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#Sundayreading — Behind bars with the Anti- War Activist, Shannon One

Margaretta D’Arcy has been a peace activist for most of her life, and neither cancer nor prison appears to deter her. We visit her in Limerick Prison, where she is controversially serving a sentence for an anti-war protest at Shannon Airport

She is an unlikely inmate of a medium-security prison. The peace activist and writer Margaretta D’Arcy lights up Limerick Prison’s sparse visiting room in a blaze of conviviality. Leaning on a cane as she is escorted in, she half-chides the warden for not having carried an umbrella to shield them from the light rain that is spitting over Limerick. “I’ve never met you before, ma’am,” he says evenly. “I’m sure we can get you something for the way back.”

D’Arcy is 79. As well as being an activist, she is an actor, writer and member of Aosdána. On October 7th, 2012, she walked on to the runway at Shannon Airport with Niall Farrell, of the Galway Alliance Against War group, to protest against the airport’s use by the US military. She was subsequently found guilty of illegal incursion on a runway and given a suspended sentence of three months.

And there it might have ended. But D’Arcy refused to sign a bond committing her to uphold the law and to stay away from unauthorised zones at Shannon. This led, last month, to her early-morning arrest at her home, on St Mary’s Terrace in Galway city, and her transfer to jail.

As Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has observed, her signature on the bond would lead to her immediate release. “I do not believe the individual concerned should be presented in a heroic guise or that it is in the public interest that she be so depicted,” he says. “The rule of law must prevail even when it creates difficult circumstances.”

From a legal perspective this is inarguable. But her sentence has split public opinion. Some see it as an inevitable punishment for breaking a law and, arguably, endangering the public. Others believe that, in a country where moral and financial scandals have gone unchecked, it is shameful to imprison an elderly woman who has demonstrated unwavering moral courage in committing to a selfless cause. Some say she should be pardoned.

“But pardon me for what?” D’Arcy wonders when asked if she would accept such a gesture. “It seems that you can observe a war. You can comment on war. But you can’t stop war. I am a person who is trying to stop war. I would like the Minister to explain that. So it would depend on what the pardon was for.”

On the day of my visit, a week ago, D’Arcy wears white trainers, grey tracksuit bottoms, a matching hoodie and a raincoat, and her hair is tied back. A small wooden partition separates visitors from inmates. She peers at her guests – myself, and Zoe Lawlor and John Lannon of Shannonwatch – through round-rimmed spectacles. Other visitors have included Sabina Higgins, the wife of President Michael D Higgins.

Even in the casual clothes D’Arcy has something of the society hostess about her. She talks not as a helpless prisoner but as though she wants to make a personal project of improving the place, a classically bleak mausoleum on Mulgrave Road that has served as a lock-up for almost 200 years.

She stands rather than sits at the bench and trades information with her Shanonwatch colleagues. She answers questions about her wellbeing but is more animated when discussing the shortcomings of life in Limerick prison.

“It’s the sensory deprivation that is shocking. Not getting to see the moon, the stars. That is terrible for people in here. There is nothing to do. In Holloway Prison, for example” – she spent time there in the 1980s, during the Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests in the UK – “the library was well stocked and the recreation room had things to do. Here, when you are out for exercise, it is just as you see in the films, with people walking around in circles.

“I was walking down a corridor the other day and looked through the window of a door and saw a picture of a dog, and I was overjoyed, because for a second I thought it was real. That sounds cracked, I’m sure, but that is what happens when you are deprived of . . . anything. It needs to change here.”

Surprisingly, she fully agrees with Shatter about one aspect of her case. In his terse response to the moral question of imprisoning a pensioner who is being treated for cancer, he said that age cannot be a consideration.

 

D’Arcy expresses a similar view. “A person’s age is not relevant when it comes to taking a stand,” she says in her rushed, sweeping way. “I may well have fewer commitments to family now than a younger person would, and this gives me the opportunity – as well as the duty – to act. It’s important to realise that people can be effective regardless of age. And, you know, you have to follow something through. It’s no good having a big march and 100,000 people turning out and nothing more is done about it. The principle is important.

“I am surprised that there haven’t been more complaints along the lines of, ‘Oh, she is just doing this for drama or publicity.’ I’m encouraged that people seem to be reacting to the principle of what we are doing and what I’m here for.”

D’Arcy and Farrell say they occupied the runway at a time when no flights were scheduled to land. The court heard that two delayed passenger flights had to go into a holding pattern because of the disruption.

D’Arcy had fully expected to be removed immediately from the tarmac by airport security. “But nobody noticed us,” she says. “We had to go back to the fence to tell the others in our group to ring security and alert them to the fact that we were on the runway. What was security doing? Even the judge was shocked when he heard that.”

D’Arcy’s absolutism and sense of certainty seem unusual at a time when pragmatism and ambivalence define so much of our politics. She is a daughter of the turbulence of the 20th century. Her father, Joseph, was a tenement child from Henrietta Street in Dublin and was active in the IRA during the War of Independence. He later met Miriam Billig, a Jewish Londoner whose parents had fled Odessa, when they were both finding their way in London.

Neither parent would ever elaborate on their exotic backgrounds. “They would be scornful and dismissive of my attempts to explain them: they’d say it was rubbish,” D’Arcy wrote in Loose Theatre, a baggy and slyly humorous memoir of her hectic life, which she published in 2005.

D’Arcy was born in 1934. As children she and her sisters learned to avoid using the word “nice” at the dinner table, as it was enough to set their father off. He was by nature reserved, but something about the word, she later understood, infuriated him. “It was a red rag to a bull; he associated it with the self-effacing Catholic gentility, which he abhorred,” she recalled in Loose Theatre.

In her adolescence D’Arcy moved between the “treacherous forest” of Ireland and England. She immersed herself in theatre and met the Barnsley playwright John Arden, author of Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance. The pair married in 1957 and responded instinctively to the social and political issues of their time.

She became a parent herself, and her four boys lived in London, in India and on an island in Lough Corrib before they were through their teens. They saw their mother imprisoned in Shillong Jail, in northeast India, and, later, in Armagh for refusing to pay a fine incurred during a republican rally. During the Greenham Common women’s peace camp, which existed from 1981 to 1990, she spent two days in solitary confinement at Holloway Prison for refusing to adhere to the strip-search policy.

D’Arcy’s son Finn Arden, who now lives in Galway, has observed his mother’s activism up close since early childhood. “She’s a very strong-minded person. She could have signed the bond, yes, but she would have seen that as an infringement on her right to protest against something she feels strongly about. For all of her life she has been against imperialist violence around the world.

“I was probably hauled along to more rallies and propaganda films than I can remember,” Arden says of his formative years. On the Lough Corrib island, their home had no electricity and no phone line. A neighbour would shout messages from the mainland, and they cycled into Oughterard for groceries. “I sometimes wished for the childhood my friends had – homes with a television,” says Arden.

“I suppose we were a bit embarrassed by their lifestyle when we were young kids. We would go about in bare feet and that kind of thing. Our friends just accepted it, and when we were a bit older, in our 20s, they would often talk with her about the activism she was involved in.”

Arden participated in the “occasional CND” march but says that none of the boys became involved in peace activism with the same passion as their parents. They worried about the violence, the emotional toll and the long absences, and spoke to her once or twice about easing off. “But it was pointless,” he says.

“Even now, asylum seekers come to the house, and she writes letters and helps in every way she can. She gets too involved in other people’s problems sometimes . . . You can’t help wish she would look after herself.”

He says D’Arcy managed to give up smoking only recently, and he is concerned that her time in Limerick Prison will cause her to take it up again.

It is Arden who now tries to orchestrate the number of people wishing to visit her in prison. He also passes on good wishes in the six-minute daily phone call she is permitted. D’Arcy’s many visitors must go through a rigorous security system: photographic ID, pat down, mouth check, sniffer dog and X-ray machine. No pens or phones are permitted, and visitors are not allowed to wear scarves. A member of the prison staff sits in on the conversation.

D’Arcy cheerfully says that some of the women she has befriended think she is bonkers for not signing the simple piece of paper that will get her out of there. But, a fortnight in, she has no intention of doing so. Instead she is organising. “Busy,” she says brightly when asked how her days pass.

She has asked Lelia Doolan, the film producer and a longstanding friend, to persuade the bookshops in Galway to donate books for the prison library. She laughs a lot and sometimes talks about her situation as if it is a bit of a lark. She says the food in Limerick Prison is wonderful, as is her cellmate, a Hungarian woman who sings opera. D’Arcy herself is using her prison time to improve her tin whistle-playing. A musical collaboration between the cellmates would seem inevitable.

