#India – Torture Victims of atrocities narrate sordid saga


PLATFORM FOR THE DEPRIVED International Day in Support of Victims of Torture brings the ordeal of the innocent to light during a PVCHR programme

LUCKNOW: Holding her daughter tightly in her lap, Anjum of Tanda cannot forget the night of March 3, when she had to spend an entire night in hiding, to save herself from a mob baying for her blood to avenge the death of a local leader. When she returned home, none of her belongings were left.

In another case, Bhonu of Varanasi had to spend 26 months in jail for a murder he did not commit, all because he was poor and illiterate.

Anjum and Bhonu are just a couple of examples of torture victims, who have to go through atrocities for no fault of their own. Several such sufferers came on one platform for a programme organised by People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on Wednesday. Narrating their tales of woes, the victims explained threadbare how gullible people are trapped in false cases and subjected to torture.

“There was a murder in my locality Aliganj in Tanda district but how was I or my family related to it? The mob conducted loot inside my house in the night while I was scampering for safety. Cops chose to stay away until morning. Those who should protect us, were not seen during the entire loot,” said Anjum, who stayed underneath a tin shade behind some sacks to hide herself and her children when the mob set ablaze several houses in the locality.

Says Niaz Ahmad of Tanda, “Communal tension never allowed me to live peacefully. My children too could never attend school regularly.”

Bhonu says all his life’s savings, which he had collected while working in a band, along with household objects were sold off to fight his case.

“Cops beat me up for the entire night and booked me in a case that I was not even aware of. Though my innocence was proved in the court, all my money and my wife’s jewellery was gone by then,” says Bhonu.

At the event, several other people narrated their ordeal before the panel of experts, including first counselor of European Union Dr Hans Van Villet, chairperson of Shram Salahkar Samiti Vidyawati Rajbhar and national secretary Rastriya Lok Dal Anil Dubey.

Commenting upon atrocities on the suppressed class, Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi of PVCHR said, “Committing atrocities on suppressed people has turned into a practice of sorts. Therefore, the mindset of people, especially those in decisive posts, needs to be changed.”

Other experts addressing the meeting included Prof Ramesh Dixit, Shruti Nagvanshi, Shabana Khan and Anoop Srivastava. They demanded that the bill against torture should be implemented so that cases of police atrocity can be checked.

 

One woman in three , worldwide suffer domestic violence: WHO #Vaw #Womenrights


VAW

Agence France-Presse | Updated: June 20, 2013 20:55 IST

Geneva: More than one woman in three around the globe is a victim of domestic violence, with those in Asia and the Middle East most-affected by the scourge, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.


In what it billed as the first-ever systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women and its health impact, the UN agency said 30 percent worldwide faced such abuse at the hands of their partners.

“These to me are shocking statistics,” said Flavia Bustreo, head of the WHO’s family, women’s and children’s health division.
“It’s also shocking that this phenomenon cuts across the entire world,” she told reporters.

The WHO blamed taboos that prevent victims from coming forward, failings in medical and justice systems, and norms that mean men and women may see violence as acceptable.
The findings were extrapolated from figures provided by 81 countries which maintain data, and did not single out individual nations.

The scale of abuse was highest in Asia, where data from Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand showed that 37.7 percent of women were affected.
Next was the Middle East, where prevalence averaged at 37 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa followed, with 36.6 percent.

An average of 23.2 percent were affected in a group of high-income countries including North America, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
“These data really show the tremendous toll violence has on the health of women,” said Claudia Garcia-Moren, a WHO specialist on gender, reproductive rights, sexual health and adolescence.

Underlining the impact of such abuse, the WHO said that globally, 38 percent of female murder victims were killed by their partners.
In addition, it said, violence also leaves scars long after bruises disappear and broken bones heal.

Women with a violent partner were twice as likely to suffer from depression and develop an alcohol problem, compared to women who did not experience abuse.
Victims of violence were also found to be far more likely to contract a range of sexually-transmitted diseases, from syphilis to HIV.

The study also flagged the higher likelihood of abused women having an unwanted pregnancy, an abortion, or an underweight baby — and their children were more likely to become abusers or victims in adulthood.

 

#India – Sexual Harassment at Workplace #Vaw #Womenrights #mustread


Workplace Sexual Harassment

The Way Things Are

Vol – XLVIII No. 24, June 15, 2013 | Naina Kapur , EPW
sh

Sixteen years after the landmark Vishaka case judgment of the Supreme Court, the government introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 2012 a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill. The Act, as it stands, has failed to draw on the extensive research on sexual harassment that has been done in this country and elsewhere. Further, its inaccurate phrasing of workplace sexual harassment and mismatches between subheadings and content of the text eclipses the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment.

Naina Kapur (naina.kapur@gmail.com) is an advocate who pioneered the Vishaka directions on workplace sexual harassment.

Before 1997, “sexual harassment” had never settled into the Indian legal lexicon. We were instead saddled with an archaic Victorian template which criminalised “outraging or insulting” a “woman’s modesty”. It made us pretend that we had it all covered. But we never did. Unwelcome words, gestures, images, language, and all those subtle intangibles which sexually violate a woman, were comfortably woven into the pattern of life rather than the fabric of law. It all became a silent and acceptable part of “the way things are”.

Bhanwari Case

It was not until the 1990s that the sexual torment endured by a rural level change agent in Rajasthan and her subsequent determination to challenge what led to her violation gave rise to a long overdue common-sense approach to what needed to change. It was us. Sexual harassment hit the Indian legal map when Bhanwari, a saathin in Rajasthan, prevented the child marriage within an upper caste community. In doing so she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment through words and gestures from men of that community. When she reported the harassment, the local authority did nothing. That omission was at great cost to Bhanwari – she was subsequently gang-raped by those very men.

