NAC Recommends ONE HOLISTIC Disability Law & Full Legal Capacity # Goodnews

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NAC for Tax Benefits to Employers of Disabled Persons

New Delhi, Jun 10 (PTI) The National Advisory Council, chaired by Sonia Gandhi, has recommended giving tax benefits to private employers of persons with disabilities, in a set of measures to enable their greater participation in the workforce.

Giving its suggestions on the draft Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill (RPDB), the NAC has also suggested extending subsidies and financial incentives for starting small scale income generation activities by household of persons with disabilities (PWD).

“RPDB should also mandate support to families with PWDs themselves in engaging in or accessing gainful employment, including financial and tax benefits to private employers of PWDs,” the advisory panel said in a recent communication to the government.

It has pitched for stronger anti-discrimination provisions to lower barriers to their productive employment, thus enabling greater participation of PWD in the workforce.

Voicing concern over non-recognition of full legal capacity of PWDS, the NAC has recommended that the Law Ministry review all statutes in order to include an acknowledgement of full legal capacity for such persons.

Noting that there were multiple laws that provide and protect the rights of PWDs, the NAC has suggested merging them into one holistic law to avoid inconsistencies and duplication.

At present the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act; National Mental Health Act; Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act; and The Rehabilitation Council of India Act govern issues related to PWDs.

The NAC also recommended that families with disabled members should be given higher weightage during identification of poor households and surveys for BPL and food insecure households.

It also wanted the RPDB to guarantee preferential access to households with PWDs to all poverty alleviation and social security programmes, including social security allowance.

The panel also suggested setting up a single National Disablities Commission and State Disability Commission to replace diverse institutions concerned with the rights of PWDs.

“This would save costs, prevent the creation of a large bureaucracy, and above all provide a single window of contact at the central, state or district level for PWDs to access their rights and secure redressal of their grievances,” it said.

The NAC also found “grave” the provision of upto six months imprisonment and Rs 50,000 fine for persons violating the rights of PWDs.

“The penalties needs to be more specific and cannot be for blanket violation of all entitlements under the bills,” the advisory panel said.

India’s uncomfortable truths on film

A look at the career of revolutionary Indian documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan

Police at a demonstration in India

Police at a demonstration in India (from the film Jai Bhim Comrade) Photograph: Anand Patwardhan

Anand Patwardhan, whose work will be featured in the Sheffield documentary festival next week, is the foremost Indian documentary maker of his generation. Time and time again, in landmark films such as Bombay Our City (1985), In The Name of God (1992) and War and Peace (2002), he has exposed the glaring realities about topics on which modern-day India, wedded to its own PR flannel about becoming a first world economy, does not care to dwell: the rise of nuclear nationalism, the role of political and religious leaders in stoking communalism, the continuing oppression of poorer castes.

Yet Patwardhan, who was born in 1950, never wanted to be a film-maker. Nor, when in 1970 he arrived in Brandeis University, Massachusetts, on a scholarship, did he see himself as particularly political. “It was the most exciting time that one could have been in the US. The anti-Vietnam war protests were a turning point: I went on demonstrations and was sent to jail a couple of times. Other Indian students were more interested in being white than in identifying with black Americans, but I was reading Fanon, excited by the Black Panthers and taking classes in the black studies department.”

Documentaries have always been made in India (and in recent decades there have been prominent examples by directors such as Shyam Benegal, Mani Kaul and Meera Nair), but they rarely receive the distribution or critical attention afforded to Bollywood movies. What’s more, when Patwardhan was starting out in the 70s, having gone back to India and become involved in a people’s movement in the state of Bihar, all non-fiction features were government controlled and, as he puts it, “straight-forward propaganda of ministers cutting ribbons”.

Waves of Revolution (1974) chronicled the upheavals in Bihar, giving voice to a broad coalition of dissenters – students, Gandhians, poor people – excluded from mainstream discourse. Made for virtually no money, using Super-8 film and a cheap cassette recorder for the sound. It established Patwardhan’s reputation as a fearlessly independent maverick operating outside the system. According to Nair Anand was and remains an anomaly. “There’s no one like him …He’s always pursuing an uncomfortable zone and actualising the conflicts in his films. He’s a barometer of integrity.”

