Mumbai – Critique of Maharashtra Women Policy- 2013 submitted by Women Groups #Vaw #Womenrights


CRITIQUE OF MAHARASHTRA WOMEN POLICY– 2013

SUBMISSION BY- MUMBAI WOMEN GROUPS AND ACTIVISTS

MAY 10TH 2013, Kamayani Bali Mahabal

The Mumbai Women groups and  activists submitted their critique to the Women  and Child Welfare Minister Varsha Gaikwad, at the   committee meeting held today for finalisation of the women policy. The committee has 11 members .

The submission stated that the  portrayal of women across the policy document reinforces gender stereotypes. The policy does not recognize women’s exploitation as a larger structural or systemic issue. The State continues to see women’s issues as ‘women’s problems’. An issue observed across the policy is that of referring to women as victims or pidit . The policy document typifies women as needy of welfare. So women are portrayed as victims and thus deserving of a piece in the development pie.

The objectives of the policy are very general and do not respond to the changing contexts and the current situation of women. It does not refer to any current data on women at the State level, for example, increasing caste violence, informalisation of labour in agriculture and otherwise, lowered sex ratio, honour killings, conditions of waste-pickers, sex workers, etc. The Policy with a very generic understanding of women’s concerns would lead to providing generic solutions

The policy is not framed within a rights based framework and this is evident from the titles of the sections which are for example day care centre, toilets, women’s hostels etc. The use of the term “adult unmarried women” (praudh kumarika)., assumes that all women have to be married by a certain age and those who cross that age would be referred to as adult unmarried women. So here we still function within the framework of family and marriage as the final goals to be strived for women. Anything outside of the family framework is treated as a problem to be addressed. In another place the word kalavantin has been used to typify women folk artists. The policy is oblivious of the fact that such a usage carries a very different connotation in terms of class and caste histories of exploitation. These and similar such usages probably would befit discussions in the 18th and 19th century but not so in the 21st century by which time we have benefited from learnings from the movement and feminist scholarship.All through the document sex selective abortion is referred to as female foeticide and this despite the fact that women’s movements have been crying hoarse over its use.

One of the very disturbing statements is regarding Sexual violence the reasons for which are attributed to mental illness amongst men or sexual distortions. One of the major contributions of the women’s movement has been to prove that violence is rooted in power and hierarchies whether they are related to case, class, gender, religion. Unfortunately the policy recognizes this not as an issue of broader systems and structures but one of individual malaise. The understanding of sex work also suffers from a similar problem. The entire discussion around sex work is under the broad title of sexually exploited women. Organisations working on the issue of sex work have time and again stated that sex work is not only about sexual exploitation. The policy should be explicit and state sex workers as sex workers and not try to portray them as ‘socially acceptable victims’

The policy is silent on the more pressing needs of the State, with its non committal on the reinstating of the women’s commission and its democratic functioning.. The policy comes across as a stand alone document with no forward or backward linkages. It does not take stock of the achievements of the past policies and neither does it mention the gender indicators which it wants to improve upon.

Below are some detailed critiques of chapters of the Policy Document

Chapter 5 – Awareness /Participation by NGOs….
• Instead of transferring the responsibility to NGOs the government should take full responsibility and take the onus of coordinating and networking with NGOs. They should become equally accountable to them.
• A trained social worker/ Counsellor should be appointed in every school and not a trained social volunteer as suggested to prevent student suicides
• Schools to be guided to undertake programmes/ activities with the purpose of bringing about awareness on gender equality
• The Censure board should include a member working on women’s issues
• When the nodal agency WCD makes training modules they should take inputs from NGOs experienced in that area before finalizing them
Miscellaneous
• The age limit for hiring a woman in crisis to a low cadre government job should be pushed back to 50, as many women between the ages of 35 and 50 years have never worked, and would therefore find it difficult to be seen as “employable”, making them vulnerable to poverty and further hardship, and exacerbating their crisis.
• Refresher training on gender issues to be offered to the police as well as school and college teachers at least once a year.

• MEDIA
• The provisions to grant powers to women commission, for approrpiate actiosn is very vague and arbitrary, unless they are defined .The issue of . Filming / video graphing in media of anything that is vulgar with a commercial purpose or insulting womanhood will be discouraged and such attempts will face legal actions. Rights of reinforcements in these matters will be assigned to an independent agency such as the Women Commission. Again, what is ‘vulgar with a commercial purpose’? Item numbers? Is every item number vulgar? How do we determine which ones harm women? How will such filming be discouraged? What on earth is the ‘rights of reinforcement’?. The policy document says formulating the censor board’ what does it mean, are they proposing a new censor board . The State policy should look at ways in which media can be used to empower women, instead of viewing media only through this punitive lens. This is very one-sided.
• Chapter 6- Education
Under the National Program for Education of girls at Elementary Level every blocks under each district of Maharashtra runs ‘Kasturba Gandhi Residential Schools. These schools are meant for girls and especially for those girls who are being employed as child labour and/or involved in home based work. Every school consists of 100 girls, due to which they could complete their education. Therefore we request that such programs must be implemented at all block levels. Today, it’s been functional only in few districts.

• Today most of the rural schools in Maharashtra do not have separate toilets for women school teachers and girls students. Therefore, separate toilets needs to be constructed for them.

• Every school must have complaints box, so that girl students who wants to complaint of sexual harassment can complete and report about the same. Also, there as to be redressal mechanism to address issues of sexual harassment at every school level.

• In spite of instituting monitoring committees at residential schools levels, which is suppose to hold meetings, submit regular reports to the higher authority, they do not act properly. Therefore there has to be a strict rules and regulations laid down for the same.

Chapter 9- Health

The Chapter on Health does not see women’s right to health as an individual in her own right and but simply as a mother, wife or daughter . The present policy however states the importance of women’s health more because it impacts the health of the child and the society at large. There is no mention of the social determinants of women’s health: poverty, caste, patriarchy as leading to poor nutrition, lack of access to medical care, etc in this section.

The promises such as a counselling centre per public health centre or every district will have a women’s hospital, the policy or the State absolves itself of providing basic primary health care for all, are very unrealistic .It shows disconnect with the ground reality wherein there are no well-functioning PHCs themselves or not stocked with basic medicines — iron and calcium for example for women. Rather than sensationalising the policy by giving everything “women special” there is a need for a more rational and sensitive health service in the State with focus on women, Dalits, tribals and other socially and economically discriminated sections.

• The Policy states about doing a new women health project, Instead of implementing yet another project, efforts should be made to gender sensitize other public health programs.
• Secondly the onus cant be on women alone, the accountability and responsiveness by the State needs to be mentioned.
• The Women’s orgs, NGOs and academic institutions should become obvious choices but they are not mentioned.PPP should not be an excuse by the State to wash its hands off from providing the services, instead, clear guidelines should be formulated to operationalise PPPs. T
• The Gender sensitivity programs should be across all carders of health care providers. It can’t be assumed that Physicians and those at decision making levels are sensitive.
• The policy should examine longer term strategies for addressing the social determinants of health. These are intended to highlight ways that gender inequality and health inequities (between women and men and between differing groups of women) can be addressed.
• To emphasize the importance of gender as a key determinant of women’s health and wellbeing.
• To recognize that women’s health needs vary according to their life stage.
• To prioritize the needs of women with the highest risk of poor health.
• To ensure that the health system is responsive and accountable to all women, with a clear focus on illness prevention and health promotion.
• To support collaborative research, monitoring, evaluation and knowledge transfer to advance the evidence base on women’s health.
• Instead of targeted health insurance , there should universal access to health care.
• Malnutrition is severe among women, the State should come up with a clear plan to combat it.
• Terminal care is needed for all women.
• Efforts will be made to improve women’s freedom to make decisions in regards of health and family planning.
• Special provisions should be made for health care for women in institutions such as prisons, shelter homes, women’s hostels, beggar homes etc.

In Chapter 15– Women and Law

Government of Maharashtra will adopt following measures for effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
• Provide safe working environment to its women employees at its workplaces which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace.
• Display at any conspicuous place in the workplace’ the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting, the Internal Complaints Committee.
• Organise workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the provisions of the Act and orientation programmes for the members of the Internal Committees in government offices.
• Provide necessary facilities to the Internal Committees or the Local Committees, as the case may be, for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry.
• Provide assistance to the woman if she so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force;
• Cause to initiate action, under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for time being in force, against the perpetrator, or if the aggrieved woman so desires, where the perpetrator is not an employee, in the workplace at which the incident of sexual harassment took place;
• Treat sexual harassment as misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for such misconduct.
• Monitor the timely submission of reports by the Internal Committee.
• Notify a District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate or Collector or Deputy Collector as District Officer for every District to exercise powers and functions under the Act.
• Monitor constitution of LCCs by the District Officers and appointment of Nodal Officers to be appointed by the District Officers in every block, taluka, tehsil in the rural area and in every Ward in the Municipal Corporation area.
• The Central government to pay State Governments grants of sums of money for payment of fees and allowances to be paid to the Chairperson and Members of the LCCs
• State Government to set up an agency to transfer the grants to the District Officer.
• The appropriate Government shall monitor the implementation of this Act and maintain data on the number of cases filed and disposed of in respect of all cases of sexual harassment at workplace. (Section 23).
• Receive the reports and monitor collection of annual reports to be received by the District officer (Section 21).
• Monitor the timely submission of reports furnished by the Local Committee to the district officer (Section 20).
• Monitor the measures taken by the District Officers for engaging non-governmental organisations for creation of awareness on sexual harassment and the rights of the women. (Section 20).
• Imposition of penalty on employers for non compliance with the provisions of the Act. (Section 26)
• Cancellation, of his license or withdrawal, or non-renewal, or approval, or cancellation of the registration for repeated non compliance to the Act. (Section 26)
• In the public interest or in the interest of women call and inspect records relating to sexual harassment from any workplace through the District officer (Section 25)
• Authorise officers to make inspection of the records and workplace in relation to sexual harassment, who shall submit a report of such inspection (Section 25)
• Provide finance and other such resources to develop relevant information, education, communication and training materials, and organise awareness programmes, to advance the understanding of the public of the provisions of this Act providing for protection against sexual harassment of woman at workplace (Section 24)
• Provide finance and other such resources to formulate orientation and training programmes for the members of the Local Complaints Committees. (Section 24)

