Nelson Mandela would have made a fine peace journalist #Sundayreading


By Steven Youngblood
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University

At a fundamental level, Mandela and peace journalists share an understanding of the importance of language. One key tenant of peace journalism is that the words we as journalists use matter—that they can either soothe or inflame passions. Mandela might have gone one step further, noting not only journalists’ responsibility to choose their words carefully, but also their duty to use language in a way that bridges divides and brings people together.  Mandela said, “Without language, we cannot talk to people and understand them. One cannot share their hopes and aspirations, learn their history, appreciate their poetry and savor their songs. I again realize that we are not different people with separate language; we are one people with different tongues.” (http://africa.waccglobal.org/what%20is%20peace%20journalism_.pdf )

Another value peace journalists share with Mandela is a commitment to ongoing dialogue, like the kind begun under Mandela’s post-apartheid Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is continuing that work today, offering “a non-partisan platform for public discourse on important social issues…that contribute to policy decision-making.” (nelsonmandela.org)  Peace journalists, of course, can provide this platform, but not just to those in power. We seek to give a voice to all parties, with a special emphasis on giving voice to the voiceless.

I hope Mr. Mandela would be proud of the work that one group of peace reporters just concluded in Lebanon.  These reporters told the stories of Syrian refugees living in Beirut in a way that demystified the stereotypes about these individuals while fostering a dialogue within Lebanese society about how to accommodate and protect 440,000 refugees.

Many of Mandela’s principles not only align with peace journalism, but also lay out a blueprint for successful peace journalists.

This blueprint for peace journalists can be found, succinctly, in the UN’s written declaration of July 18th as Nelson Mandela International Day.  The UN declaration “recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the uplifting of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.” (masterpeace.org).

This statement is not only Mandela’s legacy, it is his charge to all of us, but especially to those of us who subscribe to the notion that we as journalists have a higher responsibility. This means that we must study and understand conflict resolution, and apply that knowledge to balanced reporting that gives proportionate voice to those who seek peace rather than exclusively to those who rattle the sabers of violence.  Mandela’s legacy charges peace journalists with facilitating meaningful dialogues on race, and empowering those in our society who are marginalized (women, children, and the poor).  This means that along with peace journalism, we should practice development journalism, using our platforms to focus attention on societal problems and solutions.

Most of all, this legacy charges journalists with putting the spotlight on the Nelson Mandelas in each society—those who seek  peace and reconciliation. Mandela’s statement during his 1964 trial is a testimony to the positive power of language, and to journalism’s responsibility to give voice to those who seek a peaceful path.  Mandela told the court, “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (transcend.org)

 

Global thematic campaign on Gender and Reproductive Justice #Vaw


Gender 'tag cloud'

 

People’s Health Movement

 

8th March, 2013

 

 

 

At the People’s Health Assembly 3 held in Cape Town, South Africa in July 2012, People’s Health Movement committed to build a campaign on gender issues through initiating separate circle on the Global thematic campaign on Genders within the PHM right to health campaign. Through the online correspondence in these last few months, a general view of expanding the gender circle has emerged, especially regarding specific themes of gender, equity, and violence, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and Reproductive Justice.

 

Why a Global thematic campaign on Gender

 

We, at PHM believe that Health Rights including Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights must be located within a perspective that recognizes social determinants of health, and universal health entitlements/access to healthcare. The framework should address the oppressive structures of neo-liberal globalization, capitalism, poverty, patriarchy, privatization of essential services, imperialism, militarization, fundamentalisms, heteronormativity, racism, casteism and ableism, which not only exacerbate poor physical, sexual, reproductive and emotional health for women and young girls but also disadvantage them in accessing health-care.

 

We are only too aware of how gender oppression is intricately linked to other systems of oppression and PHM’s agenda should be to make a conscious effort to create space and visibility for some such concerns that can often be observed to be marginalized even within progressive, rights movements. While they assume different forms in different contexts and social realities, issues of ability/disability, sexuality, health in the context of conflict, state sponsored coercive population policies, gender based violence, non-coercive access to contraception and abortion, and especially the rights of sex workers, transgender, HIV positive individuals in relation to all the above are sparsely raised on the public health platforms and health movements across the world.

 

There is a cyclical relation between violence and ill-health; both influence each other, yet gender based violence is rarely addressed as a human rights or public health issue. That violence takes varied forms and that gendered notions make certain peoples particular targets is a question of political violence that a movement like PHM needs to urgently address.

 

Historically, as we know that women’s ability to make choices and exercise autonomy in matters of sexuality and reproduction has been conditioned and constrained by economic, political, religious and cultural patterns, responding to a model of prescriptive ‘normality’ and disallowing any kind of behavior which deviates from this. The relegation of women’s health to maternity and family planning on the one hand and the concerted attack on women’s reproductive and sexual rights on the other are serious violations of women’s autonomy, personhood, dignity and human rights.

 

Throughout the world, society, law and cultural norms have repressed any behaviour that could challenge this prescriptive reproductive role of women. Reproduction itself becomes a site of coercion and social inequality, being regulated by morality, class, caste, race hierarchies and community. It is the same ideas of gender roles, relations and sexual division of labour that result in coercive structures for women, and further marginalize several persons who go against the existing heteronormativity.