One of Patwardhan’s most celebrated films, Bombay Our City, spotlights the immiseration of Dalits whose make-do shelters were constantly being torn down by developers, as well as the casual contempt for them on the part of local elites. Patwardhan depicted Dalits questioning his motives: “You just want to earn a name taking photographs. So don’t take photographs of the poor.” He also included footage of local bards singing songs of poetry and protest, wild songs that revealed, as Frederick Douglass found in the spirituals of black slaves, “the highest joy and the deepest sadness”.

Patwardhan’s latest film Jai Bhim Comrade begins with a clip from Bombay Our City that shows the charismatic singer, poet and activist Vilas Ghogre in full melodious flow. In 1997, however, following the police shooting of 10 unarmed Dalits protesting against the desecration of a shrine to Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956), a visionary leader who was born an “untouchable”, Ghogre hanged himself. His suicide is the starting point for a carefully constructed, far reaching, and by turns pensive and enraging examination of how Dalit men and women are still mistreated by the upper classes and even by some of the politicians who claim to speak for them.

The Latin American “Third Cinema” movement of the 1960s – decrying art for art’s sake and calling for film-as-revolutionary activism – has always been important to Patwardhan. His documentaries, which have frequently riled censors, are for ideological as well as economic reasons ill-suited to the world of the modern Indian multiplex: Jai Bhim Comrade, he says, has found its most passionate and intelligent audiences among the very people whose lives and struggles it chronicles.

“All across Maharashtra [where it’s set] the film is in constant demand: we bought a powerful video projector, made a foldable 20ftx30ft screen and for the past five months have done regular open-air screenings in working-class and Dalit neighbourhoods, organised and sponsored locally. As people cannot afford to hire many chairs, the audience squats on the floor or, incredibly, stands through the entire three hours of the film. We wait for darkness before we begin and the film often goes past the 10pm cut-off point when loudspeakers are officially silenced. But at many venues the local police, who often came from the same caste and class background as the audience, look the other way.”

Jai Bhim Comrade is an inarguable rejoinder to anyone who assumes recent legislation concerning Dalit schooling and quotas for state-sector jobs means that the age of discrimination is over. “All you have to do is to look at the statistics,” Patwardhan says. “Across the country, two Dalits are killed and three raped every day.” The eloquent social critiques delivered by its subjects, as well as the fire and lyrical fervour in their ballads, oratory and street-theatre performances, bear out the claim, delivered by one interviewee: “In every lane there’s a poet, and in every hovel there’s a singer.”

Well over a decade in the making, Jai Bhim Comrade could be seen as a capstone to Patwardhan’s extraordinary career. When I put this notion to him, he was characteristically reflective: “Almost every film that takes a long time to make feels like the last film I will ever make, feels as I have said everything I ever wanted to say. Right now that is how I feel about Jai Bhim Comrade. I am content with the thought of just doing more and more screenings and discussions, and seeing how people grapple with it. After 14 years in labour, I am enjoying the joys of parenthood.”

Jai Bhim Comrade premieres in the UK on 14 June, as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Pardoning President – commutation of 30 death sentecnes