PWDVA
• Wider publicity should be given by the government not only to women and girls, but also to men; government officials should set an example.
• Sensitizing police officials is not enough. Make them accountable through administrative and penal provisions if they refuse to assist the woman who complains of domestic violence.
• Protection officers – need to be trained as well as monitored. There has to be a system of accountability; more protection officers need to be appointed as the present number is inadequate.
• NGOs can play a complementary role, but the responsibility of implementing the Act cannot be outsourced to NGOs, as it is essentially a state responsibility.
• Political will to implement the Act needs to be exhibited through an adequate budgetary allocation and provision of required infrastructural facilities for personnel under the Act.
Suggestions regarding Special Court / Family Courts:
• Travelling allowance to needy women who attend court – proper criteria needs to be set, to avoid ad hocism and discrimination.
• For every court date, working women need to take half day or full day leave, which results in a loss of earning. Appropriate measures need to be taken to address this problem.
• Vacancies in family courts need to be filled up promptly to ensure that pendency of cases does not increase.
• Family court judges need to be trained to inculcate a gender perspective – they should not prioritize saving the marriage at the cost of physical security and mental well-being of the woman.
• There has to be a system of regular updation of knowledge of family court judges, and a proper system of monitoring the judgments delivered and the perspective with which such judgments are delivered.
• The state free legal aid service needs to be strengthened; legal aid lawyers should be competent professionals with integrity, who should undergo adequate training; women should not be subjected to harassment and demand of bribe by the legal aid lawyers.
• Fast track courts, if started, should not compromise over rights of the accused to a fair trial, and should follow the safeguards in law to balance the interests of the accused and the complainant.
Helplines for Women
Clarity is required on the following issues:

It is positive step that government has announced setting up of 1091 as a helpline number. The most important is that it should be placed within the police control room and should be operated by Police personnel and should be supported with regular trainings of police personnel and adequate publicity for the number to be known to people so that it can be effectively used by women in crisis. There should be a standardize catergorisation across the state and there should be systematic documentation of calls, action taken.

Elderly / Senior Women
• Its important to train police officials to be sensitive to the difficulties faced by the elderly, particularly elderly women
• They should not be called to the police station often
• Stringent action should be taken against police officials who refuse to register a complaint by elderly women, and against those who take a bribe from their relatives

Trafficking of Women

• The government needs to de-link trafficking and sex work completely, as trafficking of women and girls is done not only for sexual exploitation but also for cheap and exploitative labour, for forced marriage, adoptive or other intimate relationships.
• Ensure proper and effective implementation of Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA);
• Issue strict directions to law enforcement officials to act bona fide and with due diligence;
• Take strict action against public officials who are complicit in or connive with the perpetrators in trafficking of women;
• Ensure that women’s human rights including the right to dignity and privacy are respected at all stages of the legal proceedings, including at the time of registration of FIR, investigation and prosecution;
• Provide free legal aid to trafficked women, and protect them from intimidation / threat / coercion from the traffickers;
• Issue directions to all law enforcement and health officials not to conduct mandatory medical examinations on trafficked women, including for HIV / AIDS; the same is to be conducted only on a voluntary basis, if requested by the woman concerned;
• Provide adequate, confidential and affordable medical and psychological care to trafficked women,
• Ensure that strictly confidential HIV testing services are provided only if requested by the woman concerned, and any and all HIV testing is accompanied by appropriate pre- and post-test counselling;
• Any state initiatives for ‘rescue and relief’ of trafficked women should be conducted in a planned manner, with the participation of civil society groups, and after putting in place provisions to meet the needs of trafficked women;
• In contexts of inter-country trafficking, repatriation of the women to their country of origin should be resorted to, only after due consideration of the woman’s wishes;
• Provide directions to state enforcement officials not to detain trafficked women in nari niketans / government-run homes or institutions, as the trafficked women have committed no crime and their rights have to be respected;
• The state has to address the issue of trafficking, not only through a law and order approach that focuses on criminal law, prosecution and punishment, but through a human rights approach that keeps the trafficked woman’s right to privacy, dignity and other human rights at the centrality of state response.
• Strengthen measures to alleviate poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity, as well as educational, social and cultural measures to discourage the demand that fosters exploitation and leads to trafficking, particularly of women
• Provide adequate livelihood opportunities for rural women in order that migration is not the only means to secure reasonable wages and an adequate standard of living
• Address the structural causes of violence against women to ensure that migration is not resorted to as a means of escaping from violence and discrimination at the place of origin
• Put in place gender-specific interventions for contexts of natural disasters, displacement, political instability, civil unrest, internal conflict including communal violence, as such contexts exacerbate women’s vulnerabilities and may result in an increase in trafficking;
• Mandatory testing for HIV, as conceived of in the women’s policy, is violative of women’s human rights. Instead, women should be given information and raise their awareness about the advantages of testing.

Shelter

• The condition in Maharashtra government’s shelter homes is despicable, and does not provide a safe environment for women to live in, due to many incidents of sexual exploitation and rape in shelter homes. A social audit of all shelter homes operating in the state is required urgently.
• Ensure that all shelter homes are registered under the relevant laws, and that provisions for frequent monitoring of the conditions of the homes are implemented
• At present, women are so terrified of shelter homes that they would rather tolerate the violence in their matrimonial homes. This situation needs to change for the better, if the Maharashtra government is serious about empowering women.
• Ensure that shelter homes are provided with adequate facilities and a clean environment for the physical and mental well-being of the inmates
• Counselling, psychiatric and medical services should be provided
• Surprise checks should be conducted to ensure the proper management of shelter homes
• Financial audit requires to be done, as required.

Implementation of the Section 498 (A) IPC

1. In depth and intensive multidisciplinary research and documentation in the area of violence against women and law are required. There should be concerted efforts for coordinated research projects involving stakeholders like the police, judiciary, women’s organisations and academic institutions.

2. Capacity building for skilful investigations of crimes against woman will help in sensitive handling of cases. A protocol or ‘drill’ for investigation in cases of Section 498A IPC should be developed. The focus should be on women as citizen’s experiencing violence within the family.

3. Capacity building to enable the Criminal Justice System to uphold mental violence as legitimate evidence and render legally relevant facilities in cases of mental and emotional abuse will help address the current situation. Mental violence should be treated at par with physical violence.

4. The judicial decisions of compounding/reconciliation in cases of Section 498A should be critically reviewed through research.
PCPNDT ACT

The Policy says In order to make the PC-PNDT law provisions mandatory, the government will form a new protocol under PC-PNDT Act and will strictly implement it. This is a central act and they cannot make their own protocols. The State needs to ensure implementation of law without backlash on the right to abortion to women.

A recent survey conducted in the slums of Mumbai by Women Networking (an informal network of community organizations, NGOs and individuals) has revealed that while 65% of the respondents (out of 700) were aware of the law on sex selection only 24 per cent knew that abortion is legal in our country. This high-level of awareness of PCPNDT Act is an outcome of the government’s efforts to save the girl child, but it has inadvertently resulted in mortality rate as high as 8% among women who are forced to approach ill trained health practitioners for abortions, because of poor awareness on women’s right to abortion. In Mumbai, the medical shops are directed not to sell drugs & injections related to abortion and contraception without a prescription from authorized doctors. The Maharashtra Policy needs to ensure that under no circumstances the right to abortion as stipulated in the Medical Termination of tHE Pregnancy (MTP) Act be curtailed.

Limiting access to safe abortion methods only pushes women towards unsafe methods, thereby endangering their health and survival. Monitoring women buying pills from pharmacies is regressive as it undermines the confidentiality aspect of abortion and can lead to harassment of women at the hands of officials. Such regulations are discriminatory and curtail autonomy of women over their own body, right to dignity and right to benefit from advances of science, medicine and technology.
Sex selection is a phenomenon which emerges from gender discrimination and socio-economic bias. All efforts to prevent sex selection must seek to address issues of gender discrimination, instead of further constraining women’s access to safe abortion services

Chapter- 19- Physically disabled and mentally challenged women

The chapter on women with disabilities finishes in 12 lines , which says a lot . The language should be women with psycho social disabilities and not physically disabled and mentally challenged . The Women with disabilities do not need ‘ Sypmathy” as the policy document says but ‘Empathy. Clubbing them with senior citizens is not at all justice to their needs and rights . They need more of integration with society and the so called normal citizens need to be sensitized with issue and concerns of women with psycho social disabilities especially the teachers , than, having special schools. The Policy only addresses physical access to transport and does not even touch upon the issue of forced psychiatric interventions and institutionalization. These acts of violence are done under the legal authority of the state, and in pursuance of wrong and discriminatory state policy, and there is no possibility of redress, emphasizing the message of all violence that tells the victim she is powerless.

There have been instances for forced sterilization were in the range of 5-7% for the combined group and 7.5% for women with mental disabilities. The high incidences of sterilization of women with disabilities happen because families and community do a role reversal viewing them as incapable of motherhood, which goes unchecked. Unjustified administration of drugs {tranquillizing the woman to ‘shut her up’) or withdrawal of drugs also comes under the realm of physical abuse. We see regular over medication of patients. There is no prescription audit and we are demanding it. Over medication is leading to patients having serious side effects and not being able to participate in the rehabilitation programs

Voluntary admissions, hospitalization and discharge favor men more than women. A study of five mental hospitals in the state of Maharashtra revealed that while men are admitted to hospitals for treatment in the early stages of diagnosis, women are “dumped” here only after their illness turns chronic ie when they turn dysfunctional and are unable to comply with their social roles. The policy needs to address
1. The Gender Gaps in Mental Health Treatment
2. Marriage and Lack of legal aid in rural areas
3. Stop Institutionalization
4. Initiate Community linked programmes
5. Legally ban forced sterilization of girls
6. Make policies which are more catered towards the needs of the women with disabilities.
7. Audit and monitor on a regular basis to make sure the implementation of these policies.
8. Bringing in accessibility features so as to make access to enforcement agencies and various redressal mechanisms easier and available.
9. ECT is used in most hospitals without permission
10. Punishment of erring officials and duty bearers.

Chapter 23– Sexually Exploited Women

This policy conflates trafficked women and those that are in sex work of their volition.
This is a deliberate attempt to ignore the supreme court who in the case of Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal , wherein a regular criminal appeal relating to the murder of a sex worker in Kolkata was converted into a broader PIL to look into the issue of rehabilitation of sex workers. A panel was constituted by the Supreme Court order
dated 19.07.2011 with the following terms of reference:
• Prevention of trafficking,
• Rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work, and
• Conditions conducive for sex workers to live with dignity in
accordance with the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution (as modified by the order of the Supreme Court dated 26.07.2012).The Policy by the state of maharashtra clearly conflates all the three above instead of following the orders of the supreme court of India.

Chapter 24- Transgenders (Sr.No 24)

A welcome move to include transgender, the policy only suggests ‘preventive measures’ for stopping people from being transgender. It suggests that this can be done through monitoring pregnant mothers and hormonal levels. The policy shows a lack of sensitivity and understanding of the issue. One of the reasons cited for being a transgender is “under too much influence of women” or the reason for being transgender as a ‘distortion’, which reflects the level of empathy among the government for people’s choices.