 

As an object of policy, sexuality and sexual rights have generally been considered as an ‘unimportant’ and secondary issue. Women’s movements have also only gradually given space to these debates. That sexual rights for all are essential for better physical, mental and emotional health is a perspective that needs a much stronger acknowledgement and activism by both the state and social movements.

 

Within the health care systems, health professionals need to be sensitised in order to address all forms of violence and discrimination on the basis of gender within the private as well as public spheres. Health rights can be enjoyed by all and accessed at all times only if the rights of those who occupy low rungs in the gender hierarchy have secured rights in all spheres.

 

PHM is well-placed to address components of policy advocacy, capacity building, knowledge creation and health systems engagement within this umbrella framework.  The need is for us to foreground this perspectives in our strategies. We can hold capacity building and advocacy initiatives for SRHR, violence There is a need to conceptualize the campaigns/circles in a way that we understand the common systems of oppressions and gender hierarchies and are able to equally visiblize and address concerns of all those who are marginalized, exploited and discriminated against on the basis of their gender identities and sexual behaviour.

 

The thematic Circle will Insert all these concerns within the People’s health movement by- informing the PHM mandate and the campaign for Health For All and vis-à-vis gender. PHM will provide a platform for women across the world to articulate the above concerns as well as to share and learn from each other the creative struggles waged by people, especially by women, against injustice and inequality.

 

 

 

PHM global has already been engaged with many networks such as WGNRR, IWHM, ARROW, SAMA, WISH to name a few. We would like to welcome and invite networks/organisations, coalitions to join and collaborate with us on this initiative. Together we can strategise for a better world that is founded on social justice, non-discrimination and equal opportunity for all people.

 

contact:  <sarojinipr@gmail.com>

 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi’s;Granddaughter opposes #Deathpenalty #Vaw #Rape


: Monday, February 25, 2013, Zee News
Melbourne: Amid a debate in India over capital punishment for rapists, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi on Monday said the death sentence is not the solution to end violence against women and the society needs to promote gender consciousness.”Capital punishment itself will not change the attitude towards gender, nor (the) Anna Hazare-led stir on bringing a law against corruption alone will change the system,” Ela Gandhi, a former South African MP said during her visit to Australia. “Well it’s 2013 but lots of mothers still buy pink for their girls and blue for the boys, that’s just one little thing in which they differentiate. I think if you just go from there, you see little issues in the way we bring up our children, that you know makes these roles separate, that children grow up thinking that we are different,” she said. “There is a difference between girls and boys but that difference is not, you know, in terms of roles and so on. That difference has been exaggerated and that is what we need to curb, ABC news quoted her as saying. And the social activist, who is working to end domestic violence thinks the society needs to “become more gender conscious”. “You know, there has to be real community outreach programs with parents, with young people in schools. Everywhere, gender consciousness needs to be a part of the syllabus of every child, that from infancy to tertiary education and in the community,” she said. She also expressed shock over alleged murder of model Reeva Steenkamp by gold medalist paralympian Oscar Pistorius. “Steenkamp’s death by the hands of her boyfriend has reinforced the unfortunate fact that South Africa is battling with the deep-rooted culture of violence? possession of arms such as a gun lead to these kinds of irreversible consequences,” she said. She also participated in various events framed around the theme “Global Problems, Local Solutions”.

South Africa outraged over brutal #gangrape #Vaw


Associated Press
 February 7, 2013

 

Johannesburg —

In a country where 1 in 4 women is raped and where months-old babies and 94-year-old grandmothers are sexually assaulted, citizens are demanding action after a teenager was gang-raped, had her stomach sliced open, and was left for dead on a construction site last week.

The 17-year-old lived long enough to identify one of her attackers, a 22-year-old. Police arrested him and said Thursday that they have arrested a second suspect, aged 21. They promised more arrests soon.

“Kill them!” was one of the demands voiced on talk radio stations Thursday.

Every few months, this nation with the highest rate of rapes of babies and young girls in the world yells its outrage at a particularly brutal attack.

Last year, South Africans were shocked when village boys gang-raped a mentally ill 17-year-old with a mental age of 4. She was attacked by six boys, the youngest of whom was 10, in a crime that only came to light because the boys made a cell phone video of the rape and posted it on the Internet. It went viral.

Professor Rachel Jewkes, a doctor heading the Women’s Research Unit of South Africa‘s Medical Research Council, said 37 percent of surveyed men in South Africa’s most populated province of Gauteng said they had raped a woman or child, according to a study. Seventy-five percent of them first raped a teenager, she said.

“It’s a social disaster,” she said. The number of “men who try to feel better about their past by trying to make out that what they did wasn’t serious or wasn’t rape is obviously huge and must be a huge obstacle to getting anything done – from police making arrests to decisions in the courtroom by magistrates and so forth.”

The outcry over Saturday’s rape in Bredasdorp, a Western Cape town known for its giant protea flowers, led President Jacob Zuma to pledge Thursday “that government would never rest until the perpetrators and all those who rape and abuse women and children are meted with the maximum justice that the law allows.”

The maximum sentence for rape in South Africa is life in prison. The death sentence has been abolished.

Zuma himself was accused of rape by the HIV-positive, lesbian daughter of a close friend in 2005. Zuma said the sex was consensual and he was acquitted, but is unlikely to live down his comment in court that he had a shower afterward to cut the risk of acquiring AIDS.

