Dr Binayak Sen denied permission to UN Rapporteur’s seminar #WTFnews


Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

His visit will compromise the internal security of the state, says court

Rights activist Binayak Sen has been denied permission to participate in an international seminar on health care in Kathmandu by a Raipur court. Dr. Sen sought permission to visit Kathmandu after confirming his participation to the seminar organisers and hence “the application is not bona fide” the court order said.

The court has also considered a reply by Chhattisgarh police that said Dr. Sen’s visit to Nepal “will compromise internal security of the state.”

Dr. Sen was invited by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health to speak in an international two-day seminar on providing health care in conflict areas. Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, told The Hindu that he is “surprised and shocked” by the court’s order. He said the report of the meeting would be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Hours before his departure on Friday, a court order restricted Dr. Sen from visiting Kathmandu. “It is evident from the application that the applicant has agreed to take part in the programme without the permission of this court. He sought permission on June 28 and accepted the proposal (to visit Kathmandu) on June 21,” Additional Sessions Court judge Alok Kumar Upadhyay said in his order.

“Dr. Sen agreed to attend the meeting (before June 21) before he sought a permission, so that the organisers could send him the accommodation and flight details and he could furnish those in turn (to court) with his application,” said Dr. Sen’s lawyer, S.K. Farhan. The details of accommodation and a copy of the air tickets to and from Kathmandu were attached with the application.

Earlier, the court sought a reply from the police about Dr. Sen’s application, to which Additional SP, Raipur, Lal Umed Singh replied that Dr. Sen’s visit is detrimental to the country’s security.

“Such foreign visits of Dr. Sen consolidate Naxal and Maoist networks. India’s internal security is also compromised,” Mr. Singh stated. “In view of increased Maoist violence, killing of security personnel and prominent political leaders, objection is raised against Dr. Sen’s foreign visit,” Mr. Singh told the court.

Dr. Sen was invited to speak on healthcare delivery and accessibility to people in remote conflict areas, especially focussing Chhattisgarh. His topic was broadly described in the draft agenda as ‘availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health facilities, goods and services — duties and responsibilities toward affected populations, obligations of non-discrimination and medical independence, Treatment of parties to the conflict cf. civilians.’ He was supposed to speak on the first day of the seminar alongside health care and human rights activists from Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Jamshid Gaziyev, Special Procedures Branch, Katherine Footer of John Hopkins School of Public Health and International Committee of the Red Cross will be attending the seminar, according to the draft agenda.

In April 2011, a Chhattisgarh Court directed Dr. Sen to surrender his passport as a bail condition in line with the Supreme Court order. While it is not mandatory to have a passport to travel to Nepal, Dr. Sen needs permission from court for any overseas travel.

Earlier, he was allowed to travel abroad twice — to South Korea in 2011 and United Kingdom in 2012 — and on both occasions the Chhattisgarh court approved the travel.

 

United Nations to discuss abolition of #deathpenalty by June end: Ban Ki-moon


Press Trust of India | Updated: June 14, 2013 08:21 IST

United Nations to discuss abolition of death penalty by June end: Ban Ki-moon

United NationsUnited Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has hailed the growing momentum against capital punishment, while voicing concern that a some countries continue to impose the death penalty, often in violation of international standards.In a message to the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, held in Madrid, Mr. Ban said that the full abolition of the death penalty has support in every region and across legal systems, traditions, customs and religious backgrounds.

Currently, more than 150 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it. Last year, 174 United Nations Member States were “execution-free”, he said.

“Despite these positive trends, I am deeply concerned that a small number of States continue to impose the death penalty, and thousands of individuals are executed each year, often in violation of international standards,” said the Secretary-General.”Some countries with a longstanding de facto moratorium have recently resumed executions,” he noted.

He said that death penalty is at times used for offences that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” such as drug crimes, and a few States impose capital punishment against juvenile offenders, in violation of international human rights law.

Ban also pointed out that information concerning the application of the death penalty is often cloaked in secrecy, and that the lack of data on the number of executions or the number of individuals on death row “seriously impedes” any informed national debate that may lead to abolition.

“The taking of life is too absolute and irreversible for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by a legal process. Too often, multiple layers of judicial oversight still fail to reverse wrongful death penalty convictions for years and even decades,” he said.