• Definition of Transgender is absolutely incorrect – archaic words such as gender deformity, chop of their genitals etc are used.
Alternate definitions
– Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. (American Psychological Association)

– Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s assigned sex (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex -) ^ a b Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. ‘’GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender glossary of terms”‘’GLAAD’’, USA, May 2010. Retrieved on 2011-02-24.)

– Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, ect.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing. Transgender people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man.
http://geneq.berkeley.edu/lgbt_resources_definiton_of_terms#transgender ; Retrieved on 08-05-2013)
• Lesbian and bi-sexual women have been totally ignored in the policy -They need to be included
• The paragraph on preventive measures makes no sense and should be scrapped
• There is a complete welfare approach adopted rather than a rights based approach in the policy as far as transgenders are concerned
• There is no need for having a separate comprehensive Act for them to live a life of Dignity. The constitution already provides these rights. The changes are required through rigorous sensitization of stake holders and civil society and creation of structures to enable them to get their basic rights.eg modification of all official documents to include a sex option apart from male and female etc.
• Need to incorporate non-discrimination and equal employment opportunities in public and private organizations as well.

The Submissions by- Women Organisations / Networks and Individual activists
• Akshara
• Forum against Sex Selection- FASS
• Jan Swasthya Abhiyan- Mumbai
• Point of View
• Sneha
• Veshya Mukti Morcha
Individuals –
• Anagha Sarpotdar
• Kamayani Bali Mahabal
• Saumya Uma

The Global Fund Should Take Transparency to Another Level #Ngos


Robert Bourgoing

18 Apr 2013

When I joined the Global Fund in 2003, my main responsibility, as the Manager of Online Communications, was to help the organisation deliver on its commitment to transparency. One of the conditions set forth by donors was the ability to trace every granted dollar to make aid recipients accountable for how it would be spent. This meant, among other things, developing and maintaining a website that quickly became a central repository of all Global Fund data and information. We were praised for the unprecedented level of openness that this made possible. But over time, I realised that something was (and still is) missing.

If you Google “Global Fund” + AIDS for news stories, the overwhelming majority of results are articles that are reactive (i.e. based on official announcements, press releases and conferences) or that make reference to the Fund only indirectly or anecdotally.

Apart from experts in donor governments and a handful of technical partners, Aidspan and the likes, very few local organisations or people take advantage of Global Fund transparency to trigger open and well-informed discussions on aid effectiveness. How can this be when all the data and documents are “just a mouse click away”? Close to $20 billion were disbursed in a few years. Where did it all go? Who got it? To do what? With what success?

The Fund’s website should be an extraordinary tool to get the facts right on those questions. It should be a gold mine of stories for local journalists, civil society organisations (CSOs), activists and parliamentarians in recipient countries. But, for the most part, they aren’t panning for this gold. What is transparency all about if it doesn’t translate into increased accountability at country level, and if people and communities for whom the Global Fund was created don’t use it to keep pressure on grantees, to voice their concerns and claim their rights?

The flip side of transparency

The reality is that using Global Fund data to make recipients accountable is out of reach to most concerned people because they lack access to the Internet, because they don’t have enough time or the technical skills – and because there are obstacles to freedom of information and speech.

Global Fund transparency, as it is practised today, is more of a barrier to journalists and in-country activists than anything else: intimidating piles of reports filled with obscure language, countless files and downloadable materials that reassure technocrats in donor capitals but that don’t say much about the reality of what happens to the funds when they hit the ground. Understanding, processing and making use of this information requires learning about technical jargon, Global Fund internal processes, and the roles and responsibilities of different local partners. One needs to be familiar with web searching techniques and data processing methods, and to have some basic communication skills to translate often indigestible data into a plain, common language that non-technical audiences can understand.

Last, but not least, trying to make the powerful accountable in countries with no such tradition is a risky game for the few activists and concerned citizens who dare to do so. With the rise of the “Open Government” and “Open Data” movements in Africa and elsewhere, people may fear less for their lives than they used to, but threats and intimidation are still very much a daily reality for local watchdogs.

This leads to a strange paradox. As I heard recently: “That is almost the flip side of transparency. It’s very easy to use transparency if actually you want to drown people in information. I know it’s a tactic for lawyers: just give too much information to people, and it will be difficult for them to really figure out what is important.” Certainly, the Global Fund did not create this complexity consciously and voluntarily, but the result is the same: mountains of data and files that have the effect of shielding grantees and the Fund’s bureaucracy from too much scrutiny.

From technical transparency to local oversight and accountability

Today, in the wake of the Global Fund, a growing number of international organizations have committed to making their information on aid spending easier to find, use and compare. More than 120 UN agencies, multilateral banks, bilateral donors and NGOs have already endorsed the IATI (the International Aid Transparency Initiative) and have agreed to convert their data into a common standard. While this is a major step in the right direction, a simple lesson should be drawn from the Global Fund’s experience: Opening up databases is not enough for change to occur in the way local accountability happens. Rather, change requires a real commitment to accompany those for whom this data is made available as they make their first steps in the maze of aid transparency.

Here is what I think needs to happen.

Build capacity to use Global Fund data. Local watchdogs need help to stay afloat in the aid data deluge, to learn how to use the tools of transparency to have impact. While their work may not require the same level of technical sophistication as global watchdogs, they need training. They need to be able to understand who does what and where to find the information. They need to acquire watchdogging skills, using real-life case studies and guidance based on local needs. Watchdogs usually don’t focus on one single aid provider; no organisation would be justified in developing such a programme in isolation. Therefore, the capacity building should be a shared responsibility, and a combined and coordinated effort, by all concerned parties, such as the IATI signatories and some global or regional players in the field of transparency. The Global Fund has the credibility to take the lead on this. It should sit down with IATI partners to explore how a step-by-step, scalable, replicable and carefully targeted capacity-building programme could be implemented. As a critical side effect, such an initiative could provide some recognition to participating local aid monitors, thus breaking their isolation and protecting them in the exercise of their democratic rights.

Declare war on gobbledygook. Besides data, transparency is first and foremost about communicating in plain language. How much sense does it make for thousands of people, including the Secretariat’s own staff, to have to turn to a newsletter like the GFO to understand the rules of the game of a multi-billion dollar transparent organisation? The Global Fund should elevate proper communications with implementers (and others) to a top priority. The Fund should stop relying on technical staff to draft documents that are meant for wide distribution. It should reinforce the capacity of its Communication Department by adding writers who can translate complex policies and procedures into plain language.

Conclusion

If the Global Fund were to support and encourage local watchdogs, this would constitute a valuable early warning system for the Fund – one that complements the work of the local fund agents and the Office of the Inspector General. Building the capacity of local watchdogs to use transparency could greatly reinforce the Fund’s own risk management and fraud prevention efforts, at little cost. The Global Fund should also tackle its poor communications with implementing countries by addressing the Secretariat’s capacity issues in this field. With the 2015 MDG deadline on the horizon and the development community bracing for what comes next, with pressure on the Fund to improve its oversight mechanisms, and with the need for the Fund to position itself for a possible redefinition of its mandate, these measures could reassure donors about its capacity to be a truly different business model in international development.

The Global Fund should renew its commitment to transparency and take bold steps to promote wide use of its transparency in recipient countries. Information is power. It’s time to give power to those for whom the Global Fund was created so that transparency can fully achieve what it is meant for.

Robert Bourgoing (email) joined the Global Fund in its early days, in 2003, and was a senior member of its communications team until last year. He is a trained lawyer and an experienced journalist, and currently works as an independent consultant.

 

 

Where Virginity Is For Sale in India #Vaw #devdasi


 

By Joanna Sugden, http://blogs.wsj.com/

Joanna Sugden for The Wall Street Journal
Bheemakka, 11, in ‘Bandhavi’, Koppal, Karnataka.

In Koppal, an impoverished district in Karnataka, virginity is for sale.

When girls dedicated in local temples under the illegal devadasi system hit puberty, their virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Traditionally girls in this district in south India undergo an 11-day purification ceremony following the onset of menstruation. The “first maturity” ceremony, as they call it in Koppal, marks the transition into womanhood.

Bheemakka, who doesn’t have a surname because she doesn’t know who her father is, went through the puberty ritual in March, but she wasn’t sold.

The 11-year-old’s mother and grandmother are both devadasis, which means female servants of god. They were dedicated to the Hindu deity Yellamma as children and sold off after hitting puberty. They have been used by the men in their village for sex since their early teens.

Bheemakka says she was covered in turmeric and sandlewood paste as part of the purification process. After washing off the concoction, she was kept indoors for 11 days. Afterwards, her neighbors came over for a party.

“I enjoyed the attention,” says Bheemakka, wearing a bright pink shirt stretched tight over her chest and a red wilting flower clipped into her black braided bunches. “But I’m not going to become one of them.”

She means a devadasi. “Society looks down on them and they are labeled as prostitutes.”

Some say the original devadasi system of giving over females in service or marriage to a deity dates back to the ninth Century, but others believe it has existed in some form since 2500 B.C.

Their role and status have changed over the years.

In their heyday, between the 13th and 16th centuries, devadasis were high caste, educated women — sometimes from royal families — who performed dances for Yellamma, the deity, and looked after the temple precinct. They were forbidden from marrying mortals.

Historians record that by the 16th Century the role of devadasis had become sexualized and they were regarded in the community as auspicious high-class mistresses who men could visit for sex with impunity. Successive legislation to ban the practice since the 19th Century however meant that their status declined and lower caste women began to take their place.

The system was outlawed in Karnataka in 1982 but it is still widely practiced, mainly by poor, illiterate Dalit women in the northern parts of Karnataka, in places like Koppal, according to charities working in the region.

Many devadasis in Koppal have one partner who is usually already married and regards the devadasi as his “second woman” but not a legal wife. Other devadasis who don’t have the support of one man, known as a mallik (master), have many partners.

The penalty for anyone taking part in a devadasi dedication is up to five years imprisonment.

Joanna Sugden for The Wall Street Journal
Girls at ‘Bandhavi’ revised for their exams.

Government rehabilitation programs for ex-devadasis offer 400 rupees ($7.25) a month as a “pension” for the 46,000 women they have identified in Karnataka who say they have given up the role. Local NGOs working with both devadasi and ex-devadasi women say that amount is a pittance and not enough to deter women from continuing as devadasis with quasi-support from a partner.

“Every time they get paid the pension they have to give some back as a bribe,” said Nazar P. Sainudheen, an advocacy co-ordinator for Visthar, an NGO working with devadasi women and their children in Koppal since 2005. “They aren’t empowered enough to take a stand,” he added.

