Appeal Bahraini health workers: nine back to prison, nine cleared of all charges .


Bahrain (Political) 2003

Bahrain (Political) 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday, 22 June 2012 07:17

 

Last week, nine medical professionals in Bahrain were sentenced to up to five years in prison for ‘crimes against the state’. Nine were cleared of any charges by the Bahrain High Criminal Court of Appeal.

A further two healthcare workers did not appeal against their sentences; they are thought to have left Bahrain or gone into hiding. The twenty Shia doctors and nurses were arrested and convicted after civil unrest broke out in Bahrain in February 2011. Earlier, a military judge awarded them much harsher sentences, which led to a huge international outcry condemning the poliically motivated charges. The new sentences range from one month to five years for offences including ‘attempting to occupy a public hospital using force’. The original sentences were from five to fifteen years.

Medical neutrality

The British Medical Association (BMA), as well as numerous human rights organisations have expressed  their profound disappointment with the outcome of the appeal procedure. The BMA has repeatedly lobbied the Bahraini authorities over the case amid concerns that medical neutrality was being jeopardised. The BMA director of professional activities, Vivienne Nathanson, said: ‘We have seen no evidence presented against these doctors and it therefore appears to be wholly contrary to natural justice for them to be found guilty.’

Torture and ill-treatment

Dr Nathanson’s letter to Bahrain’s king states that Bahrain ‘risks appearing to persecute healthcare workers, under the guise of criminal charges, solely because they have fulfilled their fundamental ethical duty to treat patients injured in anti-government protests according to medical need.’ The BMA also calls for an independent investigation into claims by the healthcare workers that they were tortured and ill-treated during their time in custody.

 

Source: BMA website news, 14 June 2012

Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services Estimates for 2012


Wekker voor anti-conceptiepil / Alarm clock fo...

Wekker voor anti-conceptiepil / Alarm clock for birth control pills (Photo credit: Nationaal Archief)

HIGHLIGHTS
June 2012

  1. In 2012, an estimated 645 million women in the developing world were using modern methods—
  2. 42 million more than in 2008. About half of this increase was due to population growth.
  3. The proportion of married women using modern contraceptives in the developing world as awhole barely changed between 2008 (56%) and 2012 (57%). Larger-than-average increases were seen in Eastern Africa and Southeast Asia, but there was no increase in Western Africa and Middle Africa.
  4. n  The number of women who have an unmet need for modern contraception in 2012 is 222 million. This number declined slightly between 2008 and 2012 in the developing world overall, but increased in some subregions, as well as in the 69 poorest countries.
  5. Contraceptive care in 2012 will cost $4.0 billion in the developing world. To fully meet the exist-ing need for modern contraceptive methods of all women in the developing world would cost$8.1 billion per year.
  6. n Current contraceptive use will prevent 218 million unintended pregnancies in developing coun-tries in 2012, and, in turn, will avert 55 million unplanned births, 138 million abortions (of which0 million are unsafe), 25 million miscarriages and 118,000 maternal deaths.
  7. n  Serving all women in developing countries who currently have an unmet need for modernmethods would prevent an additional 54 million unintended pregnancies, including 21 millionunplanned births, 26 million abortions (of which 16 million would be unsafe) and seven million miscarriages; this would also prevent 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.
  8. n  Special attention is needed to ensure that the contraceptive needs of vulnerable groups suchas unmarried young women, poor women and rural women are met and that inequities in knowledge and access are reduced.
  9. n  Improving services for current users and adequately meeting the needs of all women whocurrently need but are not using modern contraceptives will require increased financial com-mitment from governments and other stakeholders, as well as changes to a range of laws, poli-cies, factors related to service provision and practices that significantly impede access to and use of contraceptive service.

Download full report here

Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems


Pro-abortion march

The awaited “Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems“, the  second edition of the WHO publication is available online now.

Find the pdf document online at: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/unsafe_abortion/9789241548434/en/

The contents include:


CONTENTS

Executive summary

1

Process of guideline development

10

Background

10

Methods

10

Dissemination of the guidance document

12

Updating the guidelines

13

Chapter 1 

16

Safe abortion care: the public health and human rights rationale

17

1.1 Background

17

1.2 Public health and human rights

18

1.3 Pregnancies and abortions

19

1.4 Health consequences of unsafe abortion

19

1.5 Contraceptive use, accidental pregnancies and unmet need for family planning

22

1.6 Regulatory and policy context

23

1.7 Economic costs of unsafe abortion

26

Chapter 2

30

Clinical care for women undergoing abortion

31

2.1 Pre-abortion care

32

2.2 Methods of abortion

37

2.3 Post-abortion care and follow-up

52

Chapter 3

62

Planning and managing safe abortion care

63

3.1 Introduction

64

3.2 Constellation of services

64

3.3 Evidence-based standards and guidelines

65

3.4 Equipping facilities and training health-care providers

69

3.5 Monitoring, evaluation and quality improvement

72

3.6 Financing

79

3.7 The process of planning and managing safe abortion care

80

viii Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems

Chapter 4

86

Legal and policy considerations

87

4.1 Women’s health and human rights

87

4.2 Laws and their implementation within the context of human rights

90

4.3. Creating an enabling environment

98

Annex 1

98

Research gaps identified at the technical consultation

105

Annex 2

Final GRADE questions and outcomes

106

Annex 3

106

Standard GRADE criteria for grading of evidence

109

Annex 4

Participants in the technical consultation

110

Annex 5

110

Recommendations from the technical consultation for the second edition of Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems

113

Annex 6

Post-abortion medical eligibility for contraceptive use, Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use, 4th ed. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2009

120

Annex 7

Core international and regional human rights treaties

122

Sympathy not the solution #disability


June 21, 2012, The Hindu
RAHUL CHERIAN
AMBA SALELKAR
ABOUT EQUALITY : Mere non-discrimination will not bring the disabled into the mainstream as they require further affirmative action in almost every sphere of life
 
The Constitution must be amended to prohibit discrimination against the disabled and to bring them into the mainstream
 
In his column in The Hindu on June 11, 2012 titled “One Simple Step to Increase our GDP,” Aamir Khan makes an important observation — how we behave with the disabled among us tells us what kind of a people we are. And by that standard, India is not the kid you would want to be best friends with in school. Mr. Khan argues that the lack of education of the disabled is the problem and that education is the solution to the problem, which will also possibly lead to an increase in the GDP of the nation. We however believe that the problem is much more fundamental than that, and that the main barrier to a progressive and inclusive approach to persons with disabilities is the current framework of the Constitution itself.
Rights and Acts
The rights of persons with disabilities are sketchily enshrined in various Acts of Parliament — the Mental Health Act, 1987 (to regulate mental health services), the National Trust Act, 1999 (for creation and monitoring of a trust for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities), the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992 (to regulate rehabilitation services), and the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 (for everything else). All of these Acts do, in fact, achieve the objective of treating the disabled as a different class altogether — which is the premise of the law on disability in India.
India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which specifically states that persons with disabilities are to be treated as equals to persons without disabilities. In his column, Mr. Khan cites instances where persons with disabilities have been looked upon as those unloved by god — and we would venture to state that this is eerily reminiscent of the treatment meted out for centuries against those classified as “untouchables.” It took years of campaigning and awareness to eradicate, to some extent, such approaches, but what is undeniable is that Article 17 of the Constitution, which prohibits the practice of untouchability, has helped eradicate it to a great extent. The historic experience of untouchability in India meant that the Constitution was designed to respond to such discrimination.
In a sense, having a disability forces the person to be excluded from all aspects of society, including with respect to education, workplace, transportation, access to public places and everywhere else for that matter. It is not far from the truth to say that the denial of access makes persons with disabilities outcastes. And the fault begins with the Constitution. Disabled people will be able to articulate their moral and political citizenship only when they move away from a benign charity model to a constitutional framework of equal rights. The Constitution in Articles 15 (1) and (2) — which are in Chapter III relating to Fundamental Rights — has an extremely robust provision relating to prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. This provision prohibits discrimination not only by the State but also by citizens with respect to access to shops, hotels, public restaurants and places of public entertainment, among others. Moreover, the Constitution also permits the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Amendment of Articles
However, persons with disabilities have no similar protection from discrimination under the Constitution. Nor does the Constitution prescribe that special provisions can be taken to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in society. Given this Constitutional framework, all downstream law-making relating to persons with disabilities is based on sympathy and the mood of the law makers at the given time and not based on the recognition of the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities. No wonder then that the 100 million people with disabilities remain outside the ambit of what is considered “society.”
Makes political sense
Thus we come to the Holy Grail for the disability movement in India — the amendment of Articles 15 (1) and (2) to include the word “disability” as one of the grounds on which discrimination shall be prohibited. But adding this word may not be enough and we must go further. Unlike other classes of citizens, mere non-discrimination will not bring the disabled population into the mainstream since persons with disabilities require further affirmative action in terms of removal of barriers, customisation of products and services and accommodation in almost every sphere of life. Therefore, coupled with the amendments mentioned above, a new Article 15 (6) should be added to the effect that nothing in the Constitution shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of persons with disabilities including to ensure that the State and citizens remove barriers and provide accommodation to persons with disabilities.
These amendments to the Constitution will ensure that each and every law can then be viewed through the lens of the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities, whether it is the laws relating to banking, to insurance, to food security or any other. And if the law is found wanting, then it can be struck down as unconstitutional. Canada, South Africa and Sri Lanka have explicitly recognised the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities. Now is the time for India to do the same. It even makes sense politically, since persons with disabilities constitute a significant vote bank.
Is this an ambitious dream? Yes. Much like the legalities relating to the Right to Education and the ensuing controversy, this will place a burden on establishments, both public and private, to make themselves accessible. Is this an impossible task? Not really. With political will backed by innovative funding methods and judicious public spending it is possible for India to be completely inclusive by 2022. This will be the perfect way to celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day. After all, equality is the Holy Grail to becoming truly independent.
(Rahul Cherian and Amba Salelkar are lawyers with Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy.)