This problem, he added, will be discussed at a UN panel in New York at the end of this month.

The UN General Assembly first voted on a moratorium in 2007, and again in December 2012, when it adopted a resolution calling for a progressive restriction on the use of capital punishment and eliminating it entirely for felons below the age of 18 and pregnant

 

Marking a New Dawn – Historic Arms Trade Treaty Signed at U.N


Anna MacDonald of Control Arms speaks at the start of the ceremony for the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty at United Nations headquarters in New York, Jun. 3, 2013. Credit: Keith Bedford/INSIDER IMAGES (UNITED STATES)Anna MacDonald of Control Arms speaks at the start of the ceremony for the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty at United Nations headquarters in New York, Jun. 3, 2013. Credit: Keith Bedford/INSIDER IMAGES (UNITED STATES)

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 4 2013 (IPS) - The United Nations witnessed a historic moment Monday with the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty, first adopted in April by the General Assembly, and the first time the 85-billion-dollar international arms trade has been regulated by a global set of standards.

Negotiations took place between 193 countries, 63 of which signed on Monday. More countries are expected to sign by the end of the week.

“We all know about history, so [the U.S. has] a big responsibility.” — Alex Gálvez of Transitions Foundation of Guatemala

The treaty will regulate all transfers of conventional arms and ban the export of arms if they will be used to commit crimes against humanity.

The treaty also calls for greater transparency and for nations to be held more accountable for their weapons trading. States will undergo rigorous assessment before they move arms overseas and have to provide annual reports on international transfers of weapons.

But some of the world’s major arms importers and exporters, whose inclusion is crucial for the treaty’s success, have abstained or declined to give their signatures. Syria, North Korea and Iran were the only three countries to fully oppose the treaty, while Russia, China and India abstained.

The United States, the world’s largest arms exporter, did not sign, but is expected to by the end of the year. Technicalities in the language of the treaty were the reason for not signing; while U.S. support for the treaty is “strong and genuine,” there were inconsistencies in comparison between the English-language and translated versions of the treaty, said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“All other countries are looking to what the United States does,” Kimball added.

Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said it is “critical” that the United States sign the treaty, which has been “10 years in the making.”

In a statement released by the State Department Monday morning, Secretary John Kerry welcomed the treaty, ensuring that the U.S.’s signing would not infringe on the fiercely debated Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

“We look forward to signing [the treaty] as soon as the process of conforming the official translations is completed satisfactorily,” Kerry’s statement said.

The treaty is a crucial step towards ending the deaths of the 500,000 people Oxfam estimates perish from armed violence each year.

“The most powerful argument for the [treaty] has always been the call of millions who have suffered armed violence around the world,” Anna Macdonald, head of Arms Control, Oxfam, said in a statement. “Their suffering is the reason we have campaigned for more than a decade,” she added.

When asked if the treaty could prevent atrocities like those which have occurred in Syria, Macdonald said she believed it could, if implemented correctly.

With such vast negotiations taking place, disagreements were bound to arise.

“Items [such as] the scope of weapons covered by the treaty and the strength of human rights provisions preventing arms sales in certain circumstances are not as strong as we would have wished,” Jayantha Dhanapala, president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs and former under secretary general for disarmament affairs, told IPS.

Nevertheless, he believes the treaty is a “long overdue step” in realising Article 26 of the U.N. Charter, which calls for the “establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments”.

And considering the treaty was adopted just weeks ago, 63 signatures is an “excellent number,” Macdonald said.

The treaty will go into force after it receives 50 ratifications from states that have signed. This is expected to take up to two years, but some states, including the United Kingdom, have agreed to already start enforcing the rules of the Treaty.

One victim of gun violence was at the U.N. to witness the signing, the first step on the path to the treaty’s ratification.

Alex Gálvez, 36, was 14 years old when he felt a bullet course through his right shoulder, exiting through his left one. Buying sodas for lunch in Guatemala, Gálvez was caught up in a territorial dispute. The bullet perforated his lungs, but Gálvez said he was too young at the time to realise that he was dying.

Gálvez is now executive director of Transitions Foundation of Guatemala, an organisation that helps Guatemalans living with disabilities, many of whom have been injured by small weapons.

“They left a lot of small weapons without control” after three decades of violence in Guatemala, Gálvez told IPS.