Surprisingly, nationwide calls for justice hovered around demands for a stringent criminal law response, i e, the filing of a first information report (FIR). With a history of failures by the criminal justice system to stem the pandemic of violence towards women, such demands appeared futile. At the risk of offending purists of criminal law, it has always struck me as somewhat offensive that a breach of criminal law is effectively treated as a crime against the state. Each FIR becomes the pursuit of a culprit by the police for a harm which the “State” has endured. At most the complainant woman is only ever a witness.

Bhanwari’s experience invited us to change that pattern. Rather than perceive sexual harassment in the home, on the street, at work or in accessing justice as individual personal injuries, we needed to experience it as a constitutional concern. The microcosmic commonality of Bhanwari’s experience of sexual harassment mirrored what scores of working Indian women faced in India – everyday, everywhere, all the time. In the absence of any existing legal response to “sexual harassment”, the opportunity was ripe for a comprehensive approach. In 1992, therefore, we approached the Supreme Court of India in a public interest litigation to do precisely that – rethink “the way things are”.

Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment was a form of discriminatory conduct at the workplace. It hampered women’s constitutional rights to equality and dignity. It sabotaged work performance, affected working environments, impaired women’s progress, resulted in absenteeism and cost both individuals and institutions in terms of qualitative health and growth. The statistics of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reveal how 55% of women from the ages of 14 to 55 in Italy have been subjected to sexual harassment (2004); sexual harassment in the United States army has cost close to $250 million (1999 survey); 40 to 50% of women in the European Union have faced some form of sexual harassment; and a 2002 survey by Sakshi (a non-governmental organisation) of 2,000 persons across workplaces found 80% acknowledging that workplace sexual harassment existed in India.

Statistics apart, constitutional equality was never the lens through which we viewed women’s experience of sexual harm at work. It took that rare creative courage of a judge, the late Justice J S Verma (then chief justice of India) to rise to the occasion and in 1997 we were given Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan. Unlike anything before it, Vishaka was a visionary decision. Primarily, it filled a legal vacuum. Second, it viewed sexual harassment through an equality lens and thus prioritised prevention. Third, in the absence of legislation, it became legally binding on all workplaces. Unlike the criminal law, it was the State, the employer, and the institution that had to own up for the equality and dignity of women at work.

Finally, it gave us a map for creating accountability. Workplaces, organisations, institutions (including educational establishments) were compelled to raise awareness about sexual harassment, take steps to prevent it and to offer effective redress. We sought and were granted the presence of a third party expert on complaints committees for sexual harassment, a mechanism mandated by Vishaka for all workplaces.

It was an innovative moment in the history of women’s constitutional rights within all workplaces. That is what a visionary approach does for people’s rights. It expands and uplifts them through an inclusive process. Vishaka changed the map of how we could respond to other forms of violence against women. Unfortunately, the moment and momentum was frittered away by a state unable and unwilling to adhere to the bar Vishaka had set. Despite the Government of India’s own ratification of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the women’s convention which promised to uphold the equality rights of women in all aspects of life, its commitment rang hollow. Added to this was increased public immunity to the daily sexual exploitation of women who never took adequate notice of what Vishaka had to offer.

‘To Do Something’

Still, Vishaka made it impossible for us to slip back to the way things are. It gave us language. Women’s experience of unwelcome sexual conduct was no longer a patronising moral transgression of her ”modesty”, it was sexual harassment – a violation of her constitutional equality.

Sixteen years post the landmark judgment, the Government of India introduced a new bill. Such delay might have been justified had excellence and improving on Vishaka been the goal. In reality, the state simply awoke from its lengthy slumber to “do something”. Amidst the din of the coal block allocations scam in the Lok Sabha, a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill was allowed to pass into law without debate in September 2012. Before the Rajya Sabha, a feebler introduction was made by the minister whose “vision” suggested that it was a bill “to make them economically empowered so that they can do their work properly” – a condescending preface to constitutional equality which was the backbone of the Vishaka judgment. Adding insult to injury, nowhere does the debate find mention of constitutional equality.

Apart from the statement of objects, there is little in the language and content of the new Act which has continued to raise the bar, let alone retain the spirit of Vishaka. An itemised definition of what constitutes “workplace” might have been more easily stated as any place where a woman is present by virtue of her work – a suggestion supported by many at a consultation held in the presence of parliamentary standing committee members. Educational institutes have complained that the definition does not go far enough to include students who, while not workers, frequently suffer coercive sexual harassment on campus or otherwise linked to their educational growth, a concern endorsed by the Justice Verma Committee. Such institutes will need to adopt a creative approach to ensure students are covered. Extensive cross-country research carried out for the Vishaka hearings provided contemporary approaches to the definition and a road map for preventing workplace sexual harassment.

Use of such knowledge was scarcely evident in crafting the latest Act. Inaccurate phrasing (a trait which characterises much of the Act) of hostile workplace sexual harassment eclipses the relevance of the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment. Mismatches between subheadings and content compound that perception. A section titled “Prevention of Sexual Harassment”, for instance, fails to deliver on anything related to preventive measures. Instead, the section highlights “circumstances” which may amount to sexual harassment. Such glaring oversight betrays an abysmal lack of homework by the legislative draughtsperson and ignorance about the issue by parliamentary representatives across the political spectrum.

Diluted Version of Vishaka

As for the internal and local complaint committees now mandated under the Act in all workplaces, political understanding of what was intended to be an inclusive and informed redress mechanism simply is not there. Diluting third party presence on these committees to persons committed to “the cause of women” demeans the skill and specialisation required to meet the nuances of workplace sexual harassment. In a recent example, a lawyer committed to the “cause of women” was inducted into a government department complaints committee. Post the proceedings, my office was contacted by the department for a follow-up. Amazingly, the record revealed how the person accused of sexual harassment was allowed to openly question the complainant as part of the committee proceedings – a fundamental violation of the non-intimidation principle designed to protect complainants from just such practices. Third party persons (lawyers or not) must bring knowledge, skill and capacity to the table to ensure processes are professionally informed and unbiased. Vishaka envisaged an inclusive complaints committee to build ownership of the issue, ensure fair treatment and enhance knowledge and experience around workplace sexual harassment.

