Body of Dalit woman found in well; villagers suspect rape and murder


 

by CD Network

Mangalore, May 3: A half-naked body of a Dalit woman, suspected to be a rape victim, was found in a private well behind a bus stop at Belvai village near Moodbidri on Wednesday.

 

The body of 44-year-old Uma, wife of Chukuda, resident of Nadugudde, was also bearing several injury marks on her body, according to the eye witnesses.

 

The villagers are of the suspicion that some miscreants may have raped and murdered her before throwing the body into the well.

 

Though the incident came to light on Wednesday when a villager approached the well to draw water, the woman had been missing since last Sunday.

 

The torn blouse of the woman, the broken pieces of bangles found at a deserted room near the well and the signs of pulling the woman from the room to the well, gave rise to the suspicion that the miscreants might have raped and murdered her.

 

Uma was last seen on Sunday night at Beluvai. She was the mother of two daughters and a son.

 

 

Case of Suicide

Thought the police have not ruled out the possibility of rape and murder, they have registered a suicide case based on a complaint filed by victim’s brother Krishnappa.

 

The complaint holds Uma’s husband Chukuda responsible for the alleged suicide. The complainant stated that Chukuda, under the influence of alcohol, used to torture his wife every day.

 

However, police have clarified that if they got any sufficient evidence for the rape and murder claim, they would register a case and launch an investigation in that regard.

 

 

Are the nuclear weapon states rattled?


May 3, 2012

Just a few of the ICAN campaigners who have been advocating for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons at the NPT PrepCom in Vienna. (L to R: Arielle Denis, Arife Köse, Akira Kawasaki, Tim Wright, Sharon Dolev, Alex Reidon, John Loretz, Ghassan Shahrour, Nasser Burdestani)

Something is happening at the NPT PrepCom, and the nuclear-weapon states do know what it is.

The idea that nuclear weapons represent a humanitarian catastrophe—language that was actually part of the outcome document of the 2010 NPT Review—has been taken up as a thematic focal point of this PrepCom, not only by NGOs but also by a growing and energized group of states.

From what we can tell, the nuclear-weapon states have been taken by surprise by this development and are not very happy about it.

One week before the PrepCom opened, Norway’s foreign minister announced that there will be an international conference on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in early 2013.

That term—catastrophic humanitarian consequences—has appeared in some form in statement after statement. It was prominent in yesterday’s NGO presentations, and has been part of the dialogue in a large number of side events. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), during its international campaigners meeting the weekend before the PrepCom opened, adopted the humanitarian message as the thematic focus of its campaign strategy, and has come to the PrepCom to encourage states to adopt such language in their statements.

At least one group of states had already set the same task for themselves. A “Joint Statement on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament” introduced by Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, the Holy See, Egypt, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, and Switzerland on Wednesday has already caused a stir. Those countries have declared their intent to take both the humanitarian perspective on nuclear disarmament and the 2010 NPT action plan seriously, and other states are beginning to associate themselves with the statement.

The entire statement is worth reading, but here are some excerpts:

Nuclear weapons have the destructive capacity to pose a threat to the survival of humanity and as long as they continue to exist the threat to humanity will remain. This, coupled with the perceived political value and prestige attached to these weapons, are further factors that encourage proliferation and non-compliance with international obligations.

…Moreover, nuclear weapons are useless in addressing current challenges such as poverty, health, climate change, terrorism or transnational crime.”

The statement refers to the resolution adopted in November by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and echoes its conclusion:

It is of utmost importance that these weapons never be used again, under any circumstances. The only way to guarantee this is the total, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons….”

The nuclear-weapon states appear to be rattled by the way in which this theme has energized the PrepCom. They are pushing back, in an attempt to keep the conversation focused on proliferation, nuclear terrorism, their claims of compliance with Article VI, and incremental steps that can “create the conditions” for disarmament. But they are also signaling in a number of ways that they’re worried, and what worries them is the possibility that the terms of the debate could shift from a national security to a humanitarian framework. If that happens, and nuclear weapons become fully delegitimized inside and outside the NPT, the security and deterrence-based arguments for postponing their elimination will become irrelevant.

Envision a Sex Worker Movement Sans Feminism


By Audacia Ray

WeNews guest author

Sunday, April 29, 2012

“Momentum: Making Waves in Sexuality, Feminism and Relationships” is a collection of essays from an annual conference on sexuality. In this excerpt, Audacia Ray wants a broader discussion of human rights and the complexity of the sex industry.

sex worker protest(WOMENSENEWS)–Why would sex positive feminists want to halt the progress toward human rights for sex workers? I believe that the answer is that sex positive feminists (those who advocate for women’s sexual freedom) do not intend to create barriers for the achievement of sex workers’ rights, but that there are ways in which this happens anyway.

And though it is frustrating to have something that you thought was good, that has your best intentions behind it, pointed out as being potentially or actually harmful, it is crucial to think about the ways we can make our umbrellas bigger and not smaller. Even if sometimes this may come at the personal cost of rerouting your values.

