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‘How can you just forget her,’ ask parents of December 16 Delhi gangrape victim

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The parents of the December 16 gangrape victim on Thursday voiced their displeasure in no uncertain terms with the government naming the “one-stop” crisis centres for women ‘Sakhi’ instead of Nirbhaya, alleging it was a bid to erase the memory of their daughter from public discourse.”Initially, the Women and Child Development Ministry had announced setting up one-stop crisis centres across the country and name them ‘Nirbhaya centres’. But as the project rolled out, they named them ‘Sakhi’. It’s not done!” said Asha Devi, mother of the victim.”What happened with my daughter had sent a message to the society and government that crimes against women has crossed all boundaries and that we need to wake up and act. How can you just forget her,” she asked the government.Nirbhaya centres, or Sakhi centres, are a one-stop crisis centre for women in distress and are funded by Union government. They are to be set up in all 640 districts and 20 additional locations across the country.The programme to launch such centres was conceived as a tribute to the victim of the December 16, 2012 gang-rape case.But Asha Devi alleged the government was trying to wipe off the account of their daughter’s sufferings. “Government and society can forget her, but how can I? Her face flashes before my eyes the moment I close them, and then I look deeper in her eyes and I could feel the pain she endured on that fateful night and I wake up with a soul-shattering chill.” The victim’s father, Badri Singh Pandey, rued that the Nirbhaya Fund, a corpus announced by Union government in 2013 budget, was not being “properly utilised” and that there still were several dark spots in the city, which needed to be lit.”A substantial amount of Rs 500 crore from the Nirbhaya Fund is being used on installing CCTV cameras at railway stations, but that should have been done by the Railways. Tell me, how many victims of rape have been benefited by the fund,” he said.The parents visited ‘Gandhi Samadhi’ on Thursday to remember their 23-year-old daughter, who died on December 29, 2012, at a hospital in Singapore where she was airlifted from Delhi.Four of her six rapists have been lodged in jail as they have appealed against their death penalty. One committed suicide and another, a juvenile at the time of the crime, was released after spending three years at a correctional home.According to Delhi Police statistics, 2,199 rape cases were registered in the capital in 2015 and till November 30 this year, 1,981 cases of rape have been reported.As per National Crime Records Bureau, Delhi has highest rate of crimes against women among all cities in India. Last year, the total number of cases of crime against women in Delhi was 17,104.

Ahead of Trupti Desai’s march, Kerala govt says women activists not allowed inside Sabarimala temple

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kerala government said that the entry of Bhumata Brigade chief Trupti Desai on Monday will not be allowed in the Lord Ayyappa temple here, even as the activist plans to lead 100 odd women to the famous hill shrine in Sabarimala. There are restrictions for the entry of women between 10-50 years of age in the temple.”The Sabarimala temple is administered by Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and its traditions and rules are applicable to everyone,” Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters here.”The matter with regard to entry of women of all age groups is already before the Supreme Court. There will be no change in the tradition and customs,” until a decision is taken by the Supreme Court, he said.The CPI(M)-led LDF government’s stand comes after it had filed an affidavit in the supreme court last month informing that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala temple.Trupti Desai had recently stated that she would be visiting the Lord Ayyappa temple next month with 100 odd activists and there was no change in her plans.Desai had earlier campaigned for the entry of women at the Shani Shingnapur, Trimbakeshwar Shiva temple and Haji Ali Dargah.

Islam never calls for oppressing women, AIMPLB now a ‘male personal law board’: MJ Akbar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Targeting the All India Muslim Personal Law Board over the issue of ‘triple talaq’, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar on Saturday accused the organisation of turning itself into a “male personal law board which is only interested in oppressing women”.”Islam calls for gender equality and not gender oppression. Islam has never called for oppressing women. The Muslim Personal Law Board has turned into male personal law board,” Akbar said while addressing a programme here. On the last month’s convention of AIMPLB supporting ‘triple talaq’ which was attended by a large number of people, Akbar said, “Huge gathering always doesn’t signify truth.” Calling for removal of ‘triple talaq’ as it is against humanity, Akbar said, “Sometimes a marriage doesn’t work so there is a clause of divorce. But while marrying in Muslim community you need the permission of the women. Then why during divorce (talaq), only a man will dictate terms and by spelling the word ‘talaq’ three times (it can be obtained).” Akbar noted that if the country has to move forward and if the economy has to grow, we need to take the women along.”India and its economy can never grow if you want to keep the women behind. Women consist of nearly 50 per cent of our population and we all have to move together towards it,” he said. A debate has emerged over the government’s stand opposing the practice of ‘triple talaq’ with some leading women politicians seeking its abolition, even as some Muslim bodies accused the ruling dispensation of waging a “war” on their personal law.

Though considered insignificant, stalking claims several innocent lives

By Divya Vijayakumar

A month ago, a friend wandered into a grocery store where she saw a vaguely familiar man staring at her. She approached him and asked if they knew each other. He said: yes. He knew her name and even rattled off a list of places where he’d seen her before — at track practice, a park close to her home, a bookstore. With growing discomfort, she turned to leave when he called out to her. “It was your birthday two days ago, wasn’t it? Happy birthday.” This last bit of information was not even on social media.

While she was shaken by the interaction, many people didn’t consider it something to worry about. After all, they countered, he wasn’t harming her. In fact, he’d been nice to her and wished her happy birthday. While she chose not to go to the police, she felt unsettled for a long time after the incident.

On 17 December, Jyothi Kumari, an advocate in her 20s, was on her way to work in Bengaluru when she was murdered by Madhu, who had been stalking her for years. He had constantly harassed her when she was younger. He would follow her to college and incessantly telephone her house. He disappeared for a while when her uncle intervened but two months before the incident, Jyothi had approached the police saying that Madhu had resurfaced. He attacked her when she was in her PG and also stolen her scooter. All that the complaint yielded was a “stern warning”. No FIR was filed.

S Swathi, an Infosys employee was hacked to death by her stalker at Chennai’s Nungambakkam railway station in June. Image courtesy: Facebook

S Swathi, an Infosys employee was hacked to death by her stalker at Chennai’s Nungambakkam railway station in June. Image courtesy: Facebook

Jyothi is the latest in a growing number of women who have been harassed and killed by their stalkers — angry, entitled men seeking revenge after their advances were rejected. Many of these crimes also share a pattern of having been committed in public places, often as these women were travelling to or from their place of work.

Pinki Devi, a beautician in Gurgaon was stabbed to death by her stalker at a metro station in Delhi in October. S Swathi (in pic), an Infosys employee, was hacked to death by her stalker at Chennai’s Nungambakkam railway station in June.

With every horrific case, what becomes clear is this — stalking cannot be brushed aside as something casual. Yet there are movies and pop culture that glorify stalking, depicting it as proof that a man’s persistence pays off. Just a few months ago Tamil actor Sivakarthikeyan defended stalking saying that it does not matter if in a movie the hero’s feelings are not reciprocated initially, if his thoughts are “pure” and if he is willing to marry the girl.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC), thankfully, was amended in 2013 to include stalking as a crime. The Section 354 of the IPC deals with attempts to outrage a woman’s modesty: the amendment introduced Clause 354D to specifically address instances of stalking and defines a stalker as any man who follows, contacts, or attempts to contact a woman to foster a personal interaction with her, despite her clear indication of disinterest.

Despite this, the police still often do not file a FIR under Clause 354D of the IPC but prefer Clause 354A that deals with molestation. But, 354A only covers incidents where a man initiates unwanted physical contact that is explicitly sexual, demands sexual favours, forcefully shows pornography against the will of a woman or makes sexually coloured remarks — things that may or may not happen in a case of stalking.

If my friend had indeed tried to complain to the police about the stalker in the grocery store, how effective would it have been? Journalist Arunima Mazumdar wrote of experiencing something similar when she called the police after being harassed by an old classmate, both online and offline, from 2013 to 2015. Mazumdar was made to wait for hours at the police station before an officer nonchalantly commented that Pradhan hadn’t really “done” anything to her. A FIR was not filed and the stalker was let off after writing an “apology” letter.

As per the law, stalkers can receive bail if they are convicted of the crime for the first time — and this sometimes gives the offender an awful opportunity for revenge (bail can be denied only in the case of subsequent convictions for stalking). For instance, Lakshmi, a 32-year-old housewife, was stabbed to death in Delhi in September by Sanjay Kumar. He had already been arrested for harassing her but had secured bail. In 2015, Meenakshi, a teenager in Delhi, was also murdered, by Jai Prakash despite her family having lodged a complaint against him for stalking — two years before she was murdered.

So is there a law that can ensure that stalkers don’t approach women after police complaints have already been made? While India does not have provisions for restraining orders in the way that the US does, prohibitive injunctions have been cited as a method of ordering a person to not interfere with another’s liberty.

Lawyer Aarti Mundkur clarifies that although injunctions are filed in civil courts, this can only be done if there is already a criminal case pending against the accused for the same. Such injunctions are rarely granted anyway. Rebecca John, a senior advocate in the Delhi High Court, also says that these civil proceedings are long drawn out and arduous. According to her, the most important concern is of enforceability — currently, there is nothing that ensures that stalkers follow injunction orders — and so these injunctions often turn out to be only scraps of paper.

A video entitled The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon went viral a few years ago — it’s a horror-comedy short film where a ghoulish stranger follows a man around, trying to kill him. It’s funny because his weapon of choice is a spoon. All that the stranger does is to shadow him constantly, tapping away with a spoon. The victim slowly loses his sanity. His complaints to the police are not taken seriously because they sound ludicrous. That’s what stalking can feel like. Somebody whittling another’s security away with something seemingly innocuous. Somebody whose fixation transcends the fact that the other person is also human, with her own feelings and the right to not be interested.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 15:17 IST

DCW chief Swati Maliwal smells ‘conspiracy’ in ACB chargesheet against her

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal smells a ‘deep conspiracy’ in the chargesheet filed against her by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Wednesday, alleging irregularities in recruitment in the commission.

This comes close on the heels of her proposed raid at the brothels on GB Road to locate girls trafficked in the red light area from across the country.

File image of DCW chief Swati Maliwal. PTI

File image of DCW chief Swati Maliwal. PTI

“On Thursday, we (DCW) will raid the brothels at GB Road to find out the trafficked girls and the culprits behind this trafficking. We have asked the municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD) to shut the hidden cells in the brothels. This chargesheet is a tool to intimidate us and prevent us from working,” Maliwal told Firstpost.

Maliwal is no stranger to such charges. Just three months ago (on 20 September), an FIR was filed by the ACB against her on the complaints made by her predecessor — former DCW chairperson Barkha Shukla Singh that Maliwal appointed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) volunteers in plum posts without following due procedure.

What the latest chargesheet is about

The latest chargesheet was filed before the special ACB judge at Tis Hazari Court against Maliwal for the alleged offences under section 13 (criminal misconduct by public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. A chargesheet has been filed in the court in connection with alleged irregularities in the appointment of 85 AAP workers in the DCW. The ACB has taken up the probe on a complaint by former DCW chief, whereby she had claimed that 85 people got jobs ‘without requisite credentials’.

Why Maliwal smells a conspiracy

“There is a deep rooted conspiracy behind this chargesheet. Earlier, the ACB filed an FIR against me on the basis of a false charge. Now, the ACB has chargesheeted me because the commission asked the Delhi lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung why he didn’t conduct any meetings with us during the past year. It’s the first time that the Delhi High Court has given two notices to the L-G; so he’s using the ACB as a tool to intimidate and scare us,” claimed Maliwal.

Maliwal’s counter-allegations

– “Former DCW chief spent Rs 90 lakh in a single day, without showing any work against the spending. We gave a 128-page document of evidence to the ACB, but they didn’t even file our complaint, forget an FIR.”
– “Barkha Shukla Singh, who was then a Congress MLA, dealt with only one case in her eight-year tenure; whereas we have handled nearly 12,000 cases.”
– “Singh had obliged those whom the then chief minister Sheila Dikshit had referred.”
– “Despite six rapes committed in Delhi per day, the lieutenant-governor didn’t hold any meeting with the DCW.”
– “The lieutenant-governor appointed IAS officer Dilraj Kaur, secretary (Social Welfare and Women & Child Development) as DCW’s member secretary — this is unconstitutional, because there’s already an officiating member secretary functioning in the commission. Kaur has stopped the salary payments of 90 staffers for the past three months.”

Maliwal’s clarification

“We followed the same procedure in appointing new volunteers, as followed by our predecessor. Nothing wrong has been done. Against the allocated budget of Rs 9 crore, we’ve spent only Rs 3.5 crore; but three audits have been conducted on us to find out whether there had been any misappropriation.”

“I’ve worked with utmost honesty and if charges of corruption — even amounting to a single rupee — is proved against me, I’ll give up my life.”

What ACB chief says

“We’ve chargesheeted her because she made illegal appointments in the commission. They have favoured AAP workers,” ACB chief MK Meena reportedly told the media.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 08:14 IST

Graft charges against me were false: Pankaja Munde after ACB clean chit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the Anti-Corruption Bureau giving her a clean chit in the ‘chikki’ purchase case, Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde said on Wednesday the allegations against her were part of a plan to defame her.”I had said many times that there was no substance in the allegations (of irregularities in chikki purchase). On several occasions in the Legislative Assembly also, I have replied to the charges,” Pankaja said. “Those who made the allegations saw a lot of irregularities in `chikki’ that wasn’t even distributed (among schoolchildren),” the Women and Child Welfare Minister said. “A supari (contract) was taken to defame me,” Pankaja said. The BJP Minister, however, did not disclose who was behind the move to malign her.”The ACB has given me a clean chit. I am absolved of the charges. I wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing,” Pankaja asserted. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has closed the case against the Minister in the matter pertaining to alleged irregularities in awarding contracts for materials worth Rs 206 crore for school children. Pankaja was accused of flouting norms in awarding contracts for supplying items like ‘chikki’ (sweetmeat made with nuts and jaggery), mats, notebooks and water filters, among others, for schoolchildren.Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant had last year lodged a complaint with the ACB demanding an inquiry into the allegations against the Minister and submitted a set of documents purportedly supporting the charges.

Delhi: Anti-Corruption Branch chargesheets DCW chief Swati Maliwal

New Delhi: DCW chief Swati Maliwal was on Wednesday chargesheeted in a special court by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) in a case of alleged irregularities in recruitment in the women’s panel.

The charge sheet was filed before special ACB judge at Tis Hazari Court against Maliwal for the alleged offences under section 13 (criminal misconduct by public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC.

DCW chief Swati Maliwal. News18DCW chief Swati Maliwal. News18

DCW chief Swati Maliwal. News18

The court is yet to take cognisance on the charge sheet.

ACB Chief and Special Commissioner (New Delhi) MK Meena said that charge sheet has been filed in the court in connection with alleged irregularities in appointment of AAP workers in DCW.

The ACB had taken up the probe on a complaint by former Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Barkha Shukla Singh, who alleged that several AAP supporters were given plum posts in the women’s panel.

Singh, in her complaint, had listed the names of 85 people who, she claimed, got jobs “without requisite credentials”. The FIR was registered against Maliwal on September 20 and the ACB had been probing the matter for the last nearly six months.

An ACB officer had earlier said that based on questioning of DCW employees, it was found that due procedure “was not followed in appointments” and a total of 91 appointments were found to be made without allegedly following due process.

Maliwal had earlier said that the FIR will not act as a deterrent for her and the panel will continue to work and raise questions which is “disturbing her opponents the most”.

“Even if I am sent to jail, I will prepare a report on the condition of women there and submit it to the Delhi government. The Delhi government and the Centre are working together towards ensuring safety of women,” she has said.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 20:28 IST

Nexus of traffickers, terror networks dangerous, should be urgently addressed: India at UN

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India has described the nexus between organised traffickers and terrorist networks through illicit financial linkages as a “dangerous phenomenon” that should be urgently addressed using counter-terrorism financing tools and sanctions regimes.”The nexus between organised traffickers and terrorist networks through illicit financial linkages is a dangerous phenomenon,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Tanmaya Lal said at a UN Security Council debate on ‘Trafficking in Persons in Conflict Situations’, here on Wednesday.Lal said the low rates of conviction for crimes of trafficking across countries needs to change.”The persistence of this transnational organised crime and its links with terrorist networks despite the various collective efforts of the international community is a challenge that requires a stepping up of our efforts, more effectively using the existing counter-terror financing tools and mechanisms and sanctions regimes in this regard,” he said.Lal also voiced concern that situations of armed conflict provide fertile ground for trafficking in persons especially from the vulnerable groups, including women, children and refugees for sexual slavery and forced labour or as fighters.He said that in recent times, heinous actions of terrorist groups such as ISIS or Boko Haram specifically targeting women and children in situations of armed conflict as a deliberate tactic of war add an even more serious dimension to such crimes as such groups continue to act with impunity.”The primary focus of the Security Council is to address threats to international peace and security. While increased focus on addressing trafficking in persons and its linkages to terrorism and armed conflicts is timely, we must strengthen international collaboration to better implement the various existing mechanisms, including through more effective coordination of the various entities at the UN,” he said.While the Security Council should retain its focus on situations of armed conflict, Lal said broader mechanisms should be more fully utilised to strengthen national capacity building including in criminal justice capacities, regulatory frameworks of banking and financial institutions to disrupt illicit financial flows and improve regional and inter-regional cooperation.Outlining the measures taken by India to address issue of trafficking, he said India unveiled a comprehensive draft legislation this year aimed at prevention of trafficking and protection and rehabilitation of trafficked persons.India also continues to work closely with UN agencies including UN Women and the Office on Drugs and Crime.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, highlighting the plight of victims of human trafficking, underlined at the debate the need to ensure justice for victims and accountability forperpetrators, as well as to address underlying factors by focusing on human rights and stability.”If conflict gives oxygen to traffickers, human rights and stability suffocate them,” Ban told the Security Council at its ministerial-level meeting on trafficking.Ban said there is need for strategic leadership in ending war and also in preventing conflicts and sustaining peace, noting the UN’s commitment to supporting its member states in early action and in preventive diplomacy.

Four years since Jyoti Singh’s death, yet poor governance fails to protect women

Violence is immortal. Out of helplessness, it is predicted; out of fear, it is anticipated. It breaks into the warm walls of the psyche and freezes in one dark corner of it. Time and again, it sends chills down the spine. Since 2012, on each 16 December, a sharp coldness returns to stab Delhi in the back. This was the night that turned a 23-year-old paramedic, against her will, into a symbol of oppression against women. Raped, injured and left to die on a busy Delhi road, her own identity had an anonymous end. Jyoti Singh lives on as Nirbhaya, a reminder that violence lives next door.

Back then, debates on moral conditioning and legal action took off like missiles, turning public discourse into a battlefield of spontaneous opinions. But there was one more factor that needed some serious addressing, and it still does. Her rapists had a history of drug addiction.

For over 25,000 drug addicts in need of urgent relief in the capital, the government offers only five drug de-addiction centres, which too are jointly run by NGOs and are struggling for clearance of funds. Why doesn’t the 2013 Mental Health Care Bill feature a provision for rescue services, where the doctors have the right to pick up addicts from the street and cure them?

Drugs are about denial and quite rarely will an addict want to believe that he or she is in need of help; even families and friends don’t want to accept it as a problem. Hemant Kumar, a family counsellor at the Nasha Mukti Kendra in Amberhai in Dwarka, Delhi was an addict for nearly two decades. He says that there is great restlessness and a wave of nastiness that takes over an addict and at that point acts like robbery, inflicting harm on someone, to raping or abusing a woman, become vents for the rage erupting inside. Are women in Delhi, then, not vulnerable at the hands of those afflicted with drug problems, who roam around uncured?

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 3,37,922 cases of crime against women (both under various sections of IPC and SLL) were reported in the country during the year 2014, as compared to 3,09,546 in the year 2013; thus showing an increase of 9.2 percent during the year 2014.

File image of protests in Delhi following the rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012. PTIFile image of protests in Delhi following the rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012. PTI

File image of protests in Delhi following the Nirbhaya rape case in 2012. PTI

Incidents of incest rape (rape by blood relatives like father, brother etc.) in the country have increased by 25.7 percent during 2014 over the previous year (from 536 cases in 2013 to 674 cases in 2014). Delhi (140 cases with 144 victims) has reported the highest number of such incidents followed by Maharashtra (94 cases with 102 victims) and Kerala (62 cases with 63 victims). There were 713 victims for 674 reported incest rape cases in the country during the year 2014.