Of all sections, the most disturbing provision in the Act (Section 14) is one which punishes a “false or malicious complaint”. Such inventions are only ever peculiar to gender-specific legislations which relate to women and violence. In no other area of law do such penalty clauses exist as a matter of practice. Its presence in the new Act has no legal basis.

Investigations (and this is true of any law) are designed to determine whether a harm occurred or not. That is it. To premise an Act on the assumption that women are potential liars about their human rights abuses reeks of stereotyping women and for that reason would be constitutionally untenable. Flawed drafting further amplifies the lack of political seriousness towards socially relevant legislation for women. The “false” charges section provides that “mere” inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof “need not” attract action against the complainant, but does not enlighten us on what “need not” means. Does it imply that if a complaint does not succeed, it “ought not to but still might” attract action for false charges?

The absence of user-friendly, unambiguous and accessible language throughout the new Act renders it prone to typical gender stereotyping in such cases. In all consultations on the bill, this retrograde provision was rejected outright. To foist it into the legislation can only be perceived as an attempt to discourage women from making complaints of sexual harassment.

In the 16 years since Vishaka, progressive developments have taken place in international guidelines and practices on workplace sexual harassment. Prescribing “duties” under the new Act as a way to compel employers to prevent sexual harassment runs contrary to contemporary human rights emphasis on promoting “responsibilities”. It is the difference between what employers feel obliged to do (and hence resist and scuttle) from what they would responsibly own and do (and hence, be proud of).

Clearly, the absence of urgency and enhanced vision has given us a diluted version of Vishaka. Dilution is what traditionally allows sexually inappropriate conduct to fester, spread and eventually escalate into rape in the first place. That is how it all began in Bhanwari’s case. For that reason, a 16-year wait offers no excuse for not getting a law that mirrored global standards of excellence and understanding in systemically tackling workplace sexual harassment.

At the same time, legislation, flawed or otherwise, cannot excuse us from implementing change, one which calls upon our own willingness to connect the dots. At most, legislation has reignited attention towards the plague of workplace sexual harassment. Owning the constitutional subtext to make it work is our job. Unexpected but welcome initiatives have begun to dot the landscape even pre-legislation. A recent award by the industrial tribunal in West Bengal offers an unusually credible direction in the sexual harassment case of senior journalist Rina Mukherjee against The Statesman.

Rina Mukherjee vs The Statesman

Within six months of joining The Statesman, Rina Mukerhjee lost her job. While the company alleged that her work was “tardy” and “lacking in quality”, it suppressed Rina’s complaint of sexual harassment against the news coordinator, Ishan Joshi. Within her first month of work, Rina had taken her complaint directly to the managing director (MD), Ravinder Kumar. Understandably, she expected him to act professionally and intervene, but time passed and nothing happened. Exploiting her status as a probationer, Rina was fired by The Statesman.

Such patterns are common to organisations who fail to see the importance of promoting a workplace free from sexual harassment. Frequently, a woman on probation will find it impossible to make a complaint, let alone succeed with one. Hence, most women hesitate and tolerate the behaviour. Rina was an exception. Post her termination she filed a formal complaint with the MD, The Statesman’s owner, C R Irani and the West Bengal Women’s Commission with the firm belief that her termination was a result of her sexual harassment complaint.

The matter was eventually heard by the Industrial Tribunal (West Bengal). In a rare display of social context, insight and clarity amongst the judiciary, judge Kundan Kumar Kumai, rejected The Statesman’s claim that Rina only referred to “professional” harassment in her complaint to Ravindra Kumar. In Kumai’s view, Kumar’s failure to dig deeper was clearly suspect. In the judge’s words:

He [Ravindra Kumar] never started any enquiry however discreet it may have been. Fairplay demanded at least an explanation from the senior executives as to why there was an allegation of professional harassment against them. Rather he has gone hammer and tongs over the delay made in making the sexual harassment public, in writing. What else could she have done… she made a verbal complaint of sexual harassment and professional harassment and she was dismissed from her service even without completion of her probation period.

It should also not be forgotten that the lady workman was not only well-educated but had about ten years of journalism, with other well known publications, behind her and not a novice or a rookie journalist, at that relevant time.

Moreover…it becomes clear that there was no Committee on sexual harassment, as per the Honb’le Supreme Court’s direction in Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan, existing in The Statesman, at that relevant time…to expect-the lady workman to file a written complaint and not to believe the same, when it has been filed ‘at a later date’ is sheer bias.

The Statesman was ordered to reinstate Rina and grant her full back wages from the time of her termination to the date of the order. It took 11 years but Rina won an order that dispels assumptions about why women take time to complain about sexual harassment, how those in power try through sheer numbers and gagged employees to dismiss such claims, and how workplaces can no longer take legal compliance on sexual harassment lightly. HadThe Statesman taken her complaint seriously at the outset and complied with Vishaka, the result could have been beneficial for all – for Rina, women workers, the workplace environment and inevitably the company’s reputation.

Conclusions

Repetition creates a life pattern. Enduring workplace conduct which sexually demeans, intimidates, offends, excludes and limits women is not only about the patterns of sexist behaviour, it is also about the repetitive nature of our own complacency. We have become immune to the pervasive harm of sexual harassment and its unconstitutional character.

People like judge Kumai, justice Verma, Bhanwari and Rina remind us that this need not be so. They inspire the rest of us who care, to use our carefully crafted skills, know-how and passion to innovate and transform the most ill-crafted provisions in law to work for us rather than limit us.