In a study conducted by Jewkes in 2009, 62 percent of surveyed boys over age 11 said they believed that forcing someone to have sex was not an act of violence. One-third said girls enjoy being raped.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/world/article/South-Africa-outraged-over-brutal-rape-4261987.php#ixzz2KN3VnPJV

 

‘Racism’ of early colour photography explored in art exhibition


 Friday 25 January 2013 , Guardian

Artists spent a month in South Africa taking pictures on decades-old film engineered with only white faces in mind

&quot;Shirley&quot;, which was the nickname given to the girl used in Kodak plotting sheets&nbsp;
Kodak Shirley’ cards used for calibrating skin tones in photographs were named after the first model featured. Photograph: Adam Broomberg And Oliver Chanarin/Goodman Gallery

 in Johannesburg

Can the camera be racist? The question is explored in an exhibition that reflects on how Polaroid built an efficient tool for South Africa’s apartheid regime to photograph and police black people.

The London-based artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin spent a month in South Africa taking pictures on decades-old film that had been engineered with only white faces in mind. They used Polaroid’s vintage ID-2 camera, which had a “boost” button to increase the flash – enabling it to be used to photograph black people for the notorious passbooks, or “dompas”, that allowed the state to control their movements.

The result was raw snaps of some of the country’s most beautiful flora and fauna from regions such as the Garden Route and the Karoo, an attempt by the artists to subvert what they say was the camera’s original, sinister intent.

Broomberg and Chanarin say their work, on show at Johannesburg’s Goodman Gallery, examines “the radical notion that prejudice might be inherent in the medium of photography itself”. They argue that early colour film was predicated on white skin: in 1977, when Jean-Luc Godard was invited on an assignment to Mozambique, he refused to use Kodak film on the grounds that the stock was inherently “racist”.

The light range was so narrow, Broomberg said, that “if you exposed film for a white kid, the black kid sitting next to him would be rendered invisible except for the whites of his eyes and teeth”. It was only when Kodak’s two biggest clients – the confectionary and furniture industries – complained that dark chocolate and dark furniture were losing out that it came up with a solution.

The artists feel certain that the ID-2 camera and its boost button were Polaroid’s answer to South Africa’s very specific need. “Black skin absorbs 42% more light. The button boosts the flash exactly 42%,” Broomberg explained. “It makes me believe it was designed for this purpose.”

In 1970 Caroline Hunter, a young chemist working for Polaroid in America, stumbled upon evidence that the company was effectively supporting apartheid. She and her partner Ken Williams formed the Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement andcampaigned for a boycott. By 1977 Polaroid had withdrawn from South Africa, spurring an international divestment movement that was crucial to bringing down apartheid.

The title of the exhibition, To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light, refers to the coded phrase used by Kodak to describe a new film stock created in the early 1980s to address the inability of earlier films to accurately render dark skin.

The show also features norm reference cards that always used white women as a standard for measuring and calibrating skin tones when printing photographs. The series of “Kodak Shirleys” were named after the first model featured. Today such cards show multiple races.

Broomberg and Chanarin made two recent trips to Gabon to photograph a series of rare Bwiti initiation rituals using Kodak film stock, scavenged from eBay, that had expired in 1978. Working with outdated chemical processes, they salvaged just a single frame. Broomberg said: “Anything that comes out of that camera is a political document. If I take a shot of the carpet, that’s a political document.”

 

Tiranga Bangle – ‘healing’ with a tinge of patriotism , ok what about traitors #WTFnews #Jindal


Hindu  BUREAU

NEW DELHI, JAN. 25:

 

Are you tired of everyday stress? Sick of acidity problems? Your woes may end soon, if steel tycoon Naveen Jindal is to be believed. On Friday, Shashi Tharoor launched ‘Tiranga Bangle’, an initiative by Naveen Jindal’s Flag Foundation of India.

The Foundation was set up in January 2002 after Jindal won a seven-year-long court battle that enabled Indians to display the national flag with honour and pride at their homes, offices etc.

The Tiranga Bangle is made of copper and designed with tri-vortex technology from South Africa. Tri-vortex is a sound frequency-based technology used to treat materials and products that can be used for health benefits. The bangle claims to provide ‘natural, environment-friendly and non-chemical-based healing’.

Anton Ungerer, the person behind the tri-vortex technology, said the bangle is treated in a tri-vortex chamber for 24 hours or more. “This technology uses subtle energy vibrations and will spark a revolution in India,” he added.

Tharoor said, “I wear the national flag everyday, thanks to the court case Naveen fought. This bangle initiative by him is good for health and also advertises his loyalty for the tricolour” and congratulated the foundation for coming up with such a “therapeutic idea”.

The bangle, it was claimed, worked wonders for people suffering from arthritis, gout, carpal tunnel syndrome or other pain-related ailments.

Jindal said he was glad that such distinctive technology was being used in India and was confident that it would help people lead a healthier lifestyle.

navadha.p@thehindu.co.in

 

The rapist in the mirror #delhigangrape #Vaw #gender


PRAVEEN SWAMI, The Hindu

If we are to combat sexual violence in our cities, it is time to begin discussing the dysfunctions of young urban men

“I remember seeing a documentary about some animal being eaten from behind while its face seemed to register disbelief, fear, and self-hate at its own impotence,” recalls Roy Strang, the rapist at the centre of Irvine Welsh’s supremely disturbing Marabou Stork Nightmares, of one of his victims. “That was what she reminded me of,” says Strang, watching his victim’s eyes, “frozen,” “dead,” through the mirror he forced her to hold up to her face as he raped her.