“She’s indomitable, really,” Doolan says. “People sometimes think of Margaretta as a person without a sense of humour, but if you read her memoir you see the absolute hilarity with which she views life, while at the same time being very serious about it.”

Her on-off treatment for cancer appears not to have slowed her down. Even the death of her husband, in 2012, did not dissuade her from the vigils at Shannon. “She brought a lot of experience in activism and obstinacy too,” says Lannon of her role in the vigils that are held near the airport once a month. “A real determination. Some days we would have five people, some days 50, but Margaretta would normally be there.”

Her husband often accompanied her, sitting in a wheelchair in his latter years. “If he were here he would be giving out to me about all the things he has been left to do while I am in this place,” she says with a laugh. “But he would absolutely support me in this.”

She admits to being pleased by the attention her imprisonment has generated and by the fact that it has highlighted the quiet, stubborn presence of the Shannon activists. If that leaves her open to the accusation that this is all a publicity stunt, then so be it.

“She absolutely is doing it for publicity,” says Doolan. “And that publicity is about trying to stop warlike events happening on our land when we profess to be neutral. What she is doing from jail is a very classical thing: she is ensuring that the struggle for peaceful means goes on, and she is trying to engage as many people as possible.”

 

Read more here —  http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/behind-bars-with-the-shannon-one

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#India – Human Rights Day – People’s Movements Assert Right to Life, Dignity and Nature

and Expose Failure of Rights Institutions and the State  

Sudhir Dhawale at Free Binayk Sen Protest in Mumbai

Sudhir Dhawale at Free Binayk Sen Protest in Mumbai

Mumbai / Nagpur / Delhi, December 10 : Today is Human Rights Day. It is a recognition of the rights of the people but will mean nothing if people across the globe didn’t fight to assert those rights and fight for it.

On this day hundreds of working class people living in slums, bastis, resettlement colonies of Mumbai, under the banner of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, protested in front of State Human Rights Commission, Maharashtra demanding its complete failure in protecting their rights. They charged complete absence of basic amenities – water, sanitation, electricity, education and health services. Rights bodies in State have failed to prevent or provide relief when their homes have been demolished unjustly by the administration or been arbitrarily arrested for defending their homes from getting demolished. Can Rights bodies ensure their safety and protect their constitutional rights, they ask ?

With no permanent shelter and a sword of demolition hanging over their permanent houses, state refuses to recognise their right to livelihood and shelter. Is this not human rights violation? Is this not a threat to the right to life ? Why is Commission silent on this ?

NAPM along with the National Sugar factory Workers Federation launched Sahkar Bachao, Desh Bachao dharna on the second day of the Mahrashtra Vidhan Sabha in Nagpur. The unpaid workers of the sugar factories and farmers, whose land had been taken over by the mills, have joined the rally. Not only were Sugar factories sold at throwaway prices, the workers have not been paid their dues and farmers not been returned their deposit amount along with interest too. Farmers had given their land for cooperative factories and not private units. They should be returned their land. A 20,000 crore scam has taken place in connivance with the political party leaders of Congress, NCP and BJP.

In Delhi, Pension Parishad’s dharna entered 15th day today at Jantar Mantar. In the winter of Delhi nearly 500 elderly people from across the country have been holding on the footpath of Delhi demanding their right to a dignified life, demanding a pension of Rs. 2000, linked with the inflation, which is a meagre Rs. 200 at the moment. Is that too much to ask from a democratically elected State with pretensions of being a socialist republic ? Why is the rights bodies failing to take note of such issues ?

In Muzzafarnagar, more than 30 children die living in the relief camps in this winter after the worst riots with no place to go and the rights bodies, minority, sc/st or woment commissions look other way and have no power to deal with this.

Today, the world is going under control of corporates be it Deshi or Videshi. Nature based communities are being displaced by the corporates with help of the state every now and then across the country in complete violations of their rights. Thousands of people in Koodankulam, Posco, Niyamgiri, Chhindwara and elsewhere are charged with sedition charges because of upholding the rights given in the constitution. A large number of young people from Muslim community are in Indian jails today in fabricated cases with false implications. Is that not a violation of their human rights ?

The time has come when there is an urgent need to address not only the social and political rights of the people but the special rights of the nature based communities to their livelihood, which includes access to land, water, forests, minerals and eek a honest living. Rights bodies, be it NHRC, SHRC, NCW, SC/STC, NCM or others, they all have a role to play in this, more so when State itself violates the rights of the people.

We are besotted with new problems today, manifesting themselves in the climate crisis, having a serious impact on the earth and human beings. Our development model needs to change, the iniquitous growth will lead us no where, this will mean disaster for humanity. It is time we woke up to that.

Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan – National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, MP; Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, NAPM, Chhattisgarh; Vilas Bhongade, Suniti SR, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelakandan – NAPM Kerala;Ramakrishnan Raju, Saraswati Kavula, P Chennaiah – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Rajendra Ravi, Anita Kapoor – NAPM, Delhi; Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey – NAPM, UP; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Sumit Wanjale, Madhuri Shivkar – Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM, Mumbai; Manish Gupta – Jan Kalyan Upbhokta Samiti, NAPM, UP; Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Krishnakant, Anand Mazhgaonkar, Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat

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CHOGM Is Not Where People’s Issues Can Be Solved

 

By Siritunga Jayasuriya – Siritunga Jayasuriya The Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Colombo from 10 to 17 November will in no way benefit the working people in Sri Lanka or workers and poor in the other 53 member countries, the majority of whom remain poor. In fact the opposite is true. CHOGM is, in reality, a ‘business club’ led by the British government

 

By Siritunga Jayasuriya – Colombo Telegraph

Siritunga JayasuriyaSiritunga Jayasuriya

The Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Colombo from 10 to 17 November will in no way benefit the working people in Sri Lanka or workers and poor in the other 53 member countries, the majority of whom remain poor. In fact the opposite is true. CHOGM is, in reality, a ‘business club’ led by the British government largely to safeguard British big business’s interests in the former colonies.

This year the Commonwealth established a formal Charter setting out its core values: they include democracy; human rights; peace and security; tolerance; freedom of expression; and many other commendable aims.

If, however, the Commonwealth was sincere in standing by these declared core values, the majority of member states would be excluded from membership. Chief among the candidates for expulsion would be this year’s host Sri Lanka, which stands accused of war crimes.

Disgracefully following this pageant the ‘increasingly dictatorial’ Sri Lankan regime will be crowned head the Commonwealth for the next two years. This event is effectively a ‘carnival’ to gather support for the Sri Lankan government and to promote neoliberal attacks such as privatization of education, etc. In addition working people in Sri Lanka are asked to pay for this massive show and put up with the inconvenience that it is causing.

Canada’s boycott of CHOGM 2013 has helped to raise the issues of human rights and the need to hold the Rajapaksa regime to account. But this job has largely fallen to workers and young people in the Diaspora, trade unions and human rights groups. The hesitancy of the Indian Congress leadership to participate does reflect its fear of losing Tamil Nadu votes in the forthcoming elections. Finely premier Manmohan Sing was forced  to taka a decision not to attend to CHOGM in Colombo by the Sothern. States of India and pressure from congress it self. But his writing of a letter expressing his regret to Mahinda Rajapaksa about his inability to attend the Colombo summit shows his double standard on this issue.  to   The rhetoric of British Prime Minister David Cameron reflects his inability to convince the British working class that his participation is appropriate.

These leaders’ hypocrisy is further exposed by the latest Channel 4 No Fire Zone documentary which graphically and heartbreakingly illustrates the gross human rights violations and suffering that took place in 2009. However none of the governments’ statements, boycotts or ‘delicate’ reservations about this Rajapaksa regime provide answers for the oppressed masses in Sri Lanka.

The Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim masses, along with all working and poor in other Commonwealth member countries have no reason to accept this CHOGM as their nation’s pride – or have no reason to believe that anything good will come out of it. We reject this carnival designed for the enjoyment and enrichment of the 1%.

We call, therefore, upon all working class and oppressed people to have no faith in these meetings of government heads to bring about any solution to their problems and issues. We call upon all sections of the working class, the trade unions and other democratic organizations and groups to reject CHOGM and continue mobilizing against the Sri Lankan regime and its allies. We also call upon the 99% to come together against the planned privatization of education and health services in Sri Lanka and all countries. Where we are united we have strength to resist all the varied attacks of the 1% on our living standards.