Sexual harassment need not be “the way things are”. It is up to us as political leaders, judges, responsible workplaces and individuals to change that pattern of thought. Having found its way onto our constitutional map for all to follow the direction and visibility of workplace sexual harassment will be determined by the men and women who understand the professional and human worth of speaking up. As frightening as that can be, it will enable us to own our constitutional equality not has some elusive right we should continue to aspire for, but as something we can live, experience and embrace everyday. That is not the way things are, that is the way things should be.

 

 

Nestle Chairman wants to sell the world’s water #humanright


Please sign this petition addressed to the European Union, calling it to accept that access to water is a human right. See:http://www.right2water.eu/

Nestlé Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, has rejected this view in an interview. Under his principles, water is a foodstuff to be sold at a price. He claims that by placing a value on water it will be treated with more respect. People who are poor and have difficulty accessing water should be given help, he says. Of course, Nestlé aims to make a buck from this process and is actively and agressively appropriating community water supplies, often in the face of opposition and legal challenges from those communities. It tries to divert criticism of these tactics with its CSV strategy, that is its Creative Storystelling Venture, or what it prefers to call Creating Shared Value.

From monitoring Nestlé’s baby milk marketing activities and working with partners around the world to force it and other companies to abide by minimum marketing standards, I have seen Nestlé’s strategies employed in their full range from slick PR to dirty tricks. I’ve also followed the water issue with interest, particularly the ten year campaign that ultimately stopped Mr Brabeck’s destructive water pumping operation in the Brazilian spa town of São Lourenço – where I bought my cap.

If water is seen as a human right and a public good then it has to be managed in the public interest. In too many cases community water resources are appropriated by Nestlé and other companies. There is information on Nestlé’s involvement in water on the Nestlé Critics website: http://www.nestlecritics.org/

Water as a human right and public good

Baby Milk Action has backed the campaign for water to be a human right and a public good for many years and raised concerns about Nestlé’s water operations at the company’s shareholder meeting.

For example, we organised a joint event with Christian Aid, War on Want and the World Development Movement in 2006. Our special guest at that event was Franklin Fredrick, a campaigner from Brazil trying to stop Nestlé’s destructive Pure Life water bottling operation in the historic water park in São Lourenço. Organisations signed up to a declaration commiting to work on this issue and to calling on governments “to guarantee, through appropriate laws, the human right to water and the declaration on water as a public good, and to work for the drawing up of an international convention on water to be adopted by the UN”. This campaign continues on many fronts.

Pure Life is one of Nestlé’s global brands of water. It promotes it as the official sponsor of the London Marathon (click here for our 2011 press release and leaflet).

We have asked the London Marathon to consider another sponsor and even reported it to the Charity Commission for refusing to be transparent over its policy on sponsors as required by the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission said it could not investigate as the sposorship is organised by London Marathon Ltd, which is separate to the company and not covered by charity law, even though it is 100% owned by the London Marathon Charitable Trust and passes all profits to the Trust.

While the Chief Executive of the London Marathon has indicated he is willing to discuss this issue, he has also said there is no point as the contract with Nestlé is not up for renewal for some time. A boycott supporter sets up an alternative water point along the course, but is not feasible for us to provide alternatives around the route. It is for marathon runners to campaign for alternative supplies if they do not want to be forced to drink Nestlé’s Pure Life water.

Nestlé’s illegal Pure Life water operation in Brazil

Nestlé launched Pure Life water in Brazil after sinking wells in 1996 in the water park in São Lourenço, which it acquired in its takeover of Perrier in 1992. Nestlé’s business model is to become the biggest or second biggest corporation in the world in any sector it enters and bottled water became one of its targets for global domination. São Lourenço has grown up and makes its living from the great variety of mineral springs that come to the surface in the water park, a virtually unique geological feature. There are mineral baths and a series of chapels over the springs to take the healing waters.

Sao Lourenco environmental mapNestlé’s bottling factory is in the area of maximum environmental vulnerability, as shown on the map, left.

Most of the spring water is not very pleasant to drink due to the high mineral content. One spring, the Primavera Spring, does produce mineral water and it was that which Perrier was bottling as São Lourenço water. When Nestlé took control, it sank two 162 metre deep wells and began pumping water at such a high rate (half a million litres per day) it had to build a wall around the plant extending 7 metres into the ground to prevent surface water being sucked into the well. Such was the suction that trees within this wall dried up and died.

Nestlé demineralised the water – in breach of federal laws that value mineral water as a natural resource – added its own salt ingredients and began dispersing it around Brazil backed by a marketing campaign to create demand.

Meanwhile the other springs began to dry up or change their mineral profiles at the massive draw off of water and some of the chapel buildings suffered subsidence and cracking (as Franklin points out, left).

It took ten years to stop Nestlé’s pumping, finally under the threat of daily fines until it did so.

I visited São Lourenço while the destruction was still in full swing. The townspeople were so angry at the fall off in trade to their hotels and restuarants they had petitioned the local prosecutor to take action. He managed to stop the pumping for two days following an investigation, but Nestlé appealed to a higher court and the years passed by. BBC Radio 4 recorded an edition of Face the Facts on the case in 2005. The listen again archive seems to have gone now, but the transcript is available at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/facethefacts/transcript_20050722.shtml

Nestlé’s spies infiltrate campaign group

Franklin joined us at the meeting in 2006 to launch the petition on water as a human right and public good. Nestlé wrote to our partners in the event attacking Franklin Fredrick with false claims. For example, Nestlé dismissed his accusations against the company stated: “a third party audit by Bureau Veritas confirms that we have acted in accordance with Brazilian legislation…” Yet when I managed to raise this in a question to Nestlé’s Latin American manager and now Chief Executive, Paul Bulcke, from the floor of a meeting held by the Prince of Wales Business Leaders’ Forum, Bureau Veritas, also present in the audience, admitted, “our work did not constitute a legal audit as such, nor did it include a review of the on-going civil action”. The civil action had actually been concluded at that point and Nestlé ordered to stop pumping under the threat of daily fines.