British researchers warn India on cervical cancer vaccine trial


Title: Pathology: Histology: Cervical Cancer D...

Dinesh C. Sharma   |   Mail Today  |   New Delhi, June 22, 2012

Scientific evidence does not support rolling out vaccines against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the general population, British researchers have warned India. HPV is linked to cervical cancer.

This comes in a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on Thursday, in the backdrop of intense lobbying to introduce the vaccines in government-funded programmes.

Pending a final decision, the vaccines are being aggressively promoted through doctors, social media and publicity campaigns by drug companies — GSK and Merck.

PATH, a charity supported by Bill Gates, is also keen to promote the two vaccines in India. It was involved in clinical trials of the vaccine among tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, but the project was stopped following the death of four girls after vaccination.

In absolute numbers, cervical cancer may be a major killer in India but existing data show that incidence rates for cervical cancer are low and decreased from around 43 cases per 100,000 in 1982-83 to around 22 per 100,000 in 2004-05.

Brazil and Zimbabwe are reported to have around twice this rate.

“Neither the epidemiological evidence nor the current cancer surveillance systems justify general rollout of a HPV vaccination programme either in India or in the two states where PATH was conducting its research,” the study observed.

Such vaccination, the study added, should be done only in areas where there is strong epidemiological evidence and which have the necessary surveillance and monitoring in place.

The study led by Allyson Pollock found that cancer surveillance, registration and monitoring in India in general — and specifically in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh — is incomplete. In such a situation, it would be impossible to tell whether the vaccine would be successful in preventing cervical cancer.

The existing system of cancer registries is not adequate because they are not complete or comprehensive in their coverage for every region.

Moreover, cancer registries give data about cancer cases and not about HPV prevalence, which is sought to be targeted by the new vaccines, the study pointed out.

“Current data on cervical cancer incidence does not support PATH’s claim that India has a large burden of cervical cancer or its decision to roll out the vaccine programme,” Pollock said.

“The lack of information is important because it means that World Health Organisation criteria for monitoring the effectiveness of the vaccine cannot be fulfiled,” she added.

India bans Serological TB Tests , a step in right direction


Cell culture plates

Cell culture plates (Photo credit: Sanofi Pasteur)

In a welcome step, a gazette notification by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare banning serological test (commonly referred to as blood or antibody test) for TB, under the Drugs & Cosmetic Act, has finally been made public today. This gazette notification also, in particular bans the importation of the serological test kits.

The serological test for TB is widely used in the private sector, even though they are known to be inaccurate, inconsistent and with no clinical value for TB diagnosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its first-ever negative policy recommendation recently called on governments to immediately ban blood tests prescribed and used to detect TB. See WHO Factsheet on TB serological tests: http://www.who.int/tb/features_archive/factsheet_serodiagnostic_test.pdf

The Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) has never recommended these tests. In fact, guidelines such as the International Standards for TB Care and those by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics actually discourage their use. According to a paper in National Medical Journal of India, “Despite the evidence and lack of any supporting policies, 15 lakh (1.5 million) TB serological tests are estimated to be done in India and as a result patients end up spending an estimated INR 75 crores (US$ 15 million) per year.” See attached paper published in National Medical Journal of India: “Tuberculosis Control in India: Time to get dangerously ambitious?”

As per this paper, “every major private laboratory in India offers TB serological tests, mostly ELISA kits imported from countries such as France and the UK. These countries, apparently, do not approve the same tests for clinical use on their own TB patients!”

Last year RNTCP’s committee on diagnosis asked the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI)’s office to investigate and if necessary ban the serological tests conducted by the private sector.

An expert group set up by the DGCI found that blood tests are mostly inaccurate for TB detection. It had recommended to the Union health ministry to immediately ban them. (Report of the expert committee is not publicly available).