Unfolding economic crisis in Sri Lanka will aggravate after CHOGM due to enormous unmessasorg and wasteful spending. At the same time Rajapaksa regime is hustle attitude towards media has been shown by the action taken by the government to deport 2 Journalists from international federation of journalists and the deportation on two MPs from Australia and New Zealand shows that there is no real freedom of  expression in this countryWe would like to question whether the CHOGM is prepared to take even this issue.

Let’s unite to fight for all democratic rights including the national rights of Tamil-speaking people. Let us also reject the capitalist system, based as it is on exploitation and inequality in the interests of the capitalist 1%. It will always harbour divisions and promote discrimination. Instead we propose the building of mass working class struggle, linked with the struggles of all oppressed masses, and including building powerful independent organizations of the working class.

Together we can fight for a new future of society that will put the interests of the workers before the profit of the super-rich exploiters. We believe that struggle must be for a socialist alternative.

*Siritunga Jayasuriya – General Secretary United Socialist Party

 

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#India – When parents leave their children in care of grand parents #Family

A labour of love

DIVYA SREEDHARAN, The hindu

Photo: K. Ananthan
The HinduPhoto: K. Ananthan
TOPICS

A LABOUR OF LOVE

Urban working parents across India leave their children in the care of grandparents. The author takes a look at this arrangement.

Veena Sharath*, a retired banker, and her husband, Sharath Kumar*, a former college professor, do not have the time to ponder over the fact that they have become proxy parents. They look after their son’s son, and have done so from the time the boy was born. First their son, a doctor, went abroad for his higher studies. Then his wife followed suit. Now, the four-year-old knows his parents only by their voices, when they call every week. For him, his grandparents are his actual parents.

Last year, Veena (in her early 60s) was looking for a play school close to their home. She found the process of getting the little boy ready, packing him a snack, and bringing him back from school stressful and tiring. Worse, Sharath (in his mid-70s), fell ill and needed surgery. Looking after her husband and her grandson was a challenge. “It was tough to manage,” Veena said. “But he is no trouble at all, he never makes a fuss.”

Innumerable couples grapple with the issue of childcare, every day, in every part of the world. Often, concern for the child’s welfare tends to be weighed against economic and other considerations. In May 2013, the U.K.-based NGOs Grandparents Plus and Age UK reported that grandparents in the U.K. save working parents £7.3 billion by taking on unpaid child care duties. The NGOs found “one in four working families (in the U.K.) depends on grandparents for childcare”. Statistics are hard to come by in the Indian context, but here too, grandparents end up saving parents a lot of money. For one thing, apart from trust and training issues, hiring a nanny/maid is expensive. And then, in the cities, day care charges can range from Rs.4,000 to Rs.10,000 a month or more. The younger the child, the costlier the ‘care’.

Dr. Vrinda Datta, a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, points out that the bigger problem is that day care centres continue to be unmonitored and unregulated. In September 2013, the Ministry of Women and Child Development proposed a national policy for early childhood care and education (ECCE) to monitor quality at day care centres in urban and rural areas. But the policy will take months to be put into practice. According to Dr. Datta, India lags way behind the Western world in childcare services. “In the U.S., there is monitoring, licensing, and regular visits (in childcare centres) by the authorities concerned. There are regulatory standards to be met. In India, there is no licensing, no health and safety checks. No one cares if centres are run on the sixth floor, without grills or other safety measures in place. So, where is the issue of ‘quality’ day care? Parents choose day care centres based on location, easy access and cost. Naturally, most would rather leave their children with grandparents.”

Manisha R., a working mother in New Delhi, believes it is unfair to judge parents who leave their children in the care of grandparents. Because, sometimes, situations arise that require sacrifices. She and her husband were business students in the U.K. when she became pregnant. “It was an unplanned pregnancy,” she said. Her mother was there to help when their daughter was born. But once back in India, financial constraints forced the young couple to look for well-paying jobs. This involved relocating to another city. Manisha and her husband had two choices while at work: leave their baby in a day care facility in an unknown city or leave her with Manisha’s parents at her home town in Uttarakhand. “We chose to leave her with my folks. My daughter was just over one year. I went to see her as soon as I could (three months into her new job), and she called me didi (big sister in Hindi),” Manisha said.

According to Dr. Datta, children benefit the most — in terms of imbibing social skills, values and also growth and emotional development — from being with grandparents as compared with the care provided by maids/nannies, day care centres or even stay-at-home moms. “At home, a mother’s attention/time is divided between the needs of her children and those of her home. A grandparent, on the other hand, has unlimited time and patience for the grandchild.”

Kiran Shenoy, a grandmother of two, can vouch for that. She and her husband Ashok shuttle between Bangalore and Philadelphia every couple of months. “When we are in the U.S., we request that our son’s children come stay with us, without their parents,” she said. Then we can be indulgent grandparents for a short time. The children, secure in the knowledge that we will not judge them, are comfortable talking to us about things that they cannot with their own parents.”

Just as Kiran and Ashok enjoy being indulgent confidantes to their grandchildren,

Read more here- http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/a-labour-of-love/article5308354.ece?ref=sliderNews

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They don’t make them like her anymore: A tribute to Vina Mazumdar #poem

June 12, 2013 Obituary
vina mazumdar vina mazumdarPoem recited at the memorial meeting for Vina Mazumdar, on 11th June, 2013 in New Delhi, organised by Centre for Women’s Development Studies

By Urvashi Butalia

They don’t make them like her any more
It’s a very particular kind of recipe
You’d need an enlightened father
You’d need a visionary mother
It would help if you had an educated book loving driver
You’d need friends scattered all over the world
They’d have to be doctors and feminists and academics and activists
You’d need a good dose of children
You’d have to have politics in the blood
A firm belief in democracy
You’d need universities that believe in teachers and teaching
A rare thing these days
You’d need international recognition
That women deserve to be counted
You’d need mentors at home
And well wishers abroad
You’d need a spirit of questioning
A liberal dose of rebellion
A belief in support
A commitment to institutions
You’d need to be curious and interested
Awesome and inspiring
You’d have to help new groups
Give support to new enterprises
You’d need to support the feminist endeavour
To provide space and step in to sort out their battles
You’d need friends who connived
And plotted and succeeded
You’d need to march in demonstrations
Learn you lessons from the poor
Focus on the town and the city
You’d need liberal doses of Old Monk
A loud voice to shout for Nandan
An ability to give dictation till 4 in the morning
Spiced by Old Monk and hot tea
To your poor long suffering fifth child (aka Nandan)
You’d need to fight for women’s studies
Begin the battle long before other had even begun to think of it
You’d need to produce a report that was just more than a report
You’d need to find a good name for it
Perhaps call it Towards Equality
And then work hard to do what most reports don’t do
Turn it into action, use it to further research
You’d need to keep the focus on the activist
And equally on the researcher
You’d need to extend your attention to the village
To learn from your sisters out there
You’d need grit, determination, braggadaccio, a loud voice
You’d need a friend called lotika di
Another called Neeraben
You’d need a clutch of feminists of all ages
your biological and political jamaat
Who were willing to be your students
Even though you’d never been their teacher
An endless supply of cigarettes
A battle with your publisher for delaying your memoirs
You’d need liberal doses of argument
A vast collection of saris
Some kaftans to be in with your grandchildren
Comrades in the movement
Whom you could rap on the knuckles from time to time
You’d need the honesty to say
Arre, you must stop me, I tend to meander
I’m getting old you know
Put all of this together
And you’d have a very potent brew
By another name it would be called Vinadi
Glasses on nose, cigarette in hand, tea on table, dictation at the ready
Come on, Vinadi, own up, we know you’re up there watching us
And we’ll raise a glass of Old Monk to you tonight
For we know
They don’t make them like you anymore.

With inputs from many feminists across India

 

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Raped in India? Better marry your rapist, says G P Mathur retired jurist #Vaw #Womenrights #WTFnews

To Wed Your Rapist, or Not: Indian Women on Trial

By TRIPTI LAHIRI and AMOL SHARMA

[image]Associated PressActivists in New Delhi marched on Parliament earlier this year, protesting in one of several high-profile sexual-assault cases that have focused attention on women’s rights in India.

NEW DELHI—Just weeks after a gang-rape that shocked India, the National Human Rights Commission convened a meeting to discuss what to do about violence against women.

At the January gathering, G.P. Mathur, a retired Supreme Court justice, startled the crowd: He said it can be appropriate for women to marry their alleged rapists, provided the marriage isn’t coerced. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal in which he elaborated on his views, Mr. Mathur described such marriages as “compromises” that victims and their families seek in order to avoid the stigma of a public trial.