 As well as its personal attack on Franklin, Nestlé also placed spies in ATTAC Switzerland, which included the water issues in its book on the Nestlé Empire and invited Franklin to the launch. Franklin gave an interview to Swiss WRS radio when the issue came to court in January 2012 - for details, click here. The court ordered Nestlé and Securitas, its security company, to pay damages and court costs to the victims and, case proven, the companies are not appealing - click here.

Nestlé’s Creative Storytelling Venture – the true meaning of its CSV strategy

Nestlé does not like critics and hired PR guru Raphael Pagan in the 1970s to develop a strategy to respond to disasterous publicity over its baby milk marketing, which was coming to public attention at that time. The strategy developed continues to be followed today.

Part of it involves portraying the company as a force for good and Nestlé unveiled its latest Creating Shared Value report at the shareholder meeting.

We have produced a preliminary analysis we call Nestlé’s Creative Storytelling Venture, the true meaning of CSV. It shows that what Nestlé says it does and what it actually does are two very different things.

Nestlé’s report is full of references to water and Mr Brabeck’s leadership role in this area. He states in his introduction to the report:

“We believe that we can create value for our shareholders and society by doing business in ways that specifically help address global and local issues in the areas of nutrition, water and rural development. This is what we mean when we speak about Creating Shared Value (CSV). We proactively identify opportunities to link our core business activities to action on related social issues.”

Nestlé boasts of cutting its own water consumption, which is to be welcomed, if true. Unfortunately it is difficult to know what can be believed as on the baby milk issue – of which I have direct knowledge – Nestlé’s report is thoroughly dishonest (details in our analysis).

Nestlé highlights that its report is audited by Bureau Veritas. But given its negligent job in performing Nestlé’s so-called legal audit in São Lourenço, that is not saying much.

Nestlé seizes the water agenda

Mr Brabeck is presents himself as a guru on water. For example, he has become a vociferous campaigner against biofuels, claiming they use too much water and land that should be used for farming, while being a poor response to climate change. That is an argument that should be made, but it is laughable coming from the leader of a company that by its very nature is opposed to local production and consumption of food, instead shipping highly processed foods around the planet.

Mr Brabeck also leads the World Economic Forum (WEF) Water Resources Group, is a founder signatory of the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate and sponsors World Water Week in Stockholm, as well as other initiatives to promote bottled water, such as the London Marathon.

Franklin Fredrick continues to campaign to protect water resources and his article on the Water Resources Group was published recently. See:
http://europeanwater.org/european-water-resources/reports-publications/204-water-alternatives

Original source- http://info.babymilkaction.org/

 

 

 

Fazil Say : Turkish Pianist Receives Suspended Jail Term For ‘anti-Islam’ Twitter Comments #Blasphemy #Censorship #FOS #FOE


 

 By Suzan Fraser  

April 15, 2013

 

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish court on Monday convicted top Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say of denigrating religion through comments he made on Twitter and handed down a 10-month suspended prison sentence, his lawyer said.

The 43-year-old musician who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony and other world orchestras was on trial for sending tweets last year, including one that joked about a religious leader and some Islamic practices.

He is the latest in a series of intellectuals and artists to be prosecuted in Turkey for expressing their opinions and his case has raised further concern over rights and freedoms in the country, a democracy with a mostly Muslim population that seeks membership in the European Union.

Say has also been a strong critic of the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim who expounds conservative values, alarming some secular Turks who fear the government plans to make religion part of their lifestyle.

In one tweet, Say joked about a call to prayer that he said lasted only 22 seconds. Say tweeted: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?” Raki is a traditional alcoholic drink made with aniseed. Islam forbids alcohol and many Islamists consider the remarks unacceptable.

The charges against Say also cited other tweets he sent, including one – based on a verse attributed to famous medieval poet Omar Khayyam – that questioned whether heaven was a tavern or a brothel, because of the promises that wine will flow and each believer will be greeted by virgins.

Emre Bukagili, a citizen who filed the initial complaint against Say, said in an emailed statement that the musician had used “a disrespectful, offensive and impertinent tone toward religious concepts such as heaven and the call to prayer.”

Lawyer Meltem Akyol said the pianist’s sentence has been suspended for five years, which means he would have to serve the sentence if he reoffends in that time.

The lawyer said Say has not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict. He has closed his Twitter account, however.

In a statement, Say called the verdict “a sad one for Turkey.”

“The fact that I was given a sentence despite my innocence is cause for concern with regard freedoms of expression and belief,” he said.

The government meanwhile, appeared to distance itself from the verdict.

“I would not wish anyone to be put on trial for words that have been expressed. This is especially true of artists and cultural figures,” Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik said. “But… this is a judicial decision.”

Sevim Dagdelen, a German lawmaker who has campaigned for Say, called his conviction “a scandal,” and said that Turkey’s attempts to join the EU should be frozen. She also accused the court of making an example of Say to silence critics of the government.

Turkey has a history of prosecuting its artists and writers.

Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for his comments about the mass killings of Armenians under a law that made it a crime to insult the Turkish identity before the government eased that law in an amendment in 2008.

In 2007, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who received death threats because of his comments about the killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

 

Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/fazil-say-jailed-turkish-pianist-receives-suspended-jail-term-for-twitter-comments_n_3083849.html

———

 

Saudi cleric terms women Shura Members prostitutes; receives flak #Vaw


Monday February 25, 2013 10:26:16 AM, Agencies

 

For the first time, women will represent 10 percent of the 150 seats of the Saudi Shura, or consultative council, in the coming legislative term, Xinhua reported.> A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Dubai: A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Derogatory terms such as “prostitutes” and “the filth of society” were used to describe the female academics and technocrats who were sworn into the Council a few days after a highly-acclaimed Royal Decree was issued by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Al Arabiya reported Sunday.

