Mexican Indigenous Moms Pushed, Pulled by Fertility #Vaw #Womenrights


By Vania Smith-Oka

WeNews guest author

Mexican Indigenous women

 

Credit: Shawna Nelles on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Most women in Amatlan consider themselves, their neighbors and their friends to be good mothers.

Almost all the women in the community labor in the domestic sphere–they cook the food, wash the clothes and generally look after the house and children. Making lonches — lunches for the men in the fields and for the school-age children — is an integral part of their mothering. A good mother frets about what she is feeding her children. Though the terms the women use to talk about each other’s mothering are similar to the good-bad dichotomy used by the main­stream, their interpretations and the reasons behind their interpretations are more nuanced.

For the state, good mothers follow the rules, have few children and invest in them emotionally; they are also expected to live in a nuclear family. For the women I met, good motherhood entailed a significant amount of investment, but also drawing from one’s extended-kin network to achieve a child’s success; abuelas and ahuis (grandmothers and aunts) were frequently key to the socialization process of any child . . .

Not Suffering in Silence

In Amatlan, many mothers suffer alongside, or because of, their children. While marianismo – -the all-suffering, passive motherhood epitomized in the Virgin Mary — is very present in many corners of Latin America, it is not much in evidence in this region. The mothers who do struggle with their children neither view themselves as martyrs nor do they suffer in silence.

Esperanza often despaired at the laziness of her son Adrian, one day exclaiming, “He is no use to me here. He should go away to work but he doesn’t want to. I don’t know what to do with him.” I suggested, “You should stop feeding him.” She replied, laughing, “That’s true, then he’ll go away. . . . [If he is here] I worry when he doesn’t get back [or] whether he has been beaten or something. But when he is far away I don’t worry. My head can rest.”

All the mothers I spoke with worried about their children’s future. Emma said, regarding one of her sons who was attending university in the city of Morelia, “A student is a lot of money. My son always asks me for money, 70 pesos, or 50, and it is a lot of money. As he doesn’t work. . . . And when there is money we can [help] but often there is none. I tell [my husband] to go to Mexico and to work in a house, or as a bricklayer, to make some money.” She added with a smile, “But he says he is too old.”

Women in Amatlan were the primary caregivers to children, whether their own or their extended kin; their main duties were domestic. Emma’s eldest daughter, Cristina, irritably pointed out that mothers, and women, had to do everything with never any rest.

Exhausting Anxieties

She constantly worried about her children and hoped that they would be able to make something of their lives. But her anxiety was exhausting, as she said, extending her emotion to all aspects of motherhood:

“It’s just that as women we have to do everything, get pregnant and be nauseated for the first few months and when everything makes you feel sick. And [cleaning] the pigsty made me feel so sick. And then in the last [months] it is difficult to stand up and do everything. It is so much trouble. And then the pain of the birth, and to breastfeed, and to get up to change the baby in the middle of the night. Your husband is happily asleep but not you. And then to have to control yourself so you don’t get pregnant. We [women] have to do everything. There is only the condom and the vasectomy for men, but they don’t want them. We have to do it if we don’t want to get pregnant. And well, one has to satisfy the husband and also not have so many children.”

This centrality of women as caregivers and men as providers is echoed in the structure of Oportunidades, a federal social assistance program in Mexico. When some of the men of the village on occasion asked to receive the money alongside the women, they were scolded by the authorities and told that it was only for the women. They were told that they should work, not be lazy and support their families. This response somehow implied that women’s natural job at the home could be rewarded and encouraged with money, but men needed to be out in the public sphere without complaint.

Excerpted from the new book, “Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico,” by Vania Smith-Oka, published by Vanderbilt University Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. For more information:www.VanderbiltUniversityPress.com.

 

‘States’ Rights’ Is Also Code for Keeping Women Down #Vaw #reproductiverights


By Doris Weatherford

Monday, March 25, 2013, http://womensenews.org

The term has served as a legal code for racism. Today, historian Doris Weatherford writes that state lawmakers have also long imposed legal restrictions on U.S. women. Now it’s the framework for the shrinkage of access to reproductive health care and medical privacy.