“Unfortunately not everyone had had the opportunity to get treated in time, to get educated [about arms],” Gálvez said. “It’s not just Guatemala that is suffering [from armed violence]; many other countries are suffering too.”

While he received his medical treatment in the United States and understands that it’s a complex process, Gálvez would like to see the country sign, especially as it has provided small arms to many countries, including his own.

“We all know about history, so they have a big responsibility,” Gálvez said.

 

NAC Working Group on Universal Health Coverage Final Recommendations


09th May, 2013
The National Advisory Council had constituted a Working Group of its Members on “Universal Health Coverage”. The Working Group looked into the issue to propose measures to ensure quality health coverages to all the citizens which are equitable, affordable and unviersal.
02. The Working Group has had several rounds of consultations with the concerned central Ministries, senior officers of the State Governments, Civil Society and Experts. Based on the consultations, the Working Group has come up with the set of draft recommendations in this regard.
03. The draft recommendations of the Working Group are now placed in public domain for comments.
 
 
Comments may be sent to the Convener of the Working Group of NAC by 25th May, 2013 by email at wg-uhc.nac@nic.in 

 

PAKISTAN: The International Day for Street Children 12th April


 

April 11, 2013, http://www.humanrights.asia/

Amir Murtaza

The International Day for Street Children is celebrated every year on 12th April. The Street Children Day was launched in 2011 by the Consortium for Street Children (CSC) to create a broader awareness about the issue of street children all around the world. The Consortium for Street Children (CSC) is the leading international network dedicated to realizing the rights of street children worldwide. According to the CSC, “This year we are demanding that the United Nations recognizes the Day, so that street children and their champions have a louder voice.”

The phenomenon of street children have been growing rapidly and at present street children are quite visible in big cities of the developing world, such as Karachi, Mumbai, Manila, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Durban.

A Research Paper, “The Problem of Street Children: Case Study of Sargodha City” jointly written by Sadia Rafi, Mumtaz Ali & Muhammad Amir Aslam stated that, “Street children are not limited to the developing world. Perhaps every industrialized country has its runaways and orphans. In nineteenth century Europe street children were written about in the famous novels Oliver Twist and Les Miserables (Agnelli, 1986, p 45.). In the mid-1800’s articles appeared in newspapers and about “street Arabs” (Williams, 1993, p. 831). In Nobody’s Child, Christina Noble (1994) describes how her life as a street child in mid-twentieth century Ireland led to her work with street children in Vietnam.” 

Due to their fluid nature, it is hard to quantify the number of street children; however, a number of researches and studies mentioned that around 100-140 million street children are present worldwide. It is important to mention that it is widely recognized that around 25 million children and youth are living on the streets of countries, located in Asia. International, national and local organizations, working on the issue of street children, believe that numbers of street children are increasing very rapidly.

The number of street children has grown in recent decades because of growing urbanization, increasing work opportunities in big cities, widespread recessions, unemployment in rural areas, poverty, conflict, civil unrest, family disintegration, large family size, and natural disasters. Violence against children, mistreatment and neglect are also some of the documented factors compelling the young children to leave their homes and seek shelter in big cities.

Either in Karachi or Mumbai or Mexico City, these children face similar problems. They are living and working in terrible conditions with no protection. Lack of adequate food, shelter and other basic needs are the major problems, they face regularly.

The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has bound the state parties to follow the Convention in letter and spirit.

CRC Article 2: 
1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.

CRC Article 3: 

1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. 

2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in 

All around the world, street children are subjected to physical, sexual and emotional violence by the criminals, police and even ordinary people. “Violence refers to acts of aggression and abuse, which causes or intends to cause criminal injury to a person. Violence essentially falls into two forms, Random violence, which includes unpremeditated or small-scale violence, and coordinated violence, which includes actions carried out by sanctioned or unsanctioned violent groups as in war and terrorism.”

Mostly street children are the victims of random violence. Basharat is only twelve years old and has been living on the streets for last four years. “I usually get my food from a charity hotel, located in a densely populated locality. Once, while taking extra care of my food I was mistakenly collided with a heavily built young man. The young man severely punished me that even the passer-by and hotel’s staff rescued me from his wrath,”Basharat informed and added that he also lost two teeth during the punishment.