The tweets quickly became widely-spread through the social media network and rapidly developed their own hash-tags; however, many Saudi tweeps condemned the attack on the female Shura members, especially since they came from figures who are supposed to preach tolerance, compassion and respect, the report added.

Among the clerics who resorted to insults was member of the Islamic Ministry for Da’wah, Guidance and Endowments, Ahmed Al-Abedul-Qader expressed his discontent of women partaking a role in the Shura Council over his Tweeter account, “They thought they can mock the mufti by giving these ‘prostitutes’ legitimacy to be in power. I am not an imposter, and imposters do not fool me. For how long will the forts of virtues be torn down?”, according to Al Arabiya.

Following angry reactions by Twitter users, Qader said: “We have heard and read many insults against (God) as well as mockery against the prophet, prayer be upon him, and none of those defending (these female) members was angered.”

For his part, Dr. Saleh al-Sugair, a former teaching assistant at King Saud University slammed the assignment of female members at the council and tweeted: “The insolent (women) wearing make-up at the Shura Council represent the society? God, no. They are the filth of society.”

His tweet reads: “The fools of the Shura council, these immodest women represent the society? I swear by God’s name they do not. They are society’s scum, garbage.”

This wasn’t the first controversial statement al-Sugair، who is not a cleric but a medical doctor known for extreme religious views.

Last year, he called for a complete separation in medical colleges between male students and female students.

He spoke on what appeared to be a religious program saying “ why do you need to employ females when we have unemployed males who are providing for their families” and he added “what is the point of having a male doctor with a female secretary?”

He insisted that there is no need to have female receptionists in hospitals and especially in male sections.

Sugair has over 40 thousand followers on twitter and is known for advocating against women employment, women driving, and women treating male patients.

However, the backlash to the recent statements regarding the Shura Council appointees was severe.

Author Maha al-Shahri tweeted: “(These statements) are a moral crime. The government has to set laws to (teach) them and their likes (morals).”

Doctor Abdelrahman al-Sobeyhi tweeted: “Every disease has a medicine to heal it except stupidity.”

Another user, Ali Abdelrahman, wrote: “This is ignorance that does not belong to Islam.”

“The problem is that they think they have immunity from God!” another twitter user said.

A royal decree last month amended two articles in the council’s statute introducing a 20 percent quota for women in the country’s Shura Council, and the king appointed 30 women to join the consultative assembly.

The council was sworn in last week.

The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king – and until recently were exclusively male – works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia. It can propose draft laws which would be presented to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.

Previously, the European Union has welcomed Saudi King Abdullah’s recent decree allowing women to be members of in the kingdom’s Shura Council for the first time as a major development in the direction of women empowerment.

“We welcome the announcement made by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday Jan. 11 to appoint 30 women to the country’s previously all-male Shura Council,” according to statement by Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the European Commission.

 

#India -GM crops will sow food insecurity


KAVITA SRIVASTAVA, The Hindu

Farmers destroying GM crops in Karnataka. GM crops are input-intensive and labour-displacing. — K. Bhagya Prakash

Farmers destroying GM crops in Karnataka. GM crops are input-intensive and labour-displacing. — K. Bhagya Prakash

The recent affidavit filed by the Ministry of Agriculture in the Supreme Court arguing that if India does not walk the path of genetically modified (GM) food, then it will starve, gives a scary picture of how the highest court of the country can be misguided in order to protect global corporate interests.

This is a lie, because the situation of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity of the people in the country is not due to inadequacy of production (we have had record production in the last three years), but due to distribution and purchasing power. The Indian Government is one of the world’s biggest hoarders of foodgrains, about 667 lakh tonnes as on January 1, 2013. This makes the current stock 2.5 times more than the Government’s own benchmark for buffer stocks. One wonders why our Government continues to insist that lack of food production is the cause for hunger in this country?

The question to ask is, why are these mountains of foodgrains not being distributed to the people when a third of the children are born malnourished, half of children are underweight and a third of the adult population has a body mass index (BMI) of below 18.5, one of the worst in the world.

Corporate interests

The Planning Commission’s estimate of the required subsistence calorie intake for defining the poverty line is set at 2,400 calories per person per day in rural areas and 2,100 calories per person per day in urban areas. Going by that figure, at least 80 per cent of the population in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas fall below the required subsistence intake. We stand way down the Global hunger Index at 65th out of 88 nations, worse than many sub-Saharan African countries.

Despite repeated Supreme Court orders regarding distribution of foodgrains to the poor at Antyodaya prices, the Government does not comply and refuses to allow food to be distributed through the public distribution system (PDS), although clandestine ways are used to export the grain abroad. And now we have this attempt of the Agriculture Ministry with its GM promotion to push for global corporate interests by riding on the backs of our starving millions. It is important to ask whether GM crops are a solution much worse than the problem that is being sought to be addressed.

The decision of bringing in GM food may not only harm Indian agriculture overwhelmingly but also push a majority of people to the brink of starvation. GM crops are an extension of input-intensive and labour-displacing model of industrial agriculture. Hence, they would harm small and marginal farmers and farm labourers, majority of whom are women. It is important to observe that agriculture, unique among sectors of production, plays the dual role of providing an enormously important source of livelihood and of producing the means of life.

Output Mirage

To link GM to increased food production, and hence food security, is a fallacy. Evidence is emerging that food security indicators have not improved but only deteriorated in countries that have adopted GM crops elsewhere in substantial areas. A recent letter from hundreds of Indian scientists, sent to the Minister for Environment and Forests, presents clear and strong evidence on this.

From our experience with Bt cotton it is clear that cultivation of GM crops, though it failed to increase yields, definitely increases input costs because of the royalty attached to seeds. It also includes increased irrigation and agrochemical requirements. Food security also means availability of safe food. There is growing scientific evidence questioning the safety of GM food. This shows the irresponsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture towards the people of this country, in advocating the introduction of yet-to-be-proven-safe technologies with several potential hazards as a part of our food systems.