As India engages in soul-searching after a series of high-profile sexual assaults, prominent lawyers, professors, women’s advocates and even some judges say the views of some of India’s judiciary can be an obstacle to justice. The Indian legal system is built on British common law, and cases are decided by a sitting judge, not by a jury.

There is “a bias that begins in the society and spills over to the courtroom,” in certain sex-assault and domestic-violence cases, said Indira Jaising, an Indian additional solicitor general, a top federal legal-advisory position. She has called for a “gender audit,” an examination of rulings for bias, to be added to the process of elevating judges to higher courts.

“Courts repeatedly talk about getting married as the most important thing for a woman,” said Mrinal Satish, a National Law University professor whose research shows that courts have given shorter sentences to rapists of women judged not to be virgins, compared with rapists of virgins.

The rape of an unmarried virgin was viewed by the courts as “a loss of value because of which she’s not being able to get married,” Mr. Satish said. “It’s not legal reasoning.” He examined some 800 High Court and Supreme Court rape-case appeals decided between 1984 and 2009.

Since the December gang-rape and death of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi, there have been widespread calls for better protection for women. The government has toughened rape penalties and vowed to put more female police officers on the beat. In recent weeks, new attacks—including the alleged rape of a five-year-old in Delhi—have sparked fresh protests.

Even though it is unusual for judges to criticize their peers, some are speaking out. A Supreme Court ruling in January expressed “anguish” over remarks by a lower-court judge suggesting that “wife-beating is a normal facet of married life.”

In the Journal interview, Mr. Mathur, the former Supreme Court justice, explained his view on marriage “compromise”—where a woman weds her alleged attacker—saying it can be an acceptable outcome if both people believe they can live happily together. He said victims’ families are often motivated to pursue such arrangements because the stigma of rape might otherwise make it difficult for the woman to marry. He reiterated that “it should be voluntary, a free consent.”

As an example, Mr. Mathur cited a case he adjudicated in 2007 that ended in marriage. In it, a man was convicted of forcing a woman to have a miscarriage, by use of a drug, without her consent, and was sentenced to seven years’ jail time.

[image]Getty Images‘There is a prejudice that plays itself out in judgments,’ says lawyer Vrinda Grover.

During appeal, the woman told the court she had since agreed to what Mr. Mathur called a compromise marriage. As a result, a Supreme Court bench of Mr. Mathur and Altamas Kabir (currently the court’s chief justice) reduced the man’s sentence to time served, about 10 months. Mr. Kabir declined to be interviewed through his secretary. The husband and wife couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mr. Mathur, in the Journal interview, also questioned the extent to which judges should rely on an alleged victim’s testimony. “A grown-up girl who is married or used to sexual intercourse, she can accuse anybody,” he said. “It is very easy for her to say, ‘Yes, this person raped me.'”

The question of a woman’s believability is at the heart of one appeal currently pending in Delhi’s High Court. In the case, a woman alleges she was raped by a friend when she visited his house for lunch.

A lower court ruled that she was lying, citing among other things the fact that she could have scratched the man’s genitals, but didn’t. “Ordinarily, where forcibly sexual intercourse is committed upon a grown up girl there would be…some injuries on the person of accused particularly, if she has long nails,” the 2011 judgment said. The lack of such injuries “indicates that the alleged intercourse was a peaceful affair.”

The trial judge didn’t respond to requests for comment delivered through his clerk. The defense lawyer said his client maintains his innocence.

Indian society can be conservative in its views of male-female relationships. These views found expression in the weeks after December’s gang-rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus after a night at the movies—an attack that horrified India and the world.

In one instance, a prominent spiritual figure, Asaram Bapu, told his disciples that the victim could have avoided trouble if she had “chanted a prayer, taken one of her attackers by the hand, and called him ‘brother,'” according to a recording of the lecture. He also said, “If stronger laws are made, women will ensnare men with false cases.”

A spokeswoman for the guru confirmed the remarks were Mr. Bapu’s.

Separately, a local lawmaker in Rajasthan state, Banwari Lal Singhal, wrote to a government official saying that one solution to sexual violence is to not wear skirts at schools. Boys use cellphones to “click photos of girls while they wait for the school bus,” he said to the Journal at the time. “This increases social crime.”

In a recent interview, Mr. Singhal said his proposal was intended only for his district. He said another reason for girls to wear trousers or Indian garb, besides preventing sex crimes, is to protect against the desert climate.

In March, in Parliamentary debate over a bill strengthening sexual-violence laws, several legislators suggested that the government was going too far. The law, which ultimately passed, creates new crime categories including stalking.

“You’re saying girls shouldn’t be followed,” said Sharad Yadav, a legislator from Bihar state, according to a Parliament transcript. “Who among us has not followed girls? When you want to talk to a woman she won’t at first, you have to put in a lot of effort.”

Mr. Yadav didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Associated PressThe Indian Supreme Court’s chief justice, Altamas Kabir, has hailed some protesters.

Other lawmakers, however, took an opposing view. “What has happened to us?” said Pinaki Misra of Orissa state, the transcript shows. “There has to be a collective introspection that this country has to undertake.”

Indians pondering the roots of sexism debate many possible influences, from the machismo of swaths of northern India, to mythology, to caste. Caste-rights groups, in fact, say that some violence against women is a backlash against a modern blurring of caste lines. In particular they cite “honor killings,” in which young women and men are killed for forming relationships across caste lines. Mr. Yadav, in the March debate in Parliament, called for shelters for such couples, noting the immense harassment they face.

In a court of law, it can sometimes count against a woman if she has male friends. “There is a prejudice that plays itself out in judgments—if you are friendly with somebody, you are agreeing to making yourself available,” said lawyer Vrinda Grover.

Problems can also arise if a woman is perceived as disobedient to her family. In January the Supreme Court overturned a state-court acquittal of more than 30 men accused of raping a teenager and holding her as a sex slave. The lower court had acquitted based partly on testimony that the girl had once lied to her parents about having given money to a friend that was meant for her school expenses.

The lie suggested she was a “deviant,” the court ruled. The judge also wrote that the young woman appeared to be planning a trip with a male friend, “without any specific plan for marriage and family life with him.”

In an interview broadcast on Indian television earlier this year, one of the justices on the two-person bench, R. Basant, said he stood by the court’s assessment of deviance and its judgment. “She was used for child prostitution,” he said in that interview. “Child prostitution is not rape. It’s immoral.”

Mr. Basant, who now practices as a lawyer, declined to comment. The other judge is deceased.

Some judges are calling for greater awareness about crimes against women. In January, Mr. Kabir, the Supreme Court chief justice, hailed the protesters who took to the streets after December’s bus rape.

Bhagwati Prasad, the chief justice of Jharkhand state until retiring from the bench in 2011, said that judges, like anyone, are influenced by their social conditioning. “You have to forget everything” that happens outside the courtroom, Mr. Prasad said.

He said a court would likely consider it relevant in a sexual-assault case if the woman had prior sexual experience. Still, even in these cases, if the woman doesn’t alter her account under questioning, the court will believe her, he said. “Conviction is only secured when the girl sticks to her statement that, ‘Yes, I have been forced,'” he said.

Mr. Prasad also said that he was aware of cases in which he believed women were the aggressors against men. “I would not say that rape is only committed by boys,” he said. Asked for an example of such a case, Mr. Prasad offered a tale from Hindu mythology of a woman who tries to seduce her stepson.

Some textbooks until recently fostered the idea that it isn’t physically possible for some women to be raped. A 2005 edition of “Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology,” used in court for guidance on evaluating medical evidence, stated: “In normal circumstances, it is not possible for a single man to hold sexual intercourse with a healthy adult female in full possession of her senses against her will.”

It also stated that women of different social strata should be expected to offer different degrees of resistance to rape. “It is obvious that a woman belonging to a labouring class, who is accustomed to hard and rough work,” would be able to fight off an assailant, it said. But a middle-class woman “might soon faint or be rendered powerless from fright or exhaustion.”

This edition was used until 2011, when these passages were revised. The book now says it is “wrong to stereotype” in instances of rape. It also specifies that “rape is a crime and not a medical diagnosis.”

The 2011 edition, however, still refers to young women as “nubile virgins.” And in cases where assault victims are believed to be virgins, the book recommends a controversial vaginal exam, known as the “two-finger test,” that purports to show whether intercourse was physically possible.

LexisNexis India, which acquired the book’s Indian publisher in 2008, said it will completely overhaul the 2014 edition. “We realize how important this book is for the trial process,” said Abha Thapalyal Gandhi of LexisNexis India. The next edition will have “comprehensive changes” to reflect “gender justice approaches and new medical research.”