By Syed Nazakat and Vijaya Pushkarna
Story Dated: Monday, June 11, 2012

Commutation of 30 death sentences

Guns for her roses: Pratibha Patil

When President Pratibha Patil vacates the Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 25, she would have the dubious distinction of having commuted the highest number of death sentences to life imprisonment. During her tenure, she showed clemency to 30 convicts, condemned prisoners who had killed 60 people, including 22 women and children.
Among those granted pardon include Molai Ram and Santosh Yadav, who in 1996 had gangraped and murdered the 10-year-old daughter of a jailer on the premises of a prison in Madhya Pradesh where they were inmates; Dharmender Singh and Narendra Yadav of Uttar Pradesh, who had killed a couple, their two sons and 15-year-old daughter, whom they had earlier tried to rape; Piara Singh of Punjab and his three sons, who had massacred 17 persons of a wedding party on a personal rivalry; Sushil Murmu of Jharkhand, who had sacrificed a nine-year-old boy out of superstition; and Satish, who had raped and murdered a five-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh in 2001.
For many people, the presidential pardons have come as a shock. “In many cases, the victims were raped, sexually assaulted and tortured before being murdered,” said a schoolteacher. “Pardoning them sends a wrong, sad message.”
Patil’s predecessors, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and K.R. Narayanan, had granted clemency in only one case each. Patil’s extraordinary generosity has led to a fresh debate on death penalty in India. The focus is now on what Patil has not done—she has not decided on the mercy petitions of Afzal Guru, convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case; Khalistan separatist Devinder Singh Bhullar, who tried to kill Youth Congress president Maninder Singh Bitta in 1993; and Balwant Singh Rajoana, who assassinated Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995.
The BJP, the main opposition party in Parliament, has been criticising the Centre for its ambivalent stance on the death penalty debate. BJP leader Prakash Javadekar says “those who have acted against the country” should be hanged immediately. When Home Minister P. Chidambaram was criticised for the delay in executing Ajmal Kasab, who was convicted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks case, he had told Parliament: “We have to decide as a nation whether we want to follow the rule of law or not.”
Patil, in her zeal to grant presidential pardons, appears to have squandered the chance to send out a clear signal on the issue. During her term, she rejected three mercy petitions and commuted sentences in 19 cases, involving 30 convicts. She, however, has not taken a call on 10 mercy petitions, including that of Afzal Guru.
Realising that the pardons could be politically explosive, Rashtrapati Bhavan officials are pulling out all the stops to give them a positive spin. Presidential spokesperson Archana Dutta told THE WEEK, “The President has adhered to the rule book while dealing with mercy petitions. It is incorrect to say that it is on account of her personal belief [against death penalty] that she has commuted these death sentences.”
Many people, however, disagree. “So many mercy pardons may send the wrong signal about our legal procedure,” said senior advocate Gopal Jain. “It is not clear what parameters she used to commute the death sentence in 19 cases and reject the other three.”
Said a senior politician: “Here is a President whose stint at the Rashtrapati Bhavan has been daubed with controversy on many fronts, including the recent land allocation issue. Her office is working overtime to contain bad press. The President could have absolved herself of her rather lacklustre tenure by taking decisive action on an issue that concerns the security of the people of this country. But, instead, she appears to have chosen to tread a safe, political path.”
Human rights and pro-life lobbies view the presidential pardons as an indication of the way India is moving in the larger debate favouring abolition of capital punishment. Although India has not abolished capital punishment, it has rarely been carried out after the 1983 Supreme Court ruling that death penalty should be imposed only in “the rarest of rare cases”. Since 1995, only one execution, that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in August 2004, has taken place. Dhananjoy was convicted of raping and murdering a schoolgirl in 1990.
Under the law, the death penalty can be imposed for murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the government, abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces. Recently, special courts extended the penalty to cases of terrorism and the Supreme Court has recommended that it be extended to those found guilty of committing honour killings and to cops involved in brutal fake encounter killings.
Death penalty, however, has been a sensitive issue. In Tamil Naidu, widespread public rallies were conducted to seek clemency for the Rajiv Gandhi killers. A person even burned herself to death to protest the imminent hangings. Local politicians insisted that the hangings would be a “betrayal of the Tamils”, and would provoke popular fury.
A similar kind of fury was witnessed in Punjab when the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which functions as a parliament of Sikhs, demanded that the state 
government fight to save Balwant Singh Rajoana, the assassin of Beant Singh. The Akal Takht, which is the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, has conferred the title of Zinda Shaheed, or living martyr, on him. In Kashmir, Afzal Guru’s death sentence has been an emotive issue. Few doubt Afzal’s involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. But serious questions remain over the investigation and trial, carried out under the now-defunct Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act.

With widespread instances of custodial abuse, legal experts have been campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty. They argue that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that the death sentence works as a deterrent. The delays in carrying out the executions have also been pointed out. Said B.S. Bilowria, a Supreme Court lawyer: “The long delays in executing the death sentences are extra punishment. It is in addition to the punishment of death and, therefore, it becomes unconstitutional. You cannot give a person double punishment by first locking him in a prison cell for years and then hanging him after a decade or so.”

Solidarity statement from Bangalore with anti-eviction basti struggles in Mumbai and Kolkata

June 11, 2012
Dayanandnagar slum residents group , in s Bangalore send their solidarity  supportwith the basti dwellers fighting eviction in slums of Mumbai and Kolkata after seeing pictures and films of their struggles. We also know such struggles are happening everywhere, in our own city such as E.W.S quarters and in other cities besides Mumbai and Kolkata, and we are trying to reach out to learn more and join hands to fight together. When we saw the photos of struggle in Mumbai and Kolkata we felt we had to reach out by letter as these struggles are so far away. Attached is our statement in Kannada and below is a translation into English. In the English translation we added in brackets some points which were discussed after our letter was first drafted in Kannada at the meeting.