Comprehensive provisions

Hunger and malnutrition are the greatest threat to India’s national security. The National Food Security Bill is a crucial opportunity to address this. We hope that this will not be missed when Parliament deliberates the report of the Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs on the National Food Security Bill 2011. The present Bill and the Standing Committee recommendations have undermined the issues of farmers and consumers, by not recommending measures to ensure sustainable food production, guaranteeing MSP at real input costs, or providing safe food which is free of contamination from GMOs or agrochemicals.

Instead, the committee has recommended the provisioning of fortified foodgrains andatta (flour) under the PDS which opens the door for commercialisation of both agriculture and the food system; fortification of food grains could also open the doors for GM technologies.

The committee’s recommendations have also undermined the right to food of children, by provisioning maternal entitlements for only the first two children, thus denying the exclusive breast feeding rights of subsequent children born to the family and also not providing legal cover to the Anganwadis. It has undermined the vulnerable people’s right to food by not bringing Community Kitchens under the law, and undermined nutritional security by only talking of distribution of cereals.

Further, it falls far short of providing adequate food to all (universal) through the PDS, by only covering 67 per cent of the population with as little as 5 kg of cereals per head per month. It, finally, has not provided for criminal penalties or independent grievance redressal systems, essentially diluting the legal guarantees given by the Supreme Court in the “right to food” case. We hope that Parliament will undo what the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to do through the courts and bring in the wisdom that food security must address issues related to access to resources (land, forests and water), provide for revival of agriculture, protect livelihoods of food producers, especially small & and marginal farmers, and preserve local food systems.

In order to ensure that we are a society free of malnutrition and hunger, the need of the hour is to immediately legislate a truly comprehensive food security Bill rather than the myopic one that is being proposed.


By arguing that GM crops are essential to food security, the Government seeks to conceal the underlying reality.


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 20, 2013)

 

#India-The right to food security #mustread


BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8273 (Published 10 December 2012)

Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8273
  1. Veena Shatrugna, formerly deputy director, National Institute of Nutrition1,
  2. R Srivatsan, senior fellow2

Author Affiliations

  1. veenashatrugna@yahoo.com

Communities must push back against global policy decisions that fuel Third World hunger

The report from the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch published during October 2012 considered the effects of globalised food policies on populations in the Third World.1 It offered a very different perspective on food insecurity than that provided by official United Nations/World Bank documents. The authors of the report considered food security in light of social determinants of nutrition, such as food availability, agricultural policy, land transactions, cropping patterns, and agricultural finance. The report focused on the lack of accountability of large food producers that also own vast tracts of land to the people who face hunger and who have a right to food. Their damning indictment is that “the right to food of people around the planet has primacy over the need to fuel cars and economies in the European Union or North America.”

The report included a review of the progress of the Committee on World Food Security (an international body set up by the UN) after it was reformed in 2009 to include people’s organisations. The report stressed the importance of keeping the right to food as a benchmark in policy decisions. The World Trade Organization routinely takes major policy decisions that affect communities’ right to food without due consideration. Other offenders include international investment groups that negotiate the terms of bilateral trade agreements, public-private partnerships that promote directly delivered medicalised nutritional intervention, and those that engage in speculative trading in food. The report reviewed finance capital in agribusiness and outlined the devastating effects on poverty of speculative trading in food. Speculation on food prices has resulted in dangerously volatile food prices since 2007. Agribusiness trades through individual contracts and with little market transparency. The source of finance is surplus funds in the West, but speculation wreaks havoc and impoverishment in the Third World.

The report also presents several case studies that are eye openers to what happens on the ground. They illustrate, for example, how coercive land acquisition (grabbing)—a historical legacy of colonialism in the Arab Spring countries—and allocation of prime agricultural land to non-local industry cause food crises and impoverishment in agricultural communities. The increasing diversion of agricultural land away from food farming and to the cultivation of biofuels needed by Western countries is another major problem currently contributing to hunger in Africa. Widespread economic havoc has been caused in Mexico under the unfavourable North American Free Trade Agreement, which sees Mexico trading agricultural commodities with the United States.

India has had enormous growth in gross domestic product with no evidence of a trickle down effect. In 2006 it was estimated that 51.5% of Indian children were stunted and 54.9% were underweight. About 34.6% of adults reportedly had a body mass index of less than 18.5.2 It seems that there has been little recent change.

India’s long term food policies have resulted in an epidemic of stunting and decreased muscle mass in the children of poor families. Indian national policy has for decades emphasised cheap cereals as the major source of energy for its population. In a 1968 publication, nutrition experts suggested that a mixture of cheap foods like cereals, pulses, and vegetables could provide a mixture of amino acids that was very nearly as good as if animal proteins were consumed.3 This particular statement was reproduced in the 1971 edition of the Indian National Institute of Nutrition’s report Nutritive Value of Indian Foods and every reprint until the latest in 2011. Furthermore, it has influenced policies on food and wages, including the calculation and classification of the “poverty line.”

In 1970, people were regarded as being above the poverty line if they could afford to consume 10 042 kJ (2400 kcal) daily from the cheapest food source. Minimum wages were then calculated to provide this level of intake for a family of five on the assumption that they would consume cheap cereals. The famous “myth of protein gap,” based on an observation in 1971 that undernourished children (1670-2090 kJ daily deficit) could consume adequate protein (20 g/day) from cereal if only “they ate more of their usual foods,” changed the way the diets of poor adults and children were regarded.4 Promotion of a cereal-pulse vegetarian diet effectively removed animal proteins from Indian diets.3 Even consumption of pulses diminished over time. The more affluent vegetarians, a minority, consumed adequate daily protein requirements through sources such as milk and almonds.