Crimes have continuously increased during 2010-2014 with 2,13,585 cases reported in 2010, which increased to 2,28,649 cases in 2011, which further increased to 2,44,270 cases in 2012 and 3,09,546 cases in 2013. In 2014, a total of 3,37,922 such cases were reported.

The rate for crimes against women was reported as 56.3 in 2014. Delhi has reported the highest crime rate (169.1) compared to 56.3 at all India level during the year 2014, followed by Assam (123.4), Rajasthan (91.4), Tripura (88.0), West Bengal (85.4), Madhya Pradesh (79.0) and Telangana (78.3).

Rape cases in the capital are registered by the police, who give the statistics to the NCRB and are reported by the media. But what about women in conflict zones, where an overcast of political complications shadows the crimes against them?

“In Kashmir, women have directly and indirectly been victims of violence, I would say, survivors of violence. Whether it is a women being raped, beaten up or humiliated by the government forces or even often due to domestic violence. The indirect impact of violence on women has also been when their male family members are subjected to torture, killing or kidnappings by the forces. When a son is arrested, it is the mother who faces the impact of it or if her husband has been arrested or treated inhumanely,” said Fahad Shah , a journalist and writer from Kashmir.

Munaza Rashid, lawyer at the Kashmir High Court, said that Jyoti Singh’s rape wasn’t planned. In Kashmir, assaults against women in villages are planned. “During the recent agitation that has lasted five months, there were plenty of reports about pellets being fired at the men but no one talked about how the armed forces go and attack the homes of the protesters, where the wives and daughters of these men are. They know what will hurt these men the most. In some cases, in the name of a combing operation, they intrude into their private belongings – sanitary pads and undergarments – and perform an act of mental molestation,” Rashid said.

She explains that if this issue is raised, it will be perceived as an attempt to malign the forces. She says that women’s issues in Kashmir need to be raised by women’s voices that are independent and not bound by the Hurriyat or political agenda. Since three years, she informs, civil society activism has grown and women are finding a platform to open up in front of other women.

In 2014, 23 February was declared Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day. On this day, in 1991, a Battalion of the 4th Rajputana Rifles of the 68th Brigade had conducted a cordon-and search operation in the adjacent Kunan- Poshpora villages in Kupwara.

The villagers allege that when the army cordoned off the village, the men were taken to a field for interrogation overnight and the women were gang-raped in their homes. “In North Kashmir, three to four years ago, a woman’s husband was in jail. Whenever she went to visit him, she’d be raped by the jailer. To protect her husband from his onslaught, she kept quiet,” informs Ifrah Butt of J&K Coalition of Civil Society, research and advocacy based in Srinagar.

At a sessions court during the hearing of the Kunan-Poshpora case, a senior Army counsel had said, recounts Butt, that it is like ”flogging a dead horse”, implying that the women should let go of it.

In the North East, another part of the country torn by violence, women are fighting another kind of battle. More than 15,000 women were raped in Assam in the last 15 years. On 12 December, to commemorate Nupi Lan or Women’s War that was fought in 1904 and 1939, the Representation of Women in Peace Negotiations Bill, 2016 was submitted to the Parliament.

“We have proposed the framework of a peace committee for women that will be their voice in governance,” said Kalyani Mathur, Project Officer at Control Arms Foundation of India. Sadly, only two women have participated in the 17 peace talks on the North East.

“The government only talks to men with guns. Women have been absent in every form of decision making. We want to change the power-dynamic,” said Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Manipur Gun Survivors Network, which has saved and help rebuild more than 20,000 lives displaced and damaged by violence.

In the capital, there is a concentration of five to seven lakh Indians from the North East and 66 percent come here for higher studies. In a place like Manipur, explains Nepram, a three year degree will take five years because of constant combing operations, bandhs and lockdowns. Once, a lock down had lasted for 100 days, she recounts.

When they migrate to Delhi, there’s a great chance that they will be perceived as ‘sexually available’, owing to differences that stem, quite naively and only, from culture. In 2014, the rape of girl by a Phd-IIT scholar was being portrayed as a case of stove-burning by the Police, till the girl’s sister demanded a second post-mortem and strangulation marks were detected.

Multiple cases of rape and murder of North Eastern girls have surfaced in Munirka, South Delhi, in the last three to four years. “After the Jyoti Singh incident, we submitted recommendations for special protection measures for rape in conflict areas. Justice Verma recorded it in his almost 600-page document, but when the Government of India drafted the Anti Rape Law, the whole section of rape in conflict areas had been taken out,” she said. The Delhi office of CAFI has counselled many rape victims from the North East and even packed their bodies and sent them back home.

‘Ache waqton ki tammana mein rahee umra rawaan’. It seems that women in the country will have to wait a long time to witness good times, where they can feel safe and free.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 09:35 IST

Parliament clears Disabilities Bill 2014, but are women benefitting from this?

By Maya Palit

In July 2015, disability activist Nidhi Goyal told the media a hair-raising story about a young woman she had met in Gujarat. The young woman was visually challenged and her father had been secretly giving her birth control pills. Like many others in the country, he was labouring under the misconception that women with disabilities give birth to babies with disabilities, and the greater misconception that a person with disability does not have the right to be a parent. Her story is one of several instances that demonstrate the urgency of having laws in place to protect women with disabilities, who are especially vulnerable to discrimination.

With debates over demonetisation and corruption dominating the Winter Session of the Rajya Sabha, the chances of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill (2014) being discussed by the Upper House were looking slim. That was until Wednesday, when the Bill was passed without discussion with 119 amendments. The Bill will protect approximately 2.68 crore people with disabilities in the country.

The Bill has been praised for bringing in a more nuanced and expansive understanding of disability, as it now recognizes 19 conditions, including autism, Parkinson’s Disease and the impact of acid attack – far more than the seven that were in the first version of the Persons with Disabilities Act (1995). The most significant changes are the revision of the notion of ‘guardianship’, and that penalties have been introduced for violations of the Act. Two decades ago, there were no penal provisions, but now people can be punished with a jail term from six months up to two years, and a fine of between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

Although, the disheartening thing about the Bill is that it hasn’t improved all that much on its clauses about women with disabilities. According to studies carried out by the research institute PRS Legislative, the ‘Penalty for outraging the modesty of a woman’ clause (Clause 105b) in the bill has ended up reducing the minimum penalty for offenders against women with disabilities. The minimum sentence is six months, as opposed to existing laws in the Indian Penal Code that give offenders a minimum sentence of one year. Shockingly, this was not amended in the new version of the Bill.

The Bill has been pretty disappointing on other fronts too. Although Clause 3 acknowledges that ‘special measures’ should be taken to protect the rights of women and children with disabilities, last year women’s rights activists campaigned for the incorporation of a separate sub section that would address the needs of women with disabilities and follow the guidelines set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“The problems with the previous bill include Clause 105f, which stated that the Bill penalized anyone who performed forced sterilization on women with disabilities, but it made an exception for those with severe disabilities – in their cases, a guardian is allowed to consent for the procedure,” said Amba Salelkar, a legal researcher who works with the Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice. “This is a negation of women’s consent, and the denial of their full legal capacity is one of the major problems with the Bill. Because of course, women in general have their decision-making powers severely curtailed. The practices that keep impacting women – like the institutionalization of people with disabilities – are not adequately dealt with under the Bill. The Bill is set to regulate establishments and set up guardianship for people with disabilities, but really it gives no credence to how women with disabilities can further exercise their legal capacity and live independently within the community,” she added.

According to the recommendations laid out in a proposed draft (in possession of The Ladies Finger) that was prepared by Salelkar and gender rights activist Nidhi Goyal, “Women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk, both within and outside the home, of violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation”. This is why they suggested a set of expansive measures, like the implementation of gender-specific programs, encouraging the representation of women with disabilities in decision-making bodies, collecting data on the barriers that prevent women with disabilities from entering education, disseminating information on sexual and reproductive health, and creating short stay facilities that could protect women victims of abuse.

There certainly need to be measures in place that protect women with disabilities from abuse and violence, but the State also has ‘positive obligations’ towards them, like ensuring bathroom facilities for them. And these need to be addressed in the form of tangible changes rather than tokenism.

It appears that the Bill has been watering down, rather than expanding its approach to the issues faced by disabled women. According to Salelkar, the 2011 draft had an entire section devoted to the subject, which was then diluted in 2012 and then even more in the 2014 Act. “A Bill about disability naturally needs to take a multipronged approach when it comes to women with disabilities, because of the double discrimination they face, which is why we campaigned last year for the inclusion of a separate chapter on women with disabilities. It is sad that that has been missed out and that the Bill has been passed without discussion,” she said.

The new Bill has a provision under Clause 13 that allows people to appeal against a district court’s decision about their guardianship. This could prove to be helpful for women who are being treated unfairly by their guardians, an improvement that has left some experts thinking that the useful amendments in the new Bill could have a positive impact on women. “If I were to zoom out and look at the bill in its entirety, I’d say it has come a long way, particularly with the guardianship clause. But the issues that confronted women still stand, like the lower stringency for termination of pregnancy (you require one rather than two medical personnel to confirm that the medical procedure had to be undertaken) and the lower penalties for outrage of a woman’s modesty,” said Nivedita Rao, a legal analyst who works with PRS Legislative.

There seemed to be a lot of quipping amongst MPs in the Rajya Sabha session about disability being hard to interpret, and that everyone in the House suffers from some form of intellectual disability. Perhaps a more useful discussion could have taken place about increasing protection for women with disabilities from sexual harassment and forced sterilization. Who knows, they might even have found the time to incorporate demands for a more expansive section on women into the Bill.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 09:24 IST

2012 Delhi gangrape: Has women’s safety improved since Jyoti Singh incident?

Come December and chances are that most of us Indians will mentally relive a suppressed impression of pain, horror and regret — even if in passing. The gangrape of Jyoti Singh on 16 December, 2012 that shook the country’s conscience and triggered massive outrage, is something that has been imprinted on our collective memory forever. The unfortunate event became a landmark for the issue of women’s safety, witnessing an unprecedented public outcry, countless debates, and the death sentence for the perpetrators. Government and other civil bodies were stunned and propelled into action immediately.

The Central government amended the Criminal Law Act in 2013 and also set up the Nirbhaya Fund to be utilised for safety and empowerment of women. In 2015, Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) was made the nodal agency for utilisation of the fund, with guidelines by the Central government for the process of appraising, reviewing and monitoring schemes given by ministries. Three Union Budgets later, the fund corpus stands at Rs 3,000 crore, of which a paltry Rs 200 crore has been utilised. The Ministry of WCD’s Rs 244-crore proposal to set up crisis centres was downsized by the PMO to Rs 18 crore, thereby allowing only one centre in each state, instead of in each district as originally planned.

As per a press release by Ministry of WCD in May 2016, one scheme called Universalisation of Women Helpline has been approved, and also another one called Emergency Response System. A total of nine proposals from the Ministries of Home Affairs and Railways, Delhi Police and Delhi Transport department have been appraised and recommended but further progress remains unknown. With things moving at this pace, which includes a scheme for compensation to victims, the Supreme Court in May 2016 rapped the Centre for its lack of clarity on disbursal of funds saying that this amounted to the fund itself becoming mere “lip sympathy”.

File image of protests in Delhi following the rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012. PTI

File image of protests in Delhi following the rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012. PTI

The long appraisal-approval process along with the usual hurdles of inter-ministerial coordination, combined with the already existing problems of insufficient police personnel and slow delivery of the criminal justice system — the conviction rate for rape in 2011 stood at a dismal 26.4 percent — make for low deterrence. It is no surprise that there’s been little difference in the rape figures that have on the other hand begun to increase.

On another front, the gruesome episode brought us under severe, unforgiving media glare, and India came to acquire blemish as one of the major countries leading the world in rape culture. Story after story emerged in the media and circulated in civil organisations, academia and NGOs about “India’s hatred of women”, patriarchy, misogyny and the resultant violence and abuse; many went so far as to link the depravity to India’s caste system and its history of communalism. The result was a blanket tarnishing of our national character: Indians were rapists, and therefore, tourists needed to be wary if making India travel plans; industry needed to reconsider setting shop in India, Indian students were to be denied admission.

True, we could counter the allegations by arguments backed by statistics: that rape is equally prevalent in the developed world; that India in fact, has among the lowest percentage of rapes; and that studies have shown that underreporting of sexual crimes is the norm across the world. Looked at another way, in India, our women go out to work, pursue hobbies and sports, shop, go to restaurants, work in farms and other places, are seen on the roads, even at late hours in the night. This should be evidence enough that ours is far from being a demonised society, where everyone lives in utter dread.

Further, one’s personal experience in travelling to the interiors of the country does not betray that perversion is the norm; on the other hand, one has always come back with a pleasant feeling, seeing the rural peoples’ authenticity, chattiness and helpfulness. To careful watchers, the people’s own interactions among themselves are straight-forward, with women speaking up clearly and being heard — no trace of fear. Patriarchy, yes, and maybe violence, but does that automatically translate to rape culture? This is purely talking about the feel of the country’s towns and villages. Also, the fact that women by and large have not stopped working or changed their dressing styles should normally go a long way to remove doubts about sexual abuse being India’s outstanding — or differentiating — quality.

One, therefore, would be more inclined to put the blame on a general increase in perversion, craziness and violence, which is on the rise everywhere, and has also seized Indian society. It has nothing to do with the so-called “Indian culture of misogyny and intolerance”. A clue to this lies in the fact that sexual crimes against young boys are equally on the rise, and cut across caste lines.
That said, it does not matter where we stand relatively. For a society known to venerate the feminine aspect as a goddess, or even one that claims to be based on a system of eternal humanitarian values, the figures that emerge are a matter of highest national shame — 35,000 rapes in 2015.

Apart from the harm it causes to our prospects for tourism, industrial investment, education and other potential advantages from a globalised world, karmically, we as a people and land incur the curse of the helpless, whether woman or child, each time they are violated.

Countering this violence has been on the agenda for even state governments, most of which have made piecemeal efforts. In fact, some of them are worth replicating — like the anti-harassment SHE Teams in Telangana since 2014, and the Women’s Power Line — 1090 in Uttar Pradesh, launched by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in 2013

The latter, in particular, developed in conjunction with IIM-Lucknow, already accounts for the potential weak links and incorporates features like confidentiality, determined pursuance and feedback. Additionally, it views crime from the lens of conditioning, not criminality, and hence, counselling is an important ingredient. Police functioning is bolstered by ‘Power Angels’ — schoolgirls who are special police officers and act as police messengers, thus effectively countering the problem of insufficient police personnel.

Certainly, cues can be taken from the above and other states can follow suit. However, factors such as paucity of funds and lack of political will are often hard to overcome at the states’ level. For the country as a whole to benefit, it will need to be taken up as a concerted and integrated exercise at the Central level.

The simplest place to begin is with our strengths, or what we already have. A pointer in this direction is the near-equal participation by men in protests against rape. “In India, the (Jyoti Singh) case has triggered a lively honest, sustained and very healthy public debate — a public debate of a quality that wouldn’t be possible in many other countries… Yesterday, we celebrated International Women’s Day at the German Embassy here in Delhi with many local activists including many men… women and men ardently committed to furthering women empowerment in India,” said the German Ambassador to India last year, in the context of an Indian student being denied admission to a German university. Wholehearted public participation can, thus, be one possible indigenous solution.

File image of protests following the December 2012 gangrape in Delhi. Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

File image of protests following the December 2012 gangrape in Delhi. Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Apart from activists and civil organisations, a workable and sizable volunteer strength already exists in the form of the National Service Scheme (NSS), which could be harnessed to tackle this national emergency. Jawaharlal Nehru had mooted the idea of NSS in 1958, based on the international concept of service by students, and the organization was formed in 1969. Currently, this works through the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and has 3.2 million students, participating in activities such as blood donation camps, tree plantation, disaster management, etc across the country. If adequately trained and sensitised, these students could become the interface between police and public, in both urban and rural areas. Crucial aspects of women’s safety could be tackled by engaging NSS volunteers in: one, keeping vigil and patrolling in shifts, to supplement police manpower; and two, they could be engaged for crime victimisation surveys, to supplement data of the National Crime Records Bureau, which is gathered from police stations, so that a more accurate estimate of the number of cases is reached.

NSS activity could be made compulsory in schools or credits could be given for participation, as an incentive. The National Policy on Education, 1986 had suggested giving NSS volunteers credit for social work and also extra credit for rural areas. This kind of training would not only add value to the personality of students, lending the dimension of sensitivity, responsibility and active citizenship, but also help develop good citizens in the country.

Extended further, and if we are to address this issue in a comprehensive manner, social and religious organisations such as the RSS, Madrassas, Mutts, village panchayats could all be approached and asked for help, suggestions and volunteers. This would have a major advantage of being able to bring everyone close together to work towards a national cause, from which their kith and kin stand to gain, immediately and in the coming generations. Additionally, corporates could help by increasing their CSR allocations to include women’s safety, and industry associations like Ficci and CII can contribute to the funds regularly. Premier institutes of education in management and technology could also be roped in for their expertise.

There will of course, need to be coordination between the Ministries of Youth Affairs, Education and Women and Child Development, and then with the state and local governments. For this, a supra-ministerial authority could also be considered and created to act as the nodal agency, which would tie all ends and coordinate with all participants and stakeholders in the process.

Together, these would be able to take care of some of the constraints that prevent our governments from taking adequate measures and moving ahead. Police reforms to increase manpower and speedy delivery in the criminal justice system would be the two things that would complete the process, on the execution front. Deep reforms through social transformation would still have to be carried out simultaneously, through other means.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 10:13 IST

Sale of rape videos continues in Uttar Pradesh; no concrete action from cops, govt

After an investigative piece by Al Jazeera uncovered the disturbing practice of sale of rape videos in Uttar Pradesh, revealing exclusive details of the trade in its report, it was expected that the government and police machinery will swing into action and bring an end to this ‘dark trade’.

However, when Firstpost re-investigated the matter it found that the trade was still flourishing, right under the noses of the Uttar Pradesh government and the police machinery. The trade, a reflection of the deep seeded patriarchy in our society, is not just a mockery of our law and order system but also has the potential to perpetuate more violence against women. The fact that it can normalise a crime like rape in the young minds exposed to these videos is perhaps the most dangerous outcome of this practice.

Sources on the ground have revealed to Firstpost that new clips continue to surface despite the many assurances offered by Uttar Pradesh police that it is taking all measures to stop this trade.

Sale of rape videos continues to flourish in Uttar Pradesh, right under the noses of the government and the police machinery. ReutersSale of rape videos continues to flourish in Uttar Pradesh, right under the noses of the government and the police machinery. Reuters

Sale of rape videos continues to flourish in Uttar Pradesh, right under the noses of the government and the police machinery. Reuters

When Firstpost spoke to JK Shahi, Deputy Inspector General (IG) of Saharanpur, where such videos are being sold, we received a standard response both times where he asked that the video clips in question be sent to him on WhatsApp, disregarding the fact that circulation of these videos is illegal.

He, like others in his department, assured us that all Station Head Officers (SHOs) had been directed to look into the matter, to stop this trade at the earliest. Nevertheless, he declined to provide details of any affirmative action taken by his department.

In addition, a carefully crafted response from IG Meerut range, Ajay Anand told us that the police had raided these shops and that he had alerted all police officials in his jurisdiction to ensure that no such trade took place.

To confirm the veracity of these claims, Firstpost went back to its sources on the ground and asked them if any such raids had actually taken place. Yet again, we were told that the shops dealing in such trade had not been raided and that the business of selling rape videos continued to flourish. We, however, are not dismissing police claims that they had raided the shops but are rather questioning the sincerity displayed in such raids, for several shopkeepers indulging in the trade themselves revealed to us that no such raids had taken place.

A dealer of porn videos, who owns an electronics repair shop in Incholi village some fifteen kilometres from Meerut, told us that his shop had not been raided.

“No one came to check my shop or the material we have on our laptops and computers…we are selling porn as usual. I don’t specifically sell rape videos, though they might be lingering somewhere in my computer and I might have transferred them to a customer’s laptop in a bid to transfer porn…but I do not intend to sell rape videos exclusively…there are videos with violent content which reach us but we do not sell it deliberately as rape videos,” the dealer said .

On being asked how the rape videos reach him, he promptly replied, “At times customers come to us to get their mobile phones or laptops repaired, they have some personal videos in them, we download it from there and sell them. We can’t help it if some of them are rape videos.”