Wajid is now fifteen and at the age of ten he adopted the streets as his new home. “My father was very cruel and without any reason, he shouted and slapped on me. I left the house due to his behaviour; however, I am in regular contact with my mother and elder sister,” Wajid told and added that once he was collecting the trash in a local market and some shopkeepers severely beaten him and handed over to police as they doubted that he had stolen something from their shop. Later, police also punished him though Wajid repeatedly told them that he is not a thief.

National governments, UN agencies, international and national organizations and members of civil society around the world have expressed their concern over the violence against street children. It is widely agreed that these children need care and protection. However, it is highly recommended that community-based alternative care is a good option and institutional care should be used as a last resort.

The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children have also reaffirmed the responsibility of the State to ensure the provision of appropriate alternative care for children deprived of parental care. (UN General Assembly, Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children: resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 24 February 2010, (A/RES/64/142).)

Occasions such as 12th April, the International Day for Street Children gives us an opportunity to review the situation and take more plausible and practical steps to tackle the issues confronted by these children. Like other children, these children too have the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. Due to their vulnerability, these children should be introduced to an environment that facilitates and fulfils their basic needs. Allocation of resources is essentially required to encourage and establish efficient childcare alternatives to protect vulnerable street children.

Amir Murtaza is a regular contributor on human rights issue for the AHRC, he can be reached at; amirmurtaza@hotmail.com

#India Shameless abstention from the historic Arms Trade Treaty


In the 15th year of its nuclear tests, India has abstained from the just concluded UN Arms Trade Treaty, having become the largest importer of arms in the world last month. What happened to the stability and security that the nuclear bombs were supposed to bestow on us?

P K Sundaram, dianuke.org

Just as the news of adoption of the first-ever Arms Trade Treaty by the United Nations poured in, I tried searching for India’s stance and I found the Times of India’s breaking report silent. This is not surprising as India has abstained from this historic arms trade regulation pact which received the support of 154 out of 180 countries. While 3 countries – Iran, Syria and North Korea opposed this treaty, India abstained along with 23 others like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia etc.

International-Arms-Trade-Treaty-BananaIndia opposed the proposed treaty since the beginning. Pakistan, being a friendly neighbour when it comes to arms race, has been supportive of India’s stance, but it surprised the world by supporting the just treaty at the last moment.

The US under the Bush administration had vehemently opposed the treaty, but President Obama engineered a reversal of the stance and finally got his country to support the pact, despite immense conservative pressures like those from the National Rifle Association.

India’s insatiable arms obsession

Last month, India made it big into two global lists: it came 137th in a list of 186 countries in the global human development index, and it became the world’s largest  arms importer accounting for the 12% of the world’s total arms trade. India’s share in global arms trade has gone up by 25% – in the period between 2003-2008, it purchased 9% of the total arms transferred in the global arms market.

The report titled Trends in International Arms Transfers published by the reputed Stockholm Institute of Peace Research (SIPRI) listed India as the world’s biggest importer of arms between 2008 and 2012. The global trends of arms transfer reveal a lot. While all the 5 biggest important were Asian countries – India (12 per cent of global imports), China (6 per cent), Pakistan (5 per cent), South Korea (5 per cent), and Singapore (4 per cent), all the major exporters of arms were from the West: US, Russia, Germany and France. China replaced the UK as the 5th largest exporter of arms.

Alarmingly, SIPRI’s press release notes that “Several countries in Asia and Oceania have in recent years ordered or announced plans to acquire long-range strike and support systems that would make them capable of projecting power far beyond their national borders”, while mentioning India’s acquisition of nuclear powered submarine from Russia last year. Israel and the US are biggest beneficiaries of India’s military shopping spree, both signalling and resulting in major implications for its foreign policy.

India: Rising Weapons Expenditures After 15 Years of Going Nuclear

India’s increasing arms imports defy the claims of the nuclear hawks since 1998 that induction of nuclear weapons would bring stability and security for the country.  May 11th this year would mark 15 years of India’s nuclear tests in Pokhran. India’s defence expenditures – on both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon systems – have increased dramatically since then. Contrary to the claims of providing stable security to India, the nuclear weapons have pushed India to acquire more death machines. India’s defence budget has gone up from Rs. 35,277 crore in 1998 to a whopping 2,03,671.1 crore in 2013. In 2012-2013, India spent 1.93 trillion, or $40 billion, marking an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year. India has been recently spending much more on naval and air forces compared to the army, a trend indicative of its rising power projections and self-perception. It’s defence expensesbetween 1992 and 2012 have shot up by 1005%. 41% of which goes into acquisition of new weapons. In 2012, while it’s GDP grew by 6.7%, figures on defence expenditure growth varied between  by 13 to 19%.