What do treatment and health activists working on TB feel about this regulation: A welcome move to check irrational practices on TB diagnosis in the private sector. But it needs strict implementation across the country to check this practice among doctors who prescribe and labs who conduct these tests. The import of serological test kits should be immediately stopped, which will improve the implementation of this government notification. At the same time, it is also equally important to increase access to accurate culture and drug sensitivity testing (DST) for drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) in the public sector. A large number of patients with extra-pulmonary and drug resistant TB are pushed into the private sector when their TB is left undiagnosed in the public sector.

Environmental activists ‘being killed at rate of one a week’


Death toll of campaigners involved in protection of forests, rivers and land has almost doubled in three years

Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro
Tuesday June 19 2012
guardian.co.uk

The struggle for the world’s remaining natural resources is becoming more murderous, according to a new report that reveals that environmental activists were killed at the rate of one a week in 2011.

The death toll of campaigners, community leaders and journalists involved in the protection of forests, rivers and land has risen dramatically in the past three years, said Global Witness.

Brazil  the host of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development  has the worst record for danger in a decade that has seen the deaths of more than 365 defenders, said the briefing, which was released on the eve of the high-level segment of the Earth Summit.

The group called on the leaders at Rio to set up systems to monitor and counter the rising violence, which in many cases involves governments and foreign corporations, and to reduce the consumption pressures that are driving development into remote areas.

“This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources, and represents the sharpest of wake-up calls for delegates in Rio,” said Billy Kyte, campaigner at Global Witness.

The group acknowledges that their results are incomplete and skewed towards certain countries because information is fragmented and often missing. This means the toll is likely to be higher than their findings, which did not include deaths related to cross-border conflicts prompted by competition for natural resources, and fighting over gas and oil.

Brazil recorded almost half of the killings worldwide, the majority of which were connected to illegal forest clearance by loggers and farmers in the Amazon and other remote areas, often described as the “wild west”.

Among the recent high-profile cases [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/12/brazil-amazon-rainforest-activists-murder” title=”] were the murders last year of two high-profile Amazon activists, Jos? Cl?udio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo. Such are the risks that dozens of other activists and informers are now under state protection.

Unlike most countries on the list, however, the number of killings in Brazil declined slightly last year, perhaps because the government is making a greater effort to intervene in deforestation cases.

The reverse trend is apparent in the Philippines, where four activists were killed last month, prompting the Kalikasan People’s Network for Environment to talk of “bloody May”.

Though Brazil, Peru and Colombia have reported high rates of killing in the past 10 years, this is partly because they are relatively transparent about the problem thanks to strong civil society groups, media organisations and church groups  notably the Catholic Land Commission in Brazil  which can monitor such crimes. Under-reporting is thought likely in China and Central Asia, which have more closed systems, said the report. The full picture has still to emerge.

Last December, the UN special rapporteur on human rights noted: “Defenders working on land and environmental issues in connection with extractive industries and construction and development projects in the Americas ? face the highest risk of death as result of their human rights activities.”

19 June 2012 update: The number of deaths in Brazil was wrongly cited as 737  this has been corrected to 365. The headline and opening line of this story have been changed to reflect that.

Dalit politics must embrace less powerful caste groups


On the margins of the margin

Badri Narayan, The Hindu, June 210, 2102

COUNT THEM IN: Lesser Dalit groups need to counter their disembodiment by developing their own politics. A February 2012 picture of supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party at an election rally at Sitapur, near Lucknow. Photo: AP
COUNT THEM IN: Lesser Dalit groups need to counter their disembodiment by developing their own politics. A February 2012 picture of supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party at an election rally at Sitapur, near Lucknow. Photo: AP

Dalit politics must embrace less powerful caste groups

When Kanshi Ram emerged on the political scene, he developed himself as a leader of all Dalits as a whole and tried to create a homogeneous identity for the diverse Dalit castes who comprise the lower castes of the social system. He ensured that each and every Dalit caste had respect by providing representation to them in democratic power. Through his efforts, a large section of Dalits, who were earlier excluded from the democratic processes of the country, have succeeded in obtaining political empowerment in Uttar Pradesh through the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). However out of the 66 Dalit castes, only four including shoemaker (cobbler) caste — called Ravidasi or Harijan in some parts of India — Pasi (watchman of feudal lords/toddy tappers/some of them tame pigs), Dhobi (washerman) and Kori (weaver) have become visible in democratic politics. The rest are invisible. Even among the more visible Dalit castes, the cobblers and Pasis have grabbed most of the space.