This corroborates the claims of a customer who had explained the details of this trade to Al Jazeera in its investigative piece. The customer, who had said that ‘he loves watching videos with violent content’, had revealed the modus operandi of the trade and how it flourishes.

The customer, who lives in a village in Saharanpur, said, “We go to the shops in our village to ask for exclusive porn, they hand us rape videos in return. We like watching it though, since it is something new…we are bored of the same usual porn.”

The shopkeeper from Incholi also informed us that the sale of such videos is rampant in Western Uttar Pradesh – be it Agra, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar or Saharanpur. He added that the videos are mostly found in village shops and not in towns or cities.

To get an idea of how the political class is responding to the menace, Firstpost made several attempts to reach out to Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. She, however, did not respond to the telephone calls and emails.

Sanjeev Balyan, Member of Parliament from Muzaffarnagar, who had gone hammer and tongs in criticising the ruling Samajwadi party for being inefficient in curbing crime against women, did not bother to respond to our phone calls or emails on why he had not raised the matter in the winter session of the Parliament.

Jagmati Sangwan, of the All Indian Democratic Women Association, expressed deep concern over the videos being sold in the market. She also questioned the direction in which our society is moving, where a market exists for these videos. She assured Firstpost that her organisation will raise the matter and pressurise the state machinery for taking action against those involved in selling these videos. However, so far, we have not heard of her organisation releasing a statement condemning this trade or questioning the authorities.

This depicts the dire state of affairs in Uttar Pradesh and the non-seriousness of the state establishment in curbing crimes against women, despite flagging off various programs and initiatives to make the state safer for women. The political class, which time and again talks about women security and safety for pragmatic and electoral reasons, does not even have the time to talk about such crimes; probably because there are no electoral dividends attached with actually dwelling into the matter.

After the infamous Nirbhaya gang rape case in 2012, new legislations were brought in amid pressure on the then government to act strictly against those committing crimes against women. Many thought that the stricter laws will change things, making the society safer for women. But it seems that little has changed.

Rapes continue to happen, cases of harassment are rampant and women are still afraid to go out in the dark. At the time of writing this piece, a local leader from a village in Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, had called to inform that a woman and her daughter had been gangraped some two months ago. He said that neither the media or the authorities had taken note of the incident and that the perpetrators were far from being brought to justice.

Post the Nirbhaya case, amendments in the Indian Penal Code defined that the minimum punishment for rape under article 376 as seven years, and that filming any sexual act without permission of the woman is punishable by a jail term of up to a period of three years, under article 345.

But all this holds little importance unless we as a society sensitise ourselves towards gender inequality, and until sex education is given to children in school. A serious effort is needed to fight the inherent patriarchy in our society, rather than just using the rhetoric around women safety as a means to secure votes.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 17:50 IST

Jayalalithaa & Hillary Clinton: On grief, glass ceilings and fighting back

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Grief is the emotion that defines the last five weeks for some of us. Watching the US Presidential election results threw thousands into a depression— across the board because of what it said about how Americans really felt about issues that were thought to be history, but for many of us, because Hillary Clinton came so very close to shattering the last glass ceiling in her country’s political system. This week, many of us felt an unanticipated sense of loss when J Jayalalithaa’s death was officially announced. Whether we agreed with her politically (I mostly did not) and whether we had ever voted for her (I had only done so this year), a great sadness was pervasive. Nothing changes that reality. Supporters grieve Jayalalithaa’s demise. (AFP)“Margaret, are you grievingOver Goldengrove unleaving?” Gerard Manley Hopkins asks a young child in a poem I read in Class 10 and have carried in my heart ever since. Why did we react to these two events with such sadness? Why did I?I belong to a generation that could have never predicted the possibility that an African-American could become the American President. It happened. Twice. When Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination in July, we gave ourselves permission to hope that girls in the US too would be able to aspire to this office. Clinton’s feminism falls short by the yardsticks now held up, especially by younger women, but now the once-impossible was close enough to touch. Never mind that the road to Election Day was paved with the most misogynistic baiting— not just by the other candidate but by the media as well. Clinton held her own, with tenacity, grace and focus, and still she lost. That you could give your whole adult life to public service, that you could work so hard, that you could bear with so much, that you could come so very close and still not be considered good enough for a job that went to someone with a negligible fraction of what you brought to the table— that said that women were simply not entitled to ambition or reward. We were disappointed that Clinton did not win, but what we mourned most of all was that betrayal. It was not that merit, focus and effort were not enough. The message was clear— women were not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not anything enough to make it to the top. Embed from Getty ImagesJayalalithaa’s story is almost the opposite. In a society where all indicators suggest that women cannot succeed, her sustained ascendancy requires us to recast our assumptions. Someone commented that gender was irrelevant to her story. Gender was completely relevant to her story—her objectification in cinema, her vilification in politics—but her success lay in making them seem irrelevant. Notwithstanding her welfare measures, Jayalalithaa’s politics were gender-blind. Jayalalithaa also belied any essentialist argument for women in power— that they will bring nurture and gender sensitivity to their work. Like any other politician, she has left behind a conventional, mixed track record on the “women’s empowerment” score. Many of us are sad to think of the journey that brought her to this pre-eminence— the price she paid at every turn breaks our heart because we know that is the price every woman politician pays in every patriarchal society. Jayalalithaa was an easy target because she came from cinema to politics— even criticism about her policies was tinged with disapproval of her relationships and her appearance. Even when we disagreed with her on most counts, her presence affirmed that women could force the world to take them seriously. When the mutterers and mockers got done, they would find she was still one of the most powerful people in the country.(PTI)“Now no matter, child, the name:Sorrow’s springs are the same… It is Margaret you mourn for.” Hopkins holds a mirror up to our grief, saying that we mourn for who we once were and can never be again, and we mourn also for what we could never become. In Clinton’s loss and Jayalalithaa’s death, we have seen mirrored our own journeys— coming up against speed-bumps, obstacles, landmines and glass ceilings everywhere. Our grief tells us how every barb they faced mirrored one in our own experience.Hillary Clinton giving her concession speech the day after the election. (Reuters)Clinton and Jayalalithaa had much in common— sharp minds, great work ethic, tremendous ambitious, tenacity, resilience, tumultuous personal lives that kept getting dragged into public discourse and both faced unbelievable sexism and body-shaming. We hurt at their loss because it brings back the wounds of every loss and every jibe we ever faced. The accidental-done-on-purpose forgetting to include us in discussions. The so-called compliment that draws attention to our bodies and away from our professional presence. The friendly advice out of fake concern about our health that undermines our confidence. The unspoken quid pro quos—to forget the things people say and do (the everyday sexism) or to overlook the thing they fail to do (like giving you credit)—in order to keep an oppressive peace. The clinging on to the high ground because it’s the right thing to do, though your fingers hurt and your eyes smart. The hurtful jokes that never sound funny. The dismissal of our ideas that precedes their being co-opted as someone else’s original thought. The creation of standards for our success that do not apply to anyone else— must be personable, must be brilliant, must work hard, must not be ambitious, must not want credit, must not upset the apple-cart, must know her place. Clinton’s election loss and Jayalalithaa’s final departure allow us to cry and rant for all the times in our lives that we have kept quiet.It is Margaret we mourn for.The child in the Hopkins poem has no way to change or reverse either autumn or growing older. But, in our hands, lies the ability to make women’s political activism and participation a less hazardous choice. Since it is also the season of year-gone-by reviews and resolutions, here are some thoughts for things we can work on in 2017 so that we do not feel this grief again.In 2017, we expect five Indian states to elect new legislators— Goa, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. This means we need to get started right away on asking the right questions, lobbying for some bare minimum commitments, holding parties accountable to them and monitoring the election closely. This is civil society’s work— and we are all part of civil society to the extent we choose to be pro-active citizens.Political parties go through the ritual of preparing manifestos. A couple of decades ago, because you could not circulate them very widely and because a healthy scepticism then animated our democracy, we saw these as rituals and manifestos as largely interchangeable. We ignored manifestos routinely. Now we analyse them when they are published but forget to hold winning coalitions responsible for keeping their word. Anyway, since we do seem to think manifestos matter, ensuring gender inclusivity in the issues addressed and gender sensitivity in the language and approach would be a place to begin. Who drafts manifestos and who finalises them? These are the people we need to sensitise.The second challenge in an election season is ensuring that there is gender parity in the allocation of election tickets. How many women are being nominated and who are the women being nominated? Apart from petitions and demands, one useful intervention in each state would be to create directories of women that belie the usual excuse: “Where can we find competent women?” Forget pointing out that competence is not a requirement for male nominees; it would be more constructive to simply provide lists of Panchayat and Zilla Parishad women as well as women social workers from villages and district towns. Is this something we can do in each state?Black money is not the only campaign finance issue that needs to be addressed. Access to campaign support is gendered and parties tend to neglect women candidates in their apportionment. For structural reasons, it is much harder for women to raise funds to campaign. Recognising this, a non-profit in the US, EMILY’s List, identifies women candidates who espouse a set of core political values and helps them raise funds. (‘EMILY’ stands for ‘Early Money is Like Yeast.’) India does not have a comparable culture of political giving so an Indian EMILY’s List is two steps away— creating a culture of individual support to political parties and creating a demand for good women candidates such that people will pay to support them. A more immediate goal would be to engender the campaign finance reform conversation, itself only a faint thread in political discourse.Embed from Getty ImagesRelated to money is the on-ground political support for female candidates. Often in my constituency, a major party does nominate a woman. But unless we really research the candidates, we continue to know little about the person. Too many of us in the voter queues read the Election Commission poster and make a random choice on the spur of the moment. Nomination is the beginning of the journey; female candidates also need a share of political workers who can canvass votes, public and media relations support to raise their profile and ground-level support by more prominent party leaders. This is also a good way to judge a party’s commitment to gender equality.Even easier, because outrage is how we talk politics now, is to call out misogynistic speech and signal that it is now unacceptable to us. The election campaigns to come will be bitterly fought and because women leaders will figure prominently, the vitriol will probably be patronising and sexist. The simplest—laziest—thing we can do is to monitor hate speech and communicate our disapproval in a variety of ways— social media posts and reactions to petitions. Can we commit to cleaner, more inclusive and less ad hominem campaigns?In May last year, before the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, Prajnya put together a Gender Equality Election Checklist which may be applied to any election context.Elections place a spotlight on women’s political exclusion, but really, the time to change that is in the years between elections. Off-season, it becomes clearer where the choke points are, and what can be done to remove them. Off-season, it should be easier to approach one’s representatives and local activists and initiate first conversations about local gender concerns. The years between elections are particularly suited to three sets of important interventions.In the years since gender quotas were introduced into local government, a great deal has been invested in training women Panchayat leaders. However, once trained and armed with experience, these women find they have nowhere to go. Doors open to a minuscule percentage of them at the next level. For the women who cross this threshold, the policy issues are relatively different. The election off-season is a great time for creating training processes and access to policy education for women who have been in Panchayats and are either seeking office at other levels or have been elected at other levels.Embed from Getty ImagesIt is also a good time for civil society to build two kinds of relationships. The first is a consultative equation with legislators that can inform Parliamentary debate on specific issues. Ideally, both sides should seek this out, but typically, civil society does so halfheartedly and the platforms acquire a ceremonial rather than substantive cast. The rare MP or MLA that really wants to sit down and learn and talk through issues is the one that must be feted in the ways that matter— not bouquets and panegyric but through letting people know that these are serious people. Let us reward people for their advocacy of gender issues and their willingness to be identified with inclusive ideals.The second is to create, host and facilitate cross-party alliances on key gender issues. Some things are truly above politics— equality should be one of them. Inner-party politics in India, especially at the state level, divests members of autonomy when it comes to any policy or issue engagement. Party members seek permission for the smallest thing and a siege mentality coats every casual conversation on a social issue with the tinge of possible betrayal. This paranoia may serve parties in some obscure way but it serves us not at all. Can we start to tinker with this thinking in small ways and to build the alliances that will foster true, substantive debate?Where will the women emerge from in nomination season if we have not made them visible in the off-season? I address both civil society and media here. The rosters and directories I spoke of earlier cannot be assembled overnight. The networking opportunities take time to create. Civil society and media are uniquely positioned to sift through false claims and to create openings for sustained, deep social engagement for women who seek a political career. Making women in public life visible is also a way of protecting them from violence and of supporting Women Human Rights Defenders. Moreover, despite how we think of politicians, many women political activists lack simple media and communication skills. How to organise and deliver a speech, how to canvass, the art of writing a pamphlet or a press release, how to use the internet— these are skills anyone can learn and these are skills we can teach each other as a form of support. This is the time to invest in building that kind of capacity.The death of Jayalalithaa this week and Hillary Clinton’s electoral loss a few weeks ago should move us towards action. The sense of purpose we universally admire in them must now inform our choices in 2017. The glass ceiling does not need to shatter; it can systematically be lifted off by our collective resolve and effort. I will make that effort; will you?Swarna Rajagopalan is a political scientist by training and the founder of Prajnya, whose work is largely focused on gender equality.

Human Rights Day: Dawoodi Bohra women launch petition to ban female genital mutilation

Mumbai: A group of women belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community, who underwent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), have launched a petition seeking people’s support to abolish the practice.

The online petition, aimed at rooting out this ancient practice was launched by an advocacy group known as ‘Speak Out on FGM’ on on Thursday ahead of the International Human Rights Day, being observed on Saturday.

It would be submitted to the wing of United Nations that deals with the welfare of women and child, said a senior associate with the group.

This group had earlier launched a similar petition in the month of December last year which has received over 80,000 responses so far and was submitted to Union Women and Child Development minister Maneka Gandhi.

“Our main objective to make at least everyone aware about this age-old practice being observed in our country since last 1,400 years which in not only shameful but is unconstitutional and utterly violates human rights,” said Masooma Ranalvi, a 50-year-old working woman from Delhi.

“I have no hesitation in admitting that I was subjected to FGM at a very young age, but I have ensured that my daughter, who is now 22, does not undergo this brutality,” said Ranalvi, adding even today over 80 percent of the Bohra girls are subjected to this “hurtful” tradition.

File photo. Reuters

File photo. Reuters

A senior associate of the group from Pune Shabnam Poonawala said, “Though this is practiced in US and Canada too, but their respective governments have brought laws to curb this evil. But unfortunately, no one speaks about this here, forget bringing a law for it.”

“We want the government to acknowledge it and stand behind us. Promulgate a law to flush out this regressive ritual from the society,” said Poonawala, also president of the University Women’s Association (UWA), a non-profit organisation (NGO) working towards empowering women.

In December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution on banning FGM. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

The WHO defines FGM — sometimes called female circumcision — as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to their genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Recounting her ordeal that she underwent at a tender age, a survivor from Mumbai said, “I was very young, around seven years of age. I was subjected to FGM in Mumbai in an unhygienic condition and in a clandestine manner. The shock, the physical and psychological trauma of that day is still fresh in my mind.”

“Its good that thousands of survivors are joining this campaign not only from India, but also from Canada, Australia, South Africa, Britain etc,” she added.

Survivors maintained the aim behind FGM was to curb the natural sex drive in women. They claimed FGM has nothing to do with religion and is more of a cultural practice.

According to WHO, between 100 million and 140 million females across the world are thought to be living with the consequences of FGM.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 11:32 IST

Human Rights Day: Petition seeking support to ban FGM launched

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A group of women belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community, who underwent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), have launched a petition seeking people’s support to abolish the practice.The online petition, aimed at rooting out this ancient practice was launched by an advocacy group known as ‘Speak Out on FGM’ on on Thursday ahead of the International Human Rights Day, being observed on December 10.It will be submitted to the wing of United Nations (UN) that deals with the welfare of women and child, said a senior associate with the group. This group had earlier launched a similar petition in December 2015 which has received over 80,000 responses so far and was submitted to Union Women and Child Development minister Maneka Gandhi.”Our main objective to make at least everyone aware about this age-old practice being observed in our country since last 1400 years which in not only shameful but is unconstitutional and utterly violates human rights,” said Masooma Ranalvi, a 50-year-old working woman from Delhi. “I have no hesitation in admitting that I was subjected to FGM at a very young age, but I have ensured that my daughter, who is now 22, does not undergo this brutality,” said Ranalvi, adding even today over 80 per cent of the Bohra girls are subjected to this “hurtful” tradition.A senior associate of the group from Pune Shabnam Poonawala said, “Though this is practiced in US and Canada too, but their respective governments have brought laws to curb this evil. But unfortunately, no one speaks about this here, forget bringing a law for it.””We want the government to acknowledge it and stand behind us. Promulgate a law to flush out this regressive ritual from the society,” said Poonawala, also president of the University Women’s Association (UWA), a non-profit organisation (NGO) working towards empowering women.In December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution on banning FGM. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

Allahabad HC denounces triple talaq

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Allahabad High Court on Thursday pronounced a judgment, questioning the constitutionality of triple talaq. Observing that in India, Muslim law has taken a course contrary to the spirit of the Holy Quran, it said that the judicial conscience “is disturbed at this monstrosity”. “The question which disturbs the Court is should Muslim wives suffer this tyranny for all times? Should their personal law remain so cruel towards these unfortunate wives?” read the judgment administered by Justice Suneet Kumar. “Personal laws, of any community, cannot claim supremacy over the rights granted to the individuals by the Constitution,” it noted. The case was filed by two wives of a man, the first wife was 53 years of age, and the younger one was 23. The first wife was the first petitioner who approached the court on the grounds that her marriage was not yet null, and the second wife, the second petitioner, approached the court on the grounds that since the first wife was now divorced, she should now no longer harass her and her husband. The first wife had two children, and the husband took away one of them she bore and threw her out of the house with the other child. The court refused to enforce the divorce of the first woman, and also refused to nullify the marriage of the second woman, maintaining that “the legality of the marriage/divorce and rights of parties is kept open”.Also read: Women will no longer live in fear

President Mukherjee talks about EC’s recommendations to hold simultaneous elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Backing electoral reforms in the Indian political system, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday asked the government to come up with necessary amendments and hold public debates on a set of recommendations proposed by the Election Commission to hold simultaneous elections in the country. Acknowledging that the administration is feeling the pinch due to frequent elections hampering the developmental works, he said, “Many of you would aware that frequent elections are a costly affair, putting stain on the administrative resources and drainage of financial resources for holding and conducting elections. But we are ready to pay this price for the democracy, but it should not be at the cost of development in a developing economy like ours.”He was delivering a lecture on the 4th Defence Estates Day in the national capital. “I do feel that these do not affect the electoral process to that extent that voters would be influenced by the announcement. This is some sort of illusion with which the political activists believe. And here the Election Commission and the government can sit together with political parties to have discussion,” he added.The President also said that President’s Rule should be extended to more than a year in a state if general elections are around the corner. “As per the present constitutional amendment, after 44th amendment of the Constitution, president’s rule is only confined to one year subject to the ratification of both Houses of parliament at every 6 months. And if a consensus develops around simultaneous elections, there can be consensus on that as well,” he said.”During general elections, it is imperative that the President’s Rule should be extended beyond one year so that it can synchronise with the general elections of the parliament,” he added.President Mukherjee also pressed for the increase in the number of Lok Sabha seats in concomitant with rising population in the country. “We have 543 members in Lok Sabha, our electors are more than 800 million, a country of having a population of 1.28 billion which is going to much larger very soon, we must think whether we can have larger number of seats and for that constitutional amendment for delimitation is needed. We shall have to think especially under electoral reforms,” he said.The President also raised concern over women’s participation in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, and called for passage for of the Women’s Reservation Bill. “Women’s population is almost 50% whose representations is abysmally low which is totally unacceptable and with the experience of 16 Lok Saha elections it is being said that whatever be the reason, political parties are not magnanimous enough to give adequate number of representations to the woman in parliament,” he said.

22-year-old woman shot dead in marriage hall in Bhatinda, accused on the run

22-year-old woman shot dead in marriage hall in Bhatinda, accused on the run

A 22-year-old dancer was shot dead while performing in a marriage hall in Bhatinda on Saturday night for allegedly refusing to dance with a man, reported Times Now.

The news channel also reported that the woman was pregnant.

According to Times Now, the unidentified man, believed to be a relative, shot the dancer while she was on the stage.

Senior Superintendent of Police of Bhatinda said that the accused was in an inebriated state and a case has been registered against four people.

National Commission for Women (NCW) Chief Lalitha Kumaramangalam told Times Now that “nobody present in the hall is willing to talk on the issue but nobody can get away with murder.”