Unabated Arms Race in South Asia

Arms race – both nuclear and conventional – is going unbridled in South Asia. Both the countries have been upgrading their nuclear arsenals, qualitatively and quantitatively. While India goes on to define its ‘minimal credible deterrence’ maximally, Pakistan has diversified its nuclear arsenals by including tactical nukes January this year. Add to this the frequent missiles tests, of ever increasing ranges and payloads. South Asia is also home to gigantic military exercises on both sides – recently Indian Air Force did its biggest-ever exercise called Operation iron Fist in Pokhran with nuclear-capable missiles. Pakistan, at the start of this year, had conducted a huge military exercise called Saffron Bandits.

Glaring Poverty Amid Super Power Dreams

Compare the facts on military build-ups with the shame of poverty in both the countries. While more than 40% people go to sleep without food in Pakistanmore than 230 million Indians go hungry daily. 37% of Indian deaths are still caused by “poor country” diseases like TB and malaria. A recent Oxford study has suggested that Nepal is reducing poverty faster than India. India’s While our national budget is hijacked by the security establishment, India last year ranked worst place among the G-20 countries for being a women – in terms of female education, health and safety. In terms of gender equality, in fact India fared worse than Pakistan in the UNDP human development report published in march 2013.

Needless to say, this huge stockpile of arms will push India into further belligerence and uglier conflicts. While India-Pakistan border has found place in the Guinness book of world records to be the world’s largest militarized territorial dispute, Indian political elite has been using heavily-armed tactics to subdue the dissenting sections of society – from the adivasis in the midland to the ethnic minorities in the north-east and elsewhere.

It is time to call the bluff of the political leadership in India which has twisted and perverted the peaceful and Gandhian credentials of our country to pay lip service to peace while indulging in worst kind of adventurism and a criminal distortion of national priorities.

 

Denial of abortion is “torture,” says United Nations report #Vaw #reproductiverights


report recently presented to the United Nations (PDF link) says that a denial of abortion can be considered torture, in line with actual methods of female torture such as female genital mutilation.

ultrasoundThe report by Juan E. Méndez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is cited as a report “on certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Méndez, a visiting professor at American University’s law school, makes some bold statements in Section B, entitled “Reproductive rights violations.” His assertions show just how far the quest for abortion has come in the world – to a point where the torture of a baby ripped from the womb and sucked away and thrown into a medical incinerator is considered a human right that spares someone else from torture.

Section 46 of his report notes:

International and regional human rights bodies have begun to recognize that abuse and mistreatment of women seeking reproductive health services can cause tremendous and lasting physical and emotional suffering, inflicted on the basis of gender.  Examples of such violations include abusive treatment and humiliation in institutional settings;   involuntary sterilization; denial of legally available health services  such as abortion and post-abortion care; forced abortions and sterilizations; female genital mutilation[.]

To compare involuntary sterilization and female genital mutilation – permanent methods of actual torture – with the denial of a “right” to take another life is tragic. In fact, it doesn’t actually line up with the U.N.’s own statements.

The U.N.’s Committee against Torture defines torture in its Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and it actually reads more like a pro-life statement in its language:

Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person …

The U.N. then goes on to define what torture is:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Clearly the U.N.’s version of torture doesn’t seem to allow for the killing of a baby in utero, but Méndez does. Though many current exceptions to abortion laws note that “mental suffering” is justification for that exception and include it as a health reason to have an abortion, the comparison of who suffers more, a woman who carries a baby to term and gives the baby up for adoption or the one who lives forever with the reality of choosing to kill her baby, cannot adequately be evaluated by one man making a report to the United Nations.

While it would be wrong to assume that a woman carrying a child she is not prepared to raise would not be painful, it is also wrong to call it torture. Torture would be punishing her for the pregnancy or forcing her to raise a child she isn’t prepared to raise. However, the real torture is inflicted on the baby in her womb, who will be sucked out and discarded if that abortion happens.