Nagar Raj, general manager of the Karnataka government’s Women’s Development Corporation, says sometimes there is a delay in getting the money to the women. “But we have not received any complaints about bribery,” he said.

Mr. Raj added that the devadasi system was “not existing” in Karnataka now because of better education. “If anyone is practicing they can be arrested,” he said.

But David Selvaraj, founder and director of Visthar, says programs and legislation have failed to eradicate the devadasi practice.

“You can go to temples where there will be a plaque on the wall saying that dedication of daughters is banned and round the back there will be a room where those dedications still take place,” Mr. Selvaraj says.  “It’s an abuse of women with a religious sanction.”

In 2010, his organization set up a free school and residential home called Bandhavi (meaning “friend” in Kannada, the local language) for the daughters of devadasi women who are at risk of being dedicated into the system.

Bheemakka is one of its pupils. After her 11 days of purification she returned to the school, located on a copper-orange patch of land in the village of Chikkabidanal, just beyond Karnataka’s fertile cotton belt.

The 11-year-old left her job working as an agricultural laborer to join the school in 2011 after a team from Visthar arrived in her village asking if anyone wanted to have a taster day at the school.

“If I didn’t come to school my brain wouldn’t grow and I wouldn’t get to know what is right and what is wrong,” she says. Above her on the classroom wall is a portrait of perhaps India’s most famous Dalit, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who drafted the country’s constitution.

“He was a poor boy like us,” says Bheemakka before rattling off his achievements in enshrining freedom of religion and equality in the constitution.

There are 100 girls at the school. Mr. Selvaraj says he could fill it many times over with the daughters of devadasi in the area.  Some have entered child marriages or been rescued from child labor. Most, according to Mr. Selvaraj, were at risk of being made devadasis.

It costs $24 a month to look after a pupil at the school. Around 80% of the funding comes from Kindernothilfe, a German NGO.

Around half of the pupils, like Bheemakka, don’t have enough education to go straight into mainstream school so they join the Bandhavi bridge school where they learn the basics as well as lessons on current affairs and human rights.

Another pupil at Bandhavi, 15-year-old Jyothi, says one of the best things about the school is not being teased about her parents.

“Outside, other children used to say to me, ‘We don’t know how many men your mother has slept with and then you were born.’ Here that doesn’t happen,” Jyothi says.

Both Jyothi and Bheemakka say their mothers are happy that they have joined Bandhavi. But money worries can sometimes tempt them to remove the girls from the school.

“Our mothers’ dreams are very small,” said Bheemakka.

These small dreams mean their mothers believe it may be easier to put them to work in the fields and eventually as devadasis, she added.

“It’s not because our mothers are our enemies,” Bheemakka says. “The situation and the cost of daily life make them think that we shouldn’t be here… But it’s only for a short time and we can bring change because of our learning.”

Bheemakka says she hopes to become a teacher and help others enjoy their childhood and education.

“I’m expected to do the same as my mother and go down that channel,” she says. “But I’m going to break the chain.”

Joanna Sugden is freelance journalist living in Delhi. Before coming to India in 2011 she spent four-and-a-half years as a reporter at The Times of London, covering religion and education. You can follow her on Twitter @jhsugden.

Gujarat- Illegal mining in Tapi district causing havoc to environment


 Adivasi Ekta Parishad

 http://www.counterview.net

Ashok Shrimali

By Our Representative

The Adivasi Ekta Parishad has strongly protested against the alleged large-scale illegal mining of soil, rampant in Valod taluka of tribal-dominated Tapi district in South Gujarat. In a representation to the Gujarat government, a copy of which was submitted to the local executive magistrate, Valod, the parishad, which is an all-India body functioning in several states, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, has said that truckloads of soil is being transported from Mordevi village to elsewhere “without any information being provided about the area for which the permission has been granted, and the amount for which mining has been allowed.” The statement wonders if there is any record with the state government about all this.

The statement, which has been signed by Lalsinh Gamit, president of the Kosambia gram samiti, on behalf of the parishad, wanted the Gujarat government to clarify whether the state geology department has permitted mining of the area, and whether the gram sabha has allowed for the same, and if yes then when was it done and in the presence of which government official. “Truckloads carrying soil from the rural area take the soil indiscriminately, passing through the single track road, despite the fact that the road cannot bear such heavy load. This has led to at least two accidents, out of which one proved to be fatal”, the statement reads, adding, “This apart, the illegal mining activity is leading to the destruction of the environment and the rich agricultural land in the area.”
The statement demands that the Gujarat government immediately take action under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, on those who are doing illegal mining. PESA requires the scheduled tribal areas to be covered under tribal self-rule. It envisages giving liberty to tribals to follow their own customs and have control over their own resources through traditional rights. Gujarat is one of the many states where PESA has been put into force. Under it, criminal proceedings can be undertaken against those violating the tribals’ self-rule provisions.

Mining in progress

The statement says, “The government officials know pretty well that anyone who carries out mining in an area of two acres or more would require Gram Sabha approval, otherwise it would be violation of PESA. Permission was granted only to do mining for 2.8 lakh metric tonnes of soil, yet there is no record of how this permission was granted and the area for which it was given. It is the right of the villagers to know this.” It warns of protest against “illegal” mining in the area, adding, “Under the fifth and sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution, it is illegal to mine natural resources of a forest area without necessary permission of the villagers.”
Significantly, representatives from Valod went to the Mines, Mineral and People general assembly session, which was held at Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh recently, where they raised the issue during the convention. Speaking on their behalf, Ashok Shrimali, a state-based senior activist who is executive member of Mines, Minerals and People, and is associated with two other NGOs, Setu and Samata, said, “Recently one development going on in Valod block villages of Tapi district. Villagers are fighting against Soma construction, which is converting the national highway between Surat and Dhulia into four-lane. The construction company is mining soil from the nearby villages without the approval of the villagers. Due to this, there has been direct adverse impact on existing sugar cane crop. Everyday more than 50 truckloads are transporting four times in a day.”

He informed the assembly that there is continuous protest by villagers of the area. A few days back, about 20 trucks were stopped from taking soil from the area, as they believed this was being done in violation of the tribal people’s fundamental constitutional right over their resources. Local officials and cops had to intervene. “PESA should be immediately activated in the area and mining of the region should be stopped”, he said. The issue was seriously taken up by the assembly, which decided to take it up with the authorities concerned in Delhi.

Sand mining area

Mining in the region is common. Following rampant illegal mining in the bed of Tapi river, the state mining department this February decided to book repeated offenders of illegal sand mining activity under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act. Till now, no such strict action was contemplated, as a result of which illegal sand mining became rampant. In February alone, the government’s geology department caught 23 trucks of illegally-mined sand and fined more than Rs 10 lakh to the sand lease mafia owners.
The biggest problem of the region is considered to be of sand lease contractors. They have a lease for mining specific quantity of sand from specified area of the river bed. But, they under the pretext of lease, mine much bigger area and much higher quantity of sand incurring huge loss to government coffers. The geology department has started registering police complaint in the sand theft cases. However it remains to be seen how much of a deterrent it will serve.

 

PUCL- JP Memorial Lecture – New Social Movements, New Perspectives


New Social Movements, New Perspectives

Nivedita Menon

Her side of the storyNivedita MenonPhoto: SAMPATH KUMAR G.P.

photo courtesy- : SAMPATH KUMAR G.P.

JP Memorial Lecture March 23, 2013

 

We stand at an electrifying and exciting moment of history, when new forces are coming into view through a range of movements, shaking the foundations of political power. They do not seek to ‘capture’ political power but rather, to make it accountable and answerable to ‘the people’. The massive upsurges against corruption and against the Delhi gang-rape, whose reverberations were heard in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Nepal, tie up with a global moment which has been marked by similar unrest in different parts of the world – the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the youth movement in Bangladesh against the Islamic right-wing and for a return to the secular ideals of the 1971 liberation struggle.

But there are dots that connect these current rounds of movements to a longer history of non-party activism in India, which I want to trace in my presentation, before returning to the present and the difficult questions we face about democracy today.

In the long history of people’s movements in India, we have seen them take different forms. I’m referring of course, to non-party movements, among the first of which is the JP movement itself, whose ultimate demise, as is widely accepted now, can be traced to its takeover by political parties.

Today I will try to map the forms that people’s movements have taken since the 1980s, and it should be clear that the focus will be on what we perceive as ‘new’ movements. Thus, I will not refer to the long struggles against the Indian state in Kashmir and the North East because a discussion of those requires another lecture altogether that will question the very legitimacy of the claim of India to be a Nation.

A new kind of social and political action emerged in the 1980s, that we might call citizens’ initiatives. These non-funded and non-party forums came into being out of a sense of the inefficacy of mainstream political parties and their lack of concern regarding vital issues of democracy, freedom and civil rights. ‘Citizens’ initiatives’ have been more involved in a watchdog kind of activity and are not generally characterized by mass support. While some are small, self-sufficient groups of long standing, others are broad coalitions formed around specific issues, that bring together parties and trade unions of the far left, Gandhian, Dalit and feminist groups, some of which may be funded NGOs, as well as non-affiliated individuals. The distinguishing feature of such coalitions is that all the constituents are subject to the ‘common minimum programme’ set collectively by the forum, and separate party/organizational agenda are not meant to influence the activity of the forum. The tension that this sets up between differing imperatives is usually also the reason for the short-lived nature of such forums, which tend to dissipate after a period of intense and often very effective interventions.

Among the first citizens’ initiatives that came into existence were around civil liberties and democratic rights. Acquiring particular salience in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency, a number of such organizations came into being throughout the country. For instance, the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR) set up during the Emergency later split into the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), with a more leftist perspective on ‘rights’ including economic rights, while the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) decided to focus on ‘civil liberties’ more narrowly. There was a string of such formations in the country. In many states like Andhra Pradesh (the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee – APCLC) and West Bengal (Association for the Protection of Democratic Right – APDR), the main initiative for the formation of such civil liberties and democratic rights organizations came from activists linked to the far Left groups. We distinguish such forums from what are called ‘human rights organizations’, many of which are funded organizations that work in tandem with internationally evolving agendas. The latter we would place under the rubric of  ‘NGOs’.

Such groups have continued to play an active role in the years since, painstakingly documenting and exposing cases of civil liberties and democratic rights violations. In recent years they have also been actively campaigning against capital punishment. While the initial impulse for their formation was the violation by the state of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, they have over the last two and a half decades expanded their activities to address violations of freedoms by non-state actors in the context of caste, gender and sectarian/ communal violence. Some of them have also taken up questions of the worst cases of exploitation of labour, which effectively nullify rights and liberties sanctioned by the Constitution to all citizens.