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 17:29 IST

Desai will visit Sabarimala Temple in Jan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A month after the Supreme Court verdict, activist Trupti Desai along with over 20 women visited Haji Ali dargah to offer prayer on Saturday afternoon.According to Desai, they offered prayer and seek blessing peacefully.“We entered the Haji Ali dargah after the victory in the apex court. It was a historic victory for all the women. We had protested so that women are allowed to enter the dargah’s inner sanctum sanctorum without any discrimination.We are happy to see the success of our protest and the petition filed by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. There was nobody from the managing trust to meet and talk to us. After Supreme Court’s order, they are, now allowing women. However, we could see that the management is not happy with the decision. The local ladies standing inside the dargah were misbehaving with the women worshipers,” Trupti Desai, who has been demanding the rights of women to enter religious places.Earlier this week, a group of around 100 women and social activists from Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan entered the inner sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah on Tuesday. While they were allowed to enter the inner sanctum sanctorum to offer prayer, they were not able to touch the mazar.After the High Court order to allow the women worshippers inside the inner sanctum on August 26 this year, the dargah trust challenged the order in the Supreme Court. On October 24, Supreme Court passed a judgment allowing women inside the inner sanctum sanctorum of the dargah. In the past till 2011, women were allowed access to the dargah’s inner sanctum sanctorum, but their entry was banned by the dargah management.Speaking about next step, Desai, said, “As the dargah protest is successful now, next we will be visiting Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in the month of January. We will visit the temple and will be going inside the sanctorum where women are not allowed. According to us, the management should open door of the temple to women of all age groups.”

LGBTQI harassment at Tiss: Issue gets voice in gender-sensitive institute, but what about the rest of India?

Students from the LGBTQ community in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences have complained of being harassed and discriminated against, according to a report by The Times of India. Some even submitted their complaints with the institute’s Gender Amity Committee (GAC) citing harassment in relation to their non-normative appearances or sexual preference claims the report.

The institute is known for fostering social justice, birthing and nurturing equality, and as the defender of all social identities. It provides multiple specialisations even within a single master’s category: such as on the topics of identity, women’s citizenship and governance, women’s writing and engendering governance, all offered as a sub-range within the MA in Women’s studies. In particular, it has stood out as the champion of the liberals, champion of all causes, in what other universities have stayed woefully inept in cultivating – a human agenda.

It was in May this year that we celebrated the news of a street sweeper with the BMC, 36-year-old Sunil Yadav who beat all odds to secure a MPhil degree from Tiss Mumbai, in ‘Globalisation and Labour’ and expressed the aim of pursuing a PhD to deeply understand the social system that has “marginalised our (sweeper) class in the society.” When the news of discrimination against the LGBTQI community arises in an educational institute such as Tiss, it must be taken up as matter of serious concern.

Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Wikimedia CommonsTata Institute of Social Sciences. Wikimedia Commons

Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Wikimedia Commons

The provision of such keenly domain knowledge by the institute serves as the metaphorical potter to shape experts out of all kinds of clay. Though, where such temples of knowledge are often unfairly seen as churning partisan intellectualism, the knowledge of discrimination within its halls could have finally falsified this notion and proved that it truly is a melting pot of different thought processes. A member of the Gender Amity Committee (GAC) said it like it is: “Tiss still exists in India.”

A student* who identifies as queer studying in the institute has said that he faced discrimination in the form of ostracism. He was refused as a roommate and in another instance, a fellow student refused to take a selfie with him based on his gender identity. “I think the campus does claim to be inclusive and sensitive but fails to really provide us a safe space,” he said.

But on the other hand, a student of media studies in the institute, Kamesh S denies having witnessed any discrimination. He has said that there are two formal unions to deal with such issues — the GAC and the Centre Against Sexual Harassment (CASH). “They have many procedures against sexual discrimination, ranging from counseling to stricter ones such as suspension or withdrawal of admission, depending on the case,” he clarified.

Following these complaints, the GAC has issued a circular against discrimination and have launched initiatives to increase gender awareness and sensitisation programmes.

A GAC member went on to say that the committee, which though is independent of the Students’ Union, is running joint programmes with the union to ensure a wider reach. “The committee has received a total of two or three formal complaints, and no reports of physical abuse. We have planned for open talks, role play activities and panel discussions in the coming months, with a proper timeline to combat the problem. Our objective is to destroy the pre-conditioned biases of people, and thus big or small we’re taking this very seriously.”

However, a student who identifies herself as an outsider to the community, and is taking her masters in social work from the university, said that she had heard about two separate incidents of discrimination from other students, one where a security guard had taunted a person for his appearance and another incident where a technical staff from the library made comments. “Tiss constitutes of a very diverse campus and attracts people from very multicultural backgrounds and so everyone is largely accepting of one another. But this very reason could be the cause of clashes – too different a background.” When asked as to what was done to counter this after the first incident, she said that a mail was sent by the Tiss Students’ Union, but not much else.

The mail, dated 29 September, 2016, by the union acknowledges the problem, and reads:

“Many of us find it difficult to go beyond the binary of ‘male’ and ‘female.’ However this does not give us the right to infringe upon the dignity or personal choice of any individual whatsoever. While it is necessary to immediately activate a mechanism to ensure that no one faces further discrimination or/and harassment on the basis of gender or sexual orientation; establishment of a gender-just campus will take some more efforts.”

The mail also announced that the union has strongly condemned any acts of discrimination while simultaneously calling upon the student body to engage in a process of dialogue to unlearn biases. The union has committed to working closely with the GAC-CASH in the future.

Furthermore, the mail confirmed that the administration of the university had taken cognisance of the incidents and had arranged for an immediate sensitisation program for the security guards.

However, one of the students* who lodged a formal complaint has accused a member of the Student Union of allegedly making insulting remarks. “I joined Tiss knowing that they follow a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination and inequality. But some queer people have been at the brunt of humiliating taunts and interrogations based on their dressing style. We have filed a complaint and in the process have started to see what can be done where we cannot seek legal intervention.” Nevertheless, he expressed confidence in the institution’s existing system to take corrective measures. “GAC and CASH have boosted its attempts at sensitisation. Where these matters used to take place before as well, they have now planned for more movie screenings and peer awareness programmes,” he said. “In a way these cases have propelled our visibility in the campus, made it stronger,” he added.

A source within the GAC pointed to the fact that this was an internal issue, and they were not allowed to talk about it. However, the GAC page on the Tiss website states that they have to follow the Vishaka Guidelines against Sexual Harassment mandates that “it shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts, of sexual harassment by taking all steps required,” which is further delineated in the Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) at Workplace Act 2013, in which it is outlines that sexual harassment constitutes physical contact and advances; or a demand or request for sexual favours; or making sexually coloured remarks; or showing pornography; or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. But the purview of this law is restricted to women, and the section 377 ruling of the Supreme Court that re-criminalised homosexuality makes it difficult for such bodies to operate, and find an outlet to help other genders and sexual identities.

There might be no written procedure or legal process that unions all over India can follow to address harassment to LGBTQ people. Long time LGBTQ rights activist, Sonal Giani saw both negative and positive aspects to these developments. She said: “On the one hand it’s distressing that a place as progressive as Tiss has witnessed such discrimination, but on the other, it goes to show that its students have the courage to stand up to bullying. It’s heartening that there is a redressal mechanism that exists, and nothing is shoved under the carpet. It’s however a catch-22 situation that the student has to come out and talk about it. Where the onus should lie on the varsity to make space inclusive for the trans-person, it is often expected that the trans-person has to take the onus of claiming space for himself or herself. More than anything, this episode highlights what should be the larger focus that the government can’t just expect to create reservations for various minorities to build a pluralistic society, it has to do more to sensitise the spaces.”

Diversity is a social condition, but “pluralism is a political programme; a manifestation of what we wish India to be,” says Ramachandra Guha, and goes on to list five varieties of pluralism that universities must seek to achieve, in his essay on Pluralism in the Indian university. Tiss has almost achieved all — a pluralism in the student body, then in the teaching staff, a plurality of disciplines, approaches within a discipline, and pluralism in its funding. As Hunar Mehta, currently studying community organisation and development practice in the institute, has said, “discussions among friends and in classes help to change your perspective subtly. When exposed to scientific reasoning to what is not considered ‘normal,’ it helps one accept reality.”

Moreover in the case of Tiss, that has about two years to work with its student population to break years and years of prejudices, sensitivity is the key word. We would have to be boorish at the very least, to say that in the light of the recent events that it has failed in serving its reputation. It is perhaps because it is Tiss that these issues have received attention, and the kind of propriety it deserves.

The Supreme Court had heard a curative petition in February, 2016 to revisit its 2013 judgment, signifying that it recognised that the LGBTQ issue was a ‘constitutional’ one and not a ‘moral’ one, according to this Firstpost article. And the Tiss issue among many, may hopefully pave the way for another one.

*Students spoke to Firstpost on the condition of anonymity

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 13:46 IST

Women have no time to make tea for husband because of TV serials: Goa culture minister

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Goa’s art and culture minister Dayanand Mandrekar triggered a controversy on Wednesday after claiming that women were so immersed in TV serials that they don’t even have time to make tea or enquire about their husbands. Mandrekar was quoted saying: “Women are so interested in watching these serials, that once they start watching them in the evenings, they do not even pay attention to their husbands who come home after a long day at work. Today, she is so immersed in the TV, the fact that her husband has arrived home and has changed clothes does not matter to her. She is not even in the frame of mind to ask him whether he would like to have a cup of tea or not.”He added: “Now we are going in a commercial way and as a result, the manner in which people used to step out with enthusiasm and in big numbers to watch plays, has waned. There are many reasons for this. There is a TV at home and there are several good programmes and serials every day.””Because of these serials, even if there is a good program in the village, they do not care,” he said. The Congress claimed that Mandrekar’s comment reflected ‘khap mentality’ of BJP leaders. Congress spokesperson Sunil Kawthankar said: “This is nothing but the real underlying khap mentality of its leaders. Demeaning women is not new to them. While the party claims it has a modern outlook, the comments made by Mandrekar against women, reflects the sad reality of their mindset.”

Dealing with crimes against women in reality has become a matter of ‘jugaad’

Citing a new survey by ActionAid, an international women and child rights NGO, a report in The Times of India said that 41 percent of women in India have been subjected to sexual harassment or violence before the age of 19. The survey, covering a total of four nations — India, United Kingdom, Brazil and Thailand — revealed that women face harassment for the first time when they’re quite young. Survey further added that 6 percent have experienced it below 10 years of age. And to gain some more perspective here are the figures — Brazil at 16 percent, UK at 12 percent and 8 percent in Thailand.

This comes after the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in August, stating that crimes against women had increased by 61 percent from 2010 to 2015, with a 43 percent increase in rape and 21 percent increase in cases of kidnapping.

Another survey by the National Crime Records Bureau pointed out that there was a dip in the number of rape cases in 2015 in comparison to 2014, but a spike in other sexual offences was noted, as well as an increase in abduction cases with the intent to force one to marry, in a report by The Indian Express.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

On the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, these statistics build a strong case for more action.

Let’s refresh our memory of the past few months: the rape of a minor in Nashik from the Maratha community, the rape of 12 students in Buldhana of Ninadhi Ashram school, a six year-old raped in a school in Bangalore, the Monica Ghurde murder incident are just some of the cases that have been registered, reported and picked up by the media.

Thereafter, let’s look at the completely shocking verdicts announced for others, as in the Scarlett Keeling murder and rape case, Patna High Court’s verdict on rape accused RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav, and the Allahabad High Court granting bail to Asif Khan in connection with the rape of a 14 year old girl from Badaun. The 14-year-old had to even fight a legal battle to terminate her pregnancy after the incident, according to The Times Of India report. In the case of a 21 year-old Dalit student in Rohtak, in Haryana, she was raped for the second time in three years, when two of the five that were accused were released on bail, and after she refused an out of court settlement. All this and we haven’t even made a mention of female foeticide and dowry deaths.

It’s probably a good thing then, if beyond everything, some women have the luxury of being able to speak from their ivory towers to deny these crimes, going to show that they still retain greenness and trust in this world. But even if rape, trafficking, mutilation, domestic violence, exploitation, and coercion seem like far away realities to them, there is the problematically grey issue of consent.

A video titled Tea Consent, simplifies consent through the metaphor of tea and defines the line so one may not cross it, nor allow it to be crossed. The nuancing of this discussion, of knowing that one is not obligated to make tea, and that one can say ‘yes and then no’ over the ‘no means no’ argument, helps in raising awareness and normalising of all of one’s rights. Harassment is, after all, a form of discrimination, and this includes jokes, inappropriate remarks, threats, unwelcome physical contact, blackmailing and intimidation. Invasion of privacy in whatever way has to beget consequences.

But perhaps consent is a non-argument in a country wherein marital rape is still legal, nor even ordained with any seriousness. With public figures speaking and women’s wings of some parties saying things such as ‘women must not wear short clothes’ or ‘marriage is a sacred bond’ and ‘Indian society is woven by the divine element a woman carries within her,’ as revealed in this article by The Indian Express. Ironically, the same people then go on to speak out about Triple Talaq and argue about uniform civil code.

According to another report in The Times of India, our very own Union Minister for Women and Child Development has claimed that India was ranked among the lowest four countries in the world for rape, the dire, black paradox of the situation being that Maneka Gandhi revealed these statistics to an authority in Sweden when she went there in connection with the Delhi rape case incident. The report goes on to say that so many women, who have been sexually violated, do not come out to report crimes out of fear of further persecution and stigma.

The word ‘rape’ comes from the Latin word ‘Raptus’ which implies a violent theft. An article by Priyanka Rath in the India Law Journal, suggests that rape in India is considered as theft of a woman against the consent of her guardian (those with legal power over her). But what happens if the guardian (father, brother or husband) are the ones who rape her? In reality though, this is not even a theft of, rather a theft from a woman.

So many say that rape is political in nature, that it is the whiplash response of patriarchy to the feminist movement. But what about the underage six percent — little children, who don’t even know how to spell ‘agitation’? Aggression against them cannot, surely, be political. Is it not then indicative of the psychological rot within our country, of immense frustration and its unjust displacement, and a fearlessness that comes with impunity?

And speaking of crimes against juveniles comes with speaking about crimes by juveniles. We can hail the bill in the Rajya Sabha to alter the age at which one can be tried as an adult for rape to 16, but that still discounts the other teens, like in the Nashik rape case, who might walk away after three years in a correctional facility. Though contrary to our knee-jerk reaction to the delay in justice, the way to purge ourselves of the problem should hardly be to condemn perpetrators to capital punishment.

The first step to solving a problem is obviously to acknowledge that there is one. And this day thus goes a step above Women’s Day in value. Having a separate day to spread awareness, take stock and lick our wounds, may not be a solution, and maybe even less of a consolation, but one has to believe that this is germination in process.

It’s good news that the survey’s findings glint with a silver lining, showing that women are taking measures to protect themselves. The ActionAid India website shows 35 percent avoid parks and poorly lit areas, 36 percent change their travel route, 23 percent have said they make use of everyday objects like keys, and 18 percent arm themselves with devices like a rape alarms and pepper sprays.

Of course they shouldn’t have to avoid parks and poorly lit areas, or change their travel routes, or prep themselves with props. But at least they’re not staying back home.

One may endlessly argue against this protectionist approach, saying that it robs women of power, and that it objectifies them once again as something to be kept safe. But this seems to be such a movie-analysis like approach to talking about the issue of crimes against women. How can taking initiative to keep oneself safe be a bad thing? Wanting to be careful is genderless, not to mention especially necessary here when dealing with the ‘unfair sex.’

These multiple minute narratives of individuals are immensely hopeful, implying a certain robustness and coping – Indian jugaad at play once again, where help is never forthcoming.

First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 15:17 IST

Triple talaq should be deliberated with open mind: AIMWPLB

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) on Monday welcomed the ALMPLB’s decision to set up a women-wing for deliberating on the raging issues like triple talaq and hoped that these problems will be looked into with an open mind.”I welcome the move of the AIMPLB to set up a women-wing to look into the problems related to triple talaq, education and other such matters and hope that they will look into them with an open mind without any prejudice,” chairperson of the AIMWPLB Shaista Amber told PTI. “Only a woman can understand the problems related to their gender. I hope that they will consider the real plight of Muslim women in the face of triple talaq, inheritance, Khula and Halala ..if this does not happen there will be no relevance of this wing,” she said.Regretting that there is a dearth of women ‘qazis, muftis and alims’ in Darul-Qaza (shariat courts) because of which women are deprived of justice in cases of talaq, Amber demanded that women qazis, muftis and alims should be present in these courts to ensure justice to women. Amber said that she had been working on triple talaq and other related issues and had sought time to meet the office bearers of the AIMPLB but was denied audience, however, the latest move indicated that the board has started to realise the poor condition of women.In a first, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (ALMPLB) yesterday decided to form a women’s wing to look into burning issues such as talaq, even as it passed a resolution in favour of triple talaq.The women’s wing would also deal with other issues like family disputes and education.

Bill to ban commercial surrogacy introduced in Lok Sabha

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a move to ban commercial surrogacy, a bill was on Monday introduced in the Lok Sabha which also seeks to protect women from exploitation and ensure the rights of the child born through surrogacy.The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 was introduced by Health Minister JP Nadda amid noisy opposition protest over the government’s demonetization move.Once approved by Parliament, there will be a complete ban on commercial surrogacy, but altruistic surrogacy will be permitted for needy infertile couples under strict regulations.The bill entitles only Indian citizens to avail of surrogacy. But foreigners, NRIs and PIOs are not allowed to seek surrogacy in the country.Homosexuals, single parents, and live-in couples are also not entitled for surrogacy. Also couples who already have children will not be allowed to go in for surrogacy, though they would be free to adopt a child under a separate law.With no law governing surrogacy, India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries. There have been incidents concerning unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers and abandonment of children born out of surrogacy.The bill allows surrogacy only for legally married couples after five years of marriage and with a certificate from a doctor stating that they are medically unfit to produce a child. Women within the age group of 23 years to 50 years and men aged between 26 to 55 years will be eligible to go in for surrogacy.In an attempt to check commercial exploitation and middlemen, the surrogate mother can only be a close relative, like a sister or sister-in-law who is married and has at least one healthy biological child. A woman can be a surrogate only once in her lifetime.

Why Modi govt not passing women’s reservation bill, asks Margaret Alva

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Veteran Congress leader Margaret Alva on Sunday said the Narendra Modi government could easily ensure passage of women’s reservation bill, but it was not being brought to the Lok Sabha because the male politicians feared losing their seats.”The bill…has been passed by the Rajya Sabha and the present government has an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha. It can be passed instantly, but they are not bringing it to the Lok Sabha,” she said.”Since the bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha, it does not get lapsed as Rajya Sabha is a permanent house. All parties are committed. So you have people who are committed to give you the support. Why are they not bringing it? Because, they are afraid that it will be passed and they don’t want to give up their seats,” she said during a discussion at the Tata Literature Live festival here.The former Rajasthan Governor also said that discrimination against women has been sanctified by religious practises and traditions.”It makes it even more difficult to break them when family laws, inheritance laws are made against women because women have not been made part of decision-making. These are laws made by men for the protection of men and women have no say,” she said.”The basic issue is impact of poverty on the lives of women….governments have just taken women, particularly poor and rural women for granted because they are not organised and they don’t have trade unions or powerful lobbies behind them,” the former Union Minister said.Alva further said the women are always looked upon as production machines, and health policies focus on lactating women and those who are about to give birth, but not those who are older and suffer from menopause trauma, or the teenage pregnancies.”These issues are not considered important. Women, once they have passed the child-bearing period, have no consequence. Women are never admitted to hospitals. Focus on issues related to womens’ health has been missing and there have been not enough voices to raise these issues,” she said.