Little girl carrying protest sign

 

Credit: keithreed01 on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–Throughout U.S. history, “states’ rights” was a convenient code for racism.

Conservative politicians railed that legal changes in favor of African Americans were a violation of “states’ rights.” Southerners especially contended that their state legislatures had a right to laws that discriminated against people born with the wrong skin color.

Yet rarely is the phrase states’ rights seen also as a code to legitimize the violation of women’s rights, even though every woman gains or loses the right to make decisions about her own body when she crosses state lines.

Just last week, North Dakota lawmakers banned the termination of pregnancies that are beyond six weeks–when a woman barely knows whether or not she has missed her period.

Because men cannot get pregnant, such laws do not apply to them, and the conflict between women’s rights and states’ rights continues.

The legal point should have been resolved by the 14th and 15th Amendments in the 1860s, but a century passed before the majority of Americans agreed that the federal government should overrule racially discriminatory state laws. A hundred years after the Civil War ended in 1865, nonwhites finally saw the promise of true liberty with the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act.

While almost everyone today sees states’ rights as an antiqued philosophy, astonishingly few see that it also is key to understanding women’s rights. Historians don’t teach it that way, and so this vast aspect of U.S. history goes unacknowledged.

From the nation’s beginning, though, statehood meant a step backwards for most women. In the colonial era of the 1600s, women freely went to court and argued their own cases. But under new state governments, many women lost their right to sue.

In most states, a married woman literally had no rights. She could not file for divorce; only her husband could do that–and he rarely had any incentive to do so, as her inherited property became his. Even her earned income legally was his.

States also gave automatic child custody to fathers, another huge disincentive for divorce. Fathers could name someone other than the mother in their wills as custodians for children, empowering an outsider with decision-making authority for a child’s education or even residence.

Nor did staying unmarried entitle a woman to full citizenship, even while she was compelled to pay full taxes.

Protesting Violations

For decades, women protested against this violation of the principle of “no taxation without representation.” Lucy Stone allowed a New Jersey sheriff to sell her personal goods rather than pay taxes to a government that did not represent her, and other women did likewise.

In Connecticut, sisters Julia and Abby Smith refused to pay taxes on their Gastonbury farm because they could not vote. The court sold their cattle to a male neighbor and newspapers treated “the Gastonbury Cows” as laughable cartoon material.

Women always assumed that they had the right to petition, however, and after feminists organized petition drives in the 1850s, Northern legislatures began to change property laws. Southern states lagged, and in 20th century Louisiana, even a woman’s clothes legally belonged to her husband; she was not free to sell them.

State law also refused to recognize a woman as a witness. A New Orleans orphanage lost the bequest that a donor intended because only women had signed the document testifying to her intentions. Had those women brought an illiterate male janitor into the room to make his mark, the will would have been upheld.

Far into the 20th century, states routinely excluded women from tax-supported colleges and universities, especially law and medical schools. A Michigan woman had to go to court for the right to tend a bar, as state law forbade female bartenders. As late as 1972, Idaho gave men automatic status as executors of family estates; in Reed v. Reed, a woman had to go to the Supreme Court to be allowed to substitute for her mentally incompetent brother. Inheritance law in many farm states gave sons more power than widows who built the farm.

Female Jurors Forbidden

Most states long excluded women from juries, meaning that a female defendant was not tried by her peers–and imposing a real discouragement on female witnesses and lawyers. In 1961, The U.S. Supreme Courtupheld state law in Hoyt v. Florida, ruling that automatic exemption of women from jury lists was constitutional. Eighteen other states had similar laws that allowed women to serve, but only if they took special steps to volunteer. At least three states at the time barred women completely.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) often is cited today as the bulwark of personal privacy–something that conservatives claim to value–but the case really was about women, and specifically their right to birth control. Connecticut, with its large Catholic population, banned the sale of contraceptives, but after the married Estelle Griswold had the courage to pursue the case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state law.

Massachusetts lawmakers tried to get around the ruling by restricting sales to individuals who could prove they were married, but in Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), the Supreme Court allowed contraceptive purchase without regard to marital status.

Would state legislatures today approve laws that require nonwhites to give up the right to eat in public restaurants based on state borders? Would any man surrender any right because he moved from South toNorth Dakota?