I am a former sex worker. My several years of work experience in the business included escorting, sensual massage, porn, fetish work and working as a phone girl at a dungeon. During much of the time I was working, I also engaged in activism in support of sex workers’ rights. In particular, I was an editor at $preadmagazine for three years and I organized art shows, performances and other public events to raise funds for the magazine.

Over the last few years, I have dug deeper into providing peer support and trainings in media, storytelling and legislative advocacy for people in the sex industry via my work at the Red Umbrella Project. Through this work, I have been critically examining the ways that the sex worker rights community talks about what we do and what we want to see change. I have been looking hard and close at who this “we” of the sex worker rights community is, and I have been listening hard to people who feel excluded by that “we.”

Sex Positive Feminism

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was a fierce defender of sex positive feminism.

When I was working in the sex industry, sex positivity was an important value of mine, one that in some ways gave me the skills to cope with a physically and emotionally demanding job.

However, the more I step back from that time in my life, and the more I am willing to look critically at things I have held dear, the more obvious it is to me that my experience of sex positivity and the sex industry are not anywhere near universal, they are just the most visible to me, because I fit the mold as described above.

The audience for this piece is very much my peers, people who have had experiences and privileges similar to mine. Beyond our circles, most of what I’ll write here is glaringly obvious, and in communities of color, for people with disabilities, as well as among trans women and men and other groups we aspire to but do not actively include, this is not news.

The sex worker rights movements in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have been, for the last 40 years, very entangled with feminist movements. Though there is, certainly, a history of disagreement between feminists and supporters of sex workers’ rights, there are also many feminists who support the rights of sex workers.

The phrase “sex work,” which first came into use in the late 1970s, has made its way into official channels and today is used by the United Nations. The feminist value of bodily autonomy, or the ability to choose what to do with one’s body, figures most prominently in feminist support for sex workers’ rights. The link with feminism in these geographic contexts aligns sex workers’ rights with the rights of usually white, cisgender (i.e., not transgender) women and often links it to reproductive rights and health.

Chain of Denial

This, however, creates a chain of denial–many feminists who focus on reproductive rights do not value the contributions of sex workers to their movement, and many sex worker rights advocates who focus on bodily autonomy do not value the particular issues faced by people who do sex work because of coercion or dire economic circumstances.

Or, perhaps a fairer way to put this is not that these things are not “valued,” but that there isn’t an active effort made to make space for a multitude of concerns. In action, this looks the same. And so, while sex positive sex workers focus on trying to get a seat at the table of reproductive rights, they simultaneously deny other people in sex work a space at their table.

Certainly, there are other global movements based around the rights of sex workers, though their cultural and activist histories are different and less rooted in feminism. The

Latin American sex worker rights movement is large and powerful, especially in places like Brazil and Argentina, and it is a working class movement that has been developed largely by street-based workers and uses aggressive tactics to ensure that their members’ voices are heard.

In India, there are sex worker rights groups that count thousands in their memberships, and for whom the process of collectivization is key to getting a response from state and national governments, particularly on the issue of access to unbiased health care. In other places in Asia, sex workers have organized alongside garment factory workers to ensure that their rights as workers are protected.


Lawyers, Activists Condemn the Arrest of Adv. Shahnawas and demand his immediate release


May 3, 2012 New Delhi: Several activists, lawyers and academicians, in a statement have condemned the arrest of Advocate Shahnawas on Monday by the Kerala Police in Trivandrum.

 

Here is the statement:    

 

The undersigned condemn in strongest terms the arrest of Advocate Shahnawas, a leading human rights activist of Kerala. Advocate Shahnawas, who lives and practices in Trivandrum, was arrested on 1st May 2012, and his office raided and his files seized by the Crime Branch of the state. Ostensibly, his arrest has been made by the “Hi-tech Cell” of the Kerala Crime Branch for conspiring to leak intelligence communication in the infamous Email surveillance scandal that rocked the state a few months ago—where a leading daily of the state has alleged that the Hi-tech Cell was snooping on the emails of nearly 250 Muslim individuals and institutions. It cannot escape our attention that the arrest and raid were made on the eve of the SIMI Tribunal sitting in Kerala. Advocate Shahnawas has been assisting the SIMI lawyers in the Tribunal for the past many years and was also due to assist now.

 

Shahnwas’s arrest comes after Ghalib’s verses were blamed for instigating members of the banned group SIMI and a children’s magazine, Umang published by the Delhi Urdu Academy was cited as incriminating material in an affidavit seeking extension of the ban on SIMI. This follows the condemning of dozens of organizations, including one that hosted AIMPLB convention in Mumbai, as ‘fronts for SIMI’.

 

The arrest of Advocate Shahnawas is an attack on the very process of law and an attempt to stifle the voice of dissent. Targeting and implicating lawyers in spurious cases encroaches upon the right to access legal aid without fear. It is a clear attempt to also demoralize and intimidate Advocate Shahnwas’s clients—many of them victims of a communal witch-hunt.

 

We demand that he be released immediately and all his files and work related documents be returned without any conditions.