“We in the dalit and women’s group of Dayanandnagar slum, work on slum resident issues. With respect to these issues, we join hands with you in struggle against the violent oppression directed at you. In both the Koliwada, (Ambujwada) and Golibar struggles in Mumbai, and the Nonadanga struggle in Kolkatta, police violence and the eviction of people from their homes by government officials took place. We oppose the police violence and atrocities, (including the molestation and mishandling of women by male police officers while repressing protests), and the arrogance and oppression of the government officials. We support you, and are with you, hence this letter”


in solidarity,
Dayanandnagar slum residents:
Kavitha G
Kaveri R.I.
Mani S
G. Justin
Vanaja A.
P. Venkatesh
Rajeshwari R.


10,000 Naxal villages to get 24 into 7 water supply, courtesy solar

You in India‘s top cities may envy around one-fifth of total villages in 78 naxal affected districts set to get around the clock tap water supply, courtsey solar energy. Three Central government ministries — New and Renewable Energy, Drinking Water and Sanitation and Finance — have

come together to provide 24 into 7 clean drinking water to 10,000 villages in the Naxalaffected districts under the Integrated Action Plan of the Central government.A solar energy based drinking water supply system has already changed lives of villagers in naxal affected Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra where solar energy based dual pump piped water supply system has been installed.

A one horse power (HP) solar energy based submersible pump is installed in existing high yielding bore well and the pumped water is stored in 5000 litre water tanks. The water from these tanks is supplied to about 250 homes in a village.

And, the cost of the project for a village is low (about Rs. five lakh) because the non-polluting solar system is not a battery — high cost — operated. The water pumped during the day gets stored in the tanks for supply around the clock.

Despite the government spending crore of rupees in bridging the development deficit in the Naxal affected areas, clean drinking water still remains a major concern. In over 90% of villages in 120 Naxal influence districts, women have to walk half a kilometer a day or more to fetch drinking water. And, in summer months the travel increases as many ground sources of water turn dry.

The success of the project in Gadchiroli, which has also resulted in improvement of socio-economic condition of the villagers, has shown the government as possible way-out of ensuring some drinking water to these villages.

The thought has enabled the drinking water ministry to replicate project in a tleast 10,000 villages at a cost of about Rs. 500 crore.
The villages being chosen are the ones with population between 150-250 as the solar system enables is about to pump water for maximum of 250 people in a day. Also these villages are most remote in the 78 naxal districts spread across nine states.

To make the effort collaborative, three ministries are set to join hands.
The ministry of new and renewable energy would be providing a subsidy at a rate of Rs. 70 per watt to install solar water pumping system. The Finance Ministry’s Clean Energy Development Fund could pay for some of the cost (Rs 229 crore) and rest would be borne by the drinking water ministry.

“Once the national clean energy fund clears the project we will seek Cabinet approval for its implementation,” a senior government official said.
The government believes that all these villages can get regular water supply system within 18 months of approval as on site project implementation is possible and state governments have expertise to implement the project. For five years, the villagers can run and maintain the hassle free system.
That will make it India’s biggest solar energy driven water project.

Social Development Programmes and UID Aadhar Pilots

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear all,

Even as we debate the wisdom behind Unique Identification (UID) Aadhaar the Finance Ministry has written to the Chief Ministers of 16 States this month advising expansion of the number if districts where pilots will be rolled out linking UID to social development programmes. A copy of the press release issued by the Finance Ministry through the Press Information Bureau on 07June, 2012 is attached. This document is also available at: Strangely, except for dedicated UID-watchers nobody in the mass media seems to have noticed or reported about this letter.

What has the Finance Ministry advised the States?

According to the press release the Union Finance Minister has written to the Chief Ministers of Kerala, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh(HP), Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Delhi, Puducherry, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh(MP), Andhra Pradesh(AP) and Maharashtra requesting them to expand the number of districts in their States chosen for implementing the pilots. Earlier fifty districts had been chosen. Now the Finance Ministry wants more districts to be identified for pilots.

The Finance Ministry is said to have written to the Chief Secretaries of these States requesting cooperation for the expeditious completion of the pilots. The pilots will cover social development programmes such as: Public Distribution System, LPG distribution, Kerosene disbursal, Government pension schemes, Janani Suraksha Yojana, Government Scholarships, Financial Inclusion, Kisan Credit Cards (KCCs) and MGNREGS wage disbursal.  The Finance Minister has left it to the discretion of the Chief Ministers if they wish to add any more programmes to this list. The lessons learnt from the pilots will be of help while rolling out the scheme throughout the country.