Disempowerment

But in the ever-evolving politics of U.P., the invisible and unseen communities are unable to demonstrate their presence. While democracy has helped in empowering many erstwhile marginalised communities, it has also led to the disempowerment of many other smaller communities because marginalised communities which have gained power do not want to share it with their less fortunate brethren. Thus are dominant communities born.

The cobbler caste, the largest Dalit community in U.P., constitutes 56.20 per cent of the total Scheduled Caste population, which is 21.1 per cent of the State’s total population (2001 census). It has emerged as one of the dominant castes among Dalits.

The caste took to education in a big way in pre-Independence years. That helped its members find jobs in cities, in turn helping in their rise as a political caste after Independence. When Kanshi Ram emerged on the scene, the caste already had a middle class, community leaders and the makings of an intelligentsia. They were a ready-made cadre for the party in its initial phase. The cobbler caste thus made up a chunk of the BSP, and succeeded in cornering the benefits of Dalit political empowerment. However many other Dalit castes like Jogi, Nat (wanderer), Musahar (who make items out of leaves), Kanjar (mat weaver), Dom, Domar, Hela (sweeper), Basor (basket weaver), and Bansphor (bamboo basket maker) are so insignificant despite their numerical strength that they cannot make their presence felt in U.P’s vote bank politics and continue to face exclusion.

Aside from these castes, there are others found in lesser numbers like Bahelia (bird hunter), Khairha (woodcutter), Kalabaaz (songster), Balai (farm labourer), Majhwar (musician), Hari (basket maker) and Sansiya (musical instrument repairer). They are not visible in any political or governance strategies, and lack a presence in the political sphere. While conducting research, it was observed that communities which are not educated, and which do not have leaders, caste histories and heroes are unable to create their own identities which can make their communities assertive in democratic politics.

Vocabulary of exclusion

Within Dalits, the term ati-Dalit (lowest of the low) has become a part of the vocabulary of the Dalit intelligentsia as a result of this exclusion. In its election manifesto for the U.P. Assembly elections, the Congress party had promised to give respect, representation and status to these castes. More recently, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar created a new category, Mahadalits, to offset the exclusion of certain Dalit communities. Commentators saw this move as a step by Mr. Kumar to line his own vote-bank, but it served to establish that exclusion among Dalits exists. Not much was mentioned about these margins in the election manifesto of the Samajwadi Party (SP), nor is it apparent in their policies.

As the Congress did not win the elections in U.P. and Kanshi Ram is not alive to fight for the rights of the marginalised Dalit castes, the most marginalised communities would benefit by adopting the road map provided by the major and dominant Dalit castes. They need to acquire visibility, possible only by building capacity to desire change through the same means that empowered the other Dalit castes. These lesser Dalit groups need to counter their disembodiment. To do that, they need to develop their own politics. The dominant Dalit groups who now have control over scarce resources should act as agencies to help distribute these resources more evenly. In fact, for Dalit politics to become sharp and dynamic it is necessary that all smaller and lesser Dalit groups who are now invisible and unseen, are included within its socio-political matrix.

(Badri Narayan teaches at the Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute in Jhusi, Allahabad, and is an analyst of Dalit issues. His latest book published is The Making of the Dalit Public in North India: Uttar Pradesh 1950–Present, from Oxford University Press.)

Against all odds, a struggle continues- Seven years on


Freny Manecksha, Juen 22, TheHindu

  • STEELY DETERMINATION: A June 2011 picture of villagers protesting against the acquisition of their land for the proposed Posco steel plant, in Jagatsinghpur. Photo: AP
    STEELY DETERMINATION: A June 2011 picture of villagers protesting against the acquisition of their land for the proposed Posco steel plant, in Jagatsinghpur. Photo: AP

Today marks seven years of protests against the Posco project

June 22 marks the seventh year of the struggle against the Posco project in Odisha. It was on this day in 2005 that the Odisha government and the South Korean steel company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for what was stated to be the single biggest case of foreign investment in the country. Though the government has acquired over 2,000 acres of land for the plant, and Posco has set up a small office at the site, the project itself has been unable to take off, stalled by people’s protests against the displacement from land and livelihoods that it will cause.

The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which spearheads the struggle, will mark the anniversary with protest meetings in Jagastsinghpur district where the company plans to locate its $12 billion plant. The Samiti has appealed to “freedom lovers,” human rights groups, Dalits, fishing communities and indigenous people all across India to demonstrate their solidarity against the “corporate invasion” of their lands.

Cases filed against protesters

Over the last seven years, the protestors have had to pay a heavy price for their opposition to the project. Several leaders of the movement have been jailed.