Last month’s gang rape in New Delhi has focussed nationwide attention on the epidemic proportions of sexual violence against women in India. Long overdue debates on criminal justice and gender have begun — along, predictably, with bizarre calls for schoolgirls’ bodies to be concealed under overcoats and curfews. Yet, there have been only the awkward beginnings of a discussion on the problem itself — men.

It is time, though, to start looking at the rapist in the mirror.

RITUALS OF MASCULINITY

To anyone familiar with young men in India’s cities and towns, Strang’s world is far from alien. For many youth worldwide, violence against women — a spectrum that runs from gang rape to domestic violence and street sexual harassment — is part of the system of masculinity-making rituals, along with sport, drinking and brawling. 58 per cent of men arrested for rape in India in 2010 were aged 18-30; in the United States, 55 per cent are below the age of 30. 53.92 per cent of men held that year for molestation or sexual harassment were also from the same age group.

This is not to suggest that a dysfunctional masculinity is the root of rape; few human behaviours have a single cause. Yet, from the testimonies of women, we know that this cohort of young men have made homes and streets the site of a pervasive gender terrorism.

Rape, though, is something rapists do, not who they are. Precisely why particular individuals find pleasure in inflicting violence on women is a question everyone from evolutionary biologists to cultural theorists have weighed in on; there is no consensus, and may never be. Yet, as Welsh noted, strange behaviour “always has a context.” Five such contexts suggest themselves as possible keys to the production of India’s urban-male dysfunction. Together, these contexts ensure young men are rarely fully weaned; able to lead an adult life characterised by agency and individual choice. The consequence is a deep rage that manifests itself in nihilist behaviours.

India’s transforming urban economy has, firstly, produced a mass of young, prospectless men. The parents of these children, many first-generation migrants to cities, worked on the land or were artisans. Though this generation’s position in the economy may have been inequitable, its agency as workers was not. The young, though, find themselves fighting for space in an economy that offers mainly casual work. This casualisation has come about even as hard-pressed parents are spending ever more on education. Even the pressures on middle-class and lower middle-class men are enormous. Frequently coddled in son-worshipping parents, young men are only rarely able to realise the investment and hopes vested in them.

For a second context to hyper-violent masculinity, we must look at culture. Increasingly, cities have no recreational spaces for young men. Films, long one of the few cultural activities that a working-class audience could participate in, now target élites; movie theatre prices exclude large parts of the youth population. There is diminishing access to theatre, art, music and sport. In its place, the street becomes the stage for acting out adulthood, through substance abuse and violence.

Thirdly, a number of young men, particularly in new urban slums, are being brought up by no-parent families — families that fathers have abandoned or are largely absent from, and where mothers work long hours. Elsewhere in the world, too, this social crisis has been linked to sexual violence. South African researcher Amelia Kleijn, in a 2010 study of child rapists, found most had deprived childhoods marked by “physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.”

Fourth, there is a crisis of sexuality. Few men, working class or rich, have access to a sexual culture which allows them sexual freedoms or choices. The crisis is exacerbated by the fact that sections of urban élites participate in a sexual culture which is relatively liberal — a culture that young men can watch on television and in public spaces, but never hope to participate in. For some, the sexually independent woman is thus enemy to be annihilated. In his hit song C**t, the rape-valorising rap star Honey Singh voices his yearning to kick a woman after raping her, to drive out the bhoot of ego from her head. Similarly, Strang sees on the streets a wash of “blonde and auburn wigs, lipstick smeared on those deadly pincer-like insect jaws.”

COMMODITIES

Young men of all classes, finally, see women as status-enhancing commodities — emulating the long-standing gender privileges tradition has vested in élite men.

None of these five contexts is new. Particular stresses linked to the reordering of India’s social fabric, though, are giving new lethality to gender inequity. In a 2008 paper, Jon Wolseth showed how neoliberalism created the conditions for a murderous surge of youth gang violence in the Honduras during the 1980s. Economic policies, he argued, had not just impoverished the poor; they also tore apart community networks, diminished public spaces and closed the door to political participation. Evangelical Christianity and the assault rifle-armed gang emerged as mode of liberation. Elsewhere in Latin America, scholars have observed much the same.

In India, women’s bodies appear to have become the principal terrain on which male rage is venting itself. It isn’t that young Indian men are inherently violent than they were in the past. In 2011, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, 29,937 men between 18 and 30 were arrested for murder. Twenty years earlier, it was 38,961. In 1991, 270,602 men of this age group were arrested for rioting; in 2011, the figure was 72,867. Sexual violence data, though, trends the other way. 8,864 18-30 men were arrested for rape in 1991; 16,528 in 2011. Molestation and sexual harassment arrests from this cohort have also almost doubled, from 23,075 in 1992, the first year for which data is available, to 32,581 in 2011.

Lacking agency isn’t, obviously, the cause of sexual violence: women aren’t responding to their disenfranchisement by attacking men; men with power can, and do, rape. The point here is, rather, that the large-scale disempowerment of urban men is lending intensity to a pre-existing culture of sexual violence.