What is problematic with this advisory to the States?

UID – Aadhar is being rolled out in the absence of any law made by Parliament authorising the Governments to collect demographic and biometric data from people. The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance which vetted the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 rejected it for several reasons as an unviable idea. The NIAI Bill would have given statutory backing to UID-Aadhar if the law had been enacted by Parliament. The complete text of the report of his committee with reasons for rejection is attached. This report is also available at: UID-Aadhar is functioning only on the basis of an executive resolution.

One of the reasons why the parliamentary committee rejected the Bill was because it sought to make the Aadhaar numbers compulsory. When linked with social development programmes and schemes anybody who does not have a UID-Aadhar number would be disqualified at the gateway. However the latest advisory to the States seems to be an attempt to make it compulsory in all the 50 and more districts that the State Governments have been asked to identify.

The Parliamentary committee noted that the standards used for collecting biometrics such as iris pattern recognition were not internationally approved. Nevertheless UIDAI claims that several crores of people in India have been given Aadhaar numbers and now these will be linked to eligibility and payments under various social development programmes in the chosen districts.

Last but not the least- there is no legal regime for the protection of personal data collected under UID-Aadhar or any other such exercise. The person whose data is collected (data subject) has no control over its use, there is no duty on the UIDAI or its agencies to tell the data subject  how his/her personal information will be used. The data subject has no legal right to correct any errors in the personal data relating to him/her collected by UIDAI. Although the judiciary has recognized that every person is entitled to the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution no legal architecture has been created for empowering the individual to control his/her data that is available with public and private agencies.

So for several reasons the urgency of implementing UID by linking it to social development programmes, particularly to PDS and MGNREGA is worrisome. When jobcards and bank/post office accounts already exist for the purpose of making payments under MGNREGA, what purpose will UID-Aadhar serve? Will a worker be denied payment of wages on the ground that he/she does not have a UID-Aadhar number? 


Will I have to enroll and obtain an Aadhar number before I can make a booking for my LPG cylinder refill?


Will an expectant mother be refused admission, medical services and monetary payment under Janani Suraksha Yojana by the primary health centre or the district hospital if she does not have an Aadhar number?


Will a farmer be refused loans under Kisan Credit Card if he/she does not have an Aadhar number?


There is simply no information about these issues in the public domain- only the rush and urgency of implementing the pilots is visible if one looked hard enough. All of this hugely problematic because the Government is not doing its mandated duty of complete proactive disclosure of facts and figures relating to the implementation of UID as is required under Section 4(1) of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act).

I urge readers to circulate this email widely and start using the RTI Act to pull out details of the actions being planned by the State Governments to act upon the Finance Minister’s advice. Kindly feed all information that you obtain, to the media so that people may debate the exercise of linking UID –Aadhar with social development programmes.

In order to access our previous email alerts on RTI and related issues please click on:index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65&Itemid=84 You will find the links at the top of this web page.

World Health Statistics 2012

World Health Organization – Global Health Observatory (GHO)

WHO’s annual compilation of health-related data for its 194 Member States, and includes a summary of the progress made towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and associated targets.


This year, it also includes highlight summaries on the topics of noncommunicable diseases, universal health coverage and civil registration coverage.

Progress on the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Fact sheet N°290 –




English     at:
French      at:

Spanish   at:




English  PDF [180p.]   at:

French   PDF [180p.]   at:

Spanish PDF [180p.]   at:


Table of contents

Part I. Health-related Millennium Development Goals
Summary of status and trends

Regional and country charts

Part II. Highlighted topics

Noncommunicable diseases: a major health challenge of the 21st century

Health expenditures and universal coverage

Civil registration and vital statistics systems

Part III. Global health indicators

1. Life expectancy and mortality
2. Cause-specific mortality and morbidity
3. Selected infectious diseases
4. Health service coverage
5. Risk factors
6. Health workforce, infrastructure and essential medicines
7. Health expenditure
8. Health inequities
9. Demographic and socioeconomic statistics
10. Health information systems and data availability



America: Where It’s Easier to Get a Gun Than Good Mental Health Care

Gun violence is up. Access to good mental healthcare is down. What, exactly, are our priorities?