Sd/-

Abu Zafar, Journalist

Ajit Sahi, senior journalist

Anil Tharayath Varghese, Delhi Solidarity Group

BT Venketesh, Advocate, Bangalore

Feroze Khan Ghazi, South Asian Minorities Lawyers Association (SAMLA)

Gauhar Iqbal, Social Activist, Delhi

Hany Babu, Delhi University

Imran Ali, Advocate, Delhi

Jawahar Raja, Advocate, Delhi

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

Kashif-ul-Huda, Editor, TwoCircles.net

Kavita Srivastava, PUCL

Mahtab Alam, Human Rights activist and journalist

Mansi Sharma, activist

Mayur Suresh, Advocate, Delhi

Mukul Dube, Columnist and Writer

N.D. Pancholi, Advocate, Delhi

Savad Rahman, Journalist, Kerala

Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD

Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity (in individual capacity)

Seema Mustafa, senior journalist

SQR Illyas, Welfare Party

Trideep Pais, Advocate, Delhi

Zafarul-Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette

 

Released by Manisha Sethi, Adeel Mehdi, Ahmed Sohaib, Sanghamitra Misra and others for Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA)

In Afghanistan, underground girls school defies Taliban edict, threats


By , Published: April 25

SPINA, Afghanistan — Every morning in this mountain village in eastern Afghanistan, four dozen girls sneak through a square opening in a mud-baked wall, defying a Taliban edict.

A U.S.-funded girls school about a mile away was shuttered by insurgents in 2007, two years after it opened. They warned residents that despite a new government in Kabul and an international aid effort focused on female education, the daughters of Spina were to stay home. For a while, they all did.

Then two brothers, among the few literate men in the village, began quietly teaching math, reading and writing to their female relatives in a living room on the edge of town. They wanted to keep the classes small, they said, to stay off the Taliban’s radar. That turned out to be impossible.

The United States and its allies have spent millions of dollars on female education in the past decade, and Afghan and Western officials have pointed to the issue as one of the most hopeful changes of the post-Taliban era. Female enrollment in public schools has risen from 5,000 under the Taliban to 2.5 million, according to the Afghan Education Ministry.
But Afghanistan is rife with places like Spina, where formal efforts to educate women and girls have crumbled. About 2 million Afghan girls do not attend school.

Those who do sometimes face threats. Last week, suspected militants poisoned more than 100 schoolgirls in northern Afghanistan, according to Amanullah Iman, a spokesman for the Education Ministry, who said an investigation into the incident was ongoing. The girls are recovering.

Because of threats, several schools in eastern Afghanistan have been closed in the past few months, reversing what had been a positive trend, said Vidhya Ganesh, the deputy country representative for UNICEF.

The insurgency had already forced the closure of dozens of girls schools beginning in the middle of past decade, when insurgents started to return to Afghanistan. Many of the schools were built and funded by the United States, and many never reopened. In some villages, the schools have gone underground, hidden in living rooms and guesthouses, as they were during the Taliban’s reign.

“It’s risky for the teachers and it’s risky for the students, but these underground schools show the thirst people have for education under the Taliban,” said Shukriya Barakzai, a parliamentarian who ran her own underground school when the Taliban held power in Kabul in the 1990s.

“It doesn’t feel much different from those years,” said one of the brothers in insurgent-infested Spina. “We live in a community very far from democracy and freedom.”

‘Something from nothing’

When the insurgency arrived in this patch of Paktika province in 2005, it did so with great force and little resistance. The absence of Afghan or American security forces meant fighters could wield weapons freely and threaten residents without consequence. The warning to girls went unchallenged.

But word soon spread about the underground girls school — part of a shadow education system developed in places such as Spina to elude the Taliban. The full extent of the system is not known, but American and Afghan officials say such underground networks are not uncommon in places with a large insurgent presence.

 

First, young students — between 5 and 12 years old — would trickle into the home of the two brothers, who for security reasons insisted that their names not be published. Then, teenagers started arriving, the brothers said, a particularly rare and controversial development in eastern Afghanistan, where females are expected to remain home upon reaching adolescence.

The brothers could hardly believe the turnout, which at once worried and excited them. They named the school after their great uncle, Namizad, a religious scholar.

 

“The girls just kept coming.” one brother said. “They were so eager, like they were starving.”

When a U.S. army platoon made a rare visit to Spina this month, soldiers saw the school as an example of resilience in the face of a failed development project, a sign of hope in a dismal place. In recent months, according to U.S. officials, the Taliban in Paktika have robbed teachers of their salaries to buy an 82mm mortar and shells.

“I want to thank you for your courage,” U.S. Army Lt. Col. Curtis Taylor told the brothers and their students after ducking through the family’s living room doorway.

The girls at the Namizad School sit on carpets, beginning each class with a recitation from the Koran. A chalkboard rests on the floor. Less than half the class has textbooks, which have made their way from Kabul. As in the rest of Spina, there is no electricity.

“These students are learning something from nothing,” one of the brothers said.