ILLUSION OF EMPOWERMENT

For many men, then, violence against women works much as drugs do for addicts: it offers at least the illusion of empowerment where none exists, fixing feelings of rage and impotence. This, in turn, points to a wider malaise. Marxist scholar Antonio Gramsci noted that Fascism arose in a society “where mothers educate their infant children by hitting them on the head with clogs.” How men behave — on the streets with women, with other men, with animals — is taught. In our society, violence is not an aberration; it is the tie that binds us.

In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development surveyed 12,477 children to learn of their experience of abuse. 68.99 per cent of children, over half of them boys, reported suffering physical violence. One in 12 children, again a majority boys, reported suffering sexual violence. It is a staggering fact: half of all Indians have encountered abuse before they became adults.

For the overwhelming majority of Indian children, the education in violence begins in the family. The survey found 59 per cent of the 2,245 children who did not go to school located home as a source of violence. In institutions like orphanages, the survey recorded levels of violence very similar to homes. More than 65 per cent of the 3,163 school children surveyed said they received beatings along with classes in maths, science and languages. Employers of child labourers, interestingly, were significantly less cruel than teachers; 58.7 per cent of working children said they experienced beatings at home, at work, or both. In each of these categories, boys were overrepresented.

Maulana Azad Medical College researcher Deepti Pagare discovered, during a survey of boys at New Delhi’s Child Observation Home, that 76.7 per cent reported physical abuse. Half of them actually bore clinical evidence of violence — the perpetrators, in more than half of all cases, their own fathers.

Elsewhere in the world, figures like these would almost certainly have provoked a national scandal — followed by demands of criminal prosecutions. Look through Delhi’s crime statistics, though, and you will find not one father prosecuted for everyday crimes against his son.

India needs a masculinity that does not involve violence. Moral sermons, though, won’t cut it: respect for women can emerge only from a culture that genuinely values rights for all.

 

Sexual violence: a global awakening, from India #delhigangrape #Vaw


The rape and murder of a 23-year-old female physiotherapy student from Delhi—six men have been arrested for the attack, which took place on Dec 16—has rightly caused outrage and anguish across India. Immediately after her death, following treatment in a hospital in Singapore, Delhi was locked down by police to prevent outbreaks of public protest. Despite these measures, thousands of Indian citizens took part in peaceful vigils to express their anger at the violence inflicted against this young student, as well as the harassment experienced daily by thousands of Indian women.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for “a constructive course of action”. But there is agreement that India has failed to address a pervasive culture of sexual violence and gender injustice. This political neglect has created a permissive environment where men can rape, beat, and kill a woman with impunity. India is a respected democracy that has delivered phenomenal economic success for its growing middle class. But the country’s inattention to fundamental protections and liberties for its citizens reveals a nation facing a moral turning point. We endorse the campaign by the The Times of India and others to address “the lack of respect for women in our patriarchal society”.
Yet it would be a grievous error to conclude that sexual violence is a predicament confined to India. It is not. Rape and other forms of violence against women and girls are a feature of all societies. In South Africa, for example, as many as a third of men have taken part in acts of rape.
As a first step, sexual violence must be acknowledged as a reality by all of us, and its causes discussed. We must support the creation of safe systems for preventing, reporting, and remedying acts of sexual violence. As advocates for women’s health, health professionals have a special role in defeating rape. It’s time we exercised our voice more strongly. The greatest respect we can give to the memory of the Indian student who died on Dec 29 is by protecting and strengthening the political and social rights of women worldwide.

 

#Inda- Burying democracy in human waste


January 8, 2013

Prabha Sridevan, The Hindu

Every day that the practice of manual scavenging continues is another day that negates the right to a life of dignity for those still forced to engage in this demeaning work

The Supreme Court had recently admonished a District Magistrate for filing a “wrong” affidavit stating that there was no manual scavenging in his district. Just a day earlier, Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh had publicly apologised for the continuance of the practice of manual scavenging. And I thought of a documentary on manual scavenging that has haunted me ever since I saw it.

It is really what is described as an “in your face” documentary. A scene is of a small girl in a blue frock, and with liquid eyes — what in Tamil we would call “Neerottam.” She answers the questions about her experience in school (what I give below is not a verbatim reproduction of the script, but an imperfect one).

“Did you like school?”

“Yes.” (A shy smile)

“What happened?”

“I stopped.”

“Why?”

“I used to sit in the front row. Then my classmates did not want me to sit next to them. So the teacher asked me to move to the last row. I went for some days. Then I stopped.”

This did not happen decades ago, but in this day and age. It must have been a government school. Where else will a poor Bhangi’s child go? Article 17 of the Constitution states: “Untouchability is abolished.” If a government schoolteacher can ask a child to go to the back row because her classmates do not want any contact with her, when was it abolished?

Let us all feel on our skin the sandpaper-rub of exclusion. We are not done with that little girl yet. The camera stays on her face, while she looks back at us. Slowly those deep eyes, which have known a pain that no eight-year-old should, well up with tears and she whispers:

“I wanted to become a nurse or a teacher.”

Fraternity, we promised ourselves; fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. What does fraternity mean? Dr. Ambedkar said, when the Constitution was in the making, that: “Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians — of Indians being one people. It is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life. It is a difficult thing to achieve. Castes are anti-national, in the first place, because, they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality. For fraternity can be a fact only when there is a nation. Without fraternity, equality and liberty will be no deeper than coats of paint.” The truth must be told, we have not overcome. Why else did the teacher ask that child to sit away from her classmates?