The book’s author died in 1954. K. Kannan, a retired justice and one of two editors for the 2011 edition, said, “I should have gone even more aggressively” in reworking the text. “We need to be sensitive,” he said.

Mr. Kannan said he is completely against the two-finger test. “Rape is not a medical thing,” he said. “It is not for doctors to be saying.”

Ved Kumari, a professor in Delhi University’s law school, suggested that adding more female judges, as some have advocated, won’t on its own address the bias issue. She described one female judge confiding in her that she had been “harsher to women litigants because I expected a higher level of adjustment from them compared with the men.” The judge comes from a traditional family, Ms. Kumari said, whereas a woman she has been required to make “a lot of sacrifices” herself.

Ms. Kumari, who also has served as chairwoman of the Delhi Judicial Academy, which provides training to serving judges, blames part of the problem on Indian legal education. Rape laws weren’t taught at Delhi University’s law school when she became a professor more than 25 years ago, she said. She and other colleagues pushed for their inclusion in the mid-1990s, she said. She recalled one male professor who declined to teach that portion of the class, so she did it herself.

The law school’s dean, Ashwani Kumar Bansal, who was a law professor at that time, called the episode a minor one. “Indian morés, ethos, were different” then, he said.

Things started changing in the late 1990s, when a small survey of Indian judges found that 48% of respondents said it was justifiable for a husband to occasionally slap his wife. After that, a group of nonprofit groups launched gender-sensitivity training for judges. The judges would meet with abuse victims and role-play the part of a victim’s parent.

It is difficult for judges to acknowledge that they carry “social baggage” and prejudices, said Samaresh Banerjea, a retired judge from Kolkata High Court. He went through the gender-sensitivity program a few years ago and said it altered his outlook.

Something “clicked in my mind,” he said. “To learn many things, you have to unlearn many things.”

Write to Tripti Lahiri at [email protected] and Amol Sharma at[email protected]

 

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Equality fight in an unequal world #Feminisn #bookreview #SundayReading

By Deepti Menon, New Indian Express

12th May 2013 12:00 AM

  • Protests by women fighting for their rights have been part of a long history of feminist struggle.
    Protests by women fighting for their rights have been part of a long history of feminist struggle.

Feminism is not being part of an organisation; rather it takes inspiration from past heroines, aiding women to feel a continued responsibility, explains Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like a Feminist. The title is inspired by James Scott’s Seeing Like a State, where the state “seeing” is all powerful, compared to the marginal position of the feminist.

This is a book about women and patriarchy, and about how the feminist views the operation of gendered modes of power. It is divided into six chapters, which deal with vital, interrelated themes.

Efforts have always been made to shield the institution of the patriarchal heterosexual family. Couples who choose inappropriate marriage partners come under the scanner. Women have been relegated to domestic work, which is less valued and unpaid, despite the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976. Domestic work is more demeaning and exhausting than that of a sex worker, probably why 71% of ‘servants’ have moved voluntarily to sex work.

In North India, a woman has no rights in her natal home after she moves to her husband’s home. In Kerala, only vestiges of the matrilineal system are seen. The Hindu Code Bills empowered Hindu women to choose their partners, and marry outside their caste. The Hindu Women’s Right to Property gave widows rights to their husband’s property, but the Hindu Succession Act nullified the position of daughters under matrilineal laws, by granting equal inheritance rights to sons. The three interlinked features of the Indian family are patriarchy, patriliny and vivilocality.

Dowry has spread its tentacles almost everywhere, as women go to their husband’s homes to survive with limited rights, despite the Dowry Prohibition Act which deems both giver and taker guilty. Women, right from childhood, prepare for marriage, which sometimes leads to the ‘implosion of marriage’, when young girls refuse to conform to docile roles of wife and daughter-in-law. The author avers that feminists need to build up the strength to live in ways in which marriage is voluntary, and create alternate non-marriage communities.

In ancient times, the universality of gender as a social category was challenged in African and the North American countries, and even in the lives of the Bhakti saints. But the creation of a distinction between sex and gender is intrinsic to feminism, as from childhood onwards, girls and boys pick up gender-specific forms of behaviour, training to conform to set roles.

In the 1990s, the media began airing sexually explicit images, through cable and television channels. Questions on homosexuality and issues revolving around the civil liberties of eunuchs, bisexual and transgendered people have all been viewed through the lens of the feminist here.

Patriarchal forces call rape a blot against family honour, while feminists denounce it as a crime against a woman’s bodily integrity. The Pink Chaddi protest was a non-violent gesture of ridicule against intolerance. The modern slut walks are the latest chapter in a long, powerful history of inspirational feminist struggle.

Caste politics and patriarchy have stalled the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill to reserve 33% of seats in Parliament for women.

There is mention of the commoditisation of the female body, through advertisements showing scantily clad bodies and pornography. Feminists expose how this outlook can be transformed by thinking of women as consumers instead of victims.

Pregnancy and child bearing are the sole responsibility of the woman. The ideal feminist world is one in which women can control when and under what circumstances they deliver their children. Sexual harassment charges against celebrities, the ban of the veil in France, forcing women badminton players to wear skirts and queer politics have all been touched upon in this revealing book.

Thus, for Nivedita Menon, feminism is not about one triumphant moment against patriarchy, but about the ongoing shift that enables young women to say, “I believe in equal rights for women, but I’m not a feminist.” Many new positions, energies and challenges have transformed the feminist field over the years, and this book takes a bold look at these.

“It comes slowly, slowly, feminism does. But it just keeps on coming!”

 

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Mumbai – Critique of Maharashtra Women Policy- 2013 submitted by Women Groups #Vaw #Womenrights

CRITIQUE OF MAHARASHTRA WOMEN POLICY– 2013

SUBMISSION BY- MUMBAI WOMEN GROUPS AND ACTIVISTS

MAY 10TH 2013, Kamayani Bali Mahabal

The Mumbai Women groups and  activists submitted their critique to the Women  and Child Welfare Minister Varsha Gaikwad, at the   committee meeting held today for finalisation of the women policy. The committee has 11 members .

The submission stated that the  portrayal of women across the policy document reinforces gender stereotypes. The policy does not recognize women’s exploitation as a larger structural or systemic issue. The State continues to see women’s issues as ‘women’s problems’. An issue observed across the policy is that of referring to women as victims or pidit . The policy document typifies women as needy of welfare. So women are portrayed as victims and thus deserving of a piece in the development pie.

The objectives of the policy are very general and do not respond to the changing contexts and the current situation of women. It does not refer to any current data on women at the State level, for example, increasing caste violence, informalisation of labour in agriculture and otherwise, lowered sex ratio, honour killings, conditions of waste-pickers, sex workers, etc. The Policy with a very generic understanding of women’s concerns would lead to providing generic solutions

The policy is not framed within a rights based framework and this is evident from the titles of the sections which are for example day care centre, toilets, women’s hostels etc. The use of the term “adult unmarried women” (praudh kumarika)., assumes that all women have to be married by a certain age and those who cross that age would be referred to as adult unmarried women. So here we still function within the framework of family and marriage as the final goals to be strived for women. Anything outside of the family framework is treated as a problem to be addressed. In another place the word kalavantin has been used to typify women folk artists. The policy is oblivious of the fact that such a usage carries a very different connotation in terms of class and caste histories of exploitation. These and similar such usages probably would befit discussions in the 18th and 19th century but not so in the 21st century by which time we have benefited from learnings from the movement and feminist scholarship.All through the document sex selective abortion is referred to as female foeticide and this despite the fact that women’s movements have been crying hoarse over its use.

One of the very disturbing statements is regarding Sexual violence the reasons for which are attributed to mental illness amongst men or sexual distortions. One of the major contributions of the women’s movement has been to prove that violence is rooted in power and hierarchies whether they are related to case, class, gender, religion. Unfortunately the policy recognizes this not as an issue of broader systems and structures but one of individual malaise. The understanding of sex work also suffers from a similar problem. The entire discussion around sex work is under the broad title of sexually exploited women. Organisations working on the issue of sex work have time and again stated that sex work is not only about sexual exploitation. The policy should be explicit and state sex workers as sex workers and not try to portray them as ‘socially acceptable victims’

The policy is silent on the more pressing needs of the State, with its non committal on the reinstating of the women’s commission and its democratic functioning.. The policy comes across as a stand alone document with no forward or backward linkages. It does not take stock of the achievements of the past policies and neither does it mention the gender indicators which it wants to improve upon.