That is the framework in which these important decisions should be made. And just as in the past, states’ rights is a code for fascism and legal terrorism, and for keeping the victim in her place.

Doris Weatherford is the author of a dozen books on American women. Her most recent work, “Women in American Politics: History and Milestones,” won a prize from the American Library Association as a 2013 Outstanding Reference Source.

Sloppy Mental-Health Talk Will Intensify Stigma


By Atima Omara-Alwala

WeNews commentator

Monday, February 18, 2013

The current gun-control debate could worsen the mental health stigma that already stops many women of color from seeking help, says Atima Omara-Alwala. It’s necessary to get the facts right on mental illness and those who commit violent acts.

 

Let's sweep Mental Illness out from Under the Rug

 

Credit: Geek2Nurse on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0)..

(WOMENSENEWS)–Well-meaning activists and elected officials do a huge disservice when they make assumptions about helping the mentally ill only in light of the extreme violence they are supposedly likely to commit.

For women in communities of color, already contending with higher rates of depression and other mental illness, this can be particularly harmful.

Who wants to come forward about your problems when National Rifle Association spokesperson Wayne La Pierre is saying you belong to a trigger-happy lunatic crowd whose names need to be kept on a registry?

Who wants to be lumped together with Adam Lanza?

The horrific massacre of school children and educators in Newtown, Conn., has spurred interest in mental health but the public discourse has spent very little time at the intersection of race and gender.

If we don’t address mental health reforms overall aggressively, the current gun-control debate could bolster a vicious stigma that already blocks many in underserved communities from seeking help.

Clicking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds that awful December day, I saw a torrent of pithy comments on the need to do something about mental illness and gun control in the United States.

It’s a tenuous link to make since an August 2006 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows only 4 percent of those considered mentally ill actually commit violent acts.

I grew up in a black immigrant family intimately affected by mental illness and disability. When I was a child, my favorite cousin, in her late 20s at the time, developed paranoid schizophrenia. Just before we knew she was ill, she came to stay with us, as she always had when visiting.

I was excited to see this cool big sister figure who took me shopping, to the movies and let me play with her makeup. I was shocked at what my pre-teen eyes saw. A healthy, vibrant full figured woman transformed into an emaciated, exhausted version of herself, her thick curly hair now rapidly thinning. Sores covered her once well-kept face.

Grappling With Illness

I will never forget watching my parents grapple with her diagnosis and try to get her help.

As I grew older I saw friends grapple with the byproducts of mental illness: eating disorders to alcoholism and self-injury. In spite of my knowledge and experiences, the national stats are still stunning.

About 26 percent (57.7 million) of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That number translates into a sobering 1-in-4 adults. Yes, 1-in-4.

Major depressive disorder, or depression, is a leading form of mental disability in people ages 15-44 in the United States and is more prevalent in women, with women suffering two-and-a-half times more likely than men from depression.

The disparity in those suffering from depression widens significantly when you zoom in on female demographics.

Fifty percent more African American women are diagnosed with depression than white women,

according to the National Association for Mental Illness. It’s raised such concern that at the 2007 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, mental illness and black women were discussed as a major topic because a study from Mental Health America showed a mere 7 percent of black women suffering from depression sought treatment, compared to 20 percent of white women.

The rate of suffering for Latinas is even higher than that of black or white women.

Psychological, biological and environmental factors combine to culminate in mental illness. Traumatic and stressful events, such as a death in the family or divorce or job loss, or even a presumably happy event such as getting married, can contribute to depression.

Unfortunately, the number of those who seek treatment is low, and even lower in communities of color. Here seekers can be more prone to finding mental-health services too expensive; not covered by insurance; or hindered by language and cultural barriers; compounding a larger problem further.

A ‘Weakness’

As a black woman, I am all too familiar with the belief that depression in my community can be especially seen as a “weakness.”

Mental Health America’s 2007 survey found that over half–63 percent–of African Americans believe that depression is a personal weakness. Only 31 percent consider it a medical problem that can be treated. Additional research from the National Association of Mental Illness indicates similar sentiments pervading the Latino and Asian communities.