June 10, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

Last spring my younger sister Kathy jumped off a freeway bridge in Phoenix. For better or worse, she lived. Kathy made her first suicide gesture in high school, when she took a handful of, I think, aspirin in reaction to a bad haircut. At the time, she was already, obviously, mentally ill. In middle school, anorexia had drawn her down to a skeletal 38 pounds. Her hair fell out. Her sunken face took on a plastic texture from fat-soluble vitamins that her body couldn’t process. Force-feeding brought her back from the brink, but couldn’t heal her. In the years since, even during three pregnancies, she has never topped 100 pounds, nor has she ever been free of compulsions, body-loathing or debilitating bouts of depression.

Since that first handful of analgesics, Kathy has made an effort to die somewhere between 12 and 15 times: prescription pills, threatened jumps from an apartment balcony and a communications tower, an attempt at drowning, a car set on fire. Kathy is alive because even in the heart of Arizona’s Wild West no one will sell her a gun; a fact she finds immensely frustrating at times that her bipolar illness takes her into another trough of despair.

For three days, Seattle has been reeling, grieving a wave of senseless violence that left five dead, including a shooter who was, from his family’s description, bipolar like my sister. Mentally ill women are most likely to exit this world alone or try to take their children with them. Some men prefer to go out in a blaze of rage and blood. Either way, access to a gun makes the impulse more lethal. Firearms are two and a half times more effective than the next method of suicide, suffocation. According to Centers for Disease Control statistics for 2003-2007, gunshots represented only 3 percent of suicide attempts, but almost half of fatalities. So far this year, over 40,000 people in the U.S. have been shot. By December 31, we can expect to bury about 9,500, each dead at the hands of someone pulling a trigger. Guns were designed to be effective, efficient killing machines, and they work very well.

When someone kills – we ask why? It’s a worthy question. A part of the answer that haunts me (because it seems so preventable) is the way we choose as a society to prioritize our resources. We build for-profit prisons across the country, with lock-up room for minor drug offenders. But while prisons are growing, prevention and treatment services are disappearing.

As a psychologist, I used to have an outpatient mental health practice in Seattle. By the time I quit, it was almost impossible to get public mental health services for a person who hadn’t been diagnosed with a chronic mental illness or acute intent to harm. I told one desperate and suicidal young woman with no health insurance that she could get inpatient treatment if she was willing to go in front of a judge and swear that she intended to hurt herself or someone else. She disappeared, and I didn’t know for weeks if she was still alive. Relentless cuts in funding and services over the last 20 years mean that psychiatrists, psychologists and caseworkers are under constant pressure to pretend someone is more intact than they actually are.

The state of Arizona spent close to a million dollars last year putting Kathy back together after she fell 49 feet. By contrast, they spent a pittance, a few thousand on follow-up mental health assessment and treatment. Kathy’s car-on-fire incident was triggered by her SSI and Medicare being cut off because she had earned a couple hundred extra dollars working at Target over the holidays. Desperate to cut costs, the Social Security administrators decided that she wasn’t actually disabled–this is despite the fact that she has repeatedly ended up in restraints at state and county hospitals.

But even the best mental health treatment in the world won’t prevent some people from just losing it. There are going to be people who want to die. There are going to be people who want to kill. Most of the time the impulse passes. Whether someone dies before it does depends largely on the tools at hand.

I once traveled with a handful of young adventurers and a couple of fishermen in an open skiff from southern Belize to Honduras. In the middle of the night, we stopped on a small offshore island for hot drinks. There we were greeted by a wiry black man in his 60s. A deep scar ran across his face, from cheekbone to chin. Another deformed one arm. He was missing digits. He told us that as a young man he had been attacked with a machete.

I was fascinated and horrified by his graphic story, and one thought embedded itself permanently in my mind: It takes a lot of effort to kill someone with a machete. But with a gun, it takes very little.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at


Ghana: Of Women, Human Rights and Laws

English: Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations ...

English: Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Mavis Otinkorang, 4 June 2012

Laws are meant to regulate society and protect the human rights of all citizens. The 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution has clear provisions guaranteeing the fundamental human rights of all citizens.

Article 12 of the Constitution guarantees every person in Ghana‘s fundamental rights and freedoms and Article 17 provides protection against discrimination and enjoins the State to take steps to end all forms of discrimination on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnicity, religion and creed, social and economic status. Article 35 (5) (6) enjoin the State to end all forms of discrimination through law reforms and affirmative action.

In addition to the Constitution, there are both national and international laws which address the issue affecting particular segments of the population. Examples are the Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) and the Children Act 1998 (Act 560) protect the right of workers and children respectively.