A recent significant battle fought by one such citizens’ group – Committee for Fair Trial for SAR Geelani – demonstrates how effective such interventions can be. Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, a lecturer of Arabic in a Delhi college, was one of the ‘prime accused’ in the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. Following as it did on ‘9/11’, the incident got inserted into the stridently nationalist discourse that drew nourishment from both the Hindu-right dominated NDA government and the rhetoric of George Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’. A group of teachers and students of Delhi University kept up a consistent struggle to ensure a fair trial for SAR Geelani in the bleak days of 2002, when one of the worst state-sponsored carnages of post-Independence Indian history was in progress in Gujarat, and Geelani was not only sentenced to death by a POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) court but also subjected to a blatant media trial pronouncing him guilty even before the court verdict. Eventually a national level Committee was formed, drawing in respected academics like Rajni Kothari and writer Arundhati Roy, while lawyers like Nandita Haksar and others undertook to fight the case on Geelani’s behalf. Their patient and unrelenting work was successful in exposing what turned out to be a blatant frame-up. Geelani was acquitted and released. The Geelani case revealed the extent to which democracy can be subverted by the discourse on ‘national security’. However, it also demonstrated that spaces for democratic intervention are not entirely closed off.

Of course, this was only a partial victory and the December 13th attack on parliament has a darker story behind it which we cannot go into now, the latest episode of which was the unjust execution of Afzal Guru for a crime the Supreme Court conceded he did not commit.

Another set of citizens’ initiatives that came since 1984 and the massacre of Sikhs were several anti-communal groups in different parts of the country. One of the earliest of these was a forum called the Nagarik Ekta Manch, formed in 1984 itself. This was an initiative where people from different backgrounds and vocations came together to work in the relief camps – collecting and distributing relief materials, helping people file claims and so on. At about the same time, another group, the Sampradayikta Virodhi Andolan (SVA) was formed in Delhi, focusing primarily on public campaigns, attempting simultaneously to find a different language in which to conduct such campaigns. A wide debate was sparked in secular circles by one of the slogans evolved by the SVA to counter the Hindu right-wing campaign on Ramjanmabhoomi, discussed in Chapter 2. This slogan, in a radical departure from secular strategy, appealed to the religious Hindu – kan-kan mein vyaape hain Ram/Mat bhadkao danga leke unka naam (Ram is in every atom/let not His name be used to incite violence).

These could be said to have been precursors to a series of new initiatives in different towns and cities of India that came into being in the 1990s, especially in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the communal violence that followed. Perhaps the most significant part of the citizens’ actions of the 1990s was that they took up the struggle that was all but abandoned by political parties – whether ruling or opposition, Right or Left. Through this period groups have worked throughout India, engaging in a range of activities – street demonstrations and sit-ins to engage the public in debate and discussion, designing and implementing educational programmes, monitoring the media, pursuing cases in court, providing legal and other assistance to the victims of communal violence and making every effort to see that the guilty officials and political leaders would not escape punishment. Again, in the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage of 2002, during the long months of continued violence, innumerable individuals and newly formed groups from all over India went to Gujarat, helping in running relief camps, coordinating collections and distribution of relief materials, running schools for children of the victims – and of course, providing the legal support to fight the cases. These efforts might well comprise one of the most glorious chapters of citizens’ interventions in post-independence India.

Urbanism could be said to be one of the fledgling movements in contemporary India. Prior to the 1990s issues of the urban poor, (pavement dwellers, hawkers and vendors, rickshaw pullers) were raised by Left political parties, individuals and groups in Mumbai and Kolkata, largely as questions of poverty and the ‘state’s responsibility’ to the poor. The old Nehruvian state was also much more responsive to this call of responsibility. It was in the 1990s, with India’s rapid global integration, that urban space really began to emerge as an arena of struggle. Alongside the contests over space arose newer concerns regarding urban congestion, pollution and consequent concerns about health. The state’s response – prodded by a section of environmentalists and the judiciary – was to revive the old modernist fantasy of the ordered and zoned city. It was around these issues that struggles started seriously erupting in the late 1990s.

In Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, citizens’ initiatives brought together questions of environment and workers’ rights and linked them up with the larger question of urban planning. Some groups conducted mass campaigns through their constituent political groupings, but the most significant impact they had was in making urban planning a matter of public debate, drawing architects and planners with alternative visions into the debate. The question of a public transport system, road planning and such other questions came into the ambit of the debate for the first time. In some cities alternative data was generated on the availability and consumption of water, electricity and other amenities in settlements of the labouring poor as well as the affluent.

Today as Arvind Kejriwal begins his civil disobedience campaign on the inflated costs of water and electricity, we can see the historical links to earlier forms of activism.

Since the late 1980s, non-party movements and citizens’ initiatives have grown and functioned in a complicated relationship with NGOs. The apprehension of being driven by funder agendas, becoming depoliticized and being co-opted by funding has kept most movements and citizens’ initiatives consciously ‘non-funded’. At the same time many NGOs often provide movements with vital support in terms of infrastructure, campaigns and educational materials. Thus, while the peoples’ movements fight their battles in faraway rural or forest areas, with little access to the media, it is these NGOs that set up and house the various metropolitan ‘support groups’ whose task it is to approach friendly and influential people in the media, bureaucracy and academia to advocate the cause of the movement concerned. Such NGOs have often also provided critical research inputs on technical details, environmental impact and other information required to conduct a credible campaign. A striking example of such a symbiosis is the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

These citizens’ initiatives were rarely mass movements, but in the first decades on the 21st century we have begun to see mass movements of this new, coalitional kind, arising around the issue of land acquisition. Such movements have brought into crisis the hitherto unquestioned assumption that industrialization and economic development of a particular kind are natural stages in human history. This assumption is shared across the political spectrum from Right to Left and so these movements come into sharp contradiction with an Old Left framework that has still not understood the deep ecological crisis our planet  faces and the need to rethink entirely the idea of endless growth which is in fact impossible.

Increasingly, movements against land acquisition are coming together with the movement against nuclear energy, from Jaitapur to Kudankulam. In these mass movements we see the new form of coming together of political energies. That is, around a single issue, a range of forces come together, from religious forces like the Jamat in Singur and Nandigram and the Church in Kudankulam, to the familiar spectrum of individuals and groups – Gandhians, Dalit groups, NGOs, left groups and sometimes left parties and so on. The anti-nuclear energy movements of course, go back to the era of citizens’ initiatives when groups like Anumukti, Network to Oust Nuclear Energy (NONE) and Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (COSNUP) were set up. Such citizens’ initiatives were undertaken to highlight issues such as the dangers of radiation to communities located in uranium mining sites, the undemocratic and opaque nature of functioning of India’s nuclear establishment, and as always, the injustice of displacing populations from their homes and occupations in order to set up nuclear energy plants. More importantly, these groups developed a critique of nuclear energy as such, asserting, along with a growing chorus of voices globally, that it was ‘neither clean nor safe nor cheap.’ While this work did not have a mass movement dimension until now, we see the coming together of these older initiatives with the mass movements in Kudankulam and Jaitapur.

Again, the Old Left is completely out of tune with these new developments, as in its imaginative horizon, nuclear energy is central to a strong nation state. For example, the proposal to build a giant nuclear power station in Haripur in West Bengal is a central government project, but is fully supported by the Left Front. The ecological and social consequences of building a nuclear plant in the densely populated Gangetic delta region are fearsome to contemplate, and the CPI (M)’s enthusiastic support for it is deeply troubling.

Coming now to the women’s movement, it has functioned more or less in the form of citizens’ initiatives of the kind I have described, with occasional mass mobilization by political parties. In the 1980s, the “autonomous women’s movement” emerged from the patriarchy and control of left-wing political parties. The first national-level autonomous women’s conferences were thus attended by non-funded, non-party, self-defined feminist groups. Over the 1990s, very few of these survived as non-funded organizations, and the seventh conference in 2006, held in Kolkata, referred to above, was almost entirely attended by funded NGOs. It is also important to note that many “non” governmental organizations receive funding from the government for specific projects. Thus, the only groups that were finally excluded were non-funded left wing and radical women’s organizations, which seemed to many feminists to be a strange paradox. Increasingly however, in the last few years, coalitions around issues such as sexual violence and the rights of LGBT people, include political parties of the Left. Feminists also perceive the close link between movements around livelihood and ecological sustainability, and the women’s movement – Nalini Nayak, who works with fisher- people’s movements on these issues, terms ecological movements the “resource base of our feminism”.

And so we arrive at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, a decade in which we see two kinds of new political action. One – unprecedented urban mass movements in the city of Delhi and in other cities and towns, around two issues – corruption and sexual violence.

Two – social media driven mobilizations by young upper class women around the issue of women’s rights to public space.

Both these kinds of mobilizations, quite opposite in character to each other, have proved difficult for older Left and women’s movement perspectives to come to terms with, for they follow none of the older patterns of mobilizing, there is no comprehensive programme of action, only one narrow slogan, and the mass character necessarily means there can be no broader agreement around large political issues.

Let me start with the second phenomenon I mentioned.

Two campaigns have caught media attention. One, the Pink Chaddi campaign. In 2009, men of a hitherto little known Hindu right-wing organization called Sri Ram Sene, physically attacked young women in pubs in the city of Mangalore. These attacks, supposedly an attempt to protect Indian culture from defilement by western values, were met with protests and solidarity campaigns all over the country, but the most imaginative one came to be called the Pink Chaddi campaign. A cheeky Facebook group was launched by Delhi journalist Nisha Susan, with the name of ‘Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women’, which called upon women to send pink chaddis (underwear) to the leader of the Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik, as a gift on Valentine’s Day, in a non-violent gesture of ridicule and protest.  Over 2000 chaddis were in fact delivered to the Ram Sene office, and the organization was a butt of ridicule all over the world. It is striking that the campaign used the word ‘chaddi’ rather than ‘panty’, simultaneously desexualizing the piece of clothing, ungendering it (chaddi refers to underwear in general, not just to women’s panties), and playing on the pejorative slang for Hindu right-wingers, after the uniform of their parent organization, the RSS, whose members wear khaki shorts. At one level an undoubtedly successful campaign, it faced criticism from conservative opinion for obvious reasons, and also from the left of the political spectrum.