To be clear I understand why the need for better mental-health treatment has been raised in the context of the Newtown and Aurora, Colo., and other mass shootings. And it’s true that some are homing in on the particular problems of men, who commit up to 94 percent of murder-suicides, according to a 2006 study by the Violence Policy Center.

But we can’t allow the discussion to get sloppy when it comes to mental illness.

Discussing what shifted in the lives of Lanza or Aurora shooter James Holmes to make them killers makes more sense than generalizing about the mentally ill whose percentage of violent crimes against others is low.

Far more frequently, those with mental illness torture and harm themselves.

I would be remiss as a person who has made her living in politics and advocacy if I didn’t use this window, asPresident Barack Obama encouraged, to help “make access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun.”

But we must also do our part to not stigmatize those in need so much so that they will not seek the help they need.

Atima Omara-Alwala is a political strategist, progressive and activist of 10 years who has served as staff on eight political campaigns and other progressive causes with a particular focus on women’s political empowerment and leadership, reproductive justice, health care and communities of color. Her writings on the topics have also been featured at Ms. Magazine, RH Reality Check and Fem2pt0. Currently, she isnational vice president of theYoung Democrats of America and serves on the boards of DC Abortion Fund andPlanned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund.

 

Soni Sori’s letter to the Nation-( English and Hindi)


 03/02/2012-Soni Sori’s letter from Prison, she  asks questions to all the citizens of  India, Please answer her

This if for all social workers intellectuals, NGOs, human rights organisations, women’s commission and citizens of India, an abused and helpless tribal woman, is asking you to answer her  why she is being brutally tortured  and she wants to know–

  1.  That by giving me current, by stripping me naked, or by  brutally  assaulting me  inserting stones in my rectum- will the problem of Naxalism end ? Why so many atrocities on women? I want to know from all countrymen
  2.  When I was being stripped, that time I felt someone should come and save me and it did not happen. In Mahabharata , Draupadi’s  honour was  saved  when she called upon  Krishna  Whom should I have called , I was given to them ( police )  by the court  . But now ,I will not say that save my honour as  I have nothing left. Yes, I want to know from all of you that why was I Tortured?
  3.  Police officer, S. P Ankit Garg after stripping me says that “you are a whore, a bitch, who pleases  naxal leaders by selling your  body and  they come to your house every day and night. We know everything, “he said adding that “. You claim to be a good teacher, but you sell yourself  even in Delhi. What’s your status anyways, you think the big stalwarts will support such an ordinary woman like you”. Why will a police officer say this? Today history is witness that whenever there is war in country or any other conflict, women have contributed a lot to the nation. Jhansi Lakshmi Bai fought with the Britishers, did she sell herself ? Indira Gandhi as the prime minister of India , she governed the country, did she sell herself ? Today all the women who are working in their respective areas are they selling themselves ? All of us are bound with each other in unity and support, then why no one is coming to help me ?  I would like to have an answer from you?
  4.  Who has made the world?  Who gave birth to the powerful, intellectual fighters? If woman would not have been there, was it possible that India would have got i freedom or no? I am a woman, so why did this happen to me, answer me
  5.    My Education has been mocked at. I got my education at Gandhian school Rukmani Kanya Ashram, Dimripal. I strongly believe in the power of my education. Whether its naxal problem or any other, I can face  it.  Education is my tool  for survival and pen is my weapon of choice . Still they have put me in jail as a naxal supporter. Mahatma Gandhi also had the same tools. If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, then he would also have been put behind bars as a naxal supporter? I want to know from all of you
  6.  Why only the villagers, tribals are being put in jails as naxal supporters and cases have been fabricated against them? Many other people can be naxal supporters. Is it because they are illiterate, uneducated, simple people, living in huts in forests, and they have do not have money or is it because they have the capacity to tolerate torture much more? Why? I want to know from you people
  7.  We  Adivasis are being abused and tortured in many ways; we are accused of being naxal supporters, cases are being fabricated against us, even for 1-2 cases people are being kept in prison for 5-6 years. Neither there is judgement, nor bail or acquittal. After all why? Is it because we adivasi people do not have the calibre to fight the government or that government is not with adivasi. Or because adiiavsis are not sons/ daughters. Relatives of big political leaders. Till when the adivasis will be exploited, till when? I am asking all citizens of India, Answer  me
  8.  In jagdalpur and dantewada prisons, 16 year olds boys and girls were bought and they are now 20-21 years old. But still their cases are not being heard. If their cases will not be  heard in coming days or years, then what will be their future? Why so much atrocities upon the adivasis?  All social workers, intellectuals, NGOs, citizens  Please think
  9.  The Naxals looted my father’s house and shot my father in the leg making him disabled.  Why did they do that, they thought my father was a police informer.  About 20-25 people from my father’s village bade-bidema have been put in jail as naxal supporters. The naxalites punished by Father for their imprisonment. I want to know from you, tell me who is responsible for this? Government or police or my Father? Today there is no support or help for my father; instead the police administration is trying to implicate his daughter as a criminal. If he was a politician he  we would have got help but my father is a  ordinary villager and an adivasi, what will the government do for the adivasis? tell me