The brothers have pleaded for more resources. They have prayed to remain outside the Taliban’s reach. But the district’s education director claimed he had no money for the education of girls, the brothers said, in an account confirmed by local officials. And the Taliban have crept ever closer.

A few months ago, insurgents posted a letter on the brothers’ door. “We will not allow the education of girls,” it read, calling the practice “un-Islamic.” The letter warned of a violent punishment.

The brothers talked about what to do. Should they end the classes? Should they leave Spina?

The two willowy men in their early 30s have bright eyes and long brown beards and wear flowing white salwar-kameez, the traditional dress here. Their backgrounds are strikingly similar to those of the insurgents who threaten them. Like the Talibs of western Paktika, the brothers were educated in Pakistani madrassas, or religious schools. They, too, were raised to believe in a strict adherence to the Koran, Islam’s holiest book.

“I was so close to joining the Taliban,” one said. “The men haunting us, they are men we know well.”

‘I want to learn everything’

The brothers tried to make the case to the Taliban that they would teach only religious material to their students. They warned their students of the risk of attending classes, and they were surprised again when the girls kept coming. There’s now a morning class for young children and an afternoon class for teenagers. The brothers beam when talking about recent graduates, eight of whom are now trained midwives.

“I liked the other school better. We had desks and books,” said Baranah, 11, who was in first grade when the Taliban closed the U.S.-funded school. “But this place is still good. We still learn here. I want to learn everything.”

The insurgency has not followed through with its threat. The brothers wonder if it ever will — if the Taliban’s recent silence signifies its tacit approval or is merely a prelude to violence.

In some cases, the Afghan government and international organizations have been able to reach compromises with insurgents to keep schools open.

“We’re beginning to find ways to negotiate with anti-government elements,” said UNICEF’s Ganesh.

Some here worry that women’s rights are being sidelined as the United States prepares to leave and the Afghan government attempts to satisfy a hard-line constituency. In March, top religious leaders on the country’s Ulema Council ruled that men are “fundamental” and women “secondary,” barring women from interacting with their male counterparts in schools or the workplace.

In Spina, only boys are educated in the U.S.-funded, one-story yellow building constructed five years ago to educate girls. Most of the windows are broken, and the paint is chipping.

“That place seemed perfect,” one brother said. “But we knew it wouldn’t last long.”

 

She braves bullets to bring healthcare to women


 

The frail and seemingly calm Udasi Sahu manages to conceal the excitement of her first plane journey. But the 42-year-old health worker can’t conceal the thrill of her job – trying to change the face of maternal health in conflict-torn districts of Odisha.

Spanning a journey across the boondocks of north Odisha’s landlocked Keonjhar district, Sahu’s 16 years of unflinching passion to work for womenfolk in the Maoist heartland has landed her the national award as one of the best auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) in India.

“I always wanted to do this…Almost two decades ago, right after my marriage, I told my husband about my wish to work for village women who were not aware and never cared to think of their own health,” Sahu, a Class 9 dropout, said in Odiya as her colleague translated it into English.

She travelled by an airplane for the first time to receive this award. A well-known face in the district, not even once has she thought of leaving her job or village due to harsh circumstances, thanks to her husband’s support.

Udasi conducts 50 to 60 deliveries a month while she maintains the track record of zero maternal mortality rate in Childa subcentre over the last five years.

“The villages we work in have been facing constant conflict. There have been several indirect attacks from time to time around the sub-centre where our staff gets injured, but that does not mean we will leave women and children unattended,” Sahu says.

In the rural healthcare system, an ANM is the key field level functionary who interacts directly with the community and has been the central focus of all the reproductive child health programmes. The ANM mans the sub-centre – the first contact point between the primary health care system and the community.

Sahu was awarded here at a two-day national consultation on safe motherhood April 11-12. The nominations received from 10 high-focus states were judged by a team led by the ministry of health and family welfare in collaboration with White Ribbon Alliance and other experts on board.

“Udasi has professionally handled many emergency and complicated cases on life-saving childbirths,” Aparajita Gogoi, national coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance India, told IANS.

A mother of two, Sahu has seen it all – being a birth attendant in villages amid confrontation between Maoists and security forces, helping women make an informed choice on family planning, immunisation of babies, nutrition programmes or running a health subcentre all by herself.

In forest fringe villages where institutional delivery was a distant dream, Sahu managed to take hospital care to the doorstep, even if she was called at midnight by any family.

Considered to be the pulse of the government’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), around 800,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and ANMs form the ground force of delivering health services in rural parts of the country.

With nearly 150,000 sub-centres across India, the number of ANMs at sub-centres and primary health centres increased from 130,000 in 2005 to 190,000 in 2009.

Inspite of the increase, the National Family Health Survey (2006) puts the picture clear on lack of skilled birth attendance: only 52 percent of women receive three antenatal contacts and 42 percent receive any postnatal care. There are districts with just one ANM per 500 population.

Unlike the ASHAs who receive a performance-based incentive, the ANMs are given a monthly pay. However, there are times when these health workers do not get salaries for months together, Sahu admits.