The people of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujung — the three gram panchayats that have fiercely fought off efforts by the Odisha government and Posco project to acquire land for the project — say paid goons have unleashed a reign of terror. And hundreds of cases, most of them fabricated, according to villagers, have been filed against them.

From Abhay Sahoo and Narayan Reddy, the CPI leaders who headed the PPSS, to 65-year-old Satyabati Swain, mother of activist Ranjan Swain, there are not many who do not have a case against them.

The elderly Satyabati was in police custody for a day last September 27 on a pending charge of unlawful assembly dating back to 2008. Ironically, she had gone to the station to complain about an attack on her son a day earlier.

Abhay Sahoo has some 40 cases registered against him. He was first arrested in 2008 and then released on bail. But in 2011, a fresh charge — of destroying evidence in an alleged dowry death — was slapped against him. The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has condemned the manner in which fresh cases were brought against him.

Manorama, a young woman in Dhinkia who has participated in the protests, was ill with typhoid last January. But, she said, she did not dare step out of her village to seek medical attention. With as many as 48 cases lodged against her, she feared arrest.

Villagers say there is a definite pattern to the way police target activists. Ramesh Posayat, was arrested in 2009, when he took his young child to a doctor. He says he does not know the charges under which he was held.

Thirty-eight-year-old Prakash Jena, an articulate graduate who dared to question why the government wanted to set up a steel project in a place that has a well entrenched agro-based economy, had to spend eight months and 14 days in jail in 2009. As many as 28 cases are pending against him. He too does not know what the charges against him are about.

“But then whole village populations have been charged,” he adds with a shrug.

According to Jyotiranjan Mahapatra, son of the former sarpanch of Dhinkia village, some 1,400 people have cases against them; many face multiple cases.

For some the indignity of being held under false charges has been compounded by a loss of jobs. Kailash Chandra Biswas was arrested when he left the village to attend his father-in-law’s funeral and says he was falsely charged with arson, of hurling bombs and even rape. Employed as a peon in a school, he lost his job after he was released on bail.

Babaji Charan Samantara, who worked as postmaster in Dhinkia for 28 years, was arrested in 2007 and had 21 cases filed against him. Subsequently suspended from his post, he went to court to appeal for back wages and his right to pension. Despite a court ruling in his favour, he has not received any payments.

Ranjan Swain, who has 46 cases against him, says bitterly, “I wonder if this is my country. It would seem as if it belongs to the company (Posco) and the police works at its behest.” Another villager asked why she was being treated as a criminal when all she had done was to exercise her right to protect her land through peaceful protest.

Prafulla Samantara, who heads the Lokshakti Abhiyan, noted that Odisha, home to many tribal movements, was now witnessing a range of people’s movements against land displacement.

“In any democratic nation, such mandates of the people should be respected,” he said, but “what one is witnessing is development at gunpoint with no room for dissent or opposing the government’s notions of development.”

Labelled as Maoist

He pointed to the government’s strategy to label some of these people’s movements as Maoist, particularly in regions that have been declared Maoist belts.

At a special meeting on April 9 this year, of tribal populations who have been resisting attempts by Vedanta to mine for bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills, Dongria leader Dodhi Sikoka alleged that all those who had been fighting for their rights were being assaulted and imprisoned in the name of fighting Maoism.

“But our fight is for our people, our ancestral land, and for Niyamgiri,” he declared at the meeting which had been held on the eve of Vedanta’s final appeal in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing to a later date.

On January 1, 2011, five so-called Maoists were gunned down in Jajpur district. The victims included a 14-year-old girl of Baligotha village.

A fact-finding team of various organisations like Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Odisha Janwadi Lekhak Sangh and others who looked into the killings of alleged Maoists at Basangmali Hills, Koraput in Kashipur district on January 9, 2011, concluded that those killed were poor villagers who had been resisting mining operations.

The increasing trend towards criminalising dissent and accusing those who question the government and its model of development as anti-national, is alarming say human rights activists. This is happening not just in Odisha but other parts of the country too — Kudankulam is an example.

Of late, an impression is being created that the opposition to the Posco project has fizzled out. Clearly, that is wishful thinking on the part of those who want the project to go ahead, at any cost.

(The writer is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist who writes on development issues.)

Junk the “Green Economy”- Filipino Women’s Groups to Rio +20


Filipino Women’s Groups Urgent Message to the

Philippine Delegation to Rio+20

As women who primarily carry both the privilege and burden of social reproduction and care for the human family and ecology, and participate as well in activities that drive societies and economic production, we express our deep concern at the debates and discussions assessing the last two decades since the first Earth Summit and the solutions being forwarded to address the conditions of crises we are caught in today.