Méndez goes on to note that:

For many rape survivors, access to a safe abortion procedure is made virtually impossible by a maze of administrative hurdles, and by official negligence and obstruction. In the landmark decision of K.N.L.H. v. Peru, the Human Rights Committee deemed the denial of a therapeutic abortion a violation of the individual’s right to be free from ill- treatment. In the case of P. and S. v. Poland, ECHR stated that “the general stigma attached to abortion and to sexual violence …, caus[ed] much distress and suffering, both physically and mentally.”

It’s unquestionable that a rape survivor who gets pregnant (notably, this is about 1% of all rape victims, so not a majority of those seeking abortions, though a valid minority) needs great care. The tragedy inflicted on her must be handled well, but the torture has come from the rapist, not from the denial of taking another life. Our torment should never allow us the right to kill another. A culture that seeks to nurture and care for victims of torture needs to put its focus on caring for the victim, giving resources, and providing many other solutions that will help heal the tragedy by giving a woman lasting comfort to the effect that she has helped to redeem a tragedy, not to create another.

Méndez is insistent that denial of abortion is torture, though, for all cases. He says in section 50:

The Committee against Torture has repeatedly expressed concerns about restrictions on access to abortion and about absolute bans on abortion as violating the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. On numerous occasions United Nations bodies have expressed concern about the denial of or conditional access to post-abortion care. often for the impermissible purposes of punishment or to elicit confession.  The Human Rights Committee explicitly stated that breaches of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights include forced abortion, as well as denial of access to safe abortions to women who have become pregnant as a result of rape and raised concerns about obstacles to abortion where it is legal.

Here forced abortions are presented as on par with denial of abortion. But the fact is, they are not. A forced abortion takes a life, and the denial of abortion saves one. A forced abortion can never be undone. A woman is subjected to the horror of having her body violated (possibly a second time, if she was a victim of rape), and knowing life has been taken from her. Denying someone a right to have a life taken is not torture; it’s a basic human right for the unborn life.

By all accounts, Méndez would consider the North Dakota legislature torturers for deciding that life begins at conception. He would consider Kansas and Arkansas as inflicting torture for passing laws that protect life. However, denying abortion isn’t torture, because the motive isn’t torment; the motive isn’t to make someone suffer, but to prevent the suffering of the baby destroyed and of the mother, who will have to live with it.

The extra tragedy in this culture of death is that we have walked forward into the past, where we justify death as a merciful thing, when truly it brings destruction. Méndez has stretched the definitions to a point that distorts them and, in the process, manages to reduce the true suffering of victims of such horrific crimes as female genital mutilation to the level of carrying a living baby to term. Protecting life can never be equated with killing it.

 

 

An Irresistible Force for Women’s Rights- IWHC


We did it!
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After two weeks of fierce negotiations at the United Nations’ annual Commission on the Status of Women, on March 15 more than 130 governments committed to ending violence against women and girls, and reached strong agreements to promote gender equality and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The International Women’s Health Coalition and our amazing partners from around the world came out in force to the UN for the negotiations. Our agenda was clear: push governments to commit to concrete strategies to empower women and girls and end gender-based violence. We would not be silenced. We would not be denied our rights.
We met with instant opposition from conservative governments. Countries such as Iran, Russia, Egypt, and Syria joined with the Vatican to use culture and religion as arguments to deny women their rights. But there can be no excuse to justify violence against women. Consensus was finally reached to loud applause from supportive governments such as the U.S., South Africa, Uruguay, Argentina, Turkey, the Philippines, Norway, Denmark, and even the small island of Tonga! As the document was adopted, hundreds of women’s rights activists streamed into the negotiating room to join in the cheers.
The Commission has released 17 pages of agreed conclusions, which build on the global momentum of the past 20 years and represent an important step forward for women and girls. For the first time at the UN, governments reached consensus that survivors of rape are entitled to emergency contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and to timely and respectful forensic exams to support prosecution. They called for an end to child marriages. They agreed women’s right to control their sexuality is essential to preventing further violence. And they recognized the role that evidence-based sexuality education can play in reducing the harmful gender stereotypes that lead to violence.
Once again, we women have shown we’re an irresistible force. But our work is far from over. Now we must be vigilant to ensure that the agreements made at the UN are put into practice in local communities worldwide. For that to happen, women’s groups must be supported to hold their own leaders to account.
Please consider supporting us generously so we can continue our work at the global level and in countries around the world.
Thank you,
Françoise Girard
President, International Women’s Health Coalition
 Follow me on Twitter@francoisegirard