“My children are studying, so we sometimes take loans to run the family. Being an ANM or ASHA doesn’t come easy because there is a lot of running around and little pay,” she said.

Her colleague Jaykumari Dila, a 29-year old ASHA from the same district, took the job because the family was under heavy debt.

Dila, whose monthly earning ranges from Rs.400 to Rs.1,000, received the national award for one of the best ASHAs among the 10 high focus states.

“I know there is no money, but our job calls us ‘actvists’,” Dila, clad in her deep blue ASHA uniform, told IANS.

Sahu has even motivated her 22-year-old daughter to become an ANM. She is all set to fly back to her state where she is popularly known as “Udasi dai” and is seen carrying a cotton sling with medical kit over her shoulder.

(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at madhulika.s@ians.in)

Indo-Asian News Service sonk/pg

Fistula – Another Blight on the Child Bride


By Zofeen Ebrahim

KARACHI, Pakistan, Apr ,2012 (IPS) – It was personal experience that turned Gul Bano and her cleric husband, Ahmed Khan, into ambassadors against early marriage and its worst corollary – obstetric fistula which allows excretory matter to flow out through the birth canal.

As is the custom in the remote mountain village of Kohadast in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan province, Bano was married off as soon as she reached adolescence, at 15, and was pregnant the following year.

There being no healthcare facility near Kohadast, Bano did not receive antenatal care and no one thought there would be complications. But, events were to prove different.

After an extended labour lasting three days, Bano delivered a dead baby. “I never saw the colour of my son’s eyes or his hair. I never held him once to my bosom,” recalls Bano, now 20.

Her troubles had only begun. A week later, Bano realised she was always wet with urine and reeking of faecal matter. “I was passing urine and stools together.”

Unable to handle the prolonged labour, Bano’s young body had developed a fistula caused by the baby’s head pressing hard against the lining of the birth canal and tearing into the walls of her rectum and the bladder.

Bano’s family attributed her condition to fate, her father refusing to visit “due to the bad odour coming from me.” However, through those trying times, Khan stood by his young wife and sought medical help.

After Bano spent a year in a perpetually “wet and stinky” condition, her husband finally discovered a hospital in Karachi specialising in treating fistula and other conditions related to reproductive health.

Koohi Goth Women’s Hospital, where fistula victims are treated free, was started by Dr. Shershah Syed, one of Pakistan’s first gynaecologists to train in repairing a painful and socially embarrassing condition.

In addition to incontinence, the medical consequences of fistula include frequent bladder infections, painful genital ulcerations, infertility and kidney failure.

In 2006, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a four-year fistula repair project as part of a programme to improve maternal health.

According to UNFPA, at least two million women in the world live as Bano did – in shame and misery. Most are not even aware that fistula can be repaired.

A major challenge for healthcare professionals is that the number of women suffering from fistula in the world is increasing by about 75,000 cases annually.

In Pakistan the true prevalence of fistula is unknown, but Syed estimates that there are about 5,000 new cases every year.

With only 500 – 600 women undergoing corrective surgery annually, Pakistan needs to put more resources into addressing fistula – which falls under the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015.

The MDGs are eight United Nations targets to be met by 2015 and, according to studies published by the International Youth Council, a major civil society organisation, Pakistan is unlikely to meet the fifth that deals with maternal health.

Pakistan, according to IYC figures released in 2010, has a maternal mortality rate (MMR) of around 500 per 100,000 births that is sought to be reduced to three-quarters from 1990-2015.

Pakistan’s maternal mortality ratio is wide-ranging, from 286 per 100,000 births in Karachi’s urban areas to 756 in rural Balochistan, where child marriages are compounded by non-existent health services.

“For both physiological and social reasons, mothers aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die of childbirth than those in their 20s,” says a UNFPA document. “Obstructed labour is especially common among young, physically immature women giving birth for the first time.”

Obstetric fistula is now generally acknowledged to be another burden on the girl child, deprived of basic education and forced into marriage – for which she is neither physically nor mentally prepared.

Pakistan’s Child Marriages Restraint Act passed in 1929 permits girls to be married at 16, but poverty, illiteracy and socio-cultural practices result in girls being married off as soon as they reach puberty.

Syed’s team continues to hold fistula repair camps in the remote areas of Pakistan that include training programmes for doctors and paramedics in fistula management. “The complicated cases come to Koohi Goth and simple repair is done in the field hospitals.”

The camps provided an opportunity to reach out to affected women and their families and encourage them to avail themselves of the free treatment in Karachi, where necessary.

Getting Bano to Karachi was not easy. Khan gathered a group of able-bodied men who took turns carrying her on a rope bed for three days just to reach a motorable road.

“It’s been almost three years and she has gone through six operations,” says Dr. Sajjad Ahmed, who worked at Koohi Goth as manager of UNFPA’s fistula project from June 2006 to February 2010. “She would not speak at all and she did not understand Urdu.”

Today Bano and Khan are regular visitors at Koohi Goth and vocal advocates of the campaign against fistula. They travel across Pakistan, spreading the word about how to prevent the injury and what to do about it.