NFSW bats for rural single women

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Neetu was working in the fields one day when her husband and his family gathered together and began to physically assault her. She reached out to the village panchayat for help and they said, “You need to accept these small things. Women suffer more than this.” Neetu decided to leave her husband, and asked for his help to take care of their daughters.“He refused to accept them as his own children, threatening to cut off my ears,” she says. She now lives with her parents and hopes to become a teacher. Neetu is in a better position than most women in rural areas because she is qualified to teach. Marriages in India are sacrosanct, because socially and economically, marriages are a construct that not only define women, but also protect them. When marriages break down, or when a woman chooses to not marry, especially in the rural areas, it is not surprising that state schemes do not come to their aid. Like in the case of Seeta Devi from Almora, who returned to her maternal home, within a year of her marriage because her husband was a drunk who’d physically abuse her. He also suffered from a mental condition which was hidden from Seeta and her family before marriage. Seeta’s then two month old son is now in Class IX. Seeta works as a daily wage labourer and takes care of her parents and son.The Uttarakhand Chapter of the National Forum advised her to seek help under the state pension scheme. She applied six months ago, but nothing has happened yet.Over 130 members of the National Forum of Single Women (NFSW)from 14 different states in India met in the Capital last week to demand changes which included a desirable pension for women who have been abandoned by their husbands with children to fend for; or women who have never been married. “There’s the concept of pati-tyag, in rural areas where women are increasingly being abandoned by husbands for younger wives,” says Parul Chaudhary of the National Forum. “These women, don’t receive social benefits or schemes and usually raise children without a steady income. Our demand for a pension scheme to be drawn up for them.” In Uttarakhand, if a woman’s husband remains absconding for over a year, she can approach local authorities to sign an affidavit that will allow her to draw over Rs1000 every month. In Rajasthan, women can approach local authorities if their husbands have been away for over three years and avail Rs500 per month. The scheme also allows them to withdraw a yearly bonus of Rs3000 for school supplies per child, for up to three children. “Marriages are also dissolved in the presence of village elders who dictate the terms of the separation,” says Parul. The forum also demands women be made legal heir in any land or property the husband owns. “Only a woman with a roof over her head has dignity,” says Nirmala Chandel, president of the forum.THEIR DEMANDSThe National Forum for Single Women’s Rights was launched in 2009 and has over 1,23,000 members. a. The Women’s Reservation Bill be passed so that there is 33% reservation for women in all the bodies of the government. b. A monthly pension of Rs 2000 for every woman either separated from her husband, widowed, or who never married. c. A system single women can access all developmental government schemes in one place. d. Investigation into the rising cases of men abandoning their wives and refusing to take care of their families. TALKING NUMBERSAs per the 2011 census, there are over 5,05,09,941 single women — widows, separated, divorced and those who never married — in the country. The Census data also reveals that while only 13.2% of all households in the country are headed by women, among single people households, the percentage goes up to over 57.6%.Which means that 59,36,636 women live alone, and many are senior citizens. Literacy rates for women over age 35 are dismal, which means that they lack formal education and marketable skills, thereby making single women a large but extremely vulnerable group open to violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation.

Demonetisation aftermath: Women, children in Manipur hard hit due to currency ban

By Maya Palit

The past 10 days have been fraught with harrowing stories about people across the country struggling with the aftermath of demonetisation. A recent essay by the former Chairman of the National Statistical Commission Pronab Sen even speculated that the overnight action might well have destroyed the informal sector permanently while also having a hugely adverse impact on chit funds and other non-banking lending institutions. It is now a familiar story. But add to this the chaos of an economic blockade and you have the nightmare that Manipuri citizens are living through at the moment.

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

The United Naga Council (UNC) had organised a 48-hour strike – a “total shutdown in Naga territories in Manipur” – from 30 October midnight to protest the Manipur government’s proposition to create two new districts, Sadar Hills and Jiribam, in regions that include Naga ancestral land. This is a decision that apparently goes against the four MOUs, signed between 1981 and 1998, which were agreed upon by the Naga organisations and the Manipur government. An article in the Morung Express argues that the Manipur government’s inconsistent stance as regards the Naga and Kuki communities might be largely responsible for the extremity of the current situation.

The 48-hour strike immediately transitioned into an indefinite economic blockade imposed on Manipur’s two national highways on 1 November. Two weeks later, there are no signs of it being lifted and citizens are understandably despondent. The horror of the situation can be gauged by Imphal resident Raees Ahmed being quoted in The Citizen today: “We are going to die like this,” he laments, having forked out Rs 700 for two litres of petrol for his vehicle. Reports from last week said there was no more diesel, kerosene or LPG cylinders available in Manipur.

Frustratingly, some 150 oil tankers are stranded in Assam and 1,800 trucks with food supplies being unable to pass beyond the Manipur border, although fuel tankers carrying fuel and consumer items, including food stuff, were escorted into the State by police commandos on 16 November.

Unsurprisingly, the black market has gone into overdrive. Though several petrol pumps remained closed early into the blockade, petrol was already going for Rs 250 a litre in Imphal and higher than that in surrounding districts. The blockade has hit schoolchildren. Exams are round the corner and school vans have suspended services because of unavailability of fuel, and two major newspapers decided on 17 November to halt publication of the 20 dailies Imphal brings out because they have run out of money.

Mary Beth Sanate, a human rights activist based in Churachandpur, a district in southwestern Manipur, says that the high cost of petrol and diesel has created immense problems for women vendors. Autorickshaws have doubled their fares. The prices of onions, potatoes, garlic and fruits that come from outside the state have spiralled, so even if the women were able to avail themselves of transport and sell their produce, they would find themselves with an unviable profit margin.

Sanate adds that the already grim situation has been exacerbated by demonetisation. “A significant number of women in the districts make a living by selling eatables imported from Burma or cooked meals door-to-door. Some women sell the clothes they weave. For half a month now, they either haven’t got their stocks or haven’t been able to make it to the state capital. Their incomes have stopped. Demonetisation is making things worse each day, and it’s been the hardest on single mothers. School examinations are approaching and all tuition fees are due this month. One of my neighbours, a widow, waited at the bank for three days and couldn’t withdraw money for her child’s fees,” she says.

Playwright and theatre director Swar Thounajam agrees that the worst affected groups are women vendors. She points out that those from outside Imphal usually travel to the city early morning when trading begins around 4.30 am. They catch the line buses to reach the Khwairamband bazar,the iconic women’s only market in Imphal. Naturally, with the national highway being blocked, this system has been completely disrupted.

Post-demonetisation, women who run kiosks and shops don’t have to return to customers and hence are forced to shut their establishments. Instead of selling their ware to keep home fires burning, they now find themselves standing in queues before banks as early as 4 am for precious cash, says Thounajam

“Women, who were part of a marup (an informal lending system popular in the Meitei community where 15 to 30 women come together, borrow money and pay back Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000 a month), are in even worse trouble, with no legal tender available,” she adds.

And then there are women rendered effectively unemployed by demonetisation – those who sell cinema tickets in black in Imphal, for instance. Desperate with their precious income cut off overnight, they are apparently taking up work as stand-ins in the ubiquitous, snaking cash queues at banks in return for a small commission.

Meanwhile, citizens in Manipur, furious with the United Naga Council, have initiated a counter-blockade. Last week, a large number of women were allegedly amongst the protestors intercepting cars on the Imphal-Ukhrul road and other parts of the state, gunning for the UNC, which they accuse of destabilising life in the state. A woman, who lives in a part of Ukhrul with a high Naga population, says it was in full force in her area: “The counter-blockade by the valley people is even worse than the economic blockade. They are attacking Naga people, seizing their bags and their belongings.”

Needless to say, this ruthless backlash against the Naga peoples and the sudden demonetisation could well be the last straw for Manipur’s citizens, already burdened by the cessation of transport, loss of daily wages, price increase of vegetables and essential commodities, and the scarcity of stocks for reselling.

Now that the Centre’s attempts at intervention in the UNC-Manipur government conflict have not headed anywhere, there seems to be no end to their misery.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 13:45 IST

Narendra Modi, Mohan Bhagwat only see women as India’s mothers or daughters and little more

By Ila Ananya

In the last few days, we have seen three things appear over and over again in the news. On 9 November, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation decision, followed by his emotional speech about his many ‘sacrifices’ for this nation. We’ve heard him claim that his demonetisation decision is ‘kadak chai’ for the rich, and now he’s even called his move a “mahayajna of honesty”. Second, we have RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, stating at a women’s conference in Jammu on 14 November, that Indian women must come forward and contribute to the nation-building exercise that he obviously considers himself a great part of. Then there is 95-year-old Heeraben Modi, the prime minister’s mother, who went to Gandhinagar on Tuesday to exchange her demonetised notes in a bank. They are all connected, because apparently it’s once more time for: Every woman must become Mother India.

Heeraben, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mother, at a bank on Tuesday. PTI

Heeraben, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mother, at a bank on Tuesday. PTI

Twitter has predictably exploded into two opposing factions since the news of the elder Mrs Modi’s visit to the bank broke. On the one hand, Modi is being called cruel for using his mother to play a sentimental card. Many Twitter users are saying that this “Mere paas ma hai” or “Ma ke paas passbook hai” move is being done since all else has failed, and reports of how badly demonetisation has affected the working class have finally begun to appear. Others have decided that Heeraben going to a bank to get her money exchanged is her contribution, along with her son’s, to what is considered by the upper middle class as a rigorous, thorough exercise in nation-building, and in what it calls its attempt to reduce black money and terrorism.

Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on Monday in Jammu talks about the new heights that we can take India to with the participation of women. According to him, “Matra Shakti”, the strength of motherhood or, as various reports have optimistically translated it, ‘women force’ should, apart from serving families, “Come forward and take part in the programmes for the welfare of the society.” Then he went on to say, “They should start from their homes to create mini-India and work for the society without getting distracted by anybody.”

Only Bhagwat knows what he is referring to when he talks about women being “distracted” (he’s previously said that Hindu-women should produce more children, that rapes happen only in urban India because of western influence and not Bharat, and that a marriage is like a “contract” where the husband can leave his wife if she doesn’t look after his house so really only he knows what we are distracted by) – but implicit in all his other wisdom is the idea that women cannot come out to work for themselves. You must always, always, contribute to nation-building, never mind if this nation that Bhagwat talks of isn’t the nation that you want, or it isn’t a nation that gives you something in return.

Bhagwat’s statements are not surprising in the least. They, like Modi’s statements on his sacrifices for Bharat Mata, and what people are calling Heeraben’s sacrifice for India, are just more examples of how we have begun to see India as a nation – as larger than those who make up the nation. This is particularly true of women. In Modi’s announcement of demonetisation – and those who are ‘Loving It’ – there is no regard for women and men who have no access to bank accounts and ID cards, and who are daily wage earners, or housewives. In Bhagwat’s statements, there is no recognition that women are more than this nation that he wants us to build. And then, along with all of this, Bhagwat is also blissfully ignorant of all the work that women have already been doing in this country as farmers, construction workers, homemakers, anganwadi workers, garment factory workers and municipal workers.

There is nothing new in Bhagwat’s reference to women who must build the nation as also having the responsibility of “serving” their families. So when he says, “It is important to educate womenfolk because a mother is the basic teacher to her children,” we just roll our eyes, since this is simply a reiteration of what we have heard for years. But then Bhagwat goes on to say, “Women have taught and inculcated a sense of sacrifice among the children and the society in the country.” For years women have been expected to make sacrifices for the people around them — for their families, their husbands, about their bodies, their work. Now, with these sacrifices (that were also for nation-building) and along with the work that women must apparently do for the country, we have come back full circle to ‘every woman must become tuition teacher India’.

This is the connection between Heeraben Modi and the manner in which her going to a bank is being talked about in terms of virtuous nation-building, and the way in which Bhagwat talks about “Matra Shakti” and how women must work for the nation and not for themselves (after all who knows what will happen to this country if they do). It is as though the only way that he can see women is as mothers, as India’s daughters, as everyone other than their own person – in the same way that Heeraben is being talked about in terms of her support for the greater good, and for Mother India.

To rephrase another man who loved to talk about sacrifice: Ask not what your mommy can do for you, ask what you can do for Mommy. Let’s talk again when Paytm means Pay To Ma.

(The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.)

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 11:35 IST

Govt likely to junk inter-parental child abduction Bill

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Despite international pressure, the Centre is likely to junk the Bill on inter-parental child abduction which deals with child custody issues for NRI couples and would have paved the way for India’s accession to the Hague Convention.The Law Commission, though, recently submitted its report to the Law Ministry sticking to its 2007 stand advising the government to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (1980).”We are very clear that we are not signing the Hague Convention. This is a decision collectively arrived at by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),” said a senior WCD Ministry official.On June 22, 2016, the WCD Ministry had uploaded on its website a proposal to enact a draft of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016. Subsequently, the draft Bill was placed on the website seeking comments. The draft Bill was prepared following a reference made by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the Law Commission of India and the WCD Ministry to examine the issue and consider whether recommendations should be made to enact a suitable law and for signing the Hague Convention. However, the Bill has since been removed from the Ministry website. The draft envisaged “prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in a contracting state, and to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are respected in other contracting states.”It also proposed a central authority to discover the whereabouts of a child, to prevent further harm to any such child and to secure the voluntary return of the child to the signatory nation. WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi has expressed apprehension over acceding to the Convention at several forums, primarily on two grounds — that taking such a decision will not be in the interest of aggrieved women and because the government maintains that there are fewer instances of Indian children being abducted and taken abroad. At an event last month she had said, “Personally, in the beginning, when I was new, I thought we should join the Convention because we get protection. But with time and after interacting with women who have been abandoned by their husbands abroad, had their passports snatched from them, been beaten up, and have somehow scraped the money and are in terrible fear, I wonder whether we should join or not.”

Don’t bring politics in debate on Uniform Civil Code: Law Commission Chairman

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Politics should not be brought into the Law Commission’s exercise to make recommendations regarding framing of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to achieve the goals of gender equality and dignity for women.”We are merely an advisory body. We are not going to make the law. People should not mix politics in it. We are an advisory body and not a law making authority.”I have no involvement with politics. We, in Law Commission, are working on the reference received from the government,” Law Commission Chairman Justice BS Chauhan said in New Delhi.Maintaining that the law panel was carrying out a larger debate on the issue without any “prejudice or bias” to arrive at an objective as per the constitutional norms, he cautioned against bringing politics into the debate saying the entire exercise was being undertaken due to the growing awareness in the society.”We will make the recommendations and Parliament will debate threadbare on them. After due scrutiny by both the Houses, the Legislature will take a call,” the former Supreme Court judge said.He expressed pain that the media debate on UCC had crossed limits of decency and said the subject was an “academic one” and should be discussed in a manner that would promote social harmony and welfare of the people.”All are educated now and the debate should not take the shape of indecency as has been witnessed in some of the media debates….in a democracy, debate (on UCC) must be carried out in a healthy manner to promote social harmony and welfare of people. All sections of society should come forward to participate in this academic debate,” Justice Chauhan said.He was of the opinion that a lot of ‘hue and cry’ has been made on the contentious issue of ‘triple talaq’ which, he said, was “one of the small parts of the entire exercise” of the Law Commission on the UCC.”The issue of triple talaq is one of the small parts of the entire exercise and probably it will be settled by the Supreme Court before the Law Commission comes out with its final recommendations,” he said.The Law Commission Chairman was of the view that the discriminatory practices against women were now on the wane with the progress in education and awareness. Women were coming forward to claim gender equality as was evident in the recent cases of Haji Ali Dargah, Shani Singnapur Mandir and Sabarimala temple, he said.Justice Chauhan said “I don’t have my own opinion on it (UCC). Nothing like that, but what is accepted is that gender equality as per the norms of the Constitution should be adhered to. We are not prejudiced or biased”.He said the UCC issue was relevant as the Supreme Court has regularly raised questions on it when issues like rights of women in property, inheritance etc were taken up.”Every time, Supreme Court also asks questions about the UCC, as to why it has not come. In 2015 also, a Supreme Court judge had also asked why UCC has not come.”It is not a religious matter. It is a case of gender equality and dignity,” he said and referred to an instance when a judge had raised questions about the Christian cannon law in which a relatively larger time of two years was taken for granting divorce.Justice Chauhan expressed satisfaction about the large number of responses received since the questionnaire on UCC was made public on October 7 and said a team was working to retrieve them for the perusal and the final steps would be taken after 45 days when the date for submitting responses would end.”We will start reading the responses and suggestions on the questionnaire in the first week of December as large number of persons have responded to the questions and 45 days is still to be reached,” he said.

SC to hear PIL for making ‘Yoga’ compulsory for students

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court would next week hear a plea seeking framing of a ‘National Yoga Policy’ and making ‘Yoga’ compulsory for students of Class I-VIII across the country.A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao has agreed to hear on November 7 the PIL that seeks inclusion of Yoga as a compulsory subject in the curriculum on grounds including that its “secular” and right to health was an integral part of right to life. The plea, filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson, has sought a direction to the Ministry of Human Resources Development, NCERT, NCTE and the CBSE to “provide standard textbooks of ‘Yoga and Health Education’ for students of Class I-VIII keeping in spirit various fundamental rights such as right to life, education and equality.”‘Right to Health’ is an integral part of Right to Life under the Article 21. It includes protection, prevention and cure of the health and is a minimum requirement to enable a person to live with human dignity.”State has a obligation to provide health facilities to all the citizens, especially to children and adolescents. In a Welfare State, it is obligation of the State to ensure the creation and sustaining of conditions congenial to good health,” the plea said. It said that right to health cannot be secured without providing ‘Yoga and Health Education’ to all children or framing a ‘National Yoga Policy’ to promote and propagate it.”There are about 20 crore children, throughout the country, studying in primary and junior classes at the cost of public exchequer. Yoga should be taught to them as a compulsory subject as per National Curriculum Framework 2005, notified under Section 7(6) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009…”, it said.It also sought a direction to the Ministries of Women and Child Development and Social Justice and Empowerment to declare ‘First Sunday’ of every month as ‘Health Day’ on the lines of ‘Polio Day’ to make the people aware about health- hazards and health-hygiene.” The plea also said that a court at California had held that “yoga is secular”.

910 rape cases reported in Kerala in six months in 2016: State police

Thiruvanathapuram: Despite stringent laws and awareness campaigns, as many as 910 cases of rape have been reported in Kerala in the first six months of this year, giving an indication of continuing atrocities against women in the state.

A total of 7,909 cases of crimes against women were reported across the state upto July, according to state police’s crime statistics.

Of them, 2332 were cases of molestation, 190 cases of eve teasing and 78 cases of kidnapping of women besides 910 cases of rape, it said.

The number of rape cases reported last year was 1263, it said.

Representational image. Getty imagesRepresentational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

Expressing concern over the alarming figures, state Women’s Commission Chairperson K C Rosakkutty said awareness seminars and classes were not enough to tackle the increasing atrocities against women.

Absence of fast-track courts and speedy trials are among the major challenges in dealing with rape cases, she said.

“In most of the rape cases, we fail in ensuring that the accused gets the right punishment at the right time for the gruesome crime committed.

“The delay in trials and awarding of punishments also contribute to increase in such cases,” Rosakkutty told PTI.

“We have been demanding fast-track courts for years to ensure speedy trial in rape cases. But, it still remains as a demand. The delay in trials gives criminals ample time to escape through the loopholes in law,” she said.

Stating that the Women’s Commission conducts state-wide seminars and awareness classes regularly, she said such drives were not enough to check the atrocities against women.

“Despite all these drives, women are still considered and treated as second grade citizens in our society. This attitude should be changed first. Mothers should be given special awareness to nurture their children as good citizens,” she said.

Local bodies and community outfits also have a role to play at the grassroot level to check attacks against women.

According to the statistics, the highest number of crimes against women including rape were reported from the northern district of Malappuram, where as many as 861 cases under various categories were registered during the period.

The total number of rape cases reported from Malappuram was 106, followed by Thiruvananthapuram rural (78) and Ernakulam rural (64), it said.

Malappuram also witnessed highest number of cases in terms of molestation (160) and cruelty by husbands and other relatives (266), the statistics added.

