stuff.”

The survey appeared to contradict another recent one across seven countries including Britain that found that men who shouldered a bigger share of domestic responsibilities had a better sense of wellbeing and enjoyed a better work-life balance.

The researchers expected to find that where men shouldered more of the burden, women’s happiness levels were higher. In fact they found that it was the men who were happier while their wives and girlfriends appeared to be largely unmoved.

Those men who did more housework generally reported less work-life conflict and were scored slightly higher for wellbeing overall.

Experts suggested that, while this may be partly because they felt less guilty, the main reason could be that they had simply learnt the secret of a quiet life.


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UNESCO: Launch of World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education

To mark International Women’s Day, UNESCO and the UIS have jointly released the World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education, which includes over 120 maps, charts and tables featuring a wide range of sex-disaggregated indicators.

The vivid presentation of information and analysis calls attention to persistent gender disparities and the need for greater focus on girls’ education as a human right.

The atlas illustrates the educational pathways of girls and boys and the changes in gender disparities over time. It hones in on the gender impact of critical factors such as national wealth, geographic location, investment in education, and fields of study.

The data show that:
Although access to education remains a challenge in many countries, girls enrolled in primary school tend to outperform boys. Dropout rates are higher for boys than girls in 63% of countries with data.
Countries with high proportions of girls enrolled in secondary education have more women teaching primary education than men.
Women are the majority of tertiary students in two-thirds of countries with available data. However, men continue to dominate the highest levels of study, accounting for 56% of PhD graduates and 71% of researchers.

The atlas also provides a fresh perspective on the progress countries are making towards gender-related targets set by the international community under Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals.

The print edition of the atlas will be accompanied by an online data mapping tool that enables users to track trends over time, adapt maps and export data. This eAtlas will be regularly updated with the latest available data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Download full report here

Download the full report or obtain a printed copy

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