“Khan is a cleric and yet he does not conform to the stereotype of a religious person,” said Syed. “He tells parents that fistula can be avoided if they stop marrying off their daughters at a very early age.”

Bano shares her story and tells married women about the importance of birth spacing, antenatal checkups and timely access to emergency obstetric care.

Syed says Pakistan badly needs a mass awareness campaign on fistula prevention and stresses the importance of social support for victims. “That’s the only way we can eradicate fistula from this region.”

“I smell nice now and it’s all because my husband wanted me to get well,” said Bano, who may have spent many more years in a miserable state if not for the treatment at Koohi Goth.

(END)

Doctors signed into rural work, Maharashtra can’t place them


Medical students

Medical students (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anuradha Mascarenhas : Pune, Thu May 03 2012,

The general reluctance shown by doctors to serve in rural areas has all but disappeared. In Maharashtra, so many medical students have agreed that there are now more willing doctors than the state can accommodate. Maharashtra has 1,500 posts of medical officer vacant; for these there are 3,000 applications, says Dr G S Chinde, director of health services.

It is not that the new crop of students has suddenly become more sensitive to the requirement of rural service. It’s just that should they want to skip a year’s stint in villages, the bond money has become unaffordable.

Maharashtra’s 14 medical colleges yield 2,000 MBBS graduates every year, of whom around 700 enrol in a postgraduate course. After MBBS, a medical graduate is required to sign a bond with the government to serve in rural areas for a year. If they opt to skip this, they need to pay Rs 10 lakh. The payment was Rs 1 lakh initially, raised to Rs 5 lakh in 2004 and doubled in 2010.

From students who signed a bond of Rs 5 lakh, the Directorate of Medical Education and Research has collected barely Rs 50 lakh, compared to Rs 3 crore collected in three years from students who had signed for Rs 1 lakh.

Dr Pravin Shingare, state director of medical education and research, said since the hike to Rs 10 lakh, over 4,000 doctors have enrolled for rural service.

The bond is higher for postgraduate and super-specialty doctors, Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2 crore. Now, the authorities are wondering where to place these highly qualified doctors.

“We are scrutinising the applications so that the doctor’s specialisation can be suitably utilised,” an official said. The delay in doing this has led to several students writing to the DMER that they have not got any response to their applications. Shingare said he has got more than 30 such letters and will write to the health department to start filling the vacancies. “The DMER has in fact listed 400 vacancies at Employees State Insurance Corporation hospitals.”

The health department is also trying to fill vacancies under NRHM, which needs 400 school-level health medical officers.

Women Activists meet NHRC Chairperson for #SoniSori


On 1st May a delegation of five women from the campaign group in Delhi met the NHRC Chairperson Justice K.G.Balakrishnan and apprised him of the Soni Sori case. 
The entire case was once again laid out before the Chairperson, and the urgency of medical treatment for Soni Sori was emphasized.  He said he will ensure that medical treatment is not denied.  

The delegation also pointed out that while medical treatment was a priority, the issue of custodial torture could not be ignored and NHRC should also take immediate steps to initiate an inquiry into this matter.
The letter submitted is below

To

The Chairperson

Justice K.G.Balakrishnan

National Human Rights Commission

Delhi                                                                                                                              1.05.2012

 

 

RE: CASE # 541/33/3/2011 + 610/33/3/2011-OC

 

Sub: DEMAND FOR SPEEDY ENQUIRY INTO CUSTODIAL TORTURE AND SEXUAL ABUSE OF SONI SORI IN CHHATTISGARH, AND TO ARRANGE FOR HER IMMEDIATE MEDICAL RELIEF

 

Sir,

 

This is regarding our earlier complaints to NHRC in October and November 2011, regarding the custodial torture and sexual violence against Soni Sori, the reference numbers for which are as given above (copy of acknowledgement from NHRC enclosed). Presently Soni is in Raipur Central Jail in Chhattisgarh, after suffering brutal custodial torture, including sexual violence, by several policemen inside the Dantewada Police Station(copy of 3 letters to NHRC from citizens enclosed).

 

It may be recalled that Soni Sori is an adivasi school teacher from Dantewada, who had come to Delhi to escape harassment by the Chhattisgarh police and file a legal complaint against them for fabricating false cases against her of being a maoist supporter. She was arrested on October 4th and transferred back to Chhattisgarh before her petition could be filed before the Supreme Court. While in police custody in Dantewada, she was sexually tortured by the Chhattisgarh police on October 8/9th, under the orders of the then-Superintendent of Police, Ankit Garg.  She was verbally abused, stripped naked, electric current was applied to her body parts, and stones, pebbles, batons etc. were shoved into her private parts.

 

Such barbaric behaviour by police had been foreseen even before Ms. Sori was taken into custody and had been clearly placed before the Sessions Court and High Court in Delhi, when her custody was sought by the Chhattisgarh police.  In consideration of her well-grounded apprehensions about her safety in hands of the Chhattisgarh police, the Delhi High Court issued directions to them to ensure her safety while in their custody and had specifically ordered the Commissioner of Police in Chhattisgarh to file an affidavit in the Delhi High Court outlining steps taken to keep her safe. But, in what can only be termed to be an act of flagrant contempt of court and of all constitutional safeguards, the Chhattisgarh police brutally tortured her for the two days she was in their custody.