The Green Economy

A major push coming from UN agencies, corporations and North governments has taken the form of the Green Economy – the framework that will supposedly address crisis conditions in water and food, energy, the economy, climate and the environment. But we find that behind this cunningly coined concept, is the clear intent by neoliberal forces, primarily corporations, to monetize and commercialize nature, thereby addressing the current crisis of capitalism and pursuing goals of extraction, unhampered growth, mindless consumerism,  wealth accumulation and monopolization.  This is simply a further elaboration of the ideological framework of neoliberalism that is now being extended to nature.

We are angered that in the face of serious environmental crisis threatening the survival of the world’s disadvantaged peoples, big business and North governments are exploiting the situation to protect their own endangered commercial and business interests. Not only are they repackaging or green-washing their profit-seeking and continued capital accumulation. They are actually proposing to reach deeply and widely into the environment and natural resources for capital, on top of their financial capital and exploitation of human beings as capital, and seeking the mantle of the United Nations and high-level government commitment for the same. In truth, this direction is already manifested in such mechanisms as carbon trading and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) where the atmosphere and forests are given price tags just like other capital goods, and can be traded and sold in the market for profit.

Two decades after the first Earth Summit, we are in greater crisis than before and in deeper levels of impoverishment and deprivation, inequity and injustice. How much longer should we bear this profit-hungry and growth driven route to development that has brought us to these situation of multiple crises today? How much longer should we accept the patriarchal and “macho” responses in the form of fast, large-scale, highly technological systems (even those labelled “green”)?  How long will it take people to realize that this social and economic arrangement is the main culprit behind the fast depletion of the world’s natural resources and the potentially catastrophic warming of the earth? Today’s crises require a critical questioning of systems and structures and building alternatives along just, democratic, non-discriminatory, equitable and sustainable lines.

Commodification of land and water have already resulted to large scale displacement of food systems and peoples’ culture and means to survive; further marketization and privatization of nature will translate to grabbing access, control and care of the world’s still unexploited resources in private and corporate hands. Women in the Philippines and South countries are in the forefront of food production but have the least access and control over land and other resources. In practically all countries, especially of the global South, women make up the greater majority of people living in poverty. While commodification can lead to the “visibility” of the labor of nature in the economy, this process will ultimately suffer the same fate as the commodification of  the labor power of toiling peoples, iand women’s labor and bodies  in particular.

The Green Economy totally veers away from the spirit and substance of the agreement in Rio in 1992.

It contradicts women’s perspective on economy and ecology, which we believe are mutually enhancing systems for sustainable development, not sources of capital and profit.

It is also alarming that agencies of the UN, and some donor and funding agencies have apparently partnered with big business, including those with environmentally destructive records, in promoting this track of commoditizing nature. We continue to fight against these corporations that live on human exploitation and natural resource extraction and have destroyed the lives of peoples, especially the poor and marginalized.  We are disturbed that alongside talk of rights, empowerment, democracy and development, these agencies also support moves of “greening” resource extraction and fail to question the undiminished privileging of and pursuit of growth. The Philippine government must diligently examine and assess these forms of development aid, against human rights and particularly women’s rights standards.

“Gender and women” as add-ons

We strongly emphasize a widely accepted fact — that women constitute half of the Philippine and the world’s population, doing both productive and reproductive work and have key roles in environmental protection and renewal. This has been widely affirmed, yet the negotiating text (as of 22 May 2012) marginalizes and trivializes women’s rights and gender equality.

It ignores the various forms of violence and abuse inflicted upon women by the patriarchy in capitalist systems that takes advantage of the unpaid care labor women largely render, and their generally subordinated position that manifests, among others, in their low wage levels, limited employment opportunities, job insecurity, and inadequate to utter lack of social benefits. The adverse effects of these conditions on the basic and reproductive health of working women are well known, and are further aggravated by the poisoning of our air and water resources by dirty energy, and exposure to various toxic substances such as GMOs, pesticides and chemical fertilizers by which corporations exploit nature beyond its carrying capacity and allow them to profit more.

We stress the accountability of the Philippine as a signatory to the wide-ranging Beijing Platform of Action, and a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol. We have campaigned successfully to localize the CEDAW through our own Magna Carta of Women. It is a basic principle in human rights-based approaches, which the Philippine government subscribes to, that there must be no retrogression in the legal obligation of states parties to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.  The watering down of women and gender equality issues and concerns in the negotiating text is clearly a retrogression and a violation of what the Philippine government has legally committed to, internationally and domestically, not only in respecting and promoting women’s rights but ensuring the enjoyment of the very same.