Below are some detailed critiques of chapters of the Policy Document

Chapter 5 – Awareness /Participation by NGOs….
• Instead of transferring the responsibility to NGOs the government should take full responsibility and take the onus of coordinating and networking with NGOs. They should become equally accountable to them.
• A trained social worker/ Counsellor should be appointed in every school and not a trained social volunteer as suggested to prevent student suicides
• Schools to be guided to undertake programmes/ activities with the purpose of bringing about awareness on gender equality
• The Censure board should include a member working on women’s issues
• When the nodal agency WCD makes training modules they should take inputs from NGOs experienced in that area before finalizing them
Miscellaneous
• The age limit for hiring a woman in crisis to a low cadre government job should be pushed back to 50, as many women between the ages of 35 and 50 years have never worked, and would therefore find it difficult to be seen as “employable”, making them vulnerable to poverty and further hardship, and exacerbating their crisis.
• Refresher training on gender issues to be offered to the police as well as school and college teachers at least once a year.

• MEDIA
• The provisions to grant powers to women commission, for approrpiate actiosn is very vague and arbitrary, unless they are defined .The issue of . Filming / video graphing in media of anything that is vulgar with a commercial purpose or insulting womanhood will be discouraged and such attempts will face legal actions. Rights of reinforcements in these matters will be assigned to an independent agency such as the Women Commission. Again, what is ‘vulgar with a commercial purpose’? Item numbers? Is every item number vulgar? How do we determine which ones harm women? How will such filming be discouraged? What on earth is the ‘rights of reinforcement’?. The policy document says formulating the censor board’ what does it mean, are they proposing a new censor board . The State policy should look at ways in which media can be used to empower women, instead of viewing media only through this punitive lens. This is very one-sided.
• Chapter 6- Education
Under the National Program for Education of girls at Elementary Level every blocks under each district of Maharashtra runs ‘Kasturba Gandhi Residential Schools. These schools are meant for girls and especially for those girls who are being employed as child labour and/or involved in home based work. Every school consists of 100 girls, due to which they could complete their education. Therefore we request that such programs must be implemented at all block levels. Today, it’s been functional only in few districts.

• Today most of the rural schools in Maharashtra do not have separate toilets for women school teachers and girls students. Therefore, separate toilets needs to be constructed for them.

• Every school must have complaints box, so that girl students who wants to complaint of sexual harassment can complete and report about the same. Also, there as to be redressal mechanism to address issues of sexual harassment at every school level.

• In spite of instituting monitoring committees at residential schools levels, which is suppose to hold meetings, submit regular reports to the higher authority, they do not act properly. Therefore there has to be a strict rules and regulations laid down for the same.

Chapter 9- Health

The Chapter on Health does not see women’s right to health as an individual in her own right and but simply as a mother, wife or daughter . The present policy however states the importance of women’s health more because it impacts the health of the child and the society at large. There is no mention of the social determinants of women’s health: poverty, caste, patriarchy as leading to poor nutrition, lack of access to medical care, etc in this section.

The promises such as a counselling centre per public health centre or every district will have a women’s hospital, the policy or the State absolves itself of providing basic primary health care for all, are very unrealistic .It shows disconnect with the ground reality wherein there are no well-functioning PHCs themselves or not stocked with basic medicines — iron and calcium for example for women. Rather than sensationalising the policy by giving everything “women special” there is a need for a more rational and sensitive health service in the State with focus on women, Dalits, tribals and other socially and economically discriminated sections.

• The Policy states about doing a new women health project, Instead of implementing yet another project, efforts should be made to gender sensitize other public health programs.
• Secondly the onus cant be on women alone, the accountability and responsiveness by the State needs to be mentioned.
• The Women’s orgs, NGOs and academic institutions should become obvious choices but they are not mentioned.PPP should not be an excuse by the State to wash its hands off from providing the services, instead, clear guidelines should be formulated to operationalise PPPs. T
• The Gender sensitivity programs should be across all carders of health care providers. It can’t be assumed that Physicians and those at decision making levels are sensitive.
• The policy should examine longer term strategies for addressing the social determinants of health. These are intended to highlight ways that gender inequality and health inequities (between women and men and between differing groups of women) can be addressed.
• To emphasize the importance of gender as a key determinant of women’s health and wellbeing.
• To recognize that women’s health needs vary according to their life stage.
• To prioritize the needs of women with the highest risk of poor health.
• To ensure that the health system is responsive and accountable to all women, with a clear focus on illness prevention and health promotion.
• To support collaborative research, monitoring, evaluation and knowledge transfer to advance the evidence base on women’s health.
• Instead of targeted health insurance , there should universal access to health care.
• Malnutrition is severe among women, the State should come up with a clear plan to combat it.
• Terminal care is needed for all women.
• Efforts will be made to improve women’s freedom to make decisions in regards of health and family planning.
• Special provisions should be made for health care for women in institutions such as prisons, shelter homes, women’s hostels, beggar homes etc.

In Chapter 15– Women and Law

Government of Maharashtra will adopt following measures for effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
• Provide safe working environment to its women employees at its workplaces which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace.
• Display at any conspicuous place in the workplace’ the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting, the Internal Complaints Committee.
• Organise workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the provisions of the Act and orientation programmes for the members of the Internal Committees in government offices.
• Provide necessary facilities to the Internal Committees or the Local Committees, as the case may be, for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry.
• Provide assistance to the woman if she so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force;
• Cause to initiate action, under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for time being in force, against the perpetrator, or if the aggrieved woman so desires, where the perpetrator is not an employee, in the workplace at which the incident of sexual harassment took place;
• Treat sexual harassment as misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for such misconduct.
• Monitor the timely submission of reports by the Internal Committee.
• Notify a District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate or Collector or Deputy Collector as District Officer for every District to exercise powers and functions under the Act.
• Monitor constitution of LCCs by the District Officers and appointment of Nodal Officers to be appointed by the District Officers in every block, taluka, tehsil in the rural area and in every Ward in the Municipal Corporation area.
• The Central government to pay State Governments grants of sums of money for payment of fees and allowances to be paid to the Chairperson and Members of the LCCs
• State Government to set up an agency to transfer the grants to the District Officer.
• The appropriate Government shall monitor the implementation of this Act and maintain data on the number of cases filed and disposed of in respect of all cases of sexual harassment at workplace. (Section 23).
• Receive the reports and monitor collection of annual reports to be received by the District officer (Section 21).
• Monitor the timely submission of reports furnished by the Local Committee to the district officer (Section 20).
• Monitor the measures taken by the District Officers for engaging non-governmental organisations for creation of awareness on sexual harassment and the rights of the women. (Section 20).
• Imposition of penalty on employers for non compliance with the provisions of the Act. (Section 26)
• Cancellation, of his license or withdrawal, or non-renewal, or approval, or cancellation of the registration for repeated non compliance to the Act. (Section 26)
• In the public interest or in the interest of women call and inspect records relating to sexual harassment from any workplace through the District officer (Section 25)
• Authorise officers to make inspection of the records and workplace in relation to sexual harassment, who shall submit a report of such inspection (Section 25)
• Provide finance and other such resources to develop relevant information, education, communication and training materials, and organise awareness programmes, to advance the understanding of the public of the provisions of this Act providing for protection against sexual harassment of woman at workplace (Section 24)
• Provide finance and other such resources to formulate orientation and training programmes for the members of the Local Complaints Committees. (Section 24)

PWDVA
• Wider publicity should be given by the government not only to women and girls, but also to men; government officials should set an example.
• Sensitizing police officials is not enough. Make them accountable through administrative and penal provisions if they refuse to assist the woman who complains of domestic violence.
• Protection officers – need to be trained as well as monitored. There has to be a system of accountability; more protection officers need to be appointed as the present number is inadequate.
• NGOs can play a complementary role, but the responsibility of implementing the Act cannot be outsourced to NGOs, as it is essentially a state responsibility.
• Political will to implement the Act needs to be exhibited through an adequate budgetary allocation and provision of required infrastructural facilities for personnel under the Act.
Suggestions regarding Special Court / Family Courts:
• Travelling allowance to needy women who attend court – proper criteria needs to be set, to avoid ad hocism and discrimination.
• For every court date, working women need to take half day or full day leave, which results in a loss of earning. Appropriate measures need to be taken to address this problem.
• Vacancies in family courts need to be filled up promptly to ensure that pendency of cases does not increase.
• Family court judges need to be trained to inculcate a gender perspective – they should not prioritize saving the marriage at the cost of physical security and mental well-being of the woman.
• There has to be a system of regular updation of knowledge of family court judges, and a proper system of monitoring the judgments delivered and the perspective with which such judgments are delivered.
• The state free legal aid service needs to be strengthened; legal aid lawyers should be competent professionals with integrity, who should undergo adequate training; women should not be subjected to harassment and demand of bribe by the legal aid lawyers.
• Fast track courts, if started, should not compromise over rights of the accused to a fair trial, and should follow the safeguards in law to balance the interests of the accused and the complainant.
Helplines for Women
Clarity is required on the following issues:

It is positive step that government has announced setting up of 1091 as a helpline number. The most important is that it should be placed within the police control room and should be operated by Police personnel and should be supported with regular trainings of police personnel and adequate publicity for the number to be known to people so that it can be effectively used by women in crisis. There should be a standardize catergorisation across the state and there should be systematic documentation of calls, action taken.