 

#India -The feeding frenzy of kleptocracy #mustread


P. SAINATH, The Hindu 

orbes has just added an “errata” to Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s budget speech. The Minister had found a mere 42,800 people in the country with a taxable income in excess of Rs.1 crore a year. Or $184,000 a year. Forbes , the Oracle of Business Journalism, does not list taxable incomes. But it does put up a list each year of billionaires the world over. And in 2013, 55 Indians figure on that list, (up from 48 last year) with an average net worth of around Rs.190.8 billion. ( See:http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/)Their total net worth is $ 193.6 billion. That’s…er, Rs.10.5 trillion. Chidambaram might want to compare notes with Steve Forbes. They could come up with a lot more names falling within his narrow super-rich spectrum.

The 55 wonder-wallets give India fifth rank in the world of billionaires on the Forbes List. Behind only the U.S., China, Russia and Germany. Our rank in the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index, though, is 136 out of 186 nations. With almost all of Latin America and the Caribbean, bar Haiti, ahead of us. (We have, though, elsewhere managed to tie with Equatorial Guinea.)

Class divide

Well, okay, the total worth of our megabucks mob comes to just over $193 billion. But a glance within reveals a grim class divide. At the bottom are the aam aadmi tycoons, barely scraping past the one billion-dollar mark. There are four of them, inches away from plutocrat penury, with only a mere billion to their names. There are 17 in all below the BPL (Billionaire Permanency Line), which seems to be $1.5 billion. Once you cross that threshold, you tend to be a permanent member of the club.

There’s another 12 in the magnate middle classes, between $1.5 and $2 billion. Next, the deluxe segment: 16 of them — above $2 billion, below $5.5 billion. And finally, the big boys — above $6 billion each. The top 10 are worth $102.2 billion. (A bit more than our fiscal deficit of $96 billion.) There is also a platinum tier. The top three account for a quarter of our total billionaire wealth, if Forbes is to be believed.

I’m not sure Forbes is to be believed. All these sound like grave underestimates. Meanwhile the Chinese and Russians have forged ahead of us on the List. (Steve, I demand a recount). Either the Chinese and Russians are up to no good, or Indian creative accounting is keeping our numbers down. This fiasco becomes particularly galling when we’ve all been investing so heavily in the growth of our super-rich and better-off. Some $97 billion in this year’s budget. You can express that as Rs.5.28 lakh crore (as our tables do). Or, as Rs.5.28 trillion. It’s just as obscene either way. ( See: Statement of Revenue Foregone http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2013-14/statrevfor/annex12.pdf). Heck, we deserve a better performance from our billionaires.

One of the biggest write-offs in this year’s budget is the customs duty on gold, diamonds and jewellery — Rs.61,035 crore. That’s more than what’s been written off on “crude oil & mineral oils.” Or even on “machinery.” The waiver on gold and diamonds in just the last 36 months is Rs.1.76 trillion. (Or what we lost in the 2G scam). I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that three new Indian entrants to this year’s Forbes Billionaires List are in the field of jewellery.

It’s not as if we haven’t been generous with them in other sectors, though. The latest write-off in corporate income tax is even higher at Rs.68,006 crore. The total revenue foregone this year (Rs.5.28 trillion), as others have pointed out, is greater than the fiscal deficit. But just look at what the write-offs on corporate tax, excise and customs duties add up to since 2005-06, from when the data begins: Rs.31.11 trillion. (That’s well over half a trillion dollars). It also means we’re writing off taxes and duties for the corporate mob and rich at a rate of over Rs.7 million every single minute on average.

But the budget has almost nothing worthwhile for, say, health or education where there’s a decline compared to allocations last year (in proportion to GDP). Ditto for rural development. And a micro-rise for food that will quickly be taken care of by prices.

Gee. It seems there’s no need for the super-rich to commit half their fortunes to charity. They are the charity we all of us support. End the lavish waivers, pay your taxes and we’d be in glowing fiscal health. Every other economic survey and/or budget has noted the obscene write-offs as a source of worry and said so. Recall that the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have both in the past promised to end this corporate feeding frenzy at the public trough. But it only gets bigger.