Struggling with Torture- woman of Chhattisgarh

Signed

Soni  Sori (Sodi)

सोनी सोरी के हम सब से कुछ सवाल – जेल से भेजा गया नया पत्र 03/02/2012

गुरूजी,आप सब सामाजिक कार्यकर्ताओं, बुद्धिजीवी संगठन वाले, मानवाधिकार महिला आयोग, देश वासियों से पीड़ित लाचार एक आदिवासी महिला आप सबसे अपने ऊपर किये अत्याचार का जवाब मांग रही है| और जानना चाहती है कि –
(१) मुझे करंट शार्ट देने से, मेरे कपड़े उतारकर नंगा करने से या शरीर में बेदर्दी के साथ कंकड गिट्टी डालने से क्या नक्सलवाद समस्या खत्म हो जायेगा| हम औरतों के साथ ऐसा अत्याचार क्यों| आप सब देशवासियों से जानना है |(२) जब मेरी कपड़े उतराया जा रहा था उस वक्त ऐसा लग रहा था कोई तो आये और मुझे बचा ले पर ऐसा नहीं हुआ| महाभारत में द्रोपती अपने वस्त्र अहरण में कृष्णजी को पुकारकर आपनी लज्जा को बचा ली| मैं किसे पुकारती मुझे तो कोर्ट न्यायालय द्वारा इनके हाथो में सौपी गई थी| ये नहीं कहूँगी कि मेरी लज्जा को बचा लो| अब मेरे पास बचा ही क्या है| हाँ आप सब से जानना चाहूंगी कि मेरे साथ ऐसा प्रताडना क्यों किया गया|

(३) पुलिस आफिसर अंकित गर्ग एस पी नंगा करके ये कहता है कि तुम रंडी औरत हो मदर सोद गोंड इस शरीर का सौदा नक्सली लीडरो से करती हो तुम्हारे घर में रात-दिन आते है| हमे सब पता है| जिससे एक अच्छी शिक्षिका होने का दावा करती हो| दिल्ली जाकर भी ये सब कर्म करती हो| तुम्हारी अवकात ही क्या तुम एक मामूली सी औरत का साथ इतने बड़े-बड़े लोग देंगे| पुलिस प्रशासन का आफिसर ऐसा क्यों कहा| आज इतिहास गवाह है कि देश की लड़ाई हो या कोई भी संकट हो नारियों का बहुत बड़ा योगदान रहा है| क्या झाँसी की रानी लक्ष्मीबाई अंग्रेजों से लड़ाई लड़ी तो क्या उसने अपने आप को सौदा किया| इन्दरागांधी देश की प्रधान मंत्री बनकर देश को चलाया तो क्या उसने अपने आप को सौदा किया| आज जो महिलाए हर कार्य क्षेत्र में आगे होकर कार्य कर रहे हैं| क्या वो महिलाये भी अपने आप को सौदा कर रहे है| हमारे देशवासी तो एक दूसरे के मदद एकता से जुड़े है| फिर हमारी मदद कोई क्यों नहीं कर सकता| आप सभी से जवाब जानना चाहूंगी|