How do we apologise to her for the insult to her dignity, the vandalism of her dreams, and the destruction of her desire? How do we make amends? Can we, in one lifetime, do it? This was a denial of fraternity, a violation of the basic principle of democracy. We, the units of humanity, are interconnected and respect for each other is a sine qua non of all human interactions. There can be no dilution or compromise on this. It is not dependent on who the one is or who the other. This interconnectedness is fraternity — the spirit that assures and affirms human dignity. That is why it is imperative that fraternity informs all State actions and all social transactions. The dynamics between equality and fraternity work like this: in the absence of substantive equality, there will always be groups whose dignity is not acknowledged resulting in a negation of fraternity. Of the five senses, touch is the least understood. But it is the only sense that establishes fraternity that also establishes kinship. A bridge is built when you touch another in kinship in a way that it is not when you look at, talk to or listen to the other. And “a continent of persons” within India has been denied that “touch,” that kinship. It is because we have not understood the principle of fraternity, that there is no “they” and “us,” there is only “us.”

2010 deadline

That young girl of the broken dreams was born to parents who are manual scavengers. This is a group to which the right to fraternity is consistently and brazenly denied, and the most marginalised of marginalised groups. It is acknowledged in public meetings that manual scavenging is a human rights issue and not about sanitation. We read in the newspapers that this practice would soon be banned and that we would become Nirmal Bharat. But it continues. Even if the winds of change are blowing, for the condemned ones even yesterday is not soon enough, any of the yesterdays. There have been many deadlines for eradicating this practice, one such final deadline was March 31, 2010. Deadlines have come and gone. But manual scavengers continue their work, anaesthetising themselves with drinks and drugs from these assaults on their dignity. Their lives are a daily negation of the right to a life with dignity though they have court orders affirming that right.

When a teacher asks a child — like the one whom we met earlier — what her father does for a living, what would she say? “My father carries all your filth on his head?” She probably remains silent. If she speaks those words, her classmates would not see it just as another job. No, it is a job that has to be done by the “other,” so “our” houses “within” will remain clean, and “the other” after cleaning the house will go outside the margin and remain “unclean.” She would be asked to sit away from the rest. So, she is silent.

‘What do you know?’

I once heard at the National Judicial Academy, an excruciatingly painful experience shared by Bezwada Wilson, who campaigns against manual scavenging. He had seen some persons who were manual scavengers, digging in a pile of excreta.

He asked, “What are you doing?”

“The pail has got buried in the filth; we are trying to retrieve it.”

“So you will dig there with your hands?”

“If we do not get it back, we cannot do our job tomorrow, and we will not get paid. What do you know?”

He said, “I walked and walked for a long time out in the fields and I stood there and cried to the moon, I cried to the wind, I cried to the water, I cried and I asked why?”

In his book “The Strange Alchemy of Law and Life,” Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa writes, “There are some things human beings cannot do to other human beings.” He said it in the context of torture; it is just the same in the context of this abomination. The Supreme Court in State of M.P. vs. Ram Krishna Balothia (1995 SCC (3) 221) rejected the attack on the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, saying that a special legislation to check and deter crimes against them committed by non-Scheduled Castes and non-Scheduled Tribes is necessary, in view of the continued violation of their rights. S.3(1)(ii) of this Act says: “Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe —

i. ………

ii. acts with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a Scheduled Caste, or a Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta … in his premises or neighbourhood,” is punishable.

But the work of manually lifting and the removal of human excreta is inextricably linked with caste and is another form of “dumping.”

Mr. Wilson writes in his Foreword to Gita Ramaswamy’s book “India Stinking …” (2005) that, “(A)n estimated 13,00,000 people from dalit communities continue to be employed as manual scavengers across the length and breadth of this country — in private homes, in community dry latrines managed by the municipality, in the public sector such as railways and by the army.” This is why the heart of a little girl who wanted to become a nurse was broken and she dropped out of school. There are some things one human being does not do to another human being.

(Prabha Sridevan, a former Judge of the Madras High Court, is Chairperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board.)

South Africa’s Sanitation Cesspools-Toilet Apartheid


by PATRICK BOND

Durban, South Africa.

This week’s World Toilet Summit offers an opportunity to contemplate how we curate our crap. Increasingly the calculus seems to be cash, generating contradictions ranging from local to global scales, across race, gender, generation and geography. Nowhere are they more evident than in the host city, my hometown of Durban. We’ve suffered an 18-year era of neoliberal-nationalist malgovernance including toilet apartheid, in the wake of more than 150 years of colonialism and straight racial-apartheid.

In central Durban, the mafia of the global water and sanitation sector – its corporate, NGO and state-bureaucratic elite – have gathered at the International Convention Centre, just a few blocks west of the Indian Ocean, into which far too much of our excrement already flows. They’re at the same scene of the crime as, exactly a year ago, negotiators dithered at the United Nations COP17 ‘Conference of Polluters’ summit.

Recall that the COP17 rebuffed anyone who fancifully hoped global elites might address the planet’s main 21st century crisis. The 1%-ers inside ignored outsider demands for climate justice: make airtight commitments to 50 percent emissions cuts by 2020; drop the ‘privatisation of the air’ strategy known as carbon trading and offsets; and cough up ‘climate debt’ payments from rich to poor countries.