Elderly / Senior Women
• Its important to train police officials to be sensitive to the difficulties faced by the elderly, particularly elderly women
• They should not be called to the police station often
• Stringent action should be taken against police officials who refuse to register a complaint by elderly women, and against those who take a bribe from their relatives

Trafficking of Women

• The government needs to de-link trafficking and sex work completely, as trafficking of women and girls is done not only for sexual exploitation but also for cheap and exploitative labour, for forced marriage, adoptive or other intimate relationships.
• Ensure proper and effective implementation of Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA);
• Issue strict directions to law enforcement officials to act bona fide and with due diligence;
• Take strict action against public officials who are complicit in or connive with the perpetrators in trafficking of women;
• Ensure that women’s human rights including the right to dignity and privacy are respected at all stages of the legal proceedings, including at the time of registration of FIR, investigation and prosecution;
• Provide free legal aid to trafficked women, and protect them from intimidation / threat / coercion from the traffickers;
• Issue directions to all law enforcement and health officials not to conduct mandatory medical examinations on trafficked women, including for HIV / AIDS; the same is to be conducted only on a voluntary basis, if requested by the woman concerned;
• Provide adequate, confidential and affordable medical and psychological care to trafficked women,
• Ensure that strictly confidential HIV testing services are provided only if requested by the woman concerned, and any and all HIV testing is accompanied by appropriate pre- and post-test counselling;
• Any state initiatives for ‘rescue and relief’ of trafficked women should be conducted in a planned manner, with the participation of civil society groups, and after putting in place provisions to meet the needs of trafficked women;
• In contexts of inter-country trafficking, repatriation of the women to their country of origin should be resorted to, only after due consideration of the woman’s wishes;
• Provide directions to state enforcement officials not to detain trafficked women in nari niketans / government-run homes or institutions, as the trafficked women have committed no crime and their rights have to be respected;
• The state has to address the issue of trafficking, not only through a law and order approach that focuses on criminal law, prosecution and punishment, but through a human rights approach that keeps the trafficked woman’s right to privacy, dignity and other human rights at the centrality of state response.
• Strengthen measures to alleviate poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity, as well as educational, social and cultural measures to discourage the demand that fosters exploitation and leads to trafficking, particularly of women
• Provide adequate livelihood opportunities for rural women in order that migration is not the only means to secure reasonable wages and an adequate standard of living
• Address the structural causes of violence against women to ensure that migration is not resorted to as a means of escaping from violence and discrimination at the place of origin
• Put in place gender-specific interventions for contexts of natural disasters, displacement, political instability, civil unrest, internal conflict including communal violence, as such contexts exacerbate women’s vulnerabilities and may result in an increase in trafficking;
• Mandatory testing for HIV, as conceived of in the women’s policy, is violative of women’s human rights. Instead, women should be given information and raise their awareness about the advantages of testing.

Shelter

• The condition in Maharashtra government’s shelter homes is despicable, and does not provide a safe environment for women to live in, due to many incidents of sexual exploitation and rape in shelter homes. A social audit of all shelter homes operating in the state is required urgently.
• Ensure that all shelter homes are registered under the relevant laws, and that provisions for frequent monitoring of the conditions of the homes are implemented
• At present, women are so terrified of shelter homes that they would rather tolerate the violence in their matrimonial homes. This situation needs to change for the better, if the Maharashtra government is serious about empowering women.
• Ensure that shelter homes are provided with adequate facilities and a clean environment for the physical and mental well-being of the inmates
• Counselling, psychiatric and medical services should be provided
• Surprise checks should be conducted to ensure the proper management of shelter homes
• Financial audit requires to be done, as required.

Implementation of the Section 498 (A) IPC

1. In depth and intensive multidisciplinary research and documentation in the area of violence against women and law are required. There should be concerted efforts for coordinated research projects involving stakeholders like the police, judiciary, women’s organisations and academic institutions.

2. Capacity building for skilful investigations of crimes against woman will help in sensitive handling of cases. A protocol or ‘drill’ for investigation in cases of Section 498A IPC should be developed. The focus should be on women as citizen’s experiencing violence within the family.

3. Capacity building to enable the Criminal Justice System to uphold mental violence as legitimate evidence and render legally relevant facilities in cases of mental and emotional abuse will help address the current situation. Mental violence should be treated at par with physical violence.

4. The judicial decisions of compounding/reconciliation in cases of Section 498A should be critically reviewed through research.
PCPNDT ACT

The Policy says In order to make the PC-PNDT law provisions mandatory, the government will form a new protocol under PC-PNDT Act and will strictly implement it. This is a central act and they cannot make their own protocols. The State needs to ensure implementation of law without backlash on the right to abortion to women.

A recent survey conducted in the slums of Mumbai by Women Networking (an informal network of community organizations, NGOs and individuals) has revealed that while 65% of the respondents (out of 700) were aware of the law on sex selection only 24 per cent knew that abortion is legal in our country. This high-level of awareness of PCPNDT Act is an outcome of the government’s efforts to save the girl child, but it has inadvertently resulted in mortality rate as high as 8% among women who are forced to approach ill trained health practitioners for abortions, because of poor awareness on women’s right to abortion. In Mumbai, the medical shops are directed not to sell drugs & injections related to abortion and contraception without a prescription from authorized doctors. The Maharashtra Policy needs to ensure that under no circumstances the right to abortion as stipulated in the Medical Termination of tHE Pregnancy (MTP) Act be curtailed.

Limiting access to safe abortion methods only pushes women towards unsafe methods, thereby endangering their health and survival. Monitoring women buying pills from pharmacies is regressive as it undermines the confidentiality aspect of abortion and can lead to harassment of women at the hands of officials. Such regulations are discriminatory and curtail autonomy of women over their own body, right to dignity and right to benefit from advances of science, medicine and technology.
Sex selection is a phenomenon which emerges from gender discrimination and socio-economic bias. All efforts to prevent sex selection must seek to address issues of gender discrimination, instead of further constraining women’s access to safe abortion services

Chapter- 19- Physically disabled and mentally challenged women

The chapter on women with disabilities finishes in 12 lines , which says a lot . The language should be women with psycho social disabilities and not physically disabled and mentally challenged . The Women with disabilities do not need ‘ Sypmathy” as the policy document says but ‘Empathy. Clubbing them with senior citizens is not at all justice to their needs and rights . They need more of integration with society and the so called normal citizens need to be sensitized with issue and concerns of women with psycho social disabilities especially the teachers , than, having special schools. The Policy only addresses physical access to transport and does not even touch upon the issue of forced psychiatric interventions and institutionalization. These acts of violence are done under the legal authority of the state, and in pursuance of wrong and discriminatory state policy, and there is no possibility of redress, emphasizing the message of all violence that tells the victim she is powerless.

There have been instances for forced sterilization were in the range of 5-7% for the combined group and 7.5% for women with mental disabilities. The high incidences of sterilization of women with disabilities happen because families and community do a role reversal viewing them as incapable of motherhood, which goes unchecked. Unjustified administration of drugs {tranquillizing the woman to ‘shut her up’) or withdrawal of drugs also comes under the realm of physical abuse. We see regular over medication of patients. There is no prescription audit and we are demanding it. Over medication is leading to patients having serious side effects and not being able to participate in the rehabilitation programs

Voluntary admissions, hospitalization and discharge favor men more than women. A study of five mental hospitals in the state of Maharashtra revealed that while men are admitted to hospitals for treatment in the early stages of diagnosis, women are “dumped” here only after their illness turns chronic ie when they turn dysfunctional and are unable to comply with their social roles. The policy needs to address
1. The Gender Gaps in Mental Health Treatment
2. Marriage and Lack of legal aid in rural areas
3. Stop Institutionalization
4. Initiate Community linked programmes
5. Legally ban forced sterilization of girls
6. Make policies which are more catered towards the needs of the women with disabilities.
7. Audit and monitor on a regular basis to make sure the implementation of these policies.
8. Bringing in accessibility features so as to make access to enforcement agencies and various redressal mechanisms easier and available.
9. ECT is used in most hospitals without permission
10. Punishment of erring officials and duty bearers.