The latter chastised the campaign for elitism (‘after all, only westernized women in cities go to pubs’) and for diverting attention to such a trivial issue when for most women in India, their very survival is at stake. Is going to pubs what feminism is about, was the question such critics raised. Of course not. And nor did the ‘Consortium’ claim it was anything as large as ‘feminism’ itself. It was a specific campaign in response to a specific attack, and as Nisha Susan put it, ‘for many of those who signed up, neither Valentine’s Day nor pub-going meant anything. What we agreed on is the need to end violence in the name of somebody’s idea of Indian culture’ (2009). The campaign brazenly owned up to the identities the Hindu right-wing attributed to women in pubs – ‘loose and forward’ – and made them badges of pride. And it clearly touched a chord across the country, for most people understood it as defiance towards the Hindu right’s moral policing in general, not merely about women’s right to drink in pubs.

The other instance was the organizing of Slut Walks in Delhi and Bhopal. Slut Walks, both in European and American cities as well as in some Indian ones, must be understood as a critique of the victim blaming culture that surrounds rape. The original Slut Walk was a reaction to a Canadian police officer’s remark that if women dress ‘like sluts’, they must expect to be raped. However, the overwhelmingly positive responses world-wide to Slut Walks, reveal that blaming the victim is not an attitude restricted to the West.

In India, within the feminist camp, there were misgivings expressed that the English word ‘slut’ has no resonance at all here. In response, the organizers of the march added a Hindi phrase explaining the name, so that it became Slut Walk arthaat Besharmi Morcha, drawing on the Hindi word besharam meaning ‘without shame’ or shameless, often used for women who refuse to live by patriarchal rules. What was interesting about Slut Walks in India (held in Bhopal and Delhi in July 2011), was that they were not organized by the established women’s movement organizations and well-known feminist faces, but by much younger women new to political organizing, who were expressing, however, an old and powerful feminist demand – the right to safety in public spaces.

If this was elite mobilization, what is the problem for the Left with mass mobilizations? It appears that the non-party Left has a deep rooted fear of the masses, which it can only see as communal and casteist, and politically regressive. Throughout the Anna Hazare phase of the India Against Corruption movement, we saw from this section, which forms our community, strident demands for absolute  purity of the radical position (for example, what do these people have to say about Kashmir?). We saw a sort of aggressive self-marginalization and self-exile to a high ground where all credentials were closely scrutinized, and we saw the absolute incomprehension of and contempt of people who are our friends, for  ’the people’ when actually confronted by them.

Interestingly, political parties of the Left, especially CP(ML), were supportive of the movement and active in various ways, this sharp criticism came from individuals of the non-Party left.

What I saw was a carnivalesque celebration of the pure ideals of democracy – of the idea that ‘we the people’ are sovereign, that politicians are the servants of the people, that laws must originate in the needs and demands of the people.

What my community saw though, was a mindless mob of communal and casteist – and even “fascist” middle classes.

For twelve days, a city in which protest had been consigned to a museumized space, Jantar Mantar, was reclaimed for protest by a crashing tide of humanity so huge, so peaceful and non-violent, that it simply took back the city. No violence. No untoward incidents and no hysteria (except on television channels). How is this fascism? Are all large gatherings of the masses fascist?

Since many of the critics swear by some form of ‘Marxism-Leninism’, let me quote from Lenin who said in 1916 of the 1905 revolution:

“Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is…The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a bourgeois-democratic revolution. It consisted of a series of battles in which all the discontented classes, groups and elements of the population participated. Among these there were masses imbued with the crudest prejudices…; there were small groups which accepted Japanese money, there were speculators and adventurers, etc. But objectively, the mass movement was breaking the [back] of tsarism and paving the way for democracy.”

Another kind of critic speaks not in the name of revolution, but of democracy; a democracy disciplined through representative institutions with The People entering the stage every five years. The People are a continuous source of anxiety, casteist and communal as all of them are. Little wonder then that this set of Leftist and Left-liberals remained silent when the government denied permission for the protest and arrested Hazare on August 16; some even denying that there had been a violation of civil liberties.

Law-making needs to be demystified – “it’s a very complex process”, the experts on TV kept saying. But what the movement did was it made it legitimate to say that we have a right to the information that will enable us to arrive at a conclusion. I heard a young law student stumblingly explain before a TV camera in English, which was clearly not his first language: ”They say the Parliament is sovereign. No. They should read the Constitution. The people are sovereign.”

And I loved the way people said to the camera – Main Kapil Sibal se kehna chahta hoon, main Manmohanji ko batana chahti hoon – directly, they addressed the “leaders”, the politicians, as if they have a right to. This is neither anti political nor anti political classes – it is the exact opposite. It is the insistence precisely that “we the people” are political, we demand accountability from those whom we send to Parliament.

It is by now established that there was substantial Muslim and Dalit participation despite their leaders’ disapproval. The other misrepresentation being continually purveyed is that the supporters of this movement are the middle classes. If the lakhs of people who participated in the protests over twelve days in Delhi alone, are all ‘middle class’, then India must be Shining after all! Anybody who moved around where protests were happening could have seen that the large majority of participants were lower middle class to working class people. In Delhi local protests happened everywhere, far away from TV cameras – in middle class housing societies, working class ‘unauthorized’ colonies, around local mosques in poor localities, small temples.

We also know from newspaper reports that there was growing participation of workers throughout – railway workers affiliated to AITUC; 1800 temporary-for-years Delhi Transport Corporation workers who were sacked for going to Ramlila Maidan; dabbawalas in Mumbai who have not struck work for 140 years;   sections of auto drivers; Maruti workers from Manesar in Haryana.

The other argument against an anti-corruption law is that ‘corruption provides a little shade to the poor’.  As a skeptics about the law and the state, I have often written about the freedoms made possible by going under the radar of the state. But how to understand the poor and working class who throng the movement?  Perhaps ‘corruption’ is precisely not to be in the shade, to be forced into engaging with the force of Law, but outside the protection of the law. Perhaps the ‘corrupt’ people protesting corruption would like to live a life in which they wouldn’t have to be corrupt just to survive every day? We need to recognize that the term ‘corruption’ as it plays out in the movement, condenses within it a range of discontents – an accumulating anger over repeated betrayals of democratic expectations over years, but especially over the last decade. The immediate trigger of the movement was the series of instances of looting of the public exchequer that came to light recently – the Commonwealth Games, the 2G Spectrum scam, the Niira Radia tapes that exposed how ministers were being fixed to benefit particular business houses, and so on. But corruption is also an everyday matter for the poor – the thelawala paying hafta to the beat constable;  the labourer whose muster rolls are faked, the agricultural worker whose NREGA payment is swallowed up; every poor undertrial in jail on trumped up charges (was it surprising then, that the undertrials in Tihar fasted in solidarity with Anna?); the farmer whose land is seized to be passed on to corporates, an issue mentioned by Anna Hazare in his speech at Ramlila Maidan (kisanon ki zameen zabardasti chheeni ja rahi hai); the aspirant to own an auto rickshaw costing 1 lakh, who ends up paying more than a car costs, and drowns in debt.

A young working class boy we know, falsely implicated in a theft case by the police for over four years, rang up at the height of the agitation to tell us jubilantly that the beat constable had told him that the cases were being closed – “Anna hazare ke chakkar mein pulis saare case khatam kar rahi hai” (All this Anna Hazare stuff is going on, so the police are closing all the cases.) We don’t know what made him think this had anything to do with Anna Hazare. But this is the Anna moment. This is what the Subaltern Studies historians drew our attention to, the multiple meanings Gandhi had for different sections of people, the ‘rumours of Gandhi’ that galvanized a variety of protests that directly addressed local issues.

But also, maybe the police were scared for an instant?

To all those who woke up to the India Against Corruption movement in April 2011 – a gentle reminder that this is the crystallization of a long process that began in the villages, initiated by the campaign around the Right to Information. The RTI Act (2005), instrumental in exposing corruption in a range of spaces from NREGA to municipal schools, was the culmination of one phase of the movement; the establishment of an Ombudsman or Lokpal was always planned as the next stage. Corruption is tied fundamentally to the RTI Act that exposes it, so effectively that several RTI activists have been murdered.

Now of course, Arvind Kejriwal has decided to go the way of a political party, but what we see of the AAP so far, it is clearly not a conventional party with a top-down leadership, and it appears to be genuinely seeking a new way of being a party, with actual mass participation in decision making, which might change the ground rules for all parties.

The experience of the mobilizations around IAC were behind the massive protests around the Delhi gang-rape. This time, the voices of critique were muted, although a prominent critic was Arundhati Roy, who immediately termed the protests upper class. But again, this was not the case. The protests were sparked off by the rape of a girl on a bus at 9.30 at night. She could have been anybody – she was not in a car, or even an auto. Nobody knew her caste – later it turned out she is from a very poor family and from the Kurmi caste, which is by no means an upper caste – but the point is nobody actually knew who she was – she was Everywoman.

And again, exactly like the IAC movement, there were right-wing voices as well as left-wing and feminist voices against sexual violence. These feminist thoughts were being articulated by not only people calling themselves feminists but ordinary middle class people who may not consider themselves to be very political at all. There were thousands of submissions to the Justice Verma committee and many of these have been made by ordinary people, resident’s Welfare Associations and so on, asking for changes in the broader patriarchal context of society – things like women’s safety and police sensitivity.

There has been a ground level shift among people reflecting decades of feminist intervention at different levels, but there is a real disconnect between the people and politicians. Feminist understandings have caught on in the ordinary public but this is not matched by the understanding of state agencies. Not only was a feminist position NOT articulated by anyone in a position of power or any political organization in a consistent way, most politicians from Left to Right came out with the most misogynist and regressive statements about women and about sexual violence.

And again, people did not have to be mobilized by any organized left wing, right wing or feminist groups. The transformation that has taken place in the last 4-5 years is that people feel like they own the city and can come out in protest on the streets – and I think this can be tracked back to India Against Corruption.

Any mass movement brings together disparate and sometimes  starkly contradictory tendencies.  Don’t we know that from the Indian struggle for independence? Was the Indian bourgeoisie absent from it? Or the religious right of all sorts? Or casteist and Brahminical forces? If absolute purity and a point-to-point matching of our full political agenda is required for us to support a movement, then feminists would be permanently stuck restively in the waiting room of history, for I can assure you that every mass demonstration you see anywhere ever, is packed with patriarchal men and patriarchalized women! Nor does any movement except the women’s movement ever raise patriarchy as an issue. But what is it that we take into account when we do support a movement? One – does the movement express a goal or demand that we support? Two – Does the movement as such explicitly take positions that are anti-women or anti-anything-we-stand-for? (The answers of course, should be yes and no respectively).