(४) संसार की श्रृष्टि किसने किया| बलशाली, बुद्धिमान युद्धाओं का जन्म किसने दिया| यदि औरत जाति ना होती तो क्या देश की आजादी संभव था या नहीं| मैं भी तो एक औरत ही हूँ| फिर मेरे साथ ऐसा क्यों किया गया| जवाब दीजियेगा|

(५) मेरी शिक्षा को भी गाली दिया गया| मैं एक गांधीवादी स्कूल माता रुक्मणि कन्या आश्रम डिमरापाल में शिक्षा प्राप्त किया है| मुझे अपनी शिक्षा की ताकत पर पूरा विश्वास है| जिससे नक्सली क्षेत्र हो या कोई और समस्या फिर भी शिक्षा की ताकत से सामना कर सकती हूँ| मैंने हमेशा शिक्षा को वर्दी और कलम को हथियार माना है| फिर भी नक्सली समर्थक कहकर जेल में डाल रखा है| बापूजी के भी तो ये ही दो हथियार थे| क्या आज महात्मा गांधी जीवित होते तो क्या उन्हें भी नक्सल समर्थक कहकर जेल में डाल दिया जाता| आप सभी से जानना है|
(६) ग्रामीण आदिवासियों को ही नक्सल समर्थक कहकर फर्जी केस बनाकर जेलों में क्यों डाला जा रहा है| और लोग भी तो नक्सल समर्थक हो सकते हैं| क्या ये लोग अशिक्षित है सीधे-सादे जंगलों में झोपडियां बनाकर रहते हैं इसलिए या इनके पास धन नहीं या अत्याचार सहने की क्षमता है| आखिर क्यों| हमे आपलोगों से जानना है |

(७) हम आदिवासियों को अनेक तरह का अत्याचार करके, नक्सल समर्थक, फर्जी केस बनाकर, एक-दो केस के लिये भी ५ वर्ष ६ वर्ष से जेलों में रखा जा रहा है| ना कोई फ़ैसला, ना कोई जमानत, ना ही रिहाई| आखिर ऐसा क्यों| क्या हम आदिवासियों में सरकार से लड़ने की क्षमता नहीं है या सरकार आदिवासियों के साथ नहीं है| या ये लोग किसी बड़े नेताओ के बेटा, बेटी, रिश्तेदार नहीं हैं| कब तक आदिवासियो के साथ शोषण होते रहेगा, करते रहेंगे आखिर कब तक| आप सब देशवासियों से पूछ रही हूँ| जवाब दीजियेगा |

(८) जगदलपुर, दंतेवाड़ा जेलों में १६ वर्ष की उम्र में युवा-युवतियो को लाया गया वो युवा-युवतियां लगभग २०-२१ वर्ष के हो रहे है| फिर भी इन लोग का कोई सुनवाई नहीं हो रहा है| यदि कुछ दिनों वर्ष बाद इनकी सुनवाई भी होती है तो इन लोगों का भविष्य कैसा होगा| हम आदिवासियों के साथ ऐसा जुल्म क्यों? आप सभी सामाजिक कार्यकर्ताओं, बुद्धिजीवी संगठन वाले देशवासियों सोचियेगा |

(९) नक्सली मेरे पिता के घर को लूट लिये और मेरे पिता के पैर में गोली मारकर विकलांग बना दिया| पुलिस मुखबिर के नाम से ऐसा किया गया| मेरे पिता के गांव बड़े बेडमा से लगभग २०-२५ लोगों को नक्सली समर्थक कहकर जेल में डाल रखे हैं| जिसकी सजा नक्सली मेरे पिता को दिया| आप सबसे जानना है| बताइए इसके जिम्मेदार कौन है| सरकार या पुलिस प्रशासन या मेरे पिता| आज मेरे पिता के लिये किसी तरह का कोई सहारा नहीं दिया गया ना मदद किया गया| बल्कि उनकी बेटी को पुलिस प्रशासन अपराधी बनाने की कोशिश कर रही है| नेता होते तो शायद मदद मिलती मेरे पिता ग्रामीण निवासी और एक आदिवासी हैं| फिर सरकार आदिवासियों के लिये क्यों करेगा|

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