 

A special medical examination at NRS Medical College Hospital Kolkata, ordered by the Supreme Court after senior advocates and human rights activists filed a writ petition on Soni Sori’s behalf, has unearthed irrefutable evidence of custodial violence and sexual torture.  Yet, Soni Sori has been consistently denied proper medical care.  No action has been initiated against the SP; on the contrary he was awarded the President’s Gallantry Award in January 2012.

 

A team of women that had visited Raipur in January to meet her was shunted around by the officials and denied permission to meet her, which is a violation of her rights as a prisoner.  Her repeated complaints of ill-health have also not been attended to properly, and she is not receiving proper medical care and treatment, which is yet another violation of prisoners’ rights.   Not only are they not being attended to, there is an attempt to dismiss them by saying that she is making them up, that she is a `malingerer’.

 

Recent reports from her lawyer who visited her on 26th April are alarming and a cause of great concern to us.   She appears to be suffering from several ailments arising from the injuries inflicted upon her in custody, and her health condition has significantly deteriorated.   In addition, she has said that she was taunted by the doctors and not given proper treatment when she was taken to the hospital in Raipur (copy of letter from lawyerenclosed).

 

Such custodial violence and brazen disregard of the constitutional safeguards is of grave concern, especially when meted out by the protectors of the law. If ignored and left unpunished, it sets dangerous precedents for the democratic fabric of the country. We seek your urgent intervention in this regard.

 

We urge you to take this matter up and intervene to ensure that Soni Sori’s rights as an under-trial prisoner are not violated, that she is given prompt and due medical care and treatment, and moved to a safe place, in consultation with her through her lawyers, where the policemen cannot interfere with the course of justice (copy of letters from Soni Sori enclosed).

 

We demand the following actions immediately by the NHRC:

i.  NHRC must enquire into the allegations by Soni Sori of custodial torture while in police custody on the night of 8th – 9th October 2011.

ii. NHRC must ensure that she immediately gets medical attention in a way that her dignity is not violated and so that her acute medical condition is not trivialized.

 

iii. NHRC must ensure that her other rights as an under-trial are not violated, and that friends and relatives be permitted to meet her.

 

iii. Punitive action must be initiated against SP Ankit Garg and other police officials involved in her custodial torture.

 

iv. NHRC must re-state firmly the guidelines and safeguards instituted to ensure safety of the other under-trials and many innocent tribals currently detained in jails in several parts of the country.

 

Yours,

 

Dr Uma Chakravarti, SAHELI

Sudha Sundararaman, AIDWA

 

 

 

Enclosures

 

1.       Communication from NHRC dt December 8 2011 assigning complaint number

2.       3 petitions to NHRC from citizens, dated 20.11.2011, 18.10.2011, and 10.10.11, seeking action on the custodial torture of Soni Sori

3.       Communication from Soni Sori’s lawyer in Raipur after meeting her on 26.04.12

4.       Two of the several letters written by Soni Sori to the Supreme Court and her lawyer.

 

Related articles

En masse sedition in Koodankulam # Censorship


How can a peaceful agitation of villagers against a nuclear power plant in their backyard be a seditious activity? Yet an unprecedented 3500 protestors have been charged with sedition,   says NITYANAND JAYARAMAN. Pix: dianuke.org  -

Between September and December 2011, 107 FIRs were registered in just one police station – the Koodankulam P.S. – against more than 55,000 people. That is about 30 percent of the total eligible voters in that Assembly constituency. The cases began to be registered within a few months of the new Government assuming power in Tamil Nadu. Of these, 3500 people are accused of “sedition” and/or “waging war against the state” – perhaps the largest number for any police station in independent or British India. The actual numbers of accused and FIRs are likely to be at least double this if the data is updated to April 2012. Ironically, the accused are all part of an 8-month long Gandhian protest against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant. According to local activists, cases are being filed for every day of protest even now.

The methods used by Tamil Nadu police are not unique to the Southern State. From Bhopal to Jagatsinghpur to Kalinganagar and Lanjigarh, and behind the scandalous jailings of two persons for circulating Mamata’s cartoon or behind her jailing of several people protesting the eviction of the Nondanga slum near Kolkata, the thinking and the modus operandi of the State is the same – to criminalise dissent.

“This is a parody of law. The frequency and manner in which the Police has filed cases against peaceful protestors clearly exposes that the police’s intent never was to uphold the rule of law, but to crush any dissenting voices,” said Sam Rajappa, a senior journalist who led a fact-finding team to Koodankulam in March. The national media has gone to town, and rightly so, over Mamata Banerjee‘s heavy-handedness against dissenters. But, its stony silence on Jayalalithaa’s campaign against people who speak out against nuclear power is curious.