Laws, instrument and Convention to improve Women?s Status and Promote Gender Equality

On women, laws have been paased over the years to improve their situation. These include the Intestate Succession Law PNDC Law 111(1985), Customary Marriage and Divorce Registration Law PNDC 112 (1985) and the Labour Act 651 (2003).

Amendments of some criminal laws, now contained in the consolidated Criminal Code, have provisions which protect women from harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. These provisions have also broadened protection against sexual violence. The Children’s Act protects children from early marriage, and Matrimonial Causes Act supports women seeking divorce under both customary and ordinance marriages.

Ghana has also obligations under international human rights instruments such as the UN Chapter of 1945 and Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 1979.

Ghana also has obligations under regional instruments such as African Charter on Human and Peoples Right. The state is required to incorporate the provisions of these instruments into national laws.

In addition there are commitments arising from various UN conferences on women. The 1985 Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (NFLS), the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (PfA) and the 2000 review on Beijing commitments known as the Beijing + 5 as well as, UN conferences such as the Vienna Human Rights Conference, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (1994), the Social Summit (1994), and the 2000 Mellennium Development Goals (MDGs) have clear provisions for improving the status of women and promoting gender equality.

Women continue to live with discrimination and biases

In spite of these laws and instruments, women continue to suffer bias and discrimination in Ghana. International Human Rights instruments have not been fully integrated and enforced within national law.

In addition, national laws do not go far enough and fail to address the requirement of a comprehensive review of all laws to ensure the repeal of discriminatory laws. Certain legal instruments such as the Bill on Property Rights are yet to become laws, although years have passed since the 1992 Constitution called for their passage.

As a result, women continue to contend with discrimination and practices in employment, marriage, divorce, and in access to resources such as land, labour, capital and technology.

For example, only a minority of women in formal employment enjoy protection from labour laws. Also, women continue to live with discrimination in relation to their rights and obligations in marriage and the grounds for divorce. Additionally, women, can be divorced under customary laws on grounds of witchcraft, stealing and adultery, while these are not grounds for divorcing a man.

Practices such as polygamy, though lawful under customary and religious laws, are discriminatory, unconstitutional and increase women?s insecurity and vulnerability in marriage life. Several men who are involved in acts of bigamy are not made to account for their actions even though the Criminal Code makes such acts unlawful.

Court decisions show that the law governing the distribution of marital property after divorce does not sufficiently take into account women?s non-monetary contributions to the acquisition of such property.

There are also critical issues of poor implementation of the law due to bias against poor women and men, lack of resources, low capacity, undue delays in court processes, entrenched patriarchal attitudes and systemic gender inequalities. Furthermore, there is limited or no access to legal processes as a result of problems of cost availability of services.

The few women are who are able to access the legal system find themselves dealing with an unduly formal and alienating environment. Very few women and men are fully aware of women?s rights under the law partly because of the poor performance of institutions tasked with legal education.

To ensure that the law becomes an effective instrument for gender justice, Ghanaian women are demanding that, among others that, government initiates a constitutional review process to ensure that all constitutional provisions promote the principle of fundamental human rights, freedoms, economic and social rights for all women and men on an equal basis.

Also, it is being demanded of government to complete the review of the entire body of laws in Ghana to ensure their conformity with the 1992 Constitution and obligations under International and Regional Human Rights Instruments.

While recorgnising the validity of polygamous marriages under customary and religious laws, the government and law enforcement agencies should ensure that the laws against bigamy are properly enforced.

Again, government should put in place policies and programmes which discourage polygamy and encourage monogamy, with the view to abolishing polygamy as a form of marriage in Ghana in the future.

The grounds for divorce under customary laws should be amended to make them uniform for both men and women.

Women?s non-monetary contributions to their household should be recognised and valued through equal distribution of property acquired during marriage and divorce and inheritance proceedings.

The Customary Marriage Registration Law should be reformed to enable either party to register a marriage, if it is established that the other party is obstructing registration without justification in order to protect the right of persons in customary law marriage.

Economically, government should by 2015 complete reforms of the entire social security system to expand its scope and coverage to ensure the meaningful protection for all citizenry. Specifically, women demand that the conception scope of social security be expanded to enable all citizenry of Ghana to enjoy unemployment benefit and pensions as taxpayers. This also implies a fundamental reform of the tax systems to broaden and strengthen the revenues base.

Also, that the coverage of Social Security benefits is expanded to include medical care, sickness insurance, family and maternity benefits and unemployment benefits.