Another fundamental rights-based principle is full and meaningful participation. We assert this right, and further seek increasing women’s informed participation through accessible, well-resourced mechanisms enabling of the capacities of women and their organizations. Women should be part of any effort to change society, from direction and agenda-setting to implementation. We push for broad-based citizen’s participation within the frame of a new politics that is linked to people’s movements and advances innovative and transformative practices in dealing with crises.

We believe, together with many other women from the South, that there are many alternatives to corporate-led approaches in dealing with the multiple crises we now all face. We reject these market-oriented, patriarchal approaches, and reiterate  several of the points raised by the Women’s Major Group during the Asia Pacific Regional Preparatory for Rio+20 held last year in Seoul, Korea, that  –

“…we  are  working  to  realize “sustainable  economies”  that  are  gender  just  and  enable  long-term  social  and  wellbeing  outcomes  for  present and future generations, especially marginalized groups such as indigenous, ethnic and sexual minority groups.

“As  women  comprise  half  the  world’s  population  and  also  count  among  the  poorest,  a  “sustainable economy”  must  recognize  women’s  paid  and  un(der)paid  contributions  to  economic  production,  must generate  sustainable  livelihoods  by  which  women  can  realize  the  full  enjoyment  of  their  human  rights, including  sexual  and  reproductive  rights,  and  prevent  all  forms  of  discrimination  and  violence  in women’s exercise of their economic rights and co-stewardship of the earth’s resources. Central to this is women’s  unmediated  right  to  access,  own,  control  and  benefit  from  productive  resources  and  assets, which  includes  land,  water,  seeds,  energy  sources,  livestock,  financial  resources,  public  subsidies  and appropriate technologies.

“…women  farmers  must  be  recognized  as  co-managers  of  community  resource  bases  and  co-

decision-makers in determining the use of natural resources and the distribution of benefits arising from

them.

“We further seek from our governments a  commitment  to  the  rapid  reduction  and  elimination  of  toxic  substances  and  highly  hazardous pesticides and fertilizers, while steadily phasing-in non-chemical approaches.

“…as  marginalized  and  excluded  groups,  women  bear  the  harshest  impacts  of  the  current  climate crisis,  including  increased  ecological  and  economic  displacement.  States must  address  the  gender-

differentiated  impacts  of  climate  change  while  ensuring  greater  and  more  meaningful  participation  of women in the climate deliberations and outcomes, and in adaptation and mitigation strategies.”

Our lives and the lives of future generations in the world are at stake in the the discussions in Rio and all the other discourses on the environment.

Our calls and demands:

1.     Junk the “Green Economy” as the framework for addressing the crises in food, water, energy, the economy and the environment, and delete all references to it in the Rio+20 outcome document;

2.     Foster and build new socio-economic and political systems that reject growth as the sole parameter of development and puts premium on the equitable distribution of wealth and resources in the context of the earth’s endangered carrying capacity; respects, protects and fulfils human rights; and recognizes and ensures, at the heart of all economic, social and political development goals, gender-fair responsibility for the critical role of social reproduction and care labor in the development and the future of human society and our planet;

3.     Genuinely integrate women’s sentiments, lived experiences, voices, issues and demands in the Rio+20 outcome document, resisting the tendency towards retrogression, and in accordance with the Beijing Platform for Action as well as the normative standards and legal obligations established by the international bill of human rights – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Women’s Human Rights Convention or the CEDAW.

4.     Ensure and expand spaces/processes for the full,  informed, empowering participation and engagement of women’s movements, especially marginalized women and their organizations

5.     Put in place mechanisms for accountability and sanctions to meaningfully realize gender justice and climate justice.

###

SIGNATORIES (15 June 2012)

 

National/Local Organizations:

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

Alliance of Progressive Labor- Women (APL Women)

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

Freedom from Debt Coalition Women’s Committee (FDC WC)

Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF)

Kalayaan Philippines

Kilusan at Ugnayan ng Maralitang Pasigenos (KUMPAS)

Koalisyon Pabahay ng Pilipinas (KPP)

Makabayan Pilipinas

Migrante International

Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)

Partido ng Mangagawa (Labor Party – Philippines)

Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)

Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)

SANLAKAS

SARILAYA

Society of Transexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)

Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS)

Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Inc.  Manila Office

Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB)

Women’s Dayoff

World March of Women Pilipinas

Regional Organizations

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATWP)

Endorsed by:

Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD)

 

Individual Signatories

Rebecca Lozada
==============================

==========================================
Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Inc. (WLB)
Room 305 College of Social Work and Community Development Building
Magsaysay Avenue, University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines 1101
E-mail addresses: wlb@smartbro.net or womenslegalbureau@yahoo.com
Telefax number: (63-2) 921-4389
Skype ID: womenslegalbureau

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