At least two journalists from national newspapers I spoke to said they did not carry the story because they found the 55,000 figure incredible. They spoke to Vijendra Bidari, the SP of Tirunelveli, who rubbished the claims of the protestors. Firstpost.com was, in fact, the only publication that actually did its own enquiries and published a story containing even Bidari’s interview. “It is totally wrong. It will be around 40-50 people. They don’t have the FIRs. In multiple cases, the accused are the same. So if you keep adding the same names, the number will be more. It is totally false,” Bidari is reported to have told Firstpost.

But the facts speak for themselves. Take a look at the table compiled by supporters of the struggle based on information from the Police Station. As against Bidari’s claim of cases against only 40 to 50 people, just one FIR filed on 21.11.11 accuses “Udayakumar and 3000 others” of sedition and waging war against the state. The accused in this case are not people who want to secede from India. Indeed, just a few months earlier, they were part of the 74 percent of the electorate who turned up to cast their votes. Their alleged crime, in this case, was to have questioned the safety of the nuclear plant and delayed its commissioning.

In pursuing this counter-campaign against its own people, the State Government has placed itself above the law of the land and pursued an openly anti-democratic agenda. Eminent legal scholar Dr. Usha Ramanathan says the law does not permit such arbitrary FIRs. “The State Government is openly coming out and saying “We have the power and the law cannot bind us,” she says. “This use of the Sedition provision, for instance, is a classic case of a State not even needing to hide behind anything, when it is treating itself as in a state of exception in relation to the law.”

In foisting cases, the State Government’s motive, Dr. Ramanathan says, is not restoring law and order or apprehending offenders. Rather it is to shut people up. “Because, they know even if all the cases fall at the end of the day it doesn’t matter, because they’ve had their purpose served. You can beat people up, you can put them away. It’s a total abuse of a power that actually doesn’t exist, but which they have managed to cultivate for themselves.”

All these FIRs were filed quietly. No public action was to be taken against the anti-nuke protestors until all democratic electoral rituals were out of the way. On March 18, the bye election to the Sankaran Koil constituency in the same district was held. On March 19, 2012, the Chief Minister deployed more than 5000 heavily armed police to Radhapuram taluka. The district collector declared Section 144 all over the taluk. Police harassed shopkeepers that had shut shop in solidarity with the protestors to open for business. Fisherfolk were being forced to return to sea.

For the next four days, the State tried to isolate the protesting village and terrorise people into giving up their resistance. Protestors and supporters of the movement were picked up and jailed under one or more of the 107 FIRs already registered, or under new cases. Of the nearly 200 jailed, including 21 youngsters, two are still in jail. With the FIRs containing thousands of un-named persons as accused hanging like the proverbial sword over their heads, residents of Idinthakarai are fearful that they will be caught and jailed if they leave their village.

“Pushparayan, Jesuraj and I have been living in an open quater-km-radius prison since March 19, 2012,” writes Dr. S.P. Udayakumar, convenor of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy that is spearheading the protests. “Thousands of people sleep around our house at night in order to protect us from possible police action and mid-night arrest. Hundreds of youth protect us round the clock.”

In the week after Jayalalithaa’s declaration of support to the plant, police cordons blocked the access of essential supplies and services for protestors in Idinthakarai. Keys to the Panchayat water tank were seized. Fortunately, the protestors had a fair share of fisherfolk among them. At tremendous expense of time and diesel, the protestors managed to bring in drinking water, provisions and milk for their children using their fishing boats through the sea route. “The government also suspended bus services in the area, causing untold hardships to the aged, ailing, and pregnant women needing urgent medical attention,” Rajappa’s fact-finding visit concluded.

Owing to public pressure, the undeclared embargo on movement of essential supplies was eased within days. But what remains even today is an uneasy quiet in Tirunelveli district. The stories that local activists tell are quite disturbing. Public demonstrations against nuclear power are not permitted. Private halls and autitoriums in schools and colleges are not available for meeting critical of nuclear energy.

“If we approach a hall owner for a meeting, the next minute the Intelligence Bureau (IB) calls and threatens them,” says Samuel Asir Raj, a professor of sociology who is critical of nuclear energy. Prof. Raj has himself faced state censorship on more than one occasion. On 19 April, Raj organised a meeting on nuclear energy. But he had to tell the IB that the talk was about “Globalisation and the Indian Economy.” Not to be fooled, the IB asked for an advance copy of the presentation.

“It is not right for the police to ask for a copy of a presentation in an academic setting. Academicians cannot be prevented from learning the various sides of a philosophy. How can they deny students an opportunity to understand the different points of view on a matter?” he asks. When asked how the University management manage to stand up to police pressure, Raj laughing says “Fortunately, we don’t have a Vice Chancellor.”

The last time he organised a meeting condemning the killing of dalits by the Police in the infamous Manjolai Estate firing, “the VC was spoken to and I was given a talking to.”

Considering what has been thrown at them by the State, the resolve of the anti-nuke protestors in pursuing their peaceful campaign suggests a formidable democratic spirit. On 23 April, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy announced the resumption of an indefinite hunger strike starting May 1, the International Workers Day.

 

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