That the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSINT) vigorously implements the changes in the current Social Security laws to extend coverage to all citizens irrespective of the nature and place of their work.

Government should by 2008 make and implement an Affirmative Action policy with legal backing to ensure the full integration of women in all spheres of public life.

Additionally, law enforcement institutions should vigorously implement laws passed to protect women?s rights including the prosecution of violations of such laws.

Also government by 2012 should enact and fully implement specifics laws and measures to promote and protect the rights of women and girls in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW) and all international and regional instrument regarding women?s rights and take steps to ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW to enable women in Ghana to benefit from its provision.

Others are that, the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) develops and implements a comprehensive programme to raise awareness about provisions of international, regional and national women?s rights laws and instruments, and inculcate in the general public respect for the rights of women.

Lastly, the Ministry of Education should activate Human Rights education from primary to tertiary levels of education.

Say ” No” TO ABORTION BAN in Turkey #VAW # Reproductive rights


We demand that the process to ban abortion be ceased IMMEDIATELY!

Banning abortion or further limiting the duration and conditions under which it can be performed;

  • Violates women’s human right to health and life!
  • Violates women’s human right to make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health and rights!
  • Constitutes yet another manifestation of the conservative politics that does not view women as equal individuals!

Prime Minister Erdogan’s statements in the last week of May 2012 have revealed that plans to ban abortion have been underway for some time now. Experience from the global arena illustrates that this lethal attempt, which has no scientific backing, will not reduce abortion rates; instead it will only lead to unsafe abortions and increase maternal mortality.



According to data from the World Health Organization, tens of thousands of women across the world die every year as a result of unsafe abortions. In Turkey, establishing the legal grounds for women to end unwanted pregnancies on demand has contributed to the decrease in maternal mortality, which dropped from 250 to 28 in every 100,000 live births from the 1970s to the mid-2000s. There is no data indicating that abortion is on the rise in Turkey; on the contrary, while 18 pregnancies out of 100 ended in abortion in 1993, this ratio was down to 10 percent in 2008. In an era where 26 countries have taken steps to remove obstacles that hinder access to abortion between 1994 and 2011, efforts to ban or restrict it in Turkey are unacceptable. Restricting the right to access safe abortion services and making them available only when required by medical conditions or instances of rape works to marginalize women’s fundamental bodily and sexual rights, and reduces the enjoyment of this right to circumstances of necessity.

We object to risking women’s rights to health and life by restricting or banning abortion instead of encouraging free, easily accessible, high quality birth control methods. Abortion is not only a freedom of choice, but a vital social right. The right to abortion that is on demand, free-of-charge, accessible, safe, and legal, is also a right to life. Forcing women to take life-threatening risks is nothing short of murder.


Women’s right to sexual and reproductive health includes having control over their own bodies and access to safe abortion; limiting these rights is an open violation of fundamental human rights and women’s human rights. In accordance with its domestic legislation and the international conventions it is party to, Turkey is under obligation to provide adequate, comprehensive, and accessible sexual and reproductive health services. In Turkey, child marriages, forced marriages, women’s murders, rapes, and morality-based repression mechanisms have all become normalized. The responsibility for birth control has been left primarily to women. However, in a country where contraceptives are not easily accessible, withdrawal is the most prevalent form of birth control, female employment rates continue to drop and female poverty is rapidly increasing, restricting or banning women’s right to on demand pregnancy termination is an act of blatant discrimination that will push women to seek unsafe abortions.


By saying “Every abortion is an Uludere,” PM Erdogan equated women’s enjoyment of their bodily rights with killing people in a bombardment attack. This is a discriminatory and militarist statement that calls to question the human rights of both Kurds and women, whereas the primary responsibility of any state should be to ensure its citizens lead a decent life, and to guarantee equal rights and freedoms to all.

According to Article 16.1.e of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women-to which Turkey is a proud signatory-women have the right to “decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children.” The current governmental initiative to ban abortion is simply another manifestation of the ongoing misogynist mentality that ignores women’s right to make decisions on matters that concern their bodies, sees women’s primary reason for existence as the continuation of the species, and constructs neoliberal population policies based on women’s bodies.

A decision to ban abortion will constitute an open violation of the right to life for millions of women, and the right to live with dignity for men, women, and children alike.

We, the undersigned organizations, demand that the process initiated to ban abortion and the politics of the Prime Minister and the Government of Turkey that target women’s bodies be ceased IMMEDIATELY!!


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June 2012
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