Kerala: 910 rape cases reported in 6 months; highest number of crimes against women in Malappuram

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Despite stringent laws and awareness campaigns, as many as 910 cases of rape have been reported in Kerala in the first six months of this year, giving an indication of continuing atrocities against women in the state.A total of 7,909 cases of crimes against women were reported across the state up to July, according to state police’s crime statistics. Of them, 2332 were cases of molestation, 190 cases of eve teasing and 78 cases of kidnapping of women besides 910 cases of rape, it said. The number of rape cases reported last year was 1263, it said.Expressing concern over the alarming figures, state Women’s Commission Chairperson KC Rosakkutty said awareness seminars and classes were not enough to tackle the increasing atrocities against women. Absence of fast-track courts and speedy trials are among the major challenges in dealing with rape cases, she said.”In most of the rape cases, we fail in ensuring that the accused gets the right punishment at the right time for the gruesome crime committed. The delay in trials and awarding of punishments also contribute to increase in such cases,” Rosakkutty told PTI. “We have been demanding fast-track courts for years to ensure speedy trial in rape cases. But, it still remains as a demand. The delay in trials gives criminals ample time to escape through the loopholes in law,” she said.Stating that the Women’s Commission conducts state-wide seminars and awareness classes regularly, she said such drives were not enough to check the atrocities against women. “Despite all these drives, women are still considered and treated as second grade citizens in our society. This attitude should be changed first. Mothers should be given special awareness to nurture their children as good citizens,” she said.Local bodies and community outfits also have a role to play at the grassroot level to check attacks against women. According to the statistics, the highest number of crimes against women including rape were reported from the northern district of Malappuram, where as many as 861 cases under various categories were registered during the period. The total number of rape cases reported from Malappuram was 106, followed by Thiruvananthapuram rural (78) and Ernakulam rural (64), it said. Malappuram also witnessed highest number of cases in terms of molestation (160) and cruelty by husbands and other relatives (266), the statistics added.

Would have to close rape crisis cell for want of staff salary: DCW

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on said the women’s body is forced to mull closing its mobile helplines and the rape crisis cell, as the Member secretary to DCW, appointed by the LG, has allegedly stopped releasing salaries of the staff.”Despite the work undertaken by the commission in the past one year, certain vested interests have launched an attack on the autonomy of the panel. The latest has been the illegal appointment of a Member Secretary by the Centre,” a DCW statement said.”Alka Diwan, who was appointed to the Commission in October, has stopped the release of salaries of all contractual staff for the past two months. Non-payment of salaries would result in stopping the programmes of the commission-181 Women Helpline, Rape Crisis Cell, Mobile Helpline among others. These staff members come from extremely vulnerable backgrounds and cannot afford to work for long without salaries,” it added.The commission officials further alleged that Diwan”s appointment to the post is illegal.”Diwan’s appointment to the commission is absolutely illegal for there has been no notification from the government about the same and has simply been appointed through an office order,” the DCW statement said.”She is also a serving government officer presently posted as the VAT Commissioner and has been given the additional charge of Member Secretary of DCW. This is in violation of the DCW Act which calls for a full time member secretary and is a direct way of subverting the autonomy of the commission, for a government officer who works only part time in the panel,” it added.

Check Maneka Gandhi’s unjustifiable stand on dog menace: Kerala minister urges Narendra Modi

Kochi: Congress MP and former Union Minister K C Venugopal on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “check” the “unjustifiable and rigid stand” taken by his cabinet colleague Maneka Gandhi in dealing with the growing stray dog menace in Kerala.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Alappuzha MP criticised the Union Women and Child Development Minister, who is stalling Kerala government’s move to kill “dangerous stray dogs, which create threat to the life of common people” calling it as “unlawful and unscientific”.

A day after a 90-year-old man was killed in stray dog attack in the state, he urged the PM to “clarify” the stand of the Union government in the matter.

He asked whether the Union government values human life or the dangerous animals which threatens humans.


Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. AFP

“I would request the government to clarify the stand of the central government in this issue and remove all confusions in this regard. The public in Kerala is in anger and they need a solution in this matter as soon as possible.”

Venugopal said Maneka Gandhi has stated that Kerala Anti-Social (Prevention) Act (KAPA) should be used against those who kill stray dogs, “which has drawn wide criticism in the state where stray dogs have become a major menace.”

“I would also request the Prime Minister to take a favourable stand in this matter and to check the unjustifiable and rigid stand taken by the union Minister of Women and Child development,” the letter said.

He said repeated incidents of stray dog attacks in Kerala have created “utter panic and apprehension” among the people in the state.

“The attack by dangerous stray dogs has been happening on a daily basis in various parts of the state.There are reported incidents of stray dogs’ attacks on infants, children, old age people and pets,” he said.

He said following repeated stray dog attacks, there is strong demand from the public in the state to kill dangerous stray dogs.

BK Bansal: DCW summons CBI and police officers again, warns of civil court proceedings

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Commission for Women has summoned officials of CBI and Delhi Police again in connection with the suicide of tainted senior government official BK Bansal and his son allegedly due to harassment by a few officials. The commission has also warned the two agencies of initiating civil court proceedings if the information sought by them is not provided. “CBI and Delhi Police were summoned by the commission earlier for non provision of information in the alleged suicide case of BK Bansal and family. Inspector rank officers appeared on behalf of both organisations,” a DCW official said.”CBI requested the Commission to grant it exemption from appearance for it has sought clarification from the central government as to whether it can be summoned by the commission,” a DCW official said.”The panel has informed CBI that Section 10 of the DCW Act clarifies that the commission has the powers to take suo moto cognizance in cases concerning welfare of women. Therefore the request for exemption has been rejected and the AIG has been summoned again on November 2,” he added.DCW had earlier issued notices to CBI and Delhi Police, seeking action taken report in the case. But the commission was not satisfied with the responses received prompting, it to issue summons. “Police has given an evasive reply to DCW but has informed that it is in possession of two suicide notes – both from wife and daughter of Bansal. The panel has again summoned DCP East and sought copy of the suicide notes and reasons for non registration of FIR in the case besides other information,” the official said.Bansal, 60, was arrested on July 16 for allegedly accepting bribe from a prominent pharma company. Three days later, his wife Satyabala and daughter Neha committed suicide. Two months after their suicide, Bansal, former Director General Corporate Affairs, and his son Yogesh had also allegedly hanged themselves on September 27.In their purported suicide note, Bansal had alleged that a CBI DIG, two women officers and a “fat” havaldar of the agency had tortured his wife and daughter to the extent that they ended their lives soon after his arrest on corruption charges in July. “If CBI and Delhi Police will not provide complete information, the Commission will initiate civil court proceedings against them which will include issuing arrest warrants and attachment of salary of the officers summoned,” he said.”An FIR can also be registered against the officers for denial of information to the commission,” he added.

Ahmedabad: Two Pakistani women married to Indians go missing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two Pakistani sisters married in Ahmedabad have gone missing along with their two children after they walked out of their homes in Paldi area of the city, police said on Tuesday. Arif Memon and Mohammad Soheb, both brothers, married to Ayeshabibi and Navirabibi, respectively, filed a complaint stating that their wives have gone missing.”The sisters who are Pakistani nationals and married to brothers from Ahmedabad left their homes in Paldi along with their two children — a two-year-old boy and a three-month-old girl–on evening of October 23,” Paldi police station sub-inspector R D Gojiya said.”They also carried their passports and marriage certificates. They are untraceable since then,” he added. He said that CCTV footage outside the residences of Memon and Soheb showed the women leaving with their belongings and children.There is no mention of the reason in the complaint on why the women left their house. Ayeshabibi had come to India around four years ago, while her younger sister Navirabibi two years back.”They cannot leave for Pakistan because for that they will have to seek permission from police for visa,” Gojiya added.

Sexual harassment: Maneka Gandhi to meet officials from ministries over failure to address complaints

New Delhi: Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi will hold a meeting on Wednesday with representatives from three central ministries over charge of failure to address sexual harassment complaints lodged by their women employees.

The heads of Internal Complaints Committees of Railway Ministry, Sports Ministry and Human Resource Development Ministry will meet Gandhi. The move comes after several women employees wrote to the ministry about delay in getting their complaints about sexual harassment resolved.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“We received a large number of complaints for it to be a cause of concern. 3-4 complaints were sent to Maneka Gandhi directly. Many of these complaints are pending in these ministries for over two years,” a senior official said. “One of the complainants is a joint secretary-level officer in the Railway Ministry. When we asked the ICC why they had not taken any action they told us that no complaint had been filed with them even though we have a copy of the complaint,” said the official.

“In another case, while there are witnesses to the crime, the complaint had been closed,” the official said. The meeting will review redressal mechanisms at each of these ministries, following which a strict guideline will be issued to all government organisations. A similar exercises will be undertaken for the private sector later. The minister had earlier tweeted, “Have called the heads of ICC to make presentations on selected cases of complaints filed by women officials.”

“This will enable us to issue strict advisory to all Govt. organisations on how to dispose of complaints in a timely & sensitive manner.” “We will then take up the issue of handling these complaints in non-government organisations too.” According to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013, any organisation with 10 or more employees should have an Internal Complaints Committee to look into cases of sexual harassment.

The inquiry into a complaint from a woman is meant to be completed in 90 days. If an organisation fails to comply with the provisions of the Act, it is liable to pay Rs 50,000 as fine.

Burari stalking incident: Police refusing to share documents DCW, says Swati Maliwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Police has refused to share the documents regarding the stabbing of a 21-year-old woman by a stalker in public, with the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), the panel chief Swati Maliwal has claimed. The woman, who was a teacher, was stabbed to death last month by her 34-year-old stalker, who attacked her nearly 22 times as passersby looked on in north Delhi’s Burari area.The deceased’s family had alleged that the woman had lodged a complaint with Police in May against the stalker but no action was taken. DCW had then issued notice to police to provide it the copy of woman’s complaint and FIR registered in the said incident of murder.”The response received from DCP, North District says that the sought documents cannot be shared with the commission as the same may hamper investigation. This is, needless to say, a baseless assumption. The copy of complaints and copy of FIR are routinely filed and used in court cases. It is unfathomable that it can be denied to a statutory body pursuing the case in discharge of its statutory mandate,” Maliwal said.The commission on Saturday issued summon to Virender Singh, Joint Commissioner of Police, Central Range, to appear before the panel on October 27 and submit the required documents besides explaining the cause of delay.

Sabarimala temple row: High priest wants status quo to be maintained on the issue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amidst a debate on whether to allow women of all ages to offer worship at the hill shrine of Sabarimala, a high priest of the famous temple on Friday said status quo should be maintained on the matter.”Status quo should be maintained on the issue. The government should take into account the belief of the devotees while taking a decision on the matter,” Kandararu Rajeevaru, Sabarimala thantri, said.”The belief of the people is important, not controversy. With regard to women’s entry into the famed temple, various opinions have emerged,” he said.In this matter, government should be able to take an appropriate decision which protects the interests of devotees, the thantri said.”Women between the age group of 10-50 cannot be permitted to offer worship at the temple. We have earlier itself stated this in the court,” he added.The thantri’s statement comes in the wake of LDF government’s view that it stands by its commitment on allowing entry of women of all age group into the Lord Ayyappa temple, situated on the Sabarimala hill top. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran has reiterated that the government stands by its 2007 affidavit which was in favour of allowing entry of all women.

Going easy on love affairs in armed forces could be an error

It is a cornerstone of military life. Your being an officer and a gentleman. And intrinsic to that carriage is the codicil that you will not steal the affections of a brother officer’s wife. It is not done.

Not being done has been a historical code in all armies and the judgement this week by the Kolkata bench of the armed forces tribunal on extramarital affairs kind of knocks the grace and dignity that came with this code of conduct for a bit of a loop.

Love tangle. ReutersLove tangle. Reuters

Love tangle. Reuters

The tribunal has said that acts of infidelity should be treated with a lot more leniency and the penalties for misconduct should be less punitive. In the case of Flt Lt Ishan Sharan accused of having an affair with the wife of a colleague who outranked him she being a Squadron Leader herself. It has been decided that rather than being dismissed from service and losing all his emoluments he should be ‘released from service’ for his indiscretion in shacking up with the lady concerned.

Imagine how tacky and tragic. Squadron Leader Dasgupta committed suicide after her affair fell apart and Sharan got married later. The husband was cuckolded and in the close-knit society of the forces, would always be known as the guy whose wife duped him. The whole squadron must have been in gloom, sides were taken, no winners, only losers.

The tribunal’s cavalier approach is clearly predicated on the new world out there and the fact that even the forces have to move on with the times. For some unfathomable reason, it also adds that what with more women joining the forces the mindset has to undergo a change.

He first indicates a flexibility indeed and may sound logical if it wasn’t made so mutually exclusive from the genesis of this fiat. The second makes no sense whatsoever and is thoroughly irrelevant. Women do not join the army, navy and air force to have affairs. I guess what they are trying to say is that women are not chattel or property and if a wife strays she is intelligent, educated and knows the consequences so why should only the man pay such a heavy price. That’s fair enough but it again misses the mark.

No one is talking about chastity belts when everyone marched off to war, leaving their women behind, unguarded. Though that is exactly why the code was made sacrosanct. It was always in times of combat that you honoured each other by saying ‘hands off.’
And when you are not in combat you are preparing for a bit.

When a brother officer went on furlough or was injured and sent home from the frontlines he became a postman, a of information for the families of his regiment and a welcome visitor to their homes. Abusing that hospitality was unthinkable. He was the SMS, the Facebook, the mobile phone for families thirsting for updates.

In India, we do not regularly have a war but thousands of officers and men are posted in non-family stations, their wives in military cantonments living alone and bringing up children. At this very moment.

Officers in the rear party or on leave who take advantage of the loneliness are what is a called a cad. Perhaps in the 21st century it is a bit of prudery to think like that but in the armed forces stealing those affections is not only unbrotherly it is also a direct slap on the esprit de corps and morale of the regiment or battalion.

Everyone is bruised. And shamed. And embarrassed.

Imagine if these two men were pilots in the same aircraft or flying in formation. Would you want to be the wingman to either of them? Imagine one commanding the other on a ship. Being part of the same armoured formation.

Regardless of the genial softening of the attitude to affairs in uniform by this tribunal’s recommendation, it will still be seen as the second worst offence after cowardice in battle.

No one is being naïve. Affairs will happen. But if you get caught, pay the price. GOING EASY ON LOVE AFFAIRS IN ARMED FORCES COULD BE AN ERROR.

It is a cornerstone of military life. Your being an officer and a gentleman. And intrinsic to that carriage is the codicil that you will not steal the affections of a brother officer’s wife. It is not done.

Not being done has been a historical code in all armies and the judgement this week by the Kolkata bench of the armed forces tribunal on extramarital affairs kind of knocks the grace and dignity that came with this code of conduct for a bit of a loop.

The tribunal has said that acts of infidelity should be treated with a lot more leniency and the penalties for misconduct should be less punitive. In the case of Flt Lt Ishan Sharan accused of having an affair with the wife of a colleague who outranked him she being a Squadron Leader herself. it has been decided that rather than being dismissed from service and losing all his emoluments he should be ‘released from service’ for his indiscretion in shacking up with the lady concerned.

Imagine how tacky and tragic. Squadron leader Dasgupta committed suicide after her affair fell apart and Sharan got married later. The husband was cuckolded and in the close-knit society of the forces, would always be known as the guy whose wife duped him. The whole squadron must have been in gloom, sides were taken, no winners, only losers.

The tribunal’s cavalier approach is clearly predicated on the new world out there and the fact that even the forces have to move on with the times. For some unfathomable reason, it also adds that what with more women joining the forces the mindset has to undergo a change.

He first indicates a flexibility indeed and may sound logical if it wasn’t made so mutually exclusive from the genesis of this fiat. The second makes no sense whatsoever and is thoroughly irrelevant. Women do not join the army, navy and air force to have affairs. I guess what they are trying to say is that women are not chattel or property and if a wife strays she is intelligent, educated and knows the consequences so why should only the man pay such a heavy price. That’s fair enough but it again misses the mark.

No one is talking about chastity belts when everyone marched off to war, leaving their women behind, unguarded. Though that is exactly why the code was made sacrosanct. It was always in times of combat that you honoured each other by saying ‘hands off.’

And when you are not in combat you are preparing for bit.

When a brother officer went on furlough or was injured and sent home from the frontlines he became postman, updater of information for the families of his regiment and a welcome visitor to their homes. Abusing that hospitality was unthinkable. He was the SMS, the Facebook, the mobile phone for families thirsting for updates.

In India we do not regularly have war but thousands of officers and men are posted in non-family stations, their wives in military cantonments living alone and bringing up children. At this very moment.

Officers in the rear party or on leave who take advantage of the loneliness are what is a called a cad. Perhaps in the 21st century it is a bit of prudery to think like that but in the armed forces stealing those affections is not only unbrotherly it is also a direct slap on the esprit de corps and morale of the regiment or battalion.

Everyone is bruised. And shamed. And embarrassed.

Imagine if these two men were pilots in the same aircraft or flying in formation. Would you want to be the wingman to either of them? Imagine one commanding the other on a ship. Being part of the same armoured formation.

Regardless of the genial softening of the attitude to affairs in uniform by this tribunal’s recommendation, it will still be seen as the second worst offence after cowardice in battle.

No one is being naïve. Affairs will happen. But if you get caught, pay the price.

Delay in cases of workplace sexual harassment; Women and Child Development Minister to review handling

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking note of delay in investigation of sexual harassment cases in government offices, the Union Women and Child Development Ministry on Friday said it will issue a “strict” advisory on disposing of such issues in a “timely and sensitive manner”.Women in central government offices approached Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi ruing that investigations by Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) in offices were often delayed and complaints were also not redressed as per guidelines “I will review the handling of complaints of sexual harassment at work place at my level,” Gandhi was quoted as saying in a series of tweets by the Union Ministry.The Minister also called the heads of Internal Complaints Committees in various central government departments to make presentations on selected complaints.”This will enable us to issue strict advisory to all government organisations on how to dispose of complaints in a timely and sensitive manner,” Gandhi said.The Minister also requested women employees in government organisations, whose complaints have not been redressed so far, to approach her and also inform if there is no ICC at their work place.She also added that the Ministry will also take up the issue of handling of such complaints in non-government organisations too.

Uniform Civil Code debate focuses on Muslim law but ignores other communities: Flavia Agnes

The issue of triple talaq has once again ignited the age-old debate on the desirability of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India. The Law Commission of India sought the views of people on the implementation of UCC. It put out a questionnaire on 7 October, which faced stiff opposition from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and some legal experts as it was alleged that it focuses mainly on the Muslim laws, ignoring discriminatory practices perpetuated by personal laws of other religious communities.

Firstpost in an interview with Flavia Agnes, a prominent legal scholar and director of the Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai, tries to find out the sticking points of the current debate. Agnes provided a detailed legal analysis of the issue.

FP: Do you feel that the debate on UCC and ‘triple talaq’ is progressing in the right manner, given that it is centred on Muslim personal law?

FA: No, I don’t think it is going in the right direction because it is only directed at the Muslim law and the discriminatory aspects of the Hindu law are not coming into focus. It is not just law, we also need to examine the Hindu ethos and cultural practices which are anti-women.

FP: In your article in ‘The Oxford Handbook of The Indian Constitution’ you make a very important observation where you write, “The enforcement of a UCC cannot be viewed in a simplistic manner as outlawing ‘polygamy and triple talaq’ among the Muslims. The issue is far more complex and would require a detailed analysis of the gaps in the existing laws of all communities, from the perspectives of women’s empowerment.” Seemingly, these fine points have been ignored to a great extent in the current debate. What are your views on this?

FA: Yes. Rather than having consultations and trying to understand the issue in depth, the questionnaire framed by the Law Commission reflects a superficial engagement with personal laws.  It also targets the Muslim community.  The current polarisation and the reaction by the AIMPLB are the results of framing the questionnaire in this manner.

Rather than bringing communities closer, it is framed as an attack on minorities. This was totally unwarranted. All along it was stated that the UCC would comprise of best practices of all communities, but the questionnaire does not provide the scope for this.

Flavia Agnes is a prominent legal scholar and the director of the Majlis Legal Centre. Muslim Law Board is contesting UCC.Flavia Agnes is a prominent legal scholar and the director of the Majlis Legal Centre. Muslim Law Board is contesting UCC.

Flavia Agnes is a prominent legal scholar and the director of the Majlis Legal Centre.

FP: In your article, you highlight how personal laws of other communities (apart from Muslims) too have so many discriminatory provisions against women. Why do you think they miss the intensity of scrutiny that the Muslim law attracts?  

FA: This is unfortunate. While the negative aspects of Muslim law are highlighted, the positive rulings and community practices are not given prominence.  One can observe this even within the judiciary. When discriminatory practices within Hindu law and cultural practices are discussed they are not framed as “Hindu” but are discussed in general terms as “women’s problems”.

For instance, the problem of dowry-related violence and dowry deaths. There is no research conducted as to how many women who are murdered for dowry are Hindus. A research done by our organisation about cases which have reached the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court revealed that more than 90 percent were Hindus. Less than 10 percent were Muslims and others.