Instead, that conference ended with a ‘Durban Platform’ that re-emphasized capitalist strategies, pleasing Washington especially. The COP17 deal eroded differences in responsibility between North and South, and moreover, as lead Bank of America Merrill Lynch carbon dealer Abyd Karmali told the Financial Times, the Durban Platform was “like a Viagra shot for the flailing carbon markets.” True, a tiny carbon price erection followed, but the effect soon wore off; the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme has been flaccid throughout 2012.

What the dog’s-breakfast Durban Platform confirms, then, was global-elite back-slapping generosity to each other, simultaneous with rank incompetence and utter disregard for the poor and environment, all of which are again on display this week at the COP18 in Doha, Qatar. Precedents matter, for lowering standards.

The commodification of crap

The World Toilet Organisation’s battle cry, ‘Scaling up – dignity for all!’, appears as a creative talk-left but turn-the-tap-right (i.e. off) strategy. The water mafia has long struggled to gain legitimacy for neoliberal cost-cutting strategies, and now does so by invoking dignity (and they also have tried colonising the ‘water rights’ discourse) – but naturally not genuine equal access and consumer affordability, neither of which are possible under neoliberalism.

Another version of this is micro-scale privatisation, where NGOs and community organisations are encouraged to build local toilets and charge poor people for their use, to cover construction, cleaning, maintenance, the water bill and a tiny salary.

Last month in Nairobi’s Kibera and Huruma slums, I spent a day dodging the ‘flying toilets’ (plastic bags filled with faeces), thankfully guided in walkabouts by two admirable popular organisations whose young men – often drawn from ex-gang members – construct these toilets after fighting the small-scale local water capitalists who physically sabotage state suppliers. These systems of desperation-commodification, priced at US$0.10 per use (including one piece of loo paper), are vast improvements on the flying-toilet status quo.

This travesty is the result of a more general neoliberal dogma that hit slums like Nairobi’s over the past quarter-century: cut-backs in state-subsidised water. The strong residue – both in World Bank techie talk and in populist-neoliberal micro-privatisation mode – is just as evident at the Durban Toilet Summit as it was at the World Water Forum in Marseilles nine months ago. That event reconfirmed the water-empire expansion of Paris mega-privatisers like Veolia and Suez, along with the likes of liquid-barons Coke and Nestle, all backed by the multilateral development banks.

Although for a dozen years, fierce anti-privatisation struggles have been waged in Cochabamba, Johannesburg, Accra, Argentina, Atlanta, Jakarta, Manila and many other urban water battlegrounds, it seems that recent US and European municipal fiscal crises offer a new opportunity for the water profiteers.

At the Durban summit, even more clever neoliberal stunts are being rehearsed. ‘Community-Led Total Sanitation’ (CLTS) popularized by NGOer Kamal Kar and academic Robert Chambers in Bangladesh passes yet more responsibilities for public hygiene downwards to poor people. The goal is to wean the lumpens off reliance upon state subsidies through social shaming.

Explains Petra Bongartz from Sussex University, “Through the tools employed by CLTS, a community comes to self-realization that their acts of open defecation are disgusting. In disgust, I have seen some people spit, others turn away from the direction of shit. Still others have vomited at the sight of shit. Disgust is one of the key elements of a CLTS trigger. Disgust is ignited by the unpleasant sight of shit, more so when the shit is still in its fresh and wet state.”

State funds to supply sanitation services are invariably in short supply, so such gimmicks allow smirking Finance Ministry technocrats in many countries to both decentralize the state and shrink it, and in the process, shift duties to municipalities and vulnerable people, in a process sometimes called ‘unfunded mandates’.

Durban’s dirty water 

In this context, Durban residents like myself are having a hard time separating good from bad arguments when it comes to water quality and sanitation. First is the rumour, fed by media hysteria, that drinking Durban’s increasingly grey water is bad for us. As the city begins to mix recycled city sewage with river supply from the mercury-contaminated Inanda Dam (where signs warn local Zulu fisherfolk against eating their catch) and other E.coli-infected streams, will we end up as ill and thirsty as several unfortunate neighbouring Mpumalanga Province towns’ citizens?

In many little ‘dorpies’ stretching from Johannesburg east through Mpumalanga to the Mozambique border at Kruger Park, Acid Mine Drainage and related toxic effluent from coal mining corporations flow prolifically. The national environment ministry turns a blind eye. Between worsening climate change, declining air quality and widespread water pollution, it is terrible but true – as even the African National Congress (ANC) government admits in obscure reports – that apartheid’s ecology was better than freedom’s. 

To illustrate, at the very tip of government’s free-market, fast-melting iceberg, Cyril Ramaphosa’s coal company was let off the prosecutorial hook last month for operating without a water license. Ramaphosa’s political clout was simply overwhelming, according to a leading Pretoria bureaucrat cited by The Mail & Guardian. Indeed it’s likely Ramaphosa will become the country’s second leader at an ANC conference in a fortnight’s time, notwithstanding his smoking-email role in the Marikana massacre, carried out by police 14 weeks ago at the behest of the multinational corporation, Lonmin, for which Ramaphosa serves as local frontman.