What gets smaller is India’s tax to GDP ratio. In Mr. Chidambaram’s own words: “In 2011-12, the tax-GDP ratio was 5.5 per cent for direct taxes and 4.4 per cent for indirect taxes. These ratios are one of the lowest for any large developing country and will not garner adequate resources for inclusive and sustainable development.” ( Emphasis added ) But he does nothing to correct that by way of raising revenue. Only by curbing expenditures in the social sector. He’s nostalgic, though, for a time when “in 2007-08, the tax GDP ratio touched a peak of 11.9 per cent.” That was when the write-off trough was much smaller.

Food security

What also gets smaller is the idea of food security in a nation where the percentage of malnourished children is nearly double that of sub-Saharan Africa. How do they get past the porcine gridlock at the budget trough?

Also getting smaller is the average per capita net availability of foodgrain. And that’s despite showing an improved figure of 462.9 grams daily for 2011. (Caution: that’s a provisional number). Even then, the five-year average for 2007-11 comes to 444.6 grams. Still lower than the 2002-06 figure of 452.4 grams.

It’s scary: as we warned last year — average per capita net availability of foodgrain declined in every five-year period of the ‘reforms’ without exception. In the 20 years preceding the reforms — 1972-1991 — it rose every five-year period without exception ( see: Table 3).

Ah, but they’re eating a lot of better stuff, hence the decline in cereals and pulses.

So drone on the Marie Antoinette School of Economics and assorted other clowns. Eating a lot better? Tell that to the nation’s children — for whom sub-Saharan standards would be an improvement. Tell that to the famished in a country ranking 65 in the 79 hungriest nations in the Global Hunger Index (GHI). (Eight slots below Rwanda.) India’s GHI score in 2012 was worse than it was 15 years earlier in 1996. Tell it to Forbes . Maybe they could do a list of the most insensitive elites in the world. You know who’d top that one.

sainath.p@thehindu.co.in

 

Since 2005-06, taxes and duties for the corporate world and the rich have been written off at the rate of Rs.7 million a minute on average. Duties waived on gold and diamonds in the last 36 months equal the 2G scam amount

UN: a resounding call for Human Rights based governance post-2015


 

Just Governance: A critical cornerstone for an equitable and human rights-centered sustainable development agenda post-2015,  Global Thematic Consultation on Governance and the Post-2015 Development Framework, Feb 2013

 

[excerpts from the executive summary]

 

Just governance is defined by six key, mutually reinforcing dimensions, each with their associated implications for the post-2015 sustainable development framework. To be truly

just, governance at all levels must be: 1) human rights-centred, 2) participatory, 3) transparent, 4) equitable, 5) guaranteeing of access to justice, rule of law and the fight against corruption, and finally 6) accountable.

 

Just governance in this sense is not a matter of external imposition, but an indispensable precondition for ensuring that the equal rights of all people and the sustainability of the planet effectively guide all policy making.

 

Impelling decision-makers to be more responsive, providing information about their decisions and actions, and making them ultimately answerable is key.

 

Governance in practice is often coloured by unequal relations of power.

 

Human rights and environmental standards, can help balance inequities and provide a common language and standard by which to hold all actors accountable.

 

The new post-2015 framework must be universally applicable in rich and poor countries alike and must remain at the service of and owned by poor people themselves.

 

Fulfillment of all human rights is both the purpose and the ultimate litmus test of success for the post-2015 agenda.

Duties will have to be clearly attributed primarily to governments, but also to the private sector.

 

Well informed people will need to meaningfully participate in all stages of the legal reform, of budget making, of fiscal, tax and development policy cycles.

 

The ability to consistently monitor and review the conduct of development actors against established responsibilities is an essential prerequisite for just and accountable governance (i.e., monitoring of both of outcomes and of policy processes – and both of progress and of backsliding!)

 

Tax justice between and within countries will also need to be closely monitored.

 

A clear and unequivocal accord regarding who is responsible for what post-2015 commitments will be indispensable.

 

Without progress on just governance, there is a serious risk of predisposition to failure in all other areas, with a mirage of success belying the absence a truly transformative sustainable development agenda.

 

(see: http://cesr.org/downloads/Beyond%202015_Governance_position_paper.pdf )