What do these figures tell us? Take for instance the latest judgement where a husband was granted a divorce on the grounds that the wife refused to stay with his parents. The notion of ‘joint family’ and ‘joint family property’ is a Hindu notion. Such a judgement would not be delivered if the woman was from another community. But we don’t term it as an anti-women ‘Hindu’ cultural norm.

FP: In your article, you dwell on the socio-political circumstances in which personal laws were given some sort of legal sanctity in the colonial era. Why is it that even with the change in the socio-political setup, we have not been able to bring significant reforms?

FA: After the Constitution was enacted, the first set of reforms was for Hindus, which violated the mandate of Article 44. The justification was that the Hindu law is extremely gender unjust compared to laws of other communities and needed immediate reforms. Daughters had no right to inherit property; the right of widows was a limited life estate. Women had no right to divorce and there was no restraint upon men regarding polygamy. Child marriage, abandonment of widows, etc were problems faced by women.

Institutions like mistress and concubinage were recognised. The urgency was to reform Hindu laws. However, though this was the stated objective, there was a political motive to acquire the legislative power over Hindus which until then was in the hands of religious heads of different sects. The aim was also to bring all reform religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism etc within the broad Hindu fold.

Finally, the laws enacted were not even made to be gender sensitive because a common consensus had to be reached by diluting women’s rights. At the same time, the state did not want to get into the realm of a Uniform Civil Code and ruffle minority sentiments soon after the bloodbath of partition.

It was presumed that as time passed, communities would get more integrated. The communal violence in subsequent years pushed communities further apart and today the faith of Muslim communities in the present right-wing government is at very low ebb. Hence the political climate is not conducive to reforming laws of minorities or for bringing in a Uniform Civil Code.

All personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar, says Flavia Agnes. ReutersAll personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar, says Flavia Agnes. Reuters

All personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar, says Flavia Agnes. Reuters

FP: The government has said that triple talaq violates the right to equality of women as well as their dignity and that it “has no place in a secular country.” Your comments on this. 

FA: The entire affidavit filed by the government is a totally redundant and unwanted exercise because the SC in the Shamim Ara ruling in 2002 has already invalidated instant and arbitrary triple talaq and laid down the procedure for dissolving the Muslim marriages.

Even halala is a practice which accompanies only instant divorce and not a divorce over three months. So that too is rendered redundant. Since that landmark ruling did not receive media attention, most people are not aware of it. There have also been important high court judgments on this issue since 1981 and post Shamim Ara, several high courts have upheld this position.

If any woman who has received a talaqnama approaches the court relying upon these judgements, the courts will strike down the talaq and will give her the rights as though she is married. Hence, there was no need to make such comments on an issue on which the SC had already ruled in a noncontroversial manner.

FP: The government has also asked for the re-examination of a 1952 Bombay High Court judgment that held that Article 13 of the Constitution doesn’t cover personal laws? Your views on this.

FA: I have no issue with that but it only acquires a political hue in the present climate. The 1952 judgment is a high court judgment and not binding on the SC. But various SC judgments have upheld this decision and so it is not only the 1952 judgment but also the subsequent SC rulings that one needs to examine.

But at the same time, there are a number of judgments of various high courts and the SC which have examined both Muslim and Christian laws and have struck down certain discriminatory aspects or laid down the correct procedure.

Shamim Ara ruling is an example, and there are many more. The discriminatory aspects of Christian laws were also struck down. While hearing those cases, the issue did not get politicised. But in this case, there is a deliberate attempt to politicise the issue.

FP: Many Muslim scholars and personalities have asserted that triple talaq is being given an ‘un-Islamic’ interpretation and that its practice is being ‘wrongly interpreted’, as the concept of one-time triple talaq does not exist. If this is the case then what is the basis of defending it?

FA: I agree. But once we accept that the Shamim Ara judgment is binding, then this question does not arise at all. Surprisingly, the affidavit filed by AIMPLB has also conceded that Shamim Ara has laid down the law regarding the triple talaq and that is the law of the land today. Later they made contradictory statements, but the fact that they accept Shamim Ara ruling is a positive step.

FP: The Law Commission of India sought a public vote on the implementation of UCC. Do you see this development as a precursor to some significant changes in personal laws in India?

FA: I feel it has opened up a debate, but the manner in which the questionnaire is framed to target the Muslim community was totally unwarranted. The AIMPLB has given a call to boycott this questionnaire. This makes it difficult to have any dialogue.

We should have started with the process of dialogue first and should have got the consensus of minority communities and then prepared a draft and presented it to various stakeholders. I disapprove of the manner in which this entire process has been done.

FP: MPLB’s Hazrat Maulana Wali Rahmani, at a press briefing a few days ago, said, “A uniform civil code is not good for this nation. There’re so many cultures in this nation, (they) have to be respected. India can’t impose a single ideology.” How do you react to such claims?

FA: I agree. My own position is that uniformity of rights is more important and not a uniform law which will not be accepted by minority communities. We need to first see where we have uniformity of rights and strengthen them. And where there is discrimination, bring reforms in small measures.

All personal laws discriminate against women but the discrimination is not similar. Each has to be addressed separately. It has to be a step-by-step approach which will work better for the culturally diverse Indian communities. Even Hindu law is not uniform and takes within its ambit the cultural diversity of the Hindu population and accepts their customs and traditions.

FP: Implementation of UCC means that along with Muslims other minorities, like Christians and Parsis, would also lose their existing right to apply for their own civil code or laws for family matters, including marriage, divorce and inheritance. Yet, the most vehement opposition comes from the MPLB. Why is it so? 

FA: This is because the issue has been polarised along the Hindu-Muslim binaries. Even when issues concerning other communities have come up before the SC, such as the John Vellomatham case or the Sarla Mudgal case, which involved Hindu women who were victims of Hindu polygamy, the SC have made a call for a UCC in the context of Muslim law. The media too has played into this which is indeed tragic.

FP: Arif Mohammed Khan, who took a very strong stand against the discriminatory practices perpetuated by Muslim personal laws, while commenting on UCC and the functioning of MPLB wrote that, “The Imrana case, for that matter many other cases, including the famous Shah Bano case, are merely symptoms of a much deeper malaise – the desire to maintain and perpetuate disparity between the sexes. MLPB, since its inception, has been the votary of this trend.” Do you think that the MPLB will succeed in stifling any attempt of implementing the UCC this time as well?

FA: Since I myself am opposed to the implementation of UCC on an unwilling community or polity, I refrain from answering this question. With due respect to Arif Mohammed Khan, when we address the malaise only within the Muslim community, we are framing the issue in a lopsided manner.

As lawyer defending women’s rights, women of all communities approach our organisation. In court proceedings, we do not find that Muslim women are more discriminated than Hindu women. In fact, the reverse is true. It is very difficult to prove a Hindu marriage when the husband denies it. There is no proof of Hindu marriage except through photographs and witnesses.

When the husband claims a prior marriage, the woman is termed as a ‘mistress’ even by judges. Muslim marriage is a contract and the mehr is an integral part of it, whereas Hindu marriage continues to be viewed as a sacrament and dowry is an integral part of such a marriage. Though banned by law it continues unabated.

The Hindu rituals under Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, such as kanya dan are also discriminatory. Once a girl is married, she is seen as paraya dhan and doors of the natal family are closed on her.

Due to these women, who are facing domestic violence, get depressed and commit suicide. Incidents such as Imrana are not unique to Muslims, they occur within Hindu families as well. The important point about Imrana is that she had the courage to file a complaint and get her father prosecuted.

The fatwa itself was an attempt to politicise the issue by a journalist, as Imrana herself never asked for the same and the positive aspect is that she ignored the fatwa and continued to live with her husband in her natal home. Media never discusses these nuances and the attempt is only to tarnish the Muslim community through these media discussions.

FP: In your article, you write that “another strategy to break the stalemate is to enact specific legislation, which will apply to women uniformly across the country.” Though desirable, is it possible given the hostility towards UCC, especially by the Muslim law board?

FA: It has been done before. We have laws such as the Special Marriage Act of 1954. Anyone can marry under it. But all communities prefer to marry under their own personal laws and the government has done very little to popularise it. The medical termination of pregnancy, the Dowry Prohibition Act, the dowry-related criminal proceedings under IPC such as Section 498A (cruelty to wives) section 304B dowry murders are uniformly applicable.

Similarly, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which was enacted in 2005, applies to Muslims and others alike. This law protects shelter, residence, maintenance, child custody and also compensation for the violence suffered to women during their marriage, in their natal home and even after their divorce.

In my EPW article and in a subsequent article in Scroll, I had explained that Shayara Bano ought to have used these remedies to claim her rights rather than rushing to the SC. As a divorced woman, she is also entitled to a fair and reasonable settlement for her entire life under the Protection of Women upon Divorce Act, 1986 which has been awarded a wide interpretation by the SC in 2001 in the Danial Latifi judgment.

But due to illiteracy, ignorance, and denial of access to justice, most women who are victims of domestic violence are unable to use these beneficial provisions. It is poverty, illiteracy and the lack of resources to approach the court that prevent the women victims from approaching the courts to protect their rights.

FP: In an EPW article published in May 2016, you questioned the positive media coverage of Bano’s petition and maintained the same view in another piece published two weeks ago highlighting the “few positive aspects” in the affidavit filed by AIMPLB. Many people expressed serious disagreement and discontentment on this. Please share your views on this?

FA: No, in the EPW piece I was very critical of the media publicity and the focus upon the domestic violence faced by Shayara Bano as though it is unique to a Muslim woman, and because similar violence suffered by Hindu or other community women would not be highlighted in the same manner.

I explained the various legal remedies she was entitled to and that no one was addressing it. So, I had felt that the media was extremely communal in highlighting this aspect. In the later article, I addressed the positive aspect in the affidavit filed by the AIMPLB which endorsed my views and accepted the ruling of Danial Latifi, which has held that a Muslim woman is entitled to a fair and reasonable provision for her entire life and they also advised that Shayara Bano should have approached the local court regarding the domestic violence she was facing.

This was positive because earlier when we talked to people working with Muslim communities there was a feeling that Muslim women cannot approach the courts and must approach only the Mullahs. So the Board accepting this was indeed positive.

The disagreement and discontentment are from those who have not worked with the law and have never helped Muslim women to access the courts. I do not think many of them even read the Board’s detailed affidavit and have gone by media reports.

I have not engaged with people making these comments because the comments are based on a total misreading of my article. After the Board’s affidavit, we are able to reach out to Muslim women and help them to understand their law better and are also able to tell them that the Board advises them to approach the court. So they feel more comfortable in enforcing their rights in a court of law.

Be transparent about Ganesh Pandey molestation case: Shiv Sena urges Maharashtra govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shiv Sena on Tuesday urged the Devendra Fadnavis government to be transparent about BJP worker Ganesh Pandey molestation case after giving assurance six months back.Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gore has asked the Bombay High Court and National Commission for Women to monitor the State Women Commission’s working.”What we are saying is that Ganesh Pandey is a BJP worker and co worker of Ashish Shelar and the victim women who has sent the letter to State Women commission has taken the name of many influential people,” she said.”State Women Commission would investigate the matter and Chief Minister assured us on March 29, in the state assembly that steps will be taken in this regard but six months have gone by and the State Women commission comes to the decision without proper investigation,” she added”This is a grave situation that people who are fighting will get tired and still don’t get the justice then who will watch the watch dog because it is the duty of Women’s commission to protect the rights of women,” she added.”In this situation we would urge National Commission for Women and High Court to monitor the State Women Commission. They should have given the report within 3 months and it was important to strengthen the report,” Ghore said.”Our Chief Minister is also the Home Minister and he always talks about the women issues. It would be appropriate if the state government informs people about the issue,” she concluded.Seven months after a senior office-bearer accused the then BJP youth wing chief of molesting a the 41-yearold woman at a hotel in UP during a three-day party conclave.The women has told the state women’s commission that it isn’t worth her time to chase the case against Ganesh Pandey, who was booted out of the party right after she levelled the charge.The woman had complained to the BJP city chief on March 22 that Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha chief Pandey, 35, had tried to kiss her in a hotel room in Mathura on March 4 to win a bet, days after which Pandey was stripped of his position and suspended from the party.

Triple talaq: Reformist Muslims to launch campaign for Uniform Civil Code

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While debate rages over the review of the provision of triple talaq and formulation of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), the Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal, founded by social reformer-activist Hamid Dalwai, which has been campaigning on these issues for decades, has supported the move to reform and secularise the community’s personal laws.While demanding that obscurantist practices such as polygamy and halala be eradicated for the sake of gender justice, it has also opposed moves to delink the triple talaq issue from UCC.The Mandal will launch a campaign to seek support from Muslims for the UCC and a ban on triple talaq, and will also be organising a national convention in November in Pune to assert the rights of Muslim women.In April 1966, Dalwai, an author and founder of the Indian Secular Society, had organised a morcha of the Muslim women at the receiving end of the oral, one-sided divorce, at the state administrative headquarters. The Mandal was launched in March 1970 for social and religious reforms among Muslims but faced opposition from orthodox sections within the community.”Instead of going into what the religion says, emphasis must be placed on social justice. Outdated practices must be eradicated,” Professor Shamshuddin Tamboli, president of the body, told DNA.”Steps must be taken for reform, disregarding any opposition,” he said, adding that “outdated” practices such as oral talaq, polygamy and nikah halala, needed to be done away with.Pointing to misunderstandings about UCC, Tamboli said it would only deal with civil issues, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, and not with religious practices. “(Personal laws) must be based on the law of the land, gender justice and equality,” he demanded, adding that while 95 per cent of the laws, including criminal laws, were common for all, there was a difference in marriage, divorce, alimony, adoption and inheritance laws.Many provisions contained in the British-era Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act -1937 were outdated. Moreover, Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Turkey and Bangladesh have already eradicated oral triple talaq.”This is a secular country. There must be restrictions on religious freedom,” said Tamboli, adding that there were misunderstandings about UCC as no models had been placed before society. He noted that some models could include UCC in force in Goa since the Portuguese era, proposed by academician and legal expert Satyaranjan Sathe, and the Special Marriage Act-1954.”There is no option but UCC… for national integration and gender justice. The problem will not be solved by merely banning triple talaq,” said Tamboli. “Divorce proceedings should be conducted in court. Women must have an opportunity to present their side,” he stressed, adding that the UCC could also be referred to as a “uniform family law”.Tamboli also pointed to how other social and religious sections had been demanding their own set of personal laws, which was a divisive move.”We will co-operate with the law commission,” said Tamboli, referring to the questionnaire put out by the body on the UCC. He said moves by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to boycott the questionnaire were wrong. “They do not represent all Muslims. It is a self-appointed organisation,” charged Tamboli, adding that Sunnis and Shias had their own sets of personal laws.The Mandal, which had also stood by Shah Bano in the landmark case over maintenance for the 60-year old divorcee, will collect signatures of men and women from the community and also hold a national-level convention in Pune on November 26, the Constitution Day.”Women have Constitutional rights regardless of what the religion says,” he said. Memorandums will also be given to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.Tamboli stressed that the right to religious freedom could not supersede the right to equality before law and prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, caste or sex, as contained in the Constitution.

Anti-trafficking legislation to be introduced in Winter Session of the Parliament: Maneka Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union minister Maneka Gandhi said on Monday the government will soon bring an anti-trafficking legislation for the rescue and reintegration of trafficked persons, besides making distinction between trafficked and traffickers. “The Government will soon bring anti-trafficking legislation into the Parliament, the draft of which is ready,” Gandhi said while addressing the Regional Editors’ Conference organised by the Press Information Bureau in Chandigarh on Monday.The minister said Centre will try to introduce the bill in the Winter Session of the Parliament. “It will cover rescue, relief and reintegration of trafficked persons, and for the first time will make a distinction between those trafficked and the traffickers,” she said.Highlighting the steps being taken by the Centre for the safety and protection of women and children, she said the Ministry of Women and Child has launched POCSO e-Box, a simple and easy facility to register complaints of child sexual abuse or harassment. “81 complaints have already been received on this e-Box,” the Union minister of Women & Child Development said.In another important initiative to track missing children, the Minister said, the ‘Khoya Paya’ portal has already reported nearly 6,000 cases of missing/sighted children since its launch last year. Runaway/missing children are also being helped under Special Operating Procedures developed in association with Railways, she added. “13,000 children have already been helped under this initiative and posters are being pasted in all railway coaches to report children in distress,” Gandhi said.Some of the other initiatives of the Modi government include decision to install panic buttons on all cell phones for women in distress from January 1, 2017, setting up of nearly 170 ‘One Stop Centres’ by March 2017 for women affected by violence, ‘Beti bachao Beti Padhao’ programme to reverse the declining child sex ratio, 33% reservation for women in police force, and setting up a large Home for 1000 widows in Vrindavan, said Gandhi.The Minister said that guidelines for matrimonial websites are being implemented to prevent their misuse. An online portal ‘Mahil e-Haat’ for women to sell their products has been set up on which business worth nearly Rs 6 lakh was transacted in the first six months itself. “Women sarpanches are being trained to empower them to administer the villages professionally,” she said.The minister further said the government is now working to revamp the ‘Anganwadi’ system in which nutrition is being administered to children and pregnant women. “To ensure healthy children, the Government is now working for six months’ mandatory maternity leave for working women for which the Ministry of Labour and Employment has moved to introduce amendments in the Act,” the Union minister said.

Domestic Violence Act: SC’s attempt at making law gender neutral obstructive to reality of women

By Maya Palit

A recent Supreme Court ruling has made it possible for women to be prosecuted by other women under the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act (DV Act), and lawyers and activists working against domestic violence are worried about the repercussions that this change could have.

When the DV Act came into force in October 2006, its intent was specific: to provide maintenance, shelter, or interim finances to a woman subjected to domestic violence or harassment by an adult male. Last week, this changed: while hearing a case that had been discharged by the Bombay High Court because it concerned two females — a woman and a minor — the Supreme Court ordered the elimination of the phrase “adult male” from Section 2Q of the statute book, calling it discriminatory.

Now anyone, irrespective of age or gender, can be prosecuted under the Act. In its judgment, the Supreme Court portrays this as a move that will be more in tune with the objectives of the Act because it will acknowledge that women can be “abettors” to violence in the home. But lawyers we spoke to were critical of the judgement, expressing concern that it would encourage husbands to file counter cases against their wives through their mothers or sisters. Audrey D’Mello, Programme Director at Majlis, an all-women team of lawyers and social activists, says, “Mothers-in-law will accuse [their] daughters-in-law of committing violence, [and] this will deny women their basic rights and lead to utter confusion.”

File photo of Supreme Court. AFPFile photo of Supreme Court. AFP

File photo of Supreme Court. AFP

Rebecca John, a senior advocate at Delhi High Court, says, “I can conceive that there are times when a mother-in-law may be subjected to a fair degree of abuse during proceedings, and the facts of a particular case might compel the Court to give an order in favour of the man. But this broad-stroked move negates the objects and reasons of the Act, and will make it lose its efficacy and have a serious rippling effect when it is followed in subordinate courts.”

John emphasises that the Act should be looked at contextually — one of the primary reasons behind its coming into being was the violence inflicted on married women (the law extends to women in live-in relationships as well), and this change will serve to dilute the Act. D’Mello says that the overwhelming majority of the cases filed under the DV Act are by women attempting to safeguard themselves against violence from their husbands. She feels that cases in which there aren’t any adult men in the family, like the one that persuaded the Court to take this step, should be handled on an individual basis and that it was completely unnecessary to alter the law for the purpose.

Both John and D’Mello refer to another regressive judgment made earlier this month by the Supreme Court, which stated on 7 October that a Hindu man is entitled to divorce his wife if she attempts to separate him from his family, and emphasise that the judiciary still holds extremely patriarchal values. The matrimonial home is still viewed as a place of sanctity, and as John states, it is completely unacceptable that cultural norms have been used to suggest that the Hindu home is “an undivided sacred place rather than an entity created by the husband and wife as equal partners.”

A long struggle went into implementing the DV Act, and lawyers like Indira Jaising battled to convince the Court that even a single act of violence should count as domestic violence. How effective it has actually been on the ground is debatable. Ensuring that maintenance is provided to victims after they file cases appears to be nearly impossible, according to Donna Fernandes, a coordinator at Vimochana, an organisation that works for women’s rights. She was vocal about her anger regarding the inefficacy of the Act: “Nobody is getting any relief from the DV Act. It is meant to provide interim relief, but protection officers do not enforce this and in some cases, it takes years for women to receive even Rs 5,000. How can they put together a gender-neutral law when there is such a power imbalance in the family — every day we deal with women who are beaten up by their in-laws or face sexual violence in the privacy of their bedrooms to the point where they can’t begin to narrate their experiences.”