As for Durban’s tap-water quality, no, I don’t think there’s any worry, and still have no qualms about ordering my restaurant water straight from the tap. Much worse is the rise of plastic bottles – see http://www.storyofbottledwater.org for gory details – which clog landfills and whose petroleum inputs soil the air in South Durban, Africa’s largest refinery site.

There, children in the mainly Indian suburb of Merebank suffer the world’s worst recorded asthma rate. The Malaysian-owned Engen refinery and BP/Shell’s Sapref complex act like a massive pollution pincer on the kids’ young lungs. Last week, even the slobs at the US Environmental Protection Agency deemed BP – ‘Beyond Petroleum’ (hah) – such a filthy rogue that it may no longer bid for new oil leases there.

Durban’s dirty water policy

Other gossip making the rounds here concerns the world-famous water manager who runs Durban’s municipal system, Neil Macleod. Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates blogged two years ago that Macleod “has been a leader in thinking through how to improve sanitation for the poor in Durban.” But last month Macleod was charged with corruption by his subordinates (whom he was investigating for the same crime).

This came just at the moment that former Durban city manager Mike Sutcliffe apparently intimidated his successor S’bu Sithole into out-of-court-settlement talks over corruption libel which may leave taxpayers shelling out as much as a million dollars to featherbed Sutcliffe’s supposedly injured ‘reputation’. Although the Manase Report into city corruption – from which Sithole made his claims that Sutcliffe should be jailed – remains a state secret, in both the Macleod and Sutcliffe cases, I’m convinced that they are being unfairly maligned.

How, then, might we more fairly malign these men, not personally of course, but for the society-corrupting, health-threatening, ecologically-destructive sanitation policies on their watch?

The most obvious evidence is the city’s repeated embarrassment at reports of high E.coli and toxin levels in the rivers feeding the ocean, especially after rains, leading to the loss of international ‘Blue Flag’ status at ten Durban beaches four years ago. This month is vital for attracting Johannesburg tourists, so the excessive recent storms make it doubly hard for our hospitality industry, given last week’s reports about unsafe beaches.

So why do long stretches of Durban’s beaches become unswimmable after rains? The primary cause is Macleod’s persistent failure to address the vast sanitation backlog in more than 100 shack settlements across the city. Here, Sutcliffe long refused to authorize standard municipal services – such as water mains and bulk sewage – because of their informal property-rights status, especially those near the traditionally white and Indian areas subject to forced-displacement pressure.

Most shack settlements, in which around a third of Durban’s 3.5 million people live, have only a few poorly- (or un-) maintained toilets, notwithstanding heroic efforts by their main social movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo – most notably at the Kennedy Road shack settlement of 4000 residents and 8 toilets (until ruling party thuggery forced them out) – to raise the profile of the problem.

As a result of loose excrement, E.coli flows into our streams at a rate far higher than the recommended ‘safe’ level of 100 parts per 100ml. The 2010 State of the Rivers Report found the E.coli count in the “uMngeni River at Kennedy Road up to 1,080,000. Cause: Informal Community on the banks of the Palmiet River.”

Power politics and toilet apartheid

Five years ago, Macleod predicted to Science magazine that by 2010, “everyone [would have] access to a proper toilet,” while in reality, hundreds of thousands do not, today.

Neoliberal sanitation experts visiting Durban for the Toilet Summit may rebut that the world cannot afford 12-liter flushes for everyone, and that we must embrace some version of low-water toilets here. (I agree that low-flush bio-gas digesters could be a fine compromise, supplying cooking gas to nearby houses.)

Yet community critics regularly tell us that Durban’s water-less ‘Ventilated Improved Pitlatrine’ (VIP) and ‘Urinary Diversion’ (‘UD’ – or ‘UnDignified’) strategies are failing. If the municipality possessed a genuinely green consciousness, then middle- and upper-class areas would have such pilot projects – not just tens of thousands provided in the city’s low-income periphery.

I flush a few times each day and pay a small premium: more than Durban’s poor can afford, but still not enough for the sake of equity. Many South African readers of this column could easily cross-subsidise their low-income fellow residents, by paying more for the privileges of filling swimming pools and bathtubs, watering gardens, running washing machines and all the other liquid luxuries we enjoy. This is, after all, the world’s most unequal major country, and it’s far worse now than even during apartheid.

If those of us above the 80th percentile paid more to deter our hedonistic water consumption, and if Macleod adjusted tariffs downwards accordingly for poor people, then Durban would not be South Africa’s second stingiest city for water, according to the University of the Witwatersrand Centre for Applied Legal Studies. (The worst is nearby Pietermaritzburg – both reflective of durable old-style Natal white settler-colonial mentality and latter-day Zulu managerial conservatism.)

If such logical reforms were made to water and sanitation prices, then better health and gender equity would result, and more funds could be raised for installing decent toilets across the city, as well as to repair sewage pipes whose cracks regularly infect our rivers and harbour.

After enormous herds of White Elephant infrastructure – underutilized stadiums, a fast train linking Pretoria and Joburg, and Durban’s new airport – were built across SA for the 2010 World Cup, no one in power can claim that construction capability or subsidized funding are lacking. What’s missing is a more favourable politics of and by the poor, and so what will continue to result is toilet-apartheid.

Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society.

source- http://www.counterpunch.org/

 

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