Chapter 23– Sexually Exploited Women

This policy conflates trafficked women and those that are in sex work of their volition.
This is a deliberate attempt to ignore the supreme court who in the case of Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal , wherein a regular criminal appeal relating to the murder of a sex worker in Kolkata was converted into a broader PIL to look into the issue of rehabilitation of sex workers. A panel was constituted by the Supreme Court order
dated 19.07.2011 with the following terms of reference:
• Prevention of trafficking,
• Rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work, and
• Conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in
accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution (as modified by the order of the Supreme Court dated 26.07.2012).The Policy by the state of maharashtra clearly conflates all the three above instead of following the orders of the supreme court of India.

Chapter 24- Transgenders (Sr.No 24)

A welcome move to include transgender, the policy only suggests ‘preventive measures’ for stopping people from being transgender. It suggests that this can be done through monitoring pregnant mothers and hormonal levels. The policy shows a lack of sensitivity and understanding of the issue. One of the reasons cited for being a transgender is “under too much influence of women” or the reason for being transgender as a ‘distortion’, which reflects the level of empathy among the government for people’s choices.

• Definition of Transgender is absolutely incorrect – archaic words such as gender deformity, chop of their genitals etc are used.
Alternate definitions
– Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. (American Psychological Association)

– Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s assigned sex (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex -) ^ a b Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. ‘’GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender glossary of terms”‘’GLAAD’’, USA, May 2010. Retrieved on 2011-02-24.)

– Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, ect.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing. Transgender people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man.
http://geneq.berkeley.edu/lgbt_resources_definiton_of_terms#transgender ; Retrieved on 08-05-2013)
• Lesbian and bi-sexual women have been totally ignored in the policy -They need to be included
• The paragraph on preventive measures makes no sense and should be scrapped
• There is a complete welfare approach adopted rather than a rights based approach in the policy as far as transgenders are concerned
• There is no need for having a separate comprehensive Act for them to live a life of Dignity. The constitution already provides these rights. The changes are required through rigorous sensitization of stake holders and civil society and creation of structures to enable them to get their basic rights.eg modification of all official documents to include a sex option apart from male and female etc.
• Need to incorporate non-discrimination and equal employment opportunities in public and private organizations as well.

The Submissions by- Women Organisations / Networks and Individual activists
• Akshara
• Forum against Sex Selection- FASS
• Jan Swasthya Abhiyan- Mumbai
• Point of View
• Sneha
• Veshya Mukti Morcha
Individuals –
• Anagha Sarpotdar
• Kamayani Bali Mahabal
• Saumya Uma

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China’s ‘Leftover Women’ fight bullshit with humor #Vaw #Womenrights

By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW
Published: April 23, 2013, NYT

BEIJING — For years, single Chinese women in their mid- to late-20s have endured being called “shengnu,” or “leftover women,” by relatives, by the state-run media and by society. The message is : Marry, ideally by 25, or you’re on the shelf.

Some are starting to push back.

“I don’t accept that definition,” said Li Yue, 34, who works at a nongovernmental organization in Beijing. “It’s really ridiculous. Who says I’m leftover, and by whom? I don’t feel I’m leftover, I feel I’m living the life I want.”

“It’s really annoying,” said Wang Man, 31, an employee of a poverty relief N.G.O. in Beijing. “By now though, I don’t care, as I think there’s a plot behind it. It’s an admonishment to women, it’s telling us what to do, where and when. Everyone is trying to get us to sacrifice ourselves, to look after children, husbands, old people.”

China has about 20 million more men under 30 years of age than women, according to official news reports — largely the result of gender selective abortion, with many parents preferring a son to a daughter. So why is the phenomenon of “leftover women” apparently so widespread? Aren’t desperate men snapping up available women?

Not exactly. Traditional attitudes demand that a man earn more than a woman, meaning that as women earn increasingly more they are pricing themselves out of the marriage market.

But as a result, partly, of the increasingly defiant attitudes of women like Ms. Liu and Ms. Wang toward a term that many still find terribly hurtful, a riposte to “leftover women” has been born — and it’s a clever one. Yes, they’re saying, we’re “shengnu.” But that’s “sheng” as in “victorious,” not “leftover.”

The pun that turns the tables on the prejudicial description is made possible by the fact that “sheng” has different meanings in Chinese depending on the written character: either “leftover” or “victorious” (or “successful,” as some prefer). Chinese is filled with homonyms, making punning a popular pastime.

The redefining of shengnu has been abetted by a television series, started last July, that translates as “The Price of Being a Victorious Woman.” It’s an exploration of the romantic life and career of the fictitious, unmarried Lin Xiaojie, played by the Taiwanese actress Chen Qiao En. In the series, the quirky, pretty Ms. Lin has troubled romantic encounters with attractive men. But along the way she builds a successful career.

While some consider the series overly sappy, it has had the effect of spreading the concept of “victorious women” as a morale-boosting alternative to “leftover women,” and delivering unmarried Chinese women more self-respect.

“In the series, the perfect metamorphosis of Lin Xiaojie from a ‘leftover woman’ to a ‘victorious woman’ shows you that in the working world too, it’s better to be strong and in charge of your destiny than to let other people control your future,” runs a summary of the series on the Web site of iQiyi.com, a major Chinese film and TV portal. It offers 10 pieces of practical advice to young women, including: Don’t be bad but don’t be too good, either. Learn not to be influenced by your colleagues. Don’t fall in love with your boss.

Even the state-run media, which have long issued lugubrious warnings to young women on the perils of becoming a “leftover woman,” are — slowly — joining in.

The official microblog site of People’s Daily recently displayed a post suggesting that “leftover women” needn’t despair.

“Leftover women, don’t be tragic,” it said. “There are 20 million more men under 30 than women in China. So how can there be so many ‘leftover women?”’ It provided a common explanation: “Isn’t it because they’re not ‘leftover’ but ‘victorious’, and their requirements for partners are very high?”

But it continued, in a less judgmental vein: “They’re free, and can stand on their own feet. As China modernizes fast, ‘leftover women’ may turn into a positive term.”

It’s better to be “victorious” than “leftover,” said Ms. Liu, the N.G.O. worker. But overall, she’d rather not have to choose.

“I think it’s a very positive word,” she said. “But it’s also kind of odd because I never thought of this as a victory or some kind of a struggle.”

“We should have the right to choose what we want to do. So do we really need such a power-filled word as ‘victorious’ to describe something so normal?”

Ms. Wang agreed. “I’ve heard of it and I think it’s O.K., but I don’t think it’s a question of victory or defeat,” she said. “It’s just a way of life. If I had to choose, though, I’d tend toward ‘victorious’ for sure. Still, it all feels a bit tiring.”

Meanwhile, there are still many over-25-year-olds, fretting under strong societal pressure to marry, who have internalized the cultural and social values that they are “on the shelf.” China’s minimum marriage age for women is 20, so the window of opportunity for those who want to escape labeling is small.

For them, “shengnu,” with its double meaning, is, at best, neutral.

“I’m not completely proud of it,” said Zhou Wen, 27 and unmarried, a secretary at an American marketing company in Beijing, “but it is at least a neutral word. Not bad at all.”

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PRESS RELEASE- Police Out to Arrest AIPWA Activist For Raising Voice of Protest against sexist remark #Vaw

Odisha BDO Makes a Sexist Remark Against Women Protestors,

 

On 8th April, AIPWA’s Odisha Secretary Sabita Baraj along with 60 women activists of Rajkanika block, went to the local block office to protest regarding several local issues on the ‘grievance day’ declared by the local administration and Government. When they reached the Block office they found the gate closed, forcing them to wait outside in the severe heat. After two hours, the Block gate was opened by a peon and all the activist asked the BDO (block development officer) why the gate was closed on ‘grievance day’?

The BDO told them, “Being women how can you dare to ask this question?”

The women strongly protested this sexist comment by the BDO, and Comrade Sabita filed an FIR against the BDO. After four hours the BDO filed cases against all the women activists. But the police took no action against the BDO, and instead attempted to arrest Sabita Baraj and the other women activists based on the delayed FIR filed by the BDO. On 11th April, 300 women activists of AIPWA held a protest meeting which was addressed by AIPWA activists. The police continues to conduct raids on the homes of CPI(ML) and AIPWA activists, searching for Sabita Baraj.

 

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