The  huge movement in Goa that succeeded in scrapping the SEZ Bill was composed of precisely such a broad formation – from the Church to the Hindu Right, to all of the others  of my community as described above. They came together, they went their separate ways once their campaign succeeded. Nandigram saw a similar formation. Many non-party non-funded citizens’ forums have too. The Narmada Bachao Andolan is another broad alliance coalescing on a single issue. For that matter, at Tahrir Square there were Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood), and people and groups who stand for full-scale capitalism apart from secularists and feminists and workers and trade unions. Now it’s a struggle of secularists against the Muslim right-wing in Egypt, but that is a historically contingent, not necessary or inevitable development.

It is the logic of the development of a mass movement in all its messiness that we should seek to understand, rather than look for that pure, 22-carat revolution where everything will proceed according to the programme laid down by the Left elite. From this perspective, nothing less than our maximum agenda is acceptable – from SEZs to farmers’ suicides, from AFSPA in the Northeast to the murder of democracy in Kashmir. If you will not accept even one of these points, you’re out – we will have nothing to do with you. It is not “they” who say ‘if you are not with us you are against us’, this arrogant divisive slogan has always been ours, on the Left.

Those issues listed above are our issues too, but what if a mass movement does not raise them? What if it articulates itself around a more generalized and widespread concern? Any student of mass movements anywhere in the world knows that mass movements of this scale only arise around issues where the largest sections of the people feel affected by it. They can never arise around sectional issues – however big the sections concerned may be. And the question really is of the potentiality of the movement rather than what it is, at any given point.  It will only be inclusive to the extent that it is able to draw in the largest number.

We will of course have to part ways at some point to fight our separate battles, but we can come together for a specific limited goal.

We stand at the beginning of a new kind of politics that has all kinds of forces within it, but one of these is certainly the potential to radically transform and rejuvenate democracy. We should be prepared to ride that potential, not undermine it.

 

This lecture is based on material from my earlier published work, some of it singly authored, some jointly written with Aditya Nigam, in continuing conversation with whom these ideas have developed.

 

Sri Lanka – Restricting sterilization: To what purpose? #Vaw #rightoabortion #reproductiverights


 

March 15, 2013,http://www.island.lk/

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I was appalled to read a recent newspaper article that reported a government ban on irreversible methods of contraception. Later I learned that the ban prohibits non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the provision of sterilization services. According to reliable sources, sterilization services continue to be available through the public sector albeit with additional counseling requirements implemented at some points of access. As this newspaper item coincided with protests against ‘family planning’ held by extremist Buddhist factions concerned about the diminishing ‘Sinhala race’, it is surprising that neither the government nor the Ministry of Health has thus far provided clarification on this issue. In this article, I would like to highlight a few problems with the existing sterilization policy that are unlikely to be resolved through bans or other forms of restriction. Rather than restricting women’s access to contraception to accommodate the views of reactionary groups, it might be more useful to focus our efforts on addressing some of the issues outlined below.

 

General Circular No. 1586 issued by the Office of the Director General of Health Services (1988) includes the following eligibility criteria for sterilization procedures: “1) The clients should be over 26 years of age and should have at least 2 living children; the younger being over 2 years of age. Confirmation of mother’s age should be done by checking the Birth Certificate, Identity Card or any other valid document, which is available; 2) Clients who are over 26 years of age and having 3 or more living children could be sterilized at any time; 3) A client under 26 years of age, and his/her spouse insist on a sterilization, the Medical Officer concerned could use his/her discretion, and perform the sterilization provided the couple has a minimum of 3 living children. In such a situation the officer concerned should personally check the validity of the information provided, in respect of the number of living children, prior to performing the sterilization; and 4) In the event of any medical indication, which warrants sterilization, the client should be referred to a specialist in the relevant field who should make the final decision.”

 

As the subtext of the circular implies, like most contraceptive programmes offered through Ministry of Health, the criteria for sterilization target women. For instance, references to the “mother’s age” and the insistent appeal of the spouse (when the ‘client’ is under 26 years) suggest that women are primary targets of the sterilization programme. In my experience of working for the Ministry of Health, sterilization procedures were, in fact, freely available and did target women, both in terms of availability and accessibility. This is confirmed by data from the most recent Demographic and Health Survey (2006/7): 16.9 % of ‘currently married women’ were sterilized compared with 0.7% of women whose husbands were sterilized (the Demographic and Health Survey is administered to married women and specifies these categories). These statistics must also be considered in light of the fact that the sterilization procedure for men is ‘simpler, safer, easier, and less expensive’ than the procedure for women (WHO, 2007).

 

Importantly, the criteria listed on the circular do not require the ‘client’ to obtain her/his partner’s consent to undergo sterilization (although spousal insistence may add weight to requests from those who are under 26 years of age). Nevertheless, spousal consent is routinely obtained in government institutions before providing sterilization procedures to women (my experience; see also CEDAW Shadow Report, 2010). In my work, I witnessed numerous instances when women’s pleas for sterilization were rejected during Caesarean section simply because the spouse was unavailable to sign a consent form. If these women decide to undergo sterilization on a later date, they are exposed unnecessarily to a second surgical procedure. In this way, doctors take on the role of gatekeepers to contraceptives services, restricting women’s access based on their own gendered presumptions.

 

The Circular of 1988 referenced above was introduced because “[it had] been observed that a significant proportion of females who [underwent] sterilization [were] under 25 years of age, with a notable number being less than 20 years” (General Circular No. 1586). These concerns were valid in the 1980s, a time when coercive tactics were being used as part of the population control agenda imposed on the third world. In 1980, a monetary incentive of Rs. 100 per sterilization procedure was introduced and was subsequently increased to Rs. 500. Surprisingly, this monetary incentive was not omitted in the Circular of 1988 and remains in place today. In fact, another circular was introduced in 2007 in order to “streamline” the payment process so that ‘clients’ would be able to obtain this payment from the institution that provided the sterilization procedure (General Circular No. 01-09/2007). Furthermore, healthcare providers (including the surgeon, anaesthetist and assisting nurses) can still claim, if they so do wish, a negligible sum for sterilization. While Rs. 500 may seem trivial to some of us, continuing to provide incentives for sterilization is problematic and warrants omission.

 

The provision of incentives can be interpreted in many ways, especially when sterilization procedures are mostly sought by particular groups of women. Sterilization is most popular among women in the plantation sector (presumably not Sinhala contradicting the claim of extremist factions in Colombo). According to the Demographic and Health Survey (2006/7), 61% of estate women used a modern method of contraception (including sterilization, contraceptive pills, intra-uterine devices, Depo-Provera, implants, condoms and complete breastfeeding) and 41% resorted to sterilization. In contrast, 54% and 44% of rural and urban women used modern methods of contraception, while 16% and 13% resorted to sterilization (the survey used urban, rural and estate as distinct categories). This set of data completely debunks the proclamations of extremist Buddhist groups who are hell bent on protecting Sinhala women from coercive sterilization. It also makes it incumbent on us to ensure that plantation workers are not coerced into sterilization. On the other hand, the large numbers of estate women accessing sterilization may signify a lack of access to temporary contraceptive options.

 

Imposing restrictions on sterilization may have other implications for women’s health. For instance, it is likely to increase the incidence of unplanned pregnancies. According to the Demographic and Health Survey (2006/7), sterilization is popular among the following categories of women: estate women, women above 35 years of age, women with lower levels of education and women with three or more children. While these associations may point to a need to ensure that these particular groups of women are not coerced into sterilization, it also reflects on who will be most affected by restrictions on sterilization. Not surprisingly, this profile bears similarity to that of women seeking abortion services; induced abortion is most common among rural, married women with at least two children (Senanayake & Willatgamuwa, 2009). Then restrictions on sterilization could result in more women resorting to unsafe abortion, a service that has moved underground since the government led shut down of abortion clinics in 2007.

 

Religious extremism is frequently accompanied by restrictions on access to reproductive health services for women. Although the existing policy is problematic for the reason that in targeting women it burdens them with the responsibility of adopting contraceptive measures, the policy does ensure that sterilization is quite easily accessible to women through the public sector. While there is much room for improvement around health policies governing contraceptive services, such as the removal of incentives and the unofficial requirement of spousal consent for sterilization, imposing restrictions or banning sterilization altogether is hardly the solution. Such restrictions are not only an extension of policies that assume that women are incapable of making decisions concerning their health, but may well be interpreted as an attempt by the state to regulate women’s reproduction in the service of a retrograde agenda of nationalism.

 

Ramya Kumar, MBBS

 

Kandy

 

Gujarat Cops don’t cooperate with women complainants: Activist


The Times of India, 15 March 2013

VADODARA: Days within the Supreme Court rapped the Punjab and Bihar police for their excesses on women, a city-based NGO has accused them of being insensitive towards cases of sexual harassment and domestic violence. Activist Trupti Shah, who runs non-governmental organization for women’s rights, said the city police don’t cooperate with women complainants and instead make them do rounds of the police station.

She cited a recent case of a working woman, who wanted to file FIR against her company’s chief operating officer (COO) for sexual harassment. “When she approached Chhani police in October last year, they asked her to strike a compromise with the company. They told her that it was in her own interests,” Shah told TOI.

“The victim had agreed to compromise if the COO tendered a written apology, but when it didn’t happen, she approached the cops. The police instead told her that registering such complaint would put blot on her name. The then police inspector even shouted at me and accused me of instigating the girl,” Shah said and added that while her complaint was taken in January this year, the police refused to register it as per the details provided by her.

Shah claimed that she got 10 cases of domestic violence and two cases of sexual harassment in last eight months. “In six cases of domestic violence, no FIR was registered as the police insisted the women strike a compromise,” Shah said.

Shah has written to city police commissioner, state DGP, National Commission for Women and Gujarat State Commission for Women informing them about the problems faced by women complainants.

#Mumbai- Protest against Corporatization of Municipal Schools @March 16


india calcutta bookstore

 

Corporatization of Municipal Schools – Disaster for Students, Parents and Teachers!

 

Cancel the decision of handing over education of 4 lakh municipal students

 

to Private organizations, NGOs and Companies!

 

Join the Protest on 16th March 2013!

 

In the guise of improving quality, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has taken a decision on 23 January 2013, to hand over all of it’s 1174 schools to private organizations and companies under a ‘Public Private Partnership’ scheme of ‘School Adoption’.

 

The Mumbai Municipal Act and the constitution mandate that the responsibility of Primary education lies with the Municipal Corporation. However the BMC is washing its hands away from the responsibility of primary education. This is only a beginning of privatization of education and soon all other Municipal Corporations, Municipalities, Zilha Parishads will abandon their responsibility for education.

 

The state and central governments provide funds to the Municipal Corporation for education, the BMC levies additional Education Cess to meet the expenses for education. However even the basic facilities are not provided in BMC schools; enough number of teachers and supporting staff are also not appointed; teachers are burdened with non-academic work. As a result of this the schools, which once nurtured good students and a promised a bright future for the Mumbai city, are dying now.