In addition to widespread malnutrition and stunting, which underpins negative metabolic consequences in adulthood, more than 70% of women and children in India have anaemia and deficiencies in intakes of most vitamins and minerals.2Against this background of chronic poor nutrition, more food shortages have worsened malnutrition and hunger in the Indian population. A more recent concern in India, however, is the complex association between adult onset obesity and food insecurity. Accumulating evidence suggests that, although severe food insecurity leads to wasting, mild to moderate food insecurity is associated with obesity.5 This hunger induced morbidity pattern will continue to plague India for decades.

The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012 report concludes by discussing how hungry people can regain control over those decisions that affect their food and nutritional situation. The authors highlight several successes, including the first international instrument that applied a human rights approach to agree on tenure of natural resources—the new Guidelines on Responsible Governance on Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. These guidelines were adopted in May 2012 by the Committee on World Food Security after an inclusive and participatory process. They urge communities to occupy the newly created political spaces for inclusive decision making on food and nutrition.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8273

Footnotes

  • Competing interests: Both authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

References

  1. Right to Food and Nutrition Watch. Who decides about global food and nutrition? Strategies to regain control. 2012. www.rtfn-watch.org/fileadmin/media/rtfn-watch.org/ENGLISH/pdf/Watch_2012/R_t_F_a_N_Watch_2012_eng_web_rz.pdf.
  2. National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau. Diet and nutritional status of population and prevalence of hypertension among adults in rural areas. Technical report 24. National Institute of Nutrition, 2006. www.nnmbindia.org/NNMBReport06Nov20.pdf.
  3. Gopalan C, Rama Sastri BV, Balasubramanian SC. Nutritive value of Indian foods. National Institute of Nutrition, 2011.
  4. Gopalan C, Narasinga Rao BS. Nutritional constraints on growth and development in current Indian dietaries. Indian J Med Res1971;59:111-22.
  5. Townsend MS, Peerson J, Love B, Achterberg C, Murphy SP. Food insecurity is positively related to overweight in women. J Nutr2001;131:1738-45.

A day before Kasab’s hanging, India voted against abolition of death penalty at UN


NDTV, Nov 21. 2012
United Nations: A record 110 countries backed a resolution voted every two years at a UN General Assembly committee calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
The vote tears apart traditional alliances at the United Nations. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding resolution in the assembly’s rights committee.
Thirty-six countries abstained.
Israel voted against its strong US-ally to join European Union nations, Australia, Brazil and South Africa among major countries backing the motion.
Norway, which played a leading role campaigning for the resolution, said on its Twitter account that the increased support was a “great result”.
At the last vote in 2010, 107 countries backed the resolution.
France’s new Socialist government has launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution in December calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure.
A world congress against the death penalty is to be held in Madrid in June.
According to the United Nations, about 150 countries have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium.
Amnesty International says that China executed “thousands” of prisoners in 2011 though exact figures are hard to determine. It says that other countries put to death at least 680 people with Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia major users of capital punishment.
Amnesty says that progress is slowly being made however.
Even in the United States, Illinois last year became the 16th US state to abolish the death penalty.

 

HathiTrust Judgment and its impact on the Treaty of Visually impaired #copyright


The Hathitrust Judgment and its impact on TVI negotiations at WIPO

 

by Rahul Cherian at Oct 30, 2012 1 |

Those of you who have been following my earlier posts on the WIPO negotiations on the Treaty for the Visually Impaired will remember that one of the biggest concerns of the World Blind Union on the draft wording of the Treaty was with the definition of an “authorized entity” that can undertake conversion and distribution of accessible format copies.

Before the WIPO intersessionals began on October 17, 2012, the definition of “authorized entity” in the draft Treaty prescribed that only authorized entities that address the needs of beneficiary persons as one of their primary (in brackets) activities or institutional obligations can undertake conversion and distribution of books in accessible formats. This requirement is unacceptable since it will exclude many legitimate organisations and institutions that undertake these activities but who do not address the needs of beneficiary persons as a “primary” activity or institutional obligation. Some examples of such organisations/institutions are mainstream education institutions and mainstream libraries. Delhi University which has a large number of blind students will be excluded and this is unacceptable.

The main proponents pushing for the word “primary” was the United States and the European Union while India and other developing countries wanted the word to be deleted for obvious reasons. There was a virtual deadlock in the negotiations on this particular point.

The United States was pushing for the word “primary” because under US Copyright law, an authorized entity means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities. Under US law there was uncertainty as to whether educational institutions and libraries would be covered under the definition of “authorized entity”.

Enter the HathiTrust Judgment http://www.tc.umn.edu/~nasims/HathivAG10_10_12.pdf. The judgment, which was pronounced a few days before the October WIPO intersessionals by the New York Southern District Court, held that libraries and educational institutions fall under the definition of “authorized entities” under US law.

The US delegation to WIPO was instantly alerted about this judgment and was requested to negotiate broader wording for authorized entities under the Treaty as was now the position under US law.

At the intersessionals that concluded on October 19, as observers, we were not allowed into the room and the discussions were happening between the Member States but at the end of the intersessionals this is the proposed wording of authorized entity:

Authorized entity means an entity that is authorized or recognized by the government to provide education, instructional training, adaptive reading or information access to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis.  It also includes a government institution or non-profit organization that provides the same services to beneficiary persons as one of its primary activities or institutional obligations.

As can be seen from above, this definition is broader than the previous definition since the word primary has been deleted from the main definition and it explicitly covers educational institutions and libraries. It is also interesting to note that even for profit entities that provide the above services on a non-profit basis to beneficiaries are covered.

It remains to be seen what form the definition of authorized entities will take but the HathiTrust judgment has definitely helped in the negotiation process.

The next meeting of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights takes place in Geneva between November 19 and November 23, 2012.

See my earlier posts on the WIPO negotiations.

Document