Aarti Mundkur, a lawyer at the Bengaluru family court, believes it is too early to speculate on the ramifications that the change in the DV Act could have, but is uneasy about the removal of the word “adult” because it implies that the Act could now potentially have juvenile persons as respondents. “Because there are no criminal provisions, there is no question of dealings with the juvenile board, and what relief claim can you impose on a minor? Relief is almost always financial — maintenance, compensation and alternate residences, can all be claimed only against an adult,” she says.

Activists in the field have denigrated the judgement and predicted disastrous consequences. Pouruchisti Wadia, Associate Director of the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children Program at SNEHA, a Mumbai-based NGO, seems to think that this judgement would add to the ongoing struggle to make the DV Act effective on the ground. “I have seen multiple cases where the mother-in-law evicted both the son and his wife, following which the son would take the wife to a house but act hand-in-glove with his mother and suddenly stop paying rent, so the woman would be evicted. In one case, a woman was left without any shelter. We struggled to get this law for 10 years and now this judgement will have a very negative impact,” she says.

By all accounts, the Court’s attempts at making the law gender neutral is contrary to the lived reality of the women who are abused at home on a regular basis. An appallingly unfair dynamic exists already, and the Court’s decision might end up intensifying and complicating this.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

India rejects Pakistan’s references to the condition of women in Kashmir

United Nations: Innocent Indian women have suffered for long due to the persistent terrorist acts perpetrated by “proxies of Pakistan”, India has said as it strongly rejected references by Islamabad to condition of women in Kashmir.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Counsellor Mayank Joshi in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN “completely” rejected the “baseless allegations” made by Pakistan about women in Jammu and Kashmir, saying “in fact” it is the innocent Indian women who have for “long suffered due to the persistent terrorist acts perpetrated by proxies of Pakistan.”

Joshi exercised India’s Right of Reply after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Envoy on Kashmir Shezra Mansab Ali Khan referred to the conditions of women in Kashmir during an 11 October session on ‘Advancement of Women’ in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on social and humanitarian issues.

Khan said armed conflict and illegal occupation accentuates the plight of women.

Citing the situation in Kashmir, she said, “thousands of women have fallen victims to brutal oppression and occupation. Countless others have suffered rape and sexual abuse, the worst and most traumatic form of violence.”

Joshi said it is “ironical” that a country that has “institutionalised the oppression” of women in its society including through “medieval draconian laws is making claims about the rights of women in a pluralistic democracy such as India.”

He said Pakistan will be well served to “seriously examine” what ails its women and hampers their advancement.

Pakistan has been constantly raising the Kashmir issue at various platforms in the UN, including in the General Assembly and its various committees that deal with diverse issues such as disarmament and decolonisation.

Joshi asserted that India will not respond to the “lies and deceit” Pakistan has been resorting to at the world body to pursue a diplomacy of “hate”.

“We are aware of Pakistan’s cynical attempts to pursue diplomacy of hate through lies and deceit. We do not intend to further respond to such misguided and futile efforts,” he said.

A Pakistani official however again took the floor to exercise the Right of Reply to Joshi’s remarks, saying no amount of “obfuscation” could hide the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.

He said Jammu and Kashmir was an “internationally recognised” dispute and Pakistan rejected “any insinuations to equate the legitimate struggles of the Kashmiri people with acts of terrorism.”

Delhi: 16-year-old allegedly raped by her neighbour, police arrest accused

Delhi: 16-year-old allegedly raped by her neighbour, police arrest accused


New Delhi: A 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her neighbour, who later brutally thrashed her in Anand Parbat area of Central Delhi, police said on Tuesday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Vivek, father of two, was arrested for allegedly raping and assaulting the minor, a police official said.

The accused, who lives with his family in Kathputli Colony in the area, is a neighbour of the victim. He made “physical relations” with her on the pretext of marriage two years ago.

He allegedly called the girl near Sarai Rohilla area last week and took her into bushes.

“When he forced himself on her, the girl protested and raised the issue of marriage. The accused thrashed her and left her in the bushes. She was spotted lying unconscious by a passerby who informed us,” the official said.

The victim was admitted to RML Hospital, where she regained consciousness after three days, the official said.

Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill not a ‘single comprehensive act’, will apply alongside 12 other laws

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill may have been dubbed as a “comprehensive” legislation when it was launched earlier this year but activists say an umbrella law for this offence is not possible in the Indian context. Final touches are being given to the draft bill before it is sent to the Cabinet. The government is holding discussions with NGOs on the proposed bill aimed at addressing various aspects of human trafficking.At the unveiling of the draft bill on May 30, the then Secretary of Women and Child Development V Somasundaran had said, “Trafficking is the third largest organised crime and time has now come to deal with it through a single comprehensive act.” However, the proposed legislation to curb trafficking is not a “single comprehensive act” as it was initially tipped to be.Activists say it will apply alongside at least 12 other laws which have provisions to deal with different kinds of trafficking. These include Immoral Trafficking of Persons Act, IPC Section 176(a) and 363-374, CRPC, Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act, Bonded Labour Abolition Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Prevention of Child Sexual Offences, IT Act, Transplantation of Human Organs Act, Inter-state Migrant’s Workmen Act, among others.The activists say subsequent drafts have in fact corrected what was a flawed approach of having a composite law, which would address different kinds of trafficking within its ambit.”The previous drafts have brought out one prominent failure in the entire exercise, namely carving out a single, comprehensive law seeking to address the essence of human trafficking with or without addressing each of the destination crimes of human trafficking,” according to Pravin Patkar of Prerana.He also says several laws that currently deal with different aspects of human trafficking are adequate and, therefore, what is needed is to merely fill the gaps that exist. “Most of the existing separate laws dealing with the known destination crimes of human trafficking (e.g., sex trade, sweatshops, beggary rackets, human organ trade, exploitation of children in the labour sector, bonded labour) are, by and large, adequate. “… Bringing all of the laws together under one law will only be possible by physically pinning the pages of the distinct laws together with a single cover page. It will not be a new organic identity,” says Patkar.NGO Prajwala’s Sunitha Krishnan, who is part of a committee formed to frame a new law on trafficking, too says it is not possible to have an umbrella law for this offence. “You can’t have a comprehensive law because there are existing legislations. The idea is to have provisions in the new law that are missing in other existing laws. At the same time the new law should be read along with existing laws.” The proposed legislation defines “trafficking of person” as per Section 370 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, which is, “Whoever, for the purpose of exploitation, (a) recruits, (b) transports, (c) harbours, (d) transfers, or (e) receives, a person or persons commits the offence of trafficking.” The draft bill also clubs together different forms of trafficking under the category of “aggravated trafficking”, with punishment of up to life imprisonment. This category includes bonded labour, trafficking for the purpose of bearing a child, trafficking for the purpose of marriage, trafficking for begging, trafficking of a pregnant woman or resulting into pregnancy, among others.The draft also seeks to create a National Anti-Trafficking Bureau for preventing, investigating and protecting cases or victims of trafficking.

Triple talaq: Govt, courts doing their bit but why have ‘liberals’ abandoned Muslim women?

At the centre of the ‘triple talaq‘ debate in India lies a power struggle between a group of entitled patriarchs who seek to carry on with their oppression under the cover of religion, and Muslim women fighting for their rights, increasingly willing to take a stand against institutional bullying.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In this unequal yet important battle where a significant section of the Indian population remains as second class citizens in a modern democratic society, the government and the court have lent their weight behind Muslim women who have raised their voices against oppression cutting across age and regional divides. The burden of grief that connects an otherwise unconnected Shayara Bano to Afreen Rehman or members of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has become too heavy to bear.

In its 28-page affidavit, the government has urged the Supreme Court to do away with the controversial practice that has been shunned in many Islamic theocratic states including Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Centre must be applauded for breaking away with the stasis of past governments and stating that gender equality is non-negotiable. It deserves praise for taking an unequivocal stand against the unilateral, split-second divorce that erodes the fundamental rights of a woman.

But when it comes to such fundamental, socio-economic changes that have far-reaching repercussions in a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and pluralistic, secular democracy such as ours, the government and courts can only do so much. It is rather disheartening to find India’s liberals, who should have been at the vanguard of such a movement and led the charge against institutionalised subjugation, go AWOL on this subject. Where is the civil society? Is this a battle alone for Muslim women? Does their plight not move our liberals?

A first-of-its-kind study, conducted by BMMA across 10 states featuring 4,710 women between July and December 2013, reveals that 91.7 percent Muslim women in India want triple talaq to go. A report in The Times of India, quoting author of the study, Zakia Soman, says: “In 2014, of the 235 cases that came to women Sharia adalats (courts) that we run, 80% were of oral talaq.” An overwhelming 93% women were opposed to instant talaq and favoured an arbitration process before a divorce. A further 83.3% advocated for the codification of a Muslim family law.

The victims of the unequal law have some horrific stories to tell. Shayara Bano, for instance, was made to undergo six abortions by her husband, who forcibly administered pills that ruined her health. Bano, according to a Times Now article, longs to be with her two kids who stay with her husband. Or, take the case of 25-year-old Afreen, who was divorced via Speed Post. The report also mentions the plight of a 21-year-old student who was divorced 10 days into her marriage through WhatsApp.

Meanwhile, fearing an erosion of power, the pedagogues of All India Muslim Personal Law Board have reacted in the same way that bullies habitually do. Faced with an unprecedented clamour for gender justice and equality from women within their own society, the AIMPLB chieftains have sought to conflate the debate by placing it within a larger religio-ethnical context. From being the oppressors, they have tried to fashion themselves as “victims”.

Their strategy is to stall the Centre or court’s move by alleging interference into Muslim Personal Law. AIMPLB has sought to use Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to practice personal religion, as a battering ram against all arguments of gender justice, equality, dignity, and non-discrimination.

This is a red herring. First, it needs to be stated clearly — and this is where liberals can play a role bigger than the government or the courts because we are discussing minority rights — that Indian Constitution enjoys primacy before all personal laws.

And since retrogressive practices such as triple talaq sit at odds with a citizen’s fundamental right of equality before the law irrespective of gender or religion as guaranteed by the Constitution, these personal laws as well as customs and usage — as the government submitted in its affidavit on Friday — “would come under the ambit of Article 13, which lays down that any law that impinges upon fundamental rights shall be void.” As a report in The Indian Express points out, “the government pleaded that the practices of triple talaq and polygamy should be tested on the anvil of Article 13 after rectifying the “incorrect” precedent set by the High Court in 1951.” Second, the myth that a few patriarchs of AIMPLB represent the undivided will of Muslims in India must be busted for good.

Social activist Maria Alam Umar, while welcoming the Centre’s stand on triple talaq, told The Times of India that “the Muslim Personal Law Board, too, should be abolished for its “pro-male stand on almost every aspect of Muslim life”. She said the board which was set up to explain the intricacies of Shariah, “has over the years turned into a ‘dictator’ of sorts, consistently favouring men.”

We need to just take a cursory look at the AIMPLB’s affidavit before the Supreme Court while defending the validity of triple talaq to see how downright regressive and bizarre their logic is. “Polygamy ensures sexual purity and chastity and whenever polygamy has been banned, it emerges from history that illicit sex has raised its head,” stated the affidavit.

“If there develops serious discord between the couple, and the husband does not at all want to live with her, legal compulsions of time-consuming separation proceedings and expenses may deter him from taking the legal course. In such instances, he may resort to illegal, criminal ways of murdering or burning her alive.”

This is not the time for liberals to sit on fence and let Muslim women fight. If they really care about a free and fair society, as they profess to be, they must make this battle their own.

‘Secular’ India can’t let women suffer under a derogatory system: Centre on triple talaq

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Defending the Centre’s opposition on the triple talaq system, Union Electronic and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday asserted that in a secular nation like India, women cannot be allowed to suffer under such an arbitrary and derogatory system.Listing out the Centre’s three-fold stand which was given in response to the Supreme Court over certain petitions filed by Muslim women, Prasad told ANI that firstly, the issue concerns only and only about the dignity, non-discrimination of women, respect to them and gender justice and India being a secular country governed by a constitution, the abiding values of its constitution about gender justice, dignity of women needs to be respected.”The second is, India is a secular country. Secularism is a basic structure of the Constitution. Can we, where we have got a secular India, allow the women to suffer a kind of a system which is derogatory and arbitrary,” he said.Illuminating the third point, the Union Minister mentioned that in more than a dozen Islamic countries ranging from Bangladesh to Syria and even Pakistan, matrimonial laws have been regulated by law including triple talaq.”If in acknowledged Islamic countries, change of matrimonial laws is not found to be violating Sharia, how can such a plea be raised in a secular country like India,” he said.On Friday, the Centre filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on Triple Talaq and polygamy validity.According to the affidavit, the Centre said that there is no reason women in India should be denied their constitutional rights.”Validity of Triple Talaq and polygamy have to be seen in light of gender justice, equality and dignity of women,” stated the Centre in its affidavit.The Government also said that polygamy and triple talaq do not adhere to constitutional values and, therefore, cannot be accepted.The Muslim law board had earlier claimed that triple talaq is a ‘personal law’ and, hence, cannot be modified by the Centre.

Need life imprisonment for acid attacks: Najma Heptulla to Maneka Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A strict law for acid attacks carrying a punishment of life imprisonment needs to be drafted, Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla said in an appeal to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. Heptulla cited the example of Bangladesh, which has a punishment of 25 years in jail for acid attacks, while emphasising on the need for severe punishment in cases of acid attacks.”Bangladesh has a punishment of 25 years in jail. We should also have it too. Why 25, it should be 50 or even life imprisonment. I appeal to Maneka Gandhi to demand in Parliament that there should be life imprisonment not only in cases of acid attacks that are fatal but also in cases where it leads to deformities as those victims die a death every minute,” Heptulla told Gandhi.Both Gandhi and Heptulla were attending the book launch of “Acid Wali Ladki” authored by Pratibha Jyoti. Gandhi, who had spoken before Heptulla at the event, said she desires a “death penalty for acid attackers”. She said, “I have a feeling of outrage and I would like to help in whichever way I can.”The author of the book, Pratibha Jyoti, while giving her opening address spoke about the need to curb acts of violence against both women and children. “This book isn’t just about acid but about acts of violence against women and children,” she said.Plastic surgeon Dr Ashok Gupta, who has dealt with acid attack cases throughout his career, proposed including acid attack victims in the below-poverty-line category to provide them easy access to medical treatment across hospitals.

DCW recruitment scam: ACB summons Dy CM Manish Sisodia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Anti-Corruption Branch summoned Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in connection with its probe into an alleged recruitment scam in Delhi Commission for Women (DCW). Sisodia will be questioned on October 14, said Mukesh Kumar Meena, the LG-appointed chief of the anti-graft body.”In the documents that were probed by the ACB, it was found that there was a letter from the office of Sisodia that had authorised DCW as a body with financial autonomy. As per rules, only the LG can grant financial autonomy to a body. We will be questioning him on this aspect,” said sources from the ACB.However, DCW chief Swati Maliwal rubbished the allegations about Sisodia’s role in appointments made in the women’s panel.The ACB had taken up the probe on a complaint by former DCW chief Barkha Shukla Singh, who alleged that several AAP supporters were given plum posts in the women’s panel. Maliwal was questioned by the ACB at her office on September 29 for over two hours in connection with the same issue.The ACB has been probing the matter for the last few months and based on the questioning of Maliwal’s staff, it was found that due procedure “was not followed in appointments” and an FIR under relevant section of Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC was registered against her.Earlier, the ACB had also named Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the FIR. However, Meena had said that Kejriwal will not be probed as his name does not figure in the inquiry report. Kejriwal had vowed to expose the “conspiracy” behind the matter. The FIR was registered at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he had alleged.A special session of the Delhi Assembly was convened on September 30 in this regard, but the Delhi CM refrained from furnishing any detail, saying the timing was not appropriate as the Army had conducted surgical strikes across the LoC the night before.

Delhi: Body of missing 11-year-old girl found stuffed in a sack, family alleges sexual assault

New Delhi: Body of an 11-year-old girl, who was missing since Tuesday, was found stuffed in a sack in northeast Delhi’s New Usmanpur area on Wednesday.

The girl, a resident of Gautampuri in the area, had gone to buy some household items on Tuesday afternoon but did not return and on Wednesday, her body was found, metres away from her house, police said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Her body was found at around 7 am by a rag-picker who saw the sack lying in one of the lanes of Gautampuri area and opened it, thinking it must be containing garbage.

He raised an alarm when he saw the girl’s body and police was informed, a senior police official said.

The deceased was a student of class V in an MCD school in the area and had returned home early Tuesday since she was not feeling well.

Around noon, her mother had sent her to buy an adhesive but the girl did not return for a long time, following which the mother then informed her husband, an autorickshaw driver, and her relatives.

They approached the police and a case was registered.

The girl’s family alleged that she was sexually assaulted before being killed, as there were injury marks on the body.

“A case of murder has been registered and we are awaiting post-mortem report to find out whether she was sexually assaulted,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (North East) Ajit Kumar Singla said.

Police is suspecting the involvement of someone known to the victim’s family since there was no ransom call or threat call received by the family.

“The girl’s family has expressed suspicion on a relative who had enmity with their over some property and could have plotted the kidnapping. The person will be called for questioning,” said a senior police officer.

Tamil Nadu, Kerala have the most number of women entrepreneurs and high female literacy

By Prachi Salve

The five states with the largest proportion of literate women–Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra–account for 53% (4.3 million) of all business establishments owned by women nationwide, although no more than 33% of India’s women live in these states, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of data released by the Economic Census 2012.

With 73.4% of its women literate, Tamil Nadu–third among larger states after Kerala and Maharashtra–has India’s largest number of establishments run by women, one million, according to the Economic Census 2012.

Tamil Nadu is followed by Kerala–which has 90% female literacy, India’s highest rate–which accounts for 11% of business run by women.

Source: Economic Census 2012, Men and Women 2011

While the female literacy rate was 65.5% nationwide, the female work-force participation was 25.5%, according to Census 2011.

Female participation in India’s workforce has declined from 34% in 1999 to 27% in 2014, IndiaSpend reported in August 2016, the worst rate among BRICS nations and lower than Bangladesh (57.4%), Nepal (79.9%) and Sri Lanka (35.1%).

The five states with the largest number of women entrepreneurs also have higher-than-national average literacy among women.

Source: Economic Census 2012, National Family Health Survey 4

Lack of financial education can also limit women from gaining access to and benefitting from financial services, according to this 2014 World Bank report.

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The top five states have the largest number of women who have completed ten years or more of education. Maharashtra, which has the fifth-largest number of businesswomen, also has 77.4% women who have completed ten years or more of education.

Bihar, for example, has 153,610 establishments run by women (accounting for 1.9% of businesswomen and ranked 14th among states) and only 56% women have completed ten years of education.

Women own/run 8.05 million of India’s 58.5 million establishments (13.7%), IndiaSpend reported in May 2016, providing employment to 13.4 million people. About 89% of these were employed in establishments hiring less than 10 workers.

India was ranked 70th of 77 countries in the Female Entrepreneurship Index 2015 released by London-based Global Entrepreneurship Institute.

Building A Small Business, Step by Small Step: A Woman’s Story

Archana Angre (43), who runs a tiffin service and a small restaurant in Chembur, an eastern suburb of Mumbai, studied till class nine.

Angre started the business in 1997 when she worked as a cook, despite opposition from her in-laws who warned her that business was risky.

The initial investment of Rs 2,000 was done by Angre and her husband Ashok Arjun Angre. She employed three family members (daughter, son and husband) in the beginning.

Within a year of starting business, Angre received help from patrons who helped her with capital and equipment (gas cylinders and stove). Within two years, her business increased from 10 tiffins to 100 tiffins.

Some of Angre’s clients helped her get a loan of Rs 50,000 from UCO Bank. The business expanded from making tiffins for office-goers to preparing meals for parties and company events.

She received a loan of Rs 295,000 under the Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Yojana (Prime Minister’s Employment Programme) in 2010, which she used to buy utensils and other items required for the business.

Nineteen years later, Angre employs six people (three from her family and three hired workers).

Angre is now planning to open a fully functional restaurant. She has also been able to fund her daughter’s studies in hotel management.

“There is a need for change in attitude from being safe with a job to the ability to take risks to start a business,” Angre said.

(Salve is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)