 

The builders and profiteering private institutions will capture the lands of BMC schools, similar to what happened with the Cotton mills in 1982.

 

Due to this policy of ‘school adoption’ the NGOs run by Indian and Foreign Multinationals will decide what our children should study, how they should study and who should teach them.

 

Institutions like IITs and Central schools have a good quality and they have been established by the Government itself. So if the BMC/government decides, they can improve the condition of BMC schools also. Instead of that they are degrading the schools further.

 

Today Mumbai Municipal Corporation provides education in 8 Indian Languages to 4 lakh students through 11000 teachers. NGOs provide substandard education of English by promising English medium education. This type of education is stunting the growth of language skills and independent thinking among students.  This is an attack on the future of our country, on the Dalits, Working class and Minorities.

 

If we do not get up today, tomorrow it may be too late. No NGO or private organization running for profit can provide free, compulsory and good quality education to all the children. That can be done only by a publicly funded, pro-people education system. So today the people of Maharashtra need to wake up and wage a struggle to strike down this decision. The only alternative to today’s unequal, discriminatory education system is a K.G. to P.G. publicly funded Common School System based on Neighbourhood schools. So do join us in the demonstrations on 16th of March 2013, at 12:30 pm at Azad Maidan!

 

Demands

 

  • Cancel the privatization of BMC schools
  • BMC must provide Free, Compulsory and Equal quality education to all children upto 12th standard.

 

Yours,

 

All participating organizations, parties in Mumbai

 

Aapli Mumbai, AISA, Indian Social Movement, India Against Corruption, AIRSO, AISF, Kokanastha Dalit Mahila Sanghatana, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Janata Dal (Secular), Jaitapur Anuprakalp Virodhi Samitee, TDF, Parivartan Shikshan Sanstha, Phule Ambedkar Rashtriya Vidyarthi Sanghatana, Bhareep Bahujan Mahasangh, Communist Party of India, Maharashtra Sarva Shramik Sangh, Maagasavargeey Vidyarthi-Paalak Adhikar Sangharsha Samitee, Mumbai Municipal Kamgaar Sangh, Mumbai Municipal Kaamgar Karmacharee Purogamee Union, Mumbai Electric Employees Union, Muktiyaan Loksanskrutik Sanghatanaa, Yusuf Meherally Center, Yuva Biradaree, Replublican Panther, Rashtra Seva Dal, Vidyarthee Bharatee, Shikshan Vyaapaareekaran Virodhi Manch, Shikshan Bajareekaran Virodhi Manch, Samaan Shikshan Mulabhoot Adhikar Samitee(Mumbai), Samaan Shikshan Mulabhoot Adhikaar Samitee(Bhivandi), CPI(ML, Liberation), CPI(ML, Red Flag), Yuva Bharat, Samaajvadee Janparishad, Sant Rohidas Vichar Manch

 

Mumbai Shikshan Kampanikaran Virodhi Abhiyaan

 

With

 

All India Forum for Right to Education

 

Yusuf Meherali Center, D-15, Ganesh Prasad, Naushir Bharucha Marg, Grant Road(W), Mumbai 400007. Phone: 23870097 Email: yusufmeherally@gmail.com

 

 

 

#Mumbai -Memorial meeting for Professor Lotika Sarkar (1927- 2013) @Mar 13


lot
                                                                                                 Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder Chairperson,

The Spastics Society of India

Invites you to a commemorative event

In fond memory of her Late Aunt

 

To celebrate her glorious life and to salute her efforts in making the country’s laws sensitive  and to uphold gender-justice, social justice and women’s rights

On Wednesday March 13, 2013 from  6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

  

 Professor Lotika Sarkar (1923- 2013)

 Eminent Scholar and Feminist

Renowned feminist scholars, activists of the women’s movement, legal luminaries, media personalities, and activists linked with NGOs and friends will express their tributes

 

At the Auditorium

National Resource Centre for Inclusion, ADAPT

K.C. Marg, Bandra Reclamation, Bandra (W),

Mumbai – 400050

 

The programme will be followed by Tea and snacks

R.S.V.P. Ms. Theresa D’Costa- 9820017792

 

#India- Forced hysterectomies, unscrupulous doctors #Vaw #Reproductiverights


Swapna Majumdar/Women’s Feature Service

Consider this chilling statistic: In the last two years, in various states of India, more than 30,000 women were reported to have undergone hysterectomies.

In 2011, 16,000 women opted for hysterectomies in Bihar; doctors performed about 7,000 uterus removal surgeries over a period of 30 months in Chhattisgarh, while a total of 11,000 such procedures were done over a period of two years in Andhra Pradesh.

Not only is this sudden rise in hysterectomies deeply worrying, even more serious is the fact that 80 per cent of the women who underwent them were between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Health activists contend that rural women living below the poverty line (BPL) are being advised to go under the knife to avail of their health insurance money provided under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY), the union government’s premier insurance scheme that provides health coverage to underprivileged families.

According to reports, in Bihar’s Samastipur district alone, 14,851 BPL women were admitted to 16 private hospitals in the past one year to avail the benefits under the RSBY scheme. In Chhattisgarh, private nursing homes billed the state government Rs 2 crore under the scheme for conducting hysterectomies of 1,800 women over a period of eight months last year. In Andhra, under the Aarogyasri scheme, the state health insurance plan, a sum of Rs 2.9 crore was paid for 656 surgeries carried out in 2009-10.

According to Sulakshana Nandi of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a collective of over a thousand NGOs working on health rights, “The RSBY and similar health insurance schemes are incentivising unethical practices leading to the large number of irrational and unnecessary surgeries.”

Here’s why health activists are concerned. Under the RSBY, cashless insurance of Rs 30,000 is given yearly to a BPL family – and a doctor can charge a hefty Rs 12,500 for a hysterectomy. In Andhra, for instance, a hysterectomy can cost up to Rs 60,000 – an amount that was reimbursed under the state’s Aarogyasri scheme.

Nandi, who has done four studies assessing the implementation of the RSBY in Chhattisgarh, points out that private hospitals were cherry picking the patients they wanted to treat. “Doctors chose patients who needed high-end surgeries that are more expensive and, therefore, more profitable. For example, a hysterectomy is considered a more profitable surgery compared to a caesarean section. It is ironic and scary that a woman can, in some sense, have easier access to hysterectomy than simple treatment for her problems at an early stage of any uterine infection because of RSBY and other insurance schemes,” she contends.

In Andhra Pradesh, ‘aarogyamitras’, or health helpers, are appointed by private hospitals to scout around for patients who can be enticed to get operated upon in private hospitals, reveals N. Purendra Prasad of the Department of Sociology at Hyderabad University. Prasad, along with research scholar P. Raghavendra, found that “a spurt in unnecessary surgeries had been reported after Aarogyasri was launched. For instance, in district Warangal’s 13 private and five government hospitals, 38,090 cases, of which 3,346 operations related to hysterectomy, were reported from August 1, 2008 to August 21, 2010. As there was scope for quick money to be made in surgeries, private hospitals used registered medical practitioners (RMPs) to refer poor women with gynaecological problems as hysterectomy cases”.

Unfortunately, it is the women who are ultimately paying a very heavy price. When Rajamma of Kannaram village in Andhra’s Medak district went to the doctor complaining of pain in her lower abdomen, she was wheeled in for a hysterectomy. All she was told was that this would help relieve her pain. Rajamma was just 20.

But it was not just Rajamma who went under the knife. Almost all the women in Kannaram village had undergone hysterectomy for routine complaints like abdominal pain or white discharge. This was revealed by the Centre for Action, Research and People’s Development (CARPED), a Hyderabad-based NGO. The 2009 survey found that most of the women in the 125 households in the village had undergone procedures to remove their uterus. This was backed up by a study in the same year by the Andhra Pradesh Mahila Samatha Society, a state government organisation, which found hysterectomy cases in women between the ages 25 and 40 had increased by 20 per cent since Aarogyasri was launched in 2007. Of the 1,097 women surveyed in five districts, 30 per cent reported that doctors had told them that they would die if they did not get operated.

In Chhattisgarh, health activists say that poor illiterate women complaining of back pain were warned that they would contract cancer and die if their uterus was not removed, even as those suffering from excessive bleeding or vaginal discharge too stood no chance of escaping the surgery. While the procedure may have been necessary for some, in most cases it was not required.

According to Dr S.V. Kameswari of Life-HRG, a Hyderabad based NGO providing healthcare to rural women and campaigning against the unnecessary hysterectomies in the state, the reason for the indiscriminate usage of surgical treatment in the state was a combination of the socio- economic and cultural background of the women. “The lack of awareness of the women and the power of the medical practitioners to influence their decision led to the spate of unnecessary hysterectomies,” she contends.

Dr Kameswari, who studied the medical ethics of hysterectomies in rural Andhra Pradesh, found several aberrations. “Instead of following the normal protocols while examining women with complaints of abdominal pain, bleeding or vaginal discharge doctors performed or advised hysterectomies,” she reveals.

Standard protocol demands that women have to be informed about the after-effects of such a surgery. Medical studies have established that those who have undergone hysterectomy face long term health implications, including a higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. They are also more likely to become depressed.

At least Dr Kameswari’s study had a positive outcome. “We were called by officials of the Aarogyasri scheme to discuss the data emerging from our study. Other experts were also consulted. Thereafter, revised guidelines were issued banning private hospitals empanelled under the scheme from conducting several surgical procedures including hysterectomies, appendectomy and the removal of the gall bladder,” she states.

While governments of Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh have initiated action against erring hospitals, nursing homes and doctors, health activists argue that great damage has already been done. They say that the number of unnecessary hysterectomies conducted may have come down in Andhra after the guidelines were revised in April 2010, but it could not undo the harm done to the thousands of women who were encouraged into removing their uterus.

It cannot assuage the grief of women like Rani whose chances of having a second child have ended because of a callous system. Much to the shock and horror of the 19-year-old who was admitted to a private hospital for a severe stomachache, her uterus was removed instead of being operated for appendicitis, as her family had imagined.

Health activists believe that unless there is an effective, efficient and accountable public health system, unethical practices will continue. The absence of quality healthcare in rural areas forces women to approach “good doctors” in towns. The doctor’s advice to remove their uterus makes them believe that it will end their medical problems once and for all. What makes the procedure more attractive is that being covered by the RSBY or other government sponsored insurance schemes, it is free. They are neither informed about its long-term consequences, nor the alternative medical treatments available.

Not only is a more robust monitoring of the insurance schemes needed, focused attention on improving basic health services could save women like Rani from losing a second